Many features of his world are still familiar. The 19th century was an era of fast-paced technological change, and Dickens embraced it. He traveled Britain on newly invented steam trains — though he hated the juddering journeys — and crossed the Atlantic in 1842 on one of the first steamships.
He was also a commercially astute writer. His books were published in monthly installments, in an inexpensive magazine-style format interspersed with ads for everything from "Alpaca Umbrellas" to "the gentleman's real head of hair."
"It feels very modern," Werner said. "A bit like TV soaps — you have to get through the adverts."
Werner thinks that if Dickens were alive today he'd write for television — he always wanted to reach the widest possible audience.
He might not have approved of another major celebration, the 2012 London Olympics. Dickens was not a fan of the 1851 Great Exhibition, a huge popular display of imperial self-confidence. The next year he began publishing "Bleak House," with its depiction of the city's extremes of poverty and wealth.
Werner says it's a vision that chimes with our own times — though he hopes it won't eclipse Dickens' humor.
"Maybe 20 or 30 years ago his work didn't have that same cutting edge," he said. "It was a more optimistic time. Now everything feels a bit more gloomy. The gap between rich and poor — it feels very close to the Victorian world.
"There is an attraction right now to the darker side of Dickens. But he was very funny."
Dickens 2012: http://www.dickens2012.org/
Jill Lawless can be reached at: http://twitter.com/JillLawless
(This version CORRECTS spelling of Ebenezer in first paragraph. )
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