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Happy Birthday to Charles Dickens, author of A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist and many other classics!

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1. His name “Dickens” was a curse!

Instead of saying, “What the devil?” as a profanity, people exclaimed, “What the dickens?” The first usage of that word, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was William Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor.

2. He may have saved multiple lives of friends and strangers after a train crash.

On June 9, 1865, while returning from France, Dickens was on a train that derailed over a bridge, seated in the only first-class carriage that didn’t plummet into a river. He not only found the key that freed his friends, he went to the carriages below to help those who needed it. It is said that afterwards he climbed back into the dangling carriage and retrieved from the pocket of his coat the installment of Our Mutual Friend that he had just completed and was taking to his publishers. Dickens later used this experience as material for his short ghost story The Signal-Man in which the central character has a premonition of his own death in a rail crash.

The reason he was never publicly admired for his actions? He was keeping it on the down-low because he was traveling with his mistress Ellen Ternan and her mother… scandalous!!!

3. He had obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Dicken’s was  preoccupied with looking in the mirror and combing his hair, constantly rearranging furniture in his home, making sure that every bed he slept in was aligned north to south, touching certain objects three times for luck and was obsessed with the need for cleanliness.

4. His last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, remains a mystery.

Dickens had written half of a novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, but left it unfinished when he died of a stroke in 1870. Dickens left no clues behind as to who killed his protagonist (arrrrg!)  There have been countless radio, television, and theater reworking’s of this story, each with different endings.

5. He had 10 Children!

Charles, Mary, Kate, Walter, Francis, Alfred, Sydney, Henry, Dora and Edward.

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(Get your 19th Century England knowledge on!)

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