February 7th, 2012 marked the 200th birthday of one of the greatest writers the world has ever known, Charles Dickens. At this time we thought it appropriate to pay tribute to one of the most enduring legacies of his genius: the unforgettable characters he brought to life. With names like Toodle, Tappertit, and Tattycoram; Buzfuz, Bumble, and Bucket; by some estimates there are 989 named characters in his works.
Each of Dickens’s novels is populated with a profusion of unique personalities who are animated by the power Dickens had of seeing his characters and making us see them. Driven by a fascination with human behavior and everyday life, and fueled by his gift for precise recall, Dickens often remarked that his characters and stories “took possession” of him.
Once the character had been dreamed up, Dickens usually had very specific opinions on how they should be illustrated. Given that he was writing in monthly parts, it was often difficult for Dickens to provide his illustrators with the final text. In many cases he would direct them as to which scene he wanted them to illustrate and then chastise them when they got the details wrong. The popularity of the illustrations, at a time when not many books were illustrated, cemented these characters in the imaginations of artists to come after, so that many of the later illustrations look much like the originals. The result is pure delight.
So welcome to the world of Charles Dickens! We hope that once you become familiar with some of these extraordinary characters, you will want to get to know them better, as Charles Dickens knew them, through his books.