Saturday, 11 February 2012

What the Dickens.......

It cannot have escaped anyone of a literary bent that this week marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens.

I am ashamed (although I suspect I am not alone in this) to admit that I have never actually read any of his greatest works, apart from A Christmas Carol, and a few Ghost Stories.  

As Radio 4 has been awash with wonderful adaptations, and the media generally has been in raptures of ecstasy one of our greatest writers, I feel suitably chastened, and in a mood of contrition decided to redress the balance and take advantage of the plethora of free Dickens offerings for the Kindle.  

For the trifling sum of 99p it is possible to purchase his entire works, but I felt that would be a tad too daunting, so I settled for a few of his less well-known books, including The Cricket on the Hearth, for no other reason than it features a toymaker, albeit an evil one.

"Tackleton the Toy merchant, pretty generally known as Gruff and Tackleton—for that was the firm, though Gruff had been bought out long ago; only leaving his name, and, as some said, his nature, according to its Dictionary meaning, in the business—Tackleton the Toy merchant was a man whose vocation had been quite misunderstood by his Parents and Guardians. If they had made him a Money Lender, or a sharp Attorney, or a Sheriff's Officer, or a Broker, he might have sown his discontented oats in his youth, and, after having had the full run of himself in ill-natured transactions, might have turned out amiable, at last, for the sake of a little freshness and novelty. But, cramped and chafing in the peaceable pursuit of toymaking, he was a domestic Ogre, who had been living on children all his life, and was their implacable enemy. He despised all toys; wouldn't have bought one for the world; delighted, in his malice, to insinuate grim expressions into the faces of brown-paper farmers who drove pigs to market, bellmen who advertised lost lawyers' consciences, movable old ladies who darned stockings or carved pies; and other like samples of his stock-in-trade. In appalling masks; hideous, hairy, red-eyed Jacks in Boxes; Vampire Kites; demoniacal Tumblers who wouldn't lie down, and were perpetually flying forward, to stare infants out of countenance; his soul perfectly revelled. They were his only relief, and safety-valve. He was great in such inventions. Anything suggestive of a Pony nightmare was delicious to him. He had even lost money (and he took to that toy very kindly) by getting up Goblin slides for magic lanterns, whereon the Powers of Darkness were depicted as a sort of supernatural shell-fish, with human faces. In intensifying the portraiture of Giants, he had sunk quite a little capital; and, though no painter himself, he could indicate, for the instruction of his artists, with a piece of chalk, a certain furtive leer for the countenances of those monsters, which was safe to destroy the peace of mind of any young gentleman between the ages of six and eleven, for the whole Christmas or Midsummer Vacation."
I suspect that he may come to a sticky end.  Either that or be redeemed.

So as soon as I've finished reading the current tome on my Kindle, I shall thoroughly immerse myself in the eloquent verbosity of the undisputed champion of social justice and the king of Victorian literature.



The Dangerous Mezzo said...

Hello, Sandra! I really recommend starting with David Copperfield -- it's such a marvellous novel, written with all the exuberance of Dickens's own successful youth.

My own favourites, besides DC, are Oliver Twist, Little Dorrit and Our Mutual Friend. Nicholas Nickleby is great, too :)

Sandra Morris said...

Thanks Nina,
I'm hoping to discover an addiction to Dickens.

Alessandra White said...

I loved reading that bit! Dickens really makes that toymaker so real - I believe I have met a few folks just like him.