Wherein we take a glance back at the third week of the Dickens Chronological Reading Club 2022-23; With a look ahead to week four.
Friends, we’re about to begin Week Four of our Dickens Club, and our last week in January! We’ll be halfway(ish) done with Sketches by Boz by this time next week…where has the time gone? As always, no matter where you’re at in the reading process, a huge “thank you” for reading along with us! And again, a huge thanks to the most marvelous, joyously Dickensian account, the Dickens Fellowship for retweeting these, and keeping us all in sync!
I’ll just start with the little reminders: feel free to comment below this post for Week Four’s Sketches, so that our threads in previous posts don’t get so long that they become difficult to find ~ or comment on twitter with the hashtag #DickensClub. For any newer members: 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.
And speaking of new members, a warm welcome to our newest! Sarah has probably been reading along with us longer than I realized…welcome! And also a warm welcome to Jamie and Phyllis! So glad to have you all reading with us. And I believe that brings our member count to thirty!
Week Three Wrap-Up
Another fantastic week for discussion. We finished off Week Two last Monday, with “Hackney-coach Stands,” and from there we visited “Doctors’ Commons” ~ which, as Chris pointed out, is certainly remote prep for Bleak House! Then onto the charming (and often poignant, as Lenny particularly noted, and as Daniel, Chris, and I also commented on) “London Recreations.” On this note, Chris posted a wonderful piece about Dickens and Women’s Education here on our site, with some passages from Michael Slater for further reference. Then we saw an early manifestation of one of Dickens’ running ~ so to speak ~ themes in “The River.” From there we visited the circus at “Astley’s,” and off to enjoy other recreations with “Greenwich Fair” and “Private Theatres.”
On “Doctor’s Commons,” Chris points out, “I think if we look hard enough we could find many of CD’s novels, at least aspects or foundations of them, in these Sketches.”
Daniel writes: “Dickens’ essential belevolence shines through; but, he can also level human avarice, greed, willful stupidity in such a delicious way.” Laura S was surprised that there weren’t “any particularly heartstring-tugging moments included” here.
Boze H reflects, “One can almost imagine a world in which Dickens resisted the impulse to write novels and became a celebrated chronicler of London, in the way Joyce boasted that you could re-construct Dublin in its entirety from the descriptions in Ulysses.”
I personally adored Dickens’ nostalgic, though tongue-in-cheek, testament to inconvenience in “Hackney-Coach Stands” from the end of Week Two, and which we’ll see such testimony again and again, especially about Tellson’s Bank. Lenny pointed out, however, as to “Doctors’ Commons,” that, “in the legal system, the rigidity and trappings of the past are almost insurmountable,” and “some things our dear author just can’t be nostalgic about!”
But we were all feeling a bit nostalgic about “London Recreations,” I think; Cassandra found it an “oasis to read about the pleasant afternoons and evenings spent in the gardens,” and Lenny writes (on the little wooden plant labels “like epitaphs to their memory”): “This description of the beginning stages of planting the garden is so intimate–that it almost makes me cry. Are these seeds being treated almost as thought, ultimately they are or will, as autumn approaches, be a sort of burial ground! And the labels a sort of memorializing touch?”
Chris adds: “As for the retired couple, their garden stands in place of their lost son…There are so many layers to Dickens’ writing!”
Then, on the comedy of “The River,” the stunts here, writes Lenny, are “worthy of Chaplin and Keaton in their prime”! And Cassandra agrees with Dickens’ assessment about those who haven’t been down the river before. 🙂 Chris notes especially the masterful portrayal of “awkward young men,” of whom we will meet many more examples in the months ahead!
Chris found us a fantastic image of Astley’s (below) and wondered whether we might find our Boz in the crowd…? And Cakes & Ale found us a fabulous view of Seven Dials, a few decades after Boz’s Sketch…if you recall that very interesting area of London from late in Week 2…
Yvonne has been a Sleuth Extraordinaire, and shared so many fascinating links on her #DickensClub twitter threads, for various things referenced in the Sketches, which may be obscure to us now…everything from a “shell game” to womens’ head-coverings, to Miss Woolford, the equestrienne! Brava, Yvonne!
And Cassandra is making a bullet journal for her Dickens readalong! But friends, these are just a sampling of the many, many rich, insightful, delightful comments here and on twitter! I hope you’ve had a chance to dive in…
A Look-ahead to Week Four
Today’s Sketch, the fourteenth in the “Scenes” sequence, is “Vauxhall Gardens by Day,” and can be found here. Thank you, Chris, for the reminder about the illustrations that can be found on the Charles Dickens Page, if you don’t have a copy with illustrations!
This week’s Sketches, if you’re continuing with one per day, would be as follows, with links to individual Sketches via The Circumlocution Office, though the entire work can also be accessed via Gutenberg and elsewhere:
Tues, 25 Jan, 2022: “Scenes,” Chapter Fifteen: “Early Coaches”
Wed, 26 Jan, 2022: “Scenes,” Chapter Sixteen: “Omnibuses”
Thurs, 27 Jan, 2022: “Scenes,” Chapter Seventeen: “The Last Cab-driver, and the First Omnibus Cad”
Fri, 28 Jan, 2022: “Scenes,” Chapter Eighteen: “A Parliamentary Sketch”
Sat, 29 Jan, 2022: “Scenes,” Chapter Nineteen: “Public Dinners”
Sun, 30 Jan, 2022: “Scenes,” Chapter Twenty: “The First of May”
Mon, 31 Jan, 2022: “Scenes,” Chapter Twenty-One: “Brokers and Marine-store Shops”
*Note on “General Mems”: Dickens’ “General Memoranda” ~ the name for his notes about an upcoming certain serial number of his novels, utilized since around the time of Dombey and Son. (More on General Mems when we get to Dombey…)