Free Library of Philadelphia

Today marks the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, and the Free Library joins the global celebration honoring the life and legacy of the world's first literary superstar.

Philadelphia is home to what for a long time was the world's only statue of Charles Dickens. Find out more about the statue in our digital collection. Each year a ceremony, hosted by the Friends of Clark Park, is held at the much beloved statue. The celebration is detailed in an article from yesterday's Inquirer.

The party continues this weekend. Join us Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Parkway Central Children's Department for readings, crafts, and some surprises - possibly an appearance by the man himself. Additionally, the Rare Book Department will be open from 1-5 p.m. for viewing our exhibition "From the Desk of Charles Dickens." While you're here, be sure to check out our lively and colorful exhibition on the first floor "Character Sketches from the World of Charles Dickens." And - you spoke and we listened - beginning on Saturday, February 18th the Rare Book Department will be open Saturdays from 9 5 p.m.

Events are scheduled all year long to explore the lasting impact of the Immortal Boz. Check our calendar frequently for events happening all over the area. On the third Thursday of each month we'll be holding a literary salon in the Elkins Room to discuss one of Dickens's novels. Next Thursday covers Oliver Twist. You can register for these free events on Eventbrite.

The salons are led by Edward Pettit, best known as the "Philly Poe Guy" who argued for Philadelphia as the true home of Edgar Allan Poe's literary legacy. As our Dickens Ambassador he has been helping to plan events for our Year of Dickens and he will give you a Dickens novel if you ask! Pettit has also undertaken the reading of all of Dickens's works this year, including the novels, plays, and journalism. You can follow his adventures on his Reading Charles Dickens website.

Celebrations are taking place all over the world, especially in Great Britain. A Dickens 2012 website chronicles the year-long worldwide schedule of events, exhibitions, and performances. This morning a ceremony was held at  Westminster Abbey, attended by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. Ralph Fiennes read a touching passage from Bleak House as Prince Charles laid a wreath on the author's grave in Poet's Corner.

Finally, even Google is on board with a 200th birthday doodle!

For more information on  the Free Library's Year of Dickens visit

Tags: Charles Dickens, Exhibitions, Rare Book Department, Year of Dickens

The Morris Dancers lead the procession to the Dickens Statue
The Morris Dancers lead the procession to the Dickens Statue
Frank Chance of the Friends of Clark Park
Frank Chance of the Friends of Clark Park

The Free Library of Philadelphia’s Year of Dickens 2012 carries on throughout February—Charles Dickens’s birthday month! Mr. Dickens officially turns 200 on February 7, but we're celebrating all month long! With more literary salons, a birthday celebration, and readings over breakfast at The Dandelion, February’s events appeal to all ages.

Readings at The Dandelion
Sundays, February 5, 12, 19, 26, 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. | The Dandelion Pub

The Dandelion will host readings from A Boy Called Dickens and Usborne’s Illustrated Stories from Dickens for children ages 4 through 9. Tea cakes and scones will be served as the kids gather round the fireplace for the storytelling. After the reading, adults can feast on a hearty English breakfast for $13 or breakfast and a 20oz cask beer for $20. Each reading will be capped at 20 guests. Call 215-558-2500 for more information or to make a reservation.

Special Saturday Hours at the Rare Book Department
Saturday, February 11, 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. | Rare Book Department, Parkway Central Library

As a part of Dickens’s birthday festivities, the Rare Book Department will hold special Saturday hours for visitors to view the "From the Desk of Charles Dickens" exhibition from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Be on the lookout for a special guest who might be on hand to reclaim a place at his desk!

Happy Birthday, Dickens!
Saturday, February 11, 2:00 p.m. | Parkway Central Library

The Children’s Department at Parkway Central will throw a 200th birthday party for Charles Dickens, featuring the Library’s very own Dickens impersonator, who will be on hand for a storytime reading and to blow out the candles on his birthday cake.

Literary Salon – Oliver Twist
Thursday, February 16, 6:30 p.m. | Elkins Room, Parkway Central Library

This month’s literary salon will focus on Oliver Twist. Click here to register.

The Free Library’s Year of Dickens 2012 will run until the end of the year. For more information, visit

Tags: Year of Dickens

3 Dickens
3 Dickens

Next month marks the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens. With brightly colored banners hanging outside Parkway Central, Rare Book Department exhibitions, special storytime readings, and our very own Dickens impersonator, the Free Library is ready for the celebration! We’re not the only ones venerating the inimitable author’s birthday, though—in honor of the bicentenary, numerous Dickens adaptations and modern updates have sprouted around the globe. Here are some highlights of Dickens in 2012:

• BBC’s Radio 4 is featuring dramatizations of classics like A Tale of Two Cities, and podcasts about Claire Tomalin’s biography, Dickens: A Life, that came out in 2011. The freshest adaptation, however, comes with Ayeesha Menon’s reinterpretation of Martin Chuzzlewit. Her Mumbai Chuzzlewits is set in modern-day India amongst a Catholic community. Catch all the excitement here in a serialized podcast.

• The BBC’s got another interesting salute to Dickens and his unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Dickens died in 1870, leaving the novel’s ending, well, a mystery. In fact, it was only about halfway complete. In 2012, the BBC takes on the challenge of figuring out what would have been. In the two-part series, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, writer Gwyneth Hughes gives the novel an ending, along with some traditional Dickens drama.

• In early April, PBS will feature an adaptation of Great Expectations as a part of their Masterpiece Classic collection. Gillian Anderson, of X-Files fame, takes on the role of the bitter Miss Havisham. This won’t be the only time this year that this role will be reprised; a film version of Great Expectations will also hit movie screens in 2012, with Helena Bonham Carter as Havisham.

And remember, the Library's Dickens celebrations will happen throughout 2012! A full listing of events can be found here.

Tags: Year of Dickens


Beginning in January, the Free Library will continue its Year of Dickens 2012 with monthly literary salons, each featuring a different Dickens novel. The salons are free and open to all readers, whether it’s your first or 100th time to crack open Oliver Twist.

Taking place in the Elkins Room of the Rare Book Department at Parkway Central, the salons are held the third Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m. The first book up for discussion, on January 19, is Dickens’s earliest novel, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. The following months’ line-up includes:

• February 16 – Oliver Twist
• March 15 – The Mystery of Edwin Drood
• April 19 – The Old Curiosity Shop
• May 17 – David Copperfield
• June 21 – Great Expectations
• July 19 – A Tale of Two Cities
• August 16 – Barnaby Rudge
• September 20 – Nicholas Nickleby
• October 18 – Bleak House
• November 15 – Our Mutual Friend
• December 20 – A Christmas Carol

To register for any of the salons, visit

Along with the literary salons, special guest authors and writers will visit the Library during reading periods for the novels as a part of the Boz Bicentenary Speaker Series, named after Dickens’s self-stylized nickname. The schedule, which can also be found at, includes Richard Bravo on The Pickwick Papers on January 11; Matthew Pearl on The Mystery of Edwin Drood on March 6; and Wesley Stace on David Copperfield on May 9.

We hope you continue to join us in our celebration of all things Dickens!

Tags: Year of Dickens

Mrs. Gamp. Pictures from Dickens with Readings. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co.
Mrs. Gamp. Pictures from Dickens with Readings. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co.
Barnaby Rudge and Grip. F. O. C. Darley. Character Sketches from Dickens. Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1892.
Barnaby Rudge and Grip. F. O. C. Darley. Character Sketches from Dickens. Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1892.
Mr. Pickwick. Joseph Clayton Clark. The Characters of Charles Dickens. London: Raphael Tuck, 1890.
Mr. Pickwick. Joseph Clayton Clark. The Characters of Charles Dickens. London: Raphael Tuck, 1890.

A vibrant and colorful exhibition at the Parkway Central Library highlights one of the most enduring legacies of Charles Dickens's genius: the unforgettable characters he brought to life. By some estimates there are 989 named characters in his works, with names like Toodle, Tappertit, and Tattycoram; Buzfuz, Bumble, and Bucket.

Each of Dickens’s novels is populated with a profusion of unique personalities who are animated by the extraordinary power the author had of seeing his characters and making us see them. Driven by a fascination with human behavior and fueled by his gift for precise recall, Dickens often remarked that his characters and stories “took possession” of him.

The writer G. K. Chesterton said that “The whole of Dickens’s genius consisted of taking hints and turning them into human beings.” In putting pen to paper Dickens interwove satire and sentimentalism to create some of the most bizarre and eccentric characters in fiction. Of Sairey Gamp, the befuddled, sadistic midwife of The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, Dickens writes, “The face of Mrs. Gamp – the nose in particular – was somewhat red and swollen, and it was difficult to enjoy her society without becoming conscious of a smell of spirits.”  Of the immortal Samuel Pickwick he remarks: "To those who knew that the gigantic brain of Pickwick was working beneath that forehead, and that the beaming eyes of Pickwick were twinkling behind those glasses, the sight was indeed an interesting one.”

To aid his creativity Dickens made lists of odd names, gleaned from church registers, tombstones, and a resource called Bowditch's Surnames. According to biographer Peter Ackroyd, Dickens's characters did not exist until he had named them and "it is that, which like a spell, brings forth their appearance and behaviour in the world." Facsimiles of original and published illustrations, set against a backdrop of London Street scenes from the collections of the Rare Book Department, Theatre, and Print and Picture Collections bring these characters to life in a vivid and imaginative way.  

The exhibition will be on view in the West Gallery on the first floor until March 23rd, 2012 and can be seen during Parkway Central's normal hours of operation: 9:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Friday; 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Saturday; 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. Sunday. For more information on the Free Library's Year of Dickens, including a full calendar of events, visit

Tags: Charles Dickens, Exhibitions, Rare Book Department, Year of Dickens, art