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Charles Dickens has always been a progressive hero of mine. Through his books and his many newspaper articles and serials, Dickens was able to exert social pressure that was unheard of before that time. I have spent many an hour looking from the outside into Debtor's Prison, and I've spent as many from inside Debtor's Prison looking out. Was he the dominant force that finally struck down that scurrilous institution?  

He was also something of a writer. From his first novel, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, I would like to share with you the two finest paragraphs in literature. By coincidence, one deals with comedy, while the other's target is drama. Without further ado about nothing, I bring you comedy (which was easy for Dickens, as all he needed was a hat and a puff of wind):    

comedyanddrama

pickwick2




There are very few moments in a man's existence when he experiences so much ludicrous distress, or meets with so little charitable commiseration, as when he is in pursuit of his own hat. A vast deal of coolness, and a peculiar degree of judgment, are requisite in catching a hat. A man must not be precipitate, or he runs over it; he must not rush into the opposite extreme, or he loses it altogether. The best way is, to keep gently up with the object of pursuit, to be wary and cautious, to watch your opportunity well, get gradually before it, then make a rapid dive, seize it by the crown, and stick it firmly on your head: smiling pleasantly all the time, as if you thought it as good a joke as anybody else.

That is first-rate observational humor, advice column, and a wink rolled into one. The words here apply to almost everything in life and should be a Commandment. I won't dissect the humor, as that topic is flammable and subjective. The paragraph can stand alone as priceless, but Dickens, in the preceding stanza, whetted our appetite with this:
... running after his own hat, which was gamboling playfully away in perspective.
And in the subsequent paragraph, this:
There was a fine gentle wind, and Mr. Pickwick's hat rolled sportively before it. The wind puffed, and Mr. Pickwick puffed, and the hat rolled over and over as merrily as a lively porpoise in a strong tide....
All of our dignity, which we've spent decades building up, is subject to a mere puff of wind. How true. Funny too.


pickwick


The second paragraph needs more of an introduction. Our hero Pickwick, and his friend Wardle, are in hot pursuit of a grifter who has eloped with Wardle's spinster sister in order to marry her and gain her money. Pickwick and Wardle have discovered the elopers at a secluded carriage inn and have brought an attorney (the "little man" in the paragraph below) with them to negotiate this delicate situation with the con artist. Here, then, is drama:  

comedyanddrama1



"Now, sir," said the little man, as he carefully closed the door, "is there no way of accommodating this matter--step this way, sir, for a moment--into this window, sir, where we can be alone--there, sir, there, pray sit down, sir. Now, my dear sir, between you and I, we know very well, my dear sir, that you have run off with this lady for the sake of her money. Don't frown, sir, don't frown; I say, between you and I, we know it. We are both men of the world, and we know very well that our friends here, are not--eh?

The way Dickens moved the action through dialogue was stunning. Nothing like you might see in a lot of modern novels, "The little man moved the rogue into a private room and said, 'Is there no way of accommodating this'...." The technique is especially evident when the little man says, "Don't frown, sir, don't frown." We see all of the action through the words of the little man.

Moreover, life is a negotiation. From the time you first learn to shake your head "No!," to the last time you shake your fist at "those young fellers," you are negotiating. Most of the time, we don't even realize it, as we spend hours and hours negotiating with ourselves each day. Additionally, the tones, inflections and carefully chosen words we use for others are for the purpose of negotiation. Dickens showed how a master negotiator solves the problems of life.  

In that short paragraph, you'll find eight uses of the word "sir," two of the phrase "you and I," three "we's," which eventually and naturally and strategically become an "our." The little lawyer is buttering up the scoundrel, but not letting him play his scoundrel games. By the end of the short paragraph, he had secluded him, flattered him, dressed him down and was appealing to the charlatan about "our" common interest. It wraps up with what lawyers call a leading question. A question that presupposes an answer.  

Especially enthralling about the paragraph is how the little man had to be careful in a delicate situation. (He even "carefully closed the door.") The spinster sister wanted to believe that the rogue loved her and not her money, and even after the confrontation, she wanted to press on with the marriage. She was in her forties or fifties, so she could legally make up her own mind. If the little lawyer came in with an offer of money and a "take it or leave it" threat, that left the possibility of "leaving it," which was an unacceptable outcome. So, he was forced to use all his wiles to solve the problem. Also, by speaking in private, the negotiators were able to discuss money without doing further harm to the pride of the spinster sister.

[SPOILER ALERT:  The grifter, Alfred Jingle, was bought off for 120 pounds, the spinster sister returned home and eventually lived somethingily ever after. Jingle quickly blew threw the money and ended up, where else? Debtor's prison.] Here's a picture of that dread scoundrel, Mr. Jingle:


pickwick3

Originally posted to Tortmaster on Thu May 08, 2014 at 08:31 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight and Readers and Book Lovers.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (168+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fordmandalay, tarkangi, rbird, Yasuragi, JoanMar, CenPhx, NedSparks, niemann, Brecht, virginwoolf, peptabysmal, 2thanks, Radiowalla, ItsaMathJoke, Ice Blue, kevinpdx, SBandini, HedwigKos, begone, chuckvw, grover, Phoebe Loosinhouse, Egalitare, BenderRodriguez, ZedMont, ksheahan, Wee Mama, isabelle hayes, JBL55, NBBooks, coolbreeze, Powered Grace, Cedwyn, No one gets out alive, MartyM, StellaRay, Temmoku, Blueiz, Darmok, mungley, bumbi, P Carey, greenbastard, Unitary Moonbat, Batya the Toon, Carol in San Antonio, CenFlaDem, doroma, nomandates, Thinking Fella, scamp, BRog, ChemBob, political mutt, edwardssl, jodylanec, Matt Z, poco, HPrefugee, sfbob, 88kathy, hester, TX Freethinker, zerelda, emmasnacker, lineatus, dotdash2u, Habitat Vic, Monsieur Georges, amyzex, MadGeorgiaDem, wasatch, StateOfGrace, IndieGuy, Youffraita, northerntier, tomhodukavich, livingthedream, MKinTN, Trendar, bfitzinAR, thomask, leeleedee, Mostserene1, science nerd, dandy lion, tapestry, OhioNatureMom, VeggiElaine, tegrat, Chitown Kev, Fonsia, Paragryne, jnhobbs, River Rover, leonard145b, chloris creator, duhban, FindingMyVoice, Bluesee, Dauphin, NearlyNormal, dewtx, ferg, rhutcheson, GeorgeXVIII, trivium, StrayCat, shari, terabytes, peagreen, Uncle Moji, fToRrEeEsSt, old wobbly, numble, HeyMikey, Fabienne, Shawn87, native, shaso, Portlaw, Nisi Prius, Jon Sitzman, Elizaveta, defluxion10, SeaTurtle, UnionMade, Audio Guy, barbwires, bluekokoro, lao hong han, Mary Lennox, BYw, BeninSC, gardnerhill, Munchkn, RiveroftheWest, bkamr, Alise, Aaa T Tudeattack, peachcreek, Sapere aude, codairem, cassandraX, Pat K California, rubyclaire, JG in MD, ruleoflaw, mookins, ehavenot, Volt3930, Nulwee, oceanview, SherrieLudwig, FarWestGirl, Phoenix Woman, Subterranean, orestes1963, Prickly Pam, etatauri, ArthurPoet, Words In Action, nolagrl, helpImdrowning, dewolf99, Gwennedd, Oh Mary Oh, groupw

    My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

    by Tortmaster on Thu May 08, 2014 at 08:31:12 PM PDT

  •  Here's hoping ... (55+ / 0-)

    ... you've enjoyed my amateur micro-treatise on Charles Dickens and the two finest paragraphs in literature. BE FOREWARNED: I am a Dickens reader and not a Dickens scholar. It could be that I have everything exactly wrong.

    I would like to hear from anyone with an interest in Dickens. What do you think? And why? Also, if you have a favorite paragraph from another author or a different one from Dickens, please take the time to type it out and explain why it is the best. (Unlesss it's a paragraph from Bleak House, which can go on for three pages or more.) I would love to hear about other great paragraphs, but you must know that you cannot sway me against mine because as the wery nice spinster sister once said, "Love is dumb and blind and mute and deaf and hungry and sated and lazy and energetic."

    My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

    by Tortmaster on Thu May 08, 2014 at 08:34:46 PM PDT

    •  Have you ever considered going to Dickens Camp (11+ / 0-)

      which is held every year in Santa Cruz, Calif.? Actually it's called the Dickens Universe, or the Dickens Project.

      A friend of mine, who IS a Dickens scholar, was one of the people who started it.

      Anyone can go. They get people from all over the world. They focus on one book per year. This year it's Our Mutual Friend.

      It's held every August. Here's the link:

      The Dickens Universe

      Enjoy the San Diego Zoo's panda cam! And support Bat World Sanctuary

      by Fonsia on Fri May 09, 2014 at 09:09:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  My sister, who is not a daily kos ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest

        ... member, wanted to read this diary because she is a Dickens reader. Her greatest exclamation came at reading about Dickens Camp. It sounds awesome. Thanks, Fonsia!

        P.S. I was not able to get on the internet in time to respond to many of the comments, and worst of all, am not able to recommend them, as they've "timed out." Know that I would!

        My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

        by Tortmaster on Sat May 10, 2014 at 09:04:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Dickens. (14+ / 0-)

      Of course, the opening paragraph in A Tale of Two Cities ("It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . . ") is easily the best opening paragraph of any novel to date, and I doubt anyone else will come up with something better.

      There is also a wonderfully funny and ironic paragraph in that book about a grave robber as seen through his son's perspective, which constantly refers to said grave robber as "The Honored Parent," when, even in the kid's eyes, he's anything but.

      I love the dialogue in A Christmas Carol, when the Ghost of Christmas Present asks, with sarcasm and irony, " Are there no workhouses?  Are there no prisons?"  We've come to view that novel as a story of individual redemption, which it is, but it is also incendiary social commentary that resonates to this day.

      There are a couple of pages in the Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby that is one of the funniest character study/human observation pieces I've ever read.  Nicholas's sister, Kate, gets a job in a millinery and has to deal with all these rude middle-to-upper class clients, one of whom is a raging hypochondriac, with a husband that completely enables her hypochondria.  It reminded me so much of my grandparent's relationship it was like Dickens knew them, even though he died in 1870 and they were born in the 1890s.

      Yes, I totally get your love affair.

      •  This Navy veteran is partial to Melville. (12+ / 0-)

        And of course "Moby Dick" which to me contains the greatest opening sentence in literature. Its opening paragraph is pretty good too, but is unsurprisingly a bit long, and also contains a reference to flying hats (but not by the wind). Every time I read it I think about my time on the Atlantic, especially in winter. So here's that world-famous first line, and the rest of the opening paragraph about a wandering sailor's longing:

        Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off—then, I account it high time to get to the sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.
        I also like that little early foreshadowing with the "coffin" reference to the well known ending of the book.

        I am proud to be able to say that I got the chance to vote for Ann Richards for Governor of Texas, twice!

        by dewtx on Fri May 09, 2014 at 11:14:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree that is a great opening sentence (7+ / 0-)

          and a great opening paragraph.  What I love about the opening paragraph in A Tale of To Cities is its use of contrast and the rhythm that creates.  It builds almost musically, at least for me, and then the last couple of sentences pull me back to the fact that this is prose and an interesting story is on the way, and one that I can relate to (which is another reason I love Dickens -- his work about social class, poverty, the social compact and human nature is pretty much timeless -- not that Melville's writing doesn't contain more than a little something about human nature, obviously).  

          •  Dickens is more personal and approachable. (6+ / 0-)

            There's certainly a big difference in the style of Dickens and Melville. Melville is certainly of the Old Testament school, and Melville has certainly exerted an influence on modern writers like William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy (both also personal favorites of mine--I think you can see a pattern developing for me.)

            I'm personally not a big Dickens fan, although I strangely enjoyed "Bleak House" immensely and of course "A Christmas Carol" (which I read every Christmas with my grandson). Dickens is certainly a incredible writer, but just not to my taste (along with most of the Russian writers, Nabokov being the exception who I also love). I do try to read Dickens from time to time, but then I put him down and neglect to pick him up again when I start reading something else that interests me more. I've actually started reading "Swann's Way" for the very first time and so far so good, but I don't know if I've got the endurance to get through all the thousands of pages of Proust's magnum opus.

            Thankfully there is wonderful literature for all manner of tastes. The problem is just too many books and not enough time (especially the closer I get to the finish line.)

            I am proud to be able to say that I got the chance to vote for Ann Richards for Governor of Texas, twice!

            by dewtx on Fri May 09, 2014 at 12:13:00 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  To be fair, my wife disagrees about Melville. (8+ / 0-)

          My wife is from Colombia and she thinks that the greatest opening sentence in literature is the first line from Gabriel García Márquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude" (o "Cien años de soledad"). There's more to literature than English literature as she reminds me every time I talk about Shakespeare, even more so after the recent sad passing of Gabo. So here's that opening sentence (from Gregory Rabassa's fine English translation):

          Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
          Now my Spanish is acceptable, but not good enough to read all of Cien Años (and my wife's English is pretty good too, but not enough for my beloved Shakespeare). My wife insists that even though Rabassa's translation is quite good, Gabo's original in Spanish is even better. So to honor my wife (and for all the Spanish speaking kossacks out there) is that same first sentence in Gabo's original Spanish:
          Muchos años desqués, frente al pelotón de fusilamiento, el coronel Aureliano Buendía había de recordar aquella tarde remota en que su padre lo llevó a conocer el hielo.

          I am proud to be able to say that I got the chance to vote for Ann Richards for Governor of Texas, twice!

          by dewtx on Fri May 09, 2014 at 02:32:43 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I LOVE Gabriel Garcia Marquez (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            dewtx, RiveroftheWest, FarWestGirl

            and 100 Years of Solitude!  I took Spanish in college and became proficient but not fluent, so I read Gregory Rebassa's translation, guess where?  Waiting on the unemployment line.  It seemed fitting.  I did read a fairly lengthy chapter of the book in Spanish class -- the funeral of Mama Grande.  It was hilarious -- with the mourners competing to see who could express the most grief.  There was a diary about Gabo and the book when he died.

          •  My high school Spanish memory .... (4+ / 0-)

            says it is a spot on translation.  Manages to take the cadence of the original and pretty much preserve it in the translation.

          •  And there's French literature.... (6+ / 0-)

            “So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation which, in the midst of civilization, artificially creates a hell on earth, and complicates with human fatality a destiny that is divine; so long as the three problems of the century - the degradation of man by the exploitation of his labour, the ruin of women by starvation and the atrophy of childhood by physical and spiritual night are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words and from a still broader point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, there should be a need for books such as this.”
            ― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables -

      •  Better opening than Snoopy's fave: "It was (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dewtx, RiveroftheWest, oceanview, SeekCa

        a dark and stormy night ". . .??

        Fiat justitia ruat caelum "Let justice be done though the heavens fall."

        by bobdevo on Fri May 09, 2014 at 03:46:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Our love affair, anon004! ; ) (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest

        My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

        by Tortmaster on Sat May 10, 2014 at 09:05:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  The closing paragraphs are pretty amazing too! (0+ / 0-)

        If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning. - Catherine Aird

        by steveannie on Mon May 12, 2014 at 04:02:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Dickens should stand as a hero to us all (58+ / 0-)

    Not just for his ability to write timeless stories, but to use those abilities to illustrate the horrors of social inequity and wake up his readers to what was happening all around them, and to rise up and demand the world be changed.

    It's stunning that even so, we're quickly returning to the darkness of those times, motivated by politicians owned by corporations whose shining goal is to re-open debtors prisons, child labor, elimination of all workers rights, and virtual serfdom for the masses - and the media of the day has succeeded in exactly reversing the works of Dickens, convincing those same workers that the world of Oliver Twist is correct, and the way the world should be.

    Pistachios are like our politics - when the two sides are divided, that's when the nuts come out! - Stephen Colbert

    by Fordmandalay on Thu May 08, 2014 at 08:48:49 PM PDT

  •  The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire (37+ / 0-)

    From one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes stories:

    46, Old Jewry,
    Nov.19th.

    Re:  Vampires

    Sir:
    Our client, Mr. Robert Ferguson, of
    Ferguson and Muirhead, tea brokers, of
    Mincing Lane, has made some inquiry
    from us in a communication of even
    date concerning vampires. As our firm
    specializes entirely upon the assessment
    of machinery the matter hardly comes
    within our purview, and we have there-
    fore recommended Mr. Ferguson to call
    upon you and lay the matter before you.
    We have not forgotten your successful
    action in the case of Matilda Briggs.

    We are, sir,
    — Faithfully yours,

    Morrison, Morrison, and Dodd.
    per E. J. C

    This paragraph, which initiates a minor jewel of a detective story, is such a delightful compound of droll and earnest that I can not read it without laughing aloud.

    o caminho d'ouro, uma pinga de mel: Parati

    by tarkangi on Thu May 08, 2014 at 08:49:58 PM PDT

  •  What a lovely and engaging diary, Torts. (30+ / 0-)

    Thank you for this diversion from present issues.

    My mother loved Dickens.  She re-read him every half dozen years or so, straight through all his books.  I remember waking up as a child and finding her sobbing over Dombey and Son.  Interspersed with Dickens were Austen and Trollope.  And she set a fine example for me.  I've read only a little of Dickens, though nearly all of Austen and a bit of Trollope, and I'll have to dig up her copy of the Pickwick Papers soon and have a go.  Thanks for the inspiration.

    An angry white man with a gun is a patriot. An angry Muslim man with a gun is a terrorist. An angry black man with a gun is a corpse. -- raptavio

    by Yasuragi on Thu May 08, 2014 at 09:14:50 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for (34+ / 0-)

    the laughs before bed, Tortmaster.
    However:

    I don’t feel any vulgar gratitude to you. I almost feel as if you ought to be grateful to me, for giving you the opportunity of enjoying the luxury of generosity. I know you like it. For anything I can tell, I may have come into the world expressly for the purpose of increasing your stock of happiness.
    Bleak House.

    lol.

    Maya Angelou: "Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest."

    by JoanMar on Thu May 08, 2014 at 09:15:45 PM PDT

  •  One of my favorite paragraphs/stanzas (25+ / 0-)

    Though it is hard to pick a favorite section in The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T.S. Eliot, the opening is wonderful:

    Let us go then, you and I,   
    When the evening is spread out against the sky   
    Like a patient etherized upon a table;   
    Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,   
    The muttering retreats           
    Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels   
    And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:   
    Streets that follow like a tedious argument   
    Of insidious intent   
    To lead you to an overwhelming question….           
    Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”   
    Let us go and make our visit.   

    Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves. -Thoreau

    by CenPhx on Thu May 08, 2014 at 09:33:49 PM PDT

  •  My word, Tortmaster, you have brought a smile upon (23+ / 0-)

    my visage, and expertly so, for the able Mr. Dickens has always been a favorite of mine, if I may declare truthfully.

    Thank you for your great illustration, and isn't it interesting how the encounter between the "little man" and Jingle resembled the previously mentioned tutorial on how to secure a wayward hat?

    Totally enjoyed it! Incidentally, one of my favorite literary citations of Dickens is this passage from David Copperfield:

    To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.
     
    Such an introduction...filled with all the drama and mystery that the book itself entailed.....

    Thanks again....

  •  Thanks for this nice diary! (10+ / 0-)

    Love Dickens thanks for the reminder though as it's been a long time.
    Nice to have diaries that aren't about the happenings in today's world.

  •  I am saddened that my current students get (30+ / 0-)

    very caught up in the notion that Dickens "got paid by the word" and in their view "needed a good editor." There are few writers in English who loved language so much and used it so well and has such FUN!

  •  Ah, don't forget the closing chapter of Pickwick (35+ / 0-)

    Where Dickens gives a philosophy worth following:

    "Let us leave our old friend in one of those moments of unmixed happiness, of which, if we seek them, there are ever some, to cheer our transitory existence here. There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast. Some men, like bats or owls, have better eyes for the darkness than for the light; we, who have no such optical powers, are better pleased to take our last parting look at the visionary companions of many solitary hours, when the brief sunshine of the world is blazing full upon them."

    Let us all do our best to act in and for the light, and to mitigate the darkness.

    •  That is beautiful, fossil fish, and ... (14+ / 0-)

      ... a most worthy choice! Reminds me of how optimistic Dickens was in writing. (Which is probably why I like him so much.) Also, good advice from both of you!

      My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

      by Tortmaster on Thu May 08, 2014 at 10:54:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  But we also can't forget Joyce! (5+ / 0-)

      The last passages of Joyce's The Dead gets my vote, when Gabriel has learned, after a party, that his wife has been in love all these years with a boy who died:

      The air of the room chilled his shoulders. He stretched himself cautiously along under the sheets and lay down beside his wife. One by one, they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age. He thought of how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years that image of her lover's eyes when he had told her that he did not wish to live.

      Generous tears filled Gabriel's eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman, but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself, which these dead had one time reared and lived in, was dissolving and dwindling.

      A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

      "If a man loses his reverence for any part of life, he will lose his reverence for all of life." — Albert Schweitzer

      by mozartssister on Fri May 09, 2014 at 06:00:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  In my freshman-year literature ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest

        ... course in college, we spent the first four weeks on one paragraph from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. In our bibliography for the course, we had been instructed to read the book before class started.

        About mid-way through the last hour of the fourth week, I gained the courage to raise my hand to the question from the professor. My answer was something along the lines of (timidly), "Isn't doing nothing at all still doing something; Isn't zero something?" I wish I still remembered the question.

        In any event, our proctor immediately moved on to another paragraph, so I suppose I had figured out the meaning of that one paragraph of Joyce, or the professor finally realized we were a lost cause.  

        He did teach me to savor every paragraph. I didn't realize it, but this diary is due to him.

        Thanks, mozartssister, a very worthy choice and a sweet but prickly reminder for me!

        My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

        by Tortmaster on Sat May 10, 2014 at 10:14:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Dickens, like everyone, was not perfect.... (31+ / 0-)

    He once stated that the best way to deal with a dispute with China was to seize and execute 500 "mandarins," at which point, presumably, the Chinese would start taking the English seriously.

    But I would not argue that he was better than most people of his time.

    His style is a bit uneven too, and often glutinously sentimental, though that is less his fault and more a product of changes in taste since his time. George Orwell had a good deal of truth on his side when he described Dickens' works as having "rotten architecture, but wonderful gargoyles."

    One work of his that has fallen into undeserved neglect, in my opinion, is a collection of essays entitled The Uncommercial Traveler, containing his observations of the world around him. He was a great walker, even for his day, sometimes going forty miles at a stretch, and he kept his eyes open. My mother, who was born in London, got a prize volume of The Uncommercial Traveler for good marks in French, and so it was one of the first "serious" books that I read. It's well worth a look...

    Such strange churchyards hide in the City of London; churchyards sometimes so entirely detached from churches, always so pressed upon by houses; so small, so rank, so silent, so forgotten, except by the few people who ever look down into them from their smoky windows.  As I stand peeping in through the iron gates and rails, I can peel the rusty metal off, like bark from an old tree.  The illegible tombstones are all lop-sided, the grave-mounds lost their shape in the rains of a hundred years ago, the Lombardy Poplar or Plane-Tree that was once a drysalter’s daughter and several common-councilmen, has withered like those worthies, and its departed leaves are dust beneath it.  Contagion of slow ruin overhangs the place.  The discoloured tiled roofs of the environing buildings stand so awry, that they can hardly be proof against any stress of weather.  Old crazy stacks of chimneys seem to look down as they overhang, dubiously calculating how far they will have to fall.  In an angle of the walls, what was once the tool-house of the grave-digger rots away, encrusted with toadstools.  Pipes and spouts for carrying off the rain from the encompassing gables, broken or feloniously cut for old lead long ago, now let the rain drip and splash as it list, upon the weedy earth.  Sometimes there is a rusty pump somewhere near, and, as I look in at the rails and meditate, I hear it working under an unknown hand with a creaking protest: as though the departed in the churchyard urged, ‘Let us lie here in peace; don’t suck us up and drink us!’

    This is the landscape that we understand, -
    And till the principle of things takes root,
    How shall examples move us from our calm?

    (Mary Oliver, "Beyond the Snow Belt.")

    by sagesource on Thu May 08, 2014 at 10:10:13 PM PDT

  •  What I love about Dickens is his ear for dialect (19+ / 0-)

    which I noticed particularly in my favorite: "Our Mutual Friend". He (Dickens) subtly accustoms you to a character's particular speech pattern, then leaves the character (for tens of chapters!), and then when the character returns late in the story, just a few spoken words conjure up the exact character, even before he's (re-)introduced. It's like magic! :)

    Reality has a well-known liberal bias -- Stephen Colbert

    by ItsaMathJoke on Thu May 08, 2014 at 10:14:10 PM PDT

    •  Very funny! (15+ / 0-)

      Dickens readers know exactly what you mean. Haha, I especially laughed at the " for tens of chapters" reference. So true, and you did it with a Dickens-esque sidebar. Thanks, ItsaMathJoke!

      My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

      by Tortmaster on Thu May 08, 2014 at 11:13:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Of all the Dickens books I love.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ItsaMathJoke, RiveroftheWest

      .... I love Our Mutual Friend most.

    •  This from Pickwick (6+ / 0-)

      is particularly good:

      ‘Do you recollect anything particular happening on the morning when you were first engaged by the defendant; eh, Mr. Weller?’ said Serjeant Buzfuz.

      ‘Yes, I do, sir,’ replied Sam.

      ‘Have the goodness to tell the jury what it was.’

      ‘I had a reg’lar new fit out o’ clothes that mornin’, gen’l’men of the jury,’ said Sam, ‘and that was a wery partickler and uncommon circumstance vith me in those days.’

      Hereupon there was a general laugh; and the little judge, looking with an angry countenance over his desk, said, ‘You had better be careful, Sir.’

      ‘So Mr. Pickwick said at the time, my Lord,’ replied Sam; ‘and I was wery careful o’ that ‘ere suit o’ clothes; wery careful indeed, my Lord.’

      The judge looked sternly at Sam for full two minutes, but Sam’s features were so perfectly calm and serene that the judge said nothing, and motioned Serjeant Buzfuz to proceed.

      ‘Do you mean to tell me, Mr. Weller,’ said Serjeant Buzfuz, folding his arms emphatically, and turning half–round to the jury, as if in mute assurance that he would bother the witness yet—‘do you mean to tell me, Mr. Weller, that you saw nothing of this fainting on the part of the plaintiff in the arms of the defendant, which you have heard described by the witnesses?’ ‘Certainly not,’ replied Sam; ‘I was in the passage till they called me up, and then the old lady was not there.’

      ‘Now, attend, Mr. Weller,’ said Serjeant Buzfuz, dipping a large pen into the inkstand before him, for the purpose of frightening Sam with a show of taking down his answer. ‘You were in the passage, and yet saw nothing of what was going forward. Have you a pair of eyes, Mr. Weller?’

      ‘Yes, I have a pair of eyes,’ replied Sam, ‘and that’s just it. If they wos a pair o’ patent double million magnifyin’ gas microscopes of hextra power, p’raps I might be able to see through a flight o’ stairs and a deal door; but bein’ only eyes, you see, my wision ‘s limited.’

      At this answer, which was delivered without the slightest appearance of irritation, and with the most complete simplicity and equanimity of manner, the spectators tittered, the little judge smiled, and Serjeant Buzfuz looked particularly foolish.

  •  Tortmaster, thanks for reminding me of the (15+ / 0-)

    delights of Dickens.

        "There were five of us -- Caruthers and the new recruit and myself, and Mr. Spivens and the verger. It was late afternoon on November the fifteenth, and we were in what was left of Coventry Cathedral, looking for the bishop's bird stump.
         Or at any rate I was. The new recruit was gawking at the blown-out stained glass windows, Mr. Spivens was digging up something, and Carruthers was trying to onvince the verger we were from the Auxiliary Fire Service."
    Thus begins To Say Nothing of the Dog, and thus does award-winning Connie Willis begin her romp, a comedy of manners involving chaos theory, literary allusions, playful conversations, and mystery. She made me laugh out loud not through jokes but by shaping situations into surprise.

    Read this, Tortie, I think you will like it.

  •  A stellar diary, Tortmaster. (23+ / 0-)

    Your selections are quite good. But I propose the following is the best paragraph in all English literature.

    I'm not a Victorian lit fan. And many works,  from Gatsby to Animal Farm to Lord of the Flies end with great paragraphs.

    Shakespeare's soliloquies are mostly masterful.

    But this is genius. The novel is about great and terrifying times, and two men who are the same and vastly different.

    The opening is lyrical and simple. It is vast and sweeping but simple. It sets the scene and draws the reader close. There are allusions to Ecclesiastes 3 ("For everything there is a season"). In fact, he seems to borrow the tempo of that verse, which many of his readers would feel familiar with, even though they probably didn't know why.

     The author sets up the contrasts for you and tells you the comparisons are necessarily superlative.

     And sure enough, wine -- or is it blood? -- will run down the streets.

    A Tale of Two Cities:

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
    The most striking thing about this paragraph to me is its universality.

    It applies to 18th century France, the backdrop of the novel, to 19th Century Britain in which Dickens wrote it, or to the 21th Century Globalized economy.

    © grover


    So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

    by grover on Fri May 09, 2014 at 01:51:20 AM PDT

    •  I have read some Dickens books ... (11+ / 0-)

      ... more than 10 times. Some just 4 or 5 times. I have yet to make it past chapter 2 of A Tale of Two Cities. It is a dark mark, and I get ridiculed about it by other Dickens admirers.

      But I know that first paragraph, and I loved the way you explained it, especially the "allusions." Thanks, grover!

      My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

      by Tortmaster on Fri May 09, 2014 at 03:29:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You might consider an audio version. (5+ / 0-)

        A very long commute helped me find the time to get around to a number of long-neglected books (e.g. A Tale of Two Cities), and I discovered how wonderfully Dickens' prose comes to life when read aloud, especially by a top-notch audio reader.

        (I must confess whenever I think of the title of this book, I remember Bel Kaufman's Up The Down Staircase and "A Sale of Two Titties.")

        I don't recall who read ATOTC -- it wasn't anyone whose name rang a bell, but I heard that same reader read some selections from Rumpole of the Bailey with equal delight.

      •  I think many people never get past the first (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Nulwee, RiveroftheWest, Tortmaster

        Chapter unless forced to by their upcoming literature quiz or term paper.

        It's probably why it's a well recognized paragraph even though many people have no clue what the novel is actually about.

        As I told a few of my students who had ADHD, skim the long descriptive scene-setting paragraphs (often pages worth) to get to the plot. Then you can go back and fill in the details. They make more sense and are much more interesting once you have an idea what is going on and actually care about the characters.

        © grover


        So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

        by grover on Fri May 09, 2014 at 11:50:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  It irritates me disproportionately (9+ / 0-)

      that the conclusion to that paragraph is virtually always left off when it gets quoted; it usually cuts off at "despair."  How anyone can read that introductory paragraph and not immediately grasp that the "in short" sentence is the entire point of it is beyond me.

    •  I couldn't agree more about the mastery (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      trivium, RiveroftheWest, grover

      of that paragraph.  As I said in a later comment, it's easily the best opening paragraph of any novel.

  •  To me, nothing surpasses Marley's ghost (23+ / 0-)
    “But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

    “Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

    I think about Paul Ryan giving his staff Atlas Shrugged as required reading and think about what a different world he and his staff and his Party could help create if they switched over to A Christmas Carol.

    “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” FDR

    by Phoebe Loosinhouse on Fri May 09, 2014 at 02:36:45 AM PDT

  •  I always thought Dickens was boring (10+ / 0-)

    Until I, you know, actually read something he wrote; David Copperfield, to be exact.

  •  Your second paragraph (15+ / 0-)

    is also a matter of humor.

    One of the saddest aspects of the degeneration of language is that we fail to recognize the subtleties of its use from past times.

    "between you and I" is used so often nowadays that our appreciation of the phrase in this paragraph becomes impossible.

    The correct phrase is "between you and me," since we would never say "between we." So the little man's use of the grammatically incorrect (and jarring) phrase loses its strength.

    The phrase tells us that the little man is a poseur - pretending to be educated and genteel while in fact being neither. He is no more a man of the world than he is able to fly. In Dickens' time, and until perhaps 40 years ago, this would be plain to any reader, and is in fact a more masterful illumination of the little man's class and place in the world than a chapter of narration could.

    We need a world in which we ask "What's happened to you?" more and "What's wrong with you?" less. (From a comment by Kossack nerafinator)

    by ramara on Fri May 09, 2014 at 06:57:33 AM PDT

    •  Perhaps .... (4+ / 0-)

      ..."between you and I" was aready -- even in Dickens' time -- a phrase that was commonly used in ordinary discourse by ordinary people.  Where's your evidence that present day usage of this phrase is a (relatively) recent development.  Ordinary usage often fails to obey the rules of grammarians -- and this has always been the case.

      •  Even in a movie (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dewtx, Shawn87, JG in MD, Nulwee

        from the 1950's or 60's, the phrase was used to mark a woman as a dumb blonde. Nowadays no one would get the joke.

        I never heard the phrase used in common speech until the past few years, and I have a visceral reaction to it. I remember learning in school that the trick to deciding when to use I or me was to take the other person out of the sentence and use the word you would use then. Would you say "he gave the gift to I" or "he gave the gift to me?"

        You would not say, "let's keep this between we," would you? If the correct word is the objective pronoun in the plural, it is the objective pronoun in the singular.

        The context in comedy, whether in Dickens or in gangster movies, is that some people think the word "I" is more genteel, and are trying to show off.

        We need a world in which we ask "What's happened to you?" more and "What's wrong with you?" less. (From a comment by Kossack nerafinator)

        by ramara on Fri May 09, 2014 at 10:46:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •   (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dewtx, RiveroftheWest

          Used in Shakespeare -- in a letter written by an educated character to another educated character:

          http://nfs.sparknotes.com/...

          (note the "modern" translation corrects Shakespeare on this point).

          Shakespeare was not alone in committing this (supposed) literary sin.

          Congreve used it in The Double Dealer (Act II, Scene 1) around 1693.

          Mark Twain used this phrase in various letters he wrote.

          I would suggest the phrase, even if technically wrong, is a long-accepted idiomatic use -- perhaps intended to create a somewhat greater sense of intimacy than the more correct alternative. (A usage that would make perfect sense in Dicken's usage of it in Pickwick).

    •  I would note that ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ramara, RiveroftheWest

      ... a clever mind does not always go hand-in-hand with a grammatical tongue. Sam Weller, for instance....

      Thanks for your input!

      What is truly amazing about Dickens is that his novels are so fabulous, and I don't even get 80% of the jokes, don't know what a "teakbaroo" is, and have pretty vague ideas about that time's weights and measures and the current value of a pound, farthing, penny, ha'penny, quid, and on and on.

      My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

      by Tortmaster on Sat May 10, 2014 at 11:27:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't know all the math (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Tortmaster, RiveroftheWest

        but the basic money was pounds, shillings, and pence. I think there were 16 pence in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound. Quid is slang for pound, as is sovereign. Sixpence, ha(lf)penny and such were coins. A farthing is part of a penny, buy I don't know how many made one pence.

        Plantagenet Palliser had the right idea, trying to pass decimal coinage, though the old way was more colorful.

        We need a world in which we ask "What's happened to you?" more and "What's wrong with you?" less. (From a comment by Kossack nerafinator)

        by ramara on Sun May 11, 2014 at 09:16:39 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  "Between you and I" (12+ / 0-)

    Did Dickens use bad grammar on purpose?  Perhaps the incorrect grammar was part of the character's persona.   It's a mistake that particularly grates on me.  

    I loved reading this diary!  So glad to see it high on the Rec List and safely into the Community Spotlight.  There is nothing like literature to instruct, to elevate, to amuse, to heal the human heart.  Merci.

    It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

    by Radiowalla on Fri May 09, 2014 at 06:59:37 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for the diary. Awesome. (5+ / 0-)

    I've been slowly working through Dickens' bigger works.

    "And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover, And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over." - John Masefield

    by mungley on Fri May 09, 2014 at 06:59:56 AM PDT

  •  I've just started in on reading Dickens (12+ / 0-)

    as of midway through last year, when I first picked up A Tale of Two Cities.  I've since progressed through Bleak House, Great Expectations, and David Copperfield; I tried The Pickwick Papers and couldn't manage to get very far into it, but I've enjoyed the others.

    (I really should give Oliver Twist another try.  I attempted that one when I was thirteen and bounced off it hard, largely from having expected it to be more like the musical.  Well, and also from the anti-semitism, but oh well.)

    Dickens is not without his flaws, to be sure -- but his strengths are considerable: a thoroughly skilled command of the language, a very firm grasp of human motives (especially motives that are not entirely clear to oneself), and a view of social issues at multiple levels that is critical, insightful, and strongly ethical.

    Since we seem to be doing favorite passages, here's one from David Copperfield, in which our young protagonist is hosting a supper-party for his friends and has drunk rather too much:

    Somebody was leaning out of my bedroom window, refreshing his forehead against the cool stone of the parapet, and feeling the air upon his face. It was myself. I was addressing myself as 'Copperfield', and saying, 'Why did you try to smoke? You might have known you couldn't do it.' Now, somebody was unsteadily contemplating his features in the looking-glass. That was I too. I was very pale in the looking-glass; my eyes had a vacant appearance; and my hair—only my hair, nothing else—looked drunk.

    Somebody said to me, 'Let us go to the theatre, Copperfield!' There was no bedroom before me, but again the jingling table covered with glasses; the lamp; Grainger on my right hand, Markham on my left, and Steerforth opposite—all sitting in a mist, and a long way off. The theatre? To be sure. The very thing. Come along! But they must excuse me if I saw everybody out first, and turned the lamp off—in case of fire.

    Owing to some confusion in the dark, the door was gone. I was feeling for it in the window-curtains, when Steerforth, laughing, took me by the arm and led me out. We went downstairs, one behind another. Near the bottom, somebody fell, and rolled down. Somebody else said it was Copperfield. I was angry at that false report, until, finding myself on my back in the passage, I began to think there might be some foundation for it.

    •  Hahahaha! Excellent pick, Batya the Toon! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      I used to get that drunk and be that "witty"! But it takes an imagination like Dickens to describe it.

      On a more serious note, Dickens did have a character in Our Mutual Friend, Riah, who was purposefully, I think, juxtaposed with another character, Fascination Fledgeby. Fledgeby was the gentile moneylender, who was as evil and scheming as Riah was honorable and trustworthy.

      As I stated above in another comment, it was luck only that made the world remember Fagin and forget Riah. Back in those days, many countries had laws proscribing any occupation other than lending money for people of the Jewish faith.  

      My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

      by Tortmaster on Sat May 10, 2014 at 11:54:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oh believe me, I know of those laws. (0+ / 0-)

        It's always kind of fascinating, in a not-very-comfortable way, to look at portrayals of Jews that are meant to be positive (or at least sympathetic) by authors who have clearly internalized a hell of a lot of anti-semitic stereotypes.  The moneylender Kadmiel in Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill is my favorite example.

        I should probably check out Our Mutual Friend.

  •  Love Dickens (6+ / 0-)

    Great Expectations was my favorite.  Must have read it 100 times.

    Thanks for the entertaining diary.

  •  Thank you for this. (3+ / 0-)

    The last book I read was Great Expectations.  I have been struggling to pick up another book ever since.  I so fell in love with the characters:  Wemmick and his Aged P., Matthew who responded to his self-indulgent family by lifting himself from his chair by the hair, and the ever-faithful, patient, simple yet wise Joe.  Even Jaggers, revealed at the end to "care," at some level, about the tide of misery with which he was involved every day.

    Usually I have a hard time with a protagonist who is wrapped in his/her own folly, but Pip's journey is such an interesting one that I enjoyed his gradual progress towards maturity and perspective.  I wasn't even bothered about the ending.  Pip learned some sense and especially to respect Joe (and Magwich), Miss Havisham had her revenge but was also softened by Pip, before her pain and destructiveness were obliterated by fire, Wemmick got married, Stella was shown to have escaped an even worse fate, and Matthew, Pip, and Joe all attained a level of security.

    This could be what it takes to get me over the hurdle of picking up the next book…another Dickens.

    •  Yes! Good on you, political mutt! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      I would recommend The Pickwick Papers, of course, and The Old Curiosity Shop. The former if you want to laugh at silly men, and the latter if you want a great, though some might say, slightly maudlin tale.

      In my opinion, those books are great starters (or in your case, re-starters), as they are easily readable, plus the stories themselves are full of life.

      My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

      by Tortmaster on Sun May 11, 2014 at 12:07:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Did Dickens have a high opinion of lawyers? n/t (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OhioNatureMom, RiveroftheWest

    The Stars and Bars and the red swastika banner are both offerings to the same barbaric god.

    by amyzex on Fri May 09, 2014 at 07:40:28 AM PDT

    •  Some of his nastiest characters were lawyers (6+ / 0-)

      as in Bleak House (an indictment of the entire British legal system) and The Old Curiosity Shop (Daniel Quilp). The BBC did excellent dramatizations of both.

      Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

      by Mokurai on Fri May 09, 2014 at 08:01:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not usually, amyzex, but he was ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      ... observant and knew that some lawyers deserved a high opinion. Many did not. Mokurai, I think Quilp wasn't a lawyer, but he did make use of the dastardly brother and sister legal team of Sampson and Sarah ("Sally") Brass. On the other hand, one of the heroes in The Old Curiosity Shop, Dick Swiveller, also worked a short time in the legal profession, and he was the one to spoil Quilp's and the Brasses' plot in the end.  

      My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

      by Tortmaster on Sun May 11, 2014 at 12:13:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  your first paragrph (4+ / 0-)

    reminds me of a line by le carre, early in tinker, tailor, as we're just getting to know the deceptively frumpled smiley, who walks down a street in the rain:

    ...as a puddle emptied itself neatly into his shoe.
    of course, dickens also could be scathing or haunting or tender or heartbreaking, and his scenes of the nightmarish industrial midlands in old curiosity shop have an almost hallucinatory power.

    dickens invented so many indelible characters, from the petty scoundrel jingle to pickwick's loyal sidekick sam weller, with his perfect cockney patois, the latter the archetype right through frodo's samwise gamgee to tyrion's podrick.

    i just finished martin chuzzlewit. i hope to read all of dickens. but i still think the greatest single paragraph in all literature may be the opening of fuentes's terra nostra.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Fri May 09, 2014 at 07:49:35 AM PDT

    •  That is a very powerful ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      ... and apt description:

      "... his scenes of the nightmarish industrial midlands in old curiosity shop have an almost hallucinatory power."

      I now know how to put into words how I felt about those passages during Nell's flight in The Old Curiosity Shop. Thanks, Laurence Lewis!

      My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

      by Tortmaster on Sun May 11, 2014 at 12:17:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  There is a snippet of Dickens (8+ / 0-)

    that rises in my mind whenever I encounter extreme ignorance in the political context.  It honestly gives me the chills.  I highlight the most evocative part:

    From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.

    'Oh, Man. look here. Look, look, down here.' exclaimed the Ghost.

    They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

    Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

    'Spirit. are they yours.' Scrooge could say no more.

    'They are Man's,' said the Spirit, looking down upon them. 'And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers.  This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it.' cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. 'Slander those who tell it ye.  Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse.  And abide the end.'

    I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

    by Satya1 on Fri May 09, 2014 at 08:01:23 AM PDT

  •  Unfortunately we have re-invented (6+ / 0-)

    Debtor's Prison.  If you are ticketed and fined for anything in AR and for some reason cannot pay, not only will additional fines be added for non-payment, but you will end up in jail - how long mostly at the discretion of a city or county Judge.  But officially it's not Debtor's Prison - officially you're guilty of Contempt of Court (for not paying your fine).

  •  as literary constructions (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    anon004, dewtx, barbwires, RiveroftheWest

    your two chosen paragraphs may be the greatest, but they are small truths.

    I think one of his greatest large truths is from A Christmas Carol:

    “They are Man's and they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance and this girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”
    We have failed to erase Ignorance, and in the context of mature Industrialization rather than its Childhood, we truly see Doom for almost every living thing on this planet.
    •  Thanks for your input, jfromga! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      I am in love, and you cannot sway me, but you do make a powerful case. I think we can agree, though, that Dickens wrote about universal truths. Yes, some were bigger than others, but they still hold sway today.

      My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

      by Tortmaster on Sun May 11, 2014 at 12:26:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  To me one of the greatest arguments against (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, dewtx

    Ayn Rand's silly "Truth is Truth" maxim is contained in another woman's novel: Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre":
    ~~
    Dread remorse when you are tempted to err, Miss Eyre; remorse is the poison of life.”

    “Repentance is said to be its cure, sir.”

    “It is not its cure.  Reformation may be its cure; and I could reform—I have strength yet for that—if—but where is the use of thinking of it, hampered, burdened, cursed as I am?  Besides, since happiness is irrevocably denied me, I have a right to get pleasure out of life: and I will get it, cost what it may.”

    “Then you will degenerate still more, sir.”

    “Possibly: yet why should I, if I can get sweet, fresh pleasure?  And I may get it as sweet and fresh as the wild honey the bee gathers on the moor.”

    “It will sting—it will taste bitter, sir.”

    “How do you know?—you never tried it.  How very serious—how very solemn you look: and you are as ignorant of the matter as this cameo head” (taking one from the mantelpiece).  “You have no right to preach to me, you neophyte, that have not passed the porch of life, and are absolutely unacquainted with its mysteries.”

    “I only remind you of your own words, sir: you said error brought remorse, and you pronounced remorse the poison of existence.”

    “And who talks of error now?  I scarcely think the notion that flittered across my brain was an error.  I believe it was an inspiration rather than a temptation: it was very genial, very soothing—I know that.  Here it comes again!  It is no devil, I assure you; or if it be, it has put on the robes of an angel of light.  I think I must admit so fair a guest when it asks entrance to my heart.”

    “Distrust it, sir; it is not a true angel.”

    “Once more, how do you know?  By what instinct do you pretend to distinguish between a fallen seraph of the abyss and a messenger from the eternal throne—between a guide and a seducer?”

    “I judged by your countenance, sir, which was troubled when you said the suggestion had returned upon you.  I feel sure it will work you more misery if you listen to it.”

    “Not at all—it bears the most gracious message in the world: for the rest, you are not my conscience-keeper, so don’t make yourself uneasy.  Here, come in, bonny wanderer!”

    He said this as if he spoke to a vision, viewless to any eye but his own; then, folding his arms, which he had half extended, on his chest, he seemed to enclose in their embrace the invisible being.

    “Now,” he continued, again addressing me, “I have received the pilgrim—a disguised deity, as I verily believe.  Already it has done me good: my heart was a sort of charnel; it will now be a shrine.”

    “To speak truth, sir, I don’t understand you at all: I cannot keep up the conversation, because it has got out of my depth.  Only one thing, I know: you said you were not as good as you should like to be, and that you regretted your own imperfection;—one thing I can comprehend: you intimated that to have a sullied memory was a perpetual bane.  It seems to me, that if you tried hard, you would in time find it possible to become what you yourself would approve; and that if from this day you began with resolution to correct your thoughts and actions, you would in a few years have laid up a new and stainless store of recollections, to which you might revert with pleasure.”

    “Justly thought; rightly said, Miss Eyre; and, at this moment, I am paving hell with energy.”

    “Sir?”

    “I am laying down good intentions, which I believe durable as flint.  Certainly, my associates and pursuits shall be other than they have been.”

    “And better?”

    “And better—so much better as pure ore is than foul dross.  You seem to doubt me; I don’t doubt myself: I know what my aim is, what my motives are; and at this moment I pass a law, unalterable as that of the Medes and Persians, that both are right.”

    “They cannot be, sir, if they require a new statute to legalise them.”

    “They are, Miss Eyre, though they absolutely require a new statute: unheard-of combinations of circumstances demand unheard-of rules.”

    “That sounds a dangerous maxim, sir; because one can see at once that it is liable to abuse.”

    “Sententious sage! so it is: but I swear by my household gods not to abuse it.”

    “You are human and fallible.”

    "Guns don't kill people. People in states without gun-purchase background checks & waiting periods kill people." --John Fugelsang

    by Artryst on Fri May 09, 2014 at 08:51:23 AM PDT

  •  they're fun either to read (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, dewtx

    or just look at the pictures...and I swear I can see Pickwick near the back of the congregation in a church scene from Bleak House

    •  Haha! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      I have got some of the Nonesuch volumes (the later ones, of course), which include additional engravings, all the forwards to all the editions and other extras. I can spend 20 minutes looking at each engraving. Thanks, dancesonpedal! Very true.

      My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

      by Tortmaster on Sun May 11, 2014 at 12:29:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I cite the previous line (4+ / 0-)
    gamboling playfully away in perspective
    …as perhaps the earliest invocation of the cinematic eye in literature, at least English literature. It's shocking to think of someone as early as 1836 prefiguring the imagery of a screenwriter.

    I came to Pickwick late in life, on the recommendation of someone here at DKos. I think this was the quote, but my recollection is a bit dulled:

    Lest there should be any well-intentioned persons who do not perceive the difference between religion and the cant of religion, piety and the presence of piety, a humble reverence for the great truths of Scripture and an audacious and offensive obtrusion of its letter and not its spirit... it is always the latter, and never the former, which is satirized here.
    I hadn't read any Dickens in the original up until that point, and I was entering my late 40s. So I decided to read the novels in chronological order. I'm in the top third of Copperfield now.

    Pickwick was the most entertaining of all (with Barnaby Rudge running a close second). Chuzzlewit and Dombey were surprisingly compelling, though I had resistance to each in the beginning. Nickleby and Old Curiosity are probably my faves, though I find my heart belongs to Rudge.

    •  I think we had this ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      ... discussion a year or three ago, mrbilfil. In fact, while writing the diary, I attempted at least 20 searches of daily kos to find our comments, but came home empty-handed.

      I wanted to put your original comment in the diary because I enjoyed it so much (and thought it important)!

      I am going to send you a private message so that you know all this. Thanks, mrblifil!

      My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

      by Tortmaster on Sun May 11, 2014 at 12:34:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  ALEC is working to bring back debtor's prison (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    defluxion10, RiveroftheWest, dewtx

    or, to be more exact, slave labor in private prisons for debtors.

    Never think it couldn't happen here, or is safely in the past.

    American Presidents: 43 men, 0 women. Ready for Hillary

    by atana on Fri May 09, 2014 at 09:38:37 AM PDT

    •  Agreed. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      As I just commented above, atana, the courts now use "contempt of court" as a way to put people away who can't pay their bills just yet. Go to small claims court and end up in prison! It is sad.

      My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

      by Tortmaster on Sun May 11, 2014 at 12:39:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My favorite passage is from David Copperfield (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Darmok, NedSparks, RiveroftheWest, dewtx

    when David throws himself on the mercy of his aunt.  I can feel his desperation, her amazement, and the beginning of a relationship that will do them both so much good.
    *
    I had been discomposed enough before; but I was so much the more discomposed by this unexpected behaviour, that I was on the point of slinking off, to think how I had best proceed, when there came out of the house a lady with her handkerchief tied over her cap, and a pair of gardening gloves on her hands, wearing a gardening pocket like a toll-man's apron, and carrying a great knife. I knew her immediately to be Miss Betsey, for she came stalking out of the house exactly as my poor mother had so often described her stalking up our garden at Blunderstone Rookery.

    'Go away!' said Miss Betsey, shaking her head, and making a distant chop in the air with her knife. 'Go along! No boys here!'

    I watched her, with my heart at my lips, as she marched to a corner of her garden, and stooped to dig up some little root there. Then, without a scrap of courage, but with a great deal of desperation, I went softly in and stood beside her, touching her with my finger.

    'If you please, ma'am,' I began.

    She started and looked up.

    'If you please, aunt.'

     'EH?' exclaimed Miss Betsey, in a tone of amazement I have never heard approached.

    'If you please, aunt, I am your nephew.'

    'Oh, Lord!' said my aunt. And sat flat down in the garden-path.

    www.tapestryofbronze.com

    by chloris creator on Fri May 09, 2014 at 09:39:12 AM PDT

    •  A role Edna May Oliver was born to play (3+ / 0-)

      Aunt Betsey, that is.

      (Although she was equally well-cast in Pride and Prejudice as Lady Catherine de Bourgh).

    •  This is well said, chloris creator: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest
      "My favorite passage is from David Copperfield when David throws himself on the mercy of his aunt.  I can feel his desperation, her amazement, and the beginning of a relationship that will do them both so much good."
      Yes! What an amazing relationship that was! That's what makes life enjoyable. (Then you get to read about it in a book by a clever writer like Dickens). Thanks! Very worthy pick.

      My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

      by Tortmaster on Sun May 11, 2014 at 12:43:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  so happy that you have highlighted (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, dewtx

    this book. I'm reading it now -the Penguin version- original with notes etc. I find his writing sublime (really!) and the stories told along from the main story line are wonderful. Dickens was brilliant. (imho) He has lead me to many other authors. One of particular note is Elizabeth Gaskell and her book Mary Barton. I've never read another like it.

    Life is Dickensonian- read Little Dorrit and tell me otherwise.

    but I'm sure the well read folks here are way ahead of me ;)

    ..."For beauty," I replied. "And I for truth,-the two are one; We brethren are"... E. Dickinson

    by peagreen on Fri May 09, 2014 at 11:58:41 AM PDT

    •  No, I think you are well ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peagreen, RiveroftheWest

      ... ahead of them! But, as I said, I could be exactly wrong. Thanks, peagreen.

      Little Dorrit was one of the ways I spent so much time inside and outside Debtor's Prison. Great book.

      My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

      by Tortmaster on Sun May 11, 2014 at 12:46:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Dickens (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dewtx, RiveroftheWest

    Your two favorite Dickens' paragraphs are great, though they might not be my two favorite Dickens' paragraphs, but I think the description of Mr. Pecksniff in "Martin Chuzzlewit" is as fine a description of today's rightwing as any.  I don't have the exact quote, but it goes nearly like this:  "Mr Pecksniff was like a signpost, always pointing which way to go but never going there himself."  And the section in the same book about America is absolutely relevant today.

    Perhaps everything terrible is, in its deepest being, something helpless than wants help from us.

    by Fabienne on Fri May 09, 2014 at 01:39:03 PM PDT

    •  Haha! I've read the book ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      ... multiple times and watched the movie with family. Of course, whenever Pecksniff did anything obsequious or dastardly during the film, I would say, "Go Pecksniff" to piss off the other movie-goers. (I really did hate him, and your analogy very certainly applies!).

      My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

      by Tortmaster on Sun May 11, 2014 at 12:49:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Would that Mr. Obama were able to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dewtx

    employ the wiles of Dickens' little man when dealing with Mr. Putin.

  •  Dickens is easily one of my favorite writers. I (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, dewtx

    especially love his ability to create perfect names to express his characters.  Names that resonate forever after the book has come to an end.

    Best. President. Ever.

    by Little Lulu on Fri May 09, 2014 at 02:08:52 PM PDT

  •  I've read most of Dickens (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dewtx, Pat K California

    but he can't top these two paras...

    The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes. The containers were stored neatly in racks. The Germans below had miraculous devices of their own, which were long steel tubes. They used them to suck more fragments from the crewmen and planes. But there were still a few wounded Americans, though, and some of the bombers were in bad repair. Over France, though, German fighters came up again, made everything and everybody as good as new.

    When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody ever again.

    "Fascism is attracting the dregs of humanity- people with a slovenly biography - sadists, mental freaks, traitors." - ILYA EHRENBURG

    by durrati on Fri May 09, 2014 at 02:22:05 PM PDT

  •  Hoorah Dickens! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dewtx, RiveroftheWest

    After Shakespeare, Dickens is the most important writer in English.  it took me a while to realize this since I had enjoyed Dickens so much as a child. I had the snobby notion that anything once could appreciate as a child couldn't, somehow, be Great Literature. But I learned. By age 35 I had things back in proper perspective.  

  •  Hard Times by Charles Dickens (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dewtx, RiveroftheWest

    I can't believe no one mentioned Hard Times!

    It covers a great many social problems, but the central problem was education.  He does an excellent job of showing the difference in the School of Fact (think USA test prep) and the School of Fancy (the art and beauty that makes life worth living).

    He also has a Rush Limbaugh character as the foil.

    I'm from Johnson City.

    by Al Fondy on Fri May 09, 2014 at 03:26:44 PM PDT

  •  I've read most of Dickens (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest

    and enjoyed him; David Copperfield was my favorite but I am not sure why.

    Dan Simmons wrote a long and complex novel about the end of Dickens' life called "Drood" --after the mystery of Edwin Drood.

    I thought it was entertaining, complete with a stoned and unreliable narrator.

    Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

    by barbwires on Fri May 09, 2014 at 04:01:01 PM PDT

    •  Oops, I wrote the comment above, ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      ... claiming that nobody had mentioned my other favorite, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and--bam--next comment. Haha! I haven't read Simmons' novel, but I now want to. Thanks, barbwires!

      My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

      by Tortmaster on Sun May 11, 2014 at 01:01:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A favorite of mine (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest

    Here is a snippet from Dombey and Son. Like everything else in Dickens, it explains itself without any help from Mr. Dickens.


    'Ten years,' croaked the unsympathetic Pipchin, with a frosty glistening of her hard grey eye, and a dreary shaking of her bent head, 'is a long time.'

    'It depends on circumstances,' returned Mr Dombey; 'at all events, Mrs Pipchin, my son is six years old, and there is no doubt, I fear, that in his studies he is behind many children of his age--or his youth,' said Dombey, quickly answering what he mistrusted was a shrewd twinkle of the frosty eye, 'his youth is a more appropriate expression. Now, Mrs Pipchin, instead of being behind his peers, my son ought to be before them; far before them. There is an eminence ready for him to mount upon. There is nothing of chance or doubt in the course before my son. His way in life was clear and prepared, and marked out before he existed. The education of such a young gentleman must not be delayed. It must not be left imperfect. It must be very steadily and seriously undertaken, Mrs Pipchin.'

    'Well, Sir,' said Mrs Pipchin, 'I can say nothing to the contrary.'

    'I was quite sure, Mrs Pipchin,' returned Mr Dombey, approvingly, 'that a person of your good sense could not, and would not.'

    •  Dombey was a force. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      Dickens wrote him as a force of nature. (As a butt-head too.) But it was his forceful nature that made him interesting, and the story of his son and daughter so sad. Thanks, archer070!

      My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

      by Tortmaster on Sun May 11, 2014 at 01:04:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Dickens Forever (5+ / 0-)

    I strongly recommend Peter Ackroyd's biography of Charles Dickens for those of you who haven't read it - but first let's get down to my favourite two sentences in the great master's works.

    In Chapter 47 of Bleak House poor Jo the street sweep has finally been found shivering and gravely ill in a wet ditch and is brought to shelter and placed in his first bed ever. After a visit by the doctor we are treated to the shortest two paragraphs in Dickensian history.

    "Dead!
      Dead, your Majesty!"

    What incredible power in those words where we are shocked by the demise of a well-loved character and at the same time hear the most popular artist in the world lay down the gauntlet to Queen Victoria on behalf of the poor and oppressed.

    Great diary and again, I highly recommend Ackroyd's biography.

    Canada - where a pack of smokes is ten bucks and a heart transplant is free.

    by dpc on Fri May 09, 2014 at 05:32:56 PM PDT

  •  I call your two greatest paragraphs and bet (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Phoenix Woman

    two verses  (snark intended)

    from the song of mehitabel

    "do you think that i would change
    my present freedom to range
    for a castle or moated grange
    wotthehell wotthehell
    cage me and i d go frantic
    my life is so romantic
    capricious and corybantic
    and i m toujours gai toujours gai

    i know that i am bound
    for a journey down the sound
    in the midst of a refuse mound
    but wotthehell wotthehell
    oh i should worry and fret
    death and i will coquette
    there s a dance in the old dame yet
    toujours gai toujours gai"

    By Don Marquis, in “archy and mehitabel,” 1927

    •  Thanks for your contribution! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      I have just read my first post-modern Spanish novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed it (and recommended it). I have yet to make my way into Spanish poetry.

      My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

      by Tortmaster on Sun May 11, 2014 at 01:09:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I've read many of the novels, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest

    and I'm sure there are many particular paragraphs that I enjoyed. I just never bothered to make a note about them. I have found many delights in most of Dickens' novels, both in their language and in their feeling and humor, and the close observations of human character and society. While there were many cruel lawyers in the books, there were a few good ones too. Jaggers comes to mind. He was,for the most part, a force for good.

    Wasn't there a book published a number of years ago about the "dark side" of Dickens? As progressive as he might have been in some areas, he was a bigot in some others. Perhaps this just goes to show that no person is without flaws and that everyone is, to some extent, a product of their times, however much they might think they are above them.

    •  There was some discussion upthread ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      ... of Dickens' anti-semitism. I pointed out that Riah, from Our Mutual Friend, was juxtaposed in that book against a gentile moneylender, and whereas Riah was honest and trustworthy, the gentile was evil and deceitful. It is only the fortunes of luck and public taste that have made Fagin a household name, but left Riah in respective obscurity.

      I always wonder how future generations will view our times, blaming or mocking us for pollution, climate change, population explosion, eating meat, the death penalty, prisons, and on an on.

      There's no doubt in my mind that whatever force for bad he was, he was 1,000x that a force for good. Thanks, Bungalow Bill!  

      My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

      by Tortmaster on Sun May 11, 2014 at 01:15:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Pickwick Papers - still my favorite Dickens. (4+ / 0-)

    I reread the Christmas chapters of Pickwick Papers every December in lieu of the more customary Dickens at that salutary time of the year - in "The Goblins who Stole a Sexton" we have the tale that eventually transforms into the story of Scrooge and the spirits.

    Nothing about PP has aged - the take on the legal profession, the medical students, the politics of the two major newspapers in town still makes you laugh out loud, and the poignant description not only of life in debtor's prison but Pickwick's (and his servant Sam Weller's) reactions upon finding the rascally Mr. Jingle there is heartwarming.

    And in Mr. Pickwick, a retired and respectable English gentleman who decides to go on an adventure, I think I also see the beginning of 50-year-old Bilbo Baggins.

    “[Sir Arthur Conan Doyle] created Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson - which proves he was way ahead of his time on gay marriage.” - Bill Maher

    by gardnerhill on Fri May 09, 2014 at 07:27:09 PM PDT

  •  I spent one delicious summer devouring Dickens, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, dewtx, helpImdrowning

    in my early teens -- book after book.  It's a treasured memory of my childhood.  Thank you for sharing these wonderful paragraphs.

    Plutocracy (noun) Greek ploutokratia, from ploutos wealth; 1) government by the wealthy; 2) 21st c. U.S.A.; 3) 22nd c. The World

    by bkamr on Fri May 09, 2014 at 09:20:43 PM PDT

  •  Amazing poetry in Tale of Two Cities (4+ / 0-)

    The opening paragraph has rightfully been cited, but the closing sentence is stunning and justifiably famous:

    "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."

  •  Greatest? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, Tortmaster

    I don't know about those being the 2 greatest paragraphs in all of literature, but surely Dickens was responsible for the 2 greatest opening sentences:

    "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times."

  •  The charter school phenomenon (3+ / 0-)

    always brings to mind Dickens's critique of education in Hard Times.  How far are we from "Girl No. 23..."

  •  My biggest hobby is collecting (3+ / 0-)

    and reading 18th and 19th century English Literature. Right now I am in the process of converting a room in my house into a library by moving my office into a walk in closet so I have the room for all the bookshelves we'll be building into the walls. Although I am constantly looking to add to my collections, my latest obsession has been collecting written sequels to Austen's "Pride and Prejudice", of which there are scores.

    I've been a reader of Dickens since I was about seven years old. My first exposure was "A Christmas Carol", which I read after watching the Alistar Sims movie version. It wasn't long before I wanted to read more of his works and by the age of nine I had read everything our small town library had. For my birthday a few years ago one of my sisters sent me an 1871 set of his works, including sketches by Boz, among other rare volumes, all in mint condition. They will have a place of prominence in the library once it is finished.

    As lovely as it is to have a complete set, I still grab one of the others I have whenever I want to read his works, since I wouldn't want to damage the set I was given. Covered with a green, embossed leather, they are just too beautiful, and I cringe at the thought of broken bindings and bent pages.

    My husband laughs at me about my books (I have boxes and boxes, stacks and stacks, and over a dozen full size bookshelves overflowing with them), but he brags about my collections and is happy to be making one of my dreams since childhood come true by creating a library for me.

    I always love it when I come here and someone is talking about books, especially when they're talking about older ones.

     

    Life... is like a grapefruit. It's orange and squishy, and has a few pips in it, and some folks have half a one for breakfast. -Douglas Adams

    by mahytabel on Sat May 10, 2014 at 04:45:31 PM PDT

  •  Amazing Thread (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tortmaster, RiveroftheWest

     I knew I was a liberal for some reason.  I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this entire thread.  My education pretty much eschewed reading for pleasure; I read a lot, but in the main part it was didactic.  There were a few exceptions,  I read A Tale of Two Cities as a pre-teen and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I guess I was pretty arrogant as a kid, I loved Victor Hugo and thought Ayn Rand was an egocentric  narcissist, badly damaged by her exposure in early life to the Russian revolution and ensuing oligarchy. I rejected her objectivism as sophomoric self aggrandizing nonsense and dumped The Fountainhead about half way through.  I suppose that part of my antipathy to Rand was that I was  raised in the Old South and noblesse oblige was part of my heritage.  That conflicted with her rejection of altruism.

      I recently retired and resolved to do some classical reading.  With Paul Ryan making so much noise on the political scene I decided to start with Atlas Shrugged.  I read it and was as unimpressed as I was the first time, so I read Anthem.  More of the same.  I dumped the objectivists and started in on 19th century British, including Dickens.  I reread A Tale of Two Cities, renewing my acquaintance with Dr. Mannette, Sidney Carton and Charles Darnay.  Then I did Great Expectations and my daughter's boy friend introduced me to Thursday Next by Jasper Fferde who introduced Miss Havisham as a character in a fantasy about fiction police.  Enough about my odyssey except I am really enjoying retirement.  

  •  Post Script: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest

    I have never spent such an agreeable time during which everyone--and I mean EVERYONE--disagreed with me (at least in part). Thank you all.

    My dog likes me because I'm salty. Not salty like a pirate. Salty like a pretzel.

    by Tortmaster on Sun May 11, 2014 at 02:09:15 AM PDT

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