What the Dickens? Try our literary quiz
Know your Nickleby from your Nell? How many questions can you answer about one of English literature's greatest figures? Katy Guest, Emily Dugan and Matthew Bell set the challenge
1. Two 2012 adaptations of Great Expectations have Miss Havisham played by Helena Bonham Carter (45) and Gillian Anderson (43). But how old is the jilted spinster in Dickens's book?
A Early twenties
B Early thirties
C Early forties
D Early fifties
2. Oliver Twist, or The Parish Boy's Progress, was first published...
A As a political pamphlet criticising the Poor Law
B In monthly instalments in the magazine Bentley's Miscellany
C While Dickens was still at school
D After Dickens's death
3. Which Dickens character has been played by Albert Finney, Roger Daltrey, Anthony Newley, Kelsey Grammer, Patrick Stewart and Michael Caine?
A Oliver Twist
D Little Nell
4. Where was Dickens forced to work when he was 12 and his father was taken to Marshalsea debtors' prison?
A In an undertaker's
B In a counting house
C In a cotton mill
D In a boot-blacking factory
5. Which Dickens novel made him a household name aged only 25?
A Nicholas Nickleby
B The Pickwick Papers
C David Copperfield
D Barnaby Rudge
6. Which of Dickens's books has sold more than 200 million copies, more than any other single volume book in the world?
A Bleak House
B Oliver Twist
C Great Expectations
D A Tale of Two Cities
7. In which county is the Dickens- themed theme park Dickens World?
B Greater London
D There is no such place
8. How old was the actress Ellen Lawless Ternan when 44-year-old Dickens met her and subsequently left his wife for her?
9. Which of these fancifully named people is not a character in a Dickens novel?
A Davey Pewter
B Luke Honeythunder
C Jerry Cruncher
D Thomas Gradgrind
10. Which of these was not written by a descendant of Dickens?
A My Turn to Make the Tea by Monica Dickens
B The Virgin Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock by Lucinda Hawksley
C The Life and Times of Little Ben by Benjamin Dickens
D A Christmas Carol by Gerald Charles Dickens, a one-man show in which he plays 26 characters.
11. In Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford, Captain Brown is killed after falling under the wheels of a train. What Dickens story was the unfortunate captain reading just before he fell to his death?
A The Pickwick Papers
B Barnaby Rudge
C The Old Curiosity Shop
D Little Dorrit
12. What was the pseudonym Dickens used in his early fiction?
13. John was one of Dickens's middle names – what was the other?
14. Which of the following Dickens-related addresses is not a museum dedicated to him?
A 393 Commercial Road, Portsmouth, where he was born
B 48 Doughty Street in London, where he lived
C Gad's Hill Place in Rochester, where he died
D 2 Victoria Parade in Broadstairs, the inspiration for Betsey Trotwood's house in David Copperfield
15. In which novel by Evelyn Waugh does the protagonist end up trapped in the jungle with a madman who makes him read Dickens out loud?
A Black Mischief
B Vile Bodies
C A Handful of Dust
D Decline and Fall
16. Which are the cities referred to in the title of A Tale of Two Cities?
A London and Edinburgh
B Paris and Rome
C Dublin and New York.
D London and Paris
17. "Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show." The opening line of which novel?
A Dombey and Son
B Barnaby Rudge
C Nicholas Nickleby
D David Copperfield
18. The philosopher and critic George Henry Lewes took issue with what, when Bleak House was published?
A The satire of women activists through the character of Mrs Jellyby
B Dickens's satire on the laws of chancery
C The high number of deaths
D The death of Krook by spontaneous combustion
19. "You would need to have a heart of stone not to laugh at the death of Little Nell," declared Oscar Wilde. In which novel does the famously sentimental death occur?
A Little Dorrit
A The Old Curiosity Shop
A A Christmas Carol
A Our Mutual Friend
20. In December 2010, Oprah Winfrey chose two novels by Dickens as her Christmas book club selection, then surprised audiences by doing what?
A Declaring she privately hated Dickens
B Saying she couldn't be bothered to read them herself
C Admitting she had never actually read any Dickens
D Reciting a passage of Little Dorrit
The Pips of productions past
The latest actor to play Pip, the protagonist of Dickens's Great Expectations, has been criticised for being too pretty. In truth, Dickens's prose has the character describing himself in unflattering terms. In his youth he believed his cheeks "were fat, though at that time I was undersized for my years, and not strong". Later he refers to himself as "a common labouring boy... my hands were coarse... and generally that I lived in a low-lived bad way".
While the attractive Douglas Booth doesn't fit this bill, last week's BBC blockbuster is not the first to cheat on casting. None of the screen versions has stuck to the spirit of the original. In fact, you might almost think they'd been chosen for their looks.
Bored with Dickens? Christopher Fowler has five alternatives from British 19th-century fiction...
The credit for the first detective story belongs to Collins, not Poe. He and Dickens were contemporaries whose concerns (crime, social commentary) intersected, but only two novels, The Moonstone and The Woman in White, are easily recalled. With characters such as Inspector Bucket and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Dickens was going where Collins had been.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Many authors tend to get lost behind the roseate glow of Dickens. We think of Stevenson as a fantastical writer of children's stories, forgetting that he was only 44 when he died, and still developing his talents with satires such as The Wrong Box, which tapped into a Victorian obsession with investments.
Dickens's greatest rival had little of his counterpart's generosity of spirit. Most remembered now for Vanity Fair and The Luck of Barry Lyndon, he was more satirical, sharper tongued and more appealing to the burgeoning middle class than Dickens. Most of his novels have completely disappeared from bookshelves.
Richard Harding Davis
For the true flavour of a damp, foggy Victorian London every bit as atmospheric as Dickens's scenes, the handsome but detested US journalist Davis gave us In the Fog, an energetic, eerie pre-pulp read with multiple solutions to its puzzle, better in its descriptive passages than its convoluted plotline.
Mrs Gaskell sympathetically depicted the plight of working-class women and prostitutes, but her much shorter fiction is now out of print. Dickens wrote several "conjoined novels" including Mugby Junction and The Haunted House, to which contemporary women added their voices, including Gaskell, as well as Hesba Stretton, Adelaide Anne Procter and Amelia Edwards.
Christopher Fowler is the author of the Bryant & May novels. His new book 'Hell Train' (Solaris) is out on Thursday
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The IoS asked 12 writers, actors, historians and screenwriters what he meant to them...
"I read them all in two years when I was ill, but often people are forced to read it when they are too young. I have nearly been sick with laughter at how funny Dickens is. He is a genius."
Timothy Spall; Actor
"Great Expectations is my favourite, though I never really liked Dickens that much: I always thought he was a bit overrated. I find his novels a bit obvious and too clunky."
Matt Thorne; Novelist
"I love his cloying sentimentality, because the characters are so rich, deep and varied. I read David Copperfield first when I was young and was hooked. I rarely read him now."
Simon Sebag Montefiore; Historian and author
"As a child I was fascinated by Dickens, acting out everything in front of the mirror as he wrote it down. When you approach his work as an actor, you notice how sayable the dialogue is."
Harry Lloyd; Actor and descendant of Dickens
"Dickens is number one. It's the theatre of his writing – all these amazing characters like Fagin and Scrooge in glorious Technicolor. He is such a great writer that, really, he ranks alongside Shakespeare."
Richard Briers; Actor
"Dickens is formidable in painting an extraordinary canvas, laying out huge swathes of English life, particularly London. There is a huge amount he wrote that is immediately relevant to things now."
Claire Tomalin; Dickens biographer and journalist
"He wasn't afraid to use popular devices like cliffhangers and melodrama, which I love. He was a great social documenter, and gave me a great insight into Victorian life in London."
Sarah Waters; Novelist
"I tried to read David Copperfield when I was about nine; the book was too big and too clever for me. I came to his work through wobbly-set BBC dramas."
Mark Evans; Actor and screenwriter who wrote Bleak Expectations for Radio 4
"I value his descriptions more than his characters. Dickens takes time for the little details of life: what someone ate, what someone was wearing, which is fantastic from a social historian's perspective."
Ruth Goodman; TV presenter
"What is extraordinary is Dickens's observation of Victorian life. The humanity has remained relevant ever since. The stories are so accessible and timeless that people come back to them again and again."
Sir Cameron Mackintosh; Theatre producer
"His characters were at once brilliantly original and instantly recognisable: everyone knows a Scrooge or a Mrs Gamp, but it took Dickens to point them out."
Robert Douglas-Fairhurst; Author of Becoming Dickens
"My favourite chapter of Dickens is when Silas Wegg goes to try to buy back his own amputated leg [in Our Mutual Friend]. It's typical of Dickens's dark humour."
Professor Jon Mee; English and comparative literary studies, University of Warwick
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