Miss Wren Welcomes You

“There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.”

~The Pickwick Papers

Wherein a Decision is made; On changes to come in January 2022; On the Dickens Chronological Reading Club; and of the Person of the House Wishing all a Happy New Year.

Surely Dickens is, and always will be, a “ray of light which illumines the gloom” of daily reality (Pickwick). It started to move me very much the other day, as I pondered fruitlessly and a little gloomily about what the world would have been like without a Charles Dickens.

This site has been, up to now, a place for various fascinations. (Dickens, Tolkien, current reading and research, etc.) But the reason why I’ve not been posting lately ~ besides a new schedule caring for my little niece, a live-in weekend “day job,” and finishing a big revision on my gothic novel ~ is that I’ve been gradually moving my old posts on this site to a new, shared site in tandem with my brilliant mom and brother. (I’ll send a notice about the new one once it’s up…I’m so excited for it!)

So, as the New Year comes round again, I’ve had to consider whether or not, like poor Richard in Bleak House, to “begin the world” again with this site, or to let it go altogether. Do I close it down, or keep “Wren, Ink, Paper” for some distinct purpose?

I suppose the answer has come about as slowly and circuitously as anything in the Circumlocution Office, and through an unlikely place: tweeting (though I’m a relative newbie to tweeting regularly) daily information, inspiration, or whimsy related to Dickens throughout the month of December, under the hashtag #DickensDecember. (Which doesn’t seem to be much of a thing yet, but perhaps will be yet in years to come, at least for a few hardcore nerds.)

Fact is, although it has sometimes been a bit of a time-consuming little effort to find/re-find date associations and era-appropriate illustrations, engravings, or information (with one rabbit hole leading to the next), I have really enjoyed this venture into often-forgotten historical and literary tidbits relating to the bookish love of my life, the Inimitable Boz.

I’ve made posts as simple as favorite quotes, to longer threads about the Ragged Schools, or Dickens’ first public reading at Birmingham town hall in 1853, to his speech in aid of the Commercial Travellers Schools in 1854, to a thread that ran for several days (the 24th, 26th, and 27th) on the disappearance of Edwin Drood.

After all ~ and it is certainly another reason why I love Dickens, as his eye and “ear” for detail is utterly incomparable ~ I am more likely to remember the little details than the great events. (I like to joke, about another obsession of mine ~ the French Revolution ~ that I’m more likely to remember that during the Festival of the Supreme Being in 1794 Robespierre wore a sky-blue coat, than I am to remember the overall trajectory of the Revolution’s major events.)

This enjoyment of composing #DickensDecember tweets has prompted me to revisit another notion I’ve had, which had gotten pushed aside in deference to life’s usual chaos. I want to set out, starting in January 2022, what I’d considered doing a year ago: to reread all of Dickens’ major stories and novels, approximately in the order in which they were published (or in which the first installment of the serial novel was published). And not only that, but to be reading appropriate sections of works on the side (e.g. rereading my beloved Peter Ackroyd biography of Dickens) that illuminate the current book/story that I’m on. That way, I can share tidbits of knowledge as I discover them. I have a feeling this will be more of a two-year (at least!) endeavor than a one-year. Especially since I’ll be reading other things unrelated, delving into miscellaneous related and unrelated rabbit holes…and simply because life continues in full swing.

I’ll share a tentative schedule of reading/rereading in a separate post.

So, the long and the short of it is, I’ll be keeping Wren, Ink, Paper, but it will be gradually transformed into a little refuge of Dickensian information, whimsy, and delight!

So, if you’re reading this at the close of 2021 or the very beginning of 2022, you’ll see some changes coming to the structure of the site. Please forgive the mess, and the older, disconnected posts which are not Dickens-related. They will be cleaned up shortly.

If you’d like to join along in the reading schedule for 2022-23, I’d be so delighted! Join in for one book, or for all! Or none at all, but just to drop in for a little dose of Dickensian whimsy and info! Either way, I’d love it if you wanted to follow along with me on the journey. (I already have a few folks on Instagram who are wanting to do a group read of Bleak House which I’d inadvertently proposed!)

Meanwhile, for any who would like to get a head start on some reading, I’ll be revisiting his Sketches by Boz first, as the publication date of the first of his two-part compilation of the various Sketches (February 1836) preceded the first installment of Pickwick. Stay tuned for a more complete schedule of readings, and the rationale for how I’m going about them…coming the first week of January 2022.

I hope you enjoy the whimsy. Here’s to a cozy, Dickensian 2022! Happy New Year’s Eve!

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