I've been shockingly remiss in updating this blog for a while - maybe I could blame my other two blogs: Reading and Writing and Romancing History! Never mind Facebook, Twitter and about half a dozen forums, oh, and I musn't forget the actual writing that gets squeezed in now and then.
But today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of our most famous and influential novelists, Charles Dickens, who was born in 1812, and I couldn't let it pass without a blog post. Not only is he credited with giving us the Victorian version of Christmas we still celebrate, in A Christmas Carol, he also left behind a legacy of memorable characters, from orphaned children to elderly thieves.
Great Expectations is one of my favourites, with orphaned young Pip suddenly being transported from the care of his shrew of a sister and her gentle husband, Joe, to a grander lifestyle and expectations of a fortune one day. But along the way, he learns many lessons: the importance of loyalty, the folly of pride, the unexpected rewards of an act of kindness, and the redeeming quality of love.
Orphaned children figure a lot in Dickens' novels. Who could forget Oliver Twist with the Artful Dodger and the gang of pickpockets, or David Copperfield and the dreadful school and factory he has to endure. Its interesting to note that, although we regard them as literary novels, they were the popular fiction of their day and were serialised in the newspaper. And many of the novels are now famous films.
I can't help thinking that many of the children's novels since then have possibly been influenced by Dickens. From children being sent away to school, in the Chalet School books for instance, to orphans like Harry Potter who experiences cruelty at the hands of his aunt, uncle and cousin but finds many wonderful characters at Hogwarts.
So we salute you, Mr Dickens, for the joy you brought to many readers since the Victorian era.