This is just to report that I'm back from the Dickens Fellowship Conference, where we had a grand and glorious five days of celebrating Mr. Dickens! Report and pictures (with help from Rachel McMillan) coming soon!
Selena requested a quote from The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
“A brilliant morning shines on the old city. Its antiquities and ruins are surpassingly beautiful, with a lusty ivy gleaming in the sun, and the rich trees waving in the balmy air. Changes of glorious light from moving boughs, songs of birds, scents from gardens, woods, and fields -- or, rather, from the one great garden of the whole cultivated island in its yielding time -- penetrate into the Cathedral, subdue its earthy odour, and preach the Resurrection and the Life. The cold stone tombs of centuries ago grow warm; and flecks of brightness dart into the sternest marble corners of the building, fluttering there like wings.”
“‘Then Mr M’Choakumchild said he would try me once more. And he said, Here are the stutterings -- ’
“‘Statistics,’ said Louisa.
“‘Yes, Miss Louisa -- they always remind me of stutterings, and that’s another of my mistakes -- of accidents upon the sea. And I find (Mr M’Choakumchild said) that in a given time a hundred thousand persons went to sea on long voyages, and only five hundred of them were drowned or burnt to death. What is the percentage? And I said, Miss;’ here Sissy fairly sobbed as confessing with extreme contrition to her greatest error; ‘I said it was nothing.’
“‘Nothing, Miss -- to the relations and friends of the people who were killed. I shall never learn,’ said Sissy.”
Msantimacassar on LiveJournal requested a quote from Little Dorrit.
"They were very near the end of their walk, and they now came out of the gateway to finish it. Nothing would serve Maggy but that they must stop at a grocer's window, short of their destination, for her to show her learning. She could read after a sort; and picked out the fat figures in the tickets of prices, for the most part correctly. She also stumbled, with a large balance of success against her failures, through various philanthropic recommendations to Try our Mixture, Try our Family Black, Try our Orange-flavoured Pekoe, challenging competition at the head of Flowery Teas; and various cautions to the public against spurious establishments and adulterated articles. When he saw how pleasure brought a rosy tint into Little Dorrit's face when Maggy made a hit, he felt that he could have stood there making a library of the grocer's window until the rain and wind were tired."
The latest entry in Orford's "Charles Dickens on . . ." series. Knowing how fiercely Dickens fought for the poor all his life, one would expect a consistently fiery tone throughout this essay collection. This turns out, surprisingly, not to be the case.
The first group of essays, about the high-profile case of Bartholomew Drouet (who owned a school where more than 150 children died of cholera under "appalling conditions"), is suitably fiery -- indeed, I think it's some of the best writing Dickens ever did. But just at the end, when we learn that Drouet got off scot-free and one would expect Dickens to boil over with rage, he instead writes quietly and matter-of-factly, as if almost too weary for words anymore. The effect is far more sobering than any outraged eloquence he could have possibly come up with.
In other essays he studies different facets of poverty: the "shabby-genteel," the begging-letter writers who plague him as a known philanthropist, the tramps, residents of the workhouse, and residents of his own Urania Cottage. Sometimes he shows genuine sympathy, but any group or individual that he finds more colorful than pitiable is fair game for his wit. He goes even further with the begging-letter writers; they come in for a full share of his wrath, as he blames them for taking bread out of the mouths of the genuinely poor: "The begging-letters flying about by every post, made it perfectly manifest, that a set of lazy vagabonds were interposed between the general desire to do something to relieve the sickness and misery under which the poor were suffering, and the suffering poor themselves. . . . The writers are public robbers; and we who support them are parties to their depredations. . . . Let us give all we can; let us give more than ever. Let us do all we can; let us do more than ever. But let us give, and do, with a high purpose; not to endow the scum of the earth, to its own greater corruption, with the offals of our duty."
In his general attitude toward poverty, in fact, Dickens comes across as far more nuanced, knowing, and thoughtful than most modern writers on the subject. Which, indeed, one probably should have expected all along.
"If you're a horse and you're going to be named after a Charles Dickens character, chances are you're going to be named after a notorious villain," speculates Ben Linfoot at SportingLife.com. Linfoot is writing about a horse named Uriah Heep, so I can see why he might think that. But I think Tommy Traddles would make a nice horse's name as well. Or Jenny Wren. Or Newman Noggs . . .
Of course Dickens has a connection to the World Cup. Everything has a connection to the World Cup these days. Dickens's connection, according to Sports Illustrated, is that there's an announcer named Ian Darke who they say sounds a lot like him. I'm not so sure about that, but see what you think!
Congratulations to the Dickens Society of Baltimore for becoming an official branch of the Dickens Fellowship! (H/T The Buzfuz) This makes it the branch of the Fellowship closest to me. I may have to look into joining up with them!
Speaking of the Fellowship, I'm getting ready to go to their annual conference, starting next week in Chicago, where I will get to meet up with Dickensblog reader and frequent guest blogger Rachel McMillan! (Charles Dickens: bringing people together since 1836.) As I did the last time I was away, I plan to set up some quotes from various Dickens novels to run on the blog while I'm gone. I already have some requests left over from last time that I can use (Nicholas Nickleby, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, A Christmas Carol, Little Dorrit, and HardTimes)but if you have any more novels that you'd like me to quote from, please let me know in the comments section on this post. Thanks!
And I'm sure Rachel and I will both have lots to share when we get back!