Posts Tagged ‘Charles Dickens’

Charles Cheeryble Speaks

May 13th, 2012

“Parents who never showed their love, complain of want of natural affection in their children – children who never showed their duty, complain of want of natural feeling in their parents – law-makers who find both so miserable that their affections have never had enough of life’s sun to develop them, are loud in their moralizings over parents and children too, and cry that the very ties of nature are disregarded.  Natural affections and instincts, my dear sir, are the most beautiful of the Almighty’s works, but like other beautiful works of His, they must be reared and fostered, or it is as natural that they should be wholly obscured, and that new feelings should usurp their place, as it is that the sweetest productions of the earth, left untended, should be choked with weeds and briars.  I wish we could be brought to consider this, and remembering natural obligations a little more at the right time, talk about them a little less at the wrong time.”

– Charles Cheeryble, speaking on behalf of Charles Dickens, in Nicholas Nickleby

He’s Baa-aaack

December 11th, 2011

Evil Kenyan Socialist Muslims, Beware This Man!

Long-time readers of this blog will know of my affection for Charles Dickens, class warrior extraordinaire and the greatest wielder of snark and outrage the English language has ever known.  Often, reading Dickens, I am struck by the feeling that except for the funny costumes he is talking directly about contemporary America.  Apparently the wonderful blogger Lance Mannion feels much the same way, likening New Gingrich to the evil schoolmaster Wackford Squeers from Nicholas Nickleby.  I would quibble with only one thing.  Nobody named “Lance Mannion” has any business making fun of “Newt Gingrich” as a moniker Dickens might have invented.

In this same vein, and with a nod to Newt’s claim that whereas most people think in terms of relatively short periods of time, he himself habitually contemplates vistas of 500 years, I would like to direct your attention to a fairly recently published book, one of whose themes is the unvarying nature of malevolence over the centuries.

Taking Tiny Tim’s turkey

December 1st, 2010

How Charles Dickens would have relished today’s GOP!  It is barely possible to imagine the refinements of scorn and sarcasm he would have lavished upon a party that declares itself prepared, when jobs are at their scarcest in decades, to terminate support for the unemployed at Christmastime (!) unless it can be continued without adding to the government’s debt, while at the same time the same party adamantly demands extending tax cuts for the richest 2% of taxpayers, which would increase the government’s deficit by $700 billion over the next decade.  It’s like taking away Tiny Tim’s turkey in order to give it to Frank Purdue.  What makes it especially delicious is that they justify the extended tax cuts for the rich as a way of creating jobs for the unemployed, as if the present, historically high levels of wealth were not enough motivation but more wealth will do the trick.

I am reminded of a joke that was current when I was working on the first draft of To Join the Lost.  I wanted to work it into the book, but couldn’t find a way.  I think Dante would have liked it.  Back in the day, the protagonist was President Dubya, but let’s update it:

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Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, and Barnaby Rudge

July 24th, 2010

I was reading Barnaby Rudge, Charles Dickens’ novel set in the London of 1780, and thinking of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party.  The novel centers on the Gordon Riots, an outbreak of mob violence instigated by the anti-Catholic agitation of Lord George Gordon.  The entire city was paralyzed, many Catholics were killed or injured, and many Catholic homes, businesses, and places of worship were destroyed, as well as Newgate Prison.  Gordon’s mob briefly besieged and almost invaded Parliament itself.  Eventually the military had to be called out to restore the peace, killing 285 of the rioters in the process.

Dickens characterizes Lord Gordon as a weak-minded, physically striking, passionate, flamboyant politician, not taken seriously by his peers, heavily influenced by bad advisers, with a gift for inflaming that part of the population inclined to be inflamed by someone like him, excited to be leading a popular cause and soon addicted to that sense of power, mistakenly believing he directed the movements of the wave on whose crest he actually was riding.  Dickens observes that if Gordon’s policy proposals had been spelled out in dispassionate, clear language – mainly, maintain the crippling legal disabilities to which English Catholics of the time were subject, against parliamentary proposals to remove them – he might have won a few adherents but would have remained a figure of marginal significance.  Instead, he adopted a rhetoric in which the soul of Protestant England, its very existence, was imminently threatened by the purported papist machinations of its Catholic minority, and he terrorized the nation.  Dickens also observes that Gordon’s followers ultimately didn’t care what their cause was said to be about; they were motivated by their own rage, which Gordon fanned, providing a convenient outlet and direction for its expression.

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