Wherein we take a cue from Mr Guppy on Valentine’s day; followed by a vote on how to proceed after “Sketches by Boz”; with a glance back at the sixth week of the Dickens Chronological Reading Club 2022-23; and a look ahead to week seven.
“In the mildest language, I adore you. Would you be so kind as to allow me (as I may say) to file a declaration — to make an offer!”
I know I’m getting ahead of myself with a Bleak House quote, but how could I resist the temptation to quote Mr Guppy on Valentine’s Day?! I only wish I could “file a declaration” to our wonderful Club with half the skill of that inveterate romantic.
How time flies…do we really only have two weeks left in our reading of Sketches by Boz? Where has the time gone?
No matter where you’re at in the reading process, a huge “thank you” for reading along with us! And again, a heartfelt thanks to the joyously Dickensian account, the Dickens Fellowship for retweeting these ~ making more readers aware, and for keeping us all in sync! And a huge, heartfelt thanks to The Circumlocution Office for providing such an online resource for us…and our dear CO is on twitter also! The sheer amount of work that is put into this labor-of-love is amazing!
General Mems ~ AND A POLL!
If time allows, I will have, the week after next, TWO posts for us (28 Feb and 1 March): a final wrap-up of Sketches by Boz, and then an introduction to The Pickwick Papers. It’s coming fast, friends!
So, as we near the end of Sketches, I wanted to ask everyone how we want to proceed from here on out. Those who are on twitter know that I post a daily link to the Sketch of the day. And of course, we have our weekly wrap-up posts where we can comment on that week’s Sketches.
When it comes to the novels, of course, I won’t be posting daily anymore, so…
Do we want to continue with a weekly wrap-up post, based on a certain number of chapters read that week? The benefit is: whether or not we read ahead of the proposed chapters that week ~ say, for someone who wanted to finish the whole novel in a week or two instead of 4-6 weeks ~ we’re all “discussing” the same chapters in a certain week (lessening the chance of spoilers for those who are reading a given work for the first time).
But there are other possibilities, such as doing a single “Intro” post, and then having separate topical posts. There are a lot of upsides to this; the downside is that we might all be in different sections of the reading (spoilers!); and/or the comment threads could get lengthy.
I’m attaching a poll here, for your thoughts, and/or please comment below!
Little reminders: feel free to comment below this post for Week Seven’s Sketches, or comment on twitter with the hashtag #DickensClub. For any newer members or those who might be interested in joining: 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. If you have been reading along with us but are not yet on the Member List, I would love to add you! Please feel free to message me here on the site, or on twitter.
Week Six Wrap-up: Birthday Wishes; Catching up; Dickens as Romantic; Dickens’ Narrative Structure and Identity; the Experience of Reading Dickens
Of course, we were all wishing our Beloved Boz a Happy Birthday, including dear Gina Dalfonzo, whose book on Dickens is on my to-read list!
After ringing in “The New Year,” we meet the friends and rivals of Mr Wilkins and Miss Evans in “Miss Evans and the Eagle”; the blustering red-faced “Parlour Orator”; the ill-treated, dying girl and other sad scenes of “The Hospital Patient.” Then we come to what might be called whimsical morality tales, in “The Misplaced Affection of Mr John Dounce” and “The Mistaken Milliner.” Finally, we are wrapping up the week with “The Dancing Academy” and today’s “Shabby-Genteel People.”
Firstly, I loved that we’re still such a cohesive little group, though we’re in different places! Cassandra found a favorite Sketch in “A Visit to Newgate,” while lamenting that she was a bit behind (but not to worry!) ~ however, she has now caught up!
And she was feeling emotional with “A Christmas Dinner” and the pathos of the opening of “Thoughts about People.” Connie made a very kind comment about our group, and is also catching up!
Phyllis has been intrigued by Dickens’ ability to bring humor into the bleakest situations (while Yvonne considers the reverse situation in “The Parlour Orator”):
Daniel has kept the thread/theme of Dickens’ Romanticism going; an excellent reminder as we move forward into the novels, to see how this will play out over his extraordinary career.
We’ve been struck by “The New Year,” and it’s narrative structure. Lenny has been particularly fascinated with this, and of Boz’s characterization of himself. Is he a middle-aged or elderly introvert, a passive spectator? This is seemingly so at odds with the lively, vibrant, enviably youthful Dickens at the time of his writing of the Sketches. Here is a rich passage from Lenny’s comments on the subject:
Daniel gives us a very helpful definition of the “frame narrative” structure:
Chris very helpfully gives us some context for Dickens’ life at the time:
In considering Dickens’ writing, his use of “frame narrative” and his lengthy sentences with such layers and a detailed, “visual” feast of words, Daniel shares a fascinating quote:
And Lenny is all for it:
And not only that, but the strikingly visual quality to many of Dickens’ Sketches, notably this week with “Miss Evans.” Lenny is ready to have this filmed!
More evidence of the consuming quality of the reader’s experience in reading Dickens was discussed in “The Hospital Patient” and Boz’s ability to create atmosphere, and to wake us up to the too-common realities of loneliness, loss, and violence:
At the end, we might as well come round again to the experience of reading Dickens. That “transcendent” quality of getting lost in his world, carried away by his inimitable perspective and the quality of his sentence structure that forces one on or pulls one in, drawn as to the “Lodestone Rock”…
There are so many more marvelous comments, friends, and I hope you’ll have a chance to immerse yourself in the conversation if you haven’t already. But here, considering the experience of reading Dickens, I can’t do better than to end with Chris’ beautiful passage:
A Look-ahead to Week Seven…
This week, we’ll wrap up the “Characters” sequence, and begin the “Tales.” Today’s Sketch is the tenth in the “Characters” sequence, “Shabby-Genteel People.”
Tues, 15 Feb, 2022: “Characters,” Chapter Eleven: “Making a Night of It”
Wed, 16 Feb, 2022: “Characters,” Chapter Twelve: “The Prisoners’ Van”
Thurs, 17 Feb, 2022: “Tales,” Chapter One: “The Boarding-House”
Fri, 18 Feb, 2022: “Tales,” Chapter Two: “Mr Minns and His Cousin”
Sat, 19 Feb, 2022: “Tales,” Chapter Three: “Sentiment”
Sun, 20 Feb, 2022: “Tales,” Chapter Four: “The Tuggses at Ramsgate”
Mon, 21 Feb, 2022: “Tales,” Chapter Five: “Horatio Sparkins”