Unless you are an English Teacher, you might not be aware of Charles Dickens Day. On the anniversary of his birth, each year we celebrate the life and works of one of the most prolific and influential British novelists of all time.
Born on the 7th February 1812, Charles Dickens lived in England during the Victorian era and lived in poverty during his early life. This was reflected in his work, and he often wrote about the struggles of the poor. He was one of the first to offer an unflinching look at the underclass and the poverty stricken in Victorian London.
A story of rags to riches, Dickens continues to be an inspiration to this day. With little formal education, Dickens taught himself and was driven to achieve success, working extremely hard at every task he undertook and rocketed to fame as a writer in his mid-twenties.
Dickens completed 14 novels in his lifetime including his well-known classics such as A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist and Great Expectations, but left The Mystery of Edwin Drood unfinished at his death in 1870.
It has even been argued that Dickens invented, among other things, the parallel montage – where two stories run alongside each other. Prof Graeme Smith, who wrote Dickens and the Dream of Cinema, explained that although it cannot be said that Dickens invented cinema, he was undoubtedly a key and important influence in cinematic development through the visual way Dickens wrote. The BFI says that there were around 100 versions of Dickens’s work recreated in film in the silent era alone, and adaptations of his work continue to this day.
Not only a well-loved novelist, Dickens was also a journalist, editor, illustrator, social commentator and thespian. He described himself as an actor and according to The Dickens Fellowship, theatre was one of his great passions throughout his life, and he delighted in arranging amateur theatricals, directing them and acting in them.
This love of public speaking led him to a new career in the late 1850s as a professional public reader of his own works; he toured Britain and America during the last 12 years of his life, performing for huge audiences. It is approximated that he performed a total of 470 times with each show lasting around two hours.
Surprising to some, Dickens also influenced the world of medicine. As an influential speaker on social injustices, he not only supported organisations that were trying to alleviate poverty in London, but he was also an avid supporter of groups that aimed to bring medical attention to children and others living in poverty and even helped establish medical institutions. So, this Charles Dickens Day, we remember the man who was passionate about giving those at the very bottom of society a voice and a better life, and made sure that all of his works have a message for the world to see and to find inspiration in.