During his lifetime, Charles Dickens wrote 14-and-a-half novels, four million words and 14,000 letters. His stories were some of the most popular Britain had ever seen, and their characters burst into life from every corner of society. Miss Havisham is a fading, broken echo of the upper classes; Scrooge is an indictment of the selfish, self-made man, and Oliver Twist is an orphan whose fortunes are transformed. More than 200 years after Dickens was born, why does the author still captivate us?
Dickens is one of Britain’s most famous writers and since his stories were first published, they have never been out of print. His name has even inspired its own adjective: “Dickensian”. Why is this one man still so influential?
Great expectations for Dickens birthday bash
Britain’s greatest Victorian novelist was born exactly 200 years ago. He was a literary celebrity with hordes of adoring fans but, if he was alive today, would he still be writing books?
Hollywood bidding war over Christmas Carol
Universal Pictures has won a four-studio battle over the rights to Humbug, and has cast Ice Cube to star as Scrooge. What can today’s audiences learn from Dickens’s Victorian story?
Great novelist celebrated against his dying wishes
Charles Dickens forbade any memorials or statues of himself. But as the 200th anniversary of his birth approaches, plans for a monument are afoot. Should we let him rest in peace?
Food banks flooded by British poor
An alarming new report shows that use of last-resort food banks tripled last year. Many are appalled that Britons face such hunger. But should it shock us more than the vast poverty abroad?
PM’s ‘paralysis and failure’ on poverty law
How much help should the poor be given? A furore has built up over universal credit — a simple way of claiming benefits. The government has been accused of harking back to the 19th century.
Pope honours the poor in battered Philippines
Pope Francis addressed a crowd of millions in Manila. He talked about the nobility of suffering, but does this represent a patronising view of the true horror of poverty?
From brave, long-suffering heroes to evil, scheming villains — the novels of Charles Dickens are bursting with memorable characters. Here are some fascinating real-life characters of the 21st century.
‘Be great, be grateful’ says sick teenager
In a moving speech, terminally-ill Jake Bailey told his classmates to be ‘micro-ambitious’ and focus only on short-term goals. Is it time to abandon grand visions and start living for now?
Malala pledges ‘second life’ to education for all
On October 9th, assassins boarded a Pakistani school bus and shot 15-year-old Malala in the head for defending education. Somehow she survived – and has now sworn to continue her struggle.
Activists accuse richest US family of greed
This week a group of activists has revealed just how little America’s richest family, the Waltons, pay in to their own charitable foundation. Can they be justified in not donating more?
Dickens “takes children seriously” says his biographer Claire Tomalin — this is one of the reasons why his novels have remained so popular. How do we treat children now?
Literacy skills falling short in UK schools
Britain’s young people are not making the grade in literacy, according to the Chief Inspector of Schools. Reading and writing are essential to success. What can we do to solve this crisis?
Parents told: ‘get mean’ to avoid spoiled children
A quarter of British children do nothing to help around the house, a survey finds. ‘Mean parenting’ gurus say parents who overindulge children are creating a generation of spoiled brats.
Poverty-stricken parents give up babies in Greece
Poverty, hunger, families crammed into crumbling houses and, now, babies left on church doorsteps. It sounds like a Victorian novel – but this is happening right now, within the EU.
An industrial revolution, a vast empire and a strong queen: the Victorian era didn’t just shape Britain, it shaped the world. Dickens played a large part in mythologising the reign for future generations. So how do we remember those years now?
Queen on the eve of longest ever reign
This week, Queen Elizabeth II was voted Britain’s greatest monarch, and tomorrow she will also claim the title of its longest reigning ruler. What has she achieved in those 63 years?
Crumbling UK parliament ‘could be abandoned’
The speaker of the House of Commons has warned that parliament could be forced to move unless £3bn is spent on repairs. But is a Victorian palace a suitable venue for a modern legislature?
London celebrates 150 years of the Tube
On January 9th 1863, the London Underground opened for the first time. An ambitious venture in engineering and social vision, the Tube is now a central part of life in the British capital.