A Charles Dickens February

By Kevin Grace

Drawing by CruikshankIn our Dickens scene for today, young Oliver watches the Dodger pickpocket a gentleman at a newsstand, an image drawn by London caricaturist George Cruikshank (1792-1878).  Cruikshank penned scathing cartoons in which he lampooned the well-heeled set of London as well as the denizens of despair, and it is these drawings which have made his lasting reputation for 19th century English social and political commentary.   Cruikshank also illustrated several books by Dickens and, in fact, toward the end of his life he claimed that it was he who devised the plot of Oliver Twist.  Dickens, as one would expect, viewed these literary matters quite differently and was rather miffed at Cruickshank anyway because the artist gave up a life of mild debauchery to reject the drink and to squelch discussion of his numerous illegitimate offspring with his mistress, Adelaide Attree.  Dickens thought imbibing in moderation was quite all right.  We shan’t say whether it was for alcohol or keeping paramours.

George Cruikshank

George Cruikshank

There are quite a number of Dickens commemorative events this year, the best of which is this website devoted to his bicentennial: http://www.dickens2012.org/ and a variety of events in England: http://www.hellomagazine.com/travel/201201257057/dickens-bicentenary-celebrations-england/.  And even Prince Charles is getting involved, there being little for princes to do in February: http://www.bookbrunch.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11865:prince-of-wales-to-lead-dickens-bicentennial-celebrations&catid=914:books&Itemid=93.

Locally, the wonderful Mercantile Library of Cincinnati is commemorating Dickens’ birthday next Tuesday, the 7th, with showings of film adaptations and a nice piece of history regarding the author’s visit to Cincinnati in the 19th century.  It is understood that there will be a punch available that day:

Event at Mercantile Library

To get an idea of our Dickens holdings in the Archives & Rare Books Library, please follow this link: http://uclid.uc.edu/search~S18?/adickens%2C+charles/adickens+charles/1%2C3%2C144%2CB/exact&FF=adickens+charles+1812+1870&1%2C141%2C.  For more information about the Archives & Rare Books Library and its collections, please call 513.556.1959, email us at archives@ucmail.uc.edu, or visit our website at www.libraries.uc.edu/libraries/arb/archives.