Charles Dickens was a 19th century English writer and social commentator, the author of Oliver Twist, Great Expectations and Bleak House, among other novels.
Dickens never visited Australia but his connections to Sydney were strong, both while he was alive and in the afterlife. Two of his sons emigrated here in the 1860s, and went on to have an influence on the political and cultural life in NSW: his youngest and most favoured son Edwards was a member of the Legislative Assembly.
But his most famous link to Sydney was that a number of characters from his novels were said to be inspired by Colonial identities. Most famously is the character of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, who was said to be based on Eliza Donnithorne of Newtown. Both were abandoned on their wedding days, and were rumoured to have never cleared away their wedding banquets and wore their wedding gowns for the rest of their days. Truth or fiction?
The other link to Sydney is a statue of Charles Dickens, one of only two in the world. It was carved after his death and placed in Centennial Park in 1889, even though he specifically stated in his will that no statues or other memorials be made of him be made.
In 1972, the statue was removed from the park, and put into storage. IN the ten years between 1978 and 1988, Dickens lost his head, and after this time, he went missing.
In February 2011, on the 199th birthday of Charles Dickens, the restored statue – with a brand new marble head – was placed back into the park. Viva Boz!