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Thread: An Accomplished writer

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    An Accomplished writer

    I'm reading Little Dorrit, and I find it fascinating. I've read 3 other books by Dickens: Oliver Twist, The Pickwick Papers, and A Tale of Two Cities.
    He was such an accomplished writer. I'm marveled at his delicacy in conveying his characters' feelings and thoughts. When I read him I find myself pausing and thinking: 'Oh Charles, how wonderful you were at describing and portraying.'

    Have you read any of the books I mention here? How did you like them?

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    Registered User 108 fountains's Avatar
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    I've read all of Dickens' novels. I finally read Martin Chuzzlewit two years ago; I had been putting it off for some years because now I have nothing "new" from Dickens to look forward to.

    Dickens is my favorite author, and Pickwick Papers is probably my favorite book by anyone. No other book ever made me laugh out loud like that. And while I can understand some critics who say Dickens overemploys emotionalism and that his descriptions often run on and on and that his plots are contrived, I find that to be part of his charm. Some other critics say he lacks depth and that his characters are often one-dimensional; I would disagree. He is strongest when he understates a character's depth - an example I can think of occurs following the death of Mrs. Samuel Weller Sr. in Pickwick Papers. Despite the running jokes throughout the novel about the unhappy marriage, on the evening of the funeral, Sam Weller Jr. finds his father sitting alone in a very abstracted and contemplative mood and unmindful of the presence of his son until he places his hand on his shoulder. Then he turns and says, 'I wos a-thinkin', Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, eyeing his son, with great earnestness, over his pipe... 'I wos a-thinkin', Sammy, that upon the whole I wos wery sorry she wos gone.'

    I would probably put A Tale of Two Cities second on my list with Bleak House and Our Mutual Friend close and a tie for third for my favorite Dickens novels. I first read A Tale of Two Cities in high school, when I was at an age where I was able only to just follow the plot. I read it years later and discovered that I loved the book as much or more for the really beautiful writing as I did for the story itself. The first several chapters, with the descriptions of Dr. Manette's "resurrection," are like nothing else I have ever read, beginning with Tellson's Bank representative Mr. Lorry in Chapter 4 trying to convince himself that his responsibility of telling Lucie Manette that her father is still alive (after 20 years of believing him to be dead) is just a matter of business: "Miss Manette, I am a man of business. I have a business charge to acquit myself of. In your reception of it, don't heed me any more than if I was a speaking machine-truly, I am not much else. I will, with your leave, relate to you, miss, the story of one of our customers."

    When she falls on her knees at the first hint that her father may still be a live, he says, "No, don't kneel! In Heaven's name why should you kneel to me! ...a matter of business. You confuse me, and how can I transact business if I am confused? Let us be clear-headed. If you could kindly mention now, for instance, what nine times ninepence are, or how many shillings in twenty guineas, it would be so encouraging. I should be so much more at my ease about your state of mind."

    Chapter 6, when Mr. Lorry brings Lucie to Paris to find her father in prison, I think contains some of the most poignant writing I have ever come across. They find a “dead” man who has been lost to the world of the living.

    “Did you ask me for my name?"

    "Assuredly I did."

    "One Hundred and Five, North Tower."

    "Is that all?"

    "One Hundred and Five, North Tower."


    His daughter, who had been standing behind Mr. Lorry, then moved and stood beside her father.

    He stared at her with a fearful look, and after a while his lips began to form some words, though no sound proceeded from them. By degrees, in the pauses of his quick and laboured breathing, he was heard to say:

    "What is this?"

    With the tears streaming down her face, she put her two hands to her lips, and kissed them to him; then clasped them on her breast, as if she laid his ruined head there.

    "You are not the gaoler's daughter?"

    She sighed "No."

    "Who are you?"

    Not yet trusting the tones of her voice, she sat down on the bench beside him. He recoiled, but she laid her hand upon his arm. A strange thrill struck him when she did so, and visibly passed over his frame...


    Of course, these short passages can’t convey the tension, tenderness, pathos, anxiety and expectation of the full chapters, but they do give a small taste.

    It sounds like you enjoyed these stories for the same reasons I do. Welcome to the world of Charles Dickens, and may you enjoy reading him for years to come as I have.
    Last edited by 108 fountains; 09-24-2014 at 02:39 PM.
    A just conception of life is too large a thing to grasp during the short interval of passing through it.
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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carmilla View Post
    I'm reading Little Dorrit, and I find it fascinating. I've read 3 other books by Dickens: Oliver Twist, The Pickwick Papers, and A Tale of Two Cities.
    He was such an accomplished writer. I'm marveled at his delicacy in conveying his characters' feelings and thoughts. When I read him I find myself pausing and thinking: 'Oh Charles, how wonderful you were at describing and portraying.'

    Have you read any of the books I mention here? How did you like them?
    Of those three I have only read A Tale of Two Cities. Sydney Carton was the most interesting character to me. Oliver Twist is on my to-be-read list.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Little Dorrit is one of his best, to my mind. (For me, the others are Bleak House and Great Expectations.) Dickens often did selfless young women in pathetic circumstances. They often seem sentimental and too good to be true. Amy Dorrit comes into the category, but she is heroic with backbone. Flora Finching is a wonderful example of Dickens criticising his own sentimentality about pretty young women. And while Flora is silly, she has heart. Unlike her father and Arthur's.

    I'm re-reading Pickwick at the moment - it was his first novel and he hadn't found his feet. It was a very great success, but I don't find it so funny as the original readers (and indeed all the bits to do with the Pickwick Club itself are very forced, IMHO.)

    Oliver Twist was his next novel, in which he incorporated melodrama into the main plot. Although it's so famous, I find it a bit too crude.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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    Quote Originally Posted by 108 fountains View Post
    It sounds like you enjoyed these stories for the same reasons I do.
    Yes, I did.

    Quote Originally Posted by 108 fountains View Post
    Welcome to the world of Charles Dickens, and may you enjoy reading him for years to come as I have.
    Thank you, I will.

    I've really enjoyed your post.

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    Hi kev67,

    I truly loved A Tale of Two Cities.
    Last edited by Carmilla; 09-25-2014 at 10:41 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonathanB View Post
    Little Dorrit is one of his best, to my mind. (For me, the others are Bleak House and Great Expectations.) Dickens often did selfless young women in pathetic circumstances. They often seem sentimental and too good to be true. Amy Dorrit comes into the category, but she is heroic with backbone. Flora Finching is a wonderful example of Dickens criticising his own sentimentality about pretty young women. And while Flora is silly, she has heart. Unlike her father and Arthur's.

    I'm re-reading Pickwick at the moment - it was his first novel and he hadn't found his feet. It was a very great success, but I don't find it so funny as the original readers (and indeed all the bits to do with the Pickwick Club itself are very forced, IMHO.)

    Oliver Twist was his next novel, in which he incorporated melodrama into the main plot. Although it's so famous, I find it a bit too crude.
    Hello,

    I've already bought Great Expectations, Bleak House and David Copperfield. I think I will read Great Expectations as soon as I finish Little Dorrit.

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carmilla View Post
    Hello,

    I've already bought Great Expectations, Bleak House and David Copperfield. I think I will read Great Expectations as soon as I finish Little Dorrit.
    I have read Great Expectations. It is my favourite so far by a long way. It has the best villainesses. It has the best flawed hero. I am currently reading Bleak House. David Copperfield is also on my to-be-read list.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Compare Mrs Clenam in Little Dorrit with Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. I don't think I would call Miss Havisham a villainess, but I take it she's who you mean. Mrs Clenam is far more cruel, but equally tragic: both are examples of people getting power over others by punishing themselves.

    David Copperfield used to be regarded some fifty years ago as Dickens' masterpiece. My mother had a cousin who was named David by his father who was a great Dickens fan. Nowadays I don't think it's regarded as sufficiently dark. It is well worth reading though: Betsy Trotwood is a redeemed version of Miss Havisham and Mrs Clenam: a woman who gains power by making herself difficult. But she has far more heart than the other two. Mr Miwcawber is a sunny version of Mr Dorrit and Uriah Heep Dickens' best villain.

    I'd second kev's recommendation of Great Expectations.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Yes, Lady Havisham but also Estella (GE). She's so mean. Neither rival Mme Defarge (TOTC) for evil. They are not even in the same league. In particular, Estella is a victim herself, and Pip who recounts the story is an unreliable narrator regarding her. Estella makes a change from the very sweet young heroines like Lucie Manette (TOTC) and Esther Summerson (BH).
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    In due course, kev, you'll get round to Bella Wilfer in Our Mutual Friend, who starts out as though she's going to be Estella, and ends up a domestic goddess!

    As he got older, Dickens' sweet girls got ballsier.

    And it's Miss Havisham, not Lady. Although she's the wealthiest character in the book, she's got all her money through trade. ("I'd rather be a beeress than a peeress" as Maggie Grevile, the heiress of McEwan's brewery in the 20s said.)

    Sir Lester Dedlock in Bleak House is one of the few genuine aristocrats in Dickens. But I'll wait till you've finished Bleak House before further comment.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Yes, Miss Haversham. I must have been momentarily confused with Lady Dedlock.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Carmilla -

    A work we haven't mentioned is A Christmas Carol. It is far shorter than Dickens' average novel. It has his virtues in extreme without his defects. (His defect is sentimentality about young women. Some would object that in A Christmas Carol he is sentimental about Tiny Tim, but I think the figure is very moving. In a work that is often held up as the origin of the secular Christmas, Tiny Tim is the Christ figure.)
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonathanB View Post
    His defect is sentimentality about young women. Some would object that in A Christmas Carol he is sentimental about Tiny Tim, but I think the figure is very moving. In a work that is often held up as the origin of the secular Christmas, Tiny Tim is the Christ figure.)
    Sorry, I just don't see Tiny Tim as a "Christ figure". But I agree with you about him being very moving, and not sentimental. I think you also have a point about sentimentality as regards young women. But I don't think he always suffers from this. Examples of interesting, but not sentimental, young females: Estella in Great Expectations, David Copperfield's young playmate Emily, Nancy in Oliver,...

    I think all his novels are worth reading. Here's a list of them all, in order of publication, not of preference. I think reading them in order of publication would be a good way to proceed, as I can't see the first three novels having any problems for any reader.

    Also the very greatest, I think, are David Copperfield and Bleak House, which come in the middle of the list, so you read 6 superb novels with the thought that the best is still yet to come! Also the low points (Dombey & Son, A Tale of Two Cities...) aren't too early, which might put you off, or too late, which might leave a bad taste. (That said, I don't think they're bad novels, just not as good as the rest ...)

    The Pickwick Papers 1836
    Oliver Twist 1837
    Nicholas Nickleby 1838
    The Old Curiosity Shop 1840
    Barnaby Rudge 1841
    Martin Chuzzlewit 1843
    Dombey and Son 1846
    David Copperfield 1849
    Bleak House 1852
    Hard Times 1854
    Little Dorrit 1855
    A Tale of Two Cities 1859
    Great Expectations 1860
    Our Mutual Friend 1864
    The Mystery of Edwin Drood 1870

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    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    I'll leave my theological speculations about Tiny Tim until the season of goodwill! Mal and I will never agree when religion is an issue, I fear.

    There's a whole possible thread on Dickens' sentimentalisation of young women which I might start after I'm back in the UK later this month.

    I totally agree about Bleak House. Dombey and Son is OK in bits and more engaging than Martin Chuzzlewit - although Chuzzlewit does have Mrs Gamp and Pecksniff.

    Hard Times and Drood are best left till last, I'd suggest. The later Christmas stories are not his best either and not a patch of Christmas Carol.

    I agree with mal that Tale of Two Cities is not his most engaging, or a "low point". But for some readers it is their favourite Dickens.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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