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Jan 5, 2023Liked by Henry Oliver

Henry,

Thanks much for this (as always) very thoughtful essay on "Chuzzlewit."

I just finished it a bit back, and your "unpacking" of it--its characterizations, its unevenness, and its priming the pump for the best work--really made sense to me.

Three points:

1. ". . . he was exercising the faculties that would come to such great use in the great novels of the 1850s": Truly. Sharpening his pen, if you will.

2. "Give me Sarah Gamp and her terrible ways. She is the one who survived in the public imagination, who inspired other novelists, and who was put on a cigarette card. She is the work of genius here, not Tom.": This seems compelling to me--a character like Gamp is a source of unending (sometimes perverse) merriment. It's hard to have this kind of fun with an earnest character like Tom.

3. "Dickens’ best work is entertainment, not sermonising. And this novel is full of splendid physical comedy, which works best when it has a dark undertone . . . .Until you know Mrs Gamp, you do not know his true capacity for character.": This seems to bear out the adage that a writer does best to show and not tell.

Thanks again, Henry, for this insightful piece that gave me excellent perspective on "Chuzzlewit" in the Dickens canon.

Blessings, wishing you and yours a wonderful 2023!

Daniel

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Jan 5, 2023Liked by Henry Oliver

Brothers Karamazov is a far easier-on-the-eye book than Crime and Punishment. Definitely worth the time. Having said that, among Russian novelists I prefer Tolstoy and Gogol (anyone trying to understand the current state of the Russian army would do well to read Dead Souls!).

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Jan 3, 2023Liked by Henry Oliver

Loved this read, Henry! 🖤 Though I personally adore Tom & am moved by the end, I also think that Mrs Gamp and Mr Pecksniff are two of the great creations. (His drunken scene at Mrs Todgers', and his treasapssing on the lawn, are two of the funniest sequences! 😂) Rob & I were both reflecting on how much more we were enjoying the England narrative; even Mark Tapley's good humor couldn't quite make up for some of the American passages which come across as venting his disappointment. But I do think MC is underappreciated, and Pecksniff, immortal 😄

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Thank you! I love Tom but Dickens laid it on too thick by the end for me. And Ruth is such a flat sexist character. But he wasn’t as sentimental as he could have been at the end. Agree it’s under appreciated. The Todgers scene is pure gold. It would be a perfect book for reading favourite chapters and sequences from.

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Henry, what a juicy prospect: Mrs. Gamp and Mr. Pickwick. What would Sam Weller have to say?!?

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Henry,

Thanks much for this (as always) very thoughtful essay on "Chuzzlewit."

I just finished it a bit back, and your "unpacking" of it--its characterizations, its unevenness, and its priming the pump for the best work--really made sense to me.

Three points:

1. ". . . he was exercising the faculties that would come to such great use in the great novels of the 1850s": Truly. Sharpening his pen, if you will.

2. "Give me Sarah Gamp and her terrible ways. She is the one who survived in the public imagination, who inspired other novelists, and who was put on a cigarette card. She is the work of genius here, not Tom.": This seems compelling to me--a character like Gamp is a source of unending (sometimes perverse) merriment. It's hard to have this kind of fun with an earnest character like Tom.

3. "Dickens’ best work is entertainment, not sermonising. And this novel is full of splendid physical comedy, which works best when it has a dark undertone . . . .Until you know Mrs Gamp, you do not know his true capacity for character.": This seems to bear out the adage that a writer does best to show and not tell.

Thanks again, Henry, for this insightful piece that gave me excellent perspective on "Chuzzlewit" in the Dickens canon.

Blessings, wishing you and yours a wonderful 2023!

Daniel

Expand full comment