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Happy Birthday Charles Dickens!

Today marks the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens! In celebration of the man who helped inspire The Cheshire Cheese Cat, I give you a list of little known facts about Dickens.

  • Charles Dickens was epileptic and made some of his characters (like Oliver Twist’s brother) epileptic.
  • He was also a mesmerist, which is basically healing through hypnotism. He even claimed to have healed several of his friends.
  • He was friends with Hans Christian Andersen. When Andersen famously overstayed his welcome in the Dickens home, Dickens let him know it was time to leave by hanging a sign on his mirror that read, “Hans Andersen slept in this room for five weeks, which seemed to the family like AGES.”
  • Dickens thought very highly of himself and referred to himself as “the Sparkler of Albion.”
  • He nicknamed everyone, from characters in his novels (Pip) to his own children (Skittles and Plorn).
  • At age 12, his father was imprisoned for debt and Dickens was sent to work in a factory. While he rarely spoke about his experiences, they heavily influenced his writings.
  • David Copperfield was his favorite work and the most autobiographical.
  • He was obsessive-compulsive, to the point where he obsessively fixed his hair, would clean his friends homes, and always made sure his bed was aligned north-south. He also touched objects three times for luck.
  • He had a secret room in his study hidden behind a bookshelf. All of the books on that shelf had clever names like, Noah’s Arkitecture and a nine-volume series called Cat’s Lives. 
  • In June 1865, Dickens and his mistress were in the Staplehurst rail crash. He was on one of only 8 cars that did not end up in the river.  They helped other passengers before Dickens ran back for the manuscript for Our Mutual Friend.
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Good as Gold

The expression “as good as gold” was used in 1843 to describe Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol and is an expression we still use to this day. It is a phrase with many definitions, but is often used to describe something as being genuine and of a high standard.

So it is fitting that a book about a tiny mouse, a cat with a secret and Charles Dickens has garnered a Parent’s Choice Gold Award in Historical Fiction. Huzzah!