Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens has long been a favorite author. This year is the bicentenary of his birth so in honor of that, I will be reading as many of his books as I can.
It is hard to believe it has taken me this long to pick up Little Dorrit, which has become a new treasure. How could I resist it when Dickens sings to the choir as he speaks to my heart about the abuses, waste and inefficiencies of government that obviously haven't changed too much in 200 years.

Chapter 10 is titled, "Containing the Whole Science of Government." Indeed, it does. In fact in just these few paragraphs you can see Dickens genius at picking apart the entire problem.
The Circumlocution Office was (as everybody knows without being told) the most important Department under Government.  No public business of any kind could possibly be done at any time without the acquiescence of the Circumlocution Office.  Its finger was in the largest public pie, and in the smallest public tart.  It was equally impossible to do the plainest right and to undo the plainest wrong without the express authority of the Circumlocution Office.  If another Gunpowder Plot had been discovered half an hour before the lighting of the match, nobody would have been justified in saving the parliament until there had been half a score of boards, half a bushel of minutes, several sacks of official memoranda, and a family-vault full of ungrammatical correspondence, on the part of the Circumlocution Office.
This glorious establishment had been early in the field, when the one sublime principle involving the difficult art of governing a country, was first distinctly revealed to statesmen.  It had been foremost to study that bright revelation and to carry its shining influence through the whole of the official proceedings.  Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving--HOW NOT TO DO IT.
In addition to explaining the whole of government waste and hubris... there is some fantastic parenting advice, a beautiful love story, examples of true friendship and how to marry disastrously. My brilliant sister recently summed it up like this, "don't fall in love with someone who is too worried about being groovy. They will never be happy and neither will you."

Mixed in with all this good stuff is Dickens' great heart, his love of God, virtue, beauty, faith, friendship and kindness....
At last, in the dead of the night, when the street was very still indeed, Little Dorrit laid the heavy head upon her bosom, and soothed her to sleep. And thus she sat at the gate, as it were alone; looking up at the stars, and seeing the clouds pass over them in their wild flight--which was the dance at Little Dorrit's party.
This book is one of the greats.


Jennifer said...

I, too, am on a celebratory Dickens spree. I read Little Dorrit this winter -- loved it. One of my favorite passages was when Arthur walked along the river wondering about lost love. I also enjoyed how the cadence of Dickens' dialogue so aptly painted the personalities of Mr. Dorrit, Fanny and Pancks, among others. And Rigaud/Blandois' description of the nose coming over the mustache and the mustache sinking under the nose. :)

Yesterday I picked up Our Mutual Friend. Any thoughts on that one?

I recently gave up on Bleak House, however. Despite brilliant passages that spoke to my heart -- like young Esther writing of wishing she brought someone as much joy as her doll did to her; and the scene after the brick maker's child dies and Dickens says we never understand enough of how the poor help the poor -- I just got bogged down. Have you read it, and if so, is it worth another try? (I got as far as Esther recovering from her illness.)

Forgive me for my enthusiasm and lengthy comment; I've been dying to discuss Dickens with someone. Happy reading!

love.boxes said...

I love your comments Jennifer! Thank you. I have never read either of those.. but they are on my list. What I do is get them on tape if I can from the library. Then you get some person who hopefully can do all the wonderful accents and it just adds a layer. I think Dickens is so much like Shakespeare that having the parts acted out is just really. Some people don't like books on tape, but they are perfect for me with all the painting and LAUNDRY I'm always doing :)