Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens...

February 7, 1812 - June 9, 1870

“Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, 
and a touch that never hurts.”
Charles Dickens

...it is indeed Charles Dickens' 200th birthday

“My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, 
I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, 
I have devoted myself to completely; 
that in great aims and in small, 
I have always been thoroughly in earnest.” 
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

On June 8th 1870, Dickens suffered a stroke at his home, in the midst of his work on Edwin Drood, and passed away the following day at 58 years old. 
He wished to be buried at Rochester Cathedral "in an inexpensive, unostentatious, and strictly private manner", instead, he was laid to rest in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey. 

Dickens's last words, as reported in his obituary were alleged to have been:
Be natural my children. For the writer that is natural has fulfilled
all the rules of art.

Dickens requested that no memorial be erected to honor him.  
The only life-size bronze statue of Dickens is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood was never completed...

Dickens passed prior to finishing the mystery novel, and left no clues regarding how it may play out in the end.  There are many writers who have attempted their own version of the conclusion to the story. 

 I have two novels written by modern authors with regard to the very subject of Drood...

The first of these works of fiction would be 
Drood, by Dan Simmons.  
On the inside jacket, there are some brief references to the 
mystery behind this last work of Dickens...

"...Drood.  Based on actual biographical events, Drood explores the still unresolved mysteries of one of our greatest writer's dark final days in a profoundly original tale..."

The other of these novels that pay tribute to the last work of Dickens would be... 
The Last Dickens, by Matthew Pearl.  

Taken from the book's own synopsis, The Last Dickens "...reopens one of literary history's greatest mysteries. The Last Dickens is a tale filled with the dazzling twists and turns, the unerring period details, and the meticulous research that thrilled readers of the bestsellers The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow." 

“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.” 
 Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens' tomb marker can be found in the Poets' Corner
 at Westminster Abbey.  Each year on the anniversary of his birth, 
a wreath is laid on his grave.

Prince Charles at Dickens celebration
The Prince of Wales today commemorated the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great Victorian writer, Charles Dickens.
In London, to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Dickens on February 7th, there was the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at Dickens' grave, which is located in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey.  Prince Charles himself presented this wreath upon the grave, which has been there since 1870.

An interesting take on the gathering today would have been the fact that many of the attendees were descendants of Dickens, with over 200 family members present.  The Victorian novelist has left quite a legacy, and there was quite the impressive list of representatives from all walks of creative media.

There were readings by the g.g.grandson of Charles Dickens, Mark Dickens, as well as by Ralph Fiennes, who portrays Magwitch from Great Expectations in an upcoming film. 

From the Dean of Westminster... "Dickens' humanity and compassion made an extraordinary impact on Victorian England through his writings, which remain immensely popular. This bicentenary should help renew our commitment to improving the lot of the disadvantaged of our own day."
Gillian Anderson, who portrays Miss Havisham in the new film adaptation of Great Expectations, paid tribute to Dickens as well today.  

Here is a wonderful preview of her portrayal...

“I loved her simply because I found her irresistible. Once for all; I knew to my sorrow, often and often, if not always, that I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be. Once for all; I love her none the less because I knew it, and it had no more influence in restraining me, than if I had devoutly believed her to be human perfection.”
― Charles DickensGreat Expectations

~ Happy Birthday from us all, Mr. Dickens...

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