One of the most popular and widely read authors of all time, Victorian author Charles Dickens wrote some of the English language's best-known novels, many of which were transformed into great works of cinema and television. Following a hardscrabble life as a child laboring under harsh conditions, Dickens used his gifts for colorful characters, high sentimentality and memorable dialogue to unearth harsh truths about poor social conditions and the plight of the poor in England and abroad. Early novels like The Pickwick Papers (1837) and Oliver Twist (1837) announced the arrival of a substantial artist, while A Christmas Carol (1843), his most enduring and most adapted work, became his most popular. Dickens' artistic ambitions became more pronounced with David Copperfield (1850), while both A Tale of Two Cities (1859) and Great Expectations (1861) came to rival the works of Shakespeare, Chaucer and Milton. With over 200 film, television and stage adaptations of his work, many were easily forgotten. But David Lean's extraordinary adaptation of "Great Expectations" (1946), Alastair Sim's turn as Ebenezer Scrooge in the classic feature "A Christmas Carol" (1951), and the Oscar-winning musical "Oliver!" (1968) stood out as worthy odes to the author. Though praised and scorned by contemporaries and later critics alike, Dickens was a colossal figure in the literary world whose influence and popularity remained unfettered well into the 21st century.