Charles Dickens

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Re: Charles Dickens

Post  eddie on Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:52 am

^

I'm intrigued by the odd dancing figures on top of the drawer to the left of Mr Darwin's desk. What do you think they represent?

It's also encouraging to note that The Beatles faithfully copied Mr Darwin's choice of footwear: winklepickers with Cuban heels.

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Re: Charles Dickens

Post  eddie on Thu Feb 02, 2012 1:00 am

Digested Dickens: David Copperfield

John Crace makes the famously autobiographical novel flash before your eyes

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 1 February 2012 12.11 GMT


WC Fields and Freddie Bartholomew as David in the 1935 film of David Copperfield. Photograph: Cine Text / Allstar

To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I was born in Suffolk. My father had died six months previously and on the day of my birth my great-aunt, Miss Betsey Trotwood, arrived unexpectedly at my mother's house.

"Harrumph," said Miss Betsey. And with that she vanished.

My early memories are a little opaque, though I recall reading to my nurse, Peggotty, when I was two years old and discussing her marital prospects when I was four. At the age of six, the house was darkened by the occasional presence of a Mr Murdstone.

"So you are the fragrant Mrs Copperfield's incumbrance," he said to me.

With a name so redolent of turd, Mr Murdstone was not a man to whom I warmed and I was not at all unhappy when my mother sent me to stay with Peggotty for a fortnight. The coach left for Great Yarmouth and the driver, Barkis, engaged me in conversation.

"I hear ye are obsessed with weddings," he said. "So tell Peggotty that Barkis is willin'."

"Barkis is willin'," I told Peggotty on my arrival at her upside-down boat on the beach.

"Be that as it may," Peggotty replied. "But first you must meet the strong and silent Ham, and my six-year-old niece, Little Em'ly."

Ah, Little Em'ly! How my heart soared ! Here was the girl whom I would surely wed!

"Oh, Little Em'ly," I cried, "I know we are still very young but one day we shall be married."

"What's wrong with you?" cried Little Em'ly. "Most children our age don't even think about having a relationship."

Upon my return home, the reason for my enforced absence became clear.

"Mr Murdstone and I are now wed, Davey," said my mother, "so if he wants to give you a good beating then I shall have to let him."

"Indeed I do," sneered Mr Murdstone, "for he is a disagreeable boy. And when he has been thrashed sufficiently, he shall be sent to Mr Creakle's school in London to be thrashed some more."

How I sobbed to be separated from my mother and it was only the thought of my eventual marriage to little Em'ly, along with my new friends Tommy Traddles, the school idiot, and James Steerforth, the school Flashman, that sustained me.

"Why does your hair stick up in the air, Traddles?" I asked

"Why, Master Copperfield," he replied, "It is to identify me as a simple fellow."

Steerforth was made made of sterner stuff and to him I gave my money for safe-keeping and to whom I answered to the name of Daisy.

"You don't mind me calling you Daisy, do you?" he had asked. And proud I was to be called a girl's name by such a man who invited me to read him stories at night and spent all my money.

Some months later my mother died in childbirth. How I wept for the poor woman who had done nothing for me since she had married Mr Murdstone. Having beaten me savagely for causing my mother's death, Mr Murdstone sent me back to London to earn a living in the bottling factory. Oh the pain of those years of toil which I still know all too well!

My lodgings were with a Mr and Mrs Micawber. Mr Micawber was a kindly man, albeit one given to circumlocution and financial mismanagement. "Master Copperfield," he would say. "Total income twenty pounds, total expenditure two hundred pounds equals unhappiness and I confess that today I find myself embarrassed. If I may prevail upon you …"

"Of course," I replied, not thinking it odd that an adult should ask a 10-year-old boy for money or that I should work extra hours in order to advance Mr Micawber a greater sum.

"Not enough," he wept. "I am for the debtor's prison."

I did not hesitate to work still harder for Mr Micawber's release and the only break in my day was the invitation to take tea with an unattractive clerk by the name of Uriah Heep. "Most 'umble," he said. In truth, I did not much care for Heep, finding him a deeply aspirant member of the lower orders, but I bore myself with the dignity expected of distressed gentlefolk and treated him with a patronising contempt disguised as good manners.

Upon reflection, it appears that at this stageI may have been worried I did not have enough material for a 20-month serialisation as some of the story-telling does seem unnecessarily verbose, but some while later with Mr Micawber out of prison, I left my job and walked to Dover to live with my great-aunt, whom I had never once met seen since the day of my birth. But my circumstances were desperate. As indeed was Mr Dickens.

"Who are you?" asked Miss Betsey.

"David Copperfield," I said.

"Well come in, boy. I shall call you Trot."

Notwithstanding that Miss Betsey was yet another person unwilling to call me by my given name, my great-aunt did me the service of asking her her business manager, Mr Wickfield, to find me a school.

How blissful it was to spend time with Mr Wickfield's daughter, Agnes! "Oh Agnes," I said. "You are truly a beautiful creature but I can only think of you as a sister as I am promised to Little Em'ly."

My studies complete, I took Steerforth to meet Peggotty . "Good to see you, David," wept Peggotty. "Tis a shame that though Barkis was once willin' he is no longer able."

"How is Little Em'ly?," I cried.

"Why, she is to be married to Ham!"

I hid the disappointment of seeing my expectations dashed and agreed with Peggotty that Ham was indeed the right husband for my intended.

The next morning, neither Steerforth nor Little Em'ly were anywhere to be found. "They have eloped together," Peggotty sobbed. "She is ruined."

"Truly this must be a great loss for you," I said.

"Grunt," Ham replied.

With great regret, I returned to London to commence my training with Mr Spenlow to become a proctor, for which privilege my great-aunt had paid one thousand pounds. It was my great fortune to once more encounter the deluded Traddles. It was a still greater fortune to renew my acquaintance with Mr Micawber, who had reappeared from nowhere and I was happy to once more advance him money I didn't have. Meanwhile Little Em'ly had been quite forgotten, as I was now smitten by Mr Spenlow's daughter, Dora, the most adorable and stupid girl you could ever hope to meet.

"I hope to make Dora my wife," I told my great-aunt.

"You'll be lucky, Trot," she replied. "Mr Wickfield has lost all my money and we're broke."

"Be not upset. Mr Wickfield is a good man and Agnes is a perfect lamb even though I only think of her as a sister. I shall train as a stenographer to earn extra cash."

Yet how could I now marry Dora? I threw myself on the goodness of Mr Spenlow.

"Over my dead body," roared Mr Spenlow.

Mr Spenlow was as good as his word, for that very evening he had a heart attack. How grateful I was to Mr Dickens for killing him off!

"Dora, my air-head," I whispered. "Your aunts have said we may marry once I've earned more."

"That sounds nice," Dora replied, stroking her dog, Jip. "Do I look better in blue or green?"

"Oh Agnes," I said when I introduced her to my darling. "Is not Dora too enchanting?"

"She's … kind to animals."

"How sweet you are. How glad I am you find Dora as fascinating as me. Just don't marry Uriah Heep now he's running your father's business."

"Oi Copperfield," Heep slithered. "Ever so 'umble, but I'm not going to be patronised by you any more."

"Wealth you may have, but people like you should remain at the bottom of the Heap."

How hard did I work to make a name for myself as a novelist. And if I have neglected to say what kind of books I wrote, I can only say I've got a lot to squeeze into the final instalments. Rejoice in my success and come visit Dora and myself now we are wed.

"Oh Doady," said Dora. "You don't mind if I call you Doady, do you?

"Call me Doady if you want," I replied, "for Doady does sound a bit like Daddy. In return I shall call you Child Wife because you are so adorably dim."

I fear my prose has been inadequate to describe just how enchantingly stupid my darling really was. How we laughed as she struggled to spell her name, though I must confess there were moments when I yearned for Agnes, even though I definitely wasn't in love with her. But then Dora spelt her name as D-O-R-K and I fell in love with her again.

Alas, Dora fell ill after losing our baby, but she bore her decline with such sweetness that I forgot to call a doctor. And so she passed away with her annoying dog, Jip, coincidentally breathing his last at the same moment as his mistress.

So it was that I went abroad before returning to learn that Little Em'ly had escaped from Steerforth.

"We must send her to Australia, Trot," said my great-aunt. "They are short of women there."

"Indeed," I replied. "But first I must see Peggotty and Ham."

The Norfolk coast had never seen such a storm. "How are you, Ham?" I asked.

"Grunt."

A boat was in trouble. Somehow I sensed it was the one on which Steerforth was sailing. Without saying a word, Ham entered the water to lead the rescue, only to drown alongside Steerforth. How I wept at their deaths, though was I secretly relieved they had both been written out of the story.

"If it's not too much to ask," said Mr Micawber, "I'd like you all to come to Mr Wickfield's."

"Ever so 'umble, I'm sure," hissed Heep. "What brings you all here?"

"Why I have been investigating your business dealings with Mr Wickfield, Heep, and it seems you are a crook …"

"So my father wasn't totally incompetent," cried Agnes.

"Nor will you have to marry Heep," I added.

"And as I wasn't really broke and and you have found the other missing five thousand," said Aunt Bestey, "then I'm just as rich as I always was."

With Heep having finally been exposed as the crook I had always assumed his petit-bourgeois aspirations would lead him to be, I never enquired how someone as feckless as Mr Micawber should be such an astute accountant. Rather, I cheerfully paid his debts and packed him off to Australia, where he would no doubt change character completely and become a magistrate.

"What other loose ends to tie?" I asked.

"I hear that Murdstone has driven another wife to the grave," said Aunt Bestey.

"Capital," I replied. "Truly he puts the Merde in Murdstone. How strange it is that Mr Dickens names should so often hold meaning. As for you, Heep, I shall visit you in prison to lecture you once more."

"Is that all?" said Agnes.

"Why no! For I have decided I love you not as a sister but in the same way as I have loved Little Em'ly and Dora … Will you be my wife?"

"I thought you'd never ask."

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Re: Charles Dickens

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 6:11 pm

My hero: Charles Dickens by Simon Callow

'Having experienced the lower depths, he never ceased to commit himself to trying to right the wrongs inflicted by society'

Simon Callow

The Guardian, Saturday 4 February 2012


Charles Dickens circa 1850. Photograph: Herbert Watkins

You start with the work, of course. In my case The Pickwick Papers, thrust into my hands at the age of 13. It danced before my eyes, a great hokey-cokey of eccentrics, conmen, phony politicians, amorous widows and wily, witty servants, somehow catching an essence of what it is to be English, celebrating companionship, generosity, good nature, in the figure of Samuel Pickwick, Esq, one of the great embodiments in literature of benevolence. This quality mattered a great deal to me then, and it does now.

A tear sprang to my eyes when I read the book's great closing words: "Some men, like bats or owls, have better eyes for the darkness than for the light. We, who have no such optical powers, are better pleased to take our last parting look at the visionary companions of many solitary hours, when the brief sunshine of the world is blazing full upon them." When I first read it, I had no idea how hard-won that sunny vision had been for its 25-year-old author. Only 12 years before, he had been a drudge in a shoe-polish factory, living on his own, his family in debtors' jail; he felt abandoned, humiliated, hungry, heart-broken, close to annihilation. By a supreme effort of will, the moment he was liberated from the factory, he turned away from the dark feelings that threatened to engulf him and threw himself into life with a blazing enthusiasm, becoming a beacon of energy and fun. The rest of his life was a negotiation between those high spirits and the dejection with which he had been acquainted so early.

This alone would not be enough to make him my hero, though it is a heroic effort, this attempt to keep faith with life. The reason I love him so deeply is that, having experienced the lower depths, he never ceased, till the day he died, to commit himself, both in his work and in his life, to trying to right the wrongs inflicted by society, above all, perhaps by giving the dispossessed a voice. From the moment he started to write, he spoke for the people, and the people loved him for it, as do I.

• Charles Dickens was born on 7 February 2012

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Re: Charles Dickens

Post  eddie on Mon Feb 06, 2012 8:43 pm

Ebenezer Scrooge named most popular Dickens character

Penguin Books poll to mark 200th anniversary of author's birth reveals miser from A Christmas Carol as best loved

Sam Jones

The Guardian, Monday 6 February 2012


Alistair Sim as Scrooge from the 1951 film based on A Christmas Carol. In poll to mark the author's 200th anniversary, the miser has been voted the UK's favourite Charles Dickens character. Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive

A cold-hearted miser bullied by ghosts into gaining a conscience has triumphed over a festering, jilted bride and an alcoholic, nihilistic barrister – not to mention the odd pickpocket and escaped convict – to be named the most popular Charles Dickens character.

Ebenezer Scrooge saw off many of the writer's best known and loved creations, including Miss Havisham, Sydney Carton, the Artful Dodger, Fagin, Nancy and Magwitch, in a Penguin Books poll commissioned to mark the 200th anniversary this week of Dickens's birth.

The top 10 is light on unadulterated goodness, with only Pip and Joe Gargery from Great Expectations and Betsey Trotwood from David Copperfield representing the kinder faces among the Dickensian ranks.

And although the list is heavily slanted towards Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, Oliver himself was left wanting more votes at No 11.

Claire Tomalin, whose highly acclaimed biography of Dickens was published last year, said that Scrooge's popularity was surprising given that his 21st-century equivalent might be a banker.

"But Dickens excelled in creating villains, and always gave them more energy and brio than his good characters, so that we never forget them," she said. "Scrooge is a monster, a wicked employer and a heartless miser, but he is allowed to repent and see the error of his ways."

Some of Britain's bestselling authors also picked their favourite Dickens characters. Tim Lott and Josephine Cox opted for Pip and Oliver respectively; Freya North chose Uriah Heep, describing him as a "loathsome character who seeps from the pages like a noxious gas"; Daisy Goodwin went for "the anti-heroine of Bleak House", Lady Dedlock, while Adele Parks favoured the "morally ambiguous" Nancy from Oliver Twist.

Tomalin has also used the anniversary to lament young readers' inability to get to grips with Dickens.

"Today's children have very short attention spans because they are being reared on dreadful television programmes which are flickering away in the corner," she said.

"Children are not being educated to have prolonged attention spans and you have to be prepared to read steadily for a Dickens novel and I think that's a pity."

Tomalin described Dickens as "the greatest creator of characters in English" after Shakespeare and stressed his enduring relevance to Britain in 2012.

"When he went to America in 1842, one of the points he made was that the 'unimportant' and 'peripheral' people were just as interesting to write about as 'great' people," she said.

"You only have to look around our society and everything he wrote about in the 1840s is still relevant – the great gulf between the rich and poor, corrupt financiers, corrupt members of parliament, how the country is run by old Etonians, you name it, he said it."

Events are taking place across the globe to mark Dickens's 200th birthday on Tuesday 7 February, including a street party in the road where he was born in Portsmouth, and a wreath-laying ceremony at his grave in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, London. The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will attend the abbey ceremony, where readers will include Tomalin and the actor and director Ralph Fiennes. The British Council has also organised a global Dickens read-a-thon, which will see a reading marathon lasting 24 hours in 24 different countries from Albania to Zimbabwe.

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Re: Charles Dickens

Post  eddie on Tue Feb 07, 2012 5:40 pm

Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens.

200 years old today.

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Re: Charles Dickens

Post  Nah Ville Sky Chick on Tue Feb 07, 2012 11:22 pm

eddie wrote:Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens.

200 years old today.

cheers

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Re: Charles Dickens

Post  eddie on Sun Feb 19, 2012 2:28 am

Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World by Simon Callow - review

An insider's view of the writer as actor

David Edgar

guardian.co.uk, Friday 17 February 2012 22.55 GMT


Roger Rees and David Threlfall in David Edgar's stage adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby. Photograph: Donald Cooper/Rex Features

It's both the best and worst of times to produce a Dickens biography. Best because (for anyone just returned from the further reaches of the galaxy) 2012 is the bicentenary of the great man's birth. Worst, because there's competition. In fact, Simon Callow's Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World is intriguingly complementary to Claire Tomalin's deservedly feted Charles Dickens: A Life. Callow has form as a biographer (Charles Laughton, Orson Welles), and as a memorialist and essayist. But he is a writer best known as an actor, and it's as such that he has taken on someone best known the other way round.


Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World
by Simon Callow

The front and back cover present Callow's thesis with a certain amount of chutzpah. Both consist of a cut-out of a Victorian gentleman standing on a toy theatre stage. On the front, the cut-out is topped by the book's subject's head, on the back, by its author's. On the second page of the book, Callow justifies his presumption. He has performed several Dickens stories on stage (most recently, A Christmas Carol), and played Dickens in a one-man play by Peter Ackroyd, and on Doctor Who. Quoting actor Warren Mitchell's response to the accusation that he'd changed a playwright's line, Callow hasn't just written Charles Dickens: "I've been 'im".

Being him, Callow describes the psychodrama of the great man's life persuasively: the ghastly year in the shoe-polish factory that gave Dickens his social anger, but also his iron will; the premature death of his adored sister-in-law Mary Hogarth, which led him to idolise women in his fiction and mistreat his wife in real life. Noting Dickens's "orotundities", Callow comes up with a few of his own: "noctambulistic researches into the condition of the people" are undertaken; Dickens's sartorial theatricality is "unfavourably animadverted on in some quarters". But the unique insights of Callow's book are not so much about Callow the actor's perceptions of Dickens but about Dickens the actor himself.

Conventional wisdom has it that Dickens was lucky to have been born into a showy but shoddy period for the British theatre (the playwriterly glories of the Sheridan and Goldsmith era were long gone). Had theatre been in the "high and balmy days" wistfully evoked by Mr Curdle in Nicholas Nickleby, then the passionate young theatre-goer might well have become a playwright, a calling for which he was clearly unsuited (the great William Macready – friend and dedicatee of Nicholas Nickleby – assured Dickens that his farce The Lamplighter was not worth putting on). Dickens clearly learned important lessons from the theatre: as Callow points out, he picked up his "streaky bacon" technique of alternating comic and tragic scenes from the dramaturgy of his day. He was a prodigious stage manager and producer of highly successful and sometimes commercially successful amateur dramatics. As Callow puts it, "literature was his wife, the theatre his mistress". But although Dickens wondered in later life whether "nature intended me for the lessee of a national theatre", posterity is generally agreed that he picked the right girl.

For Tomalin, theatre had a baleful influence on the novels: Dickens's plots "tend to the theatrical and the melodramatic", as if theatre and melodrama were self-evidently bad and the same. But for Callow, Dickens's experience as a highly praised but always amateur actor was not the flaw but the making of his writing. It formed his desired, face-to-face relationship with his public (the relationship he was to achieve literally with his readings), in which he and his audience were present in the same room. But it also formed his characters. Callow acknowledges that the highly gestural form of acting favoured in the theatre of Dickens's day is no longer fashionable; but he argues that Dickens's natural power of "reproducing in my own person what I observed in others" is an actorly skill, which – in Dickens's case – involves an immersion of the actor into the character (so, while writing a character's speech, Dickens would frequently leap up to check his own expression in the mirror). Far from pleasurably losing himself inside another personality, as Tomalin describes Dickens the actor, Dickens himself becomes his characters.

For that, Dickens drew on a personality and a biography that was not entirely admirable. He was not a good husband or ex-husband (he issued public statements berating his former wife as a failed spouse, mother and woman). As with many people, his virtues (energy, drive, single-mindedness) implied his faults. But although you could take the book's subtitle ("the great theatre of the world") to imply that Dickens's view of the world was as theatrical as his writing, Callow does not suggest that Dickens's political radicalism – and the considerable charitable efforts that flowed from it – were any kind of affectation. The extent of his polemical and practical efforts on behalf of what the Victorians called "the remnant" and we call the underclass were as considerable as they were commendable. It is one of the many virtues of this book that Callow not only admires his subject, but has got inside him.

Dickens was also – of course – immensely popular, as he still is, though now through dramatisation as much as publication. Callow agrees with Tomalin that Dickens's appeal crossed all classes, but he notes one exception: a literary intelligentsia which then and now mostly regards him with suspicion and condescension. Perhaps that, too, is a legacy of Dickens's love of the theatre.

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Re: Charles Dickens

Post  Constance on Thu Mar 22, 2012 10:57 pm

Ed, I just did a library search for Simon Callow's bio of Dickens, but the system doesn't have it (yet). The list included a bio by Peter Ackroyd. Have you read that? I wonder if it's worth looking at. I read Ackroyd's bio of Blake last year.

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Re: Charles Dickens

Post  eddie on Fri Mar 23, 2012 1:50 am

Constance wrote:a bio by Peter Ackroyd. Have you read that? I wonder if it's worth looking at. I read Ackroyd's bio of Blake last year.



There are two versions of Ackroyd's Dickens biography, Constance. I've read the abridged version, which I can recommend for all the usual Ackroyd merits of well-assimilated research and lucid prose.

The unabridged version I haven't read, but I understand that it's a positively enormous tome containing strange hallucinatory sections in which PA encounters Dickens (or his ghost?) in the streets of London and converses with him. I suppose this device makes a kind of sense since they're both prolific writers in whose work London features prominently- almost as a character in itself.

Much enjoyed the Callow book, by the way. It's hot off the press, so that's probably why it hasn't yet appeared on your library system.


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Re: Charles Dickens

Post  Constance on Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:17 am

Glad you liked the Callow book. I still have two small memoires to read--books I picked up just browsing the shelves. And two mindless novels from the "chick-lit" genre, both by Sophie Kinsella. But first I have to finish the Austen bio. I'll order the Ackroyd Dickens from the library; glad to hear you liked it.

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Re: Charles Dickens

Post  eddie on Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:49 am

Constance wrote:Glad you liked the Callow book.

The overwhelming impression is one of Dickens' sheer energy. In another age, he'd have been diagnosed as manic.

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Re: Charles Dickens

Post  eddie on Mon Apr 23, 2012 2:44 am

It was the best of tomes … the quintessential Charles Dickens novel

Charles Dickens's novels are all about the characters. From Stage villain to Beatific virgin, from Devious lawyer to Ludicrous spinster, they are powered by archetypes that have seeped off the page and into our collective consciousness. But where to begin if you haven't yet encountered them between soft covers? Our fans' guide shows which of his novels assemble the strongest casts – the perfect start for a Dickensian voyage of discovery
Which novel is the most Dickensian? (PDF)

Adam Frost, Jim Kynvin and Jamie Lenman

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 19 April 2012 15.07 BST



If anyone deserves a birthday party lasting all year, it's Dickens – a name that conjures images of red faces, blazing fires, bowls of punch and people partying like it's 1849. But as Claire Armitstead argues, it's hard to keep the celebrations going when your birthday is in February. That's why a group of us at the Guardian's digital agency came up with our very own tribute to the great man. What makes a novel Dickensian? And which of his works gives you the most Dickens for your dollar?
Adam Frost

Photographer: guardian.co.uk

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