Friday, March 18, 2011

Charles Dickens going once, going twice

I first read Oliver Twist in the high Summer of adolescence, and I know this because it coincided with a historic USGA Open which I attended as a guest of the host club. I discovered the unlimited power of the English novel, in this lone exposure to Dickens: to be one's friend, to be one's own book, even if laid upon a backdrop of dramatic athletic heroics and momentous contest. Boyhood times 10, and with eagles no less.

It has ever after been obvious to me that very profound sensations of growing draw companionship in the privity of reading, and never end.

We hear that adolescence is no fun, but you could have fooled me. If one's ever cut some slack for its extravagant chaos, and benignly enabled to conduct it amidst a few bemused and patient guides, it can be a comparative blast. I don't mean to equate it with the later decades of tomfoolery, but I can't say I regret it. 

The boy stirred and smiled in his sleep, as though these marks of pity and compassion had awakened some pleasant dream of love and affection he had never known. Thus, a strain of gentle music, or the rippling of water in a silent place, or the odour of a flower, or the mention of a familiar word, will sometimes call up sudden dim remembrances of scenes that never were, in this life; which vanish like a breath; which some brief memory of a happier existence, long gone by, would seem to have awakened; which no voluntary exertion of the mind can ever recall.

Graham Greene
The Young Dickens
  The Lost Childhood
  and other Essays
Viking, 1951©


  1. i would love to know the source of the ship in harbor...


  2. Found at a dock I don't recall. Come from a place you know?

  3. it sounds like lavender. something that is wordless in reality yet we are lulled by hubris to define it. Graham Greene words come close. pgt

  4. These really are phenomenal words and I apologise for not making clear, they should be credited to Dickens, from the novel, itself. I was re-reading Greene's criticism - which as you probably know, is quite exciting stuff - and in this portion of his essay he was comparing passages in Dickens, from "Pickwick Papers" and "OT." I credit that source, to be fair, but I apologise for the unclarity.

    As to the correlating "sound" of lavender, oh, this strikes me as extremely well judged. "No voluntary exertion of the mind" can call it up.

  5. I should have known-however not from reading the GG.sadly lacking I must be, however to read that CD out of context it strikes me as just so of the moment it surprises. then to think why should I be surprised-it is Dickens after all. it is faultless.

  6. We should probably share Dickens more often. As you say, look at how good he is; and after all . .