A Very Happy Birthday Mr Dickens!

Just over 200 years ago Charles Dickens’s parents set up home in Portsmouth when his father was transferred there by the Navy Pay Office. Their son ‘Charles John Huffam’ was born on 7 February, 1812 at 1 Mile End Terrace, Landport, Portsea now 393 Old Commercial Road. The family moved back to London in 1814.

Charles Dickens is probably the pre-eminent Novelist for the Victorian Era and one of the world most famous writers. I love Charles Dickens work and the wonderful screen adaptations that have come from it.

I’m sure there will be many pieces about his life and his works but here are my favourite characters and stories.

Oliver Twist
What great characters this story has: The the corrupted Artful Dodger living his life on his wits, , Oliver the innocent as yet uncorrupted, good verses evil, Fagin versus Mr Brownlow, in a sense fighting for Olivers soul.

And we can’t forget Bill Sykes, psychopathic criminal, hard hearted, thief and murderer and his dog Bulls-eye and extension of his character but what of Nancy, raised by Fagin, a fully fledged whore of the time but still with a sense of morals, to try and make a stand against Sykes that cost her dearly…again good versus evil!

David Leans Oliver Twist (1948) is excellent and in the age of 3D TV it is glorious in black and white. Now I really do despise musicals but Oliver! by Lionel Bart (1968) was something I grew up on and Oliver Reeds Bill Sykes is such a monster that I can’t but feel a soft spot for it.

Nicholas Nickleby
Nicholas named after his father is truly the hero of this novel , Charles Dickens said:

‘There is only one other point, on which I would desire to offer a remark. If Nicholas be not always found to be blameless or agreeable, he is not always intended to appear so. He is a young man of an impetuous temper and of little or no experience; and I saw no reason why such a hero should be lifted out of nature’

He defends all those he loves, his family and friends from those who would attack. Wackford Squeers is the devil of the piece along with his wife. The one-eyed, Yorkshire schoolmaster who runs ‘Dotheboys Hall’ and such a regime of cruelty is enforced. And the goodness of the piece are Charles and Ned Cheeryble, twins and wealthy merchants who are as magnanimous as they are jovial. They give Nicholas a job and provide for his family, and become key figures in the turning about of the happy ending.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 2003 adaptation with Charlie Hunnam, his acting was fine but it was probably Jamie Bell as Smike and Jim Broadbent as Waxford Squeers that really stole the moment.

A Christmas Carol
Scrooge one of the greatest characters, he really has some great lines:

`I wish to be left alone,’ said Scrooge. ‘Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that ismy answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas, and I can’t afford to make idle peo- ple merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned – they cost enough:and those who are badly off must go there.”Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”If they would rather die,’ said Scrooge, ‘they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.’

The reformation and redemption of scrooge is a wonderful tale and the ghosts add that bit extra which lifts the story to a new kind of height.

Scrooge (1951), re-titled A Christmas Carol in the U.S., starring Alastair Sim as Scrooge. This captures the darkness and light of the novel and once again the monochrome shooting adds to the tale. A musical again! ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ is just excellent fun for kids and adults alike. Gonzo the Great plays Dickens himself side-kicked with Rizzo the Rat. Piggy and Kermit are The Cratchets but it is Michael Cain playing a straight Scrooge that brings it all to life but watch out for his singing…! And finally Patrick Stewart is awesome as Scrooge in possibly the best serious adaptation, he is tremendous and this is one for Christmas eve.

Dombey and Son
A great read. It is Florence and Susan Nipper who make the story. Paul Dombey (senior) is a brute of a man and pays little heed to his daughter because of his obsession with having a son.

I have yet to see an adapation that I like.

Bleak House
Dickens has his darker moments and it’s reflected very much so in Bleak House. The characters Esther Summerson of unknown parentage casts a show over her, Mr Tulkinghorn is a scheming and manipulative, lawyer. He relishes the secrets of his clients and the power that gives him over them. However on the light side we have the compassionate and generous almost to a fault John Jarndyce, who willingly allows Mr Skimpole, a scrounging, lazy, good for nothing to live for free at Bleak House, and the innocents of the piece Richard and Ada Carstone.

The BBC made a fanstastic one back in 2005 with the superb Charles Dance as Mr Tulkinghorn and Gillian Anderson from the X-Files as a rather wonderful Lady Deadlock, highly recommended.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Again much darkness as Dickens wrote this when he was dying. John Jasper, a man of contradictions, a choir master and drug addict, Drood himself a bit of an over privileged buffoon. Of course this story was never finished but the best ending I have seen so far is the BBC adaptation of 2012

The BBC adaptation was good starring Matthew Rhys as John jasper who was great but you will have to watch it to see how it ended!

So Happy Birthday Charles Dickens and thank you for your writing…

Your obediant and humble servant



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