What could be more appropriate for Christmas than a society devoted to the author who more than any other represents the spirit of Christmas? The Dickens Fellowship was founded in 1902 by people who remembered the man himself, ‘to knit together in a common bond of friendship lovers of the great master of humour and pathos, Charles Dickens’. The Fellowship has grown to become probably the largest literary society in the world, with fourteen branches in the UK, twenty-four in the United States, and branches in Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and New Zealand, not to mention five Pickwick Clubs in England and Ireland.
The Fellowship’s branches are all autonomous and celebrate Dickens in their own way; for example, some branches meet monthly, some twice a month, and while all of them study the life and works of Charles Dickens, some also read the novels aloud. You can find your nearest branch on the Dickens Fellowship web site, as well as information about the Fellowship’s journal, The Dickensian, which is issued three times a year, and the Annual Conference, which in 2023 will be held in London.
Many people have disliked their school-day encounters with Dickens, but enjoy him when they can read without pressure. Oliver Twist is a good starter, with the familiar plot, or A Christmas Carol – hear it read aloud at a Fellowship event if you can. The later, greater works (Henry James called them ‘loose, baggy monsters’) like Great Expectations, Bleak House or David Copperfield are masterpieces and you can always combine them with watching a good television adaptation.
Charles Dickens (1812 -1870) was a successful performer of his own works; his great-great-grandson, Gerald Charles Dickens continues the tradition, so catch him when you can!