“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
Where would we be without Charles Dickens? Loved the world over for creating some of literature’s most memorable characters, from Ebenezer Scrooge to Miss Havisham, he was also renowned for his razor-sharp social commentary and for advocating for the poor when they didn’t have a voice of their own.
This year, Vintage Classics has published a new collection of 6 of his best-loved books: Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Hard Times, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol. Here with me to talk about the great man – who was not without his faults for all his brilliance – is the biographer and academic Robert Douglas-Fairhurst and short story writer Helen Simpson.
Robert is an award-winning biographer and Fellow at Magdalen College, Oxford. His most recent book is The Story of Alice; before that he wrote Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist which won the Duff Cooper Prize. He is currently working on a new book called The Turning Point: Dickens’s World in 1851. The year of the Great Exhibition and the year in which Dickens began writing Bleak House, 1851 has been called the turning point of the century as well as of Dickens’s career.
Helen is the author of six short story collections including Four Bare Legs In a Bed, Constitutional and Hey Yeah Right Get A Life. In 2011 Helen wrote a short story for The Times called ‘The Chimes’ about a book club dissecting Dickens’s novel The Chimes, which he wrote as a follow up of sorts to A Christmas Carol. Later published in her collection Cockfosters, it draws uncomfortable parallels between Dickens’s world and our own – and has more than a little of Dickens’s playfulness about it too.
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