I scored the coup of the century. Make that TWO centuries! Charles Dickens, author extraordinaire, just turned 200 this week, and in honor of the milestone, I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with him for a rare, one-on-one interview.
MTW: Mr. Dickens, everyone’s talking about your 200th birthday. What’s your secret to enduring for so long?
CD: Plenty of rest. For, it is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest, than I have ever known.
MTW: Ahem, okay. So, you’ve enjoyed your rest. Well, how does it feel to be revered, so long after your death?
CD: Any man may be in good spirits and good temper when he’s well dressed.
MTW: I’ll grant you that. I suppose it’s been uncomfortable, though, lying in a narrow wooden box all these years. I expect being on the outside must be like a breath of fresh air.
CD: Minds, like bodies, will often fall into a pimpled, ill-conditioned state from mere excess of comfort.
MTW: So, are you saying you’ve been comfortable in there or you’re glad to be out of it?
CD: Reflect on your present blessings, of which every man has many; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.
MTW: Mr. Dickens, you should know that, as lovely as it sounds, we no longer use such proper English. Mass media has gotten the better of us so, you may want to take it down a notch. Capiche?
CD: It pains me to hear that. For, I do not know the American gentleman, God forgive me for putting two such words together.
MTW: No worries. You’re forgiven. So, which of your books would you say is your favorite? Based on the number of remakes, I’d say A Christmas Carol is one of your more popular today.
CD: I despise that one. Too common. Besides, Tiny Tim was not easy to capture on paper. In real life, you know, the lad was a bit of a brat.
MTW: I don’t think that’s common knowledge.
CD: Nasty child, that one. Burped a lot and thought it was funny. Imagine. Who would see the humor in that? No, definitely not one of my best. Though I rather did enjoy Bill Murray’s cinematic version, Scrooged. Rather a brilliant take, wouldn’t you say?
MTW: Yes, but I didn’t think you had seen any of the film versions of your books, considering movies weren’t around in your day.
CD: I’ve seen them all. There’s the Muppet, Mister Magoo and Scrooge McDuck versions. George C. Scott and Reginald Owen, too. I spin in my grave every time a new one is released. Which reminds me, may I use your cell? I need to call my agent.
MTW: Is he still around? Frankly, I didn’t realize authors had agents back when you were writing.
CD: The movie deal he obtained for me was appalling. And, frankly, he did not foresee either the invention of television or the Internet. And the toy industry? Talk about a missed opportunity! Think how popular a Miss Havisham doll could have been with designer wedding dresses made by Vera Wang or Valentina.
MTW: Yes, I can see how such a doll would sell on eBay for quite a penny.
CD: And don’t get me started on Amazon. I hate that nearly all my books are free on Kindle. Copyright, be damned! I don’t care what the lawyers say, those stories are still mine! They’re priceless! David Copperfield alone ought to be worth two quid.
MTW: Ahem, Mr. Dickens, it’s euros now.
CD: Euros? What the damn devil is that?
MTW: Never mind. Let’s change the subject. Tell me what inspired you to write, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
CD: Funny how that happened. I couldn’t make up my mind is all, plain and simple. Was it the best of times? Probably not. Sheer luck is what it was. Sheer, unadulterated luck!
MTW: Well, I guess it’s true then. Some of the best lines happen quite by accident.
CD: And some of the best characters, too. You’re familiar with Jo March in Little Women? Well, she was based on me. Louisa May Alcott said I inspired her.
MTW: No, I did not know that.
CD: Indeed I did. Louisa always said I had spunk and I told her she should write a character with spunk and name it after me.
MTW: How is Jo March named after you?
CD: Well, I didn’t say she listened, did I? Nice woman, that Miss Alcott was. Though, stubborn as a mule and couldn’t sing to save her life.
MTW: Well, Mr. Dickens, it appears we’ve run out of time. Any parting thoughts?
CD: Yes. Where’s my birthday cake? After 200 years, don’t you think I deserve one? Preferably, chocolate, with ice cream, too.
MTW: I do apologize but I didn’t think to bring cake.
CD: Well, that’s just like an American, isn’t it? See if I return in 200 years!