Charles John Huffam Dickens was born in Portsmouth on 7 February 1812 and is generally considered to be one of the greatest English novelists of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime and remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature’s most iconic novels and characters.
Many of his writings were originally published serially, in monthly instalments, a format of publication which Dickens himself helped popularise. Unlike other authors who completed novels before serialisation, Dickens often created the episodes as they were being serialised, punctuated by cliffhangers to keep the public looking forward to the next instalment. (Victorian Eastenders!) The continuing popularity of his novels and short stories is such that they have never gone out of print and are repeatedly reproduced as TV or stage drama and on the big screen.
Charles Dickens has a well known Isle of Wight link as he rented Winterbourne, a house at Bonchurch, for the summer of 1849 where it is believed he worked on his novel ‘David Copperfield’.
This year marks the bi-centenary of the birth of Charles Dickens and there are many celebrations taking place all over the world, particularly in Britain and the USA. The Museum of London hosts the UK’s first major exhibition on the author for 40 years. ‘Dickens and London’, running until 10 June 2012.
In 1912 to mark the centenary of his birth, there were many Dickens exhibitions, readings, festivals and performances.
The Isle of Wight Observer of 9 March 1912 records the following:
Mr H Charley Fowler gave a Dickensian recital at the Wesleyan Schoolroom, Garfield Road, on Tuesday evening to an audience who thoroughly enjoyed his clever reading of the best known of Dickens’s immortal characters. Opening with an appreciative character study, he followed with impersonations of Uriah Heep, Squeers, Mr Micawber, Dan’l Peggoty, Quilp, Jingle, Pickwick, Montagu, Tigg, Fagin and others, ending with a sketch from the “Christmas Carol” in which Scrooge’s return from work and the change in his character wrought by the visit of the three spirits was extremely cleverly done. The audience were unstinted in their applause. Mr Fowler was assisted by Mrs G W Colenutt and Mr Wallace Wheeler. The Chairman was Dr G M Lowe, who prefaced the recital with some remarks on the great author and expressed the view that Dickens was not so popular today as formerly, a view from which the audience dissented.
Sources: Wikipedia & Isle of Wight Observer. Image source: Wikicommons