I love Dickens’ wordiness. Some people say he used so many in order to pad out the weekly or monthly instalments: the form in which his novels were published; I think he loved words and what they could do. Dickens’ words draw you down meandering alleyways to give you a perfect picture of his characters. This is why we know those characters are right or wrong when we see them on film.
I have a soft spot for Charles Dickens: not the man, the books. Even doing “Great Expectations” for O level (yes, I am that old) didn’t put me off. I graduated to David Copperfield and wept copiously when Dora died, although I think that Jip’s death struck me as a bit melodramatic and any tears I cried for him were just hanging on the coat tails of those I wept for Dora. When my children were young I couldn’t wait to read them “A Christmas Carol”. Imagine my dismay when they found it too scary. Perhaps I put too much soul in to my interpretation of the door knocker.
I think I have read all his novels now (see final sentence of this post), most of them at least twice. Sometimes I look at them on my bookshelf and think: that’s too long, I can’t be bothered reading it, but if I pick it up and start, then I can get hooked very quickly. It’s all right to skip bits you don’t like (nobody said Dickens was perfect). For example, I’m not at all keen on his addresses to ‘my lords and gentlemen and honourable boards’ in “Our Mutual Friend”. I know he felt a responsibility to help the poor, but sometimes you just have to get on with the story. N.B. Tolstoy bangs on about his theory of history in “War and Peace”, especially at the end, so feel free to skip the last few pages once the story proper is concluded. I did.
I know some of Dickens’ characters are grotesques (Miss Mowcher, Uriah Heep) and most of his young women are pretty awful, two-dimensional saints or dolls (Agnes, Dora), or sinners who atone for their sins by death or exile (Little Emily), but given the huge number of characters, I think he deserves we cut him some slack. We may not know someone exactly like Miss Betsey, but her determined battle against trespassing donkeys is not unlike our preoccupation with outwitting people who park outside our homes, I mean right outside, in our parking spot.
More on Dickens in another post, but first, I must give a big hurrah to “David Copperfield” for providing all my examples in the previous paragraph. Next time, the mysterious case of the Dickens book I had never read before last week . . . or had I?