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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

"I Am Born"--200 Years Ago

The birthdays are coming fast and furious. Last week it was James Joyce; this week we celebrate the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, who was born February 7, 1812. While many find Joyce daunting, almost everyone has read some Dickens--even if it was just A Tale of Two Cities in high school English class. What is your favorite Dickens tale?

You can find out about Dickens birthday events around the world at the Dickens 200 Website; the Dickens Fellowship and the Dickensblog are also doing a good job linking out to events, press coverage, and other interesting material. Here at the Rosenbach we are celebrating with a new Dickens Hands-on Tour. You can check it out tomorrow, February 8, at 3 PM to get your hands on Dickens's earliest surviving literary manuscript, signed copies of his books, a broadside for one of his amateur theatricals, as well as letters and other neat stuff. We'll be repeating the tour on Friday the 24th, in case you can't make it over tomorrow.

Dickens will also feature in this year's Romance at the Rosenbach tour; among the items we're putting out for that tour is the perennial favorite, a lock of Dickens's hair. This was saved by his sister-in-law Georgina Hogarth. For the full story of Dickens, his wife, his actress, and his sister-in-law you'll have to come on the tour.

Charles Dickens, hair. Probably June 1870. Rosenbach Museum & Library. 2005.0004

Personally, one of my favorite parts of Dickens's writing is the characters. In a Daily Mirror poll, Ebenezer Scrooge won top honors as "the most popular Dickens character", but I'm a big fan of the characters with amusing names. Here are some of my favorites: Mr. Wopsle, Luke Honeythunder, Sophia Wackles, Dick Swiveller, Alfred Jingle, Wackford Squeers, Inspector Bucket, Mr. Sloppy, and Caddy Jellyby.

Give yourself a pat on the back for any of these you recognized, and an extra pat if you know which book s/he came from. I think there could be a great market in a Dickensian name-creation app.

So happy birthday Mr Dickens and may we all keep the day well!

Kathy Haas is the Assistant Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog

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