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Archived Group Reads 2011 > Our Mutual Friend General Information

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Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) For information about Our Mutual Friend

message 2: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Nov 12, 2011 09:30AM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Dickens' fourteenth novel was his last completed work. Having ended his long association with Hablot Browne, Our Mutual Friend was illustrated by Marcus Stone and was the first monthly serialized Dickens novel to use woodcuts instead of steel plates for the illustrations. The story centers on the effects of greed and the corruption that money brings. The writing was slow and the monthly installments were not selling well.

Dickens was beginning to feel the effects of illness that would plague him the rest of his life.

Contemporary reviews of the novel were generally negative but modern critics have been
much more positive, considering it one of the great social novels of Dickens' later period. (from David Perdue)

BE CAREFUL OF THIS SITE AS IT MIGHT CONTAIN SPOILERS ABOUT THE CHARACTERS Click on a character's name and you can see the illustration from the alphabetical listing. (note all Dickens' characters from all his novels are presented here)

message 3: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments That's a great link Marialyce. I think we should warn readers that linking to a character could well reveal significant spoilers. I tried only one - "Mr. Venus" - and got info it would have taken several hundred pages of reading to learn.

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Thanks, Bea, I forgot to do that! I am so glad you reminded me....thank you...

It is a good site though, but does have lots of info that certainly might spoil the story for some. So "enter at your own risk".

message 5: by Bernadette (new)

Bernadette (bern51) Marialyce, that is a great link, I love it...I also checked out Mr. Venus, he's a taxidermist and "human bone articulator" if anyone is wondering early in Ch. 7. I already love this book, thanks for choosing it Marialyce! I am becoming a real lover of Dickens, saw some really old Dickens books on sale and almost bought one! Maybe a Christmas present to myself :)

message 6: by Bernadette (new)

Bernadette (bern51) I found another website called The Victorian Web that has some interesting information about Dickens and all authors Victorian

message 7: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Nov 13, 2011 03:08AM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I was confused by the concept of dust....but again David Perdue in the following cleared up my confusion. I would imagine there was a huge amount of lung disease among the workers...

Victorian London ran on coal. The new factories springing up as part of the Industrial Revolution required coal to make the steam that powered machinery. It was also estimated that the average household in London burned 11 tons of coal annually. The resulting ashes and trash residue were collected in dustbins.

The dustbins were emptied by dustmen driving wagons through the streets ringing a bell alerting housekeepers to bring out their dustbins. The dust was then taken to dust yards situated on the outskirts of the city and owned by generally wealthy dust contractors. The resulting mountains of dust were very valuable.

At the dust yards workers, known as sifters and working in dust to their waists, separated the fine dust which, mixed with street-sweepings, was sold as fertilizer. The coarser dust, mixed with clay, was sold to make bricks. Rags, bones, and pieces of metal found in the dust were also sold at handsome profits.

The dust business is central to the plot of Dickens' novel Our Mutual Friend where John Harmon's father was a wealthy dust contractor.

message 8: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments I think OMF makes great use of the contrast between the conspicuous overconsumption indulged in by the Veneerings and Podsnaps of the world and the dust and ashes all material things end in.

message 9: by Laura (new)

Laura (apenandzen) | 30 comments Hi, sorry if this has been stated somewhere else, but I couldn't find it.

Are we reading this book on a schedule, and if so, for how long?


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Laura, there is not any per se schedule. It is just sort of read and discuss as you can.

Overall, we thought the book(s) discussion could last maybe up to two months.(maybe longer) There is no rush.

message 11: by Christyb (new)

Christyb | 44 comments Thank you Marialyce. I did not know about the dust industry, and you have clarified it for me.

message 12: by Laura (new)

Laura (apenandzen) | 30 comments Thanks Marialyce!

message 13: by Janice (new)

Janice Stein Thanks for the imformation. I am reading David Copperfield at this moment and am loving it. There is a couple of pages where I got bogged down when they discussed all the different Courts--Is there further reading I can do to understand what he was talking about?

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Janice, I do not know of any books that are about the Victorian court system. However, we have so many well read people at this site, that I am sure they will be able to make suggestions.

I did find this article so perhaps it might help a bit.

I am glad you are enjoying David Copperfield.

message 15: by SarahC (last edited Nov 15, 2011 01:25PM) (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Marialyce,

I am only concentrating on Our Mutual Friend right now, but for some reason only just now realized that my chapters do not match up with the divisions here in our threads. My copy is broken into "books" with very small chapters within. What edition are you using? I could try to find it so I could match it up to mine.

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Sarah, I have the Penguin edition. I am reading it on my Kindle (bigger print), but my hard copy book has chapters. Each chapter has a name. Will it help if I put the chapter names on the thread heading?

message 17: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Yes maybe so, Marialyce. I am guessing the chap. headings will somehow correlate with mine, or I should be able to translate them to where I am in the reading. At least that should keep us from having to do too much work to match up with everyone :) Thanks much dear friend.

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Welcome Jenna!

message 19: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Christyb wrote: "Thank you Marialyce. I did not know about the dust industry, and you have clarified it for me."

We could take lessons from the Victorians on the value of recycling and not just throwing things away!

message 20: by Bernadette (last edited Nov 18, 2011 05:45PM) (new)

Bernadette (bern51) You are so right Everyman... My dad used to reuse EVERYTHING and people made fun of him, but that was back in the 60s, and on. Today, he'd probably get his own Green TV show

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) ......and before the age of plastic...

I also agree that we could learn a lot from the frugal Victorians. I am often amazed on how little they lived on.

message 22: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Thanks for the chapter names, Marialyce. They help perfectly, and it seems I had confused myself a little bit on my own by misinterpreting the numbers in my own book -- sorry -- I have been so distracted lately!

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) SarahC wrote: "Thanks for the chapter names, Marialyce. They help perfectly, and it seems I had confused myself a little bit on my own by misinterpreting the numbers in my own book -- sorry -- I have been so dis..."

Not a problem at all, Sarah! :)

message 24: by Bernadette (last edited Nov 19, 2011 11:45AM) (new)

Bernadette (bern51) I was browsing in the library today and found a great book that some of you may want to check out:

The Friendly Dickens by Norrie Epstein. There are chapters on all things Dickens including a chapter on Our Mutual Friend and Bleak House. If no one minds, I'll put a few tidbits from the book on here later...

message 25: by Janice (new)

Janice Stein Does the book explain the legal system to help understand what he was writing about?

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Sounds perfect, Bernadette.

message 27: by Bernadette (new)

Bernadette (bern51) The author addresses the subject of Law in several places, one of the references in the index is Law, in Bleak House. This book has everything, just ordered a used copy from Betterworldbooks because it's a great reference books. Also great illustrations.

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Sounds like one I will have to get too!

message 29: by Bernadette (new)

Bernadette (bern51) I think you'll like it Marialyce! There are chapters titled "How to Read Dicken," "The Dickensian Freak Show," Dicken's Women," and on and on...would be great for you to have as you're reading two Dickens at once!

message 30: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Nov 19, 2011 01:26PM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I am on it, Bernadette! Love better world books too! Thanks! ....and only 3.98 too!

message 31: by Janice (new)

Janice Stein Hi

I just bought myself a copy on ebay for $6.99--Thanks so much for bringing the book to our attention.

message 32: by Bernadette (last edited Nov 19, 2011 01:56PM) (new)

Bernadette (bern51) When I was at the used bookstore this morning, I picked up a really nice copy of A Tale of Two Cities which I read in high school but have no memory of...Epstein writes in The Friendly Dickens that Tale/2 cities is the most un-Dickensian book that he wrote, in terms of characterizations and quirkiness. I think I may try to read that while we're reading OMF...Marialyce inspired me as she is reading BH and OMF! It doesn't hurt that it's one of his shortest books either, don't think I could do two chunky books at the same time.

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I think you got the last copy at Better World, Bernadette.

I will try barnes and Noble or Amazon.

message 34: by Bernadette (new)

Bernadette (bern51) Amazon has it

message 35: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Nov 19, 2011 03:24PM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Bernadette wrote: "Amazon has it"

Got it! Thanks again, Bernadette!

message 36: by Bernadette (new)

Bernadette (bern51) I hope that you and Janice enjoy it!It's like an encyclopedia of Dickens

message 37: by Janice (new)

Janice Stein I'm reading David Copperfield right now. I read it with a dictionary next to me. Some words are not used in the same context and are still hard to decipher "Said I"
When his serials (which became the books) came out I would have thought they would have been geared to the common folk. Maybe some of wordage he used was commonly understood in those times.

message 38: by Bernadette (new)

Bernadette (bern51) Oh I loved David Copperfield Janice. I think that Dickens was writing for the common folk and used the language of the British...I'll see if there is any reference to it in the Epstein book

message 39: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments I just got from the library "Walking Dickensian London," by Richard Jones. I think it's going to be fun. He takes you on 25 walks pointing out the Dickensian points of interest. What I really like is that he has very detailed maps with the path drawn out so you can see exactly where the walk goes, and the neat thing is that I can go onto Google Maps Street view and take the exact walk strolling along looking at the sights as he describes them! The Index is very good, includes a page for every time a book is mentioned.

For example, the Grapes pub, known as the Bunch of Grapes by Dickens, is still there; he renamed it The Six Jolly Fellowship Porters in Our Mutual Friend; I just took a look at it on Google Street View, and in addition he has a photo of it in the book from the water side, which of course Google doesn't have, not (yet, at least) having mounted their cameras on boats! It's at the intersection of Narrow Street and Brightlingsea Place if you want to go see it. Haven't found out yet whether he has identified the Hexam home, though.

message 40: by Bernadette (new)

Bernadette (bern51) Thanks for this info Everyman, I'm going to order that book as I hope to go to London in the next year! Even if I weren't going, this sounds like a wonderful book.

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I think it sounds like a great book too! I will have to see if my library has it. Thanks!

message 42: by Bernadette (last edited Dec 07, 2011 04:33AM) (new)

Bernadette (bern51) Just bought a used copy from my favorite seller,!

message 43: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Got a copy of The Companion to Our Mutual Friend: Routledge Library Editions: Charles Dickens Volume 4 on Interlibrary Loan. Not the sort of book to read cover to cover, but on first skimming with some interesting elements.

It has several basic elements. First, it gives in some places, not sure yet whether in all, excerpts from Dickens's notes that he wrote outlining the chapters and what is to happen in them. For chapter 1, for example, he says in part of the Veneering dinner party "who is their oldest friend? at the dinner party. lay the ground carefully. weary servant." of the drowning "work in two witnesses by name: For end of story..."

In addition to Dickens's notes, the book explains many points, phrases, references, etc. which might not be familiar to modern readers. So if there are points in the text that you're not sure of, you could ask about them and I'll check to see whether they're covered. Some of his comments, though, seem to me to be stretches: for example, commenting on "a too, too smiling large man" he calls it an echo of of Hamlet's words "oh, that this too, too solid flesh would melt ..." Hmmm. Really?

But it will be nice to have it by my side as I read.

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 628 comments Sounds useful indeed.

message 45: by Tim (new)

Tim (tjb654) | 45 comments Everyman wrote: "Got a copy of The Companion to Our Mutual Friend: Routledge Library Editions: Charles Dickens Volume 4 on Interlibrary Loan. Not the sort of book to read cover to cover, but on firs..."

I recently got a copy of the same book. Lots of useful information, but did it have to have a colossal spoiler on the very first page?? Overall, I think The Companion will be helpful, whatever its faults.

message 46: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Tim wrote: "I recently got a copy of the same book. Lots of useful information, but did it have to have a colossal spoiler on the very first page?? "

I agree, that was a blunder, but I think it is intended for readers who have already read OMF and want to enrich a re-reading experience. But yes, I noticed that and thought also that the author should have been more sensitive to first time readers.

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