Monday, February 6, 2012

Charles Dickens' 200th Birthday

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Thanks from the Clarke Staff

Charles Dickens' 200th Birthday

by Hannah Jenkins

Charles Dickens, a beloved author, was born 200 years ago, on February 7th, 1812. Many of his novels have reached literary fame, and the Clarke Historical Library is one of the many places in which you can find them. At the Clarke, we have first or early editions of some of Dickens’ works among the nearly 50 volumes of Dickensian literature in our holdings (click on the image for a closer look).

A Child’s History of England is a set of three books, published one a year between 1852 and 1854. Dickens covers English history from 50 BC to 1689. He wrote this set of books for his children in the hopes that they would continue to read about history. Sketches of Boz is a collection of short pieces put together and published in 1836. The book is broken down into sections - the first three comprise of non-fiction stories while the fourth section is fictional stories.

The Dickens’ Christmas stories began with A Christmas Carol in 1843. It is one of Dickens’ most widely-known novels. It tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge who is visited by the three spirits of Christmas. Through encountering these ghosts, Scrooge makes a miraculous transformation and gains new value for his fellow man. Dickens wrote the story by drawing on his own personal experiences from his childhood as well as his sympathy for the poor class. The Chimes (1844) is a short novel that follows a young man who loses his faith in mankind’s ability to improve and strive for better. One evening he climbs the bell chamber at the local church and is met by goblins, the keepers of the bells, who show him visions of what will happen to his friends if he does not show them that they can make something better of their lives. Written after the success of A Christmas Carol, The Chimes gained a great deal of interest and remained quite popular for a time, but it paled in comparison to the success of A Christmas Carol. In 1845, after The Chimes, Dickens wrote The Cricket on the Hearth and it is the third book in Dickens’ Christmas stories. It is a story of love and a small cricket who acts as a guardian angel of a home. The Battle of Life written in 1846 is another of Dickens’ Christmas stories. This is the only Christmas story that does not have supernatural involvement or an extreme religious component. The story takes place in a village that sits on the site of a historic battle and focuses on the lives of the people that live and struggle there. The Battle of Life never received much fame, and neither did the final Christmas story, The Haunted Man (1848). The Haunted Man follows a chemistry teacher who wishes to forget the past wrongs that have been done to him. A spirit appears and grants his wish, but afterwards the teacher becomes constantly enraged due to an unknown cause, which then spreads to all those around him. The moral of the story is that it is important to remember the pain of the past because it helps people mature.

On this day, 200 years after the birth of Charles Dickens, the Clarke Historical Library looks back and honors this great author and we remind you that these and other wonderful literary offerings can be found in the Clarke Historical Library.