Monday, August 25, 2014
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Book I, Chapter 1, The Period. (Opening lines.)
Charles Dickens wrote 15 novels, 5 novellas and hundreds of short stories and non-fictional articles. He gave lectures, was a prolific letter writer and edited a weekly journal for 20 years. Because of his personal experiences in early life he was a dedicated campaigner for children’s rights, education, and social reforms including his stance as an outspoken proponent for copyright law and protection of intellectual property. But he was most renewed for his pioneering of the narrative serial novel.
Born at No. 1 Mile End Terrace, Landport, Portsmouth, England in February of 1812 and the 2nd of 8 children, Dickens was forced to begin work at 12 years old at Warren’s Blacking Factory after his father’s poor head for finances led to his imprisonment for debt in the Marshalsea Prison. These early formative years became a taboo topic for discussion with Charles Dickens but found expression in each of his literary works.
At twenty-four years old Dickens soared to fame both in Britain and internationally with his Pickwick Papers, published in 1836. Throughout his career it was said that his creativity was rivaled only by Shakespeare. People from all levels of society could relate to his characters - especially the underprivileged and desperate. Installments of his novels were so eagerly awaited that devoted readers in New York would crowd the docks awaiting ships arriving from England to get their hands on the next release.
Only two works of historical fiction were written by Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge and the more well-known A Tale Of Two Cities.
Published in 1859, A Tale Of Two Cities is a 45 chapter novel that was first published in 31 weekly installments in the Dickens literary periodical, All The Year Round beginning April 30, 1859 and completing on November 26, 1859.
Intent on being historically accurate and placing a strong emphasis on realistic characters and authenticity in real-life detail of the French Revolution, Dickens relied heavily on his friend, Thomas Carlyle’s History Of The French Revolution as a major resource for his meticulous preparation for the novel. Unlike his other works it gives A Tale Of Two Cities a slightly unfamiliar reliance on tightly constructed faithfulness to detail of time and historical fact instead of his usual careful character development and deep humor. Characters strongly represent ideals in a more one-dimensional than in other Dickensian novels.
Set primarily in the teeming cities of London and Paris, A Tale Of Two Cities is a novel of opposites: death and resurrection, water and air, darkness and light. Dickens represents them as well balanced - equally matched in character, place and detail.
Much in this important work reflects Dickens own interest in social change and the plight of the urban poor and systematically down-trodden. Readers are reminded of the evils of hunger, injustice and brutality which were being suffered by the defenseless masses at the hands of governments and the privileged nobility - whether in England or in France.
But for all of the social agenda and determinately clinging to of historical detail, readers can also experience the nobility and loyalty of the human heart. Love and sacrifice, tenderness and determination surface in the memorable characters who center this work.
A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is the second read
in our current study of British Victorian Authors.
You have plenty of time to start reading to discuss over an
Autumn Book Breakfast
to take place on Saturday, October 4th 2014 at 10am!