IT WAS THE birth of Dickens, it is the bicentennial of Dickens.
Today, much of the world is celebrating one of its greatest storytellers ever on the 200th anniversary of his birth. And Google is paying tribute with its prominent perch: a homepage “Doodle” populated with some of Charles Dickens’s classic characters — including Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Oliver Twist and Pip.
[Update: “I decided to focus on Dickens’ characters to bridge” a gap between “fun and delightful” Doodles and “serious” Dickens, Google artist Mike Dutton said in an interview with Google eBooks.]
To lead Tuesday’s events, the Prince of Wales reportedly will visit Westminster Abbey to lay a wreath at Poets' Corner, where Dickens was buried in 1870. Prince Charles also is expected to visit London’s Dickens Museum.
Actors who reportedly are scheduled to give readings Tuesday in Britain include Ralph Fiennes (who will play Abel Magwitch in the upcoming film of Dickens’s “Great Expectations”), Gillian Anderson (TV’s “Great Expectations”) and Sheila Hancock (“Bleak House”), as well as Simon Callow (“Christmas Carol: The Movie”) performing in Dickens’s birthplace of Portsmouth, Hampshire.
Dickens himself was known as a popular public reader of his own work, which enhanced his celebrity. (At least several of Dickens’ descendants are scheduled to appear at some of Tuesday’s celebrations.)
“He was so handsome when he visited Boston,” Diana Archibald, a University of Massachusetts at Lowell professor, says in today’s Post, noting he was twice invited to the White House. “He had long hair like a woman, and they treated him like a rock star.”
What wasn’t widely known prior to Dickens’s death, however, was how much he drew on his own experiences with poverty when writing his novels.
It was the worst of times: Dickens had to go to work at a blacking factory at age 12, after his father was thrown into a debtors’ prison.
It was the best of times: By his 20s, Dickens — who worked as a law reporter and newspaper reporter — became famous for his work “The Pickwick Papers.”
He would go on to write such other beloved works as “David Copperfield,” “Bleak House,” “Nicholas Nickleby,” “Our Mutual Friend” and “Great Expectations.”
"David Copperfield" (1849-50) is thought to be Dickens's most autobiographical novel — thinly disguising much of his childhood — as well as his favorite. (The novel's Mr. Micawber was inspired by Dickens's own fiscally troubled father.) Not long before his death, Dickens reportedly said: "Like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield."
In 1836, Dickens would wed Catherine Hogarth — daughter of a newspaper editor — and they soon moved to where the Dickens Museum now stands. They would have 10 children before Dickens left Hogarth; while passionate about the theater, the 40-something author became involved with teen actress Ellen Ternan.
Not only did Dickens's writing (which was often serialized first) resonate with both upper and lower classes, but he is said to have done much financially to help women and children in great need.
In 1906, Dickens biographer Gilbert Keith Chesterton wrote of the Victorian author: "He was the voice in England of this humane intoxication and expansion, this encouraging of anybody to be anything."
Dickens died of cerebral hemorrhage in June 1870 at his Gad’s Hill home. His Poets' Corner tomb is inscribed: “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."
Two-hundred years after his birth, one of England's greatest writers is celebrated by the world, with none of his historic lustre lost.
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Comic Riffs’ list of TOP TWELVE GOOGLE DOODLES OF 2011:
1. LES PAUL: THE PLAYABLE GUITAR
2. MARTHA GRAHAM: THE ANIMATION DANCE
3. LUCILLE BALL: CHANNELING THE HIGHLIGHTS
4. FREDDIE MERCURY: THE MUSIC VIDEO
5. JIM HENSON: THE CLICKABLE MUPPETS
6. ART CLOKEY: THE “GUMBY DOODLE”
7. JULES VERNE: DEEP-SEA DOODLE
8. STANISLAW LEM: THE ANIMATED SCI-FI GAME
9. MARY BLAIR: THE DISNEY DOODLE
10. THOMAS EDISON: THE ILLUMINATING DOODLE
11. MARK TWAIN: THE HANNIBAL PANORAMA
12. LOUIS DAGUERRE: THE PHOTOGRAPHIC DOODLE