What the Dickens? Author’s great-great-great grandchildren pose for selfie with newly-unveiled statue of him on his 202nd birthday
- A statue to Charles Dickens has been unveiled in Portsmouth
- Ceremony marked what would have been Dickens’ 202nd birthday
- Great-great-great grandchildren took a ‘selfie’ with their ancestor
- Around 40 relatives of the 19th century author attended the unveiling
- The statue was made despite Dickens dying wish not to make one
- It is located less than a mile from the house where he was born
PUBLISHED : 22:09 GMT, 7 February 2014 |
UPDATED : 09:06 GMT, 8 February 2014
It’s taken 144 years for a statue of Charles Dickens to be built in Britain.
And his great-great-great-grandchildren took no time in snapping a selfie with him.
The life-size bronze sculpture of the writer was unveiled today in Portsmouth, the city of his birth, on what would have been his 202nd birthday.
The £140,000 bronze sculpture is the first statue of the author in Britain after he expressed a dying wish for no monument to be made of him after his death
The likeness was unveiled on what would have been the 19th century author’s 202nd birthday
Great-great-great grandson Oliver Dickens, nine, said: ‘It feels really special. I’ve read his books and love Oliver Twist the best.’
There has been a 20-year row over whether a statue of the great novelist should ever be erected – because it is against his dying wishes.
The £140,000 statue was commissioned despite Dickens writing in his will that he should never be made the ‘subject of any monument, memorial or testimonial’.
More than 40 descendants of the 19th century novelist attended the ceremony at Portsmouth’s Guildhall Square which is less than a mile from the house where he was born 202 years ago today.
The statue has been created by sculptor Martin Jennings whose previous subjects include Sir John Betjeman at St Pancras Station, London, and Philip Larkin in Hull.
The over life-size statue in bronze, which cost £140,000, features Dickens sitting down surrounded by books.
It is not the first of Dickens’ posthumous requests to be ignored – his decision to be buried at Rochester Cathedral was over-ruled and he was instead laid to rest at Westminster Abbey
While it may be the first statue in Britain, another statue was erected in Philadelphia, USA, in 1891 and another created later in Sydney, Australia
Following his stroke in 1870, the writer’s other wish to be buried at Rochester Cathedral was over-ruled
Mr Jennings said: ‘I wanted the statue to express Dickens’s energy, the richness of his imagination and the abundance of his output.
‘It’s also quite theatrical, fitting I hope for a man who loved the stage. It’s taken many months to make but I hope people think it does justice to the great man.’
Having the statue built is not the first of Dickens’ dying wishes to be ignored.
Following his stroke in 1870, his other wish to be buried at Rochester Cathedral was over-ruled and he was laid to rest in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey.
Another statue was erected in Philadelphia, USA, in 1891 and another created later in Sydney, Australia.
Defending the decision to create a statue for Portsmouth, Professor Tony Pointon, chair of the Charles Dickens statue committee, said: ‘He did not mention a statue, he didn’t say ‘I do not want a statue’, he didn’t want a monument for his funeral, he didn’t want a funerary monument, in fact he sat for three sculptors when he was alive.’
While Dickens’ family said they were happy with the likeness, one protester objected and covered the statue with a sheet saying ‘it’s not what he would have wanted’
The statue is in Guildhall Square, less than a mile away from the house where he was born
The statue was created by sculptor Martin Jennings (left) whose previous subjects include Sir John Betjeman and Philip Larkin. Dickens was born in Portsmouth in this house (right)
‘We are 202 years from his birth, he has made us so proud as a family and we are giving something back.
‘I do not feel we are taking liberties, we want to celebrate him, not annoy him.’
Stage and screen actor Edward Fox and his wife Joanna David gave a reading at the unveiling and they were joined in the Guildhall Square by members of the Pickwick Cycle Club on their penny farthing bicycles.
Mark Charles Dickens, a great-great-grandson, and head of the Dickens family said: ‘The Dickens Family is delighted that a statue of our famous ancestor will at long last be erected in this country, and most fitting that it should be on his 202nd birthday in the city of his birth, where by coincidence his mistress and childhood sweetheart are also buried.
‘This is the culmination of years of hard work by many dedicated people and we really hope that this magnificent statue will stimulate and inspire future generations to discover the genius of his writing and his passionate campaign for social justice.’
Councillor Lee Hunt, Portsmouth City Council cabinet member for culture said: ‘Everyone living, working or visiting in the city is welcome to witness the first UK Charles Dickens statue.
‘This is a marvellous tribute to an incredible man. Everyone in Portsmouth should feel immensely proud that the statue of Dickens is here in his home town.’
Other guests at the event included the youngest member of the family 26-month-old Joe Robinson who is a great-great-great-great-grandson while two members of the Dickens Pickwick Club, Michael O’Reilly and Dennis Babcock travelled from America specifically for the unveiling.
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