Sunday, April 26, 2009

Day 99/365 Charles Dickens, Just Because

Mostly just because PBS has been running a wonderful adaptation of Mr. Dickens Little Dorrit, and the conclusion starts in less than an hour. Over the last year or so, PBS has sucked me into Jane Austen and now Charles Dickens.

Never mind he has the library I wish I had.

Mr. Dickens had a wonderful childhood, and was a particularily voracious reader with an almost photographic memory. When he was twelve, life took a drastic turn for the worse when his father overspent, landing the entire family in the Marshalsea debtor's prison. This series of events later became the foundation for Little Dorrit.

The financial ruin of his family and his days of child labor working in a boot polish factory led to a life-long interest in the living conditions of the working-class poor (not to mention that he was an ardent abolitionist as well).

Dickens was a court stenographer, political writer, an editor, and even wrote advertisements to make ends meet (eventually he was father to ten children).

At the height of his popularity, his writings were released a chapter at a time, and hung up in public store windows, where passerbys could gather to read them.

Although Mr. Dickens was a popular writer, like his father, he struggled with expenses. To cover the expenses for the birth of his fifth child, he wrote A Christmas Carol, taking only a couple weeks to turn out what became one of the most enduring Christmas stories ever written.

This is the frontiespiece and title page of a first edition printing of A Christmas Carol (no, not mine - I wish).

Like other kids in the early 1960's, I grew up watching the Mr. Magoo version of The Christmas Carol. Even after seeing much more sophisticated productions, I must confess, Mr. Magoo is still my favorite.

I still catch glimpses of the Ghost of Christmas Past from time to time, and always say a quiet thank-you to Mr. Dickens.

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