The Old Curiosity Club discussion

15 views
Oliver Twist > Oliver Twist Chapters 51-53

Comments Showing 1-50 of 57 (57 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1

message 1: by Peter (last edited Aug 18, 2018 09:54AM) (new)

Peter | 3455 comments Mod
Hello Curiosities

Chapter 51 is posted after Chapter 53. Sorry. I have no idea what happened and I’m scared to mess around. I am now at a hotel waiting for our plane to take us to Toronto.

Please forgive me. :-))




Chapter 52

The chapter’s epigraph is “Fagin’s last night alive” and so we are certainly near the end of our story. I found the first sentence of the chapter very powerful: “The court was paved, from floor to roof, with human faces.” What an amazing way to use the work “paved.”

We read that “[F]agin stood there, in all the glare of living light ...” Is it me or is this the first time we have seen Fagin clearly in the flare of light. Certainly when he and Monks were peeking at Oliver it was daylight, but the word “glare” highlights and exposes the fact that Fagin has always been a man bathed in darkness, surrounded by shade and shadow, and living his life indoors, in dark and damp places. This chapter unfolds slowly, and in doing so Dickens is able to increase the tension of the situation. Fagin is found guilty and a “tremendous shout” echoes through the court and “swelled out, like angry thunder.” Once again, we are told how crowds can form an opinion quickly, and such a crowd has an energy that far surpasses what an individual’s emotions can attain. Consider the crowd chasing Oliver early in the novel, the crowd raging at Sikes in the last moments of his life, and now here we have “angry thunder” at the guilty verdict.


Thoughts

The crowd certainly has many reasons to dislike Fagin. To what extent, however, do you think Dickens has concerns over the power and the lack of control that lies close to the surface in all crowds or mobs?


There is an irony that after Fagin was pronounced guilty he was searched so “he might not have about him the means of anticipating the law.” In his cell, Fagin recalls the verdict that he was “to be hanged by the neck till he was dead—that was the end. He was to be hanged by the neck till he was dead.” The repetition found in these words is chilling and takes us back through the book. Throughout the novel, time and time again, we have had references to crime and punishment, and many of these references focussed on necks, on hanging, and on death. I recall the chapter where Fagin gave Oliver a book to read that featured criminals and punishment, the mark on Monks’s neck, the times a person’s neck was exposed, held onto by another, or touched. Sikes met his death by hanging. One of Cruikshank’s early illustrations in the novel is set in Fagin’s dwelling and features a picture of three people hanging. In our novel we have three violent deaths, two of which are by hanging. Nancy’s death, if one can ever compare violent deaths, was just as horrid as being hanged, perhaps even worse.


Thoughts

What other specific references to necks can you recall in the novel?


And so the hours and the days of Fagin’s remaining life are chronicled by Dickens. He tells us that Fagin, cowering “down upon his stone bed” reflected back upon his capture and how he suffered. Fagin hears the bells, and knows that his time on earth is being measured. Mr Brownlow and Oliver enter the prison, pass through “several strong gates” and finally get to look in at Fagin. What they see and hear is disturbing. Fagin’s mind is wandering and he talks of crime and, perhaps most disturbing, about cutting Bolter’s throat “as deep as you can cut. Saw his head off!” We learn that Brownlow and Oliver have come to find out where some papers of Fagin’s are hidden.

As Brownlow and Oliver leave the prison they encounter a crowd that was “pushing, quarrelling, joking” and they see “the black stage, the cross-beam, the rope, and all the hideous apparatus of death.”


Thoughts


Did you find the last appearance of Fagin to be structurally satisfying and believable? If not, how would you have crafted the chapter?

The last two chapters have ended rather abruptly, and each has ended with a death. In our previous chapter we learned that little Dick had died. The last word of the chapter 51 was “dead”. In this chapter we leave with the image of the gallows and the final word is “death.” To what extent are you comfortable with such a mood at the end of these two chapters?


message 2: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3455 comments Mod
Chapter 53

Well, my friends, here we are at the final chapter of Oliver Twist. It has been a very interesting journey. While I have no statistics to prove it, I would guess that Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol are the most frequently read of Dickens’s novels in high school. I would further guess that if an informal poll was conducted asking people to name five Dickens novels Oliver Twist would be among them.

In this chapter Dickens weaves the final strings of plot and character together, and we take our leave of the novel. Rose and Harry marry in his small village church. Mrs Maylie joins them to enjoy the remainder of her life. It is discovered that about £3000 remains in the provisions of Monks and Oliver’s father’s estate which is divided equally between them. Monks squanders the money, remains a criminal, and dies. The remaining members of Fagin’s old gang die far from home as well. Mr Brownlow adopts Oliver as his son and moves close to the parsonage of Harry and Rose. The good doctor Losberne moves to a bachelor’s cottage near the self-same village and even our grumpy friend Grimwig frequently visits the village and his friends.

Noah Claypole becomes an informer and Charlotte feigns fainting to get a wee drop of liquor from “charitable” publicans. As for our Mr Bumble and his wife, well, they become paupers in the same workhouse they worked at. Mr Bumble is grateful to be separated from his wife. Small blessings come from strict rules.

Charlie Bates was able to turn his back on his past and after some struggle became a grazier.

For the main characters of our novel, Dickens lingers the most. For Rose he sees a woman of substance and love and the close companion of Oliver, her sister’s child. We learn that Rose was to have children, and that her children would never suffer the fate of her sister or herself. Mr Brownlow is happy to be with Oliver, his adopted son.

Finally, there is in the old village church a marble tablet with the single name Agnes. Dickens assures us that if spirits do walk the earth then in this place Agnes will be found.

And so one of the great novels of the 19C ends.


Thoughts

It’s your turn. For this week let us reflect of the novel’s last three chapters. Then, next week, we can open up the discussion of the entire novel.


message 3: by Peter (last edited Aug 18, 2018 09:55AM) (new)

Peter | 3455 comments Mod
Chapter 51

Hello Fellow Curiosities

Well, here we are at the end of Oliver Twist. The time has flown by for me and it has been a pleasure to be your moderator as Tristram journeyed across the Atlantic to visit with family and enjoy a well-deserved vacation. For me, it has been quite the summer as well. My wife and I visited our first grandchild in Toronto. We decided that we wanted to enjoy being with our family too and so decided to move back to Toronto. Fortunately, we found a condo in the same area we lived in prior to coming to Victoria so we will be in a comfort zone when we move back. It was an extremely difficult decision since we love it here in Victoria. But the siren call of our first grandchild has drawn us back to Toronto. And so it goes ...

Endings and beginnings. This week we will finish our discussion of Oliver Twist. He, too, will find a home, a family, and be with those who he loves most and who love him. Does life imitate art? Does art imitate life? In many ways I think so.

Our novel spans three chapters to wrap up. Perhaps too long, but this is an early Dickens novel, so let us give him some space. That said, I sit here hoping I touch on most of the important bits and pieces still awaiting a conclusion.

This chapter begins with Oliver travelling towards his “native town.” He is surrounded by the good people in his life all of whom are prepared to bring Oliver’s past to a conclusion and offer him a secure and happy future. As Oliver travels back to his beginnings he sees objects and has memories from his past. One special memory is Oliver’s remembrance of his childhood friend Dick. Rose assures Oliver that he will see Dick soon, but she also appears to know something Oliver does not. Oliver passes Sowerberry’s and notes that it seemed to be “smaller and less imposing in appearance than he remembered it.” He then sees Gamfield’s cart, the workhouse, and the town’s chief hotel. To Oliver, each place seems smaller. Has this ever happened to you? A place that once was imposing is now reduced in your memory? It has to me.

There is a bit of a mystery going on in the chapter as a number of secret meetings are happening among the men of the group. Neither Rose or Oliver are included in the meetings and both are perplexed as to what is occurring. And then a great revelation. Monks is presented to Oliver and Oliver is told that Monks is his brother. We learn that Oliver’s father, Edwin Leeford, was Mr Brownlow’s dear friend, and that Oliver’s mother’s name is Agnes Fleming.


Thoughts


Did you know or suspect any of these revelations? If so, what were the hints that lead you to your suspicions?


What follows is a lengthy explanation from Monks that fills in many of the blanks in the story. Here is a brief summary of Monks’s story. Oliver’s father took ill in Rome and was joined by his estranged wife and son Monks who went there to look after his property. Leeford’s senses were gone and he died. In Leeford’s rooms Monks and his mother found papers addressed to Brownlow, a letter to Agnes Fleming, and a will. Leeford’s letter to Agnes was a “penitent confession” and asked for her forgiveness for getting her pregnant because “all the guilt was his.” Leeford asked her to wear the locket and ring he had given her.

The will contained the miseries of his life with his wife and his wife an annuity of £800. The bulk of the property was divided into two equal proportions between Agnes Fleming and their child-to-be. There was one stipulation and that was if their child was a male then he should never [stain] his name with “any public act of dishonour, meanness, cowardness, or wrong.” Apparently, these conditions were made through his belief that Agnes Fleming would raise Oliver with her own “gentle heart.” If their child did not match the criteria then the money would go to Monks as both of his children would be equal, and thus Monks would have a stronger claim upon the will since Monks is his legitimate son. Monks’s mother then confronted Agnes’s father who, in shame, fled to a remote part of Wales. Agnes left their new home in shame, her father searched in vain for her, and then her father died of a broken heart.


Thoughts

A deep breath. I think I’ve covered most of the initial parts to this admittedly convoluted tale. If I have missed anything that is important please feel free to add it or correct me. There is more to come. If I ever complain about future Dickens novels and their coincidences or conclusion please remind me of Oliver Twist.

Let’s press on.

Mr Brownlow continues the story. Years later Brownlow heard that Monks had robbed his mother and then left her to live with the “lowest outcasts.” His mother, “sinking under a painful and incurable disease” wanted to see her son again. They reunited and went to France. There she died but not until she had bequeathed all her secrets to Monks. Monks promised her that he would seek out her husband’s illegitimate child and “spit upon the empty vault of the insulting will by dragging it ... to the very gallows-foot.” Brownlow then explained that Fagin, an old accomplice and confident of Monks, was given a large reward to keep Oliver and turn him into a criminal. Monks confesses to buying the ring and locket from Mrs Bumble, who got them from the old nurse that stole them originally from Oliver’s mother. It is all a bit complicated, isn’t it? These facts are confirmed because it just so happens Brownlow and Grimwig have both Bumbles bundled in another room and are brought in to confirm the information. When the Bumbles burst out their supposed innocence it just so happens, yet again, that Brownlow and Grimwig have witnesses in the form of two old withered hags who heard all the events that occurred at the death of Oliver’s mother. To be brief, if that is possible, Bumble and his wife will lose their jobs because of their actions.

A few more surprises, coincidences, and revelations and we will be finished ... I hope. We find out that the father of Agnes had TWO daughters. After the death of the father the other daughter was taken in by some “wretched cottagers” who raised her. Monks’s mother managed to track down these cottagers and tell them of the second daughter’s shame “with such alterations as suited her” such as the fact that the second female child came of bad blood, was illegitimate, and was sure to go wrong in the future. One day, by chance (of course), a widow lady saw this child and took her home. This female child turns out to be Rose. Thus Rose is Oliver’s aunt, but Oliver declares that he will call her sister. We then have Rose and Oliver in a “long close embrace.”

We are not finished yet. Patience please. Harry shows up and declares that he knows all and still wants Rose. Rose, in response, reminds him that a sense of deep disgrace worked upon her father and, as result, he was “shunned all.” Harry responds by telling Rose that he has thrown over all his associations and aspirations to join in parliament and plans to become a humble village pastor. Rose and Harry now can share a life and future because they are now equals.

And finally, at the very end of the chapter, the reader is blindsided by Oliver who comes into the room and announces that “Poor Dick was dead.” And so the chapter ends extremely abruptly, and on a definite note of sorrow rather than joy.


Thoughts

To what extent did you find these revelations in the chapter to be satisfying? What did you like most about it? What did you dislike most about it?

I found the final sentence of the chapter extremely perplexing. Did Dickens want to tone down the joy of revelation by introducing the death of an individual who was innocent? Did Dickens want to insert a touch of reality into the chapter in that many children of the workhouse would not have survived into mid adolescence?

In your opinion did Dickens supply his readership with enough hints as to how the story of Oliver would unfold?


message 4: by John (last edited Aug 18, 2018 12:42PM) (new)

John (jdourg) | 1120 comments Perhaps this is more appropriate for a summary observation, but it is what went through my mind as we entered into the closing chapters.

I started here with Our Mutual Friend, after a 30 year hiatus of not reading any Dickens (I have to admit that, because my last completed Dickens was over 30 years ago). And I am struck, perhaps as much with OT as any of the books I've read; and that would be the number of characters that matter to the story. Perhaps not to the linear plot line, but to the overall story, the book itself. I am guessing 25 characters in OT and I might be under estimating.

I guess I am not used to so many characters or keeping tabs on them. Perhaps my recent years of only poetry reading have compounded my challenge.


message 5: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2520 comments Peter wrote: "There was one stipulation and that was if their child was a male then he should never [stain] his name with “any public act of dishonour, meanness, cowardness, or wrong.” .... If their child did not match the criteria then the money would go to Monks ..."

You could probably see my exaggerated eye roll from where you sit when I read this passage. Please. "Any public act of dishonour, meanness, cowardness, or wrong"? Of course, Oliver is perfection personified, so we musn't worry that he'd ever put a toe out of line, but my goodness, for any mere human, this would be a tough standard! Even for Oliver, what about beating up Noah? We can say he was justified, but one might still call it "mean" or "wrong" - and as Mr. Bumble, the parochial authority, was called in to handle the situation, surely that would count as "a public act," would it not? Legally, the whole thing is ridiculously vague.

And as an adulterer and father of a bastard child, who was Leeford to put this kind of onus on a child?

I would love to know what Dickens' contemporaries thought of this passage.


message 6: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2520 comments Peter wrote: "Did you find the last appearance of Fagin to be structurally satisfying and believable? If not, how would you have crafted the chapter?..."

An interesting chapter, but one that shows, again, that Dickens still has maturing to do as a writer. Unless, of course, I missed something, in which case I have some maturing to do as a reader! Please do let me know if that's the case (unfortunately, it so often is)!

My concern is the premise, i.e. why did Brownlow and Oliver go to see Fagin in the first place? The text says:

You have some papers,' said Mr. Brownlow advancing, 'which were placed in your hands, for better security, by a man called Monks... tell me where they are.'

This is the first I recall hearing of any papers. Was this just some cheap ploy Dickens uses as an excuse to get the reader into the jail? Why would Brownlow subject Oliver to such a visit? Hollywood's answer to that question would be that this had nothing to do with any "papers" but it was all about Oliver, in his angelic way, wanting to see Fagin and pray for his soul. Another time, I think, that the movies got it right. This chapter, as Peter points out (beautifully, by the way!), was about light and dark, and Oliver and Fagin were the personifications of that. Dickens would have done better to leave the mysterious papers out of it altogether. Aside from this contrivance, though, I thought writing in this chapter was pure Dickens, and gives the readers, who would have felt gypped to see Fagin's story wrapped up with a couple of sentences in an epilogue, great satisfaction.


message 7: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2520 comments Peter wrote: "I would guess that Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol are the most frequently read of Dickens’s novels in high school. I would further guess that if an informal poll was conducted asking people to name five Dickens novels Oliver Twist would be among them...."

I would guess that you're right on both counts, Peter. But I don't get why. I understand A Christmas Carol, certainly, but having read OT twice, in different stages of life, I'm disappointed that this is the book that introduces so many people to Charles Dickens. Why, when, in my opinion, there are so many better options? Am I alone in that assessment?


message 8: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 1120 comments Mary Lou wrote: "Peter wrote: "I would guess that Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol are the most frequently read of Dickens’s novels in high school. I would further guess that if an informal poll was conducted ask..."

Interesting as to what high schools may introduce. My final year of high school, my English teacher selected Great Expectations. It must have been a good choice because it remains my favorite. Whether an anomaly of a choice, I don't know.


message 9: by Xan (last edited Aug 19, 2018 10:04AM) (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments The Lasts days of Fagin are very well done. Fagin keeping his own counsel. Have you noticed, or is it just me, how much better Dickens does tragedy than he does happiness? Just look at these two chapters. His happiness is overdone, maudlin; his tragedy has an authenticity about it I find fascinating.


message 10: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments ... she was weak and erring.

These are the last words of the novel. I suppose Dickens means "meek?" I'm just finding these last words very odd.


message 11: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments Thought I might as well put this here too.

This was a difficult chapter (51) to get through it was so maudlin. Everything but the kitchen sink thrown in, and all this happiness with Dick's death and the white waistcoat's death thrown in for ?balance? Oh, and how accommodating Monks is. At any minute I expected the Montague's and Capulet's to walk in and make up, thereby permitting Romeo and Juliet to rise from the dead and marry.

Have two more chapters to read but I suspect they are more just desserts.

PS: At least Fagin wasn't there to call everyone My Dear.


message 12: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments I think that last scene with Fagin is the only one in which he isn't calling someone "My Dear."


message 13: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3455 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "Peter wrote: "There was one stipulation and that was if their child was a male then he should never [stain] his name with “any public act of dishonour, meanness, cowardness, or wrong.” .... If thei..."

Hi Mary Lou

What a great question about the reaction of Dickens’s comtemporaries. In public, it seems, based on such things as the sales of the parts, people really liked the book. You are, however, correct. There is much in OT that would/should have upset the reading public.

I don’t think you have missed anything. OT is rather baggy in parts, drags in others, and the last six or so chapters strain one’s patience with the abundance of coincidences that keep popping up.

Yes indeed, ACC must be the most read Dickens in high school. As for OT, perhaps its popularity resides in the fact that Oliver fits in reasonably well with the age group of its high school readers. Novels such as DC follow a child's growth too, but it continues into David’s two marriages.

You raise the question of what Dickens is most suitable for the high school reading audiences of today. It we remove all the barriers to books being placed on the curriculums of schools these days let’s see what others think.


message 14: by Peter (last edited Aug 19, 2018 01:28PM) (new)

Peter | 3455 comments Mod
Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "The Lasts days of Fagin are very well done. Fagin keeping his own counsel. Have you noticed, or is it just me, how much better Dickens does tragedy than he does happiness? Just look at these two ch..."

Great observation and question Xan. I too think in OT tragedy is handled much better than happiness. This question is timed well as we have the entire novel laid out before us to consider and reflect upon. It is also an important question to reflect upon during our final review of the entire novel coming up next week.

As for the final words in the novel that reflect on Oliver’s mother, they are rather strange arn’t they? Indeed, the last words of the chapters in each of the final chapters threw me. Candidly, I have no good ideas why Dickens made the language choices he did.


message 15: by Alissa (new)

Alissa | 317 comments I thought Fagin's last appearance was good closure. His pacing and howling reminded me of the caged animal themes we've seen throughout the book. The guards getting frightened added a supernatural touch too.

I'm surprised that Brownlow took Oliver there. The part about the hidden papers seemed randomly thrown in. I don't know why Dickens included it.

I think Oliver was there to give Fagin one last chance to repent. I figured Oliver was taking the role of Jesus again, so Fagin could be saved. When Fagin twisted this meaning, thinking Oliver would "save" him by busting him out of jail, Oliver started crying, as if Fagin was doomed spiritually. It's interesting that Oliver still had compassion for him.


message 16: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1342 comments John wrote: "Perhaps this is more appropriate for a summary observation, but it is what went through my mind as we entered into the closing chapters.

I started here with Our Mutual Friend, after a 30 year hia..."


John, it really is a lot of characters to keep track of, but I find I don't mind so much because I like Dickens's supporting characters so much.

I wonder if there's a little bit of legacy from Pickwick in the number of characters: both books are published over time and Pickwick doesn't have a significant central plot, so I get the feeling Dickens would just toss in whatever he'd been thinking about or whomever he'd observed while he was writing, and make a character. Oliver kind of has that feeling too, except since it does have a plot (and how!), Dickens is then faced with the gargantuan task of sewing all those characters together into some kind of coherence at the end. The only people I can think of who are allowed to drop out of the story are the Sowerbys and some justice system figures. (I do like, as Xan points out, that even white waistcoat gets appropriately finished off.)


message 17: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1342 comments Mary Lou wrote: "Peter wrote: "There was one stipulation and that was if their child was a male then he should never [stain] his name with “any public act of dishonour, meanness, cowardness, or wrong.” .... If thei..."

Agreed, Mary Lou: reading between the lines Leeford seems kind of awful. What he does to Agnes is pretty seriously glossed over.

Speaking of Agnes, I don't think Dickens meant "meek." Agnes somehow let her virtue fall to Leeford, so that makes her "weak" by the standards of the times. I guess it's a kinder thing to call her than sinful. I've always liked the last line of the book, and its focus on erring Agnes, as opposed to perfect Rose and Oliver. The heart of the book ends up being Nancy and Agnes, the people who made mistakes but remain worthy of love and compassion.


message 18: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1342 comments Peter wrote: "Mary Lou wrote: "Peter wrote: "There was one stipulation and that was if their child was a male then he should never [stain] his name with “any public act of dishonour, meanness, cowardness, or wro..."

I think one of the reasons Oliver is chosen so often is because there are so many adaptations of it. Same with Christmas Carol. All the films and plays and so forth keep both books in the popular consciousness.

My pick for high school would be Tale of Two Cities, since it's the most quotable. (And also a personal favorite.) Though I guess all the French and British historical references would be an obstacle, at least at American schools.


message 19: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3455 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "Mary Lou wrote: "Peter wrote: "There was one stipulation and that was if their child was a male then he should never [stain] his name with “any public act of dishonour, meanness, cowardness, or wro..."

Hi Julie

I really liked your comment that the heart of the book ends up being Nancy and Agnes as they are the one worthy of love and compassion. Indeed, they are two young ladies whose paths were not the smoothest, but they certainly did show great resilience and love to another. Two remarkable women.


message 20: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod
I can hardly believe that even without Tristram here I still feel the need to throw in at least one.....poor, poor Oliver.


message 21: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod
Peter wrote: "Hello Curiosities

Chapter 51 is posted after Chapter 53. Sorry. I have no idea what happened and I’m scared to mess around. I am now at a hotel waiting for our plane to take us to Toronto.

Pleas..."


Why Peter, even I have never managed to do that. :-)


message 22: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod
Peter wrote: "Chapter 53

Well, my friends, here we are at the final chapter of Oliver Twist. It has been a very interesting journey. While I have no statistics to prove it, I would guess that Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol are the most frequently read of Dickens’s novels in high school ..."


https://www.tes.com/news/100-fiction-...


message 23: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod
From The Life of Charles Dickens by John Forster:

"No, no," he wrote, in the following month: "don't, don't let us ride till to-morrow, not having yet disposed of the Jew, who is such an out-and-outer that I don't know what to make of him." No small difficulty to an inventor, where the creatures of his invention are found to be as real as himself; but this also was mastered; and then there remained but the closing quiet chapter to tell the fortunes of those who had figured in the tale. To this he summoned me in the first week of September, replying to a request of mine that he'd give me a call that day: "Come and give me a call, and let us have 'a bit o' talk' before we have a bit o' som'at else. My missis is going out to dinner, and I ought to go, but I have got a bad cold. So do you come, and sit here, and read, or work, or do something, while I write the LAST chapter of Oliver, which will be arter a lamb chop." How well I remember that evening! and our talk of what should be the fate of Charley Bates, on behalf of whom (as indeed for the Dodger too) Talfourd had pleaded as earnestly in mitigation of judgment as ever at the bar for any client he had most respected.


The completed Oliver Twist found a circle of admirers, not so wide in its range as those of others of his books, but of a character and mark that made their honest liking for it, and steady advocacy of it, important to his fame; and the book has held its ground in the first class of his writings. It deserves that place. The admitted exaggerations in Pickwick are incident to its club's extravaganza of adventure, of which they are part, and are easily separable from the reality of its wit and humor, and its incomparable freshness; but no such allowances were needed here. Make what deduction the too scrupulous reader of Oliver might please for "lowness" in the subject, the precision and the unexaggerated force of the delineation were not to be disputed. The art of copying from nature as it really exists in the common walks had not been carried by any one to greater perfection, or to better results in the way of combination. Such was his handling of the piece of solid, existing, every-day life, which he made here the groundwork of his wit and tenderness, that the book which did much to help out of the world the social evils it portrayed will probably preserve longest the picture of them as they then were. Thus far, indeed, he had written nothing to which in a greater or less degree this felicity did not belong. At the time of which I am speaking, the debtors' prisons described in Pickwick, the parochial management denounced in Oliver, and the Yorkshire schools exposed in Nickleby, were all actual existences,—which now have no vivider existence than in the forms he thus gave to them. With wiser purposes, he superseded the old petrifying process of the magician in the Arabian tale, and struck the prisons and parish abuses of his country, and its schools of neglect and crime, into palpable life forever. A portion of the truth of the past, of the character and very history of the moral abuses of his time, will thus remain always in his writings; and it will be remembered that with only the light arms of humor and laughter, and the gentle ones of pathos and sadness, he carried cleansing and reform into those Augean stables.

Not that such intentions are in any degree ever intruded by this least didactic of writers. It is the fact that teaches, and not any sermonizing drawn from it. Oliver Twist is the history of a child born in a workhouse and brought up by parish overseers, and there is nothing introduced that is out of keeping with the design. It is a series of pictures from the tragi-comedy of lower life, worked out by perfectly natural agencies, from the dying mother and the starved wretches of the first volume, through the scenes and gradations of crime, careless or deliberate, which have a frightful consummation in the last volume, but are never without the reliefs and self-assertions of humanity even in scenes and among characters so debased. It is indeed the primary purpose of the tale to show its little hero, jostled as he is in the miserable crowd, preserved everywhere from the vice of its pollution by an exquisite delicacy of natural sentiment which clings to him under every disadvantage. There is not a more masterly touch in fiction, and it is by such that this delightful fancy is consistently worked out to the last, than Oliver's agony of childish grief on being brought away from the branch-workhouse, the wretched home associated only with suffering and starvation, and with no kind word or look, but containing still his little companions in misery.


Of the figures the book has made familiar to every one it is not my purpose to speak. To name one or two will be enough. Bumble and his wife; Charley Bates and the Artful Dodger; the cowardly charity-boy, Noah Claypole, whose Such agony, please, sir, puts the whole of a school-life into one phrase; the so-called merry old Jew, supple and black-hearted Fagin; and Bill Sikes, the bolder-faced bulky-legged ruffian, with his white hat and white shaggy dog,—who does not know them all, even to the least points of dress, look, and walk, and all the small peculiarities that express great points of character? I have omitted poor wretched Nancy; yet it is to be said of her, with such honest truthfulness her strength and weakness are shown, in the virtue that lies neighbored in her nature so closely by vice, that the people meant to be entirely virtuous show poorly beside her. But, though Rose and her lover are trivial enough beside Bill and his mistress, being indeed the weak part of the story, it is the book's pre-eminent merit that vice is nowhere made attractive in it. Crime is not more intensely odious, all through, than it is also most wretched and most unhappy. Not merely when its exposure comes, when the latent recesses of guilt are laid bare, and all the agonies of remorse are witnessed; not in the great scenes only, but in those lighter passages where no such aim might seem to have guided the apparently careless hand, this is emphatically so. Whether it be the comedy or the tragedy of crime, terror and retribution dog closely at its heels. They are as plainly visible when Fagin is first shown in his den, boiling the coffee in the saucepan and stopping every now and then to listen when there is the least noise below,—the villainous confidence of habit never extinguishing in him the anxious watchings and listenings of crime,—as when we see him at the last in the condemned cell, like a poisoned human rat in a hole.

A word may be added upon the attacks directed against the subject of the book, to which Dickens made reply in one of his later editions, declaring his belief that he had tried to do a service to society, and had certainly done no disservice, in depicting a knot of such associates in crime in all their deformity and squalid wretchedness, skulking uneasily through a miserable life to a painful and shameful death. It is, indeed, never the subject that can be objectionable, if the treatment is not so, as we may see by much popular writing since, where subjects unimpeachably high are brought low by degrading sensualism. When the object of a writer is to exhibit the vulgarity of vice, and not its pretensions to heroism or cravings for sympathy, he may measure his subject with the highest. We meet with a succession of swindlers and thieves in Gil Blas; we shake hands with highwaymen and housebreakers all round in the Beggars' Opera; we pack cards with La Ruse or pick pockets with Jonathan in Fielding's Mr. Wild the Great; we follow cruelty and vice from its least beginning to its grossest ends in the prints of Hogarth; but our morals stand none the looser for any of them. As the spirit of the Frenchman was pure enjoyment, the strength of the Englishmen lay in wisdom and satire. The low was set forth to pull down the false pretensions of the high. And though for the most part they differ in manner and design from Dickens in this tale, desiring less to discover the soul of goodness in things evil than to brand the stamp of evil on things apt to pass for good, their objects and results are substantially the same. Familiar with the lowest kind of abasement of life, the knowledge is used, by both him and them, to teach what constitutes its essential elevation; and by the very coarseness and vulgarity of the materials employed we measure the gentlemanliness and beauty of the work that is done. The quack in morality will always call such writing immoral, and the impostors will continue to complain of its treatment of imposture, but for the rest of the world it will still teach the invaluable lesson of what men ought to be from what they are. We cannot learn it more than enough. We cannot too often be told that as the pride and grandeur of mere external circumstance is the falsest of earthly things, so the truth of virtue in the heart is the most lovely and lasting; and from the pages of Oliver Twist this teaching is once again to be taken by all who will look for it there.


message 24: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod
Here is what George Gissing thought of OT:

With Oliver Twist we take up the tradition of English novel-writing; at once we are reminded of the old books in the library at Chatham. Scenes and people and tone are new, but the manner is that long ago established. As for construction, there is a little, and a very little, more of it than in Pickwick; it is badly managed, so badly, that one seeks to explain the defect by remembering that the early part of Oliver and the last part of Pickwick were in hand simultaneously. Yet not in this book alone did Dickens give proof of an astonishing lack of skill when it came to inventing plausible circumstances. Later, by sheer force of resolve, he exhibited ingenuity enough, often too much for his purpose; but the art of adapting simple probabilities to the ends of a narrative he never mastered. In his plots, unfortunately, he is seldom concerned with the plain motives of human life. (Observe that I am speaking of his plots.) Too often he prefers some far-fetched eccentricity, some piece of knavishness, some unlikely occurrence, about which to weave his tale. And this, it seems to me, is directly traceable to his fondness for the theatre. He planned a narrative as though plotting for the stage. When the necessities of intrigue did not weigh upon him — as happily was so often the case in his roomy stories — he could forget the footlights; at the first demand for an “effect”, gas and limelight are both turned on. Cannot we often hear the incidental music? Dickens’s love for the stage was assuredly a misfortune to him, as author and as man.

In the idle mysteries which are made to surround Oliver, and in the incredible weakness of what is meant to be the darkest part of the story, we have pure stage-work. Chapter XVII contains a passage ridiculing the melodrama of the time, a tissue of mediæval villanies; what Dickens himself did, in these worst moments of his invention, was to use the motives of standard melodrama on a contemporary subject. Even the dialogue occasionally proves this. “Wolves tear your throats!” growls Bill Sikes, fleeing from his pursuers — a strange exclamation for a London burglar. And again, when brought to bay after the murder he calls one of the horrified thieves “this screeching Hell–Babe” — phrase natural enough on the boards of the Adelphi Theatre, but incongruous in a London slum. That part of the book in which Rose Maylie and her lover appear smacks rather of the circulating library than of the stage. We read of Rose in distress that “a heavy wildness came over her soft blue eyes”. I cannot remember that Dickens was ever again guilty of such a phrase as this; but the theatric vice appears in his construction to the end.



message 25: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod
More by Gissing:

The preface to Oliver Twist, in defending his choice of subject, strikes the note of compromise, and at the same time declares in simple terms the author’s purpose. After speaking of the romances of highwaymen then in vogue, which he held to be harmful, because so false to experience, he tells how he had resolved to give a true picture of a band of thieves, seeing no reason “why the dregs of life (as long as their speech did not offend the ear) should not serve the purpose of a moral”. Here, then, we have it stated plainly that we are not to look for complete verisimilitude in the speech of his characters, and, again, that he only exhibits these characters in terrorem, or, at all events, to induce grave thoughts. When I come to discuss in detail Dickens’s characterization I shall have to ask how far it is possible truthfully to represent a foul-mouthed person, whilst taking care that the words he uses do not “offend the ear”. Here I wish only to indicate the limits which Dickens imposed upon himself. He, it is clear, had no misgiving; to him Bill Sikes and Nancy and Charley Bates were convincing figures, though they never once utter a vile word — which, as a matter of fact, they one and all did in every other breath. He did not deliberately sacrifice truth to refinement. Moreover, he was convinced that he had done a moral service to the world. That both these ends were attained by help of unexampled buoyancy of spirit, an unfailing flow of the healthiest mirth, the kindliest humour, should in consistency appear to us the strangest thing of all — to us who strive so hard for “atmosphere “, insist so strongly upon “objectivity” in the author. But in this matter Dickens troubled himself with no theory or argument. He wrote as his soul dictated, and surely could not have done better.


message 26: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3455 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "Peter wrote: "Hello Curiosities

Chapter 51 is posted after Chapter 53. Sorry. I have no idea what happened and I’m scared to mess around. I am now at a hotel waiting for our plane to take us to To..."


Kim

I think about computers the way you think of math. A total mystery. :-))


message 27: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3455 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "Peter wrote: "Chapter 53

Well, my friends, here we are at the final chapter of Oliver Twist. It has been a very interesting journey. While I have no statistics to prove it, I would guess that Oli..."


Thanks for this Kim. Some curious books are included in my opinion, but that’s what makes lists so great. They generate thought and discussion.


message 28: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3455 comments Mod
Kim

I really enjoyed reading the Forster and Gissing. In Forster, we actually have a man in the room as Dickens writes. Dare I say he is the 19C equivalent of a Reality TV show camera? Well, that might be a bit of a stretch.

The Gissing I enjoy for he seems to approach Dickens from different angles than the other more modern biographers. I need to read him again. Yet another book for the “To Be Read” pile.


message 29: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod


Do you know this lady, sir?"

Chapter 51

James Mahoney

1871 Household Edition

Text Illustrated:

"Young lady," said Mr. Brownlow, turning to Rose, "give me your hand. Do not tremble. You need not fear to hear the few remaining words we have to say."

"If they have — I do not know how they can, but if they have — any reference to me," said Rose, "pray let me hear them at some other time. I have not strength or spirits now."

"Nay," returned the old gentleman, drawing her arm through his; "you have more fortitude than this, I am sure. Do you know this young lady, sir?"

"Yes," replied Monks.

"I never saw you before," said Rose faintly.

"I have seen you often," returned Monks.

"The father of the unhappy Agnes had two daughters," said Mr. Brownlow. "What was the fate of the other — the child?"

"The child," replied Monks, "when her father died in a strange place, in a strange name, without a letter, book, or scrap of paper that yielded the faintest clue by which his friends or relatives could be traced — the child was taken by some wretched cottagers, who reared it as their own."

"Go on," said Mr. Brownlow, signing to Mrs. Maylie to approach. "Go on!


Commentary:

To avoid punishment, Monks under duress (a mental state which his posture in the Mahoney illustration suggests) agrees to disclose why he has been relentlessly pursuing Oliver, in league with Fagin, in order to void the will of Edwin Leeford in Oliver's favour. Since the truth about the will is the centrepiece, so to speak, of Monks's testimony, it is odd that Mahoney did not choose as his subject the moment that originally concluded the twenty-second instalment:

"Go on," said the person addressed, turning away his face. "Quick. I have almost done enough, I think. Don't keep me here."

"This child,' said Mr. Brownlow, drawing Oliver to him, and laying his hand upon his head, "is your half-brother; the illegitimate son of your father, my dear friend Edwin Leeford, by poor young Agnes Fleming, who died in giving him birth." [Chapter 51, Household Edition]


Although the entire chapter is found intact in the editions of 1838 and 1846, Dickens (probably out of publication necsssity) chose to break the chapter to form a curtain, for the reader of Bentley's Miscellany in February 1839 must certainly have been in anticipation to read what Oliver would say and what would be his reaction to this figure out of nightmare now become a reality. Now, to both the reader and to Oliver, his peculiar behaviour and unrelenting pursuit of the boy make complete sense. However, Mahoney instead chose to bring Rose Maylie forward to confront the duplicitous Leeford, the whole interrogation stage-managed by Edwin Leeford's best friend, Mr. Brownlow. For the sake of enjoying the sheer melodrama of Monks's comeuppance the reader is willing to forgive Dickens for the multiple coincidences he has constructed to bring the reader to this moment in the twenty-two months of text. However, Mahoney has passed over the moment when Monks and Oliver meet formally to focus on Rose's introduction to her sister's nemesis. Of what forbearance of such a scurrilous individual, of what forgiveness of such persecution, will the noble, self-sacrificing Rose be capable?

Whereas Harry Furniss in his 1910 lithographic series offers three illustrations depicting the characters and events in the final chapters of the novel: the character studies of the noble Rose Maylie, the savage, terrified master-thief Fagin in the Condemned Cell, and the rendition of a ghostly young woman resembling Rose, The Shade of Agnes, he does not follow the practice of 1870s Household Edition illustrator James Mahoney in depicting Monks as he is compelled to tell the truth to Oliver and his friends.

The interview, which follows hard upon the heels of Sikes's gruesome death on Jacob's Island, for the Victorian reader would emphasized divine intervention in human affairs rather than mere coincidence or miscalculation.

By the time that the reader of the text reaches the moment which the illustration has realised, Monks has imparted what he knows about his mother's conduct, the destruction of the will, and the cause of his inveterate hatred of Oliver, and admits to having suborned the Bumbles in order to destroy the locket and the ring which had been Agnes Fleming's final effects. Moreover, Grimwig has introduced the Bumbles, who at first even deny that they have had secret dealings with Monks. Brownlow has sworn that neither husband nor wife will ever be employed in a position of public trust. All of these revelations have proven almost too much for Rose to bear. However, for Mr. Brownlow's sake, she hears Monks's account of her own childhood and the circumstances under which the Maylies adopted her. The illustration thus shifts the reader's attention from Monks's mother's destruction of her husband's will towards the background of Rose, a subplot at best; however, this disclosure clears the way for Harry to marry her.

Thus, a careful reading of the latter half of the chapter, which originally fell in the twenty-third instalment, reveals the identities of the figures in the picture: Monks, face face largely hidden from the reader (left); the table with Brownlow's record (left of centre); and in the right register, Rose and Mr. Brownlow, Mr. Grimwig, Oliver, and Mrs. Maylie. The revelation of Rose's birth and early adoption makes it clear that she is not illegitimate. On the left, the sinister figure of Monks is alienated, cut off from the stratum of society in which he belongs, and, without the further assistance of his dissolute friends, powerless and alone. On the right, the forces of virtue have come together to wring Leeford's knowledge from him about Oliver's birthright, and prepare the reader for Monks's exile. In a complicated chapter full of detailed flashbacks that the readers, like the characters on the right of the picture must piece together, Mahoney has focused on Rose and her back-story to make the text more intelligible.


message 30: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod


Rose

Chapter 51

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Text Illustrated:

"Nay," returned the old gentleman, drawing her arm through his; "you have more fortitude than this, I am sure. Do you know this young lady, sir?"

"Yes," replied Monks.

"I never saw you before," said Rose faintly.

"I have seen you often," returned Monks.

"The father of the unhappy Agnes had two daughters," said Mr. Brownlow. "What was the fate of the other — the child?"

"The child," replied Monks, "when her father died in a strange place, in a strange name, without a letter, book, or scrap of paper that yielded the faintest clue by which his friends or relatives could be traced — the child was taken by some wretched cottagers, who reared it as their own."

"Go on," said Mr. Brownlow, signing to Mrs. Maylie to approach. "Go on!"

"You couldn't find the spot to which these people had repaired," said Monks, "but where friendship fails, hatred will often force a way. My mother found it, after a year of cunning search — ay, and found the child."

"She took it, did she?"

"No. The people were poor and began to sicken — at least the man did — of their fine humanity; so she left it with them, giving them a small present of money which would not last long, and promised more, which she never meant to send. She didn't quite rely, however, on their discontent and poverty for the child's unhappiness, but told the history of the sister's shame, with such alterations as suited her; bade them take good heed of the child, for she came of bad blood;; and told them she was illegitimate, and sure to go wrong at one time or other. The circumstances countenanced all this; the people believed it; and there the child dragged on an existence, miserable enough even to satisfy us, until a widow lady, residing, then, at Chester, saw the girl by chance, pitied her, and took her home. There was some cursed spell, I think, against us; for in spite of all our efforts she remained there and was happy. I lost sight of her, two or three years ago, and saw her no more until a few months back."

"Do you see her now?"

"Yes. Leaning on your arm."

"But not the less my niece," cried Mrs. Maylie, folding the fainting girl in her arms; "not the less my dearest child. I would not lose her now, for all the treasures of the world. My sweet companion, my own dear girl!"

"The only friend I ever had," cried Rose, clinging to her. "The kindest, best of friends. My heart will burst. I cannot bear all this."

"You have borne more, and have been, through all, the best and gentlest creature that ever shed happiness on every one she knew," said Mrs. Maylie, embracing her tenderly. 'Come, come, my love, remember who this is who waits to clasp you in his arms, poor child! See here--look, look, my dear!"

"Not aunt," cried Oliver, throwing his arms about her neck; "I'll never call her aunt — sister, my own dear sister, that something taught my heart to love so dearly from the first! Rose, dear, darling Rose!"

Let the tears which fell, and the broken words which were exchanged in the long close embrace between the orphans, be sacred. A father, sister, and mother, were gained, and lost, in that one moment. Joy and grief were mingled in the cup; but there were no bitter tears: for even grief itself arose so softened, and clothed in such sweet and tender recollections, that it became a solemn pleasure, and lost all character of pain.

They were a long, long time alone. A soft tap at the door, at length announced that some one was without. Oliver opened it, glided away, and gave place to Harry Maylie.

"I know it all," he said, taking a seat beside the lovely girl. "Dear Rose, I know it all."



Commentary:

Dickens's original illustrator, George Cruikshank in Bentley's Miscellany depicts Rose only twice, first in the covert meeting under London Bridge between the respectable and the scarlet woman, Rose and Nancy, and then again in the concluding scene at the memorial for Oliver's mother. Whereas Cruikshank, not knowing the entire trajectory of the plot, seems to have underestimated her importance in the story and contributes little through these two plates little to Dickens's verbal portraits of Rose Maylie, in the Household Edition three illustrations characterize Rose as a sensitive, upper-middle-class beauty: When it became quite dark, and they returned home, the young lady would sit down to the piano, and play some pleasant air (Chapter 32), "A few — a very few — will suffice, Rose," said the young man, drawing his chair towards her (Chapter 35), and "Do you know this young lady, sir?" (Chapter 51). However, in terms of angular, youthful beauty and poise Furniss's Rose far surpasses Mahoney's. Furthermore, Furniss distinguishes his fair heroine, in contrast to the darker, heavier Nancy, by her sensitivity and emotionalism, as she pities Nancy and urges Mr. Brownlow to assist her in escaping from moral degradation in The Meeting under London Bridge (Chapter 46, "The Appointment Kept"). Clearly, Furniss in depicting Rose for the last of her four appearances in his sequence had in mind the following passage from much earlier in the novel, when Dickens introduces her:

The younger lady was in the lovely bloom and spring-time of womanhood; at that age, when, if ever angels be for God’s good purposes enthroned in mortal forms, they may be, without impiety, supposed to abide in such as hers.

She was not past seventeen. Cast in so slight and exquisite a mould; so mild and gentle; so pure and beautiful; that earth seemed not her element, nor its rough creatures her fit companions. The very intelligence that shone in her deep blue eye, and was stamped upon her noble head, seemed scarcely of her age, or of the world; and yet the changing expression of sweetness and good humour, the thousand lights that played about the face, and left no shadow there; above all, the smile, the cheerful, happy smile, were made for Home, and fireside peace and happiness. [Chapter 29, "Has an Introductory Account of the Inmates of the House, To Which Oliver Resorted," p. 213-214]


In Chapter 35, having received Harry's marriage proposal, Rose apparently renounces her own chance for happiness as she cries at the moment of self-sacrifice that will preserve Harry's political career: "when one [tear] fell upon the flower over which she bent, and glistened brightly in its cup, making it more beautiful, it seemed as though the outpouring of her fresh young heart, claimed kindred with the loveliest things in nature" . She is, despite the shadow over her birth, an idealized young woman whose sheer sentiment is in complete contrast to the utter lack of sentiment shown by Fagin, Sikes, and Nancy. As William T. Lankford suggests, the slender, physically attractive and impeccably dressed Rose Maylie is the binary opposite to the slovenly, aggressive, duplicitous Nancy seen earlier in the novel. Alike in age, Rose and Nancy remain opposites, even after Nancy informs against Monks, for she remains loyal to her criminal associates to the last, despite knowing that they would not hesitate to kill her if they believed she had betrayed them. Rose's sudden illness threatens Oliver's implicit belief in the beneficent powers of Providence (just as the death of Nancy is both senseless and unmerited), but Rose's recovery in her natural milieu, the English countryside, at least temporarily vindicates that trust in natural justice. In the present lithograph, Furniss detaches Rose from any particular scene since the portrait has no quotation: she is presented as the human analogue of the rose.


message 31: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod



Fagin in the Condemned Cell

Chapter 52

George Cruikshank

Text Illustrated:

He had spoken little to either of the two men, who relieved each other in their attendance upon him; and they, for their parts, made no effort to rouse his attention. He had sat there, awake, but dreaming. Now, he started up, every minute, and with gasping mouth and burning skin, hurried to and fro, in such a paroxysm of fear and wrath that even they &a dash; used to such sights — recoiled from him with horror. He grew so terrible, at last, in all the tortures of his evil conscience, that one man could not bear to sit there, eyeing him alone; and so the two kept watch together.

He cowered down upon his stone bed, and thought of the past. He had been wounded with some missiles from the crowd on the day of his capture, and his head was bandaged with a linen cloth. His red hair hung down upon his bloodless face; his beard was torn, and twisted into knots; his eyes shone with a terrible light; his unwashed flesh crackled with the fever that burnt him up. Eight — nine — then. If it was not a trick to frighten him, and those were the real hours treading on each other's heels, where would he be, when they came round again! Eleven! Another struck, before the voice of the previous hour had ceased to vibrate. At eight, he would be the only mourner in his own funeral train; at eleven —

Those dreadful walls of Newgate, which have hidden so much misery and such unspeakable anguish, not only from the eyes, but, too often, and too long, from the thoughts, of men, never held so dread a spectacle as that. The few who lingered as they passed, and wondered what the man was doing who was to be hanged to-morrow, would have slept but ill that night, if they could have seen him.


Commentary:

Aware that one of the sordid, lower-class villains — Sikes, or Fagin — would finish the novel in Newgate Prison, Cruikshank did multiple studies of both criminals in the condemned cell. Eventually, of course, he realized that the solitary prisoner facing execution would be Fagin; however, he struggled to find the right pose and facial expression for the condemned man who, in Dickens's text, experiences a great range of reactions to his own impending death. Although he later repudiated the story, Cruikshank later recounted how his own facial expression led to his telling study of Fagin in which the disconsolate prisoner

is seen biting his finger-nails and suffering the tortures of remorse and chagrin [;] Horace Mayhew took an opportunity of asking [the illustrator] by what mental process he had conceived such an extraordinary notion; and his answer was, that he had been laboring at the subject for several days, but had not succeeded in getting the effect he desired. At length, beginning to think the task was almost hopeless, he was sitting up in bed one morning, with his hand covering his chin and tips of his fingers between his lips, the whole attitude expressive of disappointment and despair, when he saw his face in a chevalier-glass which stood on the floor opposite to him. "That's It!" he involuntarily exclaimed. . . . [Kitton 15]

G. K. Chesterton, critic and Dickensian, pronounced the resulting illustration a psychological projection of Fagin's mental state.: "it does not look merely like a picture of Fagin; it looks like a picture by Fagin" (Charles Dickens, A Critical Study, p. 112; cited in Cohen, p. 23). Jane Rabb Cohen notes that, whereas Dickens became fixated on Bill Sikes and almost relished performing the murder of Nancy over and over again in his readings throughout England and the eastern United States, Cruikshank identified himself with Fagin, offering images of himself in George Cruikshank's Omnibus (May 1842) in which he has represented himself as possessing the face and skeletal physique of the cunning criminal:

there is an odd physical resemblance between the artist and his best-known criminal subject, to judge by some of Cruikshank's self-portraits. In many of his innumerable representations of himself, even the ones with which he often decorated the margins of his working sketches, the artist portrayed himself as an elegantly dressed gentleman with dark hair, flashing dark eyes, and an aristocratically long nose. In reality, this was somewhat self-flattering. . . .

Indeed, the artist's identification with Fagin was more than momentary. As Dickens, in his late years, became obsessed with the murder of Nancy, so Cruikshank increasingly relished discussing and dramatizing Fagin. Cuthbert Bede was present on one of those occasions when the artist crouched "in the huddled posture of 'the Jew' — fiercely gnawing at his finger- nails, tossing his hair loosely against his head, and calling up a look of wild horror into his eyes. [Cohen 23]


Although the 1870s Household Edition illustrator James Mahoney depicts Fagin in his last hours, his treatment of his subject clearly subsumes the slightly more caricaturistic treatment of Cruikshank. Having depicted Fagin with his open cash-box at the very beginning of his sequence of character studies, Sol Eytinge had no opportunity to revisit the character, and, perhaps as a consequence of Cruikshank's memorable plate, no inclination to attempt to outdo Dickens's original illustrator. Mahoney, on the other hand, obviously felt that he could recreate the highly dramatic moment in a more realistic manner in the Newgate cell as He sat down on a stone bench opposite the door pays homage to Cruikshank's original conception, but eliminates the theatrical properties and gestures to focus on Fagin's tortured inner state. In fact, Mahoney has realised an earlier passage when, having just received his death sentence, Fagin is searched before entering one of the condemned cells. Although manacled about the ankles like his counterpart in the 1839 engraving, Mahoney's figure rests upon a stone bench rather than a cot. Mahoney includes neither the bars or bible from the Cruikshank plate, and dispenses with the two embedded, hand-written notes (from the Sheriff, and therefore presumably directed towards inmates) notes above the prisoner. The only ornamentation in Mahoney's wood-engraving is the initials of several former occupants of the cell (upper left).

Whereas Cruikshank provides visual continuity by dressing Fagin in much the same clothing throughout, and consistently emphasizes his bulging eyes, here he is neither in motion or in company; he becomes in his isolation a pitiable figure worthy of some compassion. After all, although a career criminal and receiver of stolen goods, Fagin is hardly guilty of violent crimes so that, unlike Sikes, the death of Fagin seems disproportionate to his actions. Mahoney seems avoided depicting Sikes and other gang members in these later chapters, depicting a Sikes without either hat or dog in the rooftop scene, And creeping over the tiles, looked over the low parapet, putting this scene of the criminal mastermind facing execution on the morrow as the final plate and climax of his series of twenty-eight.

Again focusing on the figure of the condemned prisoner, Harry Furniss in his 1910 lithographic series depicts Fagin as manacled are wrists and ankles, staring vacantly ahead with eyes that glow in the darkness of the cell, whose bars are reflected on the floor. The shading of the figure and strong lines delineating his clothing and beard suggest a pent-up energy. As he stares at the reader, Fagin is an enigma, For neither remorse nor reflection is immediately apparent. He is an alienated figure, still dominating the page, but now bereft of associates and subordinates. His eyes shining "with a terrible light," Fagin in the Furniss illustration is both a haunted and a haunting presence, drawn with neither sentiment nor humor, but with smoldering intensity.

As Tony Lunch notes, Dickens had already employed Newgate as a setting in "A Visit to Newgate," the last of the "Scenes" section of Sketches by Boz, an essay especially written for the first collected edition of 1836. Dickens therein evokes the probable thoughts and feelings of three actual condemned prisoners: Robert Swan, convicted of armed robbery and subsequently reprieved, and two homosexuals, John Smith and John Pratt, who were hanged on the prison grounds on 27 November 1835. The Central Criminal Court — known as the Old Bailey — now cover the site of Newgate Prison" (Lynch 137), occupying Ludgate Hill.





George Cruikshank's depiction of Fagin in prison, detail from the wrapper 1846


message 32: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod


He sat down on a stone bench opposite the door.

Chapter 51

James Mahoney

1871 Household Edition

Text Illustrated:

Here, he was searched, that he might not have about him the means of anticipating the law; this ceremony performed, they led him to one of the condemned cells, and left him there — alone.

He sat down on a stone bench opposite the door, which served for seat and bedstead; and casting his blood-shot eyes upon the ground, tried to collect his thoughts. After awhile, he began to remember a few disjointed fragments of what the judge had said: though it had seemed to him, at the time, that he could not hear a word. These gradually fell into their proper places, and by degrees suggested more: so that in a little time he had the whole, almost as it was delivered. To be hanged by the neck, till he was dead — that was the end. To be hanged by the neck till he was dead.

As it came on very dark, he began to think of all the men he had known who had died upon the scaffold; some of them through his means. They rose up, in such quick succession, that he could hardly count them.


Commentary:

"He sat down on a stone bench opposite the door." — James Mahoney's refashioning of Cruikshank's iconic treatment of the subject, less caricatural but also less dramatic than that probing psychological study in the original serial, November 1838 and 1846 volume editions illustrated by George Cruikshank. As Dickens has already drawn the many strands of the complicated "inheritance" plot together in Chapter 51, for the Household Edition, Mahoney now provides a rendition of the scene in which the condemned prisoner awaits execution at Newgate. In the original narrative-pictorial serial sequence in Bentley's Miscellany, the periodical reader encountered a neurotic Fagin (in fact, a self-portrait by the illustrator himself) awaiting execution in Fagin in the Condemned Cell in the chapter which was subsequently retitled "Fagin's Last Night Alive." The Mahoney illustration is less melodramatic than Cruikshank's portrait of Fagin (and less psychological) and not sensational in any way, especially in contrast to the previous month's illustration, The Last Chance, in which Sikes makes a desperate attempt to escape apprehension. The common thread here is poetic justice as Sikes dies by his own hand and Fagin, manager and director of a band of criminals and instigator of Nancy's brutal murder, suffers psychological terror as he awaits his death without the solace of even his mean companions.

In his introduction to the Waverley edition of the novel in 1912, A. C. Benson observes the novel's good people, the Maylies and Mr. Brownlow in particular, are "intolerably uninteresting," and that even the heroic Oliver for most of the story "is a mere guileless and stainless phantom". Even the brutal Sikes is more interesting, in his sheer will to survive, no matter what the costs to others. But, best of all is Fagin, a criminal mastermind who nevertheless seems to care about the boys in his charge, although he would never admit to the weakness of caring for anybody but himself. Like Nancy, Fagin has depth, so that it is not his badness that renders him fascinating, but his relative complexity. As Lucinda Dickens Hawksley remarks of Dickens's fascination with the complex and subtle master-thief,

he portrays his villain as an unscrupulous and deeply unattractive individual, yet also has great compassion for Fagin as he awaits his death by hanging in the condemned cell of Newgate Prison.

Our interest in Fagin rises to a crescendo in Chapter 52. Although other illustrators have shown the condemned Fagin awaiting execution at Newgate, Cruikshank's treatment of both the prisoner and the physical setting remains the locus classicus because of the artist's conveying with effective economy the starkness of the chamber and the psychological unraveling of the inmate. Aware that one of the sordid, lower-class villains — Sikes, or Fagin — would probably finish the novel in Newgate Prison, Cruikshank did multiple studies of both criminals in the condemned cell. Eventually, of course, once he had read the concluding chapters in manuscript, he learned that the solitary prisoner facing execution would be Fagin; however, he struggled to find just the right pose and facial expression to convey the internal conflict of the condemned man who, in Dickens's text, experiences a great range of emotions in contemplating his own impending death.

In the final plate and climax of his series of twenty-eight, Fagan's bandaged head (a reminder of his having been assaulted) and shrunken posture rendering him pitiable, if not completely sympathetic. To this ignominious end has the master manipulator at last come.

Positioned in prominently, centre bottom, in the 1846 monthly wrapper is a second, re-thought version of Cruikshank's Fagin, contemplating his own death and — like Shakespeare's Richard the Third — the deaths of those who previously occupied the same cell, including some whose arrests he engineered. Beside him on the stone bench is his hat, seen in Cruikshank's earlier representations of Fagin. This representation appears to have influenced Mahoney's conception of the scene, for, although darkness is now beginning to engulf the cell, all is otherwise much the same as in the wrapper's vignette, including the hat on the bench, left, nearly lost in the darkness — and Mahoney does not show the barred window, or even its ominous shadow. The heavily shackled Fagin, however, is far more introspective and withdrawn in Mahoney's realization. In neither the 1846 vignette nor the 1871 Household Edition study is there a Bible in the cell, nor even a table, as if Fagin is without even these simple objects for contemplation, and cannot avail himself of religious consolation, should he experience a last-minute spirituality. Since only after the moment captioned do the "Venerable men of his own persuasion . . . come to pray beside him", the book is not likely a Hebrew Bible left by the rabbis whom Fagin subsequently dismisses "with curses." Furniss's version of this same scene, Fagin in the Condemned Cell, focusing on the glowing eyes of the prisoner, already "a snared beast" offers only minimal details of the cell: the shadow of the bars and the end of the stone bench. The condemned man is trussed up like a turkey, manacled at wrists and ankles, as in the Mahoney illustration. Although Charles Pears' figure (Waverley Edition, 1915) is likewise manacled, in the pencil drawing one is struck by Fagin's calm introspection — and his balding head, implying both age and thoughtfulness — the more sensitive treatment of Fagin here may well reflect Mahoney's appreciation of the charges of anti-Semitism that the text and its illustrations initially provoked. Strangely, although Mahoney has included the Bible on the table from earlier versions, Pears has made the bench into one of wooden planks, although Dickens's text specifies that it is "stone."

None of these illustrators, however, has deviated from the theme of the cheerless, minimally furnished cell that is the scene of the prisoner's last night as a living being. In contrast, historical pictures show the "Upper Condemned Cell" at Newgate, as in the Thomson painting of the preparations for the 1824 execution of forger Henry Fauntleroy, a partner in the bank Marsh, Sibbald and Co., as much larger and better lit. Even Luker's The Condemned Cell (1891) shows the cell as at least twice as wide, with two barred windows. However, a rare photograph dating from the 1890s shows a cell remarkably like Fagin's, although dating (apparently) from after the reforms of 1858, which occurred as a result of the political agitation of Elizabeth Fry:

It was in 1858 that the interior of Newgate Prison was re-built, on the single-cell system. Near the window of the cell shown above are the water-tank and basin; and in the right-hand corner is the bedding, neatly rolled up; on the shelf are the prisoner's Bible, prayer-book, plate, and mug, while in the foreground are his stool and the corner of the table.

As opposed to the fictional Fagin, some 1,169 real prisoners met their deaths on the grounds of Newgate, one of the most celebrated of these inmates being Ikey Solomon (1787-1850), upon whom Dickens may have based the character of Fagin — although Solomon, a transported felon, died in prison in Hobart, Tasmania, and not in Newgate. Even though as a result of the public campaign waged by such progressives as Charles Dickens (who detested such atavistic public exercises for the emotional and psychological damage they did to Victorian society as a whole), authorities discontinued public executions after 26 May 1868, private executions continued to be carried out on a gallows inside the prison walls. Closed in 1902, Newgate Prison was demolished in 1904. The Central Criminal Court (also known as "The Old Bailey" after the street on which it stands) now stands upon its site.


message 33: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod


Fagin in the condemned cell

Chapter 52

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Text Illustration:

[The jailers] led him through a paved room under the court, where some prisoners were waiting till their turns came, and others were talking to their friends, who crowded round a grate which looked into the open yard. There was nobody there to speak to him; but, as he passed, the prisoners fell back to render him more visible to the people who were clinging to the bars: and they assailed him with opprobrious names, and screeched and hissed. He shook his fist, and would have spat upon them; but his conductors hurried him on, through a gloomy passage lighted by a few dim lamps, into the interior of the prison.

Here, he was searched, that he might not have about him the means of anticipating the law; this ceremony performed, they led him to one of the condemned cells, and left him there — alone.

He sat down on a stone bench opposite the door, which served for seat and bedstead; and casting his blood-shot eyes upon the ground, tried to collect his thoughts. After awhile, he began to remember a few disjointed fragments of what the judge had said: though it had seemed to him, at the time, that he could not hear a word. These gradually fell into their proper places, and by degrees suggested more: so that in a little time he had the whole, almost as it was delivered. To be hanged by the neck, till he was dead — that was the end. To be hanged by the neck till he was dead.

As it came on very dark, he began to think of all the men he had known who had died upon the scaffold; some of them through his means. They rose up, in such quick succession, that he could hardly count them.


Commentary:

Whereas Dickens's description of "Fagin's Last Night Alive" (Chapter 52) makes him seem all too human as he contemplates not only his own fate — to be hanged by the neck until dead" the next morning in a public execution — but also the fates of previous occupants of his cell, the Furniss illustration with its glowing eyes suggest that Fagin is some sort of beast or man possessed.

Although he had the advantage of seeing the twenty-eight illustrations by James Mahoney for the novel in the The Household Edition, 1871, as well as the work of Dickens's original illustrator, George Cruikshank, Harry Furniss rarely elected merely to emulate past practice for the first half of volume 3 of the Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910). However, in the numerous thumbnails for Characters in the Story, he has provided impressionistic sketches of some forty-five figures derived principally from Cruikshank's serial illustrations, 1837-39. Although Fagin in the Condemned Cell is not evident in these thumbnails, realizing the importance of the master criminal in the story, Furniss has placed him prominently with his pickpocketing crew in the upper left-hand register of the ornamental border, and has him appear in a further six illustrations, or over twenty percent of the narrative-pictorial sequence, or roughly in the same proportions (six out of twenty-illustrations) for his appearances in the original Cruikshank drawings made expressly at Dickens's behest.

Like Mahoney, Furniss includes neither the bars (seen only in a teeth-like shadow cast onto the floor, lower left) or bible and table from the Cruikshank plate, and dispenses with the two embedded, hand-written notes above the prisoner. The only ornamentation in Furniss's lithograph is the figure of the prisoner himself, in the whirling motion of his clothing contrasting his complete stillness. There is neither table, nor Bible, nor window: the focus is entirely on the manacled criminal contemplating his own imminent death — and glaring out of the frame, at the reader.

Whereas Cruikshank provides visual continuity by dressing Fagin in much the same clothing throughout, and consistently emphasizes his bulging eyes, here he is neither in motion or in company; he becomes in his isolation a pitiable figure worthy of some compassion. After all, although a career criminal and receiver of stolen goods, Fagin is hardly guilty of violent crimes so that, unlike Sikes, the death of Fagin seems disproportionate to his actions. In fact, only his inciting Sikes to murder Nancy can excuse Fain's sentence, which otherwise would be transportation, the fate that has attended the other members of his pickpocketing crew. Mahoney seems to have avoided depicting Sikes and other gang members in the illustrations for these later chapters, depicting Bill Sikes without either signature white hat or canine companion in the rooftop scene, And creeping over the tiles, looked over the low parapet, putting this scene of the criminal mastermind facing execution on the morrow as the final plate and climax of his series of twenty-eight, his bandaged head and shrunken posture rendering him pitiable, if not completely sympathetic. One feels no such compassion for the condemned felon with the defiant, smoldering expression in the Furniss illustration. The shading of the figure and strong lines delineating his clothing and beard suggest a pent-up energy. As he stares at the reader, Furniss's Fagin is an enigma, for neither remorse nor reflection is immediately apparent. He is utterly alone as he dominates the confined space surrounding him, without associates and subordinates, or even furniture and a bible. His eyes shining "with a terrible light," Fagin in the Furniss illustration is both a haunted and a haunting presence, drawn with neither sentiment nor humor, but with savage intensity suggestive of a caged animal.

Furniss's version of this same scene, focusing on the glowing eyes of the prisoner, already "a snared beast" (Charles Dickens Library Edition), offers only minimal details of the cell: the shadow of the bars and the end of the stone bench. The condemned man is trussed up like a turkey, manacled at wrists and ankles, as in the Mahoney illustration. Although Charles Pears' figure (Waverley Edition, 1915) is likewise manacled, in the pencil drawing one is struck by Fagin's calm introspection — and his balding head, implying both age and thoughtfulness. No such touches of regret or even humanity occur in Furniss's rendition.

None of these illustrators, however, has deviated from the theme of the cheerless, minimally furnished cell that is the scene of the prisoner's last night as a living being. In contrast, historical pictures show the "Upper Condemned Cell" at Newgate, as in the Thomson painting of the preparations for the 1824 execution of forger Henry Fauntleroy, a partner in the bank Marsh, Sibbald and Co., as much larger and better lit. Even Luker's The Condemned Cell (1891) shows the cell as at least twice as wide, with two barred windows. However, a rare photograph dating from the 1890s shows a cell remarkably like Fagin's, although dating (apparently) from after the reforms of 1858, which occurred as a result of the political agitation of Elizabeth Fry:

It was in 1858 that the interior of Newgate Prison was re-built, on the single-cell system. Near the window of the cell shown above are the water-tank and basin; and in the right-hand corner is the bedding, neatly rolled up; on the shelf are the prisoner's Bible, prayer-book, plate, and mug, while in the foreground are his stool and the corner of the table.


message 34: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod


Fagin

Chapter 52

Charles Pears

Text Illustrated:

He had spoken little to either of the two men, who relieved eachother in their attendance upon him; and they, for their parts, made no effort torouse his attention. He had sat there, awake, but dreaming. Now, he started up,every minute, and with gasping mouth and burning skin, hurried to and fro, insuch a paroxysm of fear and wrath that even they — used to such sights— recoiled from him with horror. He grew so terrible, at last, in all thetortures of his evil conscience, that one man could not bear to sit there, eyeinghim alone; and so the two kept watch together.

He cowered down upon his stone bed, and thought of the past. He had been wounded with some missiles from the crowd on the day of his capture, and his head was bandaged with a linen cloth. His red hair hung down upon his bloodless face; his beard was torn, and twisted into knots; his eyes shone with a terrible light; his unwashed flesh crackled with the fever that burnt him up. Eight — nine — then. If it was not a trick to frighten him, and those were the real hours treading on each other's heels, where would he be, when they came round again! Eleven! Another struck, before the voice of the previous hour had ceased to vibrate. At eight, he would be the only mourner in his own funeral train; at eleven —

Those dreadful walls of Newgate, which have hidden so much misery and such unspeakable anguish, not only from the eyes, but, too often, and too long, from the thoughts, of men, never held so dread a spectacle as that. The few who lingered as they passed, and wondered what the man was doing who was to be hanged to-morrow, would have slept but ill that night, if they could have seen him.


Commentary:

The preceding illustrators — Cruikshank, Mahoney, and finally Furniss — had provided Charles Pears with what amounted in 1912 to a living iconographic tradition of visual interpretation and reinterpretation of one of the most famous and harrowing scenes in Dickens, a tour de force for such a youthful writer. As an artist working in the caricatural style of Dickens's original illustrators Cruikshank and Phiz, Frederic W. Pailthorpe in 1885 perhaps felt that he should attempt such a revisiting of the scene so brilliantly realised by the initial illustrator. With simple pencil shading Pears achieves an understated tribute to Cruikshank that has the light from the barred window play upon the book of holy scripture — whether the Christian Bible or the Judaic Torah one cannot say with certainty, for there is no cross upon the cover, and Fagin is indeed visited by the local elders of his religion on Saturday evening —

Venerable men of his own persuasion had come to pray beside him, but he had driven them away with curses. They renewed their charitable efforts, and he beat them off.

— and upon Fagin's face and knees, as if he is overlooking his one, best recourse: repentance. The strength of the light coming through the barred window may suggest that the time is Sunday morning, shortly before the visit by Oliver and Brownlow.

Pears reverses the position of the condemned and the wall opposite, showing him in a kind of apse, bareheaded and without his hat on stone bed beside him. Indeed, Pears has reduced the scene to its essentials: the cell and the prisoner are simple blocks of light and shade with but three elements clearly delineated in the skillfully drawn pencil sketch: the bars, the book of scripture (its spine away from him), and the manacles on Fagin's ankles. Here is no caged animal or grisly demon — and no embedded texts or signs other than the book and the light of the coming day. Pears strips away the sentimentality and melodrama as he simply shows a bad man obsessed with the spectre of his own imminent death. Already the strong light of dawn breaking through the barred window is announcing the appointed hour of departure for the gallows is drawing nearer.


message 35: by Kim (last edited Aug 21, 2018 05:26PM) (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod


Rose Maylie and Oliver — The Church Plate

Chapter 53

George Cruikshank

Text Illustrated:

Within the altar of the old village church there stands a white marble tablet, which bears as yet but one word:, —"Agnes." There is no coffin in that tomb; and may it be many, many years, before another name is placed above it. But, if the spirits of the Dead ever come back to earth, to visit spots hallowed by the love — the love beyond the grave — of those whom they knew in life, I believe that the shade of Agnes sometimes hovers round that solemn nook. I believe it none the less because that nook is a Church, and she was weak and erring.

Commentary:

Although Dickens's official illustrator for Oliver Twist in the 1837-8 serial, George Cruikshank, felt that the so-called Fireside illustration adequately summed up Providence's rewarding Oliver for his courage and upright character in the face of adversity and moral degradation, Dickens found it trite and conventional. John Forster, Dickens's official biographer (and therefore hardly an unbiased commentator) recounts the story of the so-called "cancelled plate" in such a manner that Dickens's high-handedness with veteran illustrator George Cruikshank is mitigated:

when Bentley decided to publish Oliver in book form before its completion in his periodical, Cruikshank had to complete the last few plates in haste. Dickens did not review them until the eve of publication and objected to the Fireside plate ("Rose Maylie and Oliver" [final plate in vol. III]). Dickens had Cruikshank design a new plate [the Church plate] which retained the same title. This Church plate was not completed in time for incorporation into the early copies of the book, but it replaced the Fireside plate in later copies. Dickens not only objected to the Fireside plate, but also disliked having "Boz" on the title page. He voiced these objections prior to publication and the plate and title page were changed between November 9 [publication date] and 16." The publication had been announced for October, but the third-volume-illustrations intercepted it a little. . . . The matter supplied in advance of the monthly portions in the magazine, formed the bulk of the last volume as published in the book; and for this the plates had to be prepared by Cruikshank also in advance of the magazine, to furnish them in time for the separate publication: Sikes and his dog, Fagin in the cell, and Rose Maylie and Oliver, being the three last. None of these Dickens had seen until he saw them in the book on the eve of its publication; when he so strongly objected to one of them that it had to be cancelled. "I returned suddenly to town yesterday afternoon," he wrote to the artist at the end of October, "to look at the latter pages of Oliver Twist before it was delivered to the booksellers, when I saw the majority of the plates in the last volume for the first time. With reference to the last one — Rose Maylie and Oliver — without entering into the question of great haste, or any other cause, which may have led to its being what it is, I am quite sure there can be little difference of opinion between us with respect to the result. May I ask you whether you will object to designing this plate afresh, and doing so at once, in order that as few impressions as possible of the present one may go forth? [Forster, 92-94]

George Cruikshank apparently failed to appreciate why Dickens was so insistent upon replacing the "Fireside" with the "Church" plate:

". . . there was not anything in the latter part of the manuscript that would suggest an illustration . . . but to oblige Mr. Dickens I did my best to produce another etching, working hard day and night . . . but when done, what is it? Why, merely a lady and a boy standing inside of a church looking at a stone wall!" [cited in Kitton 22]

The resulting illustration is therefore probably Dickens's conception rather than the illustrators: indeed, "A strip torn from the bottom edge of Dickens's copy of the letter [requesting the substitution] may have recorded his suggestion for the new subject with which Cruikshank eventually responded" (Richardson 296).

Wisely, when Chapman and Hall approached Dickens with the notion of issuing the novel in ten monthly parts for 1846, Dickens — perhaps feeling a little guilty about the "cancelled" plate — nominated Cruikshank rather than his usual illustrator contain the serial installments. Significantly, perhaps, in his eleven vignettes on the wrapper Cruikshank alludes to neither the "Fireside" nor the "Church" scene that replaced it. The virtue of the "Church" plate must be that, although its does not enshrine Victorian family values as the "Fireside" plate does, it brings the story full circle, and ends with a serene contemplation of Oliver's mother, victim of the workhouse system, a pauper not even given a proper burial — hence, the memorial rather than a grave or headstone in the "Church" plate that replaced the "Fireside" scene.

Since the Victorian reader tended to require the closure of the traditional happy ending, complete with a marriage and an even-handed disposition of poetic justice to all major characters in a story, the so-called "Fireside" plate would seem to be preferable. After all, in summing up the fate of Agnes Dickens (perhaps moved to contemplate the death of Mary Hogarth, his beloved sister-in-law) would seem to be touching on theological doctrine and metaphysical issues that were held to be beyond the scope of a mere mass entertainer, although he does not, like Harry Furniss seventy years later, actually show or narrate The shade of Agnes (see below) hovering about the tombless memorial in the country church. Probably according to Dickens's explicit instructions, although never a good hand at female beauty, Cruikshank nevertheless depicts an almost tearful but dignified Rose patting Oliver on the shoulder as both solemnly contemplate the death of the beloved family member who fell through the gaps of the social welfare safety-net. Later artists have delivered closure by emphasizing the fate of Fagin, but for Dickens that matter had to be relegated to the penultimate illustration, Fagin in the condemned Cell, copied by both Mahoney and Furniss.

According to Ruth Richardson in "The Subterranean Topography of Oliver Twist," the composition of the final illustration was informed by Dickens's knowledge of the workhouse located several doors down from where he and his family lived at Norfolk Street in London, although he disguises the location of Oliver's workhouse by placing it well north of London. When John Dickens was transferred from the Navy Pay Office in Portsmouth back to London in January 1815, the family lodged just off Fitzroy Square, on what was then Norfolk Street. In 1829-30, when Dickens would have been old enough to investigate his surroundings with a critical eye and a social conscience, the family returned to the area, staying above a grocer's shop at Number 10 Norfolk Street (now No. 22 Cleveland Street), the address which Dickens gave for his reader's ticket to the British Museum in February of 1830).

As the author of Dickens and The Workhouse (Oxford U. P., 2012) and Dickens and Angela Burdett Coutts (forthcoming) historian, writer, and broadcaster Richardson, a thorough Londoner, knows much about the burial practices of the Cleveland Street Workhouse; here, just nine doors away, lived young Charles Dickens from 1828-31 in a building now distinguished by a blue historical plaque. The names of the occupants of nearby Marleybone houses and businesses of that period influenced Dickens's naming of characters in the novel: Sowerberry, Sikes, and Maylie. Mr. Baxter's pawnshop, which lay between the Dickenses' home and the workhouse, may have contributed to the plot surrounding Agnes's locket since Mrs. Bumble retrieves it from a nearby pawnbroker's. But, most significantly, Dickens likely knew that the remains of paupers who died in the workhouse were disposed of via a system of subterranean passages, rather than accorded proper Christian burial, even in the Cleveland Street Workhouse's own graveyard. The translation of the "unclaimed" bodies of papers was effected efficiently by a tunnel connecting the building and a new Medical School at the rear of the Middlesex Hospital. Now bricked up and forgotten, the passageway was a result of the new Anatomy Act of 1832, whereby any person dying in a workhouse without the necessary funds for a funeral or relatives prepared to pay the cost would be defined as "unclaimed" and therefore fodder for the dissection table in an anatomy school.

It serves to represent the many journeys made by the traffic in corpses which passed between the workhouse and the medical school, and the return journey of whatever dismembered remnants of the dissected poor were sent back, if they were sent back at all, for hugger-mugger burial in the workhouse yard. [Richardson 309]

Hence, in the final illustration young radical writer Charles Dickens underscores the plight of the poor and their disrespectful treatment in death as in life. This "revised" illustration is therefore a mute protest against society's regarding the poor as mere "surplus population" to be disposed of as so much inert matter. As Richardson remarks,

the Church plate deliberately re-inscribes the plot's major driver, the inciting incidents of the novel and their bleak context, reminding the reader of the book's opening with Oliver's birth and his mother's death, in the grip of the Poor Law. Like the old sepulchral image of the serpent eating its own tail, the Church plate gestures backwards in time to the beginning, and forward towards eternity. . . . . The novel's end is blighted by loss, but resolved by love, and marked by a commitment to keeping memory green. [Richardson 310]

In the Cruikshank illustration, then, Oliver, once again in a tailored suit, stands beside the other respectable orphan, his mother's sister, Rose, who was fortunate enough to be adopted by a kindly, upper-middle-class family. The illustrator shows aunt and nephew in solemn profile to accentuate the familial likeness — and to emphasize that in a sense they are Agnes's final resting place, both in terms of sentiment, memory, and genetics. In accordance with Dickens's Protestant notions about appropriate church ornamentation, the setting is devoid of paintings, crucifixes, and even other memorials to the dead; nothing is to break the reader's identification between the two living figures, so much alike in their facial features that they might be mother and son, and the name "Agnes" in the simple plaque with a peak, suggestive perhaps of a house's roof. The small window that illuminates the scene also reminds the reader of the barred window in Fagin subterranean cell in the previous illustration. But, whereas Agnes is honoured in death and fondly remembered, Fagin faces sheer oblivion as nobody will mourn his passing or mark his burial spot. Certainly no white light will play about his unmarked grave on the grounds of Newgate Prison as it does before Rose and Oliver here.




message 36: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments We were alone with Fagin and his thoughts watching him obsess and slowly go mad as his execution neared.

TICK. TOCK. TICK. TOCK.

It was a powerful moment. Then Oliver and Brownlow entered ruining the moment.


message 37: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod


The Shade of Agnes

Chapter 53

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Text Illustrated:

Within the altar of the old village church there stands a white marble tablet, which bears as yet but one word:, — "AGNES." There is no coffin in that tomb; and may it be many, many years, before another name is placed above it! But, if the spirits of the Dead ever come back to earth, to visit spots hallowed by the love — the love beyond the grave — of those whom they knew in life, I believe that the shade of Agnes sometimes hovers round that solemn nook. I believe it none the less because that nook is a Church, and she was weak and erring. [Thus closes the novel.]

Commentary:

Although Dickens's official illustrator for Oliver Twist in the 1837-8 serial, George Cruikshank, felt that the so-called Fireside illustration adequately summed up Providence's rewarding Oliver for his courage and upright character in the face of adversity and moral degradation, Dickens found it trite and conventional — and having access to the official biography by Dickens's lifelong friend and business agent, Harry Furniss would have known about this issue.

Wisely, when Chapman and Hall approached Dickens with the notion of issuing the novel in ten monthly parts for 1846, Dickens — perhaps feeling a little guilty about having compelled the veteran illustrator to replace at short notice the "cancelled" plate — nominated Cruikshank rather than his usual illustrator Hablot Knight Browne to design the green wrapper to contain the serial instalments. Significantly, perhaps, in his eleven vignettes on the wrapper Cruikshank alludes to neither the "Fireside" nor the "Church" scene that replaced it. The virtue of the "Church" plate must be that, although it does not enshrine Victorian family values as the "Fireside" plate does, it brings the story full circle, and ends with a serene contemplation of Oliver's mother, victim of the workhouse and New Poor Law system, a pauper not given even a proper burial — hence, the memorial rather than a grave or headstone in the "Church" plate that replaced the "Fireside" scene. A thorough Dickensian, Harry Furniss was likely familiar with this background through having read Forster's biography.

Since the Victorian reader tended to require the closure of the traditional happy ending, complete with a marriage and an even-handed disposition of poetic justice to all major characters in a story, the so-called "Fireside" plate would seem to be preferable. After all, in summing up the fate of Agnes Dickens (perhaps moved to contemplate the death of Mary Hogarth, his beloved sister-in-law) would seem to be touching on theological doctrine and metaphysical issues that were held to be beyond the scope of a mere mass entertainer, although he does not, like Harry Furniss seventy years later, actually show or narrate The Shade of Agnes hovering about the tombless memorial in the country church. Probably according to Dickens's explicit instructions, although never a good hand at female beauty, Cruikshank nevertheless depicts an almost tearful but dignified Rose patting Oliver on the shoulder as both solemnly contemplate the death of the beloved family member who fell through the gaps of the social welfare safety-net. Later artists have delivered closure by emphasizing the fate of Fagin, but for Dickens that matter had to be relegated to the penultimate illustration, Fagin in the Condemned Cell, which served as a model for both James Mahoney (1871) and Harry Furniss (1910).

According to Ruth Richardson in "The Subterranean Topography of Oliver Twist," the composition of the final illustration was informed by Dickens's knowledge of the workhouse located several doors down from where he and his family lived at Norfolk Street in London, although he disguised the location of Oliver's workhouse by placing it well north of London. When John Dickens was transferred from the Navy Pay Office in Portsmouth back to London in January 1815, the family lodged just off Fitzroy Square, on what was then Norfolk Street. He would have made the passing acquaintance of workhouse boys such as Oliver. In 1829-30, when Dickens would have been old enough to investigate his surroundings with a critical eye and a social conscience, the family returned to the area, staying above a grocer's shop at Number 10 Norfolk Street (now No. 22 Cleveland Street), the address which Dickens gave for his reader's ticket to the British Museum in February of 1830).

In the Cruikshank illustration, George Cruikshank to please Dickens shows aunt and nephew in solemn profile to accentuate the familial likeness — and to emphasize that in a sense they are Agnes's final resting place, both in terms of sentiment, memory, and genetics. In accordance with Dickens's Protestant notions about appropriate church ornamentation, the setting is devoid of paintings, crucifixes, and even other memorials to the dead; nothing is to break the reader's identification between the two living figures, so much alike in their facial features that they might be mother and son, and the name "Agnes" in the simple plaque with a peak, suggestive perhaps of a house's roof in the neoclassical manner of monuments and tombs. This, then, was the point of departure for Harry Furniss's ultimate illustration, in which the etherial spirit of Oliver's mother, wearing a nun-like head-dress and assuming a pensive posture, hovers before the plaque in the church. However, Furniss's version of the memorial is a far grander and spiritual affair, which an elegant newel-post (right) suggesting an ornate railing, and a ledge underneath the inscribed name, the whole contained within a niche surmounted by a rounded cornice, implying that one is pondering the portal to the afterlife. In the Cruikshank original, there is a stone bench beneath the memorial, but in Furniss's there is merely step so that the visitor cannot sit before it, but turned away from the chapel monument. The overall effect, too, of these illustrations is quite different as Cruikshank's is sentimental yet realistic, and understated, whereas Furniss's is romantic, sensuous, and fanciful, energetically sketched in rather than realistically drawn three-dimensionally.


message 38: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod


Mr. Claypole earning a genteel subsistence

Chapter 53

Frederic W. Pailthorpe

Final illustration for Oliver Twist in F. W. Pailthorpe's twenty-one hand-tinted engravings for the 1838 three-volume Richard Bentley (first) edition.


Text Illustrated:

Mr. Noah Claypole: receiving a free pardon from the Crown in consequence of being admitted approver against Fagin: and considering his profession not altogether as safe a one as he could wish: was, for some little time, at a loss for the means of a livelihood, not burdened with too much work. After some consideration, he went into business as an informer, in which calling he realizes a genteel subsistence. His plan is, to walk out once a week during church time attended by Charlotte in respectable attire. The lady faints away at the doors of charitable publicans, and the gentleman being accommodated with three-penny worth of brandy to restore her, lays an information next day, and pockets half the penalty. Sometimes Mr. Claypole faints himself, but the result is the same.


message 39: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod


Oliver and His Family — The Fireside Plate

George Cruikshank

Originally the final illustration.

Text Illustrated:

I would fain linger yet with a few of those among whom I have so long moved, and share their happiness by endeavouring to depict it. I would show Rose Maylie in all the bloom and grace of early womanhood, shedding on her secluded path in life soft and gentle light, that fell on all who trod it with her, and shone into their hearts. I would paint her the life and joy of the fire-side circle and the lively summer group; I would follow her through the sultry fields at noon, and hear the low tones of her sweet voice in the moonlit evening walk; I would watch her in all her goodness and charity abroad, and the smiling untiring discharge of domestic duties at home; I would paint her and her dead sister's child happy in their love for one another, and passing whole hours together in picturing the friends whom they had so sadly lost; I would summon before me, once again, those joyous little faces that clustered round her knee, and listen to their merry prattle; I would recall the tones of that clear laugh, and conjure up the sympathising tear that glistened in the soft blue eye. These, and a thousand looks and smiles, and turns of thought and speech — I would fain recall them every one.

Commentary:

Although Dickens's official illustrator for Oliver Twist in the 1837-8 serial, George Cruikshank, felt that the so-called Fireside illustration adequately summed up Providence's rewarding Oliver for his courage and upright character in the face of adversity and moral degradation, Dickens found it trite and conventional.

In it, we look towards a marble Victorian mantelpiece with all its domestic knick-knacks and a roaring fire, a religious painting reflected in the tall pier-glass, and the portrait of Oliver's mother in an alcove to one side. The mantel-clock is protected under a glass dome, flanked by two hyacinths cupped securely in their glasses, growing straight between supportive guide-sticks, an obvious metaphor for child-rearing. Young Oliver is portrayed at the heart of the Maylie family: between old Mrs. Maylie, her newly-wedded son and the fragrant Rose, all comfortably grouped round their happy hearth [the social and spiritual centre of the Victorian home]. [Richardson]

John Forster, Dickens's official biographer (and therefore hardly an unbiased commentator) recounts the story of the so-called "cancelled plate" in such a manner that Dickens's high-handedness with veteran illustrator George Cruikshank is mitigated:

when Bentley decided to publish Oliver in book form before its completion in his periodical, Cruikshank had to complete the last few plates in haste. Dickens did not review them until the eve of publication and objected to the Fireside plate ("Rose Maylie and Oliver" [the final plate in vol. III]). Dickens had Cruikshank design a new plate [the Church plate] which retained the same title . This Church plate was not completed in time for incorporation into the early copies of the book, but it replaced the Fireside plate in later copies. Dickens not only objected to the Fireside plate, but also disliked having "Boz" on the title page. He voiced these objections prior to publication and the plate and title page were changed between November 9 [publication date] and 16." The publication had been announced for October, but the third-volume-illustrations intercepted it a little. This part of the story, as we have seen, had been written in anticipation of the magazine, and the designs for it having to be executed "in a lump," were necessarily done somewhat hastily. The matter supplied in advance of the monthly portions in the magazine, formed the bulk of the last volume as published in the book; and for this the plates had to be prepared by Cruikshank also in advance of the magazine, to furnish them in time for the separate publication: Sikes and his dog, Fagin in the cell, and Rose Maylie and Oliver, being the three last. None of these Dickens had seen until he saw them in the book on the eve of its publication; when he so strongly objected to one of them that it had to be cancelled. "I returned suddenly to town yesterday afternoon," he wrote to the artist at the end of October, "to look at the latter pages of Oliver Twist before it was delivered to the booksellers, when I saw the majority of the plates in the last volume for the first time. With reference to the last one — Rose Maylie and Oliver — without entering into the question of great haste, or any other cause, which may have led to its being what it is, I am quite sure there can be little difference of opinion between us with respect to the result. May I ask you whether you will object to designing this plate afresh, and doing so at once, in order that as few impressions as possible of the present one may go forth? I feel confident you know me too well to feel hurt by this enquiry, and with equal confidence in you I have lost no time in preferring it."

This letter, printed from a copy in Dickens's handwriting fortunately committed to my [i. e., John Forster's] keeping, entirely disposes of a wonderful story originally promulgated in America, with a minute particularity of detail that might have raised the reputation of Sir Benjamin Backbite himself. Whether all Sir Benjamin's laurels however should fall to the person by whom the tale is told, or whether any part belongs to the authority alleged for it, is unfortunately not quite clear. There would hardly have been a doubt, if the fable had been confined to the other side of the Atlantic; but it has been reproduced and widely circulated on this side also, and the distinguished artist whom it calumniates by attributing the invention to him has been left undefended from its slander. Dickens's letter spares me the necessity of characterizing, by the only word which would have been applicable to it, a tale of such incredible and monstrous absurdity as that one of the masterpieces of its author's genius had been merely an illustration of etchings by Mr. Cruikshank! [Forster, 92-94]


Wisely, when Chapman and Hall approached Dickens with the notion of issuing the novel in ten monthly parts for 1846, Dickens — perhaps feeling a little guilty about the "cancelled" plate — nominated Cruikshank rather than his usual illustrator contain the serial installments. Significantly, perhaps, in his eleven vignettes on the wrapper Cruikshank alludes to neither the "Fireside" nor the "Church" scene that replaced it. The virtue of the "Church" plate must be that, although its does not enshrine Victorian family values as the "Fireside" plate does, it brings the story full circle, and ends with a serene contemplation of Oliver's mother, victim of the workhouse system, a pauper not even given a proper burial — hence, the memorial rather than a grave or headstone in the "Church" plate that replaced the "Fireside" scene.




message 40: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod


Wrapper for the 1846 Edition

George Cruikshank

Commentary:

Although Dickens and Cruikshank parted company with perhaps a little ill-feeling as a result of Dickens's requiring the artist to redraft entirely the final serial illustration, The Fireside, or Cancelled Plate after the final sequences of plates had, in fact, been printed in the third volume of the Richard Bentley triple-decker, Dickens later compensated Cruikshank for any inconvenience by recommending him to Chapman and Hall for the design of the 1846 serial wrapper.

With considerable time to reflect on the significance of the various scenes and characters whom he encountered in the monthly serialization of Dickens's second novel in Bentley's Miscellany between February 1837 and the autumn of 1838 as he finished drafting the final illustrations for the three-volume version that Richard Bentley published in November 1838, George Cruikshank reached firm conclusions about the relative importance of certain characters and events. Realizing that the story is at least partly a condemnation of the New Poor Law, the workhouse, and the venial functionaries administering the system, Cruikshank gave the Beadle, Mr. Bumble, a prominent position in the wrapper's eleven vignettes; he appears lower left, escorting Oliver from Mrs. Mann's baby-farm to the workhouse. The majority of the remaining ten scenes, however, concern the London criminal underworld that constitutes the "Newgate" dimension of Oliver's adventures: in the upper left, Bill Sikes gives instructions to Oliver about breaking into the Maylies' house in Chertsey; below that scene, introduced by the Artful Dodger, Oliver meets the kindly old gentleman, Mr. Fagin, in his East End hideout; left of centre, Oliver meets Jack Dawkins (otherwise, "The Artful Dodger") at a market-town north of London. Before that, however, Oliver is shown as the unhappy apprentice of the undertaker, Mr. Sowerberry. Occupying the strongest position in the wrapper, top centre, Oliver is embraced by his aunt, Rose Maylie. Then, down the right-hand margin, the pickpockets attempt to flee arrest by the Bowstreet Runners; Sikes attempts to eliminate his dog; Oliver chastises Noah Claypole, the charity boy already apprenticed to Sowerberrry; Sikes meets a poetically just end, falling from the roof of Toby Crackit's safe-house on Jacob's Island and accidentally hanging himself; and, bottom centre, Fagin, a temporary occupant of the condemned cell at Newgate Prison, faces the prospect of his public execution the next morning.

On the title-page of the 1838 novel, the author is identified as "Boz" — that is to say, the author of the humorous Sketches by Boz. Illustrative of every-day life and every-day people, based on journalistic pieces published between 1833 and 1836 in three periodicals: The Monthly Magazine, The Morning Chronicle, and Bell's Life in London. It was not until after the appearance of Oliver Twist in volume form that the collected edition of the fifty-six sketches was published in volume form. By 1846, however, the name of the novelist "Charles Dickens" has replaced that of the comic anecdotalist ("Boz"), and George Cruikshank's name is displayed prominently — although in much smaller type than the name "Dickens." Curiously, Cruikshank has elected to give the superior position to a version of the plate that Dickens rejected in the autumn of 1838, Oliver's Family, and has juxtaposed an early scene (Bumble and Oliver, bottom left) against two late scenes, in which the villains Fagin and Sikes receive their due. Many of these vignettes, in fact, repeat in miniature form the full-page steel-engravings with which Cruikshank supplied the original serial, Although in that serial, perhaps to maintain suspense, Cruikshank shows Sikes on the roof, confident that he can make his escape by dropping to the tidal flats in The Last Chance, for Part 22. Moreover, whereas Sikes's dog, Bull's-Eye, is hiding behind the chimney in the earlier illustration, as Sikes tumbles to his death in the wrapper vignette, Bull's-Eye has come forward to the edge of the roof.

In the designs of the eleven vignettes, Oliver appears seven times; Sikes three times; and Fagin, Jack Dawkins, and Bull's-Eye twice each. Not mentioned visually although important to the plot, are Monks, Mr. Brownlow, and Nancy — and, indeed, Cruikshank seems to have avoided showing female characters as much as possible. Again at Dickens's instigation, he subsequently provided Chapman and Hall with a frontispiece for the Cheap Edition and a title-page vignette for the Library Edition, tasks that logically should have fallen to Dickens's principal illustrator in the 1840s, Hablot Knight Browne.


message 41: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1342 comments Kim wrote: "Cruikshank later recounted how his own facial expression led to his telling study of Fagin"

Fascinating that Cruikshank was his own model for this.


message 42: by Peter (last edited Aug 23, 2018 02:18PM) (new)

Peter | 3455 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "Rose

Chapter 51

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Text Illustrated:

"Nay," returned the old gentleman, drawing her arm through his; "you have more fortitude than this, I am sure. Do you know ..."


I must mount my trusty stead and ride to Nancy’s defence. This commentary, while pointing out important information including the binary relationship of Rose and Nancy, leans too heavily on Nancy’s flaws. Yes, she does remain loyal to Sikes and yes her life is vastly different from Rose’s, but consider the role of Oliver with these young ladies.

Rose can easily be kind and gracious towards Oliver. There is no question that Rose is a perfect specimen of Victorian female youth. However, through Nancy we get to see the struggles of a 17 year old who knows that Oliver is good, and knows that he may fall into the clutches of those such as Fagin and end up just like her. When she bends over him and sheds a tear and when she speaks up in defence of Oliver, Nancy steps way out of her stereotypical role as a fallen, slovenly person. She is, I believe, a very interesting portrayal by Dickens of the fallen woman. We will meet her again, in other guises, in DC as Little Emily and Martha.

Urania Cottage was a very interesting experiment that Dickens and Angela Burdett-Coutts established. I would go so far as to suggest that it is through the portrayal of such characters as Nancy who see flickers of what could be in their lives. Consider how she pleads with Sikes to run away from his past. An interesting book to read on this topic is Charles Dickens and the House of Fallen Women


message 43: by Peter (last edited Aug 23, 2018 02:34PM) (new)

Peter | 3455 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "He sat down on a stone bench opposite the door.

Chapter 51

James Mahoney

1871 Household Edition

Text Illustrated:

Here, he was searched, that he might not have about him the means of anticipat..."


Cruikshank’s portrayal of Fagin in prison may well be the most recognizable and reproduced of all his illustrations in OT. I noticed the book that is on a shelf slightly to the left and down from the heavy stone and barred windows. So much happens in the novel we may forget the important books and illustrations. We have a major turning point in the novel when Oliver allegedly robs Mr Brownlow at a book stall. We also have Oliver being given separate books by Mr Brownlow and Fagin in the course of the novel. In what still remains a puzzle to me we are told that Nancy can read.

The book in the condemned cell would, in all probability, be a Bible. With Fagin being Jewish, the Bible becomes an emblem in that Fagin could find no comfort from a Bible, especially if it contained the New Testament.


message 44: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2520 comments Kim wrote: "Here is what George Gissing thought of OT:

Dickens’s love for the stage was assuredly a misfortune to him, as author and as man."


Wow - this is a provocative statement! But is it true? Maybe next week when we discuss the book as a whole, we can keep this in mind and discuss it a bit.


message 45: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2520 comments Kim wrote: "More by Gissing:

The preface to Oliver Twist, in defending his choice of subject, strikes the note of compromise, and at the same time declares in simple terms the author’s purpose. After speaking..."


I love this. Authors and screenplay writers today should all read this paragraph.


message 46: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2520 comments Peter wrote: "Some curious books are included in my opinion, but that’s what makes lists so great. They generate thought and discussion...."

I was just pleased to see that there were still some classics on the list! Funny that most of the books I'd heard of were ones I've read - the others must have been written since the 80s. Still, as I work in a library, I'm always surprised when I look at lists like this and there are books I don't remember ever having even heard of before. Makes me wonder how good they can be! But then I remind myself that many of the titles I handle regularly are literary crap. I realize I'm being annoyingly pretentious when I say things like that, and I apologize. But really... there are a LOT of Amish romances and bodice rippers being read out there!


message 47: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3455 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "Peter wrote: "Some curious books are included in my opinion, but that’s what makes lists so great. They generate thought and discussion...."

I was just pleased to see that there were still some cl..."


Hi Mary Lou

I agree with you that there are many books that dress themselves up as novels but are really emperors with no clothes. On the bright side, however, whoever is reading a book is reading. That’s one step in the right direction.


message 48: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2520 comments Very true, Peter!


message 49: by Alissa (new)

Alissa | 317 comments I like the revelation scene where Brownlow talked and Grimwig kept dragging out witnesses from different rooms. Somehow, they managed to keep the hags separate from the Bumbles, and the Bumbles were totally surprised. Then, Brownlow alluded to having the pawnbroker in yet another room. It wasn't realistic, but I thought it was entertaining, like a Victorian version of Jerry Springer, when the guests confront each other from backstage. There were clashings and reunions, hugging and crying, and even a marriage proposal. A lot going on in one chapter!


message 50: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2520 comments "like a Victorian version of Jerry Springer"

Ha! Pretty close to the truth, Alissa!


« previous 1
back to top