February 7th, 2012 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, and all over the world, the occasion is being commemorated, celebrated, noted, and feted. At Westminster Abbey, there will be a wreath-laying ceremony at Dickens “final resting place.” Somehow, I find it hard to imagine Dickens resting anywhere.
I have heard that as Dickens was writing, he would get up from his writing table (he even had a special traveling writing table with an inkpot and ready-made quill pens) and go to a mirror, where he would speak the lines he was writing for a character and make, on his face, the expressions, the grimaces, the features of each character, and when he had them down in his mind he would return to the writing table and write what he had just modeled in the mirror.
In later years, Dickens would travel the world, giving live performances of his writings, and folks would marvel at how he could embody each character so completely, down to their accents, their speech patterns, their facial expressions. their body language.
Dickens made a cameo appearance in my book, Parisian by Heart, and I will include a bit of it here:
“Well, I…” I saw Colette’s cat eyes shift to a place somewhere over my head. I looked at Marcel, he was also following her gaze. A voice spoke behind me.
“Please forgive me, Mesdames et Monsieur, but I could not resist taking the chance to speak to you without being formally introduced?” The voice had an English accent, and I turned around to look into the face of…
”Dickens. Charles Dickens.” He held out his hand to Marcel, who had risen, and after they shook hands, he reached for Colette’s hand, then didn’t seem to know whether he should shake it or kiss it. He tried a little of both. Colette smiled her cat smile.
Marcel spoke. “And may I present my traveling companion, Suzy.” Dickens gave me a little bow. I looked at Marcel, who gave a little shake with his head. “Madame Suzy; a pleasure to meet you. Well!” He clapped his hands together. “The two literary giants ofFrance! I would not have believed I could be so lucky as to meet you on my last night in Paris.” Colette leaned forward and gestured towards an empty chair at the table. Dickens seated himself and looked around the table at us all, delight written on his face. “What brings you to Paris- may I call you Boz? From one ‘literary giant’ to another?” Colette asked, lighting another cigarette from the one she was already holding. “Oh, I should say, certainly you may!” He looked at Marcel, who said nothing. “I am here doing research for a new book I have in mind; I’m tentatively calling it “Tale of Two Cities”.
Marcel started forward in his chair, and Colette’s laugh rang out across the dining room. I noticed several discrete and a few not so discrete looks in our direction. “Relax, Marcel, ma cherie, I do not think he means the two cities you are thinking of!” Dickens looked confused as Colette explained, “Marcel thinks you mean Sodom and Gomorrah.”
Marcel turned to Dickens and asked, “Two cities, Monsieur?”
“Why, yes – London and Paris. At the time of the Revolution. I have been working on the opening lines; would you like to hear them?” We all nodded.
Dickens pulled some folded pieces of paper from one of his pockets, and began to read: “It was a pretty good time, it was a really bad time…” He looked up at Marcel and Colette, who looked at each other as if waiting for the other to speak. When they did not, Dickens cleared his throat and said, “Needs work, eh? Yes, I thought so. Well, it’s not the best of beginnings, but it’s not the worst of them either…”
In honor of Charles Dickens 200th birthdday, I am having a giveaway of my book. Leave a comment here, or like my Facebook page, and you will be entered in the contest to receive a signed copy of Parisian by Heart.
Giveaway ends February 10th, 2012.
Happy 200th, Charles Dickens!