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Charles Dickens: His 10 most memorable characters

There are the poignant (Jenny Wren), the sinister (Bill Sykes), and the preposterous (Mr. Micawber). There are some so uniquely descriptive (Ebenezer Scrooge) that they have become nouns. But perhaps what the characters of Charles Dickens most have in common is the degree to which they endure. To celebrate the great novelist's 200th birthday on Feb. 7, 2012, here is a tribute to 10 of his most unforgettable characters.

1. Little Nell of "The Old Curiosity Shop"

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The orphaned Nell Trent, a girl of "not quite fourteen" is the angelic heroine "The Old Curiosity Shop." Nell lives with her grandfather in his peculiar shop of odds and ends and will ultimately pay a terrible price for her grandfather's gambling habit. Little Nell is sometimes credited with being the first Harry Potter, as American readers were so desperate to learn of her fate that, when a British ship bearing the latest installment of the story arrived in New York in 1841, Dickens fans stormed the city's piers, shouting to the sailors: "Is Little Nell alive?"

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