7th February 2012
Dozens of events are taking place across the world today (February 7th) to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest ever contributors to English literature, Dickens' works have impacted every corner of the globe and events are being held in locations ranging from his birth city of Portsmouth to Australia.
Prince Charles will visit the Charles Dickens Museum in Doughty Street with the Duchess of Cornwall, before leading a special wreath-laying ceremony in Poets' Corner at Westminster Abbey, where Dickens was buried in 1870.
Actress Gillian Anderson, who portrayed Miss Haversham in the recent BBC adaptation of Great Expectations, will read an excerpt from the novel for the royal guests, while actor Ralph Fiennes, Dickens biographer Claire Tomalin and the author's great-great-grandson Mark Dickens will also provide readings.
At St Mary's Church in Dickens' birth city of Portsmouth, actress Sheila Hancock will read from Oliver Twist, while Simon Callow will read an excerpt from David Copperfield, which many scholars believe is the closet Dickens came to writing an autobiography.
'I really made the strong decision to come to the place where he was born rather than to Westminster Cathedral where he never wanted to be,' said Callow, who was referring to Dickens' desire to be buried at Rochester Cathedral in Kent, close to where he died.
Other events taking place in the UK include a special dinner at Mansion House in London, featuring Sir Patrick Stewart reading from A Christmas Carol, and the launch of a new Dickens newspaper and iPad app.
Meanwhile, an international Dickens read-a-thon will unite 24 countries across the globe, with readers in Australia starting things off by taking part in a 24-hour Dombey and Son marathon.
Commenting on the day's events, Dean of Westminster Dr John Hall, who will preside over the special service taking place at Westminster Abbey, said Dickens' humanity and compassion reverberate as strongly today as they did in the 19th century.
He added: 'Dickens made an extraordinary impact on Victorian England through his writings, which remain immensely popular. This bicentenary should help renew our commitment to improving the lot of the disadvantaged of our own day.'
Foyles is hosting a number of events at its Charing Cross Road store to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Dickens' birth, including a special Photography Exhibition centred round the author's work in the Foyles Gallery, which will run from February 18th to March 1st.
A special Charles Dickens Quiz Night will also be held at the Cafe at Foyles on April 24th, where prizes will be awarded to the top-scoring team and the best Victorian fancy dress costume will be recognised.
Meanwhile, Simon Callow will be hosting a Literary Supper at St Pancras International on February 23rd, where he and Museum of London curator Alex Werner will look at Dickens' life through the lens of the theatre and the importance of the stage to the Victorian storyteller's works.
Mr Werner will also help to mark the launch of the Museum of London's Dickens and London exhibition, with an event at Foyles' Charing Cross Road store on March 6th examining contemporary perceptions of Dickensian London, as well as a special Book Club on April 2nd analysing Oliver Twist.
The highlight of the birthday celebrations is Dickens Day at Foyles, an all-day event on February 25th where a host of celebrated writers and literary experts will pay tribute to the master storyteller.
Luminaries including Alex Werner, screenwriter Sarah Phelps, novelist Deborah Moggach, historians David Kynaston and Sarah Wise and children's author Michael Rosen will each host talks discussing their love of Dickens' writing, London in the 19th century and the relevance of the author's work in the modern age.