Wherein we say farewell to Master Humphrey–except in his character as the unnamed gentleman who meets Little Nell–and wrap-up our discussion; with a look-ahead to the first week of The Old Curiosity Shop
Edited/compiled by Rach
Friends, warm welcome to our thirtieth week! We’ve just passed Day 200, and what a journey it has been…
Many are in the midst of summer travels and not all are up for listening to solitary, reclusive gentlemen feeling nostalgic at chimney corners, so a huge “thank you” to those who decided to join in the journey for Master Humphrey, the frame narrative device intended to hold The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge.
I didn’t call this a “final” wrap-up, only because all that we read in the coming weeks is still connected in some way to this curious experiment of Dickens.
Our opinions about the success–or otherwise–of Dickens’ experiment were pretty well split down the middle: we were either charmed and delighted, or as disappointed as many of the readers of Dickens’ own time were.
Due to the nature of the frame narrative, we’ll skip over the “summary,” as with the Sketches, and go straight to the discussion wrap-up after our usual “General Mems.” Here are some quick links:
- General Mems
- Discussion Wrap-Up
- A Look-Ahead to Week One of The Old Curiosity Shop
- Additonal Reference on The Old Curiosity Shop‘s Illustrations
Friends, we’ve just passed the 200-day mark in our Dickens Club! Congrats!! If you’re counting, today is day 203 (and week 30) in our #DickensClub! It will be Week One of The Old Curiosity Shop, our sixth read of the group. Please feel free to comment below this post for the first week’s chapters, or use the hashtag #DickensClub if you’re commenting on twitter.
No matter where you’re at in the reading process, a huge “thank you” for reading along with us. Heartfelt thanks to our dear Dickens Fellowship and The Dickens Society for retweets, and to all those liking, sharing, and encouraging our Club, including Dr. Christian Lehmann and Dr. Pete Orford. Huge “thank you” also to The Circumlocution Office (on twitter also!) for providing such a marvelous online resource for us.
And a warm welcome to our newest member, Bonnie F.! Thank you so much for joining us! And for any more recent members or for those who might be interested in joining: the revised two-and-a-half year reading schedule can be found here. Boze’s marvelous Introduction to Master Humphrey’s Clock and The Old Curiosity Shop can be found here. If you’ve been reading along with us but aren’t yet on the Member List, we would love to add you! Please feel free to message Rach here on the site, or on twitter.
Mudfog and Miscellany
Warm welcome back to Cassandra! We have missed you! Cassandra just finished Nicholas Nickleby, and she fell “a little bit in love” with our hero, and with his traveling companion:
Meanwhile, Chris found the perfect game for our group:
In response to Boze’s wonderful introduction to Master Humphrey’s Clock and The Old Curiosity Shop (and his postscript on “Public Life of Mr Tulrumble”–below), Daniel got the discussion off to a great start, praising Carlyle’s perception of Dickens and the exquisite voice of Anton Lesser. (I think this group could easily start two fan clubs now, for Peter Ackroyd and Anton Lesser!)
Lenny agreed about Boze’s introduction and is eager to read the Shop, which he likens to a kind of Pilgrim’s Progress, but dealing with “the subjugation and possible freedom of children who are at the mercy of surrounding ‘adults,’ as well as the condition of women”:
This week, I posted some whimsical praise for a random, disconnected Dickens story, “The Public Life of Mr. Tulrumble.” Boze had the same thought, and I had missed his postscript praising its virtues. (We’ve both been quoting from this Mudfoggian gem.)
Master Humphrey’s Clock: Did it Work?
I decided not to break up our comments into themes, since the readership was smaller for this one, and we essentially had one question to deal with: Did Dickens’ frame experiment work? Did we like it? What did we love–or not?
Chris felt that even the Wellers could “do very little to liven the text”:
The Stationmaster felt the same disappointment, and noted the diverging ways in which Dickens portrays those with physical differences in the two stories. (This will come back around to Dickens later, when he will be criticized for one of his negative portrayals–and the criticism does have its effect in the character’s trajectory.)
I confess I’m a fan of Master Humphrey, and love even the notion that Dickens thought such an odd concept a good idea, so I included some of my favorite things about it here:
A Look-Ahead to Week One of The Old Curiosity Shop (26 July – 1 Aug)
Friends, since the installments of The Old Curiosity Shop were published in weekly rather than monthly numbers, we’ve just opted to divide the book up into more or less equal-length sections for these next four weeks.
This week, we’ll be reading Chapters 1-18.
If you’d like to read it online, The Old Curiosity Shop can be found at The Circumlocution Office. There are a number of places (including Gutenberg) where it can be downloaded for free.
Additonal Reference on The Old Curiosity Shop‘s Illustrations
If you have a chance, I would highly recommend this 20-minute gem from one of our favorite Dickensians, Dr. Christian Lehmann, as part of the marvelous “Dickens-to-Go” project, on the illustrations in The Old Curiosity Shop.
Here, Dr. Christian discusses the four illustrators who worked on this project (primarily Phiz and Cattermole), the strengths of each, the ways in which the four influenced or challenged one another in this collaboration, and the woodcut engraving method that was utilized. (And how this method, enabling the illustrations to essentially be “dropped into” the text and to lay alongside it, changes the dynamic of the text-to-image.) He does a “close reading” of several individual illustrations which help give additional insight into Dickens’ text.
And Dickens’ prose creates such images in our minds. And as Dr. Christian has said, we can’t talk about Dickens without talking about the illustrations.
NOTE: SPOILER ALERT about a MAJOR PLOT POINT approx 14 minutes into the video: