As the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens' birth fast approaches (07 February 2012) there may be a point reached where we do not say: "Please, Sir, I want some more." However, that time seems a distance away for the time being. This article takes a humorous approach to the onslaught of Dickens on TV and in the movies. But, in the end, the expectations are great.
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Charles Dickens: good on paper, great on screenWith Great Expectations leading the way on television, it seems futile to resist the current outbreak of Dickens-mania.
By James Delingpole
Clockwise from main picture: Gillian Anderson in 'Great Expectations’; Magwitch and Pip from 1946; the BBC’s 'Bleak House’; Martin Jarvis as Nicholas Nickleby in 1968, and 'Our Mutual Friend’ in 1998 Photo: BBC, ITV, ARTSWORLD, GRANADA
Barkis is willing. Was there ever such a goose? Facts. Facts. Fog, fog, fog. We’re ever so ’umble. Something will turn up…
Yes, yes, I know that for some these are phrases that trigger a smile of recognition, a twinge of national pride and a warm nostalgic glow in the cockles of their heart. But not for me. Quite the opposite. Ever since I had to gradgrind my way through the immeasurably tedious Hard Times as one of my A-level set texts, I’ve found the annual Dickens outbreak every Christmas about as welcome and uplifting as the norovirus.
So you may well imagine the shock of betrayal I experienced a couple of days ago when I found my 11-year-old daughter utterly transfixed by a programme she’d found on iPlayer. “What’s this?” I said.
“It’s Dickens, Dad.”
“Yeah, Dad. Great Expectations. It’s brilliant!”
Apart from being an insult to my most deeply held principles, her enthusiasm also meant that I would now grudgingly have to watch the wretched three-parter myself to see what the fuss was about. This hadn’t been my plan at all, because a) I’ve seen the (admittedly wonderful) David Lean movie of Great Expectations, so I’ve been there, done that, surely? and b) for Christmas, I bought myself the boxed set of The Walking Dead, and I’d been really looking forward to a mammoth session of watching zombies having their heads knocked off with baseball bats – which is something you never get in Dickens, not once in his entire oeuvre.