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Sketches by Boz
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Sketches by Boz > Scenes, 06: Meditations in Monmouth-street

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Tristram Shandy Dear Fellow Pickwickians,

as we are dealing with Sketches here, there is really not too great a need for a summary, and so I will probably be more subjective in my introductory remarks than usual.

This sketch, which was first published in September 1836 in the Morning Chronicle sees the narrator in Monmouth Street, which, in Dickens's time, was known for its second hand clothes shops. Inspired by some sets of clothes in a shop window, the narrator conjures up the biography of a man, from the earlies years of boyhood (with an indulgent and loving mother) via years of idleness and drink towards an ignoble end in a prison colony. The narrator also looks at shoes and imagines the right wearers for them.

The first part of the sketch starts amusingly (and I felt reminded of Holmes's gift of observation), but to my taste there was too much melodrama and stock pathos in the development, what with the grieving mother, the beaten wife and children yada yada yada. Maybe Dickens was pandering to the contemporary taste of sentiment here.

The second bit of the sketch was funnier, seeing how all those shoes suddenly started coming to life and pursuing a sort of dance. The punch line was especially good: The narrator noticed that he must have been staring at the shopkeeper for about half-an-hour, and takes flight, embarrassed.


message 2: by Hilary (new) - added it

Hilary (agapoyesoun) Great summary, Tristram. I had read this a few weeks back and not a word had stuck in my head. I've just read it again and now I know why, though you have managed to make it more interesting than it actually is! :-)


Tristram Shandy Thanks for your encouragement, Hilary. I don't know about my summary being more interesting than the Sketch itself, but I think that of this week's five Sketches no 6 was the least original one ... in my opinion.


message 4: by Hilary (new) - added it

Hilary (agapoyesoun) I would definitely agree.


message 5: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim

Monmouth Street

Scenes, 6

illustrations by George Cruikshank


message 6: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim I thought it was sad that the story Dickens came up with for the clothing was such a dark, dismal story. Why couldn't the son have grown up to take care of his mother, love his wife and be a good father? I also thought about how many second hand clothing stores I've spent time browsing through and never had a single thought about where it all came from. I guess I don't have Dickens imagination. Oh, I like the illustration.


message 7: by Hilary (new) - added it

Hilary (agapoyesoun) I have to struggle with second-hand clothing stores simply because I envisage the clothes having been taken off someone dead. I did buy a few lovely designer things for the kids when they were little at fabulous prices. This is not to say that I won't buy from them again.


Mary Ellen (raven51) I also found the story of the clothing a bit depressing, although maybe Dickens felt that the sad story was way too common for the day, and was all too often the history of young men of that segment of the population.
I loved the stories about the shoes. For some reason it brought the picture of the Sorcerer's Apprentice and all those dancing mops to mind.
Thoughts of previous owners come to mind in second-hand shops, but I especially have thoughts like that about places I've lived. "If the walls could talk" sort of thing. I'm not sure if it's my overactive imagination or if I'm simply nosy! lol


message 9: by Hilary (new) - added it

Hilary (agapoyesoun) Absolutely spot-on with the Sorcerer's Apprentice illustration, Mary Ellen! I can also very much identify with your feeling about houses that I've lived or stayed in. Perhaps I'm a little too sensitive to atmospheres for my own good!


Tristram Shandy Hilary wrote: "I would definitely agree."

Stop flattering, Hilary, because if my head gets too big, how shall I be able to leave my room and go to bed tonight?


Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: " I also thought about how many second hand clothing stores I've spent time browsing through and never had a single thought about where it all came from."

I'm unlike you then, Kim. Whenever I hold a second-hand book in my hand, I cannot think of anything else but where this book might have been before it came into my possession. There are people who read books when they are using the privy ... and that makes me go uurrrgh.


Tristram Shandy Wow, you think of Goethe and the Sorcerer's Apprentice, while I was actually reminded of a Disney movie ;-)

I think Dickens came up with such a sad - and melodramatic - story for the sake of social criticism.


message 13: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Tristram wrote: "There are people who read books when they are using the privy ... and that makes me go uurrrgh. "

Oh! I never even thought of that! I may never be the same again. :-}


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