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message 1: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jan 25, 2020 09:23AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments NOTE: I hope it is OK if I keep this as a personal thread, without others' comments, until I have transferred all my notes here. Then please feel free to add comments just as you like Thanks.

Anyone who knows me, knows that my favourite author is Charles Dickens. So shortly after joining Goodreads a few years ago, I set myself a personal challenge, to reread all his novels, carefully analysing and reviewing them as I went. I researched a little around them too, finding that helped me appreciate them even more. It took me three years to complete.

Now I'm adding other books into this challenge. Sometimes they are short stories, or sometimes related factual books which help me to understand both the author and the times he was living in.

If anyone would ever like to join in with what I am reading, or comment, or just read my current thoughts, you'll be very welcome!

First I shall place here the notes I have made on all the novels of Charles Dickens, plus links to my reviews.

message 2: by Bionic Jean (last edited Nov 26, 2021 02:28PM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments The 15 Main Novels of Charles Dickens:

The Pickwick PapersJan 2014 Jean's review
March 1836 to Oct 1837 comments 13 - 29 LINK HERE

Oliver TwistMarch 2014 Jean's review
February 1837 to April 1839 comments 35 - 69 LINK HERE

Nicholas NicklebyMay 2014 Jean's review
March 1838 to September 1839 comments 70 - 89 LINK HERE

The Old Curiosity ShopSept 2014 Jean's review
April 1840 to February 1841 comments 95 - 118 LINK HERE

Barnaby RudgeFebruary 2015 Jean's review
February to November 1841 comments 120 - 133 LINK HERE

Martin ChuzzlewitApril 2015 Jean's review
January 1843 to July 1844 comments 135 - 167 LINK HERE

Dombey and SonAugust - October 2015 Jean's review
Oct 1846 to April 1848 comments 170 - 206 LINK HERE

David CopperfieldNovember - December 2015 Jean's review
May 1849 to November 1850 comments 209 - 253 LINK HERE

Bleak HouseJanuary - March 2016 Jean's review
March 1852 to September 1853 comments 253 - 295 LINK HERE

Hard TimesApril - May 2016 Jean's review
April 1854 to August 1854 comments 298 - 306 LINK HERE

Little DorritJune - September 2016 Jean's review
December 1855 to June 1857 comments 306 - 335 LINK HERE

A Tale of Two CitiesSeptember - December 2016 Jean's review
April 1859 to November 1859 (both weekly and monthly in parallel) comments 337 - 374 LINK HERE

Great ExpectationsJanuary - June 2017 Jean's review
December 1860 to August 1861 (both weekly and monthly in parallel) comments 376 - 463 LINK HERE

Our Mutual FriendJuly - November 2017 Jean's review
May 1864 to November 1865 (monthly) comments 463 -

The Mystery of Edwin Drood (unfinished) ✓ May - July 2018 Jean's review
April 1870 to September 1870 (monthly)

message 3: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jul 06, 2021 08:56AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments The 5 Christmas Books by Charles Dickens:

There are two main collections of Christmas stories by Charles Dickens: The Christmas Books, (which are really novellas) and the Christmas Stories.

Here is a list of all the Christmas Books. They started with the most popular, (and my absolute favourite :) )

A Christmas Carol (1843) ✓ December 2013
Jean's review

The Chimes (1844) ✓ December 2014
Jean's review

The Cricket on the Hearth (1845) ✓ December 2015
Jean's review
comments 165 - 167

The Battle Of Life (1846) ✓ December 2016
Jean's review

The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain (1848) ✓ December 2017
Jean's review

message 4: by Bionic Jean (last edited Apr 29, 2020 11:44AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments I'm going through Charles Dickens's The Christmas Books in order, as he wrote them, at the rate of one a year - as he published them. So last year I reviewed The Chimes. Here's my review.

There's more in that one than I'd thought the first time I read it, and put it down as a sentimental piece of its time. Much more biting social comment than I've found in The Cricket on the Hearth, for instance, though both contain lots of sprites and goblins!

The final paragraph of The Cricket on the Hearth is very whimsical, just perfect really, adding to the dream-like quality of the entire piece.

The first version of this was in book form straightaway, unlike the novels which went through various incarnations after their initial serialisation, so although it was often performed on stage, the text of the novella itself probably didn't vary. He seemed to get it exactly right first time :)

Here's my review link here. I also go into the book's history a bit.

I loved my reread of this one and gave it ★★★★

I'm now wondering if the entire piece can be read as a metaphor - certainly all three of these first Christmas books seem to have been concerned with matters of redemption.

message 5: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jul 06, 2021 09:28AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments The Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens: (Annual shorter stories, following the Christmas Books).

After the enormous success of A Christmas Carol, the public clamoured for a Christmas story from Charles Dickens every year, so it became an annual tradition. He included these in the Christmas issue of his weekly magazine, Household Words: A Weekly Journal (1850-1858).

But by 1850, after The Haunted Man And The Ghost's Bargain (1848), Dickens had abandoned the Christmas books, although he continued his tradition of writing the annual story at Christmas which his public demanded. These were similar but shorter stories, which he published in his new magazine All the Year Round (1859-1867). The first of those is A Christmas Tree:

A Christmas Tree ✓ (1850) December 2019
Jean's review

What Christmas Is as We Grow Older (1851) December 2020
Jean's review

The Poor Relations Story (1852)
The Child's Story (1852)

The Schoolboys Story (1853)
Nobody's Story (1853)

The Seven Poor Travellers (1854)

The Holly-Tree (1855)

The Wreck of the Golden Mary (1856)

The Perils of Certain English Prisoners (1857)

Going Into Society (1859)? 1858

The Haunted House (1859)

A Message from the Sea (1860)

Tom Tiddler's Ground

Somebody's Luggage (1862)

Mrs Lirriper (1863)

Doctor Marigold (1866)

Mugby Junction (includes The Signalman, a popular read on its own.) (1866) ✓ January 2021
Jean's review

No Thoroughfare

The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices ✓ (1857) May 2019
Jean's review

Each title here is a link to that story.

message 6: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jul 06, 2021 09:28AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments Other Short Stories by Charles Dickens:

Horatio Sparkins May 2018
Jean's review

message 7: by Bionic Jean (last edited Mar 17, 2021 08:04AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments Miscellaneous:

Statues to Dickens, his will: comments 30 - 34

Dickens's view on women: comment 92

Dickens's real-life children: comments 93 LINK HERE

message 8: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jan 25, 2020 09:55AM) (new)

message 10: by Bionic Jean (last edited Apr 27, 2020 01:24PM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments DICKENS'S DAUGHTER ON HIM:

One of his daughters Mamie Dickens loved Charles Dickens very dearly, and some now think she sanitised quite a lot of her writing about him. She was Dickens's second child, and called after Mary Hogarth, his sister-in-law, with whom he was besotted.

Mamie never married and stayed with Dickens until his death. She helped to edit her father's letters and published two books about him entitled, Charles Dickens, By His Eldest Daughter (1885) and also My Father as I Recall Him (1896).

A friend has said it shows some insight into his writing process, the creation of some of his characters, and his deep connection to them.

Here's Mamie on the death of Mary Hogarth, "The shock of her sudden death so affected and prostrated him that the publication of "Pickwick" was interrupted for two months."

It is a short book with some nice illustrations.


As with many "facts" about Dickens, the objective truth may be lost in the annals of time. From the introduction by Mamie Dickens and Georgina Hogarth (respectively daughter and sister-in-law) of 1879,

"We find some difficulty in being quite accurate in the arrangement of letters up to the end of 1839, for he had a careless habit in those days about dating his letters, very frequently putting only the day of the week on which he wrote, curiously in contrast with the habit of his later life, when his dates were always of the very fullest."


Dickens's female characters make up:

First six books - 85/280. 30%
Dombeys to Dorrit - 99/214. 45%
Last four books - 46/127. 35%

The late Victorians and Edwardians loved the first six, especially The Old Curiosity Shop and Martin Chuzzlewit. Perhaps this is just down to tastes changing. Victorians lapped up all the melodrama, whereas we tend to put up with the worst bits of going over the top and gushing sentimentality for all the gems of comedy in-between, the thrills and mysteries, the vivid descriptions and general quirkiness etc.

message 11: by Bionic Jean (last edited Apr 27, 2020 12:32PM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments Comparative word counts in Dickens's novels:

1. David Copperfield: 357,489
2. Dombey and Son: 357,484
3. Bleak House: 355,936
4. Little Dorrit: 339,870
5. Martin Chuzzlewit: 338,077
6. Our Mutual Friend: 327,727
7. Nicholas Nickleby: 323,722
8. The Pickwick Papers: 302,190
9. Barnaby Rudge: 255,229
10. The Old Curiosity Shop: 218,538
11. Great Expectations: 186,339
12. Oliver Twist: 158,631
13. A Tale of Two Cities: 137,000
14. Hard Times: 104,821
15. The Mystery of Edwin Drood: 96,178 (first 6 of 12 parts only)


Apparently the BBC are filming a new Dickens drama called "Dickensian" - 20 episodes with a cast including Caroline Quentin, Peter Firth, Pauline Collins and Stephen Rea.

The plan is for "Dickensian" to bring together some of the writer's best-loved characters such as Scrooge, Fagin and Miss Havisham, as their lives interweave in 19th Century London.

Rea, who plays Inspector Bucket from Bleak House, has said, "Dickensian is the most beautiful re-working of the world of Dickens that you could ever imagine. The characters take on a fresh life, and any actor would be mad not to accept the challenge these great scripts offer." And Collins, who plays Martin Chuzzlewit's Mrs Gamp, has said, "You don't need to know Dickens' novels to fall in love with the stories we're telling. It's going to be a real treat to watch.""

I'm quite excited :)

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message 13: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jan 26, 2020 09:38AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments Jan 2014:

The Pickwick Papers

Original cover from 1836

Original Title: "The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, Containing a Faithful Record of the Perambulations, Perils, Travels, Adventures and Sporting Transactions of the Corresponding Members"

Robert Seymour
Robert William Buss
Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz)

message 14: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jan 26, 2020 09:20AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments I've found a schedule of the episodes of The Pickwick Papers . They were monthly, priced at a shilling each, except for the last double issue costing 2/-

I – March 1836 (chapters 1–2)
II – April 1836 (chapters 3–5)
III – May 1836 (chapters 6–8)
IV – June 1836 (chapters 9-11)
V – July 1836 (chapters 12–14)
VI – August 1836 (chapters 15–17)
VII – September 1836 (chapters 18–20)
VIII – October 1836 (chapters 21–23)
IX – November 1836 (chapters 24–26)
X – December 1836 (chapters 27–28)
XI – January 1837 (chapters 29–31)
XII – February 1837 (chapters 32–33)
XIII – March 1837 (chapters 34–36)
XIV – April 1837 (chapters 37–39)
XV – June 1837 (chapters 40–42)
XVI – July 1837 (chapters 43–45)
XVII – August 1837 (chapters 46–48)
XVIII – September 1837 (chapters 49–51)
XIX-XX – October 1837 (chapters 52–57)

The ILLUSTRATIONS to the first two installments were by Seymour, the third by Buss and the rest by "Phiz" who went on to be a great friend of Dickens and worked with him for 23 years.

message 15: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jan 26, 2020 09:24AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments I'm really happy to have started this book The Pickwick Papers - it's just a great way to start the New Year laughing!

Reading this slowly is the key for me, for this one - at least at the beginning. I'm savouring all those comic cameos.

Today though, I had a look at one of Dickens' Prefaces to Pickwick. I knew that there was a sad story attached to the illustrations of this book.

Originally, Dickens had been asked by the publishers Chapman and Hall to provide short humorous passages to accompany some plates by the artist Robert Seymour. Dickens at the time was relatively unknown and quite poor. He was 22 or 23, and had just written a few pieces for magazines. Seymour was by far the more established and respected of the two.

Dickens was quite excited by the idea, but straightaway started to alter the plan. In his own words, he "objected... that it would be infinitely better for the plates to arise naturally out of the text; and that I would like to take my own way, with a freer range of English scenes and people, and was afraid I should ultimately do so in any case, whatever course I might prescribe to myself at starting."

One can only imagine how presumptuous this must have sounded! But he got his way - and now of course we know the brilliance of the man and can excuse him.

But there is a casualty. This preface of Dickens is in part a defence, and a justification. Seymour actually committed suicide before the second (out of a total of 20) issue was published. It seems unclear as to the reason. But rumours must have circulated for Dickens to feel the necessity to write:

"Mr Seymour never originated or suggested an incident, a phrase, or a word to be found in this book. Mr Seymour died when only 24 pages of this book were published, and assuredly not 48 were written... I never saw Mr Seymour's handwriting in my life... I never saw Mr Seymour but once in my life, and that was on the night but one before his death, when he certainly offered no suggestion whatsoever."

It makes my imagination run riot - what might have happened. I think this part of Dickens' life would make a great novel in its own right!!

message 16: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jan 26, 2020 09:24AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments Chapter 5 was very funny and very visual. My favourite bit so far though was in chapter 4 when Mr Pickwick lost his hat. I thought it was absolutely hilarious!!

message 17: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jan 26, 2020 09:25AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments There's no issue in May 1837. Apparently that's when his sister-in-law Mary Hogarth (whom he was devoted to, more than his wife, it's thought) died.

message 18: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jan 26, 2020 09:25AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments "The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton" sometimes published separately is actually Chapter 29! I think some other short stories might come from here. We've already had an extra story within chapter 3, "The Stroller's Tale", and I think there may be more like that to come.

I've just used some Christmas money to buy a BBC dramatisation on DVD of them from 1985 (woop woop!! 6 hours and I'm sure I never saw it at the time!) And it says that it doesn't include the "extra stories!" that are told by and to the Pickwickians. That might be a shame I suppose, but never mind :)

It's this one

I got it post free for £9.95 from Amazon. Took a risk as it's 6 hours and the cast looks great!

message 19: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jan 26, 2020 09:30AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments I'm doing really well here! Chris has just given me the DVD of "A Christmas Carol" with Patrick Stewart as Ebenezer Scrooge in it, as I enjoyed watching it so much over Christmas! Now I can watch it any time I like :)

The latest chapter of Pickwick about the election at Eatanswill was a bit too verbose and not quite so entertaining, but in even in these overblown sections of Pickwick we still get Dickens' sly quips.

"Eatanswill people, like the people of many other small towns, considered themselves of the utmost and most mighty importance."

He won't let brackets escape without containing a joke "(for it's not at all necessary for a crowd to know what they are cheering about)" made me laugh!

When a coach of voters is overturned, Sam says: "Why...I rather think one old gentleman was missin'; I know his hat was found but I a'n't quite certain whether his head was in it or not."

During a boring reading of a newspaper article, Pickwick's eyes "were closed, as if with excess of pleasure, during the whole time of their perusal."

He pokes fun at all the voters: "Exciseable articles were remarkable cheap at all the public houses; and spring vans paraded the streets for the accommodation of voters who were seized with any temporary dizziness in the head - an epidemic which prevailed among the electors, during the contest, to a most alarming extent, and under the influence of which they might frequently be seen lying on the pavements in a state of utter insensibility."

And there's a lovely section where Pickwick as a candidate is expected to kiss the hand of his female supporters. He gets very flustered and indignant at the catcalls and ribaldry which follow!

message 20: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jan 26, 2020 09:31AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments I never studied Dickens at school (despite Eng Lit being one of my "A" Levels) and I think that is why I appreciate him so much now. I feel I discovered him all by myself (Forgetting that the whole world thinks he's a master too. LOL)

People often talk about being "forced to read Dickens" at school and I think that is so sad for lots of reasons.

message 21: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jan 26, 2020 09:31AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments I've now watched a couple of episodes of the dramatisation from 1985. I wondered how I missed this! It's marvellous! The main cast is:

Mr Pickwick - Nigel Stock
Mr Tupman - Clive Swift
Mr Winkle - Jeremy Nicholas
Mr Snodgrass - Alan Parnaby
Mr Jingle - Patrick Malahide
Sam Weller - Phil Daniels

So far I'm enjoying Patrick Malahide's interpretation the best! I also love the way the director is posing the actors in little "tableaux" occasionally, so that you immediately think of the illustration.

message 22: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jan 26, 2020 09:32AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments I must note down "Count Smorltork" before I forget his oh so appropriate name. So many, many wonderfully named cameos!

message 23: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jan 26, 2020 09:32AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments Well after a bit of a lull - a couple of chapters where Dickens didn't sparkle for me as much as usual - I've just been grinning from ear to ear (with the occasional splutter of laughter) at the Pickwickians' antics on the ice. Oh my! :D

This series of episodes definitely has its highs and lows!

message 24: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jan 26, 2020 09:33AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments I think l'm just coming up to the part where Dickens missed deadlines for the only time in his life, in June 1837. In May 1837 his wife (Catherine)'s sister Mary Hogarth had died, and he was grieving for her. (It's thought by many that he was closer to her than to his wife.) Monthly issues of Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist were not published.

That's at the end of chapter 39, just before the one that starts:

"Introduces Mr Pickwick to a new and not uninteresting Scene in the great Drama of Life."

It will be interesting to see if there's any "feel" for this in the narrative; if the mood is any different.

message 25: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jan 26, 2020 09:34AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments I noticed a definite down-turn after chapter 39 when Mary Hogarth died (the parts in the Fleet.) Much more sombre mood. If you get the chance, do watch the DVDs! I hadn't remembered it had ever been televised, but it really is well done. I was a little disappointed that they hadn't included any of the incidental stories, but can understand that some cuts had to be made! Phil Daniels was really good as Sam Weller.

Dickens was usually in a right old rush! And even more so after a few more chapters as then he had to write the first few chapters of Oliver Twist at the same time!

He was just an extraordinary man, I think. Interesting that it's seamless, though.

I was chuckling my way through the trial chapter earlier today! :D

message 26: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jan 26, 2020 09:35AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments I've been discovering that The Pickwick Papers were published at a very eventful period of Dickens' life.

During the month issue 2 was published, not only did the illustrator Seymour commit suicide but Dickens married Catherine Hogarth. For issue 11, his first son Charley was born, issue 12 came at the same time as the first installment of Oliver Twist (again in serial form). For issue 13 the couple moved house to Doughty Street, and during April when issue 14 was out, Catherine's sister died.

What a whirlwind year!

message 27: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jan 26, 2020 09:36AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments And today I've been reading about Obesity hypoventilation syndrome (also known as Pickwickian syndrome.)

This is a real medical condition! The description of the "fat boy" who was always falling asleep, wasn't just invented by Dickens - this has since been recognised as a true medical complaint. I'm glad they named it after one of his characters though...

message 28: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jan 26, 2020 09:37AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments I feel very ashamed of myself :( I only gave this wonderful book 2 * when I read it before. I must have been young and foolish!! LOL

The star rating was from memory - and I think I must have "rushed at it" to be honest! It is long ... It gets 4* from me now :)

I think you can tell when he was depressed by his sister-in-law's death. Those chapters are funny, but they're also more "biting". He goes on about the debtors' prison for longer than you'd expect, as if memories of his own early life have come back when he's feeling low, to haunt him with a vengeance.

It got so very funny towards the end though - and such a nice warm glow :) Two chapters near the end were so great. I went along with "The Bagman's Ghost Story" all unknowing and then laughed out loud at the last comment!! "Dead Letters"! :D

message 29: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jan 26, 2020 09:37AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments I have a lot of the Heron "Centennial" edition of Dickens - beautiful dark green imitation leather with gold tooling and ribbon bookmark. Original illustrations. I haven't a hope of reading them, but when I tried to get rid of them earlier this year (to clear the space) I found I just couldn't!!

Here's a bit of an anomaly. All my Heron Dickens novels have the original format and illustrations. They were proud of it. EXCEPT, for some reason, for "Great Expectations"! I always wondered why that had illustrations evidently from much later.

Then one day I happened to see another Heron copy of "Great Expectations" which belonged to their "Literary Heritage" collection (one novel per author - dark blue binding) in a charity shop. Bought it. And yes, it has the originals!!

How very odd! Maybe they were only allowed to use them for one version? What sense does that make? So I have a row of green ones - and one blue! I care more about the illustrations than to match them.

I also love my facsimile first edition of "Our Mutual Friend". When I bought that years ago at an antiquarian bookshop called "Boz" in Hay-on-Wye, I had the option of buying either that, or the actual first edition! (I think it was about £50. Not much really I suppose.) I found I really couldn't justify the expense though and was quite happy with the facsimile!

And I like David Perdue's page. He sets it out like a newspaper of the time!

I finished the book this morning. And I finished my review just now too and have posted it.
(24th Jan 2014)

message 30: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 01, 2020 03:33AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments 7th February was Charles Dickens's birthday in 1882. He died at the age of 58 saying that he wanted "no monument, memorial or testimonial".

Possibly because of this, there has not been a fullsize statue of him in Britain - until now. A statue has been unveiled in Portsmouth. Here's a link

Apparently it's now conveniently thought that he meant no memorial in his funeral arrangements! That seems a bit tenuous to me. In time it seems many people's "last wishes" get overturned.

Also now, the film of Claire Tomalin's book The Invisible Woman, about his relationship with Nelly Ternan, has gone on general release in British cinemas :)

message 31: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 01, 2020 03:34AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments From Dickens' will:

"I emphatically direct that I be buried in an inexpensive, unostentatious and strictly private manner....

...that no public announcement be made of the time or place of my burial

...those who attend my funeral wear no scarf, black bow, long hat band or other such revolting absurdity

"I direct that my name be inscribed in plain English letters on my tomb without the addition or Mr or Esq.

"I conjure my friends on no account to make me the subject of any monument, memorial or testimonial whatever.

"I rest my claims to the remembrance of my country upon my published works."

But his descendants feel otherwise. Jane Monk, Dickens's great-great granddaughter, has visited two other statues and says, "Why should Philadelphia and Sydney have statues and not England?"

Ian Dickens, his great-great-grandson says, "I think most people are surprised there isn't a statue of him here. There are monuments, plaques and busts commemorating him all over the place, but no statue."

He might have thought that his work was his testament. I think that's probably what he would have liked us to think.

message 32: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 01, 2020 03:35AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments In this situation people always say that we don't know how the person would now feel, and of course that is true. Did he really expect to remembered 200 years later - and to be so famous?

When I reread what Dickens actually said, it does seem as if it is a reaction to the "pomp and ceremony" of funerals of the time, which he will have thought ridiculous, and mere money-spinners leeching the money from the bereaved.

On the other hand it is very clear when he says "any memorial whatever". I'm just glad I didn't have to make the decision!

Here's another link:
Charles Dickens statue - why was his dying wish ignored?

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message 35: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 01, 2020 03:42AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments Oliver Twist

"Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress" - cover of first edition in serial form entitled entitled "The Adventures of Oliver Twist" January 1846

Illustrator: George Cruikshank

message 36: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 01, 2020 03:42AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments OLIVER TWIST

Here is the original schedule for publication of Oliver Twist in monthly episodes, and how it corresponds to the later editions in book form:

I – February 1837 (chapters 1–2)
II – March 1837 (chapters 3–4)
III – April 1837 (chapters 5–6)
IV – May 1837 (chapters 7–8)
V – July 1837 (chapters 9-11)
VI – August 1837 (chapters 12–13)
VII – September 1837 (chapters 14–15)
VIII – November 1837 (chapters 16–17)
IX – December 1837 (chapters 18–19)
X – January 1838 (chapters 20–22)
XI – February 1838 (chapters 23–25)
XII – March 1838 (chapters 26–27)
XIII – April 1838 (chapters 28–30)
XIV – May 1838 (chapters 31–32)
XV – June 1838 (chapters 33–34)
XVI – July 1838 (chapters 35–37)
XVII – August 1838 (chapters 38-part of 39)
XVIII – October 1838 (conclusion of chapter 39–41)
XIX – November 1838 (chapters 42–43)
XX – December 1838 (chapters 44–46)
XXI – January 1839 (chapters 47–49)
XXII – February 1839 (chapter 50)
XXIII – March 1839 (chapter 51)
XXIV – April 1839 (chapters 52–53)

message 37: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 01, 2020 03:44AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments OLIVER TWIST

March 2014

Starting Oliver Twist today! I love to vary what I read, but must confess it feels as though I am "coming home" to Dickens after my last three reads of Bertrand Russell, Simon Brett and Ray Bradbury.

I'm not planning to break it down or even say what speed I'll go for this one so far. I just want to enjoy it. But I will bear any plot surprises in mind and use spoiler tabs here if it becomes necessary :)

Looking at my current book, I find I read it in May 1992, April 1997, October 2002 and November 2011. Further back would need recourse to my diaries! I'm sure there'll still be a few surprises this time round though. Feeling excited! :)

message 38: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 01, 2020 03:45AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments Oliver Twist is often badly chopped about when it's dramatised. I like the Alan Bleasdale dramatisation from 1999 because he included so much more, and extrapolated the back story from the information in the novel about Oliver's half-brother. Two hours of back story before starting the novel...

Link to wiki here if you've never seen it.

message 39: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 01, 2020 03:55AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments I've been trying to find out if there's any actual workhouse which inspired the one in Oliver Twist, and I found a book by Ruth Richardson, Dickens and the Workhouse: Oliver Twist and the London Poor . She wrote it after discovering that as a boy Dickens had lived within a mile of the "Cleveland Street Workhouse", which was very nearly demolished last year!

Part of the workhouse building continues to be maintained by the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and part of the site is also now occupied by Kier, the construction company responsible for demolishing the adjacent building. Some damage or loss of historical information may already have occurred while this was being sorted out, but it looks as if preservation of the original building is now settled.

Dickens lived in Cleveland Street from when he was nearly 3 to nearly 5 years old. But then Dickens's father was arrested for debt and the family was forced to live inside the Marshalsea Debtors' Prison in Southwark.

The family returned to the same house in Norfolk/Cleveland Street several years later, when Dickens was nearly seventeen, and stayed until he was almost twenty. During that time, he was out at work as a young legal clerk, and training himself to become a shorthand court reporter.

Although it may have provided the idea, the Cleveland Street Workhouse was not the only model for the one in "Oliver Twist" though. Apparently he also based it on the Kettering Workhouse, in Northamptonshire, which he said had been his inspiration. The Kettering Workhouse's bad reputation for ill-treatment was apparently widely known.

Pictures of both the Cleveland Street workhouse, Dickens's childhood home, and some interesting articles (including a feature about a Dickens enthusiast from Toronto stepping in to finance a blue plaque for the house) can be read by clicking on this link

message 40: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 01, 2020 03:49AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments I had forgotten the bitter acrimonious tone of the opening chapters. Oliver Twist was originally published in monthly parts between Feb 1837 - Apr 1839, and this follows hot on the heels of the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. It seemed a good idea to read a bit about this.

Previously it had been the duty of the parishes to care for the poor through alms and taxes. They could either go to the parish workhouse or apply for "outdoor relief", which enabled them to live at home and work at outside jobs. But the new Poor Law of 1834 grouped parishes together into unions. Each union had a workhouse, and the only help available to poor people from then on was to become inmates in the workhouse.

As Dickens tells us with bitter sarcasm in chapter 2, the workhouse was little more than a prison for the poor. Civil liberties were denied, families were separated, and human dignity was destroyed. The inadequate diet instituted in the workhouse prompted his ironic comment that,

"all poor people should have the alternative... of being starved by a gradual process in the house, or by a quick one out of it."

message 41: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 01, 2020 03:59AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments (Note - I think this comment resulted from an objection at me calling Dickens acrimonious and vituperative ...)

(typically of speech or discussion) angry and bitter.
synonyms: bitter, rancorous, caustic, acerbic, scathing, sarcastic, acid, harsh, sharp, razor-edged, cutting, astringent, trenchant, mordant, virulent;

bitter and abusive.
"a vituperative outburst"

So either would be correct, I feel, though I do like "vituperative"!! Possibly that is a better choice, when it is a case of one person spitting venom rather than a discussion with lots of people doing the same.

The point I wanted to record was that I had forgotten this er... bile... and now realise that it was the violent reaction of what would later be termed an "angry young man" against what he saw as the inhuman tightening of the "Poor Laws" only 3 years earlier.

It must all have seemed very close to home, for him, and I have no doubt that he lived in fear of seeing his own family split up and degraded in this way. So poignant, yet he managed to express all this is the guise of "entertainment for the masses" - and inject some humour too! What a man! :)

message 42: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 01, 2020 03:59AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments It seems merely nuance, doesn't it, although "vituperative" seems perfect - it's a more personal outburst from an individual. After all, you can have an "acrimonious" discussion, but to be "vituperative, you are on your own!

I had forgotten the sheer passion in this book.

message 43: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 01, 2020 04:00AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments I've been delving into the differences between the publications. When reading The Pickwick Papers I mentioned that Oliver Twist had already started to be serialised way before Pickwick finished.

It was called "Oliver Twist; or, the Parish Boy's Progress", and was first published serially in the weekly periodical "Bentley's Miscellany" (where Dickens was editor at the time) from February 1837 to April 1839.

Interestingly though, it was not originally intended as a full fledged serialised novel but as part of something called Dickens's "Mudfog Papers". These were a series of sketches (like "Pickwick") based on a fictional town called "Mudfog" and the learned society satirically called "The Mudfog Society for the Advancement of Everything." We now know that "Mudfog" was heavily based on Chatham, in Kent.

In the first installment of Oliver Twist in Bentley's, Dickens specifically sets the action in Mudfog, starting the story with these words,

"Among other public buildings in the town of Mudfog..."

After serialisation though, the 3-volume book form of Oliver Twist was published in early 1839, and in 1846, Dickens issued a substantially revised version first as ten monthly parts and then as a single volume.

These later editions say,

"Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse;"

I must admit I quite like the idea of "Mudfog", but I expect Dickens removed the specific name, to help his case. He wanted to heighten his damning depictions of workhouses in general, not just in one location.

message 44: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 01, 2020 04:01AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments References to "The Jew" ...

I think one of the main criticisms of Oliver Twist is the antisemitism shown in the author's portrayal of Fagin as a "dirty Jew". Sadly, it is in keeping with the time. Shakespeare had famously done this much earlier with Shylock in The Merchant of Venice in 1596, setting the play in 16th Century Venice, and it's disheartening to realise that even over 200 years later, that particular prejudice was still rife and actually ingrained into English society. With all great authors we hope that they will somehow manage to step outside the mores of their time, but maybe we expect too much.

Up to a point, Dickens did manage to do that - but only later. Apparently he expressed surprise, when the Jewish community complained about the stereotypical depiction of Fagin at the time Oliver Twist was written (1837). Dickens had befriended James Davis, a Jewish man, and when he eventually came to sell his London residence, he sold the lease of Tavistock House to the Davis family, as an attempt to make restitution. "Letters of Charles Dickens 1833-1870" include this sentence in the narrative to 1860. "This winter was the last spent at Tavistock House...He made arrangements for the sale of Tavistock House to Mr Davis, a Jewish gentleman, and he gave up possession of it in September."

There is other additional evidence of a rethink, and we have to remember that Dickens was a very young man - still only 25 - when he wrote "Oliver Twist". When editing Oliver Twist for the "Charles Dickens edition" of his works, he eliminated most references to Fagin as "the Jew."

And in his last completed novel, Our Mutual Friend , (1864) Dickens created Riah, a positive Jewish character.

message 45: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 01, 2020 04:02AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments He's also referred to quite frequently from Oliver's point of view as "the merry old gentleman" (and "the pleasant old gentleman" - although that may arguably be ironic) and I always feel that he is actually very kind to the destitute boys, when few others would be.

In fact I suppose the whole character of Fagin is ironic in a way. Victorian society placed so much value and emphasis on industry, capitalism and individualism. And who embodies this most successfully? Fagin - who operates in the illicit businesses of theft and prostitution! His "philosphy" is that the group’s interests are best maintained if every individual looks out for himself, saying,
"a regard for number one holds us all together, and must do so, unless we would all go to pieces in company."

message 46: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 01, 2020 04:03AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments More thoughts about Fagin now. He could be viewed as a sort of bogeyman, as he (view spoiler). Dickens also invests Fagin with symbols that are normally reserved for the Devil.

When we first meet Fagin, he is roasting some sausages on an open fire, "with a toasting fork in his hand" . This must be important to Dickens as it is mentioned two more times! Then in the next chapter we find Fagin equipped with a fire-shovel. Also the term the merry old gentleman could be a euphemistic term for the Devil.

"Don't you know the devil when he's got a great-coat on?"

Fagin is certainly a complicated character who can be viewed on many levels.

message 47: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 01, 2020 04:04AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments This novel is full of melodrama. Very much Dickens learning his craft.

A favourite dramatisation of mine is the 1948 film directed by David Lean. It has an amazing cast:

Alec Guinness as Fagin
Robert Newton as Bill Sikes
Kay Walsh as Nancy
John Howard Davies as Oliver Twist
Henry Stephenson as Mr. Brownlow
Francis L. Sullivan as Mr. Bumble
Anthony Newley as the Artful Dodger
Ralph Truman as Monks
Michael Dear as Noah Claypole, an undertaker's boy who angers Oliver
Diana Dors as Charlotte
Frederick Lloyd as Mr. Grimwig
Mary Clare as Mrs. Corney
Hattie Jacques as a pub singer

John Howard Davies, the scrap of a boy who played Oliver, worked for the BBC as a producer all his life; he often comes up in the credits at the end of a programme! He's unrecognisable as an adult though.

Arnold Bax wrote the music!

And reading the book I'm pleased at how much of the dialogue they preserved.

The other dramatisation I really like is a completely different kettle of fish. It's a TV adaptation from 1999, adapted by Alan Bleasdale who wrote quite a lot of extra material which he developed from hints in the book. Here's the cast:

Annette Crosbie as Mrs Bedwin
Marc Warren as Monks (a much expanded part)
Michael Kitchen as Mr Brownlow
Lindsay Duncan as Elizabeth Leeford (ditto)
Julie Walters as Mrs. Mann
David Ross as Mr Bumble
Sam Smith as Oliver Twist
Emily Woof as Nancy
Robert Lindsay as Fagin
Andy Serkis as Bill Sikes
Alex Crowley as the Artful Dodger
Keira Knightley as Rose Fleming
Isla Fisher as Bet
Liz Smith as Sally
Alun Armstrong as Mr Fleming
Tim Dutton as Edwin Leeford
Rosalind March as Mrs Corney
Iain Robertson as Woodcroft
Roger Lloyd Pack as Mr Sowerberry

There's a lot of back story in it before Dickens's action starts, and it runs at over 6 hours.

message 48: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 01, 2020 04:04AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments Fagin is multilayered. A capitalist extolling the work ethic? A devil? A benefactor? (bit of a long shot that one - but what would have happened to those boys had he not taken them in?) Thief, swindler and fence? And of course there is more to come :)

As I remember, there are clues in the novel that he has his origins in circus folk from Eastern Europe. Apart from the long cloak and flamboyant charades though, I haven't picked up any info as to that yet.

One great minor character is Mr. Brownlow's friend Mr. Grimwig, who likes to say he will eat his head. Mr Grimwig is delightfully curmudgeonly - but with a soft heart :) I always remember him saying he will eat his hat, and then am surprised that it is "eat my head"! He's perhaps an early incarnation of Mr. Dick, from David Copperfield. The repeated use of his phrase "I will eat my head" is reminiscent of Mr. Dick's problem with King Charles the First's head!

I think I liked him partly because of the point at which he's introduced in the story. This novel is so very bitter and condemnatory and much of the humour is from sarcasm and irony isn't it? So when we get a character like Grimwig it provides welcome light relief - it really is like a breath of fresh air.

Another one who fulfils that for me is Mr Bumble. Yes, he's a Bad Lot, deceitful, avaricious, duplicitous and more. But the part where he (view spoiler) Pure farce!

Dickens's cameos are superb. Even with minor characters we always get a full description of what they look like and how they behave, yet they are in the novel for less than a page sometimes!

message 49: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 01, 2020 04:05AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments Half way through - he is one for tugging at the heart-strings. It can be very moving. I think Anthony Trollope scathingly called him "Mr Popular Sentiment" which I think is most unkind (though admittedly rather droll!)

Sometimes when his descriptions are particularly cloying I do wince a bit, but remember that they would have appealed to the audiences of the time when he did his wonderfully dramatic public readings. It's one from near the end of this book (don't unhide this if you don't know the story!!) (view spoiler) which is thought to have killed him in the end, as the public just couldn't get enough of it.

Oh, to have been there for one of his performances though :)

I think there are signs of Dickens's immaturity - it's passionate and very highly-coloured - but those characters are built to last :) I love it!

message 50: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 01, 2020 04:05AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 600 comments I had a sudden thought. There's a card game called "pontoon" or "blackjack"? Or "vingt-et-un" (twenty-one) as it was originally known. If you ask the dealer for a card, what do you say? Yes, "Twist!" You ask for more by saying "twist"!

So I wondered which came first, the card game or the novel. It turns out that it's the game! It was a French gambling game popular at the court of Louis XV, and later favoured by Napoleon.

There's Dickens having a little joke with us then!! :D

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