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carolyn_ky

Discussion of Charles Dickens' Novels, April 2012

carolyn_ky
11 years ago

Following is a list of the novels of Charles Dickens (1812-1870):

The Pickwick Papers: Monthly serial, April 1836 to November 1837

The Adventures of Oliver Twist: Monthly serial in Bentley's Miscellany, February 1837 to April 1839

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby: Monthly serial, April 1838 to October 1839

The Old Curiosity Shop: Weekly serial in Master Humphrey's Clock, April 25, 1840, to February 6, 1841

Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of "Eighty": Weekly serial in Master Humphrey's Clock, February 13, 1841, to November 27, 1841

The Christmas Books: A Christmas Carol, 1843; The Chimes, 1844; The Cricket on the Hearth, 1845; The Battle of Life, 1846; The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain, 1848

The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit: Monthly serial, January 1843 to July 1844

Dombey and Son: Monthly serial, October 1846 to April 1848

David Copperfield: Monthly serial, May 1849 to November 1850

Bleak House: Monthly serial, March 1852 to September 1853

Hard Times: Weekly serial in Household Words, April 1, 1854, to August 12, 1854

Little Dorrit: Monthly serial, December 1855 to June 1857

A Tale of Two Cities: Weekly serial in All the Year Round, April 30, 1859, to November 26, 1859

Great Expectations: Weekly serial in All the Year Round, December 1, 1860 to August 3, 1861

Our Mutual Friend: Monthly serial, May 1864 to November 1865

The Mystery of Edwin Drood: Monthly serial, April 1870 to September 1870. Only six of twelve planned numbers completed.

Most of his works were originally published serially, a format of publication that Dickens himself helped popularize. Unlike other authors who completed novels before serialization, Dickens often wrote the episodes as they were being serialized, and he often revised his plots and characters on the basis of readers' responses to a published episode. The continuing popularity of his novels and short stories is such that they have never gone out of print.

In addition to his novels, Dickens was a contributor to Monthly Magazine and The Evening Chronicle and edited Bentley's Miscellany. In the 1840s Dickens founded Master Humphrey's Clock and edited the London Daily News. He wrote short stories and essays, traveled and campaigned against many of the social evils of his time, gave talks and readings, wrote pamphlets, plays, and letters, and was the founding editor of Household Words and its successor, All the Year Round. In 1844-45 he lived in Italy, Switzerland, and Paris, and he gave lecturing tours in Britain and the United States in 1858-68. No wonder he died at age 58.

Dickens was a central figure at the time the novel was changing. Up to his time, the novel was essentially in either realistic or romantic mode (Defoe, Fielding, Richardson, Austen) going into Gothic. The Gothic heyday was the late 1700s--early 1800s, meaning Dickens was brought up on Gothics. His friend Scott invented the historical novel. The cornerstone of Dickens' novels is...

Comments (100)

  • friedag
    11 years ago

    I nominate Vee for RP's official genealogist. ;-) Great research, Vee! Thanks for the film info of Edwin Drood, too.

    I read somewhere that Dickens took laudanum (a tincture of opium) to calm his nerves, but I can't recall if it was biographical fact or put forth in the fiction of other writers. Any of you recent readers encounter the allegation or proof in the biographies?

  • J C
    11 years ago

    I've seen many references to Dickens use of laudanum, and its use was widespread. A list of those who used it regularly is a Who's Who of the Victorian Age. It was readily available, used by all social classes, even given to infants. But I can't cite any reliable sources as proof.

    Vee, that is fantastic research! I will admit that I find it quite exciting that you were able to sit down at your computer and glean that information. I wonder what people will be looking for on the internet, or its distant cousin, in another 100 years?

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  • carolyn_ky
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    Vee, you are super. Unfortunately, I can't watch the clips; it says media request failed. It's fascinating that the census shows that particular night.

    I haven't read any of the endings of Drood, but I did read a little on Google about what people have come up with over the years. I am looking forward to the MP show on Sunday night.

  • lydia_katznflowers
    11 years ago

    veer, I will echo the admiration of your research! You are sharp to have noticed the oddity of Charles Dickens being at the surgeon's house. And then you correlated WHY. Very impressive... :)

    friedag, Ackroyd mentions that CD began taking laudanum for seasickness when he was going back and forth across the Channel while summering in Boulogne. Later CD used it to help him sleep. Apparently he was a habitual taker of laudanum but not necessarily, as Ackroyd says, an "addict". But there might be some significance in his use and his increased irascibility toward Catherine, his family and other people - but that cannot be proven. He probably would have had his "crisis" with or without laudanum, or any other drug, according to Ackroyd.

    He did have a great interest in the opium dens that he visited with James Fields and Wilkie Collins, but that was likely to have been "professional" - more grist gathering.

    CD's daughter Katey later said that her father was "very, very wicked". But Kate herself was a bit of a drama queen. She was also the child who was said to be most like Dickens. Evidently she and her father shared a special bond until CD put Catherine out of his life and for the most part out of the children's lives. Catherine was not allowed to attend Kate's wedding. The wedding of Kate and Charles Collins (Wilkie's brother) was quite odd, as was their subsequent life together. Her older sister Mamie related that on the day of the wedding she found their father in Kate's room "with his face buried in Katey's wedding dress, sobbing". CD was getting more and more peculiar as he got older.

  • lydia_katznflowers
    11 years ago

    friedag, I enjoyed your reminiscence of your childhood reading of Dickens. Special thanks for describing your "Great Expectations" project. It gave me an idea for a similar project my son has to do. I told him about yours and his face lit up, with relief because he has been worrying and trying to think of something "different". His project will not be on Dickens though. I do not think I could get him to read any Dickens book even if I bribed him with money. You and your brothers were different from kids I know today!

  • J C
    11 years ago

    I watched 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood' last night with some pleasure. I felt it had a distinctly modern air and a rather unfinished quality as well as a startling lack of character development, but on the whole it was enjoyable. There is so little worth watching that it was fun to be able to sit down and just let it all play out.

    I can't say what I think Dickens intended. Perhaps he didn't know himself. Any ideas?

  • carolyn_ky
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    Siobhan, I thought last night's MP production was absurd. In the book, which was only half finished, of course, no one knew whether Jasper had killed Edwin or not except that CD had told his best friend confidentially that he had.

    Frieda, last night's show played up continually Jasper's use of opium and laudanum, which was not written about too much in the book, and showed him strangling Edwin in his opium dreams and in actuality in the cathedral innumerable times. Then, the ending had Edwin coming back from Egypt alive and well and the discovery that the man Jasper had really killed was Edwin Drood the father who had not died abroad as everyone thought. AND! not only was he Edwin's father but Jasper's as well, and that of the twins from India. Jasper had been rejected and sent off to England at age 7 after the birth of the golden boy, Edwin, Jr., and had always been jealous and resentful. Everyone was related except poor Rosa who was just left dangling. Besides that, only one couple was paired off at the end, and Dickens always matched lots of people up in his final chapters. In was an ending, but it was not Dickensian.

  • friedag
    11 years ago

    For days I got an 'Error' message every time I tried to post to this thread.

    Thanks, Siobhan and Lydia, for the laudanum information. Looks like the fiction writers took the basic fact and built on it.

    Well, from the descriptions you've given of the Masterpiece Theater production, Siobhan and Carolyn, their 'solution' sounds convoluted and not as good as I would want it to be. Every attempt at 'finishing' TMoED that I've read has been disappointing to me. They all seem to agree that Jasper was the perpetrator, though. I guess that comes from Dickens confiding to his friend that it was what he intended. Also, nearly all have Edwin returning from the dead, not having been killed at all. In a modern mystery, I would never accept the 'convenience' of that solution; but since Dickens was one of the pioneers of the mystery genre, perhaps I could've swallowed it from him.

    Lydia, all the info you gleaned from Ackroyd's bio is fascinating. I wish I was able to remember more of it. I do recall that Dickens's daughter Kate had some apparent enmity toward her father, but what caused it -- besides his treatment of his wife -- is hard for biographers to ferret out.

    Carolyn, how's the Tomalin bio of Dickens coming along for you?

    Glad I could help out you and your son, Lydia. :-)

  • carolyn_ky
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    Frieda, I haven't gotten too far into the biography. I have several library books out that I need to finish, so I keep putting it down and reading others. It is from the library, too, but I can't think I'll have any trouble renewing it.

    I see from the Guilty Secrets thread that many RPers don't care for Dickens, which explains why we haven't had discussions on very many of his books; but as you all may have gathered, I really do like his works.

  • frances_md
    11 years ago

    Frieda, here is an interesting tidbit for you from the biography (which I am reading again after two or so weeks with no reading time). Dickens' intense interest in Nelly Ternan started when he and others were doing a dramatization of a melodrama written by Wilkie Collins, The Frozen Deep, which was inspired by Sir John Franklin's expedition to find the North-West Passage.

    I don't remember that anyone has mentioned the strange names Dickens gave to his characters. The biography gives a synopsis about all of the books, including the names, but gives no indication of their origin. There must be a reason why he chose such mostly unusual names.

    I'm at the point in the biography where it is speculated that Nelly Ternan secretly had Dickens' baby in France and that the baby, a boy, died early. His daughter, Katey, and son, Henry, both confirmed that this did happen.

    Dickens had so much going on in his life most of the time with writing, editing, acting, moving from house to house and country to country on a frequent basis, illnesses, and his domestic situations that it is no wonder he suffered what seems like a major mid-life crisis, as we would call it today.

    Dickens had a caring side and a cruel side and indicated as much in a statement to Dostoevsky when referring to his writing. For many years Dickens supported a home where prostitutes could be taken in, cared for, and prepared to emigate to America or Australia for a better life. He also was financially responsible at one point for his wife after their separation, his children, his mother, the Ternans, and other family members. At the same time he was performing those "caring" actions, he was forcing his wife out of his life and his children's lives as much as possible and making extremely cruel statements about her to others. He didn't want so many children and sent most of the boys away to school at a very young age but loved them at the same time. I'm sure there is a psychiatric term that would apply to Dickens.

    The biography is so interesting -- Dickens was a fascinatingly flawed person.

  • veer
    11 years ago

    I'm still ploughing through Una Pope-Hennessy's life of CD and interestingly, as it was written some 60 years ago, there is little mention of or time spent on contemplating why CD behaved as he did towards his family in general and his wife in particular.
    Una P-H seems to find Catherine rather boring and under-educated and his many children 'colourless' but then anyone standing next to CD would appear dull, for nor only had he a quick mind but was a 'snappy dresser' and quite the peacock with his lurid waistcoats, bright cravats and long flowing locks. His American audiences were amazed to meet someone so young and with such a lack of sobriety in his dress.
    I felt very sorry for Catherine when they travelled to Italy and lived for several months in an unsuitable house. She accompanied CD on various jaunts round the country where he was bored by the ancient sites, dusty churches and signs of antiquity . . . possibly through lack of a decent education . . . and then she had to put up with the de la Rue's, a couple who joined the Dickens', and watch as CD tried his latest party-trick of mesmerism on the very pretty but neurotic Madame de la Rue.
    During the stay in Italy CD made the journey back to London, through snow in the Alps and storms at sea just to read his latest story The Chimes to a group of his men friends, leaving Catherine to hold the fort. As soon as they were back in London Catherine was expected to organise dinner parties, receptions etc for CD and his friends and often act as hostess, although most of them treated her with scant respect.
    I should be interested in finding out more about CD's children and wonder how they coped with their over-exuberant but dictatorial Father and accepted and acquiesced to the plans he made for their futures.

    I did find something about Henry Dickens through a site of Trinity Hall Cambridge, where the boy became an undergraduate.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Henry Dickens

  • friedag
    11 years ago

    Ah, Frances, you knew a tidbit I could savor. Thanks! I have wondered why Dan Simmons went from writing The Terror into writing his next book, Drood. Perhaps the connection was the Collins play about the Franklin expedition? When Simmons was doing his research for The Terror, surely he ran into references to The Frozen Deep and the collaboration of Dickens and Collins in that venture.

    Drood opens with the Staplehurst railway accident. Dickens, Ellen Ternan, and Ellen's mother were passengers together in the same compartment. In the Simmons book, as I recall, Ellen was injured. Were her injuries more actual biographical detail mentioned in any of the bios you all have read? I know, I really should read or reread one of them myself, but asking the questions of you and sharing the answers is more fun. :-)

    Carolyn, I have really liked all the Dickens books I've read. It's been too many years for me to get into the fine details of the novels I've read. I only remember the broad outlines of most, excepting Great Expectations which has stuck with me better. I can recall, though, that David Copperfield annoyed me somewhat -- I think it was his choice of wives, both seemed 'sappy' to me. When other readers bring things up about CD's novels, I will usually recognize what they are talking about or they will trigger quite vivid memories. I just can't bring things to mind on my own much anymore. ;-( Help me out!

    Which is your favorite, Carolyn? Everyone?

    Oh, and those names, Frances. How many of them have become simple nouns and adjectives? I can think of pecksniffian, gradgrind, micawberish... Names were obviously important to Dickens. Probably only Shakespeare beat Dickens out in memorable character name-giving and English-language neologisms.

  • frances_md
    11 years ago

    Frieda, Ellen, or Nelly as she is referred to in the Tomalin biography, suffered injuries to her arm and neck and had to be extracted from the train. She and her mother were removed from the scene so no one would know that they were traveling with Dickens. He protected his reputation above all else. Nelly was ill for weeks and Dickens had his manservant take special foods to her.

    And what a great connection you have made with Dan Simmons writing The Terror and then Drood! I had forgotten about Drood even though I downloaded it with the intention of reading it way back then. I wanted to read Dickens' book first but it does seem that I have a difficult time getting into his books.

    And Veer, thanks for posting the link about Henry Dickens. He was the most successful by far of all of the children. Even though the oldest, Charley, seemed to be the favorite of his father, he was never able to be a success at business as his father wished. When one or two of the other boys got into debt and asked for help, Dickens pretty much cut them from his life.

    Dickens worked right up to the end of his life, even when afflicted with great pain. The only indication I noticed in this biography of his use of drugs was that toward the end when he had so much trouble sleeping because of the pain and he needed to be able to wake up for his reading performances, he took laudanum at night to sleep.

  • lydia_katznflowers
    11 years ago

    friedag, you are right about names being important to Dickens. Ackroyd says that CD noted any odd name he heard or read and kept lists of them. Gravestones are the source of many names he used. For instance, he got Fanny Dorritt from the graveyard next to Rochester Cathedral. In a nearby churchyard he found "Guppy, Twist, and Flight on adjacent tombstones". He found the names Krook, Boffin, Marley, and Varden in church registers.

    CD said that he could not start to write anything until "it has a fixed name". He tried out Martin Chuzzlewig first, changed it to Martin Chubblewig, then Chuzzletoe and Chuzzlebog. He considered Sweezlebach and Sweezlewag too. When he hit on Chuzzlewit, he found the inspiration he needed to delineate his character. He had to have the name before he could "see" the character.

    He also liked to play around and create names. He was not above a little ribaldry and innuendo. In Dickens day and preceding him, the name Dickens itself was considered "funny and even vulgar", used as it was by Shakespeare (in "The Merry Wives of Windsor") and others as a euphemism for the devil. If Dickens wanted to stick someone he knew who had irked him in some way, he would give a loathsome character that person's name.

    About the speculation that Ellen Ternan had a child by Dickens: Ackroyd could not find any evidence of it. The primary source of the rumor seems to have been CD's daughter, Katey Dickens Collins. Henry Dickens, the son of CD, acknowledged that he knew about the rumor but not about any actual child. (Would he have admitted it if he did know?) Ackroyd considers Katey untrustworthy for several complicated reasons. He does not come right out and claim Katey was a fruitcake, but that is the impression I get.

    Ackroyd does a bit of speculation himself: he thinks it is possible that CD and Ellen Ternan had a purely platonic relationship. I do not know if I can buy into that, but maybe I am expecting CD to act like a "normal" middle-aged male in a mid-life crisis. CD was decidedly odd in some of his thinking - Ackroyd cites CD's other infatuations and idealizations of virginal young women. I think one of the funniest stories about CD is when he carried on the "twenty years too late" correspondence with Maria Beadnell, the woman whom he would have married if she would have had him when he was twenty-three. He was still married but he flirted outrageously by letter with the married-as-well Maria. They even set up a clandestine mail drop so Maria's husband would not happen to find an incriminating letter. As soon as he saw her as she was, twenty years older, he suddenly became dilatory and perfunctory. Uh-oh, CD's ideal was not met. Weasel!

  • J C
    11 years ago

    What great stuff everyone is uncovering! I think we have the makings a book here, a collaborative effort - Fascination with Dickens or something like that.

    I found the letter he wrote to his son incredibly moving. I don't know why, it just seems so very much from the heart and from the soul. All his hopes and dreams for his son seem to be behind the words, although he speaks very directly and practically.

    I have to mull over a lot of things here, but right now I need to get some sleep!

  • carolyn_ky
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    Vee, thanks for the link on Henry Dickens. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    Frieda, I think my favorite Dickens book is Bleak House. It is hard to choose--I particularly like parts of most of them. I also like Tale of Two Cities very much, but I find it very different from the other novels. Hard Times is my least liked of his books. I know he meant it to be so, but it is SO utilitarian.

    To me, Pickwick is too episodic to qualify as a novel. I've probably told you all elsewhere about my experience in reading it for the first assignment in the college course I took. We had a city-wide, shut-down blizzard on a Wednesday night where company officers called employees and told them to stay home until Monday (unheard of where I live). So I spent the long weekend with the wind whistling like a freight train across the rubber strip under my front door, curled up under a blanket, reading Pickwick. I lived alone at the time and never kept much food in the house, but I got so hungry that I made myself a Chocolate Chess Pie--and ate the whole thing by myself in two days. When we got back to class, the teacher asked us if we got hungry while reading the book and said that Dickens had done that on purpose with his Merry Olde England pubs and inns and jolly, hail-fellow-well-met writing. It surely worked on me!

  • lydia_katznflowers
    11 years ago

    carolyn_ky, I agree that "Pickwick Papers" is episodic. It is really more in the vein of "Sketches by Boz" than what I think of as a true novel. Do you suppose it is considered a novel because it has recurring characters, with Mr. Pickwick linking them all together? I found the vignettes amusing, but until Sam Weller was introduced I felt there was little cohesion.

    Your chocolate pie association with "Pickwick Papers" is funny! I did not notice becoming especially hungry when I read it, but I did find the food details fascinating. Eating at inns was such a gamble for the traveler - sometimes the food was good and well prepared but often, as Mr. Pickwick moaned, it turned out to be "swill".

    I know very little about London geography, but one of the points of "Pickwick Papers" - that I gathered - was the satirization of Londoners who thought they were well traveled if they got as far away as Hampstead Heath (not very far apparently). Dickens was a great walker himself - he regularly walked 15 to 20 miles a day. One time he set out from his house in Tavistock Square early in the morning and walked to Rochester thirty miles away, arriving mid-afternoon. He probably could not resist taking jibes at lazy "omnibus-takers".

    friedag, my favorite so far is "Oliver Twist". It has so much going for it, I think - a very appealing protagonist, a memorable villain (all readers have probably heard of Fagin even if they have not read OT), and interesting secondary characters - some, like the Artful Dodger, almost steal the show.

    I have now started "Nicholas Nickelby" and gone back to my original plan of reading the novels in order. I wish Dickens' intros were not so protracted, though. However, I now know that once those are over Dickens could "cook with gas".

  • phoebecaulfield
    11 years ago

    I've read 13 of the works on the list. I've read Peter Ackroyd's biography. I must be a Dickens fan though my memory for some of the works is pretty sketchy.

    There seems to be a sort of theme park called Dickens World--written up in a recent New York Times Book Review article:

    Here is a link that might be useful: The World of Charles Dickens, Complete with Pizza

  • lydia_katznflowers
    11 years ago

    Oh my gosh! jwttrans, the whole idea of Dickens World is hysterical. Thank you for linking that article. The smell pots must be a scream. As kitschy as the notion is, I find it quite sad, for some ineffable reason, that the outcome has been a flop.

    Ackroyd goes to great effort to stress that Dickens' time that he wrote about was NOT Victorian. He had a Victorian audience after Victoria came to the throne in the late 1830's, true, but what he wrote about was the London and times of the 1820's and 1830's, pre-Victorian. Of course "Barnaby Rudge" and "A Tale of Two Cities" were not Victorian either. Even the books CD wrote in the 1860's harkened back 30 to 40 years. I get the idea that Ackroyd is quite put-out that people continue to think of Dickens' books as being Victorian, but the mistaken notion has taken over and will be perpetuated.

  • friedag
    11 years ago

    I need to brush up on synonyms of interesting and fascinating since I overuse both. The information I get from you all is amazing, alluring, piquant, beguiling, titillating, and bewildering! Just to start...

    Frances, thanks for letting me know about Nelly Ternan's real-life injuries. Simmons described them accurately enough in fictionalized form.

    Lydia, the way Dickens's mind worked in the naming of his characters is certainly revealing. I think it's great when readers have access, as we do with Dickens, to inklings of writers' creative processes. Yet, sometimes, I notice that when I know a little too much I am somewhat less captivated with the stories told. Is that perverse or what?!

    For instance, when I was a kid I did not know much of anything about the writers of my favorite books. I loved the books themselves and oh! what unburdened pleasure it was.

    Well, does anyone else think it's telling that we, in this thread, (perhaps) find Charles Dickens's life more arresting than his actual works? Maybe it's just easier to concentrate more on the man than it is a rather diffuse discussion of his prolific output. I'd love to know your opinions!

  • phoebecaulfield
    11 years ago

    Getting back to the works, I neglected to answer a question somebody asked about my favorite Dickens work.

    My favorite is BLEAK HOUSE.

  • friedag
    11 years ago

    Keeping track:
    That's two for Bleak House.
    One for Oliver Twist.
    One for Great Expectations.

    Jwttrans, is there a special reason why you favor Bleak House?

    Lydia, I had to ponder Ackroyd's statement that Dickens's books are not Victorian. Of course he's right, in the sense that Dickens was not really writing about Victorian times although he was writing in Victorian times. He's also right that it is a distinction probably not made by most readers today -- I don't think it ever occurred to me although I'm well aware that not all of the nineteenth century was Victorian. As for the perpetuation, I'm afraid it's part of the inevitable conflation of most history.

    I never read The Pickwick Papers cover to cover, but I have read excerpts. I lived in Camden Town in the 1970s while working in The City, so I must've taken a similar route that Dickens took to work and back home, although his was by foot. I vaguely realized that Camden Town was CD territory, but every part of London is the territory of somebody or other so CD's connection didn't interest me much. Camden Town was shabby and Bohemian when I knew it. Even in CD's time I don't think it was especially fashionable and it and Kentish Town, just to the north, were already 'mixed' neighborhoods. I imagine, though, that in pre-railway days Camden Town and farther-afield Hampstead Heath (even more so) were pleasanter than the City. It's just like Londoners of any era, though, to make fun of any rusticity. That fact is probably what made/still makes The Pickwick Papers funny.

  • phoebecaulfield
    11 years ago

    friedag, the characters in Bleak House seemed particularly well delineated, though I was probably most drawn to Esther Summerson.

    Also, the issue of protracted legal processes and how very trying they can be is still with us and still an enormous problem. When CD takes it into his head to call attention to a social problem, he is peerless.

    He describes and presents, always gracefully and aptly but never preachily. Bleak House strikes me as an exceptionally fine example of Dickens at his best.

  • lydia_katznflowers
    11 years ago

    friedag, I cannot always tell which group CD is making fun of most - the Londoners or the rustics. He does not spare either in PP and in "Nicholas Nickleby" he seems to be sticking most of the pins in the middle class characters. I actually find it refreshing that, unlike in most English novels I have read, there is a scarcity of aristocrats and the upper class.

    Add Kate Nickleby to CD's cast of insipid young female characters, IMO. The criminal Nancy in OT is at least memorable before she winds up dead, but her opposite Rose Maylie is so limp I wonder if she could have had a spine if she had been a real person.

    Do I have hope that Esther Summerson in "Bleak House" breaks the mold? I look forward to BH but at the rate I am going that will likely be in September or October.

    friedag, I think CD the man is easier to latch onto - he is the common thread, not the novels.

  • rosefolly
    11 years ago

    This past Tuesday my book club just selected the books for the following year. We do this by having each member choose a book. My choice was Little Dorrit . And the last person in the room chose Drood. It seems that we are going to have a Dickens-ish year.

    Of the three or four Dickens novels I have read so far, Great Expectations is my favorite. This may change as I read more, but I really liked GE.

    Rosefolly

  • libraryangel
    11 years ago

    I like Dickens. I think the best biograpy is the 1950ish Edgar Johnson two volume one; it interperses chapters about the life with chapters about his books. It is old-fashioned, but I have always liked it. I also love the George Orwell essay about Dickens. He makes a great point when he says certain images and catch phrases stay with you forever and that Dickens is very progressive in a very nineteenth century sort of way. I always think about the old gentleman in "Nicholas Nickleby" who threw vegetable marrows over the wall to catch the attention of Mrs. Nickleby. It is the sort of thing that sticks in your imagination and won't let go!

  • carolyn_ky
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    Libraryangel, my mother's eldest sister lived to age 92, and in her last year she wasn't able to shift herself around in her chair. When she became uncomfortably slumped, she would ask someone to pull her up. I had taken my mother to see her the first time I saw this happen. One of my cousins went to help her, and all I could think of was the Dickens Bleak House ruthless and mean character Smallweed who keeps demanding of his poor grandaughter, "Shake me up, Judy!" My aunt kept requesting help during the course of the visit, and I got so tickled I could hardly contain myself; of course, she was pitiful and it would have been mortifying if I had laughed, but, still . . .

  • lydia_katznflowers
    11 years ago

    libraryangel, I just read the part about the "gentleman in small clothes" who wooed Mrs. Nickleby by lobbing the vegetables over her garden wall. Mrs. Nickleby's put-on reaction of displeasure is so in-character for her - she is a vain old biddy. The situation is quite absurd and, I agree, memorable. For me, the image of "small clothes" worn by the "old idiot" (Nicholas' estimation of him) that comes to my modern mind is of garments that fit ridiculously tightly, not just knee breeches and hose. I cannot help that interpretation filtering in!

    If Mrs. Nickleby is based on CD's mother, Elizabeth Dickens, as reported, it is no wonder that Nicholas N's (and through him, CD's) sense of propriety is pained.

    The reports of NN being funny are not as exaggerated as I thought they might be. I am getting more attuned to CD's style.

    carolyn_ky, in the college course you took on CD's works, how was the syllabus set up? I cannot imagine that the class had to read ALL the novels in a semester, or even two.

  • carolyn_ky
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    Lydia, there was general lecturing by the prof, and each student was assigned to write a major paper and give an oral class report on one of the novels and such things as the illustrators, the publishers, the American journeys, etc.

    This was a graduate level course, so there were not a lot of students. It was very interesting. This was the last course I took. I attended the night school classes at the university (U of L which lost to Kentucky in the Final Four this year--off topic) and I was having trouble finding enough classes offered in my field to graduate when I wanted to, so I ended up taking a couple of grad level courses. They actually were no harder than regular courses and were a lot more satisfying to sit in.

  • lydia_katznflowers
    11 years ago

    carolyn_ky, sounds like you found the CD course useful and - more importantly, I think - you enjoyed it and were satisfied. You are still reaping the benefits. Would you ever have thought you would be leading a discussion on CD decades later? :)

    I have thought about taking a Dickens class. I contacted my local "institution of higher learning". A course is described in its catalog, "The Works of Charles Dickens", that looks intriguing. Like yours, it is a graduate course. I called a counselor for advice about whether I was qualified to enroll. She told me that I probably would qualify since I have a degree, although not one that the takers of the course usually have.

    The problem, though, is not in my qualifications. The problem is the class does not "make" very often. There has to be a minimum of ten enrollees for the course "to be worth the instructor's time". WORTH the instructor's time!! What about the students' time? The last time the Dickens course "made" was in 2007! I am probably out of luck. It certainly will not be taught during summer sessions and might not make even for the fall semester.

    Oh well, back to autodidactism.

    carolyn_ky, which novel did you write your major paper and give the oral report on? I re-read your posts, but if you mentioned which book before, I am overlooking it.

  • carolyn_ky
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    Lydia, my paper was on the illustrators. Many of the other students evidently knew what the course would be, and all the novels were taken before my turn came to choose. Mine was the first presentation, and the prof had said there would be no excuses for delay. I worked quite hard on it and got an A- with some professiorial comments that I had rushed to finish! I was a little annoyed but pleased nevertheless. And, no, I never would have thought I'd be leading any discussion on CD. Dr. Axton would be proud.

    I'm deep into the biography by Claire Tomalin and enjoying it very much.

  • veer
    11 years ago

    Carolyn, interesting that your paper was on Dickens' illustrators . . . I always look at the 'pictures' before reading the book; a habit that goes back to early childhood before I could read.
    Perhaps you could answer a question for me.
    I have a old copy of Bleak House published by Chapman and Hall and illustrated by Frederick Barnard. There is no date inside (except for an ink signature of Chas. Hollins 1879). Do you know if Barnard was the original illustrator of BH? To my 'eye' these look later than the 1850's, more in the style of the 1870's.
    I am not tempted to read this copy as it is printed in double columns, similar to a newspaper, which I find very off-putting.
    I much prefer the Cruickshank or Phiz drawings; so much more delicate.

  • carolyn_ky
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    Vee, this from Google: Frederick (Fred) Barnard (b. London, 16 May 1846; d. 28 September 1896) was a Victorian illustrator, caricaturist and genre painter. He is noted for his work on the novels of Charles Dickens published between 1871 and 1879 by Chapman and Hall. Hablot Browne (Phiz) provided all 40 illustrations, etched on steel, for Bleak House published in monthly parts Mar 1852 - Sep 1853. (Told you all I don't remember a lot of this stuff! I love Google.)

  • veer
    11 years ago

    Thank you Carolyn . . . I wont ask you how you did your original research pre Google . . .or maybe I will. Did you find copies of the various works of CD and check who the artist was or did you study learned tomes?
    So this means my copy of Bleak House (undated) was an edition produced after CD's death. I can't say I care for the illustrations much; they are very hard and black; possibly because the plates were still so new.

  • carolyn_ky
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    Vee, since you didn't ask, I spent a couple of Saturdays at the library--all day--and borrowed the best source book of all from the prof. This was handwritten note card days, but fortunately I had a very unbusy job and did the actual writing and typing (pre-computer, of course) at work.

    I finished Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin today. Here is the last paragraph, and I hope I'm not breaking a law by copying it here. It is just such a good summation.

    "He left a trail like a meteor, and everyone finds their own version of Charles Dickens. The child-victim, the irrepressibly ambitious young man, the reporter, the demonic worker, the tireless walker. The radical, the protector of orphans, helper of the needy, man of good works, the republican. The hater and the lover of America. The giver of parties, the magician, the traveller. The satirist, the surrealist, the mesmerist. The angry son, the good friend, the bad husband, the quarreller, the sentimentalist, the secret lover, the despairing father. The Francophile, the player of games, the lover of circuses, the maker of punch, the country squire, the editor, the Chief, the smoker, the drinker, the dancer of reels and hornpipes, the actor, the ham. Too mixed to be a gentleman--but wonderful. The irreplaceable and unrepeatable Boz. The brilliance in the room. The inimitable. And, above and beyond every other description, simply the great, hard-working writer, who set nineteenth-century London before our eyes and who noticed and celebrated the small people living on the margins of society--the Artful Dodger, Smike, the Marchioness, Nell, Barnaby, Micawber, Mr. Dick, Jo the crossing sweeper, Phil Squod, Miss Flite, Sissy Jupe, Charley, Amy Dorrit, Nandy, hairless Maggie, Sloppy, Jenny Wren the dolls' dressmaker. After he had been writing for long hours at Wellington Street, he would sometimes ask his office boy to bring him a bucket of cold water and put his head into it, and his hands. Then he would dry his head with a towel, and go on writing."

  • friedag
    11 years ago

    Lydia, seems to me that you are doing very well without an Academe-sanctioned course on Charles Dickens. Unless you need or especially want such a course for some reason, self-teaching is a wonderful way to learn something, in my opinion. You can write your own syllabus, set your timetable without onerous deadlines, and write reviews or essays if you like. I've known spirited 'amateurs' who have acquired more knowledge than many who have 'majored' in particular subjects. You've already got more Dickens under your reading belt than many an English-Lit major I've known!

    Carolyn, thanks for posting Tomalin's summation. I think it falls under 'Fair Usage.' It is quite wonderful and makes me want to read her bio of CD. Did you find other gems and nuggets in it that you didn't know before or struck you in a new way? I am a great fan of synoptic reading when it comes to bios, because each biographer will give a different emphasis and perspective, and sometimes they don't agree with preceding biographers or their own contemporaries.

    I was thinking of how CD, in his turn, inspired subsequent generations of writers. I've already mentioned Dan Simmons's Drood. I also liked Peter Carey's Jack Maggs.

    When I was a teenager or in my early twenties, I read in an anthology what I thought was a short story titled "The Man Who Loved Dickens." It was about a fellow who got lost in the Amazon jungle. He eventually discovered a god-forsaken outpost on a tributary river, inhabited by a solitary guy who incongruously had a large collection of Charles Dickens's books, only he couldn't read them (I don't recall whether he was illiterate or what). The lost fellow's hopes were dashed when he was told that it would be months before a boat would come to the outpost that could carry him back to civilization. In the meantime, while waiting for the boat's arrival, he read the volumes of Dickens aloud to his companion...I won't give away the punchline for those who haven't read it.

    I searched for years for that story without luck, until I asked RPers if anyone recognized it. Of course someone did! It is actually an excerpt from Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust.

    What are some other Dickens-inspired tales? I'm sure there must be many more.

  • carolyn_ky
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    Frieda, there was actually a lot in the Tomalin book that I didn't know, but I had never read a Dickens biography before. She dealt in detail with the Ellen Ternan situation, but it turns out that Ms. Tomalin had already written a book about "Nelly," so that research had already been done. The very early bios left that part of his life pretty much alone. One thing she made me want to do is read the book from the remembrances of Katey Dickens, the eldest daughter.

    One book I read and enjoyed a few years ago was Mr. Timothy by Louis Bayard, a story of a grown up Tiny Tim.

  • veer
    11 years ago

    Carolyn, like you I found out a good deal about CD that I was unfamiliar with. I didn't know he became interested in Unitarianism after his first US trip, nor did I know that the early US universities were founded on those principles. I didn't know that the Hogarth family were Scottish, or, that as CD got older he 'gave up' his old circle of friends in favour of a younger set; especially Wilkie Collins. I hadn't realised that some of the stories that were published in Household Words and his other mags were more often than not written by a bevy of authors; where each would take on a few chapters (but not the books that came out under CD's own name). I hadn't realised that Georgina Hogarth was over ten years younger than her sister, not so much older than the Dickens' girls.

    Una Pope-Hennessy in her bio. (finished at last) implies that Georgina was a very clever 'user' of the situation in which she found herself, and probably quite 'in love' with CD. She made no effort to support Catherine when CD grew 'tired' of her, was more than happy to play the hostess and attend the grand parties and receptions to which CD was invited and cut out from letters all fond remarks/messages that had been written between CD and C during happier times.
    She took no heed of the Hogarth's feelings even when they were permanently banished from contact with the Dickens' family. She even invited Ellen Ternan to visit.
    Carolyn, do you know what happened to Georgina after CD's death? I know she was living with Mamie and a couple of the boys (thanks to the Census of 1871) but haven't checked for her later. Also what happened to Ellen T? I have it at the back of my mind that she married and became 'respectable' but could be quite wrong. ;-)

  • carolyn_ky
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    Vee, from Google: In 1876, six years after Dickens' death, Ternan married George Wharton Robinson, an Oxford graduate, who was twelve years her junior. She presented herself as 14 years younger (23 years old rather than 37). The couple had a son, Geoffrey, and a daughter, Gladys, and ran a boys' school in Margate. Ternan's husband died in 1910, and she spent her last years in Southsea with her sister Frances. She died of cancer in Fulham, London.

    In his will, CD left Georgina ã8,000, lots of money at the time, and all his private papers. Using them, she and his daughter Mary, with the help of Wilkie Collins, published a two-volume edition of the CD letters and later a third volume, but they left out all references to his personal life.

    Dickens was certainly a fascinating man. It's amazing to me that there is still so much interest in his personal life after all this time.

  • phoebecaulfield
    11 years ago

    Dickens and Unitarianism: The UK Unitarians claim Dickens as a Unitarian.

    If you enlarge the image, you'll find a quotation from Dickens in praise of Unitarianism.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Dickens as a Unitarian

  • lemonhead101
    11 years ago

    Interesting to see that CD was a Unitarian; so was Edith Holden's family (she who wrote The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady)...

  • Rudebekia
    11 years ago

    friedag, you asked about Dickens'-inspired stories. I think Oscar Huejlos' "Mr. Ives' Christmas" is reminiscent of "A Christmas Carol." At the very least they work well together and are great to re-read during the Christmas season.

  • carolyn_ky
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    As I am sure all of you are aware, this has been very enjoyable for me, and, I hope, for everyone else. Thank you so much for all your participation and the interesting new information and tidbits.

    Let's do another book discussion soon.

  • rosefolly
    11 years ago

    Carolyn, I think I speak for us all when I say that this has been a satisfying experience for everyone, due in large part for your inspired guidance. Thank you for leading it. I could not have done half so well.

    Rosefolly

  • lydia_katznflowers
    11 years ago

    Is this thread being "wrapped up"? I agree that it has been very enlightening, but I have only just finished my third CD book, "Nicholas Nickleby", and I am about one third of the way into "The Old Curiosity Shop". What started with the proposal of this thread and the subsequent discussion looks to stretch indefinitely into my reading future. I want to thank everyone for sparking my interest - and I especially what to thank whoever it was who had the idea of general, individual readings of Dickens rather than concentrating on just one Dickens book.

    To supplement Ackroyd's Dickens bio, I also read Tomalin's. friedag, you are right that different biographers have different perspectives. Like carolyn_ky mentioned, it is obvious that Tomalin's big interest is "the affair" between CD and Ellen Ternan and thus Tomalin's biography is about half the length of Ackroyd's. Maybe that shows some of the differences between male and female biographers, because Ackroyd recounts the affair rather perfunctorily but includes much more detail of other aspects of CD's life. It could be, too, that Tomalin is more attuned to what interests female readers of biographies: relationships, factual and rumored.

    friedag, Charles Palliser's "The Quincunx" is said to be a Dickens pastiche. New Zealander Lloyd Jones wrote "Mister Pip" - the setting is Papua New Guinea and could be right up your alley! I have not read either of those, but I did read Gaynor Arnold's "Girl in a Blue Dress" and Richard Flanagan's "Wanting", both of which were inspired by CD's unhappy marriage to Catherine. All I can say about them is they are intriguing takes, but I found them quite maddening (angry-making, that is, not crazy-making).

  • carolyn_ky
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    Lydia, as far as I know, our book discussions are never "wrapped up." Please do add your thoughts as you continue to read Dickens' works. An indefinite reading future is a good thing!

  • carolyn_ky
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    And thank you, Rosefolly, for being so kind. It was a labor of love.

  • veer
    11 years ago

    I had good intentions of visiting this thread more often but a sudden and nasty attack of conjunctivitis has made writing (and 'seeing' as I rely on contact lenses for anything further than 2 inches from my nose) almost impossible. ;-(
    As Lydia says I would be sorry to see this thread disappear as I hope to read more Dickens, but not one after the other, which would be too 'heavy-going' for me. I am planning to treat myself to a hardbacked copy of Great Expectations. I remember seeing the old b and w film with John Mills and Alec Guinness and the wonderfully scary scene in the Kent marshes.
    Carolyn, I am enjoying your enthusiasm for CD and many thanks for keeping this thread alive . . . and kicking.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Great Expectations: oldie version

  • J C
    11 years ago

    Just peeked at this thread as I haven't been able to sign in at work for some time but somehow have just managed it. I read Mister Pip some years ago; a wonderful but very disturbing book. I still get a little queasy thinking of it. Also I enjoyed Mr. Ives's Christmas, as well as several other works by Hijuelos. Actually, I have read it several times, usually just before Christmas. I will warn you that it is quite sad.

    Lydia, I am impressed that you are really powering through Dickens!

  • frances_md
    11 years ago

    As a possibly last reference in our year of Dickens, Michael Dirda reviewed a new book, Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens by Robert Gottlieb in yesterday's Washington Post. The link is posted below. Most of the information in the review was also in the biography of Dickens that I read in connection with this discussion but it is an interesting point of view.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Dirda's Review of Great Expectations