By: Lydia Oyetunji
“The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.” ― Charles Dickens
It is common place for an author to have a favorite author(s). When asked, who inspired you to become a writer, most people can ramble off a list without giving it a second thought. I would love to provide a laundry list of past and current authors novels whose work I truly admire. As an alternative to boring you with that long list of authors and their books I enjoyed, I decided to choose one author to highlight. To date, I find the stories of this famous writer to be the most intriguing of all time. He will always own space on my Kindle and my bookshelf. With no further ado, let’s take a look at my literary hero, Charles Dickens.
My first encounter with Charles John Huffam Dickens, was on one of the many excursions to the public library with my grandmother when we lived in Bayshore, New York. The novel Great Expectations called out to me from a sea of books. Books as far as the eyes could see. I was hungry for connection to the world of literature and at that moment that was the novel that connected with me as if it knew it could satisfy my craving. Great Expectations turned me into a glutton for Charles Dickens linguistic creativity and all other literature. I needed to escape to his world even in the darkest of his stories. If you have never read his books or heard of him, I will give you a look into the life and works of this great writer.
I admire how this man did not allow himself to become a victim of circumstance—determined to excel through a rough life. He was born February 7, 1812, in Portsmouth, Hampshire. He was the second child of John and Elizabeth’s eight children. As a youth he grew up and went to a private school in Kent, it was said he recalled his time in Kent as the most enjoyable of his young life. Charles had no idea six years later at the age of eleven that he would have to quit school to work at Warren Blacking Warehouse, thus becoming a product of child labor. The Dickens family was evicted from their home due to unpaid fees and relocated to London. Mr. and Mrs. Dickens left Charles behind with Elizabeth Roylance, a family friend, to finish school. Who would have thought she would have been a muse for the character ‘Mrs. Pipchin’ in Charles Dickens book Dombey and Son? A few years later John was incarcerated for debt; John wanted the best for his family and was generous to others which led to constant financial issues during his father’s six years stint at Marshalsea debtors prison, with his mother and younger siblings by his side. Charles then moved into the attic of Archibald Russell with his wife and son. Later in life, this family inspired the creation of the Garlands in the novel The Curiosity Shop another great read. The novel Oliver Twist depicted his experience and the working conditions at the Warren Blacking Warehouse as a young child; however, his luck would change later on.
Miraculously, John Dickens was bequeathed an inheritance of 450 pounds. He did the smart thing and paid off his debts which granted his release from prison. The little money that was left was used to restart a life in society with his family. Charles was permitted by John to continue his last two years of schooling. His mother was not so fond of the idea; she thought it would be helpful to the family for Charles to keep working. In those days the man of the house had the final say, never to be questioned. Being from a working class family with no money to spare, Charles attended Wellington House Academy, a far cry from the private schooling he attended in Trent. Abusive headmasters and teachers, rambunctious and delinquent peers, and a visually uninviting environment were the norms of his new school. You may take a peek into what it was truly like in David Copperfield and Mr. Creakle’s Establishment. Mr. Dicken’s graduated at the age of 15, and immediately entered the workforce. Before becoming a well-known writer, he held respectable positions as a junior clerk at Ellis and Blackmore Law Office, and he reported legal proceedings in parliament. His freelance reporting opened the door for his ability to share his views on the maltreatment of the poor. This was another life experience recorded in Nicholas Nickleby and Bleak House.
In 1833, Charles published his first short story in The Morning Chronicle. The paper hired him on as a writer. His fame came from the publication of short stories entitled, The Pickwick Papers. While creating well-known titles, he started editing a magazine called Bentley’s Miscellany and left The Morning Chronicle. His strategic determination was starting to pay off; his readers looked forward to his novels which he serialized in the magazine. I think this was a brilliant way to release his compositions. In 1850, Charles founded his weekly publication Household Words. Dickens wrote about what he experienced; I believe that is what made him such a good writer. Charles was very candid in his writing, even with adding different twists and turns to his story line. He has a way with words that is indescribable. You become the villain and the victim; you are there in that place and time. He ignites your senses, and you do not want to walk away. The use of real life and imagination makes for great writing in my opinion. It is, of course, true his stories have become movies that we enjoy – and video games. I do not think that Mr. Dickens would have imagined that his works would have made such a mark in the world. I cannot imagine anyone having never read any of his work, but if you have not, I would suggest starting with Oliver Twist or Great Expectation. Before you know it, you will have read every book he has ever written, and you will read them over and over again.