Dickensians! discussion

Extras > My Essential Classics

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message 1: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited Jul 30, 2020 03:03PM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5454 comments Mod
Did you read the works of Charles Dickens at school? Which other Victorian authors did you read? Which country do you live in? Did you read them in English, or in translation?

Do you find that you read different classic authors from those your children are - or were - required to read at school?

If you could choose the books you think are essential classics everyone should read, what would be on your list?

This is a thread where we can discuss classic authors - especially Charles Dickens - in the school curriculum. Please feel free to discuss any or all of these ideas, and ask any other related questions, too.

Thanks to Ashley for the idea for this thread :)

message 2: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 251 comments We read one Charles Dickens novel in high school-A Tale of Two Cities. This was in Ontario in the 1960's.

message 3: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited Aug 18, 2020 03:27AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5454 comments Mod
I was at school in Yorkshire, England, through the 60s and on a bit.

At school, we tended to study our regional writers, primarily, and had different Examination Boards to reflect this. So as a Northern lass it was the Brontes: mostly Charlotte Brontë and Emily Brontë - and Elizabeth Gaskell, the Lakeland poets and so on. Plus a play by William Shakespeare each year - he must have been the exception. We read two or three each of novels by Thomas Hardy, H.G. Wells and Jane Austen

It was a Grammar school, and Eng Lit was one of my choices until the end of school (and it was Eng Lit - no other countries). To be accurate, I read one novel by Charles Dickens novel at school, (the shortest, so you know which that is!) and it was called a "home reader" ie., we were not examined on these novels. Charles Dickens was not thought to be in the cream of literary writers at that time.

I do sometimes wonder if I love him even more, because I found him all on my own!

message 4: by Debra Diggs (new)

Debra Diggs We did not read any Charles Dickens in school. This was the United States in the 1970s.

I remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

I am curious what children read in school now.

message 5: by Debra Diggs (new)

Debra Diggs Oh, now that Jean mentioned Shakespeare, I remember reading Romeo and Juliet. Then we had had a school outing and saw the movie.

message 6: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 251 comments In Ontario we also read one Shakespeare play a year in Grades 9 to 12. We also read The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne and The Crucible by Arthur Miller. We also read The Pied Piper by Nevil Shute and The Lord of the Flies. Also The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham. (Over the course of 4 years)

message 7: by Debra Diggs (new)

Debra Diggs We read The Scarlett Letter too. I forgot about that.

message 8: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 251 comments Debra, we read Romeo and Juliet as well and had two school trips. One to see the play in Stratford, Ontario and the other to see the 60s movie.

message 9: by Ashley (new)

Ashley  Jacobson | 95 comments The is Jean! I’m very curious what books are popular in different parts of the world. What was required reading and what is popular.

I’m shocked that some didn’t have to read Dickens. I suppose we only read one- Tale of Two Cities in 10th grade.

message 10: by Ashley (new)

Ashley  Jacobson | 95 comments I graduated high school in 2004. I was in “honors” and Advanced Placement classes, so we read a lot. My sibling were in “normal” classes and tended to read 2 books a year- one each semester. I think that is sad!

I remember reading- Romeo & Juliet, Julius Caesar, Othello, and I think one other Shakespeare, Tale of Two Cities, Scarlet Letter, The Crucible, A Farewell to Arms, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Things They Carried, Wuthering Heights, Brave New World, 1984, Catcher in the Rye, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Old Man and the Sea, The Great Gatsby, Huck Finn, and more I can’t remember. For some reason I only remember 2 books each from my first 2 years. The rest are from the last 2 years. We also did short stories like The Lottery and Yellow Wall Paper. Oh and maybe Ibsen’s Doll House.

message 11: by Nidhi (new)

Nidhi Kumari | 23 comments In school around 6 grade we read A Christmas Carol and a little part of Great Expectations where Pip meets the convict. I liked both at that time also and wanted to read more.

message 12: by Rosemarie (last edited Jul 30, 2020 08:30PM) (new)

Rosemarie | 251 comments We also read Wuthering Heights in Grade 12 and Animal Farm in a lower grade.

message 13: by Pamela (last edited Jul 31, 2020 12:14AM) (new)

Pamela (bibliohound) My English teacher was a huge fan of the Victorians (he even had the facial hair that made him look like a Victorians gent!)

We read Wuthering Heights, Oliver Twist, Kim, The Eustace Diamonds and my most disliked book ever Tess of the D'Urbervilles (I disliked it so much I read no more Hardy after school for 35 years).

We also read the poetry of Matthew Arnold, Robert Browning and Gerard Manley Hopkins.

message 14: by Robin P (new)

Robin P | 331 comments I went to a college prep high school with AP English, the same thing Ashley refers to above. It's a 2-year course and at the end you take an exam and if you do well, you get college/university credit. So we read a lot of classics:

Great Expectations, David Copperfield, Tale of Two Cities, Pride and Prejudice, Crime and Punishment, Jane Eyre, Silas Marner, Return of the Native, The Scarlet Letter. Everyone read Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet and the AP class also read Merchant of Venice, Macbeth, Hamlet, Twelfth Night. Every year we took a bus trip from Philadelphia to Stratford, Connecticut (at least 3 hours away) to see a Shakespeare play. We also read Greek tragedy and comedy and some English and American poets.

message 15: by Piyangie (new)

Piyangie | 64 comments In junior high, we did one classic a semester for English lit. Of Charles Dickens, we did Oliver Twist and Great Expectations. Some others I remember are Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, and Little Women. I think we also did some poetry of Robert Frost and Rudyard Kipling.

message 16: by Jenny (new)

Jenny Clark | 338 comments Wow, I had to read such different books. In 8th grade, we read Midsummer's night dream, that was my only assigned Shakespeare, then we read Night, A Separate Peace, Flowers For Algernon in 9th, I don't remember any from 10th and 11th and 12th blur together as I had the same teacher, but we read A Dolls House, Candide, Silias Marner, Ethan Frome (hated it) Anna Karenina and The Hunch Back of Notre Dame, as well as Beowulf. I read A Brave New World and Jane Eyre on my own somewhere in there as well.
As Robin did, I took AP Lit in my last year, and all the other were Honors classes. This was all in the early 2000's. My dad had to read Treasure Island and Catcher In The Rye, both of which I also picked up

message 17: by Ashley (new)

Ashley  Jacobson | 95 comments That’s it Robin! I read Hamlet and Macbeth! I knew there was more Shakespeare!

message 18: by Robin P (last edited Jul 31, 2020 07:42PM) (new)

Robin P | 331 comments Mine was the 1960’s and we read nothing modern, not even Catcher in the Rye. I didn’t mind and I still like 19th century fiction.

message 19: by John (last edited Aug 01, 2020 06:13AM) (new)

John (jdourg) | 35 comments In my senior year in high school, I was finally promoted to Honors English. In looking back, this class was a godsend for me. We read widely and deeply and drew the marrow from what I felt to be some great selections by our wonderful teacher.

Great Expectations
Candide by Voltaire
The Prince by Machiavelli
Animal Farm by Orwell
The Catcher in the Rye by Salinger
The Inferno by Dante

These are the works I remember. There may have been others, as this was 40 years ago.

message 20: by Jantine (new)

Jantine (eccentriclady) I didn't. We only had to read, on top of my head, one English classic at secondary school. For me it was Jane Eyre. Others might have read Dickens though.

I did have to read a couple of Dutch Lit books. Can't really recommend though.

message 21: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) | 1100 comments I find all of this so interesting. I read a Dickens every year in high school in class. I read several on my own, probably over the summer vacations.

Sophomore: A Tale of Two Cities
Junior: Great Expectations
Senior: David Copperfield

We also read Jane Eyre, Jude the Obscure, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Mill on the Floss, Pere Goriot, Ethan Frome, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, part of The Canterbury Tales, and numerous others I cannot recall just off the top of my head. I felt I got an excellent literary education. Had superb teachers and was encouraged to read a lot of classic literature on my own.

message 22: by Anne (On semi-hiatus) (last edited Oct 08, 2020 08:27AM) (new)

Anne (On semi-hiatus) (reachannereach) | 649 comments Lucky you, Sara. I went to a lousy HS. I made up for it a bit in college as a Lit major.

It's amazing that you recall all the books you read and when you read them.

message 23: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) | 1100 comments I had amazing teachers. I can tell you most of the books I read and what teacher I had at the time...so the teachers help me pinpoint the year. I can't do that with college. I can generally say that I read something in college, but can't really say what year it was. I'm shocked at how few books are taught in school these days, and even more shocked that most of the classics are passed over. I know my granddaughter read Jane Eyre, but I do not think they read any Dickens.

Anne (On semi-hiatus) (reachannereach) | 649 comments I read much more literature in college as a Lit Major. A lot of Victorian novels, (I recall a lot of Conrad plus only one Dickens that I recall, Great Expectations) excerpts from an anthology that included everything Beowulf through the Canterbury Tales and Shakespeare, etc...

message 25: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited Oct 08, 2020 03:39PM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5454 comments Mod
This is really interesting! I still haven't read 2 or 3 of yours, John.

And what is "sophomore" please, Sara?

message 26: by Terris (new)

Terris Pamela wrote: "My English teacher was a huge fan of the Victorians (he even had the facial hair that made him look like a Victorians gent!)

We read Wuthering Heights, Oliver Twist, [bo..."

That's so funny that you say that about "Tess," Pamela. I felt the very same way! I thought I didn't like Hardy until I started to read some of the others (5 so far) and I loved them!! And I'll read more whenever I can :)

message 27: by Emily (new)

Emily I am amazed reading all of your comments about classics you guys read in school. It makes my education seem like it was lacking in that department, and I was even in honors English! My teacher had us read Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption, which is an amazing read, but few classics. We read Fahrenheit 451, Catcher in the Rye, and of course, Romeo and Juliet. Unfortunately Charles Dickens did not make the cut. I am making up for my lack of classic reads in school by reading them on my own!

message 28: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) | 1100 comments Bionic Jean wrote: "This is really interesting! I still haven't read 2 or 3 of yours, John.

And what is "sophomore" please, Sara?"

Sophomore is second year of high school here, Jean. Freshman is 9th grade, Sophomore 10th, Junior 11th, and and Senior 12th.

message 29: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5454 comments Mod
So 12-13 years, if your High School starts at 11 years old, like English schools?

Weird that Junior is so old ... here it's kids of 7-11 years! Don't worry about explaining though, as I'm unlikely to remember it :(

message 30: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 35 comments I think any of Thomas Hardy's books of poetry are essential to read, in my opinion. He is well known for his novels, but I think the poetry is even greater. He was a bridge from the Victorian era to the Modern era. He has the necessary irony to observe and frame the eras.

message 31: by Jenny (new)

Jenny Clark | 338 comments Jean, for us we start high school at 14. Kindergarten to 5th grade (5/6-11/12) is elementary then grade 6-8 (12/13-14) is middle school and grade 9-12 is high school, from 14/15 to 17/18. High school and college use freshman sophmore junior and senior, elementary and middle are just grade numbers

message 32: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5454 comments Mod
Oh dear - it's complicated :( I'll never remember this ... I'd better bookmark it! Thanks Jenny :)

John - Thomas Hardy would be so pleased wouldn't he? He always considered himself first and foremost a poet - yet it's his novels which most people prefer, even now.

message 33: by Jenny (new)

Jenny Clark | 338 comments Your welcome Jean :)
I cant say I ever read any Thomas Hardy... Perhaps I'll have to look some up!

message 34: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) | 1100 comments Jenny has it right, although it was a little different than that back in the old days, when I attended school. High school then was the same, though, grades 9-12 (ages 15-18).

message 35: by Mark (new)

Mark | 73 comments Hardy and Dickens are both buried in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. ...Well, Hardy is mostly buried there. His heart is buried in Dorset. Literally.

message 36: by Mark (new)

Mark | 73 comments Hardy is an amazing novelist. Have not read his poetry.

BTW, if you like audiobooks, Audible has a reading unabridged of Return of the Native. Read by Alan Rickman! Rickman must love it because he does it 200%. Really, really good. Listen to a sample of it on the Audible site. ;)

message 37: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 35 comments Jean, I remember the literary critic Harold Bloom stating that Hardy's last volume of poetry, Winter Words, which was published in 1928, was probably the single greatest work of poetry published in the 20th century.

With the possible exception of Ted Hughes' Crow, I agree with that statement.

message 38: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) | 1100 comments I love Hardy's poetry. I think The Man He Killed one of the most scathing indictments of war ever published.

message 39: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 35 comments Sara wrote: "I love Hardy's poetry. I think The Man He Killed one of the most scathing indictments of war ever published."

Sara, I feel the same way about his poetry. My favorite poem about the Great War is Channel Firing.

Another great poem that captured both the inanity and insanity of war.

message 40: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited Oct 10, 2020 12:17PM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5454 comments Mod
I do have a few books of Thomas Hardy's poetry, but think I've only reviewed one so far. My favourite of his novels, funnily enough, is ... Tess of the D'Urbervilles (closely followed by the equally devastating Jude the Obscure).

I'm in Dorset right now; I spend a lot of my time here, and everyone is very proud of him :) He loved Dorset so much that he wanted to be buried here, and not in Poet's Corner at Westminster Abbey. He said his heart would always be in Dorset ...

But perhaps I won't tell you the story about when Thomas Hardy's heart was surgically removed and placed in a dish by the doctor, and the cat who was in the kitchen ... it could just be apocryphal after all! :D

We've often visited Thomas Hardy's childhood cottage here, which is on two floors but has no stairs. You have have to climb a ladder at the end to get to a bedroom, which Hardy insisted his grandmother do! Another favourite is "Max Gate", his home when older and wealthier, and "Athelhampton House", which his father (who was a stonemason) worked on.

And we've seen his grave at Stinsford church, although it's doubtful that it is actually his heart buried there after all. Sorry Mark!

message 41: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 251 comments John, that is a favourite poem of mine as well.

message 42: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) | 1100 comments Jean, I believe the heart was only nibbled on and the remainder was indeed buried at Stinsford Church. The other part of the "tale" is that the cat was killed and buried there as well. I should like to hope that truly is a fiction. I am going with the compromise position that at least half of Hardy's heart is buried at Stinsford Church.

message 43: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5454 comments Mod
The whole thing just seems a bit gruesome to me! And not at all what Thomas Hardy wanted, I wouldn't think.

His grave is certainly there though, so it must contain something. But I prefer to look at the statue of him in Dorchester :)

message 44: by Sue (new)

Sue | 790 comments I would love to be able to go there someday to see either. I still remember The Poets’ Corner from my visit to Westminster in 1972. How can it have been almost 50 years ago! That was my first time in London.

message 45: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited Feb 07, 2021 10:23AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5454 comments Mod
LOL! I know how you feel, Sue!

message 46: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (last edited Feb 07, 2021 01:06PM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5454 comments Mod
Did you know that Charles Dickens did not want to be buried in Poets' Corner at all? He wanted to be buried in Rochester: in the Lady Chapel of Rochester Cathedral, after a simple funeral.

Rochester Cathedral, Kent

However, the cemetery was full and so the Dean and Chapter had a vault dug inside the building. At the same time, the then Dean of Westminster, Arthur Stanley, was searching for a famous writer to boost the standing of Westminster Abbey in British life, and Charles Dickens was seen as the ideal candidate to be laid to rest in Poets' Corner.

There hadn't been a literary celebrity buried in Westminster Abbey since Dr. Samuel Johnson, at the end of the 18th Century. The Romantic poets had either been too louche, like Lord Byron, or deemed too provincial, like William Wordsworth, and all the Brontë sisters (Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë and Anne Brontë) were not seen as eminent enough! William Makepeace Thackeray was already buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, and the ambitious Dean Stanley had wanted a big name. Charles Dickens was simply the most famous man of his time.

So by the time the grave in Rochester was ready to receive his body, Charles Dickens's remains had been "whisked away", (according to the acting Dean of Rochester, Philip Hesketh).

In a strange way, this can be seen as life mirroring Charles Dickens's final thoughts. His last, unfinished work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, is a suspense story, with the possibility of a (view spoiler) at its heart.

Charles Dickens knew and loved Rochester Cathedral, and these events just after his death were recorded in the minutes of the Cathedral for 1870. One question was who was going to pay for having the vault dug! The Chapter felt that that the expense should be theirs, because of the high esteem that Charles Dickens was held in. The local feeling at the time was that the writer should have remained in Kent, the county of his birth, and one he loved.

Questions still remained over the empty grave after Charles Dickens's body was taken to London.

message 47: by Jenny (new)

Jenny Clark | 338 comments Thats fascinating Jean, and a rather spooky tie in to Edwin Drood!

message 48: by Bionic Jean, "Dickens Duchess" (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 5454 comments Mod

message 49: by Chris (new)

Chris | 71 comments Thanks so much for this look into the life ( or afterlife) of Dickens!

message 50: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) | 1100 comments What a fascinating story, Jean. Even after his death, he was being fought over. Seems none of his wishes was honored though, which is kind of sad.

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