In February Dickens will turn 200. A tidal wave of celebrations approaches. But the fuss is justified—he is second only to Shakespeare in our literary heritageby David Lodge / November 16, 2011 / Leave a comment
Celebration of the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’s birth, which will fall on 7th February 2012, began prematurely this autumn with the publication and associated media coverage of new biographies by Claire Tomalin, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst and Dickens’s great-great-great granddaughter Lucinda Hawksley. The Guardian started the ball rolling with an extract from Tomalin’s book and a clutch of well-known writers choosing their favourite Dickens novels, and next day the Observer gave its readers a free wallchart of his characters and invited them to download a “Dickens walk podcast through London’s Clerkenwell.” This was only a foretaste of what awaits us. A perfect storm of Dickens-related events, publications, exhibitions, conferences, films, television programmes and theatrical performances is gathering on the horizon and is due to break in the new year. There is a danger that we will all be suffering from Dickens fatigue by the end of it.
The Museum of London will put on a special exhibition about Dickens’s links with the capital. “Recreating the atmosphere of Victorian London through sound and projections, you’ll be taken on a haunting journey to discover the city that inspired his writings,” it promises ungrammatically. The Charles Dickens Museum in Holborn, refurbished for the bicentenary, will host screenings, workshops, and a Dickens reading group throughout 2012. There will be a Dickensian Christmas market in Rochester, the town where he spent the happiest years of his childhood, and a statue of him will be unveiled in his birthplace, Portsmouth, in August. There will be a conference in Canterbury, New Zealand, as well as in Canterbury, Kent. The Château D’Hardelot in the Pas-de-Calais, a region visited by Dickens on many occasions, will mount an exhibition, as will the Museum Strauhof in Zurich.
Dickens will be colonising TV and cinema screens too. The British Film Institute is mounting “the biggest programme ever” of film and television versions of his works, while the BBC is planning an orgy of new adaptations, including two of Great Expectations—a TV serial and a film—and one of Edwin Drood. The Beeb is also co-producing a film based on The Invisible Woman, Claire Tomalin’s 1990 book about Dickens’s relationship with Ellen Ternan, the young actress who he claimed was his protégée but was probably his mistress. Miriam Margolyes will perform her one-woman stage show, Dickens’s Women, and Simon Callow, well known for his recreation of Dickens’s readings from his works, will publish Charles Dickens…