The Buffalo News linked to my piece on Salon about Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday — saying some nice things about the article. I think that the wave of Dickens coverage is great — and it does certainly stand up to the avalanche of celebration that greeted Dickens’ hundredth birthday, in 1912.
Of all the stories from that era, though, perhaps my favorite is the trial — held in Philadelphia — of John Jasper.
Jasper was, of course, one of the protagonists of Dickens’ last, unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. In Philadelphia, in 1914, the Attorney General of Pennsylvania tried Jasper for the murder of Edwin Drood — and, to the delight of many, Jasper was acquitted.
It may be the only time a fictional character has actually been put on trial — though I’m certain there must be other examples. At the time, the trial stole the headlines away from the truce with Pancho Villa in Mexico — as well as the U.S. Army’s brutal attack on striking miners in Colorado.