Archive for April, 2011
Welcome to Dueling Authors: Charles Dickens vs. Jane Austen! Below, you can read brief summaries of the lives and major works of both authors along with other bloggers’ and readers’ thoughts on these works. And then, sign up for this upcoming Classics Circuit tour (tentatively scheduled for May 8 – 21 depending on the number of people joining in).
This tour is pretty self-explanatory – to participate you can read and write anything written by Charles Dickens or Jane Austen. This time around we won’t be including any including any biographical works or outside sources on the authors. They will be duking it out mano y mano, so to speak, for the the title of best known/best loved classic English author. (Listed below are the major works of both authors, but feel free to write in another novel or collection of stories if you don’t see it here.)
Book and author information compiled from Wikipedia, Goodreads and Amazon by: Karen and Nicole. Bloggers and readers are noted by their review quotations. Button design: Rebecca. (Images used under CC license: Byzantin3 and echoln.)
One of the most beloved authors in English Literature (and perhaps the world), Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775 at Steventon near Basingstoke, the seventh child of the rector of the parish. She lived with her family at Steventon until they moved to Bath when her father retired in 1801. After his death in 1805, she moved around with her mother; in 1809, they settled in Chawton, near Alton, Hampshire. Here she remained, except for a few visits to London, until in May 1817 she moved to Winchester to be near her doctor. There she died on 18 July 1817.
Works by Jane Austen
Jane Austen produced only six novels, two of which were published posthumously after her death in 1817.
Sense and Sensibility (1811)
‘The more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!’
Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.
- “I felt that this book was much lighter than any of Jane Austen’s other works. Many of her common themes show up (death, sickness, betrayal), but not in as much abundance and it is taken in a much less serious mood. The characters have their flaws, but they ultimately end up being endearing.” (The Broke and the Bookish)
Pride and Prejudice (1813)
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners–one of the most popular novels of all time–that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues. Renowned literary critic and historian George Saintsbury in 1894 declared it the “most perfect, the most characteristic, the most eminently quintessential of its author’s works,” and Eudora Welty in the twentieth century described it as “irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be.”
“The wit of Jane Austen has for partner the perfection of her taste.”
- “There’s not much to the storyline at all. I could sum up the events of this story in a paragraph lined with a few sentences… no problem! Rather, it’s the addiction to discover the inner workings of the minds of the characters. As a reader, I couldn’t wait to see Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy find a way to one another…” (A Novel Menagerie)
Mansfield Park (1814)
‘We have all been more or less to blame … every one of us, excepting Fanny’
Taken from the poverty of her parents’ home, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with only her cousin Edmund as an ally. When Fanny’s uncle is absent in Antigua, Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive in the neighbourhood, bringing with them London glamour and a reckless taste for flirtation. As her female cousins vie for Henry’s attention, and even Edmund falls for Mary’s dazzling charms, only Fanny remains doubtful about the Crawford’s influence and finds herself more isolated than ever. A subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, Mansfield Park is one of Jane Austen’s most profound works.
- “Among Austen’s heroines, Fanny Price is an anomaly. She’s not lively. She’s not witty. She’s so shy and eager to be ignored that Edmund accuses her of being a masochist–although not in so many words.” (Literary Omnivore)
‘I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall’
Beautiful, clever, rich – and single – Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr. Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protégée Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen’s most flawless work.
- “Reading Emma made me feel like I had moved to Highbury and become one of its inhabitants. I lost myself in Emma’s world, and soon discovered that I cared about the fate of each and every one of the characters.” (Things Mean A Lot)
‘She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older – the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning.’ Anne Elliot seems to have given up on present happiness and has resigned herself to living off her memories. More than seven years earlier she complied with duty: persuaded to view the match as imprudent and improper, she broke off her engagement to a naval captain with neither fortune, ancestry, nor prospects. However, when peacetime arrives and brings the Navy home, and Anne encounters Captain Wentworth once more, she starts to believe in second chances. Persuasion celebrates romantic constancy in an era of turbulent change. Written as the Napoleonic Wars were ending, the novel examines how a woman can at once remain faithful to her past and still move forward into the future.
- “Though I will *admit* that it perhaps isn’t a book that will “grab” you from page one. It might take some patience and effort, but give it a chapter or two (or three) and you might just find yourself swept up in the story of Anne Elliot.” (Becky’s Book Reviews)
Northanger Abbey (1818)
A wonderfully entertaining coming-of-age story, Northanger Abbey is often referred to as Jane Austen’s “Gothic parody.” Decrepit castles, locked rooms, mysterious chests, cryptic notes, and tyrannical fathers give the story an uncanny air, but one with a decidedly satirical twist. The story’s unlikely heroine is Catherine Morland, a remarkably innocent seventeen-year-old woman from a country parsonage. While spending a few weeks in Bath with a family friend, Catherine meets and falls in love with Henry Tilney, who invites her to visit his family estate, Northanger Abbey. Once there, Catherine, a great reader of Gothic thrillers, lets the shadowy atmosphere of the old mansion fill her mind with terrible suspicions. What is the mystery surrounding the death of Henry’s mother? Is the family concealing a terrible secret within the elegant rooms of the Abbey? Can she trust Henry, or is he part of an evil conspiracy? Catherine finds dreadful portents in the most prosaic events, until Henry persuades her to see the peril in confusing life with art. Executed with high-spirited gusto, Northanger Abbey is the most lighthearted of Jane Austen’s novels, yet at its core this delightful novel is a serious, unsentimental commentary on love and marriage.
- “I was surprised, though – it’s a lot more tongue-in-cheek than I was expecting, even compared to Austen’s other novels, and not at all shy about poking fun both at its characters and at the elements of the real world that inspired them.” (Fyrefly’s Book Blog)
One of the most well known and beloved authors in the world, Charles Dickens was born at Portsmouth, England, on February 7, 1812. Dickens married Catherine Hogarth in 1836. The couple had ten children. He published over a dozen major novels, a large number of short stories, plays, and several non-fiction books. Dickens’s novels were initially serialised in weekly and monthly magazines, then reprinted in standard book formats. He was well known for his realism and shedding light on social ills of his time. Dickens died in his home on June 8, 1970 the day after suffering a stroke.
The Works of Charles Dickens
The Pickwick Papers (1836)
The Pickwick Club was founded by the most learned minds in London for the purpose of making a scientific tour of the world. No sooner have the distinguished members begun their historic journey than they are set upon by a charming but notorious con man. So begins a series of hilarious misadventures that takes the incorrigibly innocent Pickwicks wandering around England, coming in contact with some of the most colorful and comical characters in all fiction.
- “Dickens’ first novel shows his comic gift and knack for character development. Really a string of connected episodes rather than a complex novel as he later created, this is still an enjoyable romp.” (Brad, Goodreads)
The Adventures of Oliver Twist (1837)
This darkly satiric indictment of the social ills of Victorian London tells the story of a young orphan who becomes involved with a gang of criminals.
- “I really enjoyed this. Some classics are difficult to get through, but not this. The conditions for England’s poor at the time Dickens wrote this were so wretched that at times, I almost had to laugh, otherwise I’d cry.” (Open Mind, Insert Book)
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1839)
Following the success of “Pickwick Papers” and “Oliver Twist”, “Nicholas Nickleby” was hailed as a comic triumph and firmly established Dickens as a ‘literary gentleman’. It has a full supporting cast of delectable characters that range from the iniquitous Wackford Squeers and his family, to the delightful Mrs Nickleby, taking in the eccentric Crummles and his travelling players, the Mantalinis, the Kenwigs and many more. Combining these with typically Dickensian elements of burlesque and farce, the novel is eminently suited to dramatic adaptation. So great was the impact as it left Dickens’ pen that many pirated versions appeared in print before the original was even finished.
“His idiosyncratic characters each have an unmistakable and unforgettable voice. His highly crafted language is endlessly inventive and evocative. Finally, he created a parade of some of the funniest, evilest, and most pathetic characters one will ever encounter and although extreme, they also ring true to equivalent characters from any time.” (Brad, Goodreads)
The Old Curiosity Shop (1840)
The Old Curiosity Shop is a story of the road, a genre at which Dickens excelled. Little Nell and her grandfather, pursued relentlessly through England by the evil and loathsome dwarf Quilp, meet a fascinating variety of vividly portrayed characters, including Mrs. Jarley, and Codlin and Short, the Punch and Judy men.
- “I’m a big fan of chunky books with endless descriptions and characters, numerous plots, etc. If it doesn’t possess these qualities, it rarely keeps my attention. The Old Curiosity Shop does have these details, and it is simply perfect for your favorite chair, cold months, and hot drink. The story is interesting, and savory. It takes a while to move along at times, with many characters and incidents, yet all these are pulled together in the end and you’ll see that they all have a reason.” (Courtney, Goodreads)
Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of ‘Eighty (1841)
Barnaby, a kind, half-witted young man, joins the Gordon rioters to proudly carry their banner. Along the way we get to meet Barnaby’s murderous father, the hangman Dennis, and the madcap Hugh. There are vivid scenes of pillage, battles and executions as well as myriad characters who are grim, romantic and humorous.
- “A writer of enormous creativity and unrivaled skill at depicting original characters, Dickens had enormous trouble with his young heroes and heroines. These characters are the greatest flaw in his early novels.” (Wuthering Expectations)
A Christmas Carol (1843)
A Christmas Carol is the first in a series of five novels that Charles Dickens wrote for the Christmas Season. A Christmas Carol is a Victorian morality tale of an old and bitter miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who undergoes a profound experience of redemption over the course of a Christmas Eve night. If the experience doesn’t change Scrooge’s ways, he will end up walking the Earth forever being nothing but an invisible and lonely ghost, like his deceased friend Jacob Marley.
- “Dickens is a master at metaphor, comparing Scrooge to weather “The cold within him froze his old features….A frosty rime was on his head…” indicating that not only is Scrooge an icy creature, but also a force of nature. The details are marvelous and one finds new ones with each reading.” (Vulpes Libres)
Dombey and Son (1848)
Dombey and Son is the story of Mr. Dombey, the proud, rich owner of a shipping house, whose selfishness has tragic consequences for his family. As his world collapses around him, Dombey becomes a sad figure, estranged from his mistreated though ever-sympathetic daughter Florence.
- “Dombey and Son is richer, the best characters are more complex, and the structure is innovative, even surprising. The first quarter or so really builds to a moving and significant climax. I can see why someone might single this part out as a great favorite. Then there are seven hundred more pages. Long book, ain’t it? The long part two builds to a satisfying end as well, although Dickens seems to need more plotty nonsense to get there.” (Wuthering Expectations)
David Copperfield (1850)
From seaside Yarmouth to London and beyond, as plots and counterplots effortlessly interweave into one intricate, grand design, David Copperfield captures the brightness, magic and terror of the world as seen through the eyes of a child: his bafflement turning to self-awareness and his young heart growing ever more disciplined and true.
- “So, I didn’t like David Copperfield (the hero I mean), and I wouldn’t have liked the book either if not for the really interesting secondary characters. There is Agnes – David’s good and wise childhood friend who is in love with him, David’s silly wife – Dora, the perennially in debt Micawbers, the evil albino Uriah Heep, the sentimental and kind Mr. Peggotty, David’s aunt – the strong, feminist Betsey Trotwood…so many people to keep track of…but good fun anyway.” (Nishita’s Rants and Raves)
Bleak House (1853)
Bleak House is a satirical look at the Byzantine legal system in London as it consumes the minds and talents of the greedy and nearly destroys the lives of innocents–a contemporary tale indeed. Dickens’s tale takes us from the foggy dank streets of London and the maze of the Inns of Court to the peaceful countryside of England. Likewise, the characters run from murderous villains to virtuous girls, from a devoted lover to a “fallen woman,” all of whom are affected by a legal suit in which there will, of course, be no winner.
- “This novel held me unsure of my feelings for it over a number of months. Split into two narratives, Esther’s and a unknown narrators, we view all manner of peoples lives, many who are only barely linked to Esther’s story. And while I loved her narrative, which focused on just the few people she met, I dislike the other narrative which introduced too many characters and was hard to follow.” (Katrina’s Reads)
Hard Times (1854)
Dickens’s widely read satirical account of the Industrial Revolution. Dickens creates the Victorian industrial city of Coketown, in northern England, and its unforgettable citizens, such as the unwavering utilitarian Thomas Gradgrind and the factory owner Josiah Bounderby, and the result is his famous critique of capitalist philosophy, the exploitative force he believed was destroying human creativity and joy.
- “This book had some fine writing, a good variety of characters, plenty of British understated witticisms, and an intriguing story. But, frankly, I found it too depressing.” (Worthwhile Books)
Little Dorrit (1857)
The story of William Dorrit, imprisoned for debt in Marshalsea Prison, and his daughter and helpmate, Amy, or Little Dorrit, the novel charts the progress of the Dorrit family from poverty to riches. In his Introduction, David Gates argues that “intensity of imagination is the gift from which Dickens’s other great attributes derive: his eye and ear, his near-universal empathy, his ability to entertain both a sense of the ridiculous and a sense of ultimate significance.”
- “Little Dorrit is not without problems. The plot sometimes gets a little lost when Dickens is hitting his targets and a few of the sub-plots and characters are not as strong as the others – maybe even a little superfluous. But when it works it is superb, packed with incident and provoking an incredible mix of emotions.” (Fleur Fisher in her world)
A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the aging Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.
- “After the initial hump, I was engaged in the story. To balance my lack of understanding of the French Revolution, I referred to the timeline at the front of my copy, which highlighted both the actual history of the Revolution and the novel’s story as it progressed. By the end of the novel, I was sincerely interested in the story, and I felt emotional engaged when it ended. (Rebecca Reads)
Great Expectations (1861)
Great Expectations is different from the usual Dickensian fare: the story is dark, almost surreal at times, and you’ll find few of the author’s patented comic characters and no comic set pieces. And yet this is arguably the most compelling of Dickens’s novels for, unlike David Copperfield or Martin Chuzzlewit, the reader can never be sure that things will work out for Pip. Even Dickens apparently had his doubts–he wrote two endings for this novel.
- “Though I have repeated the point more than once, but ‘Great Expectations’ is truly an unforgettable book. Combined with prolific writing and memorable characters, this book is something which should be read at least once by all.” (My Love Affair with Books)
Our Mutual Friend (1865)
John Harmon returns to London from exile at his father’s death, to claim his inheritance. But he finds he is eligible only if he marries Bella Wilfer, and in order to observe her character he assumes another identity and secures work with his father’s foreman, Mr. Boffin, who is also Bella’s guardian.
- “It’s certainly his most DICKENSIAN, at least out of the ones I’ve read. There are the weird names, the grotesque characters, the lovable and selfless women in impossible positions, and the pompous rich people. There are page-long descriptive paragraphs about the ickiness that is the river Thames. There is the social commentary, the justice-for-everyone-in-the-end, and the characterization of London that makes me want to never go there without hand sanitizer. BUT. This one has a MYSTERY- and it’s a page turner.” (Dead White Guys)
The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit (1868)
Set partly in the United States, this novel includes a searing satire on mid-nineteenth-century America. Martin Chuzzlewit is the story of two Chuzzlewits, Martin and Jonas, who have inherited the characteristic Chuzzlewit selfishness. It contrasts their diverse fates: moral redemption and worldly success for one and increasingly desperate crime for the other. In her Introduction to this new edition, Patricia Ingham discusses how, in writing a story that was meant only to recommend “goodness and innocence,” Dickens succeeded in exploring “the intertwining of moral sensibility and brutality.”
The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870)
Edwin Drood is contracted to marry Orphan Rosa, but they break the engagement off-and soon afterwards Edwin disappears. Is it murder? And is his jealous uncle-a sinister choirmaster with a double life and designs on Rosa-the killer? Dickens died before completing the story, leaving the mystery unsolved and encouraging successive generations of readers to turn detective. In addition to its tantalizing crime, the novel also offers a characteristically Dickensian mix of the fantastical world of the imagination and a vibrantly journalistic depiction of gritty reality.
- “I loved reading this. First of all, does Dickens just love orphans or what? And then there is the names! They crack me up. Like Rosa Bud….seriously? Here’s some more characters: Reverend Crisparkle, Durdles (the creepy stonemason of the crypt), Princess Puffer (the opium queen), Miss Twinkleton, and Mr. Honeythunder. O my gosh.” (Life and Times of A New New Yorker)
Tentative tour dates are May 8 to May 21. Sign up will remain open until the Tuesday, April 19.
Nicole from Linus Blanket is busy working on the introduction post to our next Classic Circuit Tour, and it’s going to be a fun tour. Sign up will be soon.
Two of our favorite English authors will be dueling in this tour. Which authors come to mind when you think of greatest English writers?
None other than England’s own….
It’ will be an Austen versus Dickens show down. The tour should be in early to mid May. More information coming soon!
Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein, to name a few, had a lot of fun touring the blogosphere for the last two weeks! See where the authors of the Lost Generation visited in retrospect. Did you miss any of it?
Monday, March 21 Sasha & The Silverfish: This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Monday, March 21 2606 Books and Counting: The Enormous Room by E.E. Cummings
Monday, March 21 A Literary Odyssey: The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway
Tuesday, March 22 Bibliosue: The Sun Also Rises and A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Tuesday, March 22 Notes from the North: “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot
Tuesday, March 22 Stiletto Storytime: An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
Thursday, March 24 The Zen Leaf: A Moveable Feast by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Thursday, March 24 The Reading Life: “Hands” from Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwoood Anderson
Tuesday, March 29 Fitzgerald Musings: Winter Dreams, May Day, and The Diamond as Big as a Ritz by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Tuesday, March 29 Wordy Evidence of the Fact: Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot
Wednesday, March 30 Just Add Books: To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
Wednesday, March 30 Shelf Love: The 42nd Parallel by John Dos Passos
Wednesday, March 30 An Armchair by the Sea: Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Thursday, March 31 things mean a lot: Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Thursday, March 31 Evening All Afternoon: Paris France by Gertrude Stein
Thursday, March 31 Rebecca Reads: For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Friday, April 1 Fat Books & Thin Women: Three Lives by Gertrude Stein
Friday, April 1 A Book Lover: “Old Possums Book of Practical Cats” by T. S. Eliot
Friday, April 1 Nisaba Be Praised: Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Friday, April 1 Capricious Reader: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Sunday, April 3 Breathing Space: The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Sunday, April 3 Fig and Thistle: Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation