Long Live Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens, the foremost English novelist of the Victorian Era, died on this date, June 9, 1870. Recently, I attended a conference in Cleveland and visited its main library which is a great historic building downtown. The literature department on the third floor featured an exhibit highlighting the works of Charles Dickens along with critical studies on his works. The following is from Malcolm Andrews’ Charles Dickens and his performing selves: “In 1841, Dickens declared to his readers ‘to commune with you, in any form, is to me a labour of love.’ He was confessing to what became a life-long professional commitment and a species of private addiction. Communication with his public in any form, but particularly as a writer and Reader, was his route to the community of feeling, the sense of shared life.” Andrews goes on to distinguish the difference between ‘commune’ and ‘communicate’ in the way in which Dickens was to maintain an extraordinarily energetic level of communion with the public, particularly his readers, on a journey to personal intimacy with those who had come to know and depend on him for more than twenty years. Is it any wonder that Dickens’ works retain not only a fresh immediacy and continue to resonate with readers to the present day. For example, I never tire of the lesson that it is never too late to change and begin anew as in “The Christmas Carol.”

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