Salute to Charles Dickens

Image: Wikipedia
I can't let today go by without a salute to Charles Dickens, born 200 years ago today in Portsmouth, England.

My earliest ambition was to be a writer - an ambition that never entirely went away. It was nurtured by a love of reading. I owe this to several authors I discovered in childhood and especially Charles Dickens.

I was given his 'A Christmas Carol' when I was about 10 years old. Encouraged by my father, I swiftly moved on through the Dickens novels on the bookshelves at home. By 12 years I had read Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, David Copperfield and The Pickwick Papers. In my early teens I got through most of the rest - a fact that now astonishes me. I loved Dickens for the same reason that I enjoy serialized TV drama - the cliffhangers. It was these that encouraged me to persevere through some very long sections of descriptive prose. Dickens' novels also opened my mind and heart to social justice issues of his time (and ours) and contributed to my eventually becoming a social worker. But in my younger reading of Dickens, I just enjoyed the stories and the vivid pictures painted by the words.

Here's my current favourite Dickens' quote, but I can't find the source. Can anyone tell me?

"There is nothing better than a friend,
unless it is a friend with chocolate."


  1. I read a fair bit of Dickens in my teens, both at home and at school. We thought nothing of being given Nicholas Nickleby or A Tale of Two Cities as that term's English literature text, along with one or other Shakespeare play. Sadly I read an item on the BBC website recently which said that Dickens would be considered too demanding for modern schoolchildren, as so many are unaccustomed to sustained reading. Thank goodness for TV adaptations to keep his marvellous stories alive.

  2. My 11 year old son is reading Oliver Twist at his English primary school this term - I was heartened! I plan to read one of his novels to all three kids sometime this year - my children all have learning challenges so they would struggle to manage him alone but all enjoy a good story when it is read aloud and so we do lots of that.

  3. Perpetua - Dickens's novels are a gift for TV serial drama. If alive today I think he would have written for TV - and what would his blog have been like?
    Jo - good to hear of your son reading Oliver Twist at primary school.
    I hope the idea of the value of sustained reading by children won't completely disappear. When our children were young we often read aloud longer books (in daily bedtime chunks. They loved it.

  4. I used to read aloud to our two, Nancy, and I'm glad to say they have carried on the practice with their own children. When the grandsons come to stay, I can find myself ready entire chapters each day. :-)

  5. Mine love it too, when my voice dries up they say 'shall we bring you a glass of water mum and then you can read another chapter' And bedtime gets delayed a little longer! Reading The Hobbit at the moment - what long sentences Tolkein wrote!


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