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"Christmas stories" by Charles Dickens (стр. 2 из 9)

His writing during these prolific years was remarkably various and, except for his plays, resourceful. Pickwick began as high-spirited farce and contained many conventional comic butts and traditional jokes; like other early works, it was manifestly indebted to the contemporary theatre, the 18th century English novelists, and a few foreign classics, notably Don Quixote. But, besides giving new life to old stereotypes, Pickwick displayed, if sometimes in embryo, many of the features that were to be blended in varying proportions throughout his fiction: attacks, satirical or denunciatory, on social evils and inadequate institutions; topical references; an encyclopedic knowledge of London (always his predominant fictional locale); pathos; a vein of the macabre; a delight in the demotic joys of Christmas; a pervasive spirit of benevolence and geniality; exhaustible powers of character creation; a wonderful speech for characteristic speech, often imaginatively heightened; a strong narrative impulse; and a prose style that, if here over dependent on a few comic mannerisms, was highly individual and inventive. Rapidly improvised and written only weeks or days ahead of its serial publication Pickwick contains weak and jejune passages and is an unsatisfactory whole – partly because Dickens was rapidly developing his craft as a novelist while writing and publishing it. What is remarkable is that a first novel, written in such circumstances, not only established him overnight and created a new tradition of popular literature but also survived, despite its crudities, as one of the best known novels in the world.[6]

His self-assurance and artistic ambitiousness had appeared in Oliver Twist, where he rejected the temptation to repeat the successful Pickwick formula. Thus containing much comedy still Oliver Twist is more centrally concerned social and moral evil (the workhouse and the criminal world); it culminates in Bill Sikes’s murdering Nancy and Fagin’s last night in the condemned cell at Newgate. The latter episode was memorably depicted in George Cruikshank’s engraving; the imaginative potency of Dickens’ characters and settings owes much, indeed, to his original illustrators (Cruikshank for Sketches by “Boz” and Oliver Twist, “Phiz” [Hablot K. Browne] for most of the other novels until 1860s). The currency of his fiction owed much, too, to its being so easy to adapt into effective stage versions. Sometimes 20 London theatres simultaneously were producing adaptations of his latest story; so even nonreaders became acquainted with simplified versions of his works. The theatre was often a subject of his fiction, too, as in the Crummles troupe in Nicholas Nickleby . This novel reverted to the Pickwick shape and atmosphere, though the indictment of the brutal Yorkshire schools (Dotheboys Hall) continued the important innovation in English fiction seen in Oliver Twist – spectacle of the lost or oppressed child as an occasion for pathos or social criticism. This was amplified in The Old Curiosity Shop , where the death of Little Nell was found overwhelming powerful at the time, though a few decades later it became a byword for “Victorian sentimentality.” In Barnaby Rudge he attempted another genre, the historical novel. Like his later attempt in this kind, A Tale of Two Cities , it was set in the late 18th century and presented with great vigor and understanding (and some ambivalence of attitude) the spectacle of large scale mob violence.[7]

To create an artistic unity out of the wide range of moods and materials included in every novel, with often several complicated plots involving scores of characters, was made even more difficult by Dickens writing and publishing them serially. In Martin Chuzzlewit he tried “to resist the temptation of the current Monthly Number and to keep a steadier eye upon the general purpose and design” (1844 Preface). Its American episodes had, however, been unpremeditated (he suddenly decided to boost the disappointing sales by some American – baiting and to revenge himself against insults and injures from the American press). A concentration on “the general purpose and design” was more effective in the next novel, Dombey and Son (1846-48), though the experience of writing the shorter, and unserialized, Christmas Books had helped him obtains greater coherence.[8]

§ 2. Charles Dickens’ works written in Christmas story genre .

A Christmas Ca rol (1843), suddenly conceived and written in a few weeks was the first of these Christmas Books (a new literary genre thus created incidentally). It was published on 19 December 1843, that has preserved the Christmas customs of old England and fixed our image of the holiday season as one of wind, ice and snow without, and smoking bishop, piping hot turkey, and family cheer within. Coming from a family large but not-too-well-off, Charles Dickens presents again and again his idealized memory of a Christmas associated with the gathering of the family which “bound together all our home enjoyments, affection and hopes” in games such as Snap Dragon and Blind Man’s Buff, both of which his model lower-middle-class father, Bob Cratchit, runs home to play on Christmas Eve. Tossed off while he was amply engaged in writing Chuzzlewit, it was an extraordinary achievement – the one great Christmas myth of modern literature. His view of life was later to be described or dismissed as “Christmas philosophy” as the basis of a projected work. His “philosophy,” never very elaborated, involved more than wanting the Christmas spirit to prevail throughout the year, but his great attachment to Christmas (in his family life as well as his writings) is indeed significant and has contributed to his popularity. “Dickens dead?” exclaimed a London costermonger’s girl in 1870. “Then will Father Christmas die too?” – a tribute both to his association with Christmas and to the mythological status of the man as well as of his work. The Carol immediately entered the general consciousness; Thackeray, in a review, called it “a national benefit, and to every man and woman who reads it a personal kindness.” Further Christmas books, essays, and stories followed annually (except in 1847) through 1867. None equaled the Carol in potency, though some achieved great immediate popularity. Cumulatively they represent a celebration of Christmas attempted by no other great author.[9]

However, Dickens's founding and managing his weekly literary magazines seems to have prevented his producing further complete books exclusively for the Christmas book trade (which he in large measure helped to establish with Carol and its successor, The Chimes). Instead, he developed 'framed tales' in which he would take the lead supported in the production of various chapters by such talented writers as Wilkie Collins and Elizabeth Gaskell. These 'Christmas Stories' were composed between 1850 and 1867, but cannot be classified as falling within a single short fiction subgenre. Dickens's first contribution to an 'Extra Christmas Number' was in fact not a story at all, but a reverie, "A Christmas Tree" inspired by children gathered around that German innovation, the Christmas tree (which never appears in any of the Christmas Books), probably brought to England by Victoria's consort, Prince Albert, whom she had married in 1840. Dickens's second and third short-fiction Christmas offerings, "The Poor Relation's Story " and "The Child's Story" are his contributions to A Round of Stories by the Christmas Fire in the Christmas Number of Household Words (1852). As one reads these "framed tales" it becomes increasingly difficult to sort out which pieces Dickens contributed, especially since all pieces printed in these two journals were unsigned. In 1853, Dickens contributed "The Schoolboy's Story" and "Nobody's Story " to Another Round of Stories by the Christmas Fire in the Christmas Number for Household Words . Other Christmas Stories include The Seven Poor Travellers i n the Christmas Number for Household Words (14 Dec., 1854), The Holly-tree Inn (the Christmas Number for Household Words , 15 Dec., 1855), The Wreck of the 'Golden Mary' (the Christmas Number of Household Words, 6 Dec., 1856), The Perils of Certain English Prisoners (the Christmas Number for Household Words , 1857), A House to Let (the Christmas Number for Household Words , 1858), The Haunted House (the Christmas Number for All the Year Round , 1859), A Message from the Sea (the Christmas Number for All the Year Round, 1860), Tom Tiddler's Ground (the Christmas Number for All the Year Round , 1861), Somebody's Luggage (the Christmas Number for All the Year Round, 1862), Mrs. Lirriper's Lodgings (the Christmas Number of All the Year Round , 1863), Mrs. Lirriper's Legacy (the Christmas Number of All the Year Round, 1864), Doctor Marigold's Prescriptions (the Christmas Number of All the Year Round , 1865), Mugby Junction (the Christmas Number for All the Year Round, 1866), and the Collins-dominated NoThoroughfare (the Christmas Number for All the Year Round , 1867).[10]

Thanks to modern methods of poultry raising as much as to Dickens, that American import, the turkey, began to replace the traditional (bony and greasy) goose as the centerpiece of the Christmas board, as is evident in A Christmas Carol , but the survival of the Christmas pudding abroad owes much to Dickens' image of the Cratchits' pudding singing in the copper. The "jolly Giant, glorious to see" in the Third Stave of A Christmas Carol is the earliest English version of the German Santa Klaus, but in John Leech's coloured illustration he is garbed in green, a pagan vegetation symbol as much as modern English "Father Christmas" accompanied by such pre-Christian paraphernalia as a crown of holly, a flaming link (torch), a yule log, mistletoe, and a steaming bowl of negus (punch). Our North American Santa Claus was invented just twenty years earlier, in Clement C. Moore's A Visit from Saint Nicholas , derived not from the old Roman god Saturn (whose worship from December 17th to 24th had included decorated tree boughs) like Dickens's Ghost of Christmas Present, but from the gift-giving early Christian bishop and saint from Asia Minor.[11]

One of his sons wrote that, for Dickens, Christmas was "a great time, a really jovial time, and my father was always at his best, a splendid host, bright and jolly as a boy and throwing his heart and soul into everything that was going on.... And then the dance! There was no stopping him!" Amateur magician and actor, Dickens had little Christmas shopping to worry about, and no crowded malls or crass commercialization of the family festival to jangle his finely-tuned nerves. But that time in his boyhood, when he slaved in the blacking factory while his family were in the Marshalsea Prison, weighed heavily somewhere in the back of his mind, and made occasional intrusions, such as Ignorance and Want in A Christmas Carol and the street urchin in The Haunted Man . Mr. Redlaw, a kind but melancholy man, isolated. His many professional accomplishments cannot compensate for the great betrayal of his life, when the woman he loved was wooed and wed by his best friend. One night, Redlaw is haunted by his own ghost, who agrees to strip Redlaw of his painful memories. The ghost throws in an added bonus: everyone Redlaw meets also will lose their bad memories. The “gift” causes havoc in a family of poor but loving villages, because the loss of memories of past pain robs them of the ability to emphasize. The only person unaffected by Redlaw’s strange power is a street urchin. Because the boy never has known kindness, he is never developed a capacity for compassion. Redlaw begins the ghost to remove his curse, but is told that only Milly, the wife of Redlaw’s servant and the embodiment of unselfish love, can cure the villagers. Milly goes visiting the villager’s memory return, and harmony prevails. Redlaw’s regains his own memory when he forgives the man who wronged him. Dickens is obsessed with the theme of memory, and the effect that childhood experiences have on adults. Both Scrooge and Redlaw grew up poor, but became successful after years of hard works. Their accomplishments left them vaguely unsatisfied, just as Dickens’ achievements couldn’t exorcise the pain of his early years. He revisited his traumatic childhood again and again in his novels. “Many people have had worse childhoods than Charles Dickens,” Epstein wrote. “Few have profited by them as much.” The Haunted Man is more psychological than the preceding novellas. The idea of the divided self is embodied by Redlaw and his ghost, and Redlaw’s self-loathing when he infects others with his disease expresses a common idea among those who are depressed – that the people they love would be better off without them.

How he struck his contemporaries in these early years appears in R.H. Horne’s New Spirit of the Age (1844). Dickens occupied the first and longest chapter, as …manifestly the product of his age….a genuine emanation from its aggregate and entire spirit…. His mixes were extensively in society, and continually. Few public meetings in a benevolent cause are without him. He speaks effectively…. His influence upon his age is extensive – pleasurable, instructive, healthy, reformatory….[12]

Mr. Dickens is private, very much what might be expected from his works… His conversation is genial… He has personal activity, and is fond of games of practical skill. He is a great walker, and a very much given to dancing Sir Roger de Coverley. In private, the general impression of him is that of a first-rate practical intellect, with “no nonsense” about him.[13]

He was indeed very much a public figure, actively and centrally involved in his world, and a man of confident presence. He was reckoned the best after-dinner speaker of the age; other superlatives he attracted included his having been the best shorthand reporter on the London press his being the best amateur actor on the stage. Later he became one of the most successful periodical editors and the finest dramatic recitalist of the day. He was splendidly endowed with many skills. “Even irrespective of his literary genius,” wrote an obituarist, “he was an able and strong-minded man, who would have succeeded in almost any profession to which he devoted himself” (Times , June 10, 1870). Few of his extra literary skills and interests were irrelevant to the range and mode of his fiction. [14]

§3 Final creative works and changes in Charles Dickens’ personality.

Privately in these early years, he was both domestic and social. He loved and family life and was a proud and efficient householder; he once contemplated writing a cookbook. To his many children, he was a devoted and delightful father, at least when they were young; relations with them proved less happy during their adolescence. Apart from periods in Italy (1844-45) and Switzerland and France (1846-47), he still lived in London, moving from an apartment in Furnival’s Inn to larger houses as his income and family grew. Here he entertained his many friends, most of them popular authors, journalists, actors or artists, though some came from the law and other professions or from commerce and a few from the aristocracy. Some friendships dating from his youth endured to the end, and, though, often exasperated by the financial demands of his parents and other relatives, he was very fond of some of his family and loyal to most of the rest. Some literary squabbles came later, but he was on friendly terms with most of his fellow authors, of the older generation as well as his own. Necessarily solitary while writing and during the long walks (especially through the streets at night) that became essential to his creative processes; he was generally social at other times. He enjoyed society that was unpretentious and conversation that was genial and sensible but not too intellectualized or exclusively literary. High society he generally avoided, after a few early incursions into the great houses; he hated to be lionized or patronized.[15]

He had about him “a sort of swell and overflow as of a prodigality of life.” an American journalist said. Everyone was struck by the brilliance of his eyes and his smart, even dandyish appearance (“I have a fondness of a savage for finery,” he confessed). John Forster, his intimate friend and future biographer, recalled him at the Pickwick period:

the quickness, keenness, and a practical power, the eager, restless, energetic outlook on each several feature [of his face] seemed to tell so little of a student or a writer of books, and so much of a man of action or business in the world. Light and motion flashed from every part of it.

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