Born on this day in Portsmouth, England, prolific novelist Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812-1870) watched his happy childhood transform when his father was imprisoned for failure to pay his debts.
"Life is made of ever so many partings welded together," he said.
Like a character in one of his novels, 12-year-old Charles was taken out of school and put to work in a factory. Forced to grow up too soon, the sensitive boy wrote to heal. "Nothing of what is nobly done is ever lost," he said.
With words born of passion, he stayed true to the magic of a loving heart. With keen social conscience, he urged generosity and service to the poor and disadvantaged.
"Have a heart that never hardens, a temper that never tries, and a touch that never hurts," he said.
In showing the suffering of the working class during the Industrial Revolution, he celebrated optimism... and gratitude... in the face of despair. He said, "there is always something for which to be thankful."
Dickens said he wrote to show "the romantic side of familiar things" and combined realism with symbolism. After writing Oliver Twist (1837), he published the beloved A Christmas Carol (1843) which features the memorable character Ebenezer Scrooge who sacrificed love for the pursuit of money. Scrooge is saved by his change of heart. "Genius is childhood recaptured at will," he said.
The semi-autobiographical David Copperfield, his favorite book, was serialized in 1849-1950. A Tale of Two Cities (1859) followed, then Great Expectations (1861).
With compassion, Dickens once advised, "Never close your lips to those to whom you have opened your heart."
More DICKENS Quotations
Keep your heart open.