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Memories: Reading Charles Dickens In The Best & Worst Times…

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“There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.” Charles Dickens

Memories: Reading Charles Dickens In The Best & Worst Times... Happy 200th Birthday Charles Dickens! A young Dickens by D. Maclise

Memories: Reading Charles Dickens In The Best & Worst Times... Happy 200th Birthday!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.” Charles Dickens

Happy 200th Birthday Charles Dickens! Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870). Dickens was considered the greatest Victorian author of the day; his serialized writings were hugely successful and read widely in England. His writings, which were often social commentary on the horrific conditions of the poor, were informed by his own difficult life experiences; including his time working in a blacking factory. When I found out it was his birthday, I flashed back to my earliest memories of reading and watching Dickens works.

A Child’s Hymn by Charles Dickens
Hear my prayer, O heavenly Father,
Ere I lay me down to sleep;
Bid Thy angels, pure and holy,
Round my bed their vigil keep. (Contd below)

My favorite Dickens writings, from the dozens of books, short stories, plays and non-fiction he published were: The Pickwick Papers – 1836, Oliver Twist – 1837, Nicholas Nickleby – 1838, The Old Curiosity Shop – 1840, Barnaby Rudge – 1841, Martin Chuzzlewit – 1843, Dombey and Son – 1846, David Copperfield – 1849, Bleak House – 1852, Hard Times – 1854, Little Dorrit – 1855, A Tale of Two Cities – 1859, Great Expectations – 1860, Our Mutual Friend – 1864, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood – 1870.  What the Dickens! Yes, I covered the list of his key writings because, as a painfully shy child, I spent many long hours in my dad’s office/study/library losing myself in the world of books. Of all the Dickens books I read, Oliver Twist haunted me and the movie gave me nightmares. During the Nigerian civil war, I imagined the possibility of having to beg for food… It frightened me. It was the worst of times.

“Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.” Charles Dickens

Memories: Reading Charles Dickens In The Best & Worst Times... Dickens Dream

“Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, it is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress.” Charles Dickens

London and Paris are in the top ten of my favorite cities in the world. I have lots of happy and fun memories of my time in both cities. One is the city of my birth and the other is the city some people think is the city of my birth; something to do with a slight french accent I supposedly have (I don’t think so). Nevertheless, when I first read A Tale of Two Cities, I tried to imagine how life must have been for many during that period, based on the French revolution. It certainly wasn’t the France or England I knew. After reading the part on the guillotining of Sydney Carton, I was grateful that the world I lived in no longer condoned such practices…

My sins are heavy, but Thy mercy
Far outweighs them, every one;
Down before Thy cross I cast them,
Trusting in Thy help alone.(Contd below)

The London and Paris of my youth was party central all the way. Traveling between both places, connecting with friends, shopping and eating out, even movie going was exhilarating. The shyness of my childhood was long gone; replaced by the youthful exuberance of a far more adventurous spirit. It was the best of times.  As for the made for movies adaptations of Dickens books, my favorites, or, at least, the ones that lingered in my mind were Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and The Pickwick Papers. They were mostly distressing movies, reminding me of the line from Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes – life in those states of war was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short…  More below. 😉

“Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.” Charles Dickens

Memories: Reading Charles Dickens In The Best & Worst Times...

Keep me through this night of peril
Underneath its boundless shade;
Take me to Thy rest, I pray Thee,
When my pilgrimage is made.(Contd below)

When you’ve spent your early years as an introspective child; awkward in the presence of other kids, bookish and reflective, the company of books is held in the highest esteem. After all, books don’t talk back or give orders. They share their wisdom and golden secrets; revealing with each flick of a page, a new idea, a nuanced reaction, and sometimes, a sudden shift in plot. Books allow you to gallop along in a world where you are neither judged nor expected to be heroic.

None shall measure out Thy patience
By the span of human thought;
None shall bound the tender mercies
Which Thy Holy Son has bought.(Contd below)

In those early years, I lifted big, red, leather bound copies of the classics, Dickens was one of my favorites, off my dad’s bookshelf and spent hours reading. Always settling down on some corner of the carpeted office/study floor, I read till my mom or some adult sauntered in to chide me for reading with poor lighting or to urge me to join the other members of our family. My early Elementary School days were unpleasant but I persevered by reading and writing a lot… it was the worst of times.

Pardon all my past transgressions,
Give me strength for days to come;
Guide and guard me with Thy blessing
Till Thy angels bid me home.
Charles Dickens

With time, a matter of a few years really, I gained my social footing and graduated from my role as bookworm to that of tomboy. I still read a lot but I wasn’t terrified of/by the characters in the books I read. I didn’t inject myself into the daunting world of David Copperfield, nor did The Tale of Two Cities mirror mine. They gave me an entree into a fantastic world, albeit a depressing one, so different from mine and offered me a way to escape the angst of my teen years … for a little while. I remain an avid book collector and, naturally, Dickens books are on my shelf. Happy Birthday Charles Dickens and thanks for playing an important part in my memory bank.
What are your thoughts? Have you read any Charles Dickens books? What life lessons did you learn from them? Do you have any memories of watching a Dickens related play or movie? Do share! Thank you. 🙂

Positive Motivation Tip: Books help us escape pain and develop a deeper understanding of the world we inhabit. Read often.

PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS: Photo of a young Dickens, Dickens Dreams, Dickens Gurney head, via Wikipedia Or BostonPhotoSphere quote, via Flickr
A Child’s Hymn by Charles Dickens via

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank
Mirth and Motivation
Positive Kismet

40 Comments leave one →
  1. 08/02/2012 2:38 am

    sent to twitter …!/frizztext

    • 08/02/2012 2:55 am

      Oh you are one of my active Twitter friends Frizztext. I don’t know where you find time… long days short nights on this end. Thank you! 🙂

  2. 08/02/2012 2:42 am

    we’ve been also very impressed by the movie about Dickens – made by Roman Polanski …

    • 08/02/2012 2:57 am

      Yes, I remember that one… It is a dark and depressing story/movie but so was much during the Victorian period; particularly for the poor. TY! 🙂

  3. 08/02/2012 2:43 am

  4. 08/02/2012 3:32 am

    Oh, we talked about Charles Dickens in class two weeks ago. =) I admire this guy!

    • 08/02/2012 3:38 am

      Good and I hope you enjoyed the discussions.? TY! 🙂

  5. 08/02/2012 3:40 am

    I too remember some books by Charles Dickens especially Oliver Twist and The Great Expectations. However I am not much into Dickens.I have been a on and off visitor on your blog and I am passing the Versatile Blogger award to you.Hope you like it…

  6. 08/02/2012 3:48 am

    I have long been a fan of Dickens. While I read a few of his books in high school, I made it a goal in my 20’s to read all of them. Oliver Twist is not nearly as scarely on stage, in fact some adaptions make Fagan positively charming. And who can resist the musical adaption of this classic novel? Sing along: “Consider yourself at home. Consider yourself part of the furniture…”
    And a Christmas Carol was perhaps one of Dickens’ greatest gifts to the generations.

  7. 08/02/2012 4:15 am

    Hip hip hooray for Mr. Dickens and all of his unforgettable characters!

  8. 08/02/2012 4:56 am

    C.Dickens … brings back memories of school..I found his books intriguing yet it took me a while to get into it…

  9. 08/02/2012 5:20 am

    One of my favorite authors . . . such a prolific wit. 😀

  10. 08/02/2012 5:43 am

    Dickens has been my number one since I was a child also and so many of your memories mirror some of mine. A tale of Two Citites remains my fav followed closely by all Tje others you listed! Thank you!!

  11. Bree permalink
    08/02/2012 8:33 am

    I read Dickens too and found his books engaging but depressing. Like you, they fed somthing in me and I kept reading. I love the way you wove the hymn/prayer in with your memories. Happy Birthday Dickens!

  12. 08/02/2012 9:48 am

    There’s so much going on here in Philly about Dickens birthday you would think he was a native! I’ve been working on a Dickens post as well. Great minds and all…

  13. 08/02/2012 2:47 pm

    A fitting tribute to Dickens! He used to be one of my favorite writers when I was an angst ridden teenager. 🙂

    • 08/02/2012 3:20 pm

      TY Sufilight! Glad to know you were a kindred spirit in the angst filled world of teenage hood. 🙂

  14. 08/02/2012 5:20 pm

    I have always longed to collect novels and books from classic writers, but sadly I never got to actualize it. My mom gave me a copy of “A Tale of Two Cities” (as part of my book collection), and I’ve seen cartoon adaptation (A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist) of some Charles Dickens novels when I was young. Now, I’m into audiobooks and hopefully I’ll get to be more well-versed in the works of Charles Dickens. Thank you for piquing my curiosity on him. More power! And thanks for always stopping by!

  15. 08/02/2012 5:57 pm

    I have always enjoyed Dickens, in small doses. David Copperfield and Great Expectations are my favorites. I can’t recall a really good Dickens film – I have not seen the Polanski.

  16. 08/02/2012 9:48 pm

    Nice blog with nice posts!

    • 08/02/2012 10:59 pm

      TY Pravin! Will stop by your blog to say hello! 🙂

  17. 08/02/2012 10:47 pm

    Great entry my friend

  18. 08/02/2012 11:14 pm

    I love this post my friend

  19. 08/02/2012 11:15 pm

    I love it my friend

  20. 08/02/2012 11:24 pm

    Nice post Eliz! I still have to read my share of Dickens stories. Never have the time to get to that unfortunately.

  21. 08/02/2012 11:29 pm

    The more I read about him , the more I mu admiration builds for a man whose talent and words inspired millions all over the world. His legacy will live on…Thanks for sharing him to us…this I will remember today, ““Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.” Have a blessed day my friend….

  22. 09/02/2012 12:39 am

    I’ve read a few of his books, but so long ago I’ve probably forgotten most of what I read.

    Certainly an author that has stood the test of time!

  23. 09/02/2012 6:03 am

    The fact that this post opens a window so that I can see you as a child and teen in your dad’s study engrossed in another world leaves me with such a vivid impression. Extremely well written yourself, my friend. The influence that reading as a child has on us lasts a lifetime and can provide us with talent and inspiration to continue the tradition by writing ourselves.

    Dickens’ books were not really a big influence on me personally. I do collect the Christmas Villages that bear his name, though! Interesting that he was relatively young by today’s expectancies when he passed on. Lovely post!

  24. 09/02/2012 9:56 am

    A completely wonderful and comprehensive and most joyful commemoration and celebration of the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens. The shadows do prove the light!

  25. 09/02/2012 10:04 am

    I love Charles Dickens’s works! Every child remembers the famous Oliver Twist and I know that the first unabridged book I read from him was ‘Hard Times’ and I absolutely loved it!

  26. 10/02/2012 9:12 pm

    What a reading list!

  27. 11/02/2012 1:50 am

    My most positive associations with reading Dickens all have to do with sharing my mother’s love for him. It’s funny, now that I think about it. My mom always encouraged us to read (still does!), but with the exception of suggesting something really special here or there, she never pressed any authors on us. But somehow, most of my favorites are her favorites, too.

  28. 12/02/2012 8:16 pm

    I love to get lost in a good book.

  29. 12/02/2012 8:40 pm

    Dickens was mandatory in high school so I was glad to be rid of him and all the others we were forced to read and remember. Then, I re-discovered him (and others) when I got older. Brilliant. Happy Birthday, CD!


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