No other writer has given me so much pleasure. No other writer makes me
laugh quite so hard or cry so unabashedly, often on the same page. I am
always amazed and appalled when I meet people who say that they don’t
like Dickens. And there are many of them. I have found that those who
claim to dislike Dickens have almost never read him. . . .
Many dismiss Dickens as too wordy, too descriptive, too sentimental,
too depressing, too boring. All of these criticisms seem outrageously
unfair to me—and patently untrue. Dickens is not really guilty of any
of those things, particularly if you compare him to other Victorian
writers. In fact, many of his critics are simply lumping him in with
their own misconception of what 19th-century literature is: long and
boring. Dickens is not too wordy or too descriptive. His style is
light, lively, and entertaining.
“I hate it,” one young man said to me recently, “when they go on and on for pages describing a room.”
Dickens does very little of that; not nearly so much as his contemporaries Thackeray, Trollope, or George Eliot do.
“. . . and when they digress and talk to the reader? I hate that,” the young man added.
Thackeray does that all the time; Trollope does a good bit of it, too.
George Eliot certainly feels the need carefully to describe and analyze
every motivation of every character, with an analysis of what their
motives may ultimately lead to.
Dickens never does that. He leaves a great deal to the reader to
figure out. He is descriptive when he needs to be. His descriptions
create atmosphere, and atmosphere is of prime importance in any Dickens
In last week's installment, Mr. Chester continued to work against Edward and Emma by lying to the Vardens and collecting information from Hugh. For this week, read chapters 29 and 30. And don't forget to prepare for Tuesday's quiz!
This part is by Nina. Christy, I think you're next, correct?
We, as travelers through the universe of pen and ink, must leave Mr. Guppy in this terrifying force of literary villains to return to the author of all the chaos, Charles Dickens, whom we must admit was feeling very dull and boring in the midst of all the action and personality of his characters. "I always fancied myself as an interesting sort of maverick," he thought, a bit sullenly, as the carriage rumbled dully upon the cobblestone streets, but as he glanced out of the window and saw all the other flesh-and-blood, ordinary people, he felt so much more like one of them—normal, nondescript, commonplace—than he had in decades, since he had first introduced the world to Mr. Pickwick—who just that morning was sitting right across from him, stuffing a pipe! "The world is indeed upside down," Mr. Dickens came to the wise conclusion, when his glance fell upon Miss Betsey Trotwood and her companion, Mr. Dick, shoved into the corner of the cab but looking oddly comfortable.
Miss Betsey hadn't spoken a word, but had sat rigidly throughout Mr. Dickens' reverie. Mr. Dick kept casting furtive glances at Richard, and had attempted to give Jenny an apple he had had in his possession, until she nearly snapped his hand off. Mr. Dickens sighed, not without a tinge of fear for their destination, causing the old lady to rapidly dart her head in his direction.
Just a word about the Barnaby Rudge quiz: I had originally planned it for Saturday, but I have one heck of a busy weekend coming up, so I'm going to need to push it back a few days. Look for it on Tuesday.
Pete Orford has compiled and edited a new collection of Dickens's travel writings, called simply Charles Dickens on Travel. He writes about it here, and critic Frank Bures gives it a glowing review here. Both of them emphasize the timelessness and the accessibility of Dickens's writings.
Bures hits on something that, in my view, helps to make Dickens's descriptions of scenes and places so much more interesting than any other writer's:
It seems remedial now, and it is, but it’s something Dickens seemed to
realize long ago: Travel is not that interesting. People are. Stories
come alive only when there are people in them. Travel and nature
writing both purport to be about physical things. But they are really
about us, and to the extent that they aren’t, they are simply bad, or
In general, I don't post about new projects involving actors who formerly appeared in Dickens adaptations. There are too many of them to keep track of, for one thing. But picture this: a TV film starring Mr. Tulkinghorn, Sir Leicester Dedlock, John Barsad, and a chain-smoking, bow-and-arrow-wielding Amy Dorrit. How could I not post a link?
In honor of last night's LOST finale, check out this page that talks about some of the Dickensian influences on the show. I wasn't a viewer myself, but I have great respect for anyone who loves Dickens that much!
(Watch and learn, creators of The Wire:* When people identify Dickensian elements in your TV show, the proper response is not "Meh, whatever, I don't think so." The proper response is "Thank you SO much, I am tremendously honored." Got that?)
Robert Gottlieb has a very long article in the New York Review of Books, in which he discusses seven different books, both old and new, about Charles Dickens. Pretty darned impressive (especially when you consider that I haven't even made it all the way through the Slater biography yet).
It's something of a throwaway line, but I was particularly intrigued when Gottlieb quoted George Bernard Shaw's remark that "Clennam and Pip are the real autobiographies" (as opposed to David Copperfield). Shaw was mistaken about a good many things, in my estimation, and he may very well have been mistaken about this. But it's a thought-provoking point of view, especially since he names two characters that are so very different from each other.