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11 February 2021

Charles Dickens comes to life in assembly

Charles Dickens comes to life in assembly

To me, it is Dickens’ walking stick that stands as a clearer symbol of the man than his writing desk or his quill. Why? Because it is a reminder that he experienced the world around him on foot; every footstep fed the rhythm of his mind as he ambled, unnoticed around the city at night. Interestingly, Dickens would routinely walk between 10 and 20 miles a night - just imagine that...it is 2.2 miles to walk all the way around Battersea Park so Dickens’ would be completing between 5-10 laps a day.

It was on these nightly walks that Dickens would pass a well-known and familiar building to us - St Luke’s Church, Chelsea and there you will find photos and letters of his in the crypt as it is here that he married Catherine Hogarth. Is Catherine Hogarth a name that we recognise? If you don’t, next time you are walking past Gail’s coffee shop, go down Oakley Street and look out for her blue plaque as evidence of where she and Charles Dickens once lived. 

I would like to thank Mrs Warner as well as Luke and Asad in Year 8 for their wonderful readings based on their own interpretations of Dickens’ ‘Coketown’ from Hard Times. Both boys were truly Dickensian in their approach and we were steeped in the sights, sounds, and smells of their respective, smog-filled cities. 

So how is Dickens relevant today? Well, his drive as a social reformer to highlight the injustice of the Victorian class system and the poverty and illiteracy that surrounded him evokes any social issues today. In addition, he was a champion of a cleaner environment and how the growing mass of factories was retrograde to a greener state. Would Dickens have perhaps instigated the Extinction Rebellion movement?

However, it is his characters that still inspire our pupils today. Mr. M'Choakumchild is to be discovered and as with the challenge laid down in assembly, I encourage all to discover Dickens and select one of his famous 17 novels to start reading; you will be amazed by what you will discover!

To finish, I would like to share a quote by Dickens from his first novel, The Pickwick Papers. With his huge emphasis on community and working together to face the world today, it truly reflects our efforts at this time. 

“There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.”

Mr McSherry

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The Hampshire School Chelsea

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