Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dickens' Bicentenary

He is my favourite English writer. Let's know a few things about him:

Charles John Huffam Dickens/; 7 February 18129 June 1870) was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature's most iconic novels and characters.

Dickens's novels combine brutality with fairy-tale fantasy; sharp, realistic, concrete detail with romance, farce, and melodrama.; the ordinary with the strange. They range through the comic, tender, dramatic, sentimental, grotesque, melodramatic, horrible, eccentric, mysterious, violent, romantic, and morally earnest. Though Dickens was aware of what his readers wanted and was determined to make as much money as he could with his writing, he believed novels had a moral purpose–to arouse innate moral sentiments and to encourage virtuous behavior in readers. It was his moral purpose that led the London Times to call Dickens "the greatest instructor of the Nineteenth Century" in his obituary.

During his lifetime, Charles Dickens was the most famous writer in Europe and America. When he visited America to give a series of lectures, his admirers followed him, waited outside his hotel, peered in windows at him, and harassed him in railway cars. In their enthusiasm, Dickens's admirers behaved very much like the fans of a superstar today

Success came early to Dickens; he was twenty-five when his first novel, Pickwick Papers, appeared and made him one of the foremost writers of his day. It is an exuberantly comic novel with almost no shadows, and readers expected all of his novels to follow this pattern. His next two novels, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickelby, fit readers' expectations well enough, and they overlooked the social problems he exposed. As he aged, Dickens's view of his society and human nature grew increasingly somber, a fact which disturbed many readers and critics. A Tale of Two Cities was attacked for having little, if any humor.

Always concerned to make money with his writings, Dickens took seriously the negative response many readers had to his darker novels. He deliberately addressed their discontent when he wrote Great Expectations, which he affirmed was written "in a most singular and comic manner." In a letter to a friend, he explained:

You will not have to complain of the want of humour as in The Tale of Two Cities. I have made the opening, I hope, in its general effect exceedingly droll. I have put a child and a good-natured foolish man, in relations that seem to me very funny. Of course I have got in the pivot on which the story will turn too–and which indeed, as you will remember, was the grotesque tragi-comic conception that first encouraged me. To be quite sure that I had fallen into no unconscious repetitions, I read David Copperfield again the other day, and was affected by it to a degree you would hardly believe.

After his death, his literary reputation waned and his novels tended not to be taken seriously. The novelist George Meredith found them intellectually lacking:

Not much of Dickens will live, because it has so little correspondence to life. He was the incarnation of cockneydom, a caricaturist who aped the moralist; he should have kept to short stories. If his novels are read at all in the future, people will wonder what we saw in them.

  But you have to decide by yourself if you really like his writing or not.