Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens!

dickensIn 1812, on this day, Charles Dickens was born. I don't know if he was born with a caul like David Copperfield, who was modeled after Dickens himself.
An old wives tale had it that such a birth---with the amniotic tissue covering the face---was a stroke of good luck. If so the good luck is ours.

Only Shakespeare stands above Dickens as an English writer. A good reason to think about him today. When I do, I think of the immortal characters he created. Call them caricatures if you like. They are as real as anyone you'll meet in  life. Probably more real.

"David Copperfield" was the first Dickens novel I ever read.  I read most of it on the Archer bus on the way home from the law firm where I clerked while in high school.  I loved the fact that David was a law clerk too.  In the pages of that novel, I discovered Mr.  Micawber who always believed something would turn up to keep him out of debtors' prison. And the coachman  Barkis who was always "willin'" to marry David's Aunt Peggotty. And [hiss] the unctuous, sanctimonious,  villainous Uriah Heep, David's evil nemesis.  I was indifferent to those slow trips home because I was riveted to the fortunes of young Mr. Copperfield. Dickens wrote his novels in installments for publication in magazines.  Whenever I picked up the storyline on the next trip home, I imagined myself  like his contemporary who read it  in the next magazine issue.

I went on to read almost all of Dickens' novels. I reread them too.  I just reread "Great Expectations" while a new movie version was playing on PBS. And I don't know how many times I have read "A Christmas Carol". Its charm never palls.  I love to do what Dickens himself loved to do: read his stories out loud.  He toured in a one-man show diverting his audiences with dramatic interpretations.  And who would know better how to do it?

What we need in today's world are  more redeemed Scrooges.  We need the greedy bastards who hold the common good in contempt to have a change of heart.  Like Scrooge at the end of the tale, we need the modern Scrooges to say "I'll raise your salary, and I'll endeavour to assist your struggling family."   I know that it  would make the spirit of Dickens feel  his optimism was justified, and that he could finally rest in peace.

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  • Is Warren Buffett or whoever runs Whole Foods the modern redeemed Scrooge? Paul Newman, who said that the Newman's Own Foundation made more from the food than he did from acting?

    Apparently, Mitt was the old Scrooge. The Dickens, you say.

  • In reply to jack:

    Mitt, no doubt. And all those bankers, hedge-funders, and mortgage cheats at all levels.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Even main street mortgage cheats?

  • In reply to 4zen:

    You got it. But they're not getting those astronomical bonuses.

  • 'A Christmas Carol' has always been one of my favorites too. I've seen every movie version and countless plays. We actually went downtown this past Christmas and saw a new politically correct was odd, that's all I'll say.

    I wonder what Dicken's would say about modern day American 'fill their stomachs and empty their minds' notion of charity? What he'd say about a type of charity that creates poverty and destroy's the spirit.

    But, I do always enjoy Bob Cratchit and his love for his family. Tiny Tim never fails to wet the eye.

  • In reply to 4zen:

    Politically correct in what way? There is no doubt where Dickens would be today. Among the Progressives. "'Business', cried the Ghost [Marley's], wringing its hands again. 'Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all my business.'"

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    politically correct in a diversity that i doubt existed in Dicken's day, or even today for that matter.

    And I completely disagree that Dickens would agree with today's progressives. He sent business people over to ask Scrooge for charity, not the tax man. How can you believe Dickens would support a system that creates generations of dependent welfare recipients to gain votes. Dickens eschewed ignorance and want, today's progressives depend on it.

  • In reply to 4zen:

    Some of Dickens's writings were because he was a social reformer.

    I suppose that you believe that Upton Sinclair advocated eating meat.

  • In reply to jack:

    Upton Sinclair tried veganism and eventually gave it up because he said his brain wouldn't function on the diet. He reportedly turn to Salisbury Steak, thank you for another perfect example of the law of union tended consequence.

    I'm not saying Dickens wasn't a social reformer, I'm saying that he would be sick if he saw the unholy unintended consequences of his ideas in modern day America.

    I tell you what, lets all make a coffee date at a Walmart and watch the starving masses, or maybe a day trip to Englewood to watch teenagers being paid to pump out children into fatherless homes. I'm sure Dickens would be proud.

  • In reply to 4zen:

    Jewel took care of the problem that Walmart ads compared its prices at 8203 Golf Road Niles to those at Walmart at 8500 Golf Road, by announcing that they were closing the Jewel.

    I don't think there are starving masses at Walmart, especially in the expanded food department. Now, whether they are paying with cash, Walmart stored value cards, or Link Cards is. I suppose, only of relevance to the farmers who get subsidies.

    BTW, as I indicated, most of the Walmarts are in the suburbs, as the city thinks it is too good for them. I don't think that all of their customers are the teeming masses.

    And, again, I thought you were all about love.

  • In reply to jack:

    Exactly. I don't believe the current administration's policy of making essentially 'human veal' has anything to do with love.

    13 "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

  • In reply to 4zen:

    So where can I get the human veal? Whole Foods, or the Zabitha Halal market? Apparently it is no longer available at Burger King.

    And as L Walker sings in the Citicard commercial "Somebody left the gate open." No need to squeeze.

  • You must agree that Scrooge never would have transformed if his charity was forced. The whole story depends on his choice. This is huge Aquinas. To understand this concept could save your very soul, just like...Scrooge!

  • Thanks for looking in 4zen. It won't come as a shock that I respectfully disagree with you. Dickens was part and parcel of a progressive movement in the 19th century both in England and elsewhere. Many lived in grinding poverty. The British passed The Poor Law of 1834 to deal with this social problem but it only created workhouses where conditions were worse in many cases than what the poor lived under. The British middle class, including Scrooge, was taxed for these "Union workhouses". Read Stave 1 of A Christmas Carol again, when Scrooge was asked to contribute for poor relief. There is this exchange between Scrooge and one of the two gentlemen soliciting his financial aid for the poor. Scrooge: "I help to support the establishments I have mentioned [prisons, workhouses, the Treadmill and the Poor Law] they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there." The gentleman: "Many can't go there; and many would rather die." Scrooge: " If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

    Don't forget Romney's talk about the 47% moochers and Paul Ryan's budget that would cut 'entitlements' and leave more people out in the cold while opposing raising taxes on the top 1%. The Scrooge quoted above would have no trouble voting Republican.

  • Mitt was right and your pushing fear with that people out in the cold B.S.. Your demagoguing again to win an argument. You believe the only way the poor can be helped is govt and I disagree. I believe govt is making it worse, there's more about being human than a free twinkie, and you didn't answer the question about transformation.

    In the end, I'm sure we both want whats best for everyone, we just disagree on how to do it. Dickens was pointing to the elevation of the spirit and that is not whats happening with our modern day idea of charity, it's become an abomination.

  • 4zen, charity is never an 'abomination'. Dickens was more concerned about the material welfare of the poor than he was about elevating their spirits, whatever you mean by that. I find your choice of words rather condescending and insensitive.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    If one takes an idea like charity and uses it for it's opposite intended purpose, the enhancement of life, then my label is appropriate.

    Sometimes I like to write in a little Nietzschian bombast, if I have hurt any feelings I apologize.

    By the way, I thought condescension and insensitivity were part of your schtick.

  • In response to Scrooge's transformation, yes, it was a transformation of his values as well as his flinty heart. Instead of thinking about life in terms of money and profit, he came to see the truth of what his nephew said in Stave 1 about Christmas: "But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it."

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