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.
Herb requested a quote from The Old Curiosity Shop.
"Some men in his blighted position would have taken to drinking; but as Mr Swiveller had taken to that before, he only took, on receiving the news that Sophy Wackles was lost to him for ever, to playing the flute; thinking after mature consideration that it was a good, sound, dismal occupation, not only in unison with his own sad thoughts, but calculated to awaken a fellow-feeling in the bosoms of his neighbours. In pursuance of this resolution, he now drew a little table to his bedside, and arranging the light and a small oblong music-book to the best advantage, took his flute from its box, and began to play most mournfully.
"The air was 'Away with melancholy' -- a composition, which, when it is played very slowly on the flute, in bed, with the further disadvantage of being performed by a gentleman but imperfectly acquainted with the instrument, who repeats one note a great many times before he can find the next, has not a lively effect. Yet, for half the night, or more, Mr Swiveller, lying sometimes on his back with his eyes upon the ceiling, and sometimes half out of bed to correct himself by the book, played this unhappy tune over and over again; never leaving off, save for a minute or two at a time to take breath and soliloquise about the Marchioness, and then beginning again with renewed vigour. It was not until he had quite exhausted his several subjects of meditation, and had breathed into the flute the whole sentiment of the purl down to its very dregs, and had nearly maddened the people of the house, and at both the next doors, and over the way -- that he shut up the music-book, extinguished the candle, and finding himself greatly lightened and relieved in his mind, turned round and fell asleep."
Random Reads, a blog at Random House India, is doing a series about "forgotten" classics. This month, The Old Curiosity Shopis featured. It's odd to think of this one as "forgotten," when it was so immensely popular in its time -- but there's no doubt that tastes have changed since then. Makes you wonder which Dickens novels will be considered the best, and which will be "forgotten," in another century or so.
We go for a particular novel to Dickens as we go for a particular inn. We go to the sign of the Pickwick Papers. We go to the sign of the Rudge and Raven. We go to the sign of the Old Curiosities. We go to the sign of the Two Cities. We go to each or all of them according to what kind of hospitality and what kind of happiness we require.
Rather unfortunately, Chesterton goes on to argue that Martin Chuzzlewit is the exception to the rule, thanks to its "melancholy" feel. Still, the imagery is brilliant and, I think, profoundly true.
And Chesterton does go on to say, "He poured into this book genius that might make the mountains laugh, invention that juggled with the stars." So there's that!
As the release of the last Harry Potter movie approaches, a Wall Street Journal article examines the ties between that series and the works of Dickens. There's a sample (with a spoiler or two) below . . .
Dr. Holly Furneaux of the University of Leicester will deliver a special lecture titled "Serial Readers: Dickens and the Victorian Soap Opera" on October 5. The event will also include a costumed reading and a viewing of some of Dickens's manuscripts and possessions. Click here for more information.