Hoorah for Boz! Today is the 200th anniversary of Dickens’ birthday and there is much celebration of the closest thing that we have had to a national conscience, with Orwell the only other candidate. Penguin Books have done a poll to determine our best known and favourite characters: unsuprisingly Scrooge wins, with most of the rest of the top 10 suitably grotesque – Miss Havisham, Sydney Carter, the Artful Dodger and Magwitch jostle for top spot. Only Pip and the adorable Betsy Trotwood represent anything like goodness in the top 10, apparently. John Sutherland, writing in the Guardian, thinks it is all overdone and provides a chunky list of other great Victorian novels.
Thinking about how much Dickens permeated my childhood and how we can ensure that our current students at least contemplate reading his books, I am glad that our own Bedales Assessed Course in English Literature includes a weighty Victorian novel; if you get used to reading something good and big early on, you are likely to keep doing so. Gripping Dickens TV dramatisations helps bring over the incipient drama and anchors those gargoyle-like characters in our minds. So, I will raise a mental glass of grog to those street-partying in Portsmouth today and look forward to tackling the Tomalin biography over half term.
By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools
Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.