Two days ago my hosts in England and I did a very English thing…
We visited the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum, at 393 Old Commercial Road, in Portsmouth.
“He created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters and is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.
His work enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime…
His novels and short stories still enjoy lasting popularity.
Despite his lack of formal education, he edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles, lectured and performed extensively, was an indefatigable letter writer and campaigned vigorously for children’s rights…
He is famous for his humour, satire and keen observation of character and society.
His novels, most published in monthly or weekly instalments, pioneered the serial publication of narrative fiction, which allowed him to evaluate his audience’s reactions and he often modified his plot and character development based on such feedback…
His plots were carefully constructed, with elements from topical events woven into his narratives…
He was the literary colossus of his age.”(Wikipedia)
It is difficult to imagine what the world might be like had Charles Dickens not existed.
Would children still be forced to work as adults?
Would we have TV programming without serial writing?
Would we have the same levels of past poverty in the West today had Charles and his social commentary not existed?
What would Christmas be like without Ebenezer Scrooge?
Would we have the same spirit of good will to the less fortunate?
Could the poor have had great expectations of a better life?
Would people have questioned the legal system without Dickens drawing our attention to its abuses and prejudices?
Would we still have haphazard, desultory teaching and sadistic brutality for our children?
Would this have been the best of times or the worst of times without Charles Dickens?
For the working class and the poor of Dickensian days, David Copperfield was not fiction but many people’s reality.
“I had no advice, no encouragement, no consolation, no assistance, no support, of any kind, from anyone, that I call to mind, as I hope to go to heaven.”(David Copperfield)
What world would we live in without the Artful Dodger, Little Dorrit, Tiny Tim, Oliver Twist, Samuel Pickwick or Uriah Heep?
Charles John Huffam Dickens was born in Portsmouth on 7 February 1812.
His birth house, though not large, is well worth a visit.
In the same house is the settee from his last residence in Rochester where he expired on this day of 9 June in 1870.
The full circle of life and death is stark and powerfully evident in this quiet abode on the back streets of Portsmouth.
Rest in peace, Mr. Dickens.
Thank you for your contributions to literature, social conscience and humanity.
The world is a better place because you were in it.
And that is a legacy well worth preserving and emulating.