“Chapter One -- I am Born. Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”
So begins Charles Dickens’ most autobiographical novel, David Copperfield. Today is Dickens’ 200th birthday, which will be marked by celebrations around the world.
Hugely popular in his own time, his stories entertain and move readers even today. We have a vivid vocabulary of Dickensian references: Scrooge, the Circumlocution Office, and "Please Sir, I want some more." A headline in the Dec. 7, 2011 U.K. paper Daily Mail reads, “‘Something will turn up’: Micawber quote on Dickens bicentenary coin is more than apt for our own Hard Times.”
Dickens mixed memorable characters and multiple plot lines with sharp social criticism. As his reading public found themselves sympathizing with the plight of the underprivileged characters in his novels, they initiated political reforms.
At the college library, you’ll find Dickens’ works upstairs under the call number 823 D555. For those studying the author, the library holds a useful selection of biographies and criticism as well as the complete Pilgrim Edition of Dickens’ letters in 12 volumes, a recent acquisition. Or you might want to check out a film or TV adaptation—included in the library’s DVD collection are David Copperfield (featuring a young Daniel Radcliffe as the title character), Bleak House, A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, Little Dorrit, Oliver Twist, and Our Mutual Friend.