Charles Dickens 200th anniversary events in London led by Prince Charles

11:43 07 February 2012

The 200th anniversary of author Charles Dickens

The 200th anniversary of author Charles Dickens' birth is being celebrated

Celebrations are taking place in London today to mark the 200th anniversary of great English writer Charles Dickens’ birth.

Dickens was born in Landport, Portsmouth, after his father moved there from London because of his work in the Navy Pay Office.

The author of famous works including Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, Barnaby Rudge, A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Bleak House and The Pickwick Papers died in 1870 aged 58 but his legacy lives on today.

His works are taught in schools, colleges and universities across the country and much of his work was centred around London.

In a poll by Penguin books, the majority of readers’ favourite characters were villains, with Ebenezer Scrooge being the most popular character.

“The thing about Scrooge is that he’s a double-whammy - he’s allowed to repent and become a good character but he is more interesting when he is being bad,” acclaimed biographer of Dickens, Claire Tomalin, said.

“Scrooge’s popularity is surprising, since his modern equivalent might be a banker.

“But Dickens excelled in creating villains, and always gave them more energy and brio than his good characters, so that we never forget them.

“Scrooge is a monster, a wicked employer and a heartless miser, but he is allowed to repent and see the error of his ways.

“So perhaps it’s the contrast between his outrageous meanness and coldness and his cheery generosity and lavishness at the end that readers respond to.”

Most of Dickens’ major novels were written in monthly or weekly instalments in journals, ensuring that they were more accessible to all in Victorian London.

His writing changed the way London was seen as his works were a social commentary.

Oliver Twist (published in 1839) shocked readers with its images of poverty and crime.

The book was responsible for clearing the London slum, Jacob’s Island, Bermondsey – where the novel was set.

Dickens died on June 9, 1870, and although his wish was to be buried at Rochester Cathedral the public demanded he be buried at Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey.

Today, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will be leading celebrations the anniversary of his birth.

Events include a wreath-laying ceremony at Dickens’ grave in Poets’ Corner.

The congregation at Westminster Abbey will include the largest ever gathering of descendants of the Victorian novelist as well as representatives from the worlds of literature, film, theatre and the media.

Ralph Fiennes, who will next be seen as Magwitch in a new film adaptation of Great Expectations, will read an extract from Bleak House with readings also being given by Mark Dickens, great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens.

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, said: “Dickens’ humanity and compassion made an extraordinary impact on Victorian England through his writings, which remain immensely popular.

“This bicentenary should help renew our commitment to improving the lot of the disadvantaged of our own day.”

Before the ceremony, Charles and Camilla will visit the Charles Dickens Museum in Doughty Street, London, where they will be given a reading by Gillian Anderson, who played Miss Havisham in the BBC’s recent adaptation of Great Expectations.

Top 10 Dickens characters are voted for by Penguin readers:

1. Ebenezer Scrooge - A Christmas Carol

2. Miss Havisham - Great Expectations

3. Sydney Carton - A Tale Of Two Cities

4. The Artful Dodger - Oliver Twist

5. Fagin - Oliver Twist

6. Joe Gargery - Great Expectations (Good)

7. Pip - Great Expectations (Good)

8. Nancy - Oliver Twist

9. Abel Magwitch - Great Expectations

10. Betsey Trotwood - David Copperfield (Good)

Sign up for our news alerts today!

Our editors' picks for the day's top news delivered to your inbox or phone.

Sign up for email alerts Sign up for mobile alerts
1
2 3 4 5 6
7

Latest London news

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
It is vital that 10-year-old Malikhi is found as soon as possible [Photograph from Metropolitan Police]

We are pleased to report that Malakhi Chijiutomi-Ghosh, a seriously ill 10-year-old boy who went missing this morning, has been found.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Pictured: not the perfect crime [Photograph by Flixtey/Wikimedia Commons]

An Ilford man has escaped jail after he tried to rob a bookmakers with a tin of fish.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Here's what Isomeric Slides will look like once it's built [Image courtesy of Carsten Höller and LUMA Foundation]

If you loved the giant slides at the Tate in 2006, you’re in luck: Carsten Höller’s crazy tubes are coming back to London as part of a huge survey of his art called Carsten Höller: Decision.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett chaired the Lib Dems LGBT group (Pic: Libdems.org.uk)

Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Vauxhall in south London, has revealed his battle with homophobic bullying, drug abuse and HIV.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Artist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd sits in her creation (Pic: Create/Emil Charlaff)

If you missed the pop-up ball pit for adults, don’t worry - there’s a permanent soft play area open at the Abbey Leisure Centre that hopes to prove art can be child’s play.

What is this?

Near You Now

Don't Miss...

Competitions

Munch on a tasy three course dinner at The Refinery!

“Where to go for a drink near Great Portland Street?” was previously met with blank expressions and shrugs for those local to the area, not anymore, thanks to the opening of The Refinery at Regent’s Place, the eighth bar and restaurant from hugely-successful group Drake & Morgan.

Read more