Wherein we glance back at the seventh week of the Dickens Chronological Reading Club 2022-23; with a look ahead to week eight, the final week of Sketches by Boz.
Well, here we are, about to embark on our final week with Sketches by Boz…wow. What a treasury of riches we’ve had here in our comment threads: on Dickens’ techniques, his narrative style and structure, his progress as a writer, and the themes that fascinate him.
And this is only the beginning of the journey…
No matter where you’re at in the reading process, a huge “thank you” for reading along with us! Always and forever, a heartfelt thanks to the joyously Dickensian account, the Dickens Fellowship for retweeting these and keeping us all in sync, and to The Circumlocution Office for providing such an online resource for us!
I have altered the reading schedule in our Intro post for the Club (only very slightly, by a couple of days here and there) mostly because ending one read on a Monday and starting out with another on a Tuesday works well with the odd live-in shifts of yours truly, and the creation of the discussion wrap-ups. However, unavoidably, some novels/works will start or end on different days of the week, as the many of them fall perfectly into a single calendar month. But…just fyi.
Little reminders: feel free to comment below this post for Week Eight’s Sketches, or comment on twitter with the hashtag #DickensClub.
I will post a final wrap-up for the Sketches next Monday, 28 Feb, followed by an introduction to The Pickwick Papers on Tuesday.
For any newer members or those who might be interested in joining: the schedule is 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 Seven Wrap-up: Supplemental Readings, How to Proceed after Sketches, Dickens’ Development as a Writer, Parallels in This Week’s Sketches, Things We Loved, and a Question
We started the week with “Shabby-Genteel People,” and then met a delightful pair of drunken troublemakers who were well and truly “Making a Night of It.” Then, to the first of the “Tales” with matrimonial incidents in “The Boarding-House,” followed by Dickens’ first published piece of fiction, and the hassles of dealing with Mr. Minns’ least favorite things ~ dogs, children, and society ~ in “Mr. Minns and His Cousin” (renamed from the original title, “A Dinner at Poplar Walk”); then “Sentiment” and “The Tuggses at Ramsgate.”
Finally, we will conclude this week ~ and begin our final week ~ with “Horatio Sparkins.”
This week, I posted a little supplement to the Sketches in a passage from John Forster on the delights and attractions of the Sketches, and Chris shared with us two fascinating journal articles to supplement our reading: “So Frail a Machine,” and “The Carnivalesque City.”
We also polled and discussed about how to proceed with the posts and the reading divisions once Sketches is finished, and we seem to be of similar mind.
So, I will continue the weekly discussion wrap-ups, and each novel will be divided as equally as possible into the number of weeks we have to read them, so that we’re all discussing only specific chapters in a given week (even if some of us read ahead). More on this in the “Intro to Pickwick” post to come.
One of our members, Sarah, has finished the Sketches, and is reading Claire Tomalin’s The Invisible Woman (on Ellen Ternan) while she awaits the group start of Pickwick. (I have recently picked up her biography of Dickens, but won’t be delving into that for a while yet, as I’m in the middle of several other related reads…but looking forward to it!)
We had lots to say on “Shabby-Genteel People” ~ and Yvonne questions Dickens’ lack of inclusion of women among those capable of that designation. (She also pointed us to a fascinating bit of Victoriana, inspired by this sketch, in regards to black and blue “reviver” noted in this Sketch.)
Chris notes the difference in the composition of this Sketch versus Dickens’ later works; in essence, that it comes off like a more juvenile/by-the-book attempt to “tell” rather than “show” us. It is comforting that Dickens, so masterful at doing the latter, had to develop this craft, too:
On the hilarious “Making a Night of It,” some selections from Lenny’s fabulous comments. (This is the “gallery view”; click on each to see it enlarged:)
I have to restrain myself from going on too long about “Making a Night of it.” As a sucker for a bromance, however ridiculous, I particularly loved this Sketch:
On “The Prisoners’ Van,” The Circumlocution Office kindly provided the two delightful paragraphs that were in the original version of the Sketch, but omitted for book publication, somewhat to the lament of Chris and myself. Lenny, however, had the editor’s eye here, and thinks overall it was a wise omission:
Both Lenny and Chris had such rich things to say on “The Boarding House,” “Mr. Minns,” “Sentiment,” and “The Tuggses.” Lenny found fascinating parallels between the first three, in spite of the differences in the tales themselves. Though I looked at “Minns,” for example, more in light of a kind of comical, ironical karma for Minns’ dislike of innocent and joyous beings ~ dogs and children ~ and of human interaction in general, Lenny had an empathetic look at him as a victim of a “schemer” (his cousin), much in the way Mrs. Tibbs schemes in “The Boarding-House.” Here is a passage in his consideration of “Mr. Minns” parallels to “The Boarding-House,” though I hope you’ll read the whole of his thoughts:
Chris gives a fascinating perspective when “Sentiment” in particular is looked at in the context of Dickens’ own life, particularly what was to come long after the writing of these Sketches:
These are just a few of the many wonderful comments this week. I need to take another dive in myself, and I hope you do too! As a final thought to end the discussion with ~ or rather, to start a new one with ~ Daniel, who has been listening to the Sketches on audiobook, has a question: Do we have a “Dickens” today?
A Look-ahead to Week Eight…
Today’s Sketch is the fifth in the “Tales” Sequence, “Horatio Sparkins.”
Tues, 22 Feb, 2022: “Tales,” Chapter Six: “The Black Veil”
Wed, 23 Feb, 2022: “Tales,” Chapter Seven: “The Steam Excursion”
Thurs, 24 Feb, 2022: “Tales,” Chapter Eight: “The Great Winglebury Duel”
Fri, 25 Feb, 2022: “Tales,” Chapter Nine: “Mrs. Joseph Porter”
Sat, 26 Feb, 2022: “Tales,” Chapter Ten: “A Passage in the Life of Mr. Watkins Tottle”
Sun, 27 Feb, 2022: “Tales,” Chapter Eleven: “The Bloomsbury Christening”
Mon, 28 Feb, 2022: “Tales,” Chapter Twelve: “The Drunkard’s Death”
…and The End.
We’ll see you on Monday the 28th for our final wrap-up of Sketches by Boz, followed by Tuesday 1 March’s Introduction to The Pickwick Papers!