Britain Marks Charles Dickens’ 200th Birthday

Posted February 7th, 2012 at 7:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Britain's Prince Charles has led ceremonies marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, one of English literature's most famous and celebrated novelists.

The prince laid a wreath at Dickens' grave Tuesday at Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner, where the writer was buried in 1870 — alongside Geoffrey Chaucer, Tennyson, Samuel Johnson and other literary greats.

The writer's descendants attended the ceremony. His great-grandson Mark Dickens said the writer was very committed to social reform.

“The fact that we're celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens is an opportunity to be able to look back at what he did in his works and in particular with his social reform because that was very, very important to him throughout his life.''

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla also toured the Dickens Museum in central London where they cut a book-shaped as cake and listened to a reading by Actress Gillian Anderson from an old Dickens book. Anderson recently played Miss Haversham in the British TV drama “Great Expectations” based on Dickens' novel. She praised Dickens for describing the human condition in England of his time.

“He's obviously very well talented in many different ways, but he was so specific about the human condition of the time. And his descriptions of characters and of the state of being at that time in England was, you know, is part of our historical record of what it was like back then.''

Dickens' difficult early life led him to campaign for social reform in Victorian England through his writing. His novels, including Oliver Twist, Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, have been read by millions of people worldwide. In championing the problems of the poor and underprivileged, his stories about social inequality, greed and corrupt politicians remain relevant today.

More events are being held in the southern city of Portsmouth, where Dickens was born on February 7, 1812.