Great Books of the World – Part 23

“A simple smile.
That’s the start of opening your heart
and being compassionate to others.”

The Dalai Lama

 

“Yule” by Daridel:

 

Courtesy of LoveLostwithiel:

 

When I published my post about “A Christmas Carol”, shortly before 25th December, a few readers expressed regret that I hadn’t included more books by the greatest English writer, and one of the greatest in the world.

Charles Dickens is without a doubt the most ingenious author in English literature.

Courtesy of Penguin Books UK:

I have all of his 36 books in the original fabulous presentation of light chocolate brown and lots of gold decoration, with original drawings, published in 1875 by Chapman and Hall, the renowned publishers of Piccadilly, London. In time of need, I can pick up any title to be transported into a world that absorbs me so completely that I don’t remember why I was seeking distraction, and just keep on turning the pages to read more. As I already know, each of his work stands as the proof of his genius. 

When we open one of his formidable volumes, we soon recognize a peculiar sense of dynamism. It is as if the author has not set out to write a novel, but has been dropped into a pulsing reality he has to write his way through, improvising a narrative out of the available material, much in the way we must construct a life. That is why so many of his novels – the early Dickensian – defining ones especially such as Oliver Twist and David Copperfield – begin with the birth with of a  protagonist and follow his adventures into adulthood.  No surprise, then, that the stories are ultimately about fate, which may seem to unfold around his heroes, but is more truly dependent upon their discovering, one step at a time, the  destination of their personal journeys.

“Symphony No. 1 in A Flat Major”, Op. 55 – 3. Adagio by Edward Elgar, performed by Staatskapelle Berlin and Daniel Barenboim:

 

 The “biographical” approach suggests a reason his supporting characters, who contribute so much to our pleasure in reading Dickens, are so boldly drawn, their defining traits exaggerated to within an inch of caricature. Think of the obsequious Uriah Heep in David Copperfield, or the eternally disappointed bride in Great Expectations.

For all their vivid presence and comic, even when sinister, verve, these figures are described not as being but as experiences. What we remember of people in our own past has a similar quality. Recall your favourite aunt and you will see in miniature what Dickens does at scale. The qualities that define a person in recollection are those that are larger than life markers for the whole being that serve as milestones in memory.

Just so, his characters are both less naturalistic and more real than the creations of other novelists, the way a snapshot coloured with reminiscences can coalesce our lived experience more tellingly than a return visit to its physical setting. It is the way our minds and our memories work, animating people and places whenever we turn our attention to them fully.

Uniquely, Dickens does this not only with his characters, but also with streets and buildings, landscapes and weather, moral challenges and social conventions, even government offices.

Dickens discovered stories wherever he looked – in the shape of chimneys, in law courts, in fog – even before he peopled them with characters. He knew that we live in stories every minute,  and no other writer sweeps us up into the moment -by-moment storyness of life in quite the same way.

The enduring popularity of his creations proves the importance of his books’ imaginative life.

CHARLES  DICKENS
1812  –  1870

Courtesy of TED-Ed:

 

David Copperfield and Mr Micawber

David Copperfield

“Of all my books, I like this the best”
Charles Dickens

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”

This is how this wonderful story begins, a novel so filled with character, inventions, suspense, and inspired retelling that one finishes it with overwhelming regret. The turning of the last page closes the book on such a world that one immediately feels impoverished. This book is my favourite too.

David Copperfield and Peggotty

Dickens famously called Copperfield the “favourite child” of all his literary legacy, and its autobiographical frame goes some way towards explaining why. The eighth of his novels to be written, it is the first one to be narrated in the first person, and, from the opening words, the direct address of the protagonist is captivating. The coming-of-age tale that David relates has many points of contact with Dickens’ own experiences as the son of a debtor, as an adolescent employee in a factory, as a parliamentary reporter, and, lastly, as a successful novelist.

Mr Dick, David Copperfield and Betsey Trotwood

The book is crammed with enough memorable characters to sustain the careers of half a dozen storytellers. The cast includes – to mention only a few  –  David’s imperious aunt, Betsey Trotwood, who comes to his rescue with an asperity as sharp as her magnanimity is deep; Aunt Betsey’s simple-minded protege and muse, Mr Dick; the improvident, incorrigibly optimistic, and unabashedly grandiloquent Mr Micawber; the charming, caddish seducer Steerforth; the unforgivable, unforgettably named Uriah Heep, whose unctuous servility cannot mask his evil intent; and David’s childhood housekeeper and lifelong friend and ally, the stalwart Peggotty, whose caring nature reflects the unaffected nobility of her family of Yarmouth fishermen. Through all the plotting and sub-plotting, the overriding sentiment of Dickensian fiction  –  that there are kindness and goodness in the world that underpins everything; the facades of wealth and privilege, the social currency of fashion, even when we least expect it  – carries the hero of this novel towards the satisfaction of a happy ending.

From “The Personal History Of David Copperfield” (courtesy of Searchlight Pictures):

 

You shouldn’t read only one Dickens, but if you do, make it David Copperfield.

An extract from David Copperfield:

“My mother was sitting by the fire, but poorly in health, when lifting her eyes to the window opposite, she saw a strange lady coming up the garden. My mother had a sure foreboding at the second glance, that it was Miss Betsey. The setting sun was glowing on the strange lady, over the garden fence, and she came walking up to the door with a fell rigidity of figure and composure of countenance that could have belonged to nobody else.

When she reached the house, she gave another proof of her identity. My father had often hinted that she seldom conducted herself like any ordinary Christian, and now, instead of ringing the bell, she came and looked in at that identical window, pressing the end of her nose against the glass to that extent, that my poor dear mother used to say it became perfectly flat and white in a moment.  She gave my mother such a turn, that I have always been convinced I am indebted to Miss Betsey for having been born on a Friday.

My mother had left her chair in her agitation, and gone behind it in the corner. Miss Betsey, looking round the room, slowly and inquiringly, began on the other side, carried her eyes on, like a Saracen’s Head in a Dutch clock, until they reached my mother. Then she made a frown and a gesture to my mother, like one who was accustomed to being obeyed, to come and open the door. My mother went.

‘Mrs David Copperfield, I think,’ said Miss Betsey; the emphasis referring, perhaps, to my mother’s weeds, and her condition.

‘Yes,’ said my mother faintly.

‘Miss Trotwood,’ said the visitor. ‘You have heard of her, I dare say?’

My mother answered she had had that pleasure.  And she had a disagreeable consciousness of not appearing to imply that it had been an overpowering pleasure.

‘Now you see her,’ said Miss Betsey. My mother bent her head, and begged her to walk in.”

“The Order of Things” (from “Dickensian”) by Debbie Wiseman:

 

Oliver Twist

“Please, sir, I want some more” is among the most famous utterances in Dickens. It’s spoken by a very small orphan named Oliver Twist to the man in charge of ladling out the meagre portion of gruel. Oliver lives with other parentless children in a workhouse established by society to house impoverished youngsters.

In a single sentence, it conjures up all the forces at the heart of Oliver’s tale: innocence, want, mischief, hunger, boldness, desperation, misfortune. And, last but not least, institutionally sanctioned cruelty: “The master aimed a blow at Oliver’s head with the ladle, pinioned him in his arms, and  shrieked aloud for the beadle.”

From “Oliver Twist” (1948) (courtesy of WW Movie Clips):

 

Oliver Twist was its author’s second novel, telling a continuous story in a way his first, the delightful but episodic Pickwick Papers, did not. What is innovative in the book is not its shape, but its focus. Never before had a child been put so centre stage in a novel, more importantly, never before had childhood been treated in a prolonged narrative as a state of being in its own right, with all the colours and contours of an emotional landscape as fully developed as an adult’s.

Fagin and his pupils

As Oliver progresses from workhouse minion to undertaker’s assistant to conscript in the thieving army of urchin pickpockets led by the Artful Dodger and in thrall to the seedy ringleader Fagin, the reader is treated to a searing social satire on the treatment of paupers and bereft children, a vivid portrayal of the urban criminal underworld, and a suspenseful if murky plot that is a rollercoaster of dramatic events, hopes, and fears, degradation, and redemption. It’s an exhilarating chase, led by a young writer learning to harness his extraordinary creative energy.

“Fagin’s Romp” (from “Oliver Twist”) by Sir Arnold Bax, performed by National Philharmonic Orchestra:

 

A Tribute (courtesy of Charles Dickens):

 

 

58 thoughts on “Great Books of the World – Part 23

  1. The splendid illustrations greatly enhance the delicious recounting of the stories. Welcome addition to you first Dickens book review, Joanna.

    Like

  2. A great tribute Joanna. To read Dickens is like sitting down to enjoy a box of particularly fine chocolates. You cannot speed read as there are so many details supplied in every sentence. Every word just right.

    Like

  3. Thank you, Carolyn, for your lovely comments! I think Dickens would like to have his books compare to fine chocolates! Thank you again for your praise of Dickens, and for reading my older nature posts.

    Joanna

    Like

  4. Thank you, Pat, for your kind comments and for being the first to comment. I love the old illustrations too.

    Joanna

    Like

  5. What a delightful tribute to some great classics Joanna! 🤩 I also love the musical accompaniment too. 🎶 Have a wonderful weekend my friend. 🥂 Cheers to books!!! 📗📚📕

    Like

  6. When do you sleep? It’s late where you are.

    Like

  7. Thank you for reminding me, Dear Pat!

    I will finish thanking my readers tomorrow as it is 1 am at night!

    Joanna

    Like

  8. Good idea, Sleep well.

    Like

  9. He was remarkable. I haven’t read any Dickens in many moons. I should correct that. Nicholas Nickleby is one that I liked very much.

    Like

  10. Enjoyed so much this romp through Dickens! So many of his characters have become a staple of the world’s imagination — a global phenomenon.

    Like

  11. Thank you, Dora, for your poignant comment! You are right, about his legacy, this is what happens when the words are created but genius. Next week more of Dickens.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m glad that you included a couple more of the great man’s books Joanna. There’s no doubt that that he had a flair for capturing the imagination of the reader which few others could match. He could transport us back to a time and place that describes life in the not too distant past which wasn’t that great for everybody who lived in Victorian England.

    Once again you’ve done a fabulous job of describing the author and his books with your usual natural ability. “Please Joanna. I want some more”.

    P.S. Did you read my reply to your comment on my last post?

    Like

  13. Thank you, Neil, for your kind comment. Try David Copperfield and next week more of Dickens’s masterpieces.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you, Malc, for your wonderful and witty comments!

    Yes, next week there will be more of Dickens.

    And of cause, I read and replied your fantastic comments, I would not miss your words for the all tea of China, Dear Malc.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  15. PS. On your post?! I don’t think I got it! Could you please, Malc direct me again!

    Like

  16. https://www.easymalc.co.uk/is-it-derry-or-londonderry-pt-2-the-english-take-control/

    If you follow the above link Joanna and scroll down to your comment you’ll see that I replied to it. I’ve been having technical problems and I guessed that you didn’t see it and I don’t want you to think that I didn’t respond because I always reply to people’s comments, and I certainly wouldn’t pass yours by 🙂

    Like

  17. Thank you! I will do!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Lovely post, Joanna! And very insightful about his methods of characterisation, which is sometimes a bit over the top – especially the minor characters. Now you’ve made me want to revisit David and Oliver!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. What a lovely tribute to Dickens, Joanna.

    These lines stood out for me: “It is as if the author has not set out to write a novel, but has been dropped into a pulsing reality he has to write his way through, improvising a narrative out of the available material, much in the way we must construct a life.”

    I read these books decades ago, but one of my goals this year is to re-read some fabulous classics and these are on my list.

    Thank you for the reminder and Happy New Year!

    Like

  20. What a beautiful recounting of those stories, Joanna!
    And also the illustrations are gorgeous 💓

    Like

  21. Thank you, Joanna, for one more post devoted on Charles Dickens, who created immortal, fictional characters. This time you have discussed David Copperfield and Oliver Twist, and incidentally the theme of both are young orphans.

    While the orphan in the former book discovers life and love in an indifferent world, where his life takes an abrupt turn when his mother remarries a cruel person, who beats him often; the orphan in the latter encounters a number of setbacks in his quest to find security and happiness.

    I relate this with your observation that Dickens discovered stories wherever he looked, as we live in the stories every minute, every moment. His focus on orphans, women and mentally challenged shows how weak and helpless are exploited by the mighty and powerful in the society. This characteristic made this author a social critic too.

    I enjoyed reading this post and the excerpt reminded me of the important events of that book. Thank you, Joanna, once again, for telling so lucidly about this great author and his creations.

    Like

  22. Thank you, Kaushal, for you analitycal comments! David Copperfield, as the most liked by Dickens out of all his books, the feeling I share, was a must for me to review, Oliver Twist is compelling because of the similarity of ages of the two boys. Next week two more great Dickens great works as I was asked by two readers to include them, and they were very right.
    Inyour post about window of opportui I remebered hat Dickens saw inspiration in everything aroundhim wth great results.
    Thank you, Kaushal, again and your words are greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Thank you, Luisa, for your kind comments! The original illustrations are my favorite too!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Thank you, Lauren, for your generous comments! Nothig pleases me more than being able to inspire readers to re-read again the literary masterpieces.
    Happy New Year to you Lauren too!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Thank you, Harini, for your lovely comments! It is my great pleasure to inspire you to re-read Dikens masterpieces.
    There will be more of Charles Dickens famous works next week.

    Joanna

    Like

  26. Thank you, Neil, but try to read more of this extraordinary writer’s works in between solwing puzzles. Local library will be able to provide you with the choice.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Marvellously put together as always Joanna, thank you once again. I must look out for The Personal History of David Copperfield, it looks as though it will be most enjoyable!

    Like

  28. I will, but not for long because I am an early raiser so I will be up at 5 amm at the latest.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Thank you, Kym, for your lovely comments! Thank you for your good wishes! I love books with a passion!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Thank you, Peter, for your generous comment! As David Copperfield was Dickens favourite work from all that he created, it could not be a better choice! And it is my very loved too.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  31. It was all my pleasure to express my views on your lovely post 😊

    Like

  32. Thank you! Greatly appreciated!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  33. You must not need much sleep 😴

    Like

  34. You’re welcome, Joanna! And you’re right for deciding to go for another post on Dickens, as he has written so many classics.

    Like

  35. Thank you, Kaushal!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Oh Joanna, that is so awesome and I admire you for your great love of books. They are truly an adventure in themselves. Continue reading girlfriend. 📗📚📕

    Hugs and smooches, Kym 🥰💖😍

    Like

  37. Thank you so much!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  38. You are so very welcome Joanna. Have a spectacular week my friend. 😍💋🌞

    Like

  39. Just when I think everything could have been said about something, you dig deeper and share more exquisite things you have learned and continue to research. You are a historical beacon of light dear Joanna.
    Thank you for another wonderful dive into Charles Dickens! ❣️

    Like

  40. Thank you, Dear Cindy, or your wonderful comments! There will be more next week as requested by some readers!

    Your words, Cindy, are greatly appreciated!

    Joanna xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  41. You’re so welcome my friend. I’ll look forward to next week Joanna. It’s always my pleasure! 💗

    Like

  42. Thank you, Cindy, see you next week!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Yes indeed you will! ❤️

    Like

  44. After losing my comment the nth time, i’ll make it fast and short.

    This was a great essay to learn from two people, you and the writer in this post.
    What an honourable tribute you have given him and his character Joanna. And I am certain we won’t find anything as complete and as passionate as your words for him.

    And it felt this was a man who not just showed us his sphere of cosmos as a writer but also lived as someone whom we could even look upto as a person. His characters, his writings, stories, his observations and above all whom he chose to characterise and how. We can learn so much and from you that you dive so much deeper and come out with such diamonds that we forget how much effort it must have taken for you to polish to this extent.

    I must read this essay one or more time. Thank you dearest Joanna.

    Like

  45. Thank you, dearest Narayan, for your wonderfully beautiful comments! I wonder how significant is the coincidence of me losing my comments about your exceptional post?!

    Of course, I wrote it again, and it was liked by two people, apart from you!

    As a hugely talented writer yourself, well on the way to the top of the literary recognition platform, it is an excellent idea to read about Charles Dickens and his methods of keeping readers attention, but better still read his and my

    favorite David Copperfield. Next week two more great Dickens books as requested by my readers.

    Thank you again, Narayan, and see you at the end of the week here.

    Joanna

    Like

  46. What a delightful post, Joanna! Engaging from start to finish. I have been a fan of Dickens for many years. I think the first of his novels I read was Great Expectations when I was in high school.

    The illustrations in this post are wonderful, both the vintage art and the movie scenes. “The Order of Things” and “Fagin’s Romp” were particularly enjoyable.

    I want to thank you again for the post you published about A Christmas Carol. I used to read it aloud to my daughter Ellen when she was young, and our family enjoyed watching some of the movies. About 20 years ago, Ellen gave me a set of DVD movies made from Dickens novels, which I still watch from time to time.

    After reading your post about A Christmas Carol, I found several movie versions on YouTube and Netflix. Robert and I enjoyed watching them over the holidays.

    Like

  47. Thank you, Cheryl, for your wonderful comments! This Friday I am publishing more about Dickens’s famous books;

    Great Expectations and The Tales of Two Cities. I know you will like it, and some details are essential to understanding how he could achieve so much.

    Thank you again, Cheryl, greatly appreciated.

    I am so glad that both you and Robert are well.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close