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Thread: Was this a dig at Dickens?

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    I think I read somewhere Charlotte Bronte describe Dickens' writing styles as like an old woman's, which seems an odd thing for her to say. I can't find the quote so maybe she didn't.
    You may be confusing this with Faulkner's remark (sometimes erroneously attributed to D.H. Lawrence) that "Henry James was one of the nicest old ladies I ever met."

    And of course Dickens is responsible for Esther Summerson's self-esteem problem. Being responsible for a neurosis requires actually existing. (Literary critics are so weird).
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 10-11-2016 at 06:16 AM.

  2. #17
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post

    Could Charlotte Bronte have been having a dig at Sir Walter Scott? I have not read any of his books.

    [/I]
    I've read the lot of Scott and I was thinking of him as well.

    Mind you there are two sorts of Scott heroine - the passive good girl the (fairly passive) hero at last marries and doesn't have much character - although she may not be very different from the standard heroine of Gothic romance.

    Then there are the feisty, tragic ones who inspire the hero but he never marries - she's too strong for him, notably Flora Macivor in Scott's first novel, Waverley, Rebecca in ivanhoe and Diana in Rob Roy.
    Last edited by Jackson Richardson; 10-11-2016 at 03:23 AM.
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    Registered User mona amon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Amy Dorrit and Esther Summerson may not have been dolls exactly, but I'm not sure Arthur Clennam and Dr Allan Woodcourt found anatomically correct females on their wedding nights. But at least the women knew who they wanted to marry, which is more than a doll does. And your point about the chronology is an excellent one.
    They are both ministering angels and too good to be true, but for me they are two of Dickens' more lovable heroines all the same. I do not remember why I liked Amy Dorrit, and looking back, I know I considered Mr Dorrit one of the most despicable of Dickens' characters that I've ever come across, so I could not have sympathized with her selfless devotion to her dad. Time for a re-read. Esther Summerson is - well - summery. Dickens gives her all the nurturing and self denying qualities that make Agnes Wakefield such a boring superwoman, But she has her oddities and absurdities, a sense of humour, optimism, commonsense, all brought out pretty well in her first person narrative.
    Exit, pursued by a bear.

  4. #19
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Esther often irritates with her goody-goodyness and endless self-depreciation.

    However I am sure that is her reaction to her loveless childhood – that sort of experience can drive some to bitterness and some – like Esther – to a compulsive need to be wanted.

    There is a very interesting contrast with Mrs Jellyby, who is also a compulsive do gooder. But Mrs Jellyby’s good works (and Mrs Pardiggle’s) are solely about bolstering themselves and exercising power. They take no account of the actual needs of those on whom they impose their help (and Mrs Jellyby causes misery to her family by ignoring them).

    Esther, by contrast, supports people in their real needs. She actually listens to people, which is a very rare gift.
    Previously JonathanB

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    Quote Originally Posted by mona amon View Post
    They are both ministering angels and too good to be true, but for me they are two of Dickens' more lovable heroines all the same. I do not remember why I liked Amy Dorrit, and looking back, I know I considered Mr Dorrit one of the most despicable of Dickens' characters that I've ever come across, so I could not have sympathized with her selfless devotion to her dad. Time for a re-read. Esther Summerson is - well - summery. Dickens gives her all the nurturing and self denying qualities that make Agnes Wakefield such a boring superwoman, But she has her oddities and absurdities, a sense of humour, optimism, commonsense, all brought out pretty well in her first person narrative.
    I don't want to discourage the rereads, but there are excellent and fairly recent BBC "costume dramas" of Bleak House and Little Dorrit you may want to check out. I wouldn't normally recommend a film rather than a book, but since you've already read both, why not? I thought of these productions because the actresses who played Esther and Amy (Anna Maxwell Martin and Claire Foy, respectively) did extraordinary jobs of making them real women while staying faithful to the novel's language. The only way to do that with Esther was to turn virtually everything she said into a conscious formality intended to navigate her way through Victorian social expectations. And for Little Dorrit, Claire Foy is an actress who can pull rabbits from her hat in any case (any actress who can be believable as Anne Boleyn and Amy Dorrit has got something going). It seems to me that the relationship between Amy and her sister was given more feminist solidarity than in the book, but it worked well. And for all his hypocrisy, Amy's father evokes mostly pity. That performance (by Sir Thomas Courtenay) is quite brilliant, too. You could probably find both of these shows on YouTube.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 10-16-2016 at 11:01 AM.

  6. #21
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mona amon View Post
    I do not agree with Shirley's opinion that women read men more truly than men read women, but Charlotte herself was pretty good at male characters (except for one of the characters in Shirley, who I won't name in case Kev has not finished yet), and her The Professor even has a convincing first person male narrator.
    Which was the male character you did not find believable?
    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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    their good woman is a queer thing, half doll, half angel;
    Maybe she was thinking about Hugo? It is a while since I read his books, but I remember that I thought that Cosette, Esmeralda and the girl from Toilers of the Sea were so sweet and angelic that they seemed more like a figment of imagination than real women.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    I have been reading Shirley by Charlotte Brontė, which is sort of interesting. It's an industrial novel, a subset of the social novel, of which there are relatively few. Mind you, it has a lot about clergymen, and now it is morphing into feminism. This bit seems to be Charlotte Brontė speaking. It reminded me Jane's feminist speech in Jane Eyre (not that I don't sympathise). I snorted out loud when I read it. Who could she be thinking of?

    'If men could see us as we really are, they would be a little amazed; but the cleverest, the acutest men are often under an illusion about women: they do not read them in a true light: they misapprehend them, both for good and evil: their good woman is a queer thing, half doll, half angel; their bad women almost a fiend. Then to hear them fall into ecstasies with each other's creations, worshipping the heroine of such a poem – novel – drama, thinking it divine! Fine and divine it may be, but often quite artificial – false as the rose in my best bonnet there. If I spoke all I think on the point; if I gave my real opinion of some first-rate female characters in first-rate works, where should I be? Dead under a cairn of avenging stones in half an hour'

    'Shirley, you chatter so, I can't fasten you: be still. And after all, authors' heroines are almost as good as authoresses' heroes.'

    'Not at all: women read men more truly than men read women. I'll prove that in a magazine paper some day when I've time; only it will never be inserted: it will be “declined with thanks,” and left for me at the publisher's'.
    lol are fanboys actually a thing back then?

    And it's not like Bronte hadn't written a nigh perfect female character before. See Helen Burns.

  9. #24
    Registered User mona amon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    Which was the male character you did not find believable?
    I was thinking of Louis Moore, but perhaps I found him an unsatisfactory character, rather than unbelievable. The unbelievable part was a girl like Shirley falling in love with a guy like him.
    Exit, pursued by a bear.

  10. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by mona amon View Post
    I was thinking of Louis Moore, but perhaps I found him an unsatisfactory character, rather than unbelievable. The unbelievable part was a girl like Shirley falling in love with a guy like him.
    I wondered whether you meant the aristocrat who wrote bad poetry.
    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

  11. #26
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mona amon View Post
    Only two of Dickens's heroines that I can think of belong to the doll/angel category - Agnes Wakefield and Lucy Mannette. Dora Spenlow escapes because she remains an angel even after she marries, and never moves on to the domestic goddess role expected of her. Dora remains true to herself, and is in her way a beautiful character. Anyway, Charlotte would not yet have read David Copperfield or A tale of Two Cities at the time she was writing Shirley. And as she could not possibly have been thinking of Shakespeare, or Fielding or Sterne or Thackerey, or anyone else that we now think of as great, I guess she was talking about the lesser writers of her time, those whom we no longer read.

    I do not agree with Shirley's opinion that women read men more truly than men read women, but Charlotte herself was pretty good at male characters (except for one of the characters in Shirley, who I won't name in case Kev has not finished yet), and her The Professor even has a convincing first person male narrator.

    Charlotte and Thackerey did not exactly become friends. He was her literary hero, and he loved Jane Eyre, but when they were introduced to each other they never really hit it off. I think they made each other nervous and there was no sparkling conversation as might have been expected. Also, there was the gaffe you mention when he introduced her to his mother as Jane Eyre. According to their publisher George Smith -
    I was thinking about Agnes Wickfield as I am currently reading David Copperfield. She is rather angelic, but at least Dickens gave her a sense of humour.

    Regarding Charlotte Bronte and W.M. Thackeray, it did look like they did not really get on:

    The dinner, with other literary and artistic guests invited to meet the bestselling author, was an abject failure. Conversation faltered, and he later recalled her shocked look as he reached for another potato. One guest recalled it as “one of the dullest evenings she ever spent in her life”, and Thackeray’s daughter Anne remembered: “It was a gloomy and silent evening. Everyone waited for the brilliant conversation, which never began at all.”


    One guest, desperate to break the silence, asked Brontė if she was enjoying London. After a long silence, she finally replied: “Yes; and no.”


    link
    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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