The Not-So Young Creatives – INSPIRED: Happy 200th Birthday, Charles Dickens

200 years ago today, Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth.

A man of countless talents, passions and interests, Dickens is still revered as one of the world’s most-widely read – and greatly-loved – authors, whose vivid depictions of life on the streets of Victorian London haunt social history and school syllabuses alike.

During his career, Dickens wrote over a dozen major novels, numerous collections of short stories and sketches as well as a range of plays, poems and essays.Β He worked into the small hours, writing his novels by hand and was utterly dedicated to his craft. He was (and still is) praised for his concern surrounding social reform, as well as his ability to keep the public on tenterhooks waiting for the next installment of his stories. And he didn’t even Tweet.

In honour of this most inspiring of writers, we bring you this interview with the man himself. Well, we say ‘interview’ – we haven’t quite travelled back in time, but we have pieced together some of the best quotes from his books, letters and speeches (and believe us, there are hundreds of brilliant Dickens’ quotes) and fitted them together in a kind of Q&A-style. The man really was a genius. Enjoy…

What do you think makes a good novel?

The whole difference between construction and creation is this; that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists. An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.

A boy’s story is the best that is ever told.

What skills does a writer need to have?

I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time…

If you weren’t a writer, what would you have liked to have done?

Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a Swiss farm, and live entirely surrounded by cows – and china.

What is your literary peeve?

The jolter-headedness of the conceited idiots who suppose that volumes are to be tossed off like pancakes, and that any writing can be done without the utmost application, the greatest patience, and the steadiest energy of which the writer is capable. There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.

What do you make of today’s reliance on computers? We mean Twitter, Facebook, writing a novel on-screen rather than on-paper…

Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.

What advice would you give to today’s budding writers?

Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts. Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has many – not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some. This is a world of action, and not for moping and droning in.

And what advice would you give to TYC readers in general?
Cheerfulness and contentment are great beautifiers and are famous preservers of youthful looks.

  • Pay a visit to 48 Doughty Street, aka the Charles Dickens museum, where Dickens lived between 1837-39. Whilst there, he wrote Oliver Twist and The Pickwick Papers; it is now home to over 100,000 items relating to the author’s life. It closes for refurbishment on 10 April. 48 Doughty Street, Holborn, London. www.dickensmuseum.com
  • Also visit the Dickens’ exhibition at the Museum of London, the first major UK exhibition celebrating the author in over 40 years – www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
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