Next time someone tells you Dickens is too intimidating or too tough to read, you might point out that A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations are both quicker reads than the bestselling A Song of Ice and Fire. At least, according to this.
The Hollywood Reporterstates that BBC4 has a new Tale of Two Cities in the works! It's being written by Alan Bleasdale, who did the 1999 Oliver Twist miniseries, and produced by the company that made Parade's End. Netflix is in talks to co-produce.
Now on display at the Dover Street Bookshop in Mayfair is a presentation copy of A Tale of Two Cities, inscribed by Dickens to George Eliot "with high admiration and regard." The book is priced at 275,000 pounds. If you're not anywhere near Mayfair, you can see a picture of it here!
Clive Baugh's essay "Twenty of Dickens's Most Memorable Characters" is a couple years old, but I just now came across it, and it's so good I had to share it. In addition to his thoughtful take on characters from various Dickens's novels, there are also lots of great illustrations, many of which I'd never seen before.
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.
Blogger Paige Landsem has written a lovely post about the joys of taking a break from dense and difficult books to sneak off and spend some time with Sydney Carton. (Post contains spoilers for A Tale of Two Cities.)
BBC Radio 4 is airing a new adaptation of Barnaby Rudge . . . which I didn't find out about until after it started. (Sorry!) I found this out via a BBC News article about lead actor Daniel Laurie, a young man with Down syndrome. Producer-director Jeremy Mortimer (who also did the recent Tale of Two Cities radio adaptation) has some interesting things to say about how casting Daniel made Barnaby realistic and relatable to modern audiences.
You can listen to the first episode on BBC iPlayer; it's up for four more days. The next episode airs Sunday, June 1.