Today is the bicentenary of the birth of the novelist Charles Dickens.
Like many of my favourite novelists - Conrad, Orwell, Patrick Hamilton - Dickens' genius lies in creating a world from what he saw about him and peopling it with characters many of whom have become bywords for a type of person (Scrooge, Miss Havisham, Pecksniff). His serialisation of his works and the massive public interest in each new chapter can be seen as a precursor for the TV soap opera.
I know the charges against him - a particularly Victorian sentimentallity (lampooned by Oscar Wilde's with his famous remark about the death of Little Nell), daft names (although they were taken from gravestones) and repeated use of plot devices like rediscovered wills and people who are secretly related to each other. He is though the only nineteenth century English novelist I can think of who combines superb description with laugh out loud humour. No other writer in the English language has had his or her works adapted for film and TV as much either, a testament to the the characters and plots he created in his novels.