Charles Dickens’s Bicentenary

200 years ago today, English novelist Charles Dickens was born. The author of many novels that enjoyed wide success at their initial publication and have been renowned since, such as A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, Bleak House, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations, Dickens is regarded as among the greatest of Victorian novelists.

From his early days in a blacking factory – which proved hugely influential to his fiction, lending additional authenticity to works such as Hard Times – to his later years of international success, Dickens was a careful observer of society and social conditions. His fiction frequently combined these traits with a penchant for vivid detail and intriguing characters (often with bizarre names)

Several recent biographies attest to Dickens’s continued popularity. Claire Tomalin’s Charles Dickens: a Life and Michael Slater’s Charles Dickens: a Life Defined by Writing both offer full overviews of Dickens’s life, while Robert Douglas-Fairhurst’s Becoming Dickens: the Invention of a Novelist provides a look at Dickens’s early career.

UIUC’s Library holds many works of criticism discussing Dickens’s works, and the Rare Book & Manuscript Library also holds many primary texts by Dickens. We also have the electronic edition of Dickens’s letters; the e-book A Companion to Charles Dickens; and journals including Dickens Quarterly, a scholarly journal of the Dickens Society, and The Dickensian (print only).

More resources:

A famous moment from Oliver Twist, illustrated by George Cruikshank.

  • Dickens 2012 offers a look at international events and resources related to Dickens’s bicentenary.
  • David Perdue’s Charles Dickens Page provides ample coverage of Dickens’s life and works, with an interactive timeline, an exhaustive index of characters, a glossary of nineteenth-century English terminology, and a bibliography.
  • The British Library’s Dickens in Context provides a number of primary sources that bring the world of Dickens’s novels to life.
  • Dickens Journals Online is an initiative for creating free full online texts of Dickens’s magazines, where some of his most renowned works were first serialized.
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