I haven’t written about Dickens very often on this blog; in fact, I feel like I’ve downright neglected him. And because this week’s Classic Remarks prompt was about life-changing classics, I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about one of my earliest encounters with classics, and finally give poor Charlie a bit of facetime on this blog.

As an eager reader, I of course encountered classics in many forms. I was reading the Narnia books very early on, and my parents read us classic children’s stories in English and Croatian. But my first memory of reading a classic and being aware it was a classic was Dickens’ David Copperfield. I don’t remember how old I was – maybe seven? – and I was only vaguely aware of Dickens and the fact that he had been a famous author hundreds and hundreds of years ago (in the nineteenth century, but at that age anything prior to the 1990s might as well have been the Stone Age).

Now, a tiny caveat. What I read at the age of seven was not, in fact, Dickens’ complete David Copperfield, in all its seven-hundred-page Victorian glory. It was in fact a friendly abridged version that condensed this mammoth novel into an easily digestible two hundred pages. I would learn this only later when I began browsing the bookshelves at the library only to discover that Copperfield was so massive it could easily be used as a small-range weapon of war.

So I wasn’t exactly a child prodigy, reading giant Victorian novels at a precocious age. Nonetheless, David Copperfield – even in its abridged form – was a new experience for me. It taught me that classics weren’t just about boring rich people living in Olden Times. They were about people just like us, who lived in difficult times just like us, albeit with slightly worse sanitation. I was hooked from the beginning, shedding countless tears as David’s poor angelic mother died and left him an orphan. I learnt that classics could be lots of things, but there was one thing they definitely weren’t – boring.

Of course, that may partly have been thanks to the efforts of the sensitive editor who came along and abridged Dicken’s massive tome. Years later, I read David Copperfield in its entirety and I can’t say I didn’t yawn through significant portions of it. But my earlier reading experience had taught me that the exciting, heart-breaking, and profoundly moving parts are worth hanging around for.

What classic changed your life?

9 replies on “Thanks, Davie – A Classic That Changed My Life”

I love this story! Charles Dickens is one of my favorite writers, so it’s always good to see someone else give him a shout out! He can write very long books, though, which can sometimes be great (the story never ends! yay!) or not. ;)

7 decades ago i recall being shocked by the tome that said: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” ; particularly by MMe DeFarge, but i can’t say if it changed my life or not… Narnia started my life-time reading habit, for better or worse… the classics i’ve read most have been Disraeli’s works; for some unaccountable reason, they appeal… even “Henrietta”, which was a bit of a slog…

Narnia is definitely a wonderful way to enter the world of classics! It’s one of the books that got me hooked when I was a kid too.

I’ve never read Disraeli to be honest, although there’s something about the titles of his books that appeals… The Infernal Marriage sounds terribly exciting for one :D

What an amazing post!
I’m a huge Dickens fan but, unfortunately, haven’t read David Copperfield yet :( It is on my TBR for this year, so I will have to start reading it quite soon!
Still, Dickens is also to me the writer that changed my life. My first was Little Dorrit — just like you, I didn’t realize back then it was an abridged version, with pictures, adapted for kids. Still, I gotta wonder how my parents didn’t find it suspicious that this lovely colourful book they bought to their kid takes place in jail xD
Anyway, in the end, I did my master thesis on Dickens, and now I’m on a mission to read every single novel he’s written :D
And I have to say, thank you so much for this post! It’s rare to find another Dickens enthusiast :D

Thanks so much Mina! :) I’m so glad someone else had a similar experience with an abridged version of Dickens. And it’s so amazing to hear that your early love for Dickens eventually led to you writing your Masters on him!

I do wonder what my parents were thinking when they gave me that book too. :D They very cheerfully gave me a book about a little boy who’s orphaned and then forced to work in a factory until he runs away.

I hope you enjoy David Copperfield when you do read it! I’d also like to make my way through the entirety of Dickens’ oevre one day…

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