Yes, he may have had his faults. His female characters are limited to two types, the grotesque frump or the enfeebled virginal or 'fallen' young angel. His personal life reflected this, forever falling for and idealising younger girls while ignoring (and eventually leaving) his faithful wife and ten children.
But what a great story teller he was, nevertheless, developing a unique style of carefully balanced sentimentality, hard social reality and caricature...and what caricature!. Characters so vivid that they are instantly recognisable, even when adapted for film or TV, updated or played by any number of different actors with different faces. Scrooge is immortal, no matter what you do to him.
And this is maybe why he has become a victim of his own success, or a victim of TV's success. Through television these characters have become so well known, as iconic as 19th century Mickey Mice, that there is little incentive to go looking for them in the original books. Britain has given up reading Dickens. I certainly didn't bother until I was in my 20s, and I made an astonishing discovery. He's in them. The narrator is omnipresent, and he's hilarious. I never expected him to be there. This renders all dramatic interpretation of his work oddly hollow. While excising the dialogue and transplanting it into a TV script may function, Dickens himself is rendered mute. He's deleted. For example, take a very minor character from the Pickwick Papers, Mr Miller, who is thrashed at a game of cards. An actor may give a highly polished performance of Mr Miller feeling awkward and defeated, but we can't hear Dickens saying "he felt as much out of his element as a dolphin in a sentry-box"
Of course, Dickens didn't just narrate on paper, he did it in person too, giving hundreds of hugely popular public readings. Maybe this is what we are missing today, literature as a kind of intimate conversation. Literature as an extension
of conversation. Indeed, as most of his novels were written in instalments Dickens was constantly responding to feedback and altering his story lines as certain threads and characters proved more popular than others.They were a two way street.
Which sounds oddly familiar. Isn't that what bloggers are doing now? Forget TV adaptations, if Dickens was alive today he'd be doing this. He'd be a 200-year-old blogger.
(cartoon borrowed from Kate Beaton