As a former English major, I feel a special duty and obligation today to honor the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens. (Bias Alert: Dickens is one of my all-time favorite authors. My favorite book? Bleak House, of course.)
Needless to say, the bicentennial offers a perfect teachable moment. So, to justify this as a Curriculum Matters blog post, I’ll start with some educational resources.
• The Guardian newspaper of England has assembled a nice collection of resources on ‘How to Teach ... Charles Dickens.’
• Here’s some materials from the British Council, including lesson plans and recent blog posts on the 200th anniversary.
• The Washington Post has reviewed three new illustrated books for children about Dickens.
I’m sure there’s plenty more out there. Know of something good? Please post a comment below.
The Associated Press quotes Dickens biographer Claire Tomalin on one dimension of Dickens’ staying power.
“You only have to look around our society and everything he wrote about in the 1840s is still relevant,” said Tomalin. “The great gulf between the rich and poor, corrupt financiers, corrupt Members of Parliament. ... You name it, he said it.”
And now for the fun part: Some quotes from the Dickens canon, starting with a few words of wisdom—of course—on education. (Thanks to Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations for assistance!)
--"I took a good deal o’ pains with his eddication, sir; let him run in the streets when he was very young, and shift for hisself. It’s the only way to make a boy sharp, sir.” (Pickwick Papers)
--"Experientia does it—as Papa used to say.” (David Copperfield)
--"He is an honorable, obstinate, truthful, high-spirited, intensely prejudiced, perfectly reasonable man.” (Bleak House)
--"Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else.” (Hard Times)
--"There is a wisdom of the head, and ... a wisdom of the heart.” (Hard Times)
--"In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice.” (Great Expectations)
--"Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.” (Great Expectations)
--"It’s a mad world. Mad as Bedlam.” (David Copperfield)
--"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.” (David Copperfield)
Happy Birthday, Mr. Dickens.
Photo: Charles Dickens in an 1861 photo engraving. New York Public Library via AP
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.