Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Little Dickens

I'm currently wading through Bleak House, by Charles Dickens.

He's certainly unsympathetic to "campaigners"- those Victorian Men and Women who took up a cause and pursued it to the detriment of their own families' welfares. There is a tendency toward exaggeration and sarcasm that I quite appreciate.

He is also quite a brilliant caricaturist. For example:

(Speaking of one "Sir Leicester Dedlock of Chesney Wold")

"The present representative of the Dedlocks is an excellent master. He supposes all his dependants to be utterly bereft of individual characters, intentions, or opinions, and is persuaded that he was born to supersede the necessity of their having any. If he were to make a discovery to the contrary, he would be simply stunned - would never recover himself, most likely, except to gasp and die. But he is an excellent master still, holding it a part of his state to be so."

Or how about Richard's accounting practices... (when, after having given away 10 pounds to save a man from being arrested for not paying his debts, he has the money restored to him by his guardian)

"The number of little acts of thoughtless expenditure which Richard justified by the recovery of his ten pounds, and the number of times he talked to me as if he had saved or realised that amount, would form a sum in simple addition.

'My prudent Mother Hubbard, why not?' he said to me, when he wanted, without the least consideration, to bestow five pounds on the brickmaker. 'I made ten pounds, clear, out of the Coavinses' business.'

'How was that?' said I.

'Why, I got rid of ten pounds which I was quite content to get rid of, and never expected to see any more. You don't deny that?'

'No,' said I.

'Very well! Then I came into possession of ten pounds-'

'The same ten pounds,' I hinted.

'That has nothing to do with it!' returned Richard. 'I have got  ten pounds more than I expected to have, and consequently I can afford to spend it without being particular.'

In exactly the same way, when he was persuaded out of the sacrifice of these five pounds by being convinced that it would do no good, he carried that sum to his credit and drew upon it.

'Let me see! he would say. 'I saved five pounds out of the brickmaker's affair; so, if I have a good rattle to London and back in a post-chaise, and put that down at four pounds, I shall have saved one. And it's a very good thing to save one, let me tell you: a penny saved, is a penny got!'"

Maybe it's just me, but I think that's pretty funny stuff.

Especially if you read it with appropriate British accents.

It's a little more daunting than I thought when I picked it up at the Library book sale, but I'm really enjoying this book.



  1. Obviously being ill does odd things to ones sense of humour.


  2. Nah... It's just me! I thought War and Peace was pretty funny too... (the sarcastic narrative bits, anyway!) Nope. Just me. I'm warped!

    And what's not to love about a guy that kills off one of his characters by Spontaneous Combustion!

    : )