Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Celebrating Charles Dickens' birthday

This painting was originally called 'A Souvenir of Dickens' was painted by Robert W Buss (1804-75)  copied from a photograph by Herbert Watkins, and shows Dickens in his study at Gad's Hill, dreaming of some of the many characters he has created. It was left unfinished and presented to the Charles Dickens Museum in 1928 by his grandson.

It will not have gone unnoticed that today is Charles Dickens' 200th birthday and to celebrate this I am launching my Dickens Reading Group at our local library. Our first read will be Oliver Twist a story about the orphaned Oliver who was born into a life of poverty and misfortune. As an ardent social reformer Dickens uses this character to criticise public policy towards the poor in the 1830s  highlighting the social and moral evils of the workhouse and the criminal world.

He was orphaned at birth when his mother died and his father fled, leaving Oliver to be taken to the workhouse where he was brought up with little food and few comforts. At nine years old his overseer Mr Bumble moves him into the main workhouse where food is also very short. Fed up with their hunger, the boys drew lots to decide who was going to complain. The task falls to Oliver, who at the next meal tremblingly comes forward with his bowl in his hand and makes his famous plea:

 "Please sir I want some more".

This caused an uproar and Oliver was immediately sent out on apprenticeship for the sum of £5 where he eventually worked at an undertakers. Things didn't go well for him there and he decided to run away to London. The story sees him meeting up with many scurrilous but likeable characters such as the Artful Dodger who introduced him to the infamous pickpocket Fagin with whom Oliver lives with his gang of juvenile pickpockets.

Later he is to meet up with the brutal robber Bill Sikes

Although treated with cruelty and surrounded by coarseness for most of his life, Oliver is a pious and innocent child and his true identity is the central mystery of the novel.

Pictures by courtesy of Wikipedia


  1. Oh Patricia...I wish I lived near you and could join your Dickens reading group. We should do something like it online. I do not know anyone who likes reading the classics near me.

    Hugs from Holland ~

    1. That would be lovely Heidi - might need a bit of organising though...

      Patricia x

  2. Hi patricia, yes it would be lovely to be nearer to you so we could join your group.My sister in law comes from Broadstairs In Kent, and I'm sure she told me there was a house there that was the inspiration for Bleak House. Sad to say I havent read a Dickens book for a long time, maybe its time to visit my local library.

  3. Being a Music teacher, I really familiar with the show 'Oliver' - but I haven't read the book since I was in my teens. Maybe it should be my next 2012 re-read..? Hope that the reading group goes well. Jx

  4. Hope your Dickens reading group is a success. I'm not a fan of Dickens I'm afraid apart from A Christmas Carol and A Tale Of Two Cities. I read David Coperfield as a set book at school and seem to remember quite enjoying that but on the whole he's not my cup of tea.

  5. My favourite Dickens is 'A Tale of Two Cities' which we read as a set book at school - I love the character of Sydney Carton. I've also read 'Little Dorrit'. Of course I'm familiar with lots of the other stories from the many film and tv adaptations I've seen over the years. I loved 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood' that was on television recently. I think if I could join a reading group I would be tempted to read more Dickens, I have an unread copy of 'Hard Times' sitting on my bookshelves perhaps I should start there. I hope your reading group goes well in this special year:)


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