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Old 03-18-2019, 05:33 PM   #46
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I liked that passage about the Rooks too, gmw. I didn’t know about the Ostrich myth about liking iron, so thanks for asking the question and to Victoria for finding the answer.

I agree Bookworm-Girl and Victoria. It would be a dull world if we all liked the same books. Like you, I appreciate Dickens’ descriptive writing, but dislike his sentimentality.

But when he’s good, he’s very good indeed. The strange opening of the book was very powerful and unusual, as it was hard to understand at first what was going on. That certainly pulled me in.
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Old 03-18-2019, 06:01 PM   #47
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Like you, I appreciate Dickensí descriptive writing, but dislike his sentimentality.

But when heís good, heís very good indeed. The strange opening of the book was very powerful and unusual, as it was hard to understand at first what was going on. That certainly pulled me in.
The opening was very powerful; I felt at sea too, and was worried I might not be able to understand the book. It was a relief to get to normal time and space. And Iíll probably never be able to shake his vivid pictures of an opium den. Theyíre seared into my brain.

He was so inventive - it takes an amazing imagination to create ghosts of Christmas past.
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Old 03-18-2019, 07:46 PM   #48
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[...] Your question made me curious, so I checked Professor Google. And apparently there was a widely held belief regarding Ostriches and iron; however, Iím not sure how they link to Durdles: https://mad.hypotheses.org/131
Thank you. Almost more than a person wants to know. Those poor birds. I wonder that the belief was so widely known then that it was thought appropriate to put in a publication like this - they didn't have Google to help them out.

I should have tried Google. I was checking an encyclopaedia, which did not mention it. I had already had to look up "Superior Family Souchong" (one of the finer varieties of black tea) and also "cock-shy".

Cock-shy is applied to cock-throwing - the sport of throwing sticks at a cock tied to a post - and similar games with cocks. The word is also used for the object at which a shy is made (hence the use in this novel).

Apparently cock-throwing had waned more than a century before this novel (became thought of as barbarous), but even so, the realisation that it had been a sport gives a slightly different perspective to Deputy throwing rocks at Durdles.
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Old 03-18-2019, 08:10 PM   #49
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[...] On the other hand, the tender moments between Crisparkle and his angel mother, bowing their heads together each morning were far too sweet to be believed. I also found Dickenís descriptions of Crisparkleís feelings about his mother overly sentimental. And thatís how I generally experience Dickens. I admire and respect what he did in terms of social justice, but in terms of reading enjoyment, heís too sentimental and preachy.
Yes, the too-good-to-be-believed Crisparkle would definitely be suspect in any modern murder mystery. I had my eye on him from the start.

You are not the first I've seen to express dislike for the sentimentality and moralizing in Dickens' writing. There are some places where he goes over the top even for my tastes, but generally I don't mind it too much. Perhaps the encroaching years have made me more sentimental, but also, I'm inclined to think of it as part of his stance on social justice. If you consider the roughness of the times, I think some emphasis on sentimentality can be excused as a way of trying to make people empathise more with those in difficult situations.
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Old 03-19-2019, 01:14 PM   #50
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You are not the first I've seen to express dislike for the sentimentality and moralizing in Dickens' writing. There are some places where he goes over the top even for my tastes, but generally I don't mind it too much. Perhaps the encroaching years have made me more sentimental, but also, I'm inclined to think of it as part of his stance on social justice. If you consider the roughness of the times, I think some emphasis on sentimentality can be excused as a way of trying to make people empathise more with those in difficult situations.
Itís interesting that you find youíve become more tolerant of sentimentality over the years. Theyíve probably helped me be a bit less idealistic than I was in my youth. I guess itís trite but true that life experience brings us greater balance, in which ever direction we need. But youíre absolutely right - the real testament to the quality of Dickensí writing is his extraordinary legacy, socially and artistically.

Though I didnít particularly enjoy the book itself, it sparked a bit of exploring in terms of where Dickens was in his own lifeís journey, when he wrote it. I was surprised to learn that he and his wife had a difficult and very public break up, after having ten children together. He then had a long term relationship with a younger actress, which he tried to keep private.

It that light, it might have been interesting to see where he was going with the Jasper character. I thought Jasperís description to Edwin of how mundane and suffocating he found his life had the ring of truth to it. I wonder if Dickens identified with Jasper at all? Obviously he didnít commit murder, but according to one of his biographers, there were references to personal unhappiness in the correspondence of his later years. Iíve included some links, in case anyone is interested:

https://www.biography.com/people/cha...ickens-9274087
https://www.biography.com/news/charl...<br /> ternan
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/...d-Dickens.html
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-...fair-19632069/
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Old 03-19-2019, 02:37 PM   #51
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I have finally finished the book, and I got nothing out of it. Nothing.

I started it three times, the third time after ten chapters. We won't even count how many times I still went back a chapter or two because I'd lost the thread of the story and would suddenly find myself not having any idea who a character was or what was going on.

So I got nothing.

And this was a book I wanted to read. But I didn't want to read it NOW.
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Old 03-19-2019, 04:15 PM   #52
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I finished the book in timely fashion but had a computer crisis. Best laid plans and all that. I've read the thread and will respond to some individual posts, but I thought I'd give some general impressions.

I loved it. I was sucked in from the beginning; the scene in the opium den was so creepy and portentous that Dickens had me from then on. And then the Close in December; one could imagine how location worked on people to entice them into evil.

I'm in the Edwin survives camp, but also in the camp that says that Dickens was keeping his options open. The point of the ring could well have been to ensure identification of the body dissolved in quicklime; otherwise it's a red herring. And even if Edwin did survive, I think we have to assume that Jasper assumed he killed him; certainly there must have been an interval when Edwin was unconscious and seemingly dead, when Jasper removed the jewelry he knew of, to plant it at the weir.

One thing that puzzled me is that at one point in the churchyard, mention was made of Edwin's father's tomb. So where is his mother buried? I really, really wanted to think that Princess Puffer was in fact Jasper's sister and Edwin's mother, but she seems too old for that. It's still the best explanation for Jasper's connection to her and her hatred of him and protectiveness toward Edwin. It's easy enough to believe that if she had sunk into depravity, it was more palatable for her husband and brother to concoct a tale of her death than to cope. A different version of Bertha Rochester in her attic, as it were.

Yes, I know some of the characters were caricatures, but I found Sapsea hilarious just the same. I laughed every time I read that epitaph. I also enjoyed the way Jasper wound him up. I found both Honeythunder and the disquisitions on philanthropy tedious in the extreme, however.

My feeling on coming to the end such as it was that I was glad in a way that it was unfinished. The double nuptials at the end, so much sweetness, would have irritated me. Instead, there's the fun of turning over the possibilities. I do regret missing out on the examination of evil through the prism of Jasper. I wonder to what extent exculpatory factors Dickens might have raised?
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Old 03-19-2019, 05:00 PM   #53
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I loved it. I was sucked in from the beginning; the scene in the opium den was so creepy and portentous that Dickens had me from then on.. ....

....One thing that puzzled me is that at one point in the churchyard, mention was made of Edwin's father's tomb. So where is his mother buried? I really, really wanted to think that Princess Puffer was in fact Jasper's sister and Edwin's mother, but she seems too old for that. It's still the best explanation for Jasper's connection to her and her hatred of him and protectiveness toward Edwin. It's easy enough to believe that if she had sunk into depravity, it was more palatable for her husband and brother to concoct a tale of her death than to cope. A different version of Bertha Rochester in her attic, as it were.
Itís great that you enjoyed it so much. And top marks to you for inventiveness! It really works. I was also puzzled about the tomb only containing Jasperís ďbrother-in-lawĒ. Since it seemed unnatural for an uncle to kill his own nephew, I looking for a solution where Jasper wasnít Edwinís actual biological uncle, but nothing seemed to fit that clue about the tomb.

Your solution pulls so many threads together. The drugs could have aged the Princess Puffer prematurely. Itís quite convincing - I couldnít have thought of it in a hundred years!
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Old 03-19-2019, 05:11 PM   #54
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Your solution pulls so many threads together. The drugs could have aged the Princess Puffer prematurely. Itís quite convincing - I couldnít have thought of it in a hundred years!
Well, she did have to be quite a bit older than Jasper. I meant to go back and try to figure out the years, but it slipped my mind.
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Old 03-19-2019, 05:52 PM   #55
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Yes, that is indeed an interesting possibility. From memory, John Jasper was only about six years older than his nephew, so if his sister was, say, 20 when she had Edwin, she would be about 40 to his 26. A 14 year gap is perfectly feasible.
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Old 03-19-2019, 05:55 PM   #56
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I have finally finished the book, and I got nothing out of it. Nothing.

I started it three times, the third time after ten chapters. We won't even count how many times I still went back a chapter or two because I'd lost the thread of the story and would suddenly find myself not having any idea who a character was or what was going on.

So I got nothing.

And this was a book I wanted to read. But I didn't want to read it NOW.
Oh dear, sorry you didnít enjoy it at all. You might have some fun with those other items you found, by Lang and Nicoll, but you may well feel you are over it.
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Old 03-19-2019, 08:00 PM   #57
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Itís interesting that you find youíve become more tolerant of sentimentality over the years. Theyíve probably helped me be a bit less idealistic than I was in my youth. I guess itís trite but true that life experience brings us greater balance, in which ever direction we need.[...]
I never said anything about having come into greater balance.

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Though I didnít particularly enjoy the book itself, it sparked a bit of exploring in terms of where Dickens was in his own lifeís journey, when he wrote it. I was surprised to learn that he and his wife had a difficult and very public break up, after having ten children together. He then had a long term relationship with a younger actress, which he tried to keep private.
I've always thought the final years for Dickens seemed rather unfair considering what he had tried to do for others.

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It that light, it might have been interesting to see where he was going with the Jasper character. I thought Jasperís description to Edwin of how mundane and suffocating he found his life had the ring of truth to it. I wonder if Dickens identified with Jasper at all? [...]
That is an interesting line of thought, though if you are right it might have tested everyone's tolerance for sentimentality before the end.
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Old 03-19-2019, 08:27 PM   #58
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[...] I'm in the Edwin survives camp, but also in the camp that says that Dickens was keeping his options open. The point of the ring could well have been to ensure identification of the body dissolved in quicklime; otherwise it's a red herring. And even if Edwin did survive, I think we have to assume that Jasper assumed he killed him; certainly there must have been an interval when Edwin was unconscious and seemingly dead, when Jasper removed the jewelry he knew of, to plant it at the weir.
It seems unlikely in this story, but in a more modern mystery I would not be surprised to learn that (if he is alive) Drood was somehow complicit in his own disappearance.

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[...]My feeling on coming to the end such as it was that I was glad in a way that it was unfinished. The double nuptials at the end, so much sweetness, would have irritated me. Instead, there's the fun of turning over the possibilities. I do regret missing out on the examination of evil through the prism of Jasper. I wonder to what extent exculpatory factors Dickens might have raised?
I was a little surprised to see that most made-up conclusions assumed happy endings and two weddings. This was Dickens, not Austen. I don't think we can assume it would have been an all-round happy ending.

The death of Little Nell did so well for The Old Curiosity Shop, it seems possible he might have bumped off ... Helena I think, but then the Crisparkle would have made a good martyr. I don't think Neville was good enough to have made a good martyr, but he would have wept convincingly over Crisparkle's body (or Helena's).

It seems to me the second half may have spent quite some time in gaol with Jasper, learning of his background and his justifications. Other than seeing where some of the connections exist, I think it's anyone's guess exactly what details Dickens had in mind.
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Old 03-19-2019, 09:05 PM   #59
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It that light, it might have been interesting to see where he was going with the Jasper character. I thought Jasper’s description to Edwin of how mundane and suffocating he found his life had the ring of truth to it. I wonder if Dickens identified with Jasper at all? Obviously he didn’t commit murder, but according to one of his biographers, there were references to personal unhappiness in the correspondence of his later years.
Thanks for the links, Victoria! Dickens did have a very interesting personal history.

Matthew Pearl’s introduction suggests that there are some biographical elements in the book. Pearl suggests that the way Jasper views Edwin with resentment and disappointment could be compared to the way Dickens viewed his sons. He thought they lived extravagantly expensive lives and were unfocused, engaging in exotic colonial pursuits. Dickens also could have been reflecting regrets about his own marriage on to Edwin and Rosa’s anxiety about their engagement. Dickens also had brothers who lived dark lives and could have been inspiration for Jasper’s character. Pearl also states that Dickens relied on medical opiates in his final years, which could have been relevant to Jasper’s opium use. Lastly he alleges that Dickens could have projected his secret affair with Ellen Ternan (older man, young actress) onto Jasper’s pursuit of Rosa Bud.
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Old 03-20-2019, 08:45 AM   #60
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While I'm putting up some quotes, can anyone help me with elaboration/explanation for this:


Is there some legend regarding Ostriches and iron? Is maybe a legend of Ostriches carrying food in their feathers or something?
In his Naturalis Historia, Pliny the Elder said that an ostrich could eat and digest anything.

Is Dickens showing his wit, or implying that Durdles is willing to hide his head in the sand?
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