Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens

Today, February 7, 2012, is the bicentennial of Charles Dickens’s birthday.  As you may well know, Mr. Dickens penned many books now considered a part of the canon of English language literature.

The internet celebrated Mr. Dickens’s birthday in several interesting ways.  Google was likely the most prominent, with one of its “Google Doodles” of an Old English setting featuring the author’s characters.  My favorite was Dictionary.com’s choice of “Pecksniffian” as its word of the day – an adjective meaning “hypocritically and unctuously affecting benevolence or high moral principles” and  based on Seth Pecksniff, a character from Dickens’s novel The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit.

I thought I’d mark this special occasion by quoting Dickens’s words from his essay A Pleasant Day, With an Unpleasant Termination, originally published in The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club.  Dickens, writing under the pen name Boz, speaks of hunting, trespassing, incarceration, and of course, much drinking. 

“Well, that certainly is most capital cold punch,” said Mr. Pickwick, looking earnestly at the cold bottle;” and the day is extremely warm, and—Tupman, my dear friend, a glass of punch?”

“With the greatest delight,” replied Mr. Tupman; and having drank that glass, Mr. Pickwick took another, just to see whether there was any orange peel in the punch, because the orange peel always disagreed with him, and finding that there was not, Mr. Pickwick took another glass to the health of their absent friend, and then felt himself imperatively called upon to propose another in honour of the punch-compounder, unknown.

This constant succession of glasses produced considerable effect upon Mr. Pickwick, his countenance beamed with the most sunny smiles, laughter played around his lips, and good-humoured merriment twinkled in his eye.  Yielding by degrees to the influence the exciting liquid, rendered more so by the heat, Mr. Pickwick expressed a strong desire to recollect a song he had heard in his infancy, and the attempt proving abortive, sought to stimulate his memory with more glasses of punch, which appeared to have quite a contrary effect; for, from forgetting the words of the song, he began to forget how to articulate any words at all; and finally, after rising to his legs to address the company in an eloquent speech, he fell into the barrow, and fast asleep, simultaneously.

So raise a glass and toast this man of letters, Charles Dickens.

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For other great literature about boozing, I recommend Charles Coulombe’s The Muse in the Bottle: Great Writers on the Joy of Drinking.

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Published in: on February 7, 2012 at 7:52 pm  Comments Off on Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens  
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