SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 10, 2013

Day of Dickens at Hamilton-Wenham Library

By Will Broaddus
Staff writer

---- — Most of Charles Dickens’ novels were originally published in monthly installments, so that’s how The North of Boston Branch of the Dickens Fellowship reads them.

“We read them in serial fashion,” said Bob Bransford, archivist for the group. “We read so many chapters a month, and discuss it up to that point.”

This weekend, they will also take a serial approach to watching a recent BBC film of “David Copperfield” at the Hamilton-Wenham Public Library.

“This is a new version, they tell the whole story,” Bransford said. “Bring your brown-bag lunch, it’s an all-day event, from 10:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.”

There will be a break for a picnic outside, to which people are invited to bring lawn chairs, and a discussion will follow the movie.

The fellowship was founded in London in 1902, and the local chapter was formed by Director Deb Benvie in 2010.

“We’re a group of people who are just very interested in Dickens,” Bransford said. “We don’t take a real scholarly bend, we’re just interested in Dickens, the time period and the characters.”

There are around 20 members of the local fellowship, which meets once a month at the Salem Athenaeum and also hosts Dickens-related events on the North Shore.

These include a Christmas celebration, which has been held in Salem during the past two holiday seasons and included readings by Dickens’ great-great-grandson Gerald Dickens.

The fellowship is also currently planning a Dickens conference, which will be held at Salem State in September 2014, Bransford said.

Bransford, who lives in Winchester, grew up listening to radio productions of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and got interested in the author again when his daughter moved to London.

“Dickens spent a lot of his youth walking the streets of London, with his father in prison, and he was working at a bootblack’s,” Bransford said. “He loved to walk, observing people he saw in the street, developing that into characters in his mind, like Artful Dodger.”

Bransford said Dickens’ novels succeed in any media, but he especially loves the language in which he observes life and creates characters.

“To appreciate his writing, you need the book, but it’s fun to act it out,” Bransford said.