Yale celebrates Dickens' 200th birthday

Early in 1842 , on the eve of his 30th birthday, Charles Dickens made his first trip to America. The author at that time of  “Pickwick Papers,” “Oliver Twist,” “Nicholas Nickleby,” and “The Old Curiosity Shop, ” the young novelist was celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic. Writing of his trip in “American Notes,” Dickens mentioned the “fine town” of New Haven and described Yale College, as “an establishment of considerable eminence and reputation.”  (In the same book Dickens misidentified an older establishment in Boston as “The University of Cambridge.”)

Celebrating Charles Dickens

Between the Yale Center for British Art and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale has a vast collection of material related to Dickens, including unique art objects, editions, and memorabilia that provide telling perspectives on his life and fiction.

Writing in the February, 1842 issue The Yale Literary Magazine, a Yale College student known only by the initials MYT, wrote an essay comparing Dickens to the equally popular Edward Bulwer-Lytton (whose opening sentence, “It was a dark and stormy night,” has in modern times inspired a contest for worst openings to hypothetical novels.)

In every way finding Dickens superior not only to the latter, but to every English novelist who preceded him, MYT concluded:

“Class not his books with our ephemeral productions — they will live while there is an eye to read and a heart to feel. And had the world its Westminster, we would not hesitate to predict a conspicuous niche to commemorate the genius of Charles Dickens.”

In addition to the above, the Yale University Press and its London counterpart, Yale Books, have published numerous works offering insight to Dickens’ life, work, and surroundings. Click here to learn more.

Arts & Humanities