We’re celebrating the 200th anniversary of celebrated author Charles Dickens’ birth this year. Born February 7, 1812 in Landport, Portsmouth, England, Dickens created a plethora of memorable characters with whimsical names across a dozen major novels and numerous short stories. In a 1983 autobiographical sketch, John Bellairs confessed to being quite a fan and "read[ing] and re-read[ing] Dickens" often, as well as mixing "the everyday and the fantastic" into his own books: "...the common ordinary stuff - the bullies, the scaredy-cat kid Lewis, the grown-ups, the everyday incidents - all come from my own experience."
It’s easy to say Bellairs caught the Dickens bug from readings in college but we dare say he may have been influenced before even leaving Marshall.
We’re told John worked as a busboy at Win Schuler’s restaurant in downtown Marshall in the mid-1950s. This would have been a few short years after Win honored his own love of history and literature by renovating the north side of his popular eatery into the Dickens Room. This unique dining room opened in 1948 and featured illustrations of Dickens’ characters around the walls of the room and, for all we know, may have sparked something in the mind of a budding author. Or not. Who can say?
After the room’s opening, Schuler's Restaurant featured some of the characters on promotional postcards and we’re sharing some of those cards throughout the year to celebrate Dickens and his work.
This month we’re celebrating Mrs. Sarah "Sairey" Gamp from The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit (1843–44) and The Artful Dodger (good ol’ Jack Dawkins) from 1838's hugely popular novel, Oliver Twist. Gamp habitually carries with her a battered black umbrella: so popular with the Victorian public was the character that gamp became a slang word for an umbrella in general. Dawkins’ nickname is still commonly used to refer to someone who is good at avoiding responsibility or the consequences of his or her actions.