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09 June 2020

Charles Dickens 150th Death Anniversary (1812-1870)

Jersey: Charles Dickens Death Anniversary Bicentenary, 9 June 2020. Images from Jersey Post.

Technical Specifications:

Date of issue: 9 June 2020
Withdrawal date: 9 June 2022
Designer: Mark & Julie Wilkinson
Sheet: 10
Size: 40mm x 30mm
Process: Four colour offset lithography
Denominations: 54p, 70p, 84p, 88p, £1.05, £1.18, £1.50, £2,92

2020 marks 150 years since the death of Charles Dickens, widely regarded as the greatest author of the Victorian era. Appreciated for his vast contribution to English literature, Dickens is particularly well known for his powerful and evocative descriptions of Victorian London. Many of Dickens’ novels carry social commentary, exploring themes of poverty and social tension and often taking real people and circumstances, including Dickens’ own, as their inspiration. This stamp issue commemorates the life of Charles Dickens with a celebration of some of his best-loved works. Eight stamps portray key scenes and characters from his most well-known novels.

54p A Tale Of Two Cities (1859)

A Tale of Two Cities is an 1859 historical novel by Charles Dickens, set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. The novel tells the story of the French Doctor Manette, his 18-year-long imprisonment in the Bastille in Paris and his release to live in London with his daughter Lucie, whom he had never met. The story is set against the conditions that led up to the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror.

Dickens’ best-known work of historical fiction, A Tale of Two Cities is regularly cited as the best-selling novel of all time. In 2003, the novel was ranked 63rd on the BBC’s The Big Read poll. The novel has been adapted for film, television, radio, and the stage, and has continued to have an influence on popular culture.

70p David Copperfield (1850)

David Copperfield is the eighth novel by Charles Dickens. The novel’s full title is The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He Never Meant to Publish on Any Account). It was first published as a serial in 1849–50, and as a book in 1850.

The novel features the character David Copperfield, and is written in the first person, as a description of his life until middle age, with his own adventures and the numerous friends and enemies he meets along his way. It is his journey of change and growth from infancy to maturity, as people enter and leave his life and he passes through the stages of his development.

It has been called his masterpiece, “the triumph of the art of Dickens”, which marks a turning point in his work, the point of separation between the novels of youth and those of maturity. Though written in the first person, David Copperfield is considered to be more than an autobiography, going beyond this framework in the richness of its themes and the originality of its writing, which makes it a true autobiographical novel. In the words of the author, this novel was “a very complicated weaving of truth and invention”. Some elements of the novel follow events in Dickens’s own life. In the preface to the 1867 edition, Dickens wrote, “like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield.”

84p The Old Curiosity Shop (1841)

The Old Curiosity Shop is one of two novels (the other being Barnaby Rudge) which Charles Dickens published along with short stories in his weekly serial Master Humphrey’s Clock, from 1840 to 1841. It was so popular that New York readers stormed the wharf when the ship bearing the final instalment arrived in 1841. The Old Curiosity Shop was printed in book form in 1841.

The plot follows the life of Nell Trent and her grandfather, both residents of The Old Curiosity Shop in  London. Queen Victoria read the novel in 1841 and found it “very interesting and cleverly written”.

88p Bleak House (1853)

Bleak House was first published as a 20-episode serial between March 1852 and September 1853. The novel has many characters and several sub-plots, and is told partly by the novel’s heroine, Esther Summerson, and partly by an omniscient narrator. At the centre of Bleak House is a long-running legal case in the Court of Chancery, Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which comes about because a testator has written several conflicting wills. In a preface to the 1853 first edition, Dickens claimed there were many actual precedents for his fictional case. One such was probably the Thellusson v Woodford case in which a will read in 1797 was contested and not determined until 1859. Though the legal profession criticized Dickens’s satire as exaggerated, this novel helped support a judicial reform movement which culminated in the enactment of legal reform in the 1870s.

There is some debate among scholars as to when Bleak House is set. The English legal historian Sir William Holdsworth sets the action in 1827; however, reference to preparation for the building of a railway in Chapter LV suggests the 1830s.

£1.05 Great Expectations (1861)

Great Expectations is the thirteenth novel by Charles Dickens and his penultimate completed novel, which depicts the education of an orphan nicknamed Pip (the book is a bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story). It is Dickens’s second novel, after David Copperfield, to be fully narrated in the first person. The novel was first published as a serial in Dickens’s weekly periodical All the Year Round, from 1 December 1860 to August 1861. In October 1861, Chapman and Hall published the novel in three volumes.

The novel is set in Kent and London in the early to mid-19th century and contains some of Dickens’s most celebrated scenes, starting in a graveyard, where the young Pip is accosted by the escaped convict Abel Magwitch. Great Expectations is full of extreme imagery – poverty, prison ships and chains, and fights to the death – and has a colorful cast of characters who have entered popular culture. These include the eccentric Miss Havisham, the beautiful but cold Estella, and Joe, the unsophisticated and kind blacksmith. Dickens’s themes include wealth and poverty, love and rejection, and the eventual triumph of good over evil. Great Expectations, which is popular both with readers and literary critics, has been translated into many languages and adapted numerous times into various media.

Upon its release, the novel received near universal acclaim. Although Dickens’s contemporary Thomas Carlyle referred to it disparagingly as that “Pip nonsense,” he nevertheless reacted to each fresh installment with “roars of laughter.” Later, George Bernard Shaw praised the novel, as “All of one piece and consistently truthful.” During the serial publication, Dickens was pleased with public response to Great Expectations and its sales; when the plot first formed in his mind, he called it “a very fine, new and grotesque idea.”

In the 21st century, the novel retains good ratings among literary critics and in 2003 it was ranked 17th on the BBC’s The Big Read poll.

£1.18 Nicholas Nickleby (1839)

Nicholas Nickleby or The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby is a novel originally published as a serial from 1838 to 1839. It was Dickens’s third novel. The story centres on the life and adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, a young man who must support his mother and sister after his father dies.

£1.50 Oliver Twist (1838)

Oliver Twist; or, the Parish Boy’s Progress is Charles Dickens’s second novel, and was published as a serial from 1837 to 1839 and released as a three-volume book in 1838, before the serialization ended. The story centres on orphan Oliver Twist, born in a workhouse and sold into apprenticeship with an undertaker. After escaping, Oliver travels to London, where he meets the “Artful Dodger”, a member of a gang of juvenile pickpockets led by the elderly criminal Fagin.

Oliver Twist is notable for its unromantic portrayal of criminals and their sordid lives, as well as for exposing the cruel treatment of the many orphans in London in the mid-19th century. The alternative title, The Parish Boy’s Progress, alludes to Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, as well as the 18th-century caricature series by William Hogarth, A Rake’s Progress and A Harlot’s Progress.

In this early example of the social novel, Dickens satirizes the hypocrisies of his time, including child labor, the recruitment of children as criminals, and the presence of street children. The novel may have been inspired by the story of Robert Blincoe, an orphan whose account of working as a child laborer in a cotton mill was widely read in the 1830s. It is likely that Dickens’s own experiences as a youth contributed as well.

Oliver Twist has been the subject of numerous adaptations for various media, including a highly successful musical play, Oliver!, and the multiple Academy Award-winning 1968 motion picture. Disney also put its spin on the novel with the animated film called Oliver & Company in 1988.

£2.92 A Christmas Carol (1843)

A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas is a novella first published in London by Chapman & Hall in 1843 and illustrated by John Leech. A Christmas Carol recounts the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly miser who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. After their visits, Scrooge is transformed into a kinder, gentler man.

Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol during a period when the British were exploring and re-evaluating past Christmas traditions, including carols, and newer customs such as Christmas trees. He was influenced by the experiences of his own youth and by the Christmas stories of other authors, including Washington Irving and Douglas Jerrold. Dickens had written three Christmas stories prior to the novella, and was inspired following a visit to the Field Lane Ragged School, one of several establishments for London’s street children. The treatment of the poor and the ability of a selfish man to redeem himself by transforming into a more sympathetic character are the key themes of the story. There is discussion among academics as to whether this is a fully secular story, or if it is a Christian allegory.

Published on 19 December 1843, the first edition sold out by Christmas Eve; by the end of 1844 thirteen editions had been released. Most critics reviewed the novella favorably. The story was illicitly copied in January 1844; Dickens took legal action against the publishers, who went bankrupt, further reducing Dickens’s small profits from the publication. He went on to write four other Christmas stories in subsequent years. In 1849 he began public readings of the story, which proved so successful he undertook 127 further performances until 1870, the year of his death. A Christmas Carol has never been out of print and has been translated into several languages; the story has been adapted many times for film, stage, opera and other media.

A Christmas Carol captured the zeitgeist of the mid-Victorian revival of the Christmas holiday. Dickens had acknowledged the influence of the modern Western observance of Christmas and later inspired several aspects of Christmas, including family gatherings, seasonal food and drink, dancing, games and a festive generosity of spirit.

Sheets:

Press release from Jersey Post:

Charles Dickens celebrated with Jersey stamps

POSTED • 02 JUNE 2020

Charles Dickens, widely regarded as the greatest author of the Victorian era, will be commemorated with a set of eight stamps to be issued by Jersey Post on 9 June 2020, 150 years after the author’s death. Created by Mark and Julie Wilkinson, the stamps have been designed to look like classic leather book covers and feature key scenes and characters from some of Dickens’ best-loved works.

Dickens was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire in 1812 and died in 1870. Appreciated for his vast contribution to English literature, he is particularly well known for his powerful and evocative descriptions of Victorian London. Many of Dickens’ novels carry social commentary, exploring themes of poverty and social tension and often taking real people and circumstances, including Dickens’ own, as their inspiration. Unlike other authors of the Victorian era, Dickens’ work appealed to both the lower and upper classes, allowing him to enjoy a universal popularity that was rare for authors of the time.

Artist Mark Wilkinson, who designed the stamps with his wife Julie, says of their approach: “The illustrations for a set of eight stamps to commemorate Charles Dickens, based on some of his most loved novels, presented quite a challenge in comparison to previous sets I’ve designed! We had an idea to present the stamps like original first edition book covers, as if the titles and Dickens’ name were in gold leaf, and each colour plate pasted into a cloth binding. This gave the set a vintage look, and a theatrical feel too. The books are so full of rich and complex characters, we had to try to grasp the essence of each story, hopefully in an original way. Julie sketched out each design, chosen from one of the iconic scenes from each book. I used these drawings as the basis for the final artwork.”

Depicted across the eight stamps are scenes from: A Tale of Two CitiesDavid CopperfieldThe Old Curiosity ShopBleak HouseGreat ExpectationsNicholas NicklebyOliver Twist and A Christmas Carol.

Artist, Mark Wilkinson was born in Windsor in 1952 and has been working as a freelance illustrator for the past thirty years. He is best known for the detailed surrealistic cover art he has created for a number of British bands. In addition to the forthcoming Charles Dickens stamps issue, Wilkinson created the designs for Jersey Post’s 2017 stamp issue, Kaleidoscopes and the 2019 Europa issue: National Birds – Birds & Symbolism.

Philatelic stamp products such as Souvenir Sheetlets, First Day Covers and Presentation Packs will be available from the Jersey post offices at Broad Street, St Helier and Rue Des Pres, St Saviour from issue day. All items can be ordered now at www.jerseystamps.com or by telephoning the Jersey Philatelic Bureau on: 00 44 (0)1534 616717.

Miniature Sheet:

Presentation Packs:

First Day Covers:

Postcard Set:

I have also published an examination of Dickens’s characters and his lasting reputation on my companion blog, A Stamp Day.  Have a look if you would like.

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