Category Archives: books

Second Character Saturday Alan Rickman: Severus Snape

Blogger’s Note: When I started to thinking about Secondary Character Saturday somehow Alan Rickman kept coming to mind. He’s been around for a long time, he’s been in a LOT of great movies, and he’s almost always in the secondary character spot. He’s PERFECT for this blog segment. But WHICH Alan Rickman role to feature on Secondary Character Saturday? Ah that’s the rub. He’s done everything from rom-com, to Shakespeare, to comic science fiction, to serious drama. Which side of A.R. do I show? Frankly, I couldn’t decide. So I’m claiming the month of MARCH as Alan Rickman Month! (He’s also one of my all time favorite actors so I wont mind spending a month researching him and maybe re-watching a few movies!)

Snape topper

Who: Professor Severus Snape

From: The Harry Potter series

By: J.K. Rowling wrote the fabulous and engaging books. The movies were directed with varying degrees of success by different people. For my money Alfonso Cuarón saved (the movie) franchise from generic blandom with his wickedly good HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and David Yates brought the magic in HP and the Deathly Hallows 1&2.

Released: The character of Severus Snape first appeared in June  of 1997 when Rowling published Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Great Britain.  We first got to see A.R. as Snape in 2001 with the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Pros: He’s brilliant, of course. He’s got fantastic wand skills and is so fab at potions that he literally rewrote the book. He’s inventive, hard-working,  intuitive. He protects Harry even though he can’t stand him. He teaches Harry Occlumency so he can keep Voldemort out of his mind. He’s acts as a double agent for Dumbledore. And he’s loyal to Lily, his one true and unrequited love. Having made both Lily and Dumbledore (and Narcissa Malfoy) promises he stops at nothing to keep them. He’s the perfect Slytherin.

Still from HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Snape rushes in front of Harry, Ron and Hermione to protect them from a werewolfe. Maybe he's just being a good teacher/adult. But I doubt whether some other teachers at the school would have done the same. [Image courtesy: Warner Brothers]

Still from HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Snape rushes in front of Harry, Ron and Hermione to protect them from a werewolf. Maybe he’s just being a good teacher/adult. But I doubt whether some other teachers at the school would have done the same. [Image courtesy: Warner Brothers]

Cons: Well… he’s mean. He’s REALLY mean to Harry! And that’s just not right! (OK I’ve got that off my chest. But lets face it, Snape isn’t the meanest one of the lot. He’s got nothing on Umbridge.) He’s a bully and he takes out his resentment for what James Potter did to him on Harry.  He’s spiteful, malicious, angry, bitter, resentful, and cruel.  He always favors Slytherin . He’s a double spy for Voldemort. He’s a Death Eater. And he KILLS Dumbledore! He’s the perfect Slytherin.

Most Shining Moment: I agree with Harry Potter Blog Spot who picks Dumbledore’s Death as Snape’s Shining Moment For to honor Dumbledore’s wishes and protect Harry’s (and Draco’s) life, Snape risked the damage his own soul that this horrific act would bring.” [Harry Potter blog spot] It is the crowning action of commitment, loyalty and self-sacrifice, while on the outside (and to the reader)  it looks completely the opposite.

Least Shining Moment: All the times he was meaner than he had to be to Harry and the other students who weren’t in Slytherin … and when he killed Dumbledore.

The Mary Grandpre illustration of Half-Blood Prince.

The Mary Grandpre illustration of Half-Blood Prince.

Yeah, I know I sound schizophrenic, but things with Snape are COMPLICATED. And nothing in the books was more complex and, dare I say, misleading, than Snape’s killing Dumbledore. When it happened it was THE WORST THING EVER in the HP universe and I didn’t think I could ever forgive Snape. Up until then Rawlings had given me enough ammunition to  forgive away his nastiness towards Harry. But this? How could he be redeemed from this? Hmmmm.  Things have changed.

He remained true to himself by remaining loyal to Dumbledore and his lost love. As the stakes and danger increased for him, and Dumbledore pushed him to greater acts of spying and risk, Snape met these challenges bravely, even if irritably, to protect the son of the man he loathed and thereby preserve the memory of the woman he loved. [Ibid]

Something clearly resonates with Snape. He was the top pick of for favorite character in a poll done by the H.P. British publisher Bloomsbury. He received 20% of the votes in the poll that asked readers to rank their favorite 40 characters. (Hermione came in second. Harry was a distant 5th!)

Not to take anything away from the Snape Rowlings painted on the page, but Alan Rickman’s nuisanced performance as the greasy haired potions professor had a lot to do with that high rating. He’s delightful to watch throughout the series. (He makes the first couple of movies bearable with his dark, snarkiness). And as Snape’s story arch progresses Rickman’s performance builds in a measured, restrained, mysterious pace. He respects the character enough not to give anything away. He’s multidimensional in a very limited scope of dimension, many shades of black, as it were. And he’s fun to watch … right up to the moment he makes you cry.

Found this piece of Fan Art on Pinterest (with Maggie's help -- thanks Maggie!) And can not find any one to attribute it to. Sorry.

In another life wake up. by Lily-fox

Sorry the text is small in the comic:This is what it says…
Snape wakes from the dream to find his daughter at his bed side.
She asks “Are you awake?”
He reaches out to touch her red hair — she looks so much like Lily “Yes.”
She smiles “Mommy says pancakes are ready.”

Life is good.

 

Frankly… (if you haven’t guessed) I’m not a big fan of the HP movies. (LOVED the books — so don’t kick me out the club — but he movies… for the most part … eh.) But Rickman was always worth watching.

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So which other A.R. characters should we tackle this month? We’ve got 4 more Saturdays in the month so get your votes in!

  • Hans Gruber (Die Hard’s evil bad guy)
  • Alexander Dane  (Galaxy Quest’s classically trained science officer)
  • Dr. Blalock (the life saving doctor in Something the Lord Made)
  • Judge Turpin (the evil judge in Sweeny Todd)
  • Steven Spurrier (the wine snob from Bottle Shock)
  • Alex (the grief-stricken stranger in Snow Cake)
  • Jamie (the cello playing ghost in Truely, Madly, Deeply), or
  • Col Christopher Brandon (from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensiblity)  — Yeah, I’m doing Branon.

To see how Rickman “elevates the role of a villain from the plain ol’ bastard to a bastard coated bastard with bastard filling.”…go to the excellent blog The Many Faces of Alan Rickman.

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John Steinbeck 2.27.13 Thought of the Day

“Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power.” — John Steinbeck

English: John Steinbeck

English: John Steinbeck (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. was born on this day in Salinas, California in 1902. Today is the 111st anniversary of his birth.

John Steinbeck home

John Steinbeck home (Photo credit: sjb4photos)

His father was the treasurer for Monterey County, California. His mother, who had been a school teacher, instilled a love a reading and writing in he young Steinbeck. He graduated from high school in 1919 and went to Stanford University.
He worked his way through college at Stanford University but never graduated. In 1925 he went to New York, where he tried for a few years to establish himself as a free-lance writer, but he failed and returned to California. [Nobel Prize.org]
Back on California he met and married his first wife,Carol Henning, but he struggled to find work as a writer. For the first few years of the Great Depression his parents supported the junior Steinbecks and gave them a cottage to live in.  “Steinbeck first became widely known with Tortilla Flat (1935), a series of humorous stories about Monterey paisanos.” [Ibid]
Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 1930s was …
his most productive decade, he wrote several novels about his native California, including Tortilla Flat (1935), set in Monterey; In Dubious Battle (1936), about fruit-pickers on strike in a California valley; and Of Mice and Men (1937), set on a ranch in Soledad, southeast of Steinbeck’s birth town. [Writer’s Almanac]
He had worked on local farms and ranches during the summers when he was growing up and he wrote from that first hand observation of the  struggles of migrants and farm workers in his novels.
Cover of "The Grapes of Wrath"

Cover of The Grapes of Wrath

In 1939 he published what is considered his best work, The Grapes of Wrath, the story of Oklahoma tenant farmers who, unable to earn a living from the land, moved to California where they became migratory workers. [Nobel Prize.org]
He won a Pulitzer Prize for the novel.
Steinbeck became a war correspondent for the  New York Herald Tribune during World War II. He wrote from the Mediterranean and North Africa. He collected some of those stories in There Was a War.
Cover of "Viva Zapata! [Region 2]"

Cover of Viva Zapata! [Region 2]

After the war he wrote Cannery Row and  the screenplay for Lifeboat for Alfred Hitchcock. He recycled his characters from Tortilla Flat for the film A Medal for Benny. And he wrote The Pearl, which also was turned quickly into a movie. Followed by the screenplay for  Viva Zapata!
East of Eden (novel)

East of Eden (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He considered his next novel, East of Eden, his masterpiece. Other late works include …
The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), and Travels with Charley (1962), a travelogue in which Steinbeck wrote about his impressions during a three-month tour in a truck that led him through forty American states. He died in New York City in 1968. [Nobel Prize.org]
Steinbeck won “Nobel Prize in literature for his “realistic and imaginative writing, combining as it does sympathetic humor and keen social perception.” [Writer’s Almanac] in 1962.
He died six years later, in 1968,  of congestive heart failure in New York City.

Victor Hugo 2.26.13 Thought of the Day

“To love another person is to see the face of God.” — Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo, by Alphonse Legros.

Victor Hugo, by Alphonse Legros. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Victor Marie Hugo was born on this day in Besançon, France in 1802. Today is the 211th anniversary of his birth.

He was the third son of Joseph and Sophie Hugo. He was  born during a time of national turmoil in France.  His father supported Napoleon, his mother was a royalist. The family traveled often when he was young because of his father’s military postings. His mother separated from his father in 1803 and took the boys to Paris. There she raised them as Catholic Royalist.

Though a committed conservative royalist when he was young, Hugo grew more liberal as the decades passed; he became a passionate supporter of republicanism, and his work touches upon most of the political and social issues and artistic trends of his time. [Sony ReaderStore]

He began to write as a teenager. He created “tragedies and poetry, and translated Virgil. Hugo’s first collection of poems, Odes Et Poesies Diverses gained him a royal pension from Louis XVIII. [The Literature Network.com]

Bug-Jargal (1818) by Victor Hugo (1840-1902)

Bug-Jargal (1818) by Victor Hugo (1840-1902) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

His first novel, Han D’Islande, came out in 1823 followed by  Bug-Jargal  in 1826. The later book “describes the friendship between the enslaved African prince Bug-Jargal and Leopold D’Auverney, a French military officer, during the slave revolt in Santo Domingo of August, 1791.” [Amazon.com]

His reputation grew with the play Hernani in 1830 [Click here for the Project Gutenberg link] (The play later inspired Verdi to write his opera Ernani. )

Charles Laughton

Charles Laughton (Photo credit: twm1340)

Hugo’s literary breakthrough was with The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1831.

The novel, set in 15th century Paris, tells a moving story of a gypsy girl Esmeralda and the deformed, deaf bell-ringer, Quasimodo, who loves her. Esmeralda aroses passion in Claude Frollo, an evil priest, who discovers that she favors Captain Phoebus. Frollo stabs the captain and Esmeralda is accused of the crime. Quasimodo attempts to shelter Esmeralda in the cathedral. Frollo finds her and when Frollo is rejected by Esmeralda, he leaves her to the executioners. In his despair Quasimodo catches the priest, throws him from the cathedral tower, and disappears. Later two skeletons are found in Esmeralda’s tomb – that of a hunchback embracing that of a woman. [books and writers]

For 20 more years Hugo continued to write lyrical poetry — he is considered France’s greatest poet — plays, novels and essays. He was a visual artist and statesman as well as a  human rights activist.

English: Woodburytype of Victor Hugo

English: Woodburytype of Victor Hugo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the political landscape shifted in 1851 and Louis Bonaparte began to gain power. Hugo opposed the man, coining the phrase “we have had Napoleon the Great, now we have to have Napoleon the Small” [VictorHugo.gg]. When Napoleon grabbed power by way of a coup d’etat in December of that year Hugo fled the country for Brussels. Eventually he wound up on the island of Guernsey.

There, he wrote at a fast pace. And he wrote standing up, at a pulpit, looking out across the water. He had strict minimums for himself: 100 lines of poetry or 20 pages of prose a day. It was during this time that he wrote his masterpiece, Les Misérables (1865), about a poor Parisian man who steals a loaf of bread, spends 19 years in jail for it, and after his release becomes a successful small businessman and small-town mayor — and then is imprisoned once again for a minor crime in his distant past. [WritersAlmanac]

After Louis Bonaparte’s fall in 1870 Hugo returned home to Paris. He resumed his interest in politics and was elected to the National Assembly.

Les Mis

Les Mis (Photo credit: mgstanton)

Hugo died in 1885 at the age of  83. Two million people attended his funeral procession.

 


Secondary Character Saturday — Matthew Cuthbert

Matthew Cuthbert had never been known to volunteer
information about anything in his whole life.”

Richard Farnsworth played Matthew in the CBC miniseries.

Richard Farnsworth played the ultimate Matthew in the  1985 CBC miniseries of Anne of Green Gables.

WHO:  Matthew Cuthbert

FROM:  Anne of Green Gables

BY: Lucy Maude Montgomery

PUBLISHED: 1908

Matthew is a bachelor farmer who lives at Green Gables with his spinster sister Marilla. They decided to bring an orphan boy on board to help him with chores around the farm. But the orphanage made a mistake and sent Anne instead. He

PROS: Matthew is shy, hard workings, a good listener, loyal, caring, moral, and he thinks about others.

CONS He’s SO shy he’s almost socially paralyzed.  He could stand up to Marilla more.

MOST SHINING MOMENT: He puts aside his extreme shyness and goes into town to buy a dress with puffy sleeves for Anne. It is an incredibly embarrassing experience for him but he does it because he loves her, and he knows it will make her happy.

When Anne comes into his life, he treats her like a rare treasure that he can’t believe he is lucky enough to be around. [NerdGirlBlogging.com]

Be sure to leave a comment of you are a Matthew fan!

Click HERE to get to the Project Gutenberg on-line copy of Anne of Green Gables.

Click HERE to get the Kindle version of the Anne Stories (all the stories of $.99).

Or go to you local bookstore or library and get a hardbound paper version and enjoy reading this classic page by lovely page.

English: Cover of Anne of Green Gables by Lucy...

English: Cover of Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, published 1908. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Related articles

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Next Month: So…. a while back we were discussing who to “honor” in Secondary Character Saturday and we kept coming up with characters played by Alan Rickman. So the Saturdays in March will feature Alan Rickman Characters! PLEASE send me a thoughts regarding your favorite Rickman characters and why you love/hate them (you know the formula by now.) Cheers, Rita


Secondary Character Saturday Aragorn

I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, and am called Elessar, the Elfstone, Dúnadain, the heir of Isildur Elendil’s son of Gondor. Here is the sword that was broken and is forged again! Will you aid me or thwart me? Choose swiftly!” [The Two Towers]
Viggio Morgenson as Aragorn in the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

Viggio Morgenson as Aragorn in the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. [Image courtesy:  Wikia.com]

 
Who: AragornFrom: The Lord of the RingsWritten by: JRR Tolkien

Date Published: July 21, 1954

Last week I profiled Samwise, this week it is Aragorn’s turn. Aragorn is the star of his story arc, but he’s not the main character of TLOTRs. That said, his story arc is a lovely one. Left to the protection of the Elves of Rivendell as a child when his father is killed by Orcs he lives a secret life. As an adult he goes from being a Ranger ( some one generally considered to be a dangerous and unsavory character) to King.

Pros:  Brave, skilled, humble, kind to those who are weaker than he is.  He’s good with horses. He’s handsome, and he can sing.

Cons: A reluctant hero he hesitates when it comes to taking on responsibility and the burden of leadership.

Shining moments:

  • Aragorn puts aside his fear and grief and finally takes control of the Fellowship after Gandalf’s fall in the mines of Moria. By the sheer force of his will he gets them out and to the safety of Lothlórien, It is a huge turning point for him. He’s spent his entire life avoiding leadership, and staying safely hidden among the elves or anonymously hidden in the trees.  But now he has takes the lead in a life and death situation.
  • He braved the paths of the dead in  Dwimerberg and took charge of the ghost army in Return of the King. He used the grim army to defeat the Orcs at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. He had promised to release them from their curse at the end of the battle. He could have kept the ghost army under his power and forced them to fight for him at the gate of Mordor, but he honorably kept to his promise and let them go.
  • Of course Aragorn unites the Northern and Southern kingdoms and… gets the girl.

Least shining moment:  He spent much of his life shirking his duties as king. “He didn’t want to step into that position, which is understandable… but still, when the world is crumbling around you … you have step up”. — Dave

Coat of arms from J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-ea...

Coat of arms from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Español: Escudo de Gondor, reino de la Tierra Media de J. R. R. Tolkien. Français : Blason du Gondor, royaume de la Terre du Milieu de J. R. R. Tolkien. Italiano: Stemma di Gondor, reame della Terra di Mezzo creata da J. R. R. Tolkien. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Thanks to Bill, Maggie, Dave and John for contributing to their thoughts to this Blog Post.
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On a lighter side Bill adds to Aragorn’s Cons that…He smoked and that he was too cheap to buy his own sword so he has to make the elves put a broken one together for him.
Strider, aka Aragorn

Strider, aka Aragorn (Photo credit: Dunechaser)


Artist Roy De Forest 2.11.13 Thought of the Day

De Forest with his dog [Image courtesy: UC Davis]

De Forest with his dog [Image courtesy: UC Davis]

Roy De Forest was born on this day in North Platee, Nebraska, USA in 1930. Today is the 83rd anniversary of his birth.

He grew up in  Nebraska and Yakima, Washington. He studied math and humanities at Yakima Junior College, receiving his associate degree in 1950.  Later he went to the California School of Fine Art in San Francisco to study art. After graduation he joined the Army. After serving in the Army he earned his master’s degree at San Francisco State University.

By 1955 he had his first show. He was a “founding father” of the UC Davis  Art Department. He started at the University in 1965  and worked there until he retired in 1992.

Young General George (1976) [Image Courtesy: ]

Young General George (1976) [Image Courtesy: Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts]

His paintings are imaginative, colorful, and fun.  .

His artworks are populated with a menagerie of creatures – some identifiably of this world, others inhabitants of some purely imaginary land, all living narrative lives in some unbounded territory between reality and magic. In addition to the wonder and joy of his imagery, Roy was known as an artist’s artist. He constantly found new ways to apply paint/pigment/mark to paper/canvas/wood. [University of California memorial]

Today Roy De Forest’s canvases can be found at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art the Hirshorn Museum in Washington, D.C. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and The Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (and more).

A “Roy De Forest Retrospective Exhibition” originated in 1974 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and traveled to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City the following year. [Ibid]

The artist died at the age of 77 in May of 2007.

Canis Prospectus (1986) [Image Courtesy: Preview Art]

Canis Prospectus (1986) [Image Courtesy: Preview Art]

Dogs were an important subject in De Forest's work. [Image courtesy SFMOMA]

Dogs were an important subject in De Forest’s work. [Image courtesy SFMOMA]

Trouble with Bovine Quarters (Image courtesy: )

Trouble with Bovine Quarters (Image courtesy: George Adams Gallery )

Goat Daze [Image Courtesy: George Adams Gallery.]

Goat Daze [Image Courtesy: George Adams Gallery.]

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I kept this bioBLOG intentionally brief because a) I couldn’t find out a lot about DeForest and B) I wanted to spend more time showing you his awesome art than talking about him.


Secondary Character Saturday — Samwise Gamgee

Sean Astin [Image courtesy: New Line Cinema]

Sean Astin as Sam in the 2001 LOTR  [Image courtesy: New Line Cinema]

Samwise Gamgee

“I feel as if I was inside a song, if you take my meaning.” –Sam from The Fellowship of the Ring

“I wonder if we shall ever be put into songs or tales. We’re in one, or course; but I mean: put into words, you know, told by the fireside, or read out of a great big book with red and black letters, years and years afterwards. And people will say: “Let’s hear about Frodo and the Ring!” And they’ll say: “Yes, that’s one of my favourite stories. Frodo was very brave. wasn’t he, dad?” “Yes, my boy, the famousest of the hobbits, and that’s saying a lot.“‘–Sam from the Two Towers

Who: Samwise “Sam” Gamgee

From: The Lord of the Rings

Written by: JRR Tolkien

Date Published: July 21, 1954

Why: Sam is the heart of the novel. The Lord of the Rings is essentially a quest/buddy story with a 9 member fellowship of adventurers trying to get the Ring to Mt. Doom. It is hard to stand out in a group of nine when you are small, socially unconnected and unskilled. Sam isn’t a wizard (Gandalf), he’s not a prince (BoromirAragorn), he’s not a warrior (Legolas, Gimli),  and he’s not even a well-born Hobbit (Frodo, Meriadoc and Pippin). He’s just Frodo’s servant. Yet his character arch from simple Shire gardener to determined hero is one of the 20th Century literature’s most endearing.

Pros: Loyal, Brave, Selfless, Kind, Modest, Inquisitive, Humble, Optimistic,

Cons: Occasionally slow-witted and jealous, Sam can also holds a grudge.

Frodo and Sam enter Mordor (Image courtesy Wallpapermay.com]

Frodo and Sam enter Mordor, while Gollum looks on(Image courtesy Wallpapermay.com]

Shining moment: Sam has several shining moments in the books ( saving the Frodo, Merry and Pippen from Old Man Willow, his fight with Shelob, keeping Frodo fed, sane and going thru Mordor, singlehandedly battling the orcs at Cirith Ungol to rescue Frodo among them) but I think his most shiny moment is when he carries Frodo up the side of Mount Doom…

“Come, Mr. Frodo!” he cried. “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get! Come on, Mr. Frodo dear! Sam will give you a ride. Just tell him where to go, and he’ll go.” [The Return of the King]

Least shining moment: Like all of us Sam has his doubts, and Gollum is a master manipulator who plays on those doubts. Sam doesn’t trust Gollum or his alter ego Sméagol, and he doesn’t treat the creature kindly.

Sean Astin embodied Sam for the Peter Jackson trilogy [Image courtesy: New Line Cinema]

Sean Astin [Image courtesy: New Line Cinema]

Conclusion: Sam manages to stay true to himself while evolving into a wonderful hero. He has just as much chance to take the Ring as bigger, more powerful characters, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t need the Ring (or its power) to make him happy. It tempts him with visions of greatness, but he knows himself.  “The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command.” [The Return of the King] So he carries it but never puts it on his finger.

In “The Lord of the Rings” it is difficult to find a more honest character. During the journey Sam was to Frodo what Sancho was to Don Quixote – confident, conscious and supportive…Sam is a pledge for the prosperity of Hobbiton both in the literal and figurative sense of the word. When in Lyrien, he received a box with the blessed soil, which would fertilize the land in every corner of Middle-earth. This is what Galadriel said: “Well, Master Samwise. I hear and see that you have used my gift well. The Shire shall now be more than ever blessed and beloved.” [Lord of the Rings.org]

For more on Sam, The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien go to Tolkien Gateway HERE

Lego Sam

Don’t mess with Lego Sam


Charles Dickens 2.7.13 Thought of the Day

“A loving heart is the truest wisdom.”–Charles Dickons

English: Detail from photographic portrait of ...

English: Detail from photographic portrait of Charles Dickens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on this day in Landport, Portsmouth, Hampshire, England in 1812. Today is 201st anniversary of his birth.

He was the second eldest child in a family of eight. His parents were of modest means but dreamed of a bigger, better life. His father, John, was a clerk, Elizabeth wanted to be a teacher — but with 8 children afoot never made it to the head of the classroom. The family was always poor, sometimes destitute.

When Dickens was four the family moved to Chatham, Kent. Dickens and his brothers and sisters roamed “he countryside and explore(d) the old castle at Rochester.” [Biography.com] They were happy years, and Dickens attended school and read ferociously. But the good times did not last. John outspent his income and was sent to debtor’s prison at the Marshalsea debtors’ prison in London in 1824. Elizabeth and the younger children moved in with  the father, but Frances, the eldest and Charles were sent to live with family friends.

Dickens at the Blacking Warehouse. Charles Dic...

Dickens at the Blacking Warehouse. Charles Dickens is here shown as a boy of twelve years of age, working in a factory. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So at 12 years old Charles Dickens was…

forced to leave school to work at a boot-blacking factory alongside the River Thames. At the rundown, rodent-ridden factory, Dickens earned six shillings a week labeling pots of “blacking,” a substance used to clean fireplaces. [Ibid]

John Dickens came into some money when his paternal grandmother died and he was released from the Marshalsea, but  Charles’ mother didn’t let him quit the boot-black factory right away. The family had grown accustomed to his six shillings a week. He never forgave her for making him go back to dirt and rats of the factory. Eventually he was able to go back to school, this time to The Wellington House Academy. Unfortunately the experience was anything but pleasant. The headmaster was sadistic, the teaching haphazard and fellow students undisciplined.

Charles Dickens described the second Marshalse...

Charles Dickens described the second Marshalsea in Little Dorrit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At 15 he got a job as an office boy at a law office.

As it turned out, the job became an early launching point for his writing career. Within a year of being hired, Dickens began freelance reporting at the law courts of London. Just a few years later, he was reporting for two major London newspapers. [Ibid]

Dickens, who had a near photographic memory, stored all the experiences, the injustices, the cruelties, and the people he met in his head. They came out later on the pages of his novels. (Amy and her family live in the Marshalsea in Little Dorrit. David, Pip and Oliver relive some of his worst experiences in David Copperfield, Great Expectations, and Oliver Twist.)

Copy of Sketch of Charles Dickens

Copy of Sketch of Charles Dickens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By 1833 he was being published under a pseudonym, “Boz,” in magazines and three years later his first book, a collection of articles, Sketches by Boz, was published.

He wrote often wrote serialization for magazines (sometimes magazines in which he had a financial interest) and then published the finished story in the form of a book.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a list of his books:

  • The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club
  • The Adventures of Oliver Twist
  • The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby
  • The Old Curiosity Shop
  • Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of ‘Eighty
  • The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit
  • Dombey and Son
  • David Copperfield
  • Bleak House
  • Hard Times: For These Times    
  • Little Dorrit     
  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • Great Expectations     
  • Our Mutual Friend
  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood

The Christmas books:

  •         A Christmas Carol (1843)
  •         The Chimes (1844)
  •         The Cricket on the Hearth (1845)
  •         The Battle of Life (1846)
  •         The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain (1848)

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If you are looking for a good Dicken’s dvd to watch during the snow storm we are promised this weekend I can recommend both Little Dorrit with Clair Foy and Matthew MacFayden or Our Mutual Friend with Keely Hawes and Steven Mackintosh.

Our Mutual Friend DVD (Image courtesy IMDB)

Our Mutual Friend DVD (Image courtesy IMDB)

Little Dorrit dvd  (Image courtesy Amazon.com)

Little Dorrit dvd (Image courtesy Amazon.com)


Pride and Prejudice characters: Charlotte and Mr. Collins

Charlotte & Collins

For a woman who came from a family of clergymen — her father, two brothers and four cousins wore a collar — Jane Austen certainly enjoys poking fun at them in her novels. And Pride and Prejudice’s  Mr. Collins is her most ridiculous clerical caricature. How on earth does sensible Charlotte wind up with such a buffoon?

A clergyman was a professional, just like a lawyer or doctor. He made his living in the pulpit, not at the bar or in the examining room, but he still needed to be a well educated man. Add to that a vicar needed have a high moral standard, be a good speaker and have compassion for the poor and needy.

David Bamber is Mr. Collins  in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

David Bamber is Mr. Collins in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

Instead we get conceited, pompous, narrow-minded, silly, self important Mr. Collins. He is a mixture of pride and obsequiousness, a social climber with a very good opinion of himself and his patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

He comes to Meryton to visit the Bennets. As closest male relative he is set to inherit the Longbourn estate on Mr. Bennet’s death. That is something, to his credit, that he feels some guilt over. So he decides to marry one of the five Bennet sisters. Jane is all but engaged to Mr. Bingley so he sets his sites on Lizzie.

Tom Hollander as Mr. Collin in the 2005 movie

Tom Hollander as Mr. Collin in the 2005 movie

Poor Lizzie receives two of the worst proposals  of marriage in literature. The first is from Mr. Collins. He wants to get married because:

  1.  as a clergyman it would set a good example to the parish.
  2.  it will add to his happiness.
  3.  it is “the particular advice “ of Lady Catherine.
  4.  he has a violent affection for Elizabeth

Of course he doesn’t expect a rejected. For one thing he’s SUCH a catch, and for another he’s chosen well. The girls are desperate and he has them in a corner.

He literally can not believe that she declines his offer. Neither can her mother. And for a while Longbourn is long born with strife.

Queue Charlotte.

Charlotte Lucas is plain, pragmatic, good-tempered, funny, sensible, intelligent and unromantic.  She is 27 years old and Lizzie’s intimate friend. She’s such a good friend, in fact, that she comes to the rescue when Lizzie refuses Mr. Collins. She keeps him in good humor by listening to him and, one assumes, diverts him, making sure he’s out of ear shot of the shouting Mrs. Bennet and the giggling Lydia and Kitty.

Lucy Scott in the 1995 series

Lucy Scott in the 1995 series

Lizzie thanks her friend,  but “Charlotte’s kindness extended farther than Elizabeth had any conception of; — its object was nothing less than to secure her from any return of Mr. Collins’s addresses, by engaging them towards herself.” With a little encouragement on her part Mr. Collins transfers his ‘violent affections’ form one lady to the next and…

”In as short a time as Mr. Collins’s long speeches would allow, every thing was settled between them to the satisfaction of both… he earnestly entreated her to name the day that was to make him the happiest of men… and Miss Lucas, who accepted him solely from the pure and disinterested desire of an establishment, cared not how soon that establishment were gained.”

Lizzie is surprised that Mr. Collins could so quickly change his mind  and settle on another life partner. But she is astonished that Charlotte could accept his proposal.  Charlotte reminds her however that she is…

”not romantic, you know. I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins’s character, connections, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.”

In some ways Charlotte winds up in same situation as Mr. Bennet in the marriage department. Neither of them respect or love their partners. And both do what they can in daily life to avoid interacting with their spouses Mr. Bennet shuts the door to his library, while Charlotte sits in her parlor and encourages Mr. Collins to work with his bees or visit Lady Catherine.

Claudie Blakley in the 2005 movie

Claudie Blakley in the 2005 movie

At the end of the novel Mr. Bennet writes to Mr. Collins informing him that — despite warning to the contrary by both Collins and Lady Catherine — Lizzie and Darcy are soon to marry. Mr. Bennet advises Mr. Collins to  “Console Lady Catherine as well as you can. But, if I were you, I would stand by the nephew. He has more to give.” If Mr. Collins heeds this wise advice he’d shift his alliance to Darcy who would never put up with the vicar’s toady behavior. That, combined with Charlotte’s even handed temper–which (hopefully) would rub off on Collins–MIGHT make him a more tolerable fool.

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Here’s a clip of the wonderful Julia Cho and Maxwell Glick in a scene from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries…


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