Charles Dickens’ illustrated works continue to entertain and inform today, in the year we celebrate his 200th birthday
2012 saw the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Dickens, the author of some of the English language’s greatest novels and widely considered the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.
Of the many talents known to Dickens, perhaps one of the greatest was his acerbic wit. The writer’s numerous works often reflected a deep social critique of the suffering experienced, particularly by the poorer classes, in the increasingly industrialised urban Britain he called home. All this he succeeded in illustrating through a humour that was saturated with meaning and as capable of drawing laughter as provoking reflection.
Works such as the autobiographical David Copperfield to the renowned Oliver Twist dealt with child labour and poverty, whilst Little Dorrit addressed the growing problem of debt. It is also perhaps a telling fact that, although he died a wealthy and famous man, all of these challenges outlined in these tales were experienced personally by the novelist, directly or indirectly, through the earlier period of his life. No doubt this contributed to inspiring the critique that would prove an important part of the discourse on these issues.
Charles Dickens died on 9 June 1870. He was buried in Poets Corner of Westminster Abbey, London. The inscription on his tomb reads: “He was a sympathiser to the poor, the suffering and the oppressed; and by his death, one of England’s greatest writers is lost to the world.”
Dickens’ writing continues to entertain, inspire and educate across print, screen, theatre and beyond. In memory of the great writer, I’ve picked out some of my favourite quotes attributed to Charles Dickens, from his novels and elsewhere, along with a selection of the wonderful original illustrations that accompanied his printed works.
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.” – A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.” – Great Expectations (1860)
“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.” – A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
“Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tries, and a touch that never hurts.”
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
“There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.” – Oliver Twist (1838)
“Vices are sometimes only virtues carried to excess!” – Dombey and Son (1846)
“I do not know the American gentleman, god forgive me for putting two such words together.”
“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!” – A Christmas Carol (1843)
“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.” – A Christmas Carol (1843)
“I love these little people; and it is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us.” – The Old Curiosity Shop (1841)
“Accidents will occur in the best regulated families.”
“The most important thing in life is to stop saying ‘I wish’ and start saying ‘I will.’ Consider nothing impossible, then treat possibilities as probabilities.” – David Copperfield (1850)
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