Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Charles Dickens 200th Birthday

Charles Dickens’s grave lies in Westminster Abbey, in Poet’s Corner.

Here two centuries after his birth on the 7th February 1812 he was remembered in a special way.

But above all this great English 19th century novelist has not gone out of print in people’s hearts and minds.

Not perhaps for the prayers he wrote , some of which focused around supplications on behalf of the poor, the sick, the destitute but for the larger than life characters he invented, among them many children from hungry orphan Oliver Twist to lonely little Nell. His hallmark humanity and compassion sometimes even crossed paths with our parables, for example that of the ‘Prodigal Son’ which he once referred to as the "most beautiful story ever told".

But while eighty years ago G.K. Chesterton another English novelist proclaimed Dickens as 'almost Catholic 'and others still claimed him as ‘almost Marxist’ , what’s certain is that his 200th birthday is something you cannot ‘bah humbug’ .

So at Vatican Radio he is remembered with a little bit of humour by an extract from a series of imaginary letters John Paul I wrote before becoming Pope, the 'Illustrious through the Ages’ , the ‘Illustrissimi’. Among them one to Charles Dickens: ‘…Your books pleased me immensely because they are pervaded with a sense of love for the poor. Against them stand the oppressors, whom you disgrace with your pen dipped in the genius of anger and irony …We are in one boat full of people …If we don’t want to encounter serious turmoil, the rule is this: all for one and one for all. The whole world is a poorhouse and has such need of God.”

Via Vatican Radio

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