Charles John Huffam Dickens, born February 7, 1812, is known for many things, chiefly satire, humor, and social commentary. His rags-to-riches story is well-documented: Having had to drop out of school as a child when his father was thrown in one of England’s infamous debtors’ prisons, he nevertheless overcame trauma and a lack of formal education to become an accomplished and prolific writer of incomparable talents. In his lifetime, his writing complemented his commitment to social reform — particularly his stance on children’s rights — as can be seen clearly in works like Oliver Twist.
While Dickens was an insightful writer, anyone even moderately familiar with Great Expectations would hardly think of Dickens as a great source of lyrical reflection on romantic love. Yet, he was born in such close proximity to Valentine’s Day that we just couldn’t resist mining his works in search of amorous words. For the record, we were not disappointed. It turns out that beyond his skill with political observation, he also had a considerable ability to turn a sweet verse and wax poetic. With this in mind, we toast to his birthday and the upcoming holiday with the below list of Charles Dickens’s fourteen most impassioned lines across his work.
1. The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again. (Nicholas Nickleby, 1838-1839)
2. No one is useless in this world, who lightens the burden of it for anyone else. (Our Mutual Friend, 1864-1865)
3. There are strings in the human heart that had better not be vibrated. (Barnaby Rudge, 1841)
4. Love is not a feeling to pass away,
Like the balmy breath of a summer day;
It is not — it cannot be — laid aside;
It is not a thing to forget or hide.
(“Lucy’s Song” The Village Coquettes, 1836); also in The Poems and Verses of Charles Dickens, 1903)
5. To conceal anything from those to whom I am attached, is not in my nature. I can never close my lips where I have opened my heart. (Master Humphrey’s Clock, 1840)
6. Once a gentleman, and always a gentleman. (Little Dorrit, 1855-1857)
7. We are not rich in the bank, but we have always prospered and we have quite enough. I never walk out with my husband but I hear the people bless him. I never lie down at night, but I know that in the course of that day he has alleviated pain and soothed some fellow creature in the time of need. Is not this to be rich? (Bleak House, 1852-1853)
8. She is sitting there before me. There is the graceful outline of her form; it cannot be mistaken — there is nothing like it. …Why is she so excruciatingly beautiful that I cannot be angry with her, even now? (Nicholas Nickleby, 1838-1839)
9. Your arm encircles her on whom I have set my every hope and thought, and to purchase one minute’s happiness for whom I would gladly lay down my life; this house is the casket that holds the precious jewel of my existence. (Barnaby Rudge, 1841)
10. What is the odds so long as the fire of soul is kindled at the taper of conviviality, and the wing of friendship never molts a feather! What is the odds so long as the spirit is expanded by means of rosy wine, and the present moment is the least happiest of our existence! (The Old Curiosity Shop, 1841)
11. For anything I can tell, I may have come into the world expressly for the purpose of increasing your stock of happiness. (Bleak House, 1852-1853)
12. There is a wisdom of the Head, and … there is a wisdom of the Heart. (Hard Times, 1854)
13. That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for the moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day. (Great Expectations, 1860-1861)
And a bonus quote regarding less-than-traditional zeal:
14. Cows are my passion. (Dombey and Son, 1846-1848)