Today would have been Charles Dickens' 200th birthday, which has resulted in all manner of tributes, particularly in the United Kingdom. To help mark the occasion, we've sifted through the reappraisals and retrospectives to find the day's most memorable, informative, and just plain compelling Dickens coverage.
In Westminster Abbey, Prince Charles placed a wreath on the author's grave while Ralph Fiennes read from Bleak House. If you're going strictly on pomp, this was the tribute to end all tributes. [The Telegraph]
Why yes, today's Google Doodle was a reference to Dickens.
For the non-English, actor Simon Callow provided a guided tour to some of the author's notable London locations that felt highly essential, even though he was taking viewers through a world that, strictly speaking, no longer exists. [The Guardian]
If you haven't read Bleak House, Great Expectations, or David Copperfield, you could do worse than checking out the "digested read" editions being offered by The Guardian. The feature is built on the joke of only retaining a germ of the original text, but the abridged versions retain a vaguely Dickensian quality, which is more than you can say for a Wikipedia plot summary. [The Guardian]
The BBC has a nice primer on the realities of the nasty mid-19th century social institutions -- including orphanages, work houses, and terrible schools -- that Dickens revealed in his work. [BBC]
The Morgan Library and Museum in New York City has a terrific online exhibit featuring high resolution images of each manuscript page from A Christmas Carol, plus 20 of the author's letters. [The Morgan]
Time constructed a fierce vertical landing page to tick off the days leading up to the bicentennial, the centerpiece of which is an infuriating -- but reasonable and exhaustively argued -- ranking of his ten best novels. (They put Bleak House at number one.) Not to be outdone, The Telegraph has been ranking the ten best Dickens characters. (They chose Scrooge, which is fair.) [Time and The Telegraph]
In a piece for the upcoming issue of The New York Times Magazine, Sam Anderson fondly recalls a visit five years ago to Dickens World, a simulacra of mid-19th century London located in Kent, that boasts an operaring budget of $124 million. [The New York Times Magazine]
In his will, Dickens was adamant he didn't want any statues build in his honor. Philadelphia is the only city (so far) to have ignored this request, erecting a life-sized statue of the author in Clark Park in 1901. Over the next century, the city has weirdly turned into the American clearing house for Dickens bric-a-brac. In addition to the statue, the Free Library of Philadelphia boasts 1,200 of his letters, parts of the original Bleak House manuscript, plus his pet raven Grip, mounted and stuffed. [Philadelphia Magazine]
Students at the Bolton school in the United Kingdom adorably tried to set a world record for most people dressed up like fictional characters. We're not entirely sure such a record exists, but you'd have to be Madame Defarge to bring it up. [BBC]