I have written very occasionally in the past about the strong possibility that Charles Dickens might have been at least a partially committed Janeite.
The topic came up recently in Austen L and Janeites and here is my part of that discussion:
A CHRISTMAS CAROL:
Me: "....I also subjectively just do not love Dickens's writing style,
with a few exceptions ( A Christmas Carol comes to mind in particular)...."
Anielka Briggs: "Only A Christmas Carol seem to have the mystery of
construction that leads to exgetic depth or subtle ironic allusion."
Yes, that is part of what I like about A Christmas Carol, it has an aura
of mystery about it, even as it seems a pretty straightforward
morality tale on the surface.
As part of my wife's and my quick tour through the first four seasons of
The Mentalist, I particularly enjoyed the episode in which a bad guy
attempts to murder a famous retired (American) football quarterback by
blowing him up in his car with a bomb, but, by accident, an innocent
person gets in the car instead and dies. Patrick Jane, that devious
sleuth, seizes the opportunity by having it be spread around that the
intended victim actually did die in the blast, and by this strategy
eventually the killer is identified. But, alongside the usual thread of
solving a murder, there was another layer in this episode, because the
investigative team, as part of its crime-solving, on several occasions
has the quarterback sit behind a one way mirror and watch and listen as
various suspects, including his ex wife and girlfriend, are questioned.
And that's where The Christmas Carol comes in, because I am sure that
the writer of the episode meant to bring up that resonance, repeatedly,
by showing us the reactions of the quarterback as he hears what these
various people really think about him, now that they think he's dead.
And at the end, even after the killer has been identified, we see a
final scene in which Patrick Jane, who is a kind of angel delivering
justice and mercy in his own quirky fashion, a la Portia in disguise in
The Merchant of Venice, questions the ex-wife while the QB is watching,
and gets her to confess that she still loves her (apparently dead)
husband, and thought he was a good man who lost his way. And the QB is
so overcome with guilt and relief that he rushes into the other room,
reveals to his ex that he's still alive, and they are reconciled.
A great example of how even popular mass market TV shows can draw upon
great literature in inventive and touching ways.
Diane Reynolds wrote: "This is from Mr. Jingle's speech in Chapter 2 of The Pickwick
Papers by Charles Dickens.
'Come along, then,' said he of the green
coat, lugging Mr. Pickwick after him by main force, and talking the
whole way. 'Here, No. 924, take your fare, and take yourself
off—respectable gentleman—know him well—none of your nonsense— this way,
sir—where's your friends?—all a mistake, I see—never mind— accidents will
happen—best regulated families—never say die—down upon your luck—Pull
him UP—Put that in his pipe—like the flavour—damned rascals.' And with a
lengthened string of similar broken sentences, delivered with
extraordinary volubility, the stranger led the way to the traveller's
waiting-room, whither he was closely followed by Mr. Pickwick and his
Hardcore Janeites will be anticipating me. What immediately leapt to my
mind but Mrs. Elton picking strawberries at Donwell Abbey: Mrs. Elton,
in all her apparatus of happiness, her large bonnet and her basket, was
very ready to lead the way in gathering, accepting, or
talking—strawberries, and only strawberries, could now be thought or
spoken of.—"The best fruit in England—every body's favourite—always
wholesome.—These the finest beds and finest sorts.—Delightful to gather
for one's self—the only way of really enjoying them.—Morning decidedly
the best time—never tired—every sort good—hautboy infinitely superior—no
comparison—the others hardly eatable—hautboys very scarce—Chili
preferred—white wood finest flavour of all—price of strawberries in
London—abundance about Bristol—Maple Grove—cultivation—beds when to be
renewed—gardeners thinking exactly different—no general rule—gardeners
never to be put out of their way—delicious fruit—only too rich to be
eaten much of—inferior to cherries—currants more refreshing— only
objection to gathering strawberries the stooping—glaring sun—tired to
death—could bear it no longer—must go and sit in the shade." JA
naturally uses parataxis with more bite. END QUOTE
Diane, your post reminded me of something I read online a few years ago
when I was looking at possible Dickens/Austen connections---somebody in
an online group pointed out the similarity of the strawberry scene to
the following passage also in Chapter 2 in The Pickwick Papers:
"Heads, heads -- take care of your heads! cried the loquacious stranger,
as they came out under a low archway, which in those days formed the
entrance to the coach-yard. "Terrible place -- dangerous work -- other
day -- five children – mother tall lady, eating sandwiches -- forgot the
arch -- crash – knock -- children look round -- mother's head off --
sandwich in her hand -- no mouth to put it in -- head of a family off --
Now, did Dickens get this idea from Emma? Can't prove it, but
certainly he was an extremely well read guy, and Emma would have been
a novel that would have crossed his path. And moving further into the future, Joyce definitely was a Janeite,and
there's no question that he, literary scholar that he was, knew Emma
well. And don't forget Beckett, who was also a Janeite:
" . out . . . into this world . . . this world . . . tiny little thing .
. . before its time . . . in a godfor– . . . what? . . girl? . . yes . .
. tiny little girl . . . into this . . . out into this . . . before her
time . . . godforsaken hole called . . . called . . . no matter . . .
parents unknown . . . unheard of . . . he having vanished . . . thin air
. . . no sooner buttoned up his breeches . . . she similarly . . . eight
months later . . . almost to the tick . . . so no love . . . spared that
. . . no love such as normally vented on the . . . speechless infant . .
. in the home . . . no . . . nor indeed for that matter any of any kind
. . . no love of any kind . . . at any subsequent stage..."
It's cool to think of Jane Austen as an innovator in literary word salads, leading the way for Dickens, Joyce and Beckett, among others....
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter
P.S. added 01/13/13 at 3 pm EST:
See the following followup post re another Dickens borrowing from Jane Austen:
- Deirdre Le Faye & Me: "I am a scholar, she is a scholar: so far we are equal"
- Darcy's "We neither of us perform to strangers": a Radical New Interpretation
- The Hunger Games’s Veiled Allusion to Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus
- August Wayne Booth in Once Upon A Time: Jane Austen Really IS Everywhere in 2012!
- Rick Santorum would have been the worst person in the world to Jane Austen too!
- 20 shades of hero/villain Mr. Darcy
- The Great Gadsby: an overnight lesbian feminist ‘comedy’ sensation 10+ years in the making (& 3 millenia overdue)
- Austenland: The Movie was Fun, but the Novel was Better [SPOILER ALERT as to both]
- Can Jane Austen forgive Marianne?
- The secret codeword Shakespeare devilishly hid in plain sight in Romeo & Juliet that Shakespeare Uncovered DIDN’T uncover—but John Milton (and then I) did!
Saturday, January 12, 2013
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