Royal party and read-a-thon mark big day for Dickens

Fri Feb 3, 2012 4:11pm EST
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By Mike Collett-White and Sarah Mills

LONDON (Reuters) - Queen Elizabeth is throwing a star-studded party for him at Buckingham Palace and in Buenos Aires, leading cultural figures will gather in an old orphanage to read from his works.

Charles Dickens may have died in 1870, but legions of fans around the world unite next Tuesday and beyond to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of a titan of English fiction.

In one sense, the story of the author of familiar classics like "A Christmas Carol," "Bleak House" and "A Tale of Two Cities" is thoroughly modern.

The journey from childhood poverty which deeply influenced the work and thinking of Dickens to international renown for his novels bears comparison to that of J.K. Rowling, dubbed the world's first billionaire author.

Commercially, his books eclipse Harry Potter or any other modern-day publishing phenomenon -- some estimates say "A Tale of Two Cities" is the best-selling novel of all time at more than 200 million copies.

Stories featuring household names like Samuel Pickwick, the orphan Oliver Twist and miser Ebenezer Scrooge remain in print and live on in hundreds of films, television series and plays, and there is no sign of the adaptations letting up.

Director Mike Newell is working on the highest-profile new screen version of Dickens work with Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes starring in "Great Expectations."

The appeal, say experts, is that as well as writing gripping stories, Dickens remains relevant today.   Continued...

<p>Tour guide Jean Hayne of London Walks gives a Charles Dickens tour in London, February 3, 2012. The month of February marks an international celebration of the life and work of Charles Dickens on the bicentenary of his birth, which falls on 7 February 2012. To match Travel Postcard TRAVEL-LONDON/DICKENS REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly</p>