Wherein we take a glance back at the first week of the Dickens Chronological Reading Club 2022-23—with agenda items, including the Member List; With a look ahead to week two.
Friends, we’re at our final day of the first week of our Dickens Club, and the seventh Sketch of Sketches by Boz! Huge congrats, no matter where you’re at in the reading process, and a very Warm Welcome to all of our members!
First, a few notes:
- I’ve just put up a list of our members with links to a twitter or WordPress profile (when applicable). Please feel free to message me via the contact page or on twitter if I need to make any changes or additions. 😊 If you’re following along too, and you’re not on the list, I’d love to add you!
- Besides the intro posts to each new work, I’ll also be posting a weekly wrap-up and look ahead, with a link to an online source for those who don’t have a copy of the book, or if you’re waiting on one but would like to get going on the reading. I’ll try to make it a bit of a summary of what we’ve covered in the previous week, as well. For those who prefer to comment on WordPress rather than twitter, it will be a good place to comment for each week’s Sketches, so that the original intro post doesn’t have such a long thread that it becomes difficult to read through! 😊
- I also have added a calendar for the DCRC to the sidebar of the website in case you just want quicker access to what work/Sketch we’re on. I’ve updated it through January and will complete it shortly.
- Just a few other reminders:
- My little Intro to Sketches by Boz can be found here. And if you need a reminder about the schedule overall, it’s in my intro post here.
- Feel free to comment below (on this blog post) about your impressions of Week 2’s Sketches, or on twitter using the hashtag #DickensClub. Every evening I’ll be looking up the hashtag in case I’ve missed any posts!
- I’ll make a point of sharing my posts on this site via twitter, but just to be sure you don’t miss one, please feel free to subscribe by email, located on the right-hand sidebar.
Week One Wrap-Up:
What a week it has been, reading (or rereading) some of Dickens’ earliest published works, and the humor and social satire that are already so noticeable. Many have commented on some of the “types” ~ seen here in earlier form or prototype ~ that will become recognizable and more fully developed characters later. In the first Sketch, we saw a beadle who might remind us of Mr Bumble in Oliver Twist; the poor schoolmaster who is something of a foreshadowing of the kindly schoolmaster we’ll meet in The Old Curiosity Shop.
Hints of the pathos that are blended with the satire and humor are already evident, particularly late in “The Broker’s Man”; some have remarked more on the pathos, some more on the humor—e.g. about the curate in the second Sketch. Laura S, Henry, Connie, Dana, Daniel, Oliver, Boze, Jessica, Yvonne and Christine (Chris) all had absolutely wonderful comments and quotes!
Henry and I had chosen a few favorites quotes that occasionally overlapped, and he pointed out the humor that is occasionally Wodehousian; Connie shared her absolutely glorious copy of Sketches with us; Laura describes Dickens using “his cleverness to show the terrible wrongness of things that people took (and in other forms still take) for granted” and “Dickens does mostly seem to save the sharper uses of his wit to skewer those who truly deserve it”; Boze felt the exuberance of the young man walking about London, eager to capture it for posterity; Dana mentioned some “types” that we would later see, e.g. the “small tyrant” of the master of the workhouse in the first; Daniel observes that Dickens has already placed himself as “Society’s Grand Jester” and gives us cautionary notes about our foibles. Yvonne discussed “The Ladies’ Societies” with a recollection to her own experience in volunteerism, and a nod to a particular volunteer with an obsession for dust mites ~ it was positively Dickensian! We discussed the satire, the wit, the pathos, and, as Chris pointed out, also the “immaturity” of Dickens here in lack of character development (also, however, satire of a “type” rather than a lack of development), and in the things he points out for us to reconsider: e.g. “spinsters,” of whom we’ll meet a good many during our journey. Loved this comment she made on the blog, on “The Broker’s Man”:
“Regarding the Leader of the Official Party’s complaint that ‘the daily journals . . . never give verbatim reports of vestry meetings’ speeches: during his time as a shorthand court reporter CD earned a reputation for speed and accuracy. He was often asked for by name by certain politicians to attend their speeches because they knew that if he took down their speech it could be printed, verbatim, in the next day’s newspaper.”~Chris M.
That precision, that accuracy that made Dickens sought out as a court reporter is also what gives the Sketches that astuteness of observation. They are an occasionally painful mirror of societal and individual foibles, and perhaps make us more keenly aware of our own. Though we may not meet any particular character with the depth that we’ll encounter them in later works, our hearts might still be moved or our laughter awakened. (My heart is still with the poor schoolmaster, and I think Jessica, Laura S, and I are still with him in spirit as he walks up and down the courtyard at the end of the first Sketch.)
Members have also commented on some of the themes and subjects that would be so much more developed later in Dickens’ works ~ particularly summarized at the beginning of the first Sketch.
A Look Ahead to Week Two:
This week, we move on from the first section of Sketches under the heading “Our Parish” ~ with today’s, called “Our Next-door Neighbor” ~ and onto the beginning of the “Scenes.” Again, feel free to go more quickly or slowly! But if you’re reading exactly one Sketch a day as scheduled, here’s where we’re at, with links to individual Sketches via The Circumlocution Office, though the entire work can also be accessed via Gutenberg and elsewhere:
Tues, 11 Jan, 2022: “Scenes,” Chapter One: “The Streets—Morning”
Wed, 12 Jan, 2022: “Scenes,” Chapter Two: “The Streets—Night”
Thurs, 13 Jan, 2022: “Scenes,” Chapter Three: “Shops and their Tenants”
Fri, 14 Jan, 2022: “Scenes,” Chapter Four: “Scotland Yard”
Sat, 15 Jan, 2022: “Scenes,” Chapter Five: “Seven Dials”
Sun, 16 Jan, 2022: “Scenes,” Chapter Six: “Meditations on Monmouth Street”
Mon, 17 Jan, 2022: “Scenes,” Chapter Seven: “Hackney-coach Stands”