Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812. That makes today the 205th anniversary of his birth. (Impressive math skills, eh?)
Twenty-four years later, Dickens would write The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist, at the same time. At the same time! He’s estimated to have created over 13,000 characters. Basically, that would populate a medium-sized town! Continue reading “Happy birthday, Charles Dickens!”
I had a terrible moment while reading Charles Dickens recently. I was just beginning the second paragraph of the second chapter of “Oliver Twist,” where the narrator describes Oliver’s first months of life as a ward of the state:
The hungry and destitute situation of the infant orphan was duly reported by the workhouse authorities to the parish authorities. The parish authorities inquired with dignity of the workhouse authorities, whether there was no female them domiciled in “the house” who was in a situation to impart to Oliver Twist, the consolation and nourishment of which he stood in need. The workhouse authorities replied with humility, that there was not. Upon this, the parish authorities magnanimously and humanely resolved, that Oliver should be “farmed,” or, in other words, that he should be dispatched to a branch-workhouse some three miles off, where twenty or thirty other juvenile offenders against the poor-laws, rolled about the floor all day, without the inconvenience of too much food or too much clothing, under the parental superintendence of an elderly female, who received the culprits at and for the consideration of sevenpence-halfpenny per small head per week. Sevenpence-halfpenny’s worth per week is a good round diet for a child; a great deal may be got for sevenpence-halfpenny, quite enough to overload its stomach, and make it uncomfortable. The elderly female was woman of wisdom and experience; she knew what was good for children; and she had a very accurate perception of what was good for herself. So, she appropriated the greater part of the weekly stipend to her own use, and consigned the rising parochial generation to even a shorter allowance than was originally provided for them. Thereby finding in the lowest depth a deeper still, and proving herself a very great experimental philosopher.
I read this paragraph once. Then I read it again. And then again. I could not stop myself rereading it a fourth time, at which point I despaired of ever getting through the second chapter, let alone the entire novel. (Spoiler alert: I did, eventually, get through both.) Continue reading “Why We Bother”