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We Love Dickens

“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.” 
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.  

Image: Engraving of Charles Dickens by Daniel Maclise, from Nicholas Nickleby, 1839.

2012 was the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Dickens. Cork City Libraries held a year long programme of lectures, drama, events throughout the year. Thanks to all who attended. 

The Books

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We Love Dickens Quiz

The closing date for this quiz has passed. Congratulations to our winner, D.Conlon from Sundays Well.

Quiz: Name the character and the book.

Q1. ‘a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.’

Q2. He ‘was a fat man, and a choleric’

Q3. ‘The lady in question was by this time in the doorway, curtseying to Mrs Mould. At the same moment a peculiar fragrance was borne upon the breeze, as if a passing fairy had hiccoughed, and had previously been to a wine-vaults.’

Q4. He ‘was proceeding on his journey downhill with hardly any throat, and a very rigid pair of  jaw-bones, and long-flapped elephantine ears’

Q5. ‘He had but one eye, and the popular prejudice runs in favour of two.’

Q6. He ‘was a fair man, with curls of flaxen hair on each side of his smooth face, and with eyes of such a very undecided blue that they seemed to have somehow got mixed with their own whites. He was a mild, good-natured, sweet-tempered, easy-going, foolish, dear fellow,—a sort of Hercules in strength, and also in weakness.’

Q7. He ‘was an attorney of no very good repute, from Bevis Marks in the city of London; he was a tall, meagre man, with a nose like a wen, a protruding forehead, retreating eyes, and hair of a deep red. He wore a long black surtout reaching nearly to his ankles, short black trousers, high shoes, and cotton stockings of a bluish grey. He had a cringing manner, but a very harsh voice; and his blandest smiles were so extremely forbidding, that to have had his company under the least repulsive circumstances, one would have wished him to be out of temper that he might only scowl.’

Q8. ‘Time and feeding had expanded that once romantic form; the black silk waistcoat had become more and more developed; inch by inch had the gold watch-chain beneath it disappeared from within the range of (his) vision; and gradually had the capacious chin encroached upon the borders of the white cravat’.

Q. 9. ‘It belonged to a red-haired person—a youth of fifteen, as I take it now, but looking much older—whose hair was cropped as close as the closest stubble; who had hardly any eyebrows, and no eyelashes, and eyes of a red-brown, so unsheltered and unshaded, that I remember wondering how he went to sleep. He was high-shouldered and bony; dressed in decent black, with a white wisp of a neckcloth; buttoned up to the throat; and had a long, lank, skeleton hand, which particularly attracted my attention, as he stood at the pony's head, rubbing his chin with it, and looking up at us in the chaise.’

Q10. "You work hard, madame," said a man near her.
"Yes," answered Madame _______ "I have a good deal to do."
"What do you make, madame?"
"Many things."
"For instance—"
"For instance," returned Madame _______, composedly, "shrouds."

Click on the link to reveal the answers.
We Love Dickens Quiz Answers

Charles Dickens and Cork

Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens visited Ireland in August 1858. Read a brief account of his visit in The Letters of Charles Dickens Volume II: 1857 - 1870. (Project Gutenberg ebook)

Five Dickens' Books You Must Read

Five Dickens' Books You Must Read
by Paul Cussen, Cork City Libraries

Great Expectations
This is more than just the average bildungsroman. This is a story with so many intertwining stories but it’s told at a Victorian pace. I read it first when I was in secondary school when my dad thought it would be a good idea. I thought it was overly verbose and I missed a lot of the humour but I got the tragedy. Years later a colleague insisted that I read it again and he was right to do so. This is an astonishing piece of work. As usual with Dickens the characters are fantastic but the plot takes you and drives you right to the last paragraph. There are two different endings, depending on the edition that you get (Dickens changed the first ending because it was so depressing but it works. Of course it works, it’s Dickens).

davidcopperfield_crDavid Copperfield
This is another bildungsroman but without so many twists and turns and without the convolution of Great Expectations. Cited by many as their favourite Dickens novel (Tolstoy for one), this is the story of David Copperfield who grows to become Trotwood Copperfield. As the protagonist he is an optimistic, diligent, and persevering character and the story is told from his perspective. Like Great Expectations the story is told in the first person but the wealth of characters in David Copperfield is extraordinary. Dickens himself listed as a favourite, what better recommendation could you ask for?

A Christmas Carol
This is short. Everybody knows the story but again Dickens’s characterisation is marvellous. Keeping the musical theme of the title the five chapters are called staves. Ebenezer Scrooge lives up to his name and the visits of his old partner Jacob Marley and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come change him. The catharsis is experienced by the reader and perhaps one of the many reasons why this book has been popular since it was first published. There are numerous film versions, each entertaining but none as good as the book.

twocities_crA Tale of Two Cities
This is the first book by Dickens that I read. Our old librarian used to give us books that she thought we should read and my goodness but she was sharp. This has also been adapted to film but the book is just brilliant. The book was written less than a century after the plot starts the story moves between Paris and London, starting before the French revolution and ending during the time of the Terror. Parallels are drawn between the condition of the poor in Paris before the revolution and those in London.  I feel that this is where Dickens is like Orwell except that Dickens isn’t so bleak. His fabulous characters show his belief in humanity.

Bleak House
Esther Summerson (like Pip in Great Expectations and David in David Copperfield) tells her story but there’s also an omniscient narrator in Bleak House. The story is simple but complicated by a rich array of wonderful characters. The story itself is the usual Dickensian tale of humanity and here too he also criticises the legal system (specifically the chancery system). The book has a different narrative structure to his other books but it is just as brilliant.