In which I buy stuff

Dear Charlie,

I’m less than 100 pages from the end of “David Copperfield,” and rather than write you two more letters about that fantastic book, I thought instead I’d share with you some miscellaneous bits and pieces I’ve collected relating to you.

It’s kind of weird that this time last year I was completely oblivious to your charms, whereas now I can’t see anything even remotely associated with you without a) getting very excited and b) wanting to own it. The only thing preventing me from purchasing this Tale of Two Cities t-shirt while on a recent trip to The Book Man in Chilliwack was the fact that I haven’t read the book yet (I bought The Maltese Falcon one instead). I strongly suspect it’ll be in my closet by August.

One of these things is more obscure than the others…

Anyway, I went to an auction a few months ago and saw three Royal Doulton figurines of characters from your books. And having the rabid possessiveness of a new convert, I bid on them and won them. Now I can look up at my hutch and see Mr. Pickwick (yay!), Tiny Tim (yay!), and Stiggins (ya—wait, who?).

I thought he must have been a character from a book I hadn’t yet read, but no, he’s tucked away in the Pickwick Papers, being one pineapple-rum-imbibing reverend who takes advantage of, and preaches to Mrs. Weller (and whom Mr. Weller, Sr. gleefully boots into the street after his wife’s unfortunate death).

I’m guessing that The Pickwick Papers were far more popular when the series of figurines was first commissioned, since so many of them are characters from that book. However, having now read over half of your body of work, and having been introduced to a myriad of memorable characters, I can think of more than a few who should have been memorialized ahead of Stiggins. Barnaby Rudge himself springs to mind. Quilp, too, would have been fun to design, having such a distinctive look. It’s not a great photo, but you can see most of the figurines on Christie’s website, where almost the entire series sold for £576 back in 2005. Who would you have chosen, I wonder?

I was aided in the identification of Stiggins by a book I bought online, called Charles Dickens: A Celebration of His Life and Works. It turns out to be less about your life and more about listing every character in every book you wrote, complete with contemporary and modern illustrations. Not engrossing bedtime reading, but handy for keeping names straight. This ambitious project of mine, continuing after your year-long bicentenary, has enjoyed the unforeseen advantage that all of the books that came out or were reprinted for that memorable birthday are now slowly migrating to the discount shelves (I love you, but I’d rather spend $5 than $40 on books about you).

How cool is it that your descendant is also a writer? Pretty damn cool.

And speaking of discounted books, I also picked up a fantastic one written by Lucinda Dickens Hawksley, your great-great-great granddaughter and patron of the Dickens Museum in London. Written in association with the museum, it features an informative, bite-sized biography divided into time periods and other areas of scholarship like your views on religion and the poor, and it’s nicely illustrated as well. I learned, for example, that, much like David Copperfield did, you had one hell of a crush on a young lady and that the relationship, unlike David’s, didn’t progress as far as you would have liked.

But what makes this book extra awesome is that it also contains facsimiles of actual documents from the museum, such as your marriage certificate, different calling cards with your photograph, a ticket to your final reading tour, and pages of your original manuscripts. It’s not as exciting as seeing that letter you wrote, but it’s the next best thing. I’ll have to console myself when I’ve finished reading all your works by perusing these books at greater leisure.

And now I’ll get back to the final pages of David Copperfield with great anticipation. And until I write again, I remain,

Yours affectionately,




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