"It was the best of times, it was the worst
of times . . .” - Charles Dickens
Opening lines of books often can make or break them, and one of the most famous of all times, despite its “run-on” nature (this opening line above goes on for quite a few more words), is Dickens’ beginning to A Tale of Two Cities. It not only introduces what would become one of the 100 greatest books of all time but also the universal nature and drama of the book, the French Revolution.
Dickens, born on this date in 1812, was the most popular novelist of his time and remains one of the best known and most read ever. His works have never gone out of print and have been adapted continually for screen (at least 200 motion pictures and TV adaptations) and the stage (hundreds worldwide), the most famous being the beloved A Christmas Carol.
What made him (and still makes him) one of the best novelists was his creation of memorable characters, many of which took on lives of their own or became part of our vernacular outside of his books. Think “Scrooge,” for example.
His biographer Claire Tomalin regards him as the greatest creator of character in English fiction after only William Shakespeare. He captured the imagery of his era and gave the world a view of Victorian England that remains as vivid today as it was in its own time.
“Have a heart that never hardens," Dickens wrote, "and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.”
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