Prince Charles leads Dickens 200th celebrations

Tue Feb 7, 2012 10:02am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Prince Charles led global celebrations on Tuesday marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, a titan of English literature whose vivid stories confronted the injustices of Victorian life.

Britain's heir-to-the-throne visited the Charles Dickens Museum in London where U.S. actress Gillian Anderson, who played Miss Havisham in a BBC adaptation of "Great Expectations," read from the novelist's work.

The prince went to Westminster Abbey to lay a wreath at the grave of a writer whose stories from "Nicholas Nickleby" to "Oliver Twist" and characters from Samuel Pickwick to Ebenezer Scrooge live on in countless stage and screen adaptations.

Ralph Fiennes, Dickens biographer Claire Tomalin and the author's great-great grandson Mark Dickens appeared at a special ceremony in Poets' Corner, where Dickens was buried in 1870 alongside Geoffrey Chaucer, Alfred Tennyson, Samuel Johnson, Rudyard Kipling and other literary greats.

The event marked the largest gathering of Dickens' descendants, with over 200 family members attending.

"This bicentenary should help renew our commitment to improving the lot of the disadvantaged of our own day," said the Dean of Westminster, John Hall, referring to Dickens' preoccupation with inequality and poverty.

Culture minister Jeremy Hunt presented his fellow cabinet ministers with copies of Dickens novels; Prime Minister David Cameron was given "Great Expectations" and "Hard Times."

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<p>Actress Gillian Anderson (R) shows a first edition of a Charles Dickens book, with the author's annotations, to Britain's Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, during a tour of the Dickens Museum in London February 7, 2012. Tuesday marked the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens' birth. REUTERS/Andrew Winning</p>