Category Archives: Charles Dickens

Secondary Character Saturday: Mr. Pancks (Little Dorrit)

English: Illustration from the first edition o...

English: Illustration from the first edition of Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens. See filename for original image title. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ohhhh Dickens, you do know how to write a secondary character, you ole dog you.

Today I’m looking at Little Dorrit, the social satire that focused on life in the Marshalsea (debtor’s prison.) The book centers on Amy Dorrit and Arthur Clennam and has dozens of wonderfully drawn secondary characters, including:

  • Maggie (Amy’s simple-minded, kind-hearted friend),
  • Flora Finching (Arthur’s former fiance who has never gotten over the fact that he left for the Far East 20 years ago. She still dresses and acts like a spoiled teenager),
  • Mrs. Clennam (Arthur’s mother — and the reason he and his father left for the Far East 20 years ago — she’s cold, stingy and mean-spirited),
  • John Chivery (Assistant Turnkey of the Marshalsea Prison, a good-hearted lad who moons over Amy).

Best of all there’s Mr. Pancks, the snorfling, simpering, rent collecting lackey who is more than first appears.

Eddie Marsan  as Mr. Pancks in the BBC adaptation of Little Dorrit [Image courtesy:]

Eddie Marsan as Mr. Pancks in the 2009 BBC adaptation of Little Dorrit [Image courtesy:] This delightful version also stars Matthew Macfadyen and Clair Foy and was penned by Andrew Davies.


WHO: Mr. Pancks

FROM: Little Dorrit

BY: Charles Dickens

PUBLISHED: 1857 (it was serialized from 1855 to 1857)

PROS: He’s a complex figure who is kinder and much more intelligent than he first appears. He’s good a finding things and people. He’s also good with numbers, and at hiding in plain sight. He’s resourceful, loyal and proves a good friend to Arthur.

CONS: When we first meet him Mr. Pancks is a heartless rent collecting scum. He seems to take a special pleasure at our “Squeezing” the money out of the poor residents of Bleeding Heart Yard. (Spoiler: In reality it is his boss Mr. Casby — who everyone thinks is the face of generosity — who is bent on bleeding them dry. Pancks is only following orders.)

MOST SHINING MOMENT: When he helps Arthur track down  Little Dorrit’s fortune so the family can be release from the Marshalsea. “…He had felt his way inch by inch, and ‘Moled it out, sir’ (that was Mr Pancks’s expression), grain by grain.” [Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens, Chapter 35]

Charles Dickens, a former resident of Lant Street.

Charles Dickens, a former resident of Lant Street. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Top 100 Books proves that Jane Austen is the Teacher’s Pet

CLASS lets get reading…

TES (Think, Educate, Share) a website dedicated to bringing the latest teaching news and strategies to educators and the public asked 500 primary and secondary teachers what their top 10 books were. They crunched the numbers and came up with the following list of 100 top books.

It is an interesting list and it ranges nicely from early-ish chapter books — the kind that got us all hooked on reading in the first place, like Dahl and Lewis — to more mature novels like Atonement.

I was glad to see that my girl Jane made the grade (#1, 32, 52, 58). And you’ll recognize lots of other Thought of the Day authors on here too (I put them in italics — if you  are interested in reading the bioBlogs go to the search box to the right and type in their name.)

1. Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait b...

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait by her sister Cassandra, 1810 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee

3. Harry Potter (series) J.K. Rowling

4. Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte

5. Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte

6. Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell

7. The Lord of the Rings (series) J.R.R. Tolkien

[Image courtesy Biography online

[Image courtesy Biography online

8. The Book Thief Markus Zusak9. The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien10. The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald11. The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini12. The Hunger Games (series) Suzanne Collins13. The Time Traveller’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger

14. The Chronicles of Narnia (series) C.S. Lewis

15. Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck

16. Birdsong Sebastian Faulks

17. His Dark Materials (series) Philip Pullman

18. The Gruffalo Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

19. The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger

20. Life of Pi Yann Martel

21. Tess of the d’Urbervilles Thomas Hardy

22. Rebecca Daphne du Maurier

23. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Mark Haddon

24. Lord of the Flies William Golding

25. Matilda Roald Dahl

My Roald Dahl collage featuring some of his most popular characters (as drawn by the amazing Quentin Blake).  Surrounding Mr. Dahl and his pups are: at the top left are: The BFG, Sophie, Dahl with his pups, The Enormous Crocodile, Mr. Fox, James, the Grand High Witch, Willy Wonka, and Matilda.

My Roald Dahl collage featuring some of his most popular characters (as drawn by the amazing Quentin Blake).


26. Catch-22 Joseph Heller

27. Millennium (series) Stieg Larsson

28. Animal Farm George Orwell

29. The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood

30. Persuasion Jane Austen

31. One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez

32. Kensuke’s Kingdom Michael Morpurgo

33. Goodnight Mister Tom Michelle Magorian

34. The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck

35. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl

36. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas John Boyne

37. Little Women Louisa May Alcott

English: Bust of Louisa May Alcott

English: Bust of Louisa May Alcott (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

38. One Day David Nicholls

39. We Need to Talk About Kevin Lionel Shriver

40. The Twits Roald Dahl

41. Wolf Hall Hilary Mantel

42. A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled Hosseini

43. The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame

44. Frankenstein Mary Shelley

45. Great Expectations Charles Dickens

46. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin Louis de Bernieres

47. George’s Marvellous Medicine Roald Dahl

48. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams

douglas adams inspired "Hitch hikers guid...

douglas adams inspired “Hitch hikers guide to the galaxy” H2G2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

49. Room Emma Donoghue

50. Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy

51. Atonement Ian McEwan

52. Emma Jane Austen

53. Middlemarch George Eliot

54. The Shadow of the Wind Carlos Ruiz Zafon

55. The Color Purple Alice Walker

56. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eric Carle

57. Brave New World Aldous Huxley

58. Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen

59. The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath

60. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll

61. Charlotte’s Web E.B. White

62. Dracula Bram Stoker

63. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

64. A Prayer for Owen Meany John Irving

65. The Secret History Donna Tartt

66. The Little Prince Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Scanned drawing.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Scanned drawing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

67. Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky

68. The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver

69. Jude the Obscure Thomas Hardy

70. Skellig David Almond

71. The Woman in White Wilkie Collins

72. Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell

73. Game of Thrones (series) George R.R. Martin

74. David Copperfield Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens, a former resident of Lant Street.

Charles Dickens, a former resident of Lant Street. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

75. Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro

76. Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak

77. Twilight (series) Stephenie Meyer

78. Beloved Toni Morrison

79. The Help Kathryn Stockett

80. Sherlock Holmes (series) Arthur Conan Doyle

81. Half of a Yellow Sun Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

82. Moneyball Michael Lewis

83. My Family and Other Animals Gerald Durrell

84. Memoirs of a Geisha Arthur Golden

85. On the Road Jack Kerouac

86. Cloud Atlas David Mitchell

87. Wild Swans Jung Chang

88. Anne of Green Gables L.M. Montgomery

89. Les Miserables Victor Hugo

90. Room on the Broom Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

91. Private Peaceful Michael Morpurgo

92. Noughts and Crosses Malorie Blackman

93. Cider with Rosie Laurie Lee

94. Danny the Champion of the World Roald Dahl

95. Down and Out in Paris and London George Orwell

English: George Orwell in Hampstead On the cor...

English: George Orwell in Hampstead On the corner of Pond Street and South End Road, opposite the Royal Free Hospital. The bookshop has long gone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

96. The Magic Faraway Tree Enid Blyton

97. The Witches Roald Dahl

98. The God of Small Things Arundhati Roy

99. Holes Louis Sachar

100. The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde.

English: Oscar Wilde, three-quarter length por...

English: Oscar Wilde, three-quarter length portrait, facing front, seated, leaning forward, left elbow resting on knee, hand to chin, holding walking stick in right hand, wearing coat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So… what do you think? Did the teachers get an A+ for their list?  Are there any other books that you treasure that didn’t make the top 100?

If you were asked to list your top 10 books what would you include?

Keeley Hawes 2.10.13 Thought of the Day

“I’ve been really lucky with my career so far. I haven’t been pigeon-holed, which sometimes happens to actors. … I’m even lucky enough to have done my pocket version of Lady Macbeth!”– Keeley Hawes

Zoe Reynolds

Zoe Reynolds (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Clare Julia “Keeley”  Hawes was born on this day in  Marylebone, London, UK in 1976. She is 37 years old.

The youngest of four siblings she grew up in a working class family. Her father drives a taxi, and her brothers followed suit. Keeley is the only one in the family who was bit by the acting bug. They lived near the Sylvia Young Theatre School and she attended on a grant. There she took ten years of elocution lessons to lose her cockney accent. She also took acting lessons.  At 16 she began modelling for a year and half before making the switch to working as a fashion assistant for Cosmopolitan magazine.

In 1996 she landed a role in Dennis Potter’s Karaoke with Albert Finney and her acting career started in earnest. She had a starring role in the BBC’s 1998 adaptation of Dicken’s Our Mutual Friend. Her Lizzie Hexam is shy, humble, poor, innocent.

Her next major mini series role, Cynthia Kirkpatrick, in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters is none of those things. The only thing Lizzie and Cynthia have in common is that  they both wear a corset… and Hawes is wonderful in both parts.

In 2002 she took on a much more modern role as Zoe Reynolds in the BBC One spy series Spo0ks (MI-5 in the US). She met her husband, Matthew MacFayden, while working on the series.

Keeley Hawes and Matthew MacFayden from Spooks (Image courtesy

Keeley Hawes and Matthew MacFayden from Spooks (Image courtesy]

Speaking of modern, Hawes starred in two modernized Shakespeare plays; an Andrew Davies penned retelling of Othello for Masterpiece Theatre, and as Ella MacBeth in BBC’s  Shakespeare Retold  with James MacAvoy.

Hawes has been busy (I’m only mentioning the performances I’ve seen == all of which have been excellent).

Her latest “Masterpiece” was last year’s Lady Agnes Holland on the reboot of Upstairs Downstairs.

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.” [] 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)


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

Little Dorrit dvd (Image courtesy

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