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From Miss Havisham to Ebenezer Scrooge: playlists for Dickens’ characters

Charles Dickens is one of the most famous novelists of all time. The energy which surges through his writing brings the Victorian world to life, and his lively ensemble of characters has seeped from his pages, deep into popular culture. There are roughly two thousand named characters in his novels, and many more unnamed. T.S. Eliot wrote that ‘Dickens excelled in character; in the creation of characters of greater intensity than human beings’. Modern retellings of his tales bring these characters into our contemporary world, from Alfonso Cuarón’s 1998 film Great Expectations to Richard Donner’s Scrooged (1988). In the playlists below, we imagine what some of his most famous characters might listen to if they had access to our modern musical offerings.

Miss Havisham (Great Expectations)

The jilted Miss Havisham is one of the most iconic of all Dickens’ characters. After finding out on the morning of her wedding that her fiancé had defrauded and abandoned her, she suffered a breakdown. At the beginning of the novel she is in her mid-fifties, sat at a table displaying the uneaten wedding breakfast and cake, and still clad in the wedding dress she was wearing when she received the news. As far as bad break-ups go this has got to be one of the worst, so we’ve prepared a playlist for the ultimate post break-up wallow. What would you add? Let us know in the comments below.

Miss Havisham, in art by Harry Furniss from the library edition of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Ebenezer Scrooge (A Christmas Carol)

As Christmas approaches and every high street store, supermarket and overeager colleague plays Christmas songs on repeat, this playlist might appeal to more of us than the original Christmas-hater. Embrace your inner Scrooge with ‘I Don’t Believe in Santa Claus’ by The Vandals and ‘Blue Christmas’ by Elvis Presley. Bah! Humbug!

The Artful Dodger (Oliver Twist)

Although we can’t imagine a more perfect accompanying song than ‘You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket Or Two’ for the Artful Dodger – aka Jack Dawkins – we’ve chosen an eclectic mix for this larger than life cockney character. Despite being a thief and therefore ultimately punished by Dickens, he brings wit and sparkle to his trial, saying ‘my attorney is a-breakfasting this morning with the Wice President of the House of Commons’. He would surely swagger around London, hat on the top of his head, hands stuffed into his corduroy trousers, headphones on, and listening to ‘Been Caught Stealing’ by Jane’s Addiction.

Illustration of Mrs Gamp by Frederick Barnard. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Wilkins Micawber (David Copperfield)

‘Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.’ I think we can all identify with that logic! Micawber is considered to be a mirror of Dickens’ own father, and the portrait is mostly fond. His relentless optimism in the face of heavy difficulties could be seen as inspirational. He would almost certainly have listened to Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ in debtors’ prison.

Mrs Gamp (Martin Chuzzlewit)

The wonderfully vivid character of Mrs Gamp is known to be a lover of drink. Indeed when she appears ‘a peculiar fragrance was bourne upon the breeze, as if a passing fairy had hiccupped, and had previously been to a wine vaults’. Pub classics would likely feature on Mrs Gamps’ playlist of choice, including the festive ‘Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. She also always carries an Umbrella with ‘particular ostentation’.

Featured image credit: Detail of an original George Cruikshank engraving showing the Artful Dodger introducing Oliver to Fagin. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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