Filtering by Category: "Charles Dickens"

Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop (1841) pp 180-182

Added on by Cole Pierce.

Chapter the Sixteenth.

     The sun was setting when they reached the wickest-gate at which the path began, and, as the rain falls upon the just and unjust alike, it shed its warm tint even upon the resting places of the dead, and bade them be of good hope for its rising on the morrow. The church was old and grey, with ivy clinging to the walls, and round the porch. Shunning the tombs, it crept about the mounds, beneath which slept poor humble men, twining for them the first wreaths they had ever won, but wreaths less liable to wither and far more lasting in their kind, than some which were graven deep in stone and marble, and told in pompous terms of virtues meekly hidden for many a year, and only revealed at last to executors and mourning legatees.
     The clergyman's hourse, stumbling with a dull blunt sound among the graves, was cropping the grass; at once deriving orthodox consolation from the dead parishioners, and enforcing las Sunday's text that this was what all flesh came to; a lean ass who had sought to expound it also, wihtout being qualified and ordained, was pricking his ears in an empty pound hard by, and looking with hungry eyes upon his priestly neighbour.
     The old man and the child quitted the gravel path, and strayed among the tombs; for there the ground was soft, and easy to their tired feet. As they passed behind the church, they heard voices near at hand, and presently came on those who had spoken.
     They were two men who were seated in easy attitudes upon the grass, and so busily engaged as to be at first unconscious of intruders. It was not difficult to divine that they were of a class of itinerant showman - exhibitors of the freaks of Punch - for, perched cross-legged upon a tombstone behind them, was the figure of that hero himself, his nose and chin as hooked and his face as beaming as usual. Perhaps his imperturbable character was never more strikingly developed, for he preserved his usual equable smile notwithstanding that his body was dangling in a most uncomfortable position, all loose and limp and shapeless, while his long peaked cap, unequally balanced against his exceedingly slight legs, threatened every instant to bring him toppling down.
     In part scattereed upon the ground at the feet of the two men, and in part jumbled together in a long flat box, were the other persons of the Drama. The hero's wife and one child, the hobby-horse, the doctor, the foreign gentleman who not being familiar with the language is unable in the representation to express his ideas otherwise than by the utterance of the word 'Shallabalah' three distinct times, the radical neighbour who will by no means admit that a tin bell is an organ, the executioner, and the Devil, were all here. Their owners had evidently come to that spot to make some needful repairs in the stage arrangements, for one of them was engaged in binding together a small gallows with thread, while the other was intent upon fixing a new black wig, with the aid of a small hammer and some tacks, upon the head of the radical neighbour, who had been beaten bald.
They raised their eyes when the old man and his young companion were close upon them, and pausing in their work, returned their looks of curiosity. One of them, the actual exhibitor no doubt, was a little merry-faced man with a twinkling eye and a red nose, who seemed to have unconsciously imbibed something of his hero's character. The other - that was he who took the money - had rather a careful and cautious look, which was perhaps inseparable from his occupation also.
      The merry man was the first to greet the strangers with a nod; and followed the old man's eyes, he observed that perhaps that was the first time he had ever seen a Punch off the stage. (Punch, it may be remarked, seemed to be pointing with the tip of his cap to a most flourishing epitaph, and to be chuckling over it with all his heart.)
     'Why do you come here to do this?' said the old man, sitting down beside them, and looking at the figurines with extreme delight.
     'Why you see,' rejoined the little man, 'we're putting up for tonight at the public-house yonder, and it wouldn't do to let 'em see the present company undergoing repair.'
     'No!' cried the old man, making signs to Nell to listen, 'why not, eh? why not?'
     'Because it would destroy all the delusion, and take away all the interest, wouldn't it?' replied the little man.

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Added on by Cole Pierce.

I did not allow my resolution, with respect to the Parliamentary Debates, to cool. It was one of the irons I began to heat immediately, and one of the irons I kept hot, and hammered at, with a perseverance I may honestly admire. I bought an approved scheme of the noble art and mystery of stenography (which cost me ten and sixpence); and plunged into a sea of perplexity that brought me, in a few weeks, to the confines of distraction. The changes that were rung upon dots, which in such a position meant such a thing, and in such another position something else, entirely different; the wonderful vagaries that were played by circles; the unaccountable consequences that resulted from marks like flies' legs; the tremendous effects of a curve in a wrong place; not only troubled my waking hours, but reappeared before me in my sleep. When I had groped my way, blindly, throught these difficulties, and had mastered the alphabet, which was an Egyption Temple in itself, there then appeared a procession of new horrors, called arbitrary characters; the most despotic characters I have ever known; who insisted, for instance, that a thing like the beginning of a cobweb, meant expecation, and that a pen and ink sky-rocket stood for disadvantageous. When I had fixed these wretches in my mind, I found that they had driven everything else out of it; then, beginning again, I forgot them; while I was picking them up, I dropped the other fragments of the system; in short, it was almost heart-breaking.

pp 444-445

Charles Dickens: Great Expectations

Added on by Cole Pierce.
We entered this haven through a wicket-gate, and were disgorged by an introductory passage into a melancholy little square that looked to me like a flat burying-ground. I thought it had the most dismal trees in it, and the most dismal sparrows, and the most dismal cats, and the most dismal houses (in number half a dozen or so), that I had ever seen. I thought the windows of the sets of chambers into which those houses were divided, were in every stage of dilapidated blind and curtain, crippled flower-pot, cracked glass, dusty decay, and miserable makeshift; while To Let To Let To Let, glared at me from empty rooms, as if no new wretches ever came there, and the vengeance of the soul of Barnard were being slowly appeased by the gradual suicide of the present occupants and their unholy interment under the gravel.  A frouzy mourning of soot and smoke attired this forlorn creation of Barnard, and it had strewed ashes on its head, and was undergoing penance and humiliation as a mere dust-hole. Thus far my sense of sight; while dry rot and wet rot and all the silent rots that rot in neglected roof and cellar - rot of rat and mouse and bug and coaching-stables near at hand besides - addressed themselves faintly to my sense of smell, and moaned, 'Try Barnard's Mixture'. 

Tough Subject

Added on by Cole Pierce.

Intrigued by the relatively young age of modernism, I decided to delve into some classic 19th century fiction. Beginning with the industrial revolution and then with mechanical reproduction clinching the deal, the modernity that I am aware of is maybe 150 years old, give or take a couple decades. Coincidentally, I recently discovered a genre of music I'm interested in is called 'Modern Classical'. The piano is to music what oil paint is to visual art. What finally turned my awareness of this fact into a curiosity came about when reading Jeremy Gilbert Rolfe. In Beyond Piety he traced the color black as the stardard in fashionable attire to the urbane 19th century, when the soot from coal burning dirtied everything in the outdoors. If your clothes were black it would disguise the layer of soot you carried around. So this is one reason I am reading "Bleak House" by Charles Dickens, which is set in England around 1840. I wanted to get a different perspective of modernism, or maybe I just wanted to read a good book. I expected to trudge through purple victorian language and deal with drastic disparities of class. But I did not expect to deal with lawyers in an endless dispute over a will. Thus, the new perspective. Dickens' view of modernism sites relational formalities as a prominent characteristic. The formalities of law in a courtroom, the formalities of speaking to royalty or anyone in a caste/class differing from yourself. Like the time the Japanese principal of Masuho Junior High would not speak to me until I took my hands out of my pockets. Strict structure within interpersonal relationships. The importance of this aspect escaped me, until Mr. Dickens showed me how oppressive the caste system is to the homeless as well as her royal highness. Depressed because you are Jo, the homeless child who somehow earned the nickname Tough Subject, or depressed because you can't disgrace your family name and legacy or acknowledge your illegitimate daughter. Extreme cases, but perhaps the flowery and rigid social guidelines in London, 1840 have been transformed into bureaucratic red tape, order forms, billing departments, online security measures, and what was the name of your first pet? The tedious social norms in drastic 19th century hierarchy are now the delicacies of social networking, mass communication on a grand scale. Not to say that today's class disparities are any better, just expanded and global. BCC me on all emails, BTW. . . . but anyway, what do I know, I still have 153 pages to read.