We are so very ‘umble

Today is a very special day for word nerds worldwide – it’s the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens.

In commemoration of  his life and works, not only has Google created one of its wonderful “doodles” in his honour, but Great Britain’s Royal Mail today revealed a sneak preview of two stamps – officially launching in June – to celebrate his bicentenary.

The two stamps feature illustrations from his first novel, The Pickwick Papers (originally serialised and entitled The Posthumous Papers of Pickwick) and his 1838 novel, Nicholas Nickleby.

The character of Mr Pickwick forms a set of six stamps featuring original illustrations adapted from Character Sketches from Charles Dickens, by Joseph Clayton Clarke (otherwise known as Kyd) and originally published around 1890.

The Nicholas Nickleby stamp will be part of a special miniature sheet of four stamps of illustrations by Hablot Knight Brown, (known as Phiz), who illustrated 10 books by the author.

Royal Mail Stamps spokesman Philip Parker said: “Charles Dickens was one of the truly great British novelists, a man born into poor circumstances who went on to change the world in which he lived thanks not just to his novels, but his campaigning journalism and philanthropy.”

Today’s celebrations include a wreath-laying ceremony in Portsmouth, England – the author’s birthplace – and at Westminster Abbey, where he was laid to rest some 58 years later.

The full set of 10 new stamps will be issued on June 19 and will feature iconic characters from some of his most famous novels, including Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and A Tale of Two Cities.

What the Dickens? Some facts about the author

  • Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth on February 7, 1812. In 1836 he married Catherine Hogarth. They subsequently had 10 children.
  • When he was nine, his family were imprisoned in Marshalsea Debtors’ Prison in Southwark for his father’s debts, while Dickens went to work in a blacking factory. He later used the prison as one of the settings for Little Dorrit.
  • His first novel, The Pickwick Papers, was published in 1836.
  • In 1837 Catherine’s 17-year-old sister Mary died in Dickens’s arms, becoming the inspiration for the death of Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop.
  • On June 9, 1865 Dickens survived the Staplehurst rail crash. The first class carriage in which he was travelling was the only one of seven not to plunge off the bridge. Dickens helped to tend the wounded and used his experience later in the ghost story The Signalman.
  • His final, unfinished, novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, was published after his death. The identity of the murderer was never revealed.
  • Dickens was interred at Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, despite his wish to be buried at Rochester Cathedral.
  • His novel A Tale of Two Cities has sold over 200 million copies.
  • Between 1992 and 2003, Dickens was featured on the reverse of the Bank of England £10 note together with a scene from The Pickwick Papers. 
  • Dickens’ most autobiographical work – David Copperfield – was also his favourite.
  • Such was the interest generated by the serialisation of his work, a huge crowd gathered at the dock in Boston to await the ship that carried Chapter 71 of  The Old Curiosity Shop.
  • The only person said to be able to predict the conclusion of Dickens’ complex plots was the American author and poet Edgar Allan Poe.
  • Dickens is regarded as the most ‘adapted’ author of all time; all of his novels have been adapted for the cinema or television and, in addition to modern versions, around 100 silent films were made – a third of which still exist.


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This entry was posted by stevieg on Tuesday, February 7th, 2012 at 8:02 pm and is filed under General . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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