Yesterday was the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens.
I credit Dickens, via the agency of my mother, for my lifelong love of literature,
my excellent university results (yes, I'm boasting, but I'm allowed to be proud), and
my career as an English teacher.
You see, when I was very small, my mother, like many before and since, read me bedtime stories. What did she read? Dickens. Not Enid Blyton, not Noddy and Big Ears - no, it was Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol ... She said she didn't see any point
in reading me what she called "kiddie rubbish"!
As part of my undergraduate degree I did a paper in Victorian Literature - hated most of it, except the Dickens. I don't read him now; I read widely but most often choose fantasy/sci-fi. But what a master of characterisation he was; I have always been instantly able to conjure up a mental picture of Uriah Heep, Bill Sykes or Miss Havisham.
What a superstar! he was the first media celebrity, witing his serials in the newspaper; each episode ended with a cliffhanger, to keep readers hanging out for the next one. Today, he'd be writing Coronation Street.
I liked Google's birthday doodle yesterday - if you didn't see it, here it is:
"I only ask to be free. The butterflies are free. Mankind will surely not deny to Harold Skimpole what it concedes to the butterflies!"
(from Bleak House)