A New Installment


Hello friends!

It feels like forever!

A lot has happened since the last time I wrote. I’ve finished Barnaby Rudge, Martin Chuzzlewit, and Dombey and Son and I loved them all! I hope to write about my experience reading them soon!

The pressure of writing every week was a bit challenging and I felt a bit limited by focusing only on Dickens. It can be a bit taxing to read the same novel for a long period of time in the sense that you feel you are getting a bit repetitive. I hope that wasn’t the case and that it won’t be the case in the future.

I’ve decided to get back to my blogging first because well, I miss it. I love having a space to share my thoughts on the books I am reading. Also, I would love to get back to writing and I really enjoyed the freedom of this space. I hope I can remain consistent.

What to expect?

More Dickens! Of course! The next book in my journey will be David Copperfield which, I have to admit, is the one I am both nervous and excited to read. I’ve been looking forward to it for a while and I’ve heard so many people tell me it’s their favorite so I am feeling the pressure.

In the past few months I’ve also rediscovered my love for academic research so I may be sharing some of my findings here.

Anything besides Dickens? Yes! I am actually taking on the challenge of reading War and Peace in the next few weeks and I’m hoping I can document my journey here!

Ultimately, my hope is to create more content about Dickens, about 19th century literature, and the classics in general. One of the main reasons for starting this project, of reading all of Dickens’s novels, was that I wanted to read more classics and books from the 19th century that I didn’t get a chance to read when I was in college. I feel like I missed out and I am planning to read a lot of these masterpieces for fun before I can work my way back to college in order to earn my PhD. I hope this blog will become a way for me to document my journey, meet new people and share ideas, and also to have a place where I can look back and reminisce about these wonderful books.

Are you ready?


Week 53: Can we have ghost stories for Christmas?

Happy December, everyone!

And a happy Dickens December to all who are joining our read along of Dickens’s major Christmas Stories: A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, and The Cricket on the Hearth.

Of course, if you are not on Instagram and this sounds like fun, please join in! I’ll be posting my thoughts (hopefully weekly) as I read them.

Before I begin my reread of A Christmas Carol tomorrow, I wanted to discover why Christmas was a perfect time for ghost stories in the 19th century. In October, what I thought was the perfect month for scary stories, I read The Turn of the Screw and discovered in its introduction that it was popular to tell ghost stories in December, especially Christmas Eve, so I vowed to find more about it.

This is how I came across the Valancourt Books of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories and immediately decided to acquire them. The following is informed by the Introductions of both Volume I (edited by Tara Moore) and Volume II (edited by Allen Grove):

Telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve wasn’t actually a Victorian tradition, but it spiked in the Victorian period thanks to the printing press (probably the best invention ever) which made it possible for magazines to exist. These published exclusively ghost stories in December to prepare for the season and thus people had a big repertoire to choose from and read aloud to their family and friends since it was very popular for family and friends to gather around the fire to read stories, sing, or play games like charades during Christmas Eve. I love this tradition and we should definitely bring it back!

Well, Victorians didn’t just read these stories because they were being published at the time but rather they were the public clamoring for said stories to appear in preparation for Christmas Eve.

It’s a tradition that can be traced back to the 18th century where, because midwinter brought longer nights and people couldn’t work, families, friends, and even strangers in pubs, would gather around the fire or candlelight and tell ghost stories.

Why ghost stories, you’d ask?

Well the setting had a lot to do with it. Imagine a cold, midwinter night, where everything is lit by the light of the fire or by candlelight; you can hear the wind howling outside, feel drafts in the room, and listen how the house creaks. It is the perfect setting for scary stories that dealt with the supernatural.

Ghosts became very popular characters in the Victorian period simply because Victorians were a little bit obsessed with death.

It’s easy to imagine this when you consider they had a very close relationship with death. Not only was the mortality rate at its highest, especially when it came to children, but also people tended to die in their own homes, due to the fact that hospitals weren’t the best place back then. If you have read books from the 19th century and before then, you will probably be familiar with the scene of the doctor visiting the family or one of the characters pining away from an unknown disease that kind of looks like the flu (and it probably was).

So then, Victorians were very close to death and the idea of ghosts appealed to them. This is interesting considering that there were so many scientific advancements in the 19th century. And well, not all ghost stories were fully supernatural, some of them ended with a very reasonable explanation for the hauntings, or the things that went bump in the night. However, Victorians enjoyed the stories about “laying the ghost” or releasing the ghost from whatever past crimes forced it to roam the earth, which could involve a mystery, and stories about haunted houses, that often involved big manors in the country and were seen as a “destabilization of the powerful” (Moore 2), a little enjoyment for the lower and middle classes.

Also, as Groves points out in his Introduction, scientific advancements helped stir the Victorians’ believe in the supernatural.

For example, when photography was invented, it was a brilliant creation intended to frame a moment, a real moment, forever. However, because long exposure times required people to stand still for very long periods of time and most people simply didn’t do that, most photographs looked like ghostly images and the best photographs were those of corpses.

Pictures of the living tended to look as if a ghostly presence was standing right next to the living and, those who dealt in mesmerism (something that Dickens believed in for a while) or who performed seances and claimed to speak with the dead, would actually sell this photographs or present them as proof that ghosts were real. In this scenario, science strengthened the public’s belief in the supernatural.

This I found really fascinating because one of my academic interest is how the presence of the supernatural in fiction works to enhance reality or at least to make the reader be more conscious of their own reality. This is something I know Dickens practiced in his writing, especially in A Christmas Carol. He was following an ongoing tradition, but he transformed it and, as he always did, he made it his own.

What makes A Christmas Carol work so well is that it feels very real.

Its very famous opening line is simply a fact, “Marley was dead, to begin with” and from there it takes us on a journey where we, the reader, are connected to the main protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge.

What helps form this bond, is that it feels like it is being read to us, like we are part of the tradition and the story is being read aloud to us. There are moments when the narrator speaks to us (“Now listen!”) and claims to be there with us, just looking over our shoulder, and this connection makes us feel like we, like Scrooge, are on a journey and, as the journey is changing him, so it must change us.

What also makes this work, is that its ghost or spirits are very realistic in Scrooge’s journey and we, like him, surrender to their presence. After all, they are not visiting in order to horrify or frighten with scare jumps and horrifying sights, but they are showing very real sights, very real moments. They are scaring us into looking into our own deeds, into our own shame, our own lives, and to do something. They are scaring us into virtue.

May we meet again, dear reader!


About Week 51: In which I reveal some future plans and briefly discuss what I’ve read

Week 7 of reading The Old Curiosity Shop.


Hello, everyone!

I cannot stress enough how terrible I feel that I’ve been so behind on my project but, so is life, it happens and we must keep going.

On a personal note, I’ve been working with two lovely ladies on Instagram to host a read-along for Dickens’s major Christmas Stories: A Christmas CarolThe Chimes, and The Cricket on the Hearth. We will be reading them in December (starting on the 3rd and ending on the 20th) and if you would like to join us, there is more information on my Instagram page (@miss.havishams.clock). We are also hosting a photo challenge and hopefully some video discussions, so I have a lot to look forward too and I’m excited!

If you have been following me from the beginning (and, if so, thank you very much, dear reader) then you know that I begun this project with A Christmas Carol, which I read last December, and I had been planning on rereading this December to end the year well. The plan is to continue with Barnaby Rudge in January, fingers crossed!

I have begun prepping for this read-along by also reading The Man Who Invented Christmas by Les Standiford and I may share a bit of his wisdom through this medium. We shall see how it goes. I feel like there’s a lot going on now but I am ready to take on the challenge.

Some family issues have kept me away from my reading of The Old Curiosity Shop so I am not even sure I may finish by the end of the month *insert bookish tears* but I will definitely get it done before the end of the year.

We had an impromptu trip during the weekend to visit family and, as my husband is now starting a new job, have been running errands non-stop for the past two weeks, which is productive but they take time away from reading. I, however, was able to sneak in some pages during the weekend!

Sidetracking us back to The Old Curiosity Shop now…

I am so in love with Dick Swiveller’s adventures in the Brass’s household and Kit’s sections of the novel They are my favorite part.

The mysterious lodger of Brass’s household has yet to become identified. Like the Grandfather, he remains unnamed and very very fairy-tale-esque. He is a magician — well, Dick Swiveller sees him that way — and a detective; an avuncular figure who comes to find Nell and her Grandfather apparently bearing good news. I cannot actually remember who he is and what the news are so this will prove a surprise for me and I’m looking forward to the Big Reveal I know it’s coming.

So far, the mysterious lodger has found Kit living comfortably and well.

His sections of the novel are also funny although different from Swiveller’s humor, in the sense that I see a lot more of the Dickensian comedy I’m familiar with in his sections. I would describe it as sarcastic, but definitely satirical and in it is in Kit’s section where I feel Dickens has placed a lot of his political and religious criticism.

From reading The Man Who Invented Christmas, I am learning that there was still a lingering Puritanism at the time of Dickens’s writings and that this was something he fought against, which made the sections at Little Bethel make so much sense.

Kit reprimands his mother for going to the Little Bethel church where they tell her she shouldn’t have any fun (for it is a sin) and is sermoned about basically everything. After a little holiday where Kit’s family goes to the theatre and to eat oysters with Kit’s coworker Barbara, Mrs. Nubbles goes to Little Bethel feeling guilty for these pleasures to which Kit responds with a beautiful sermon about how fun is important too, and well earned.

He is representing the Poor that Dickens really advocated for, those who worked for a living (he was not a fan of idleness) and that deserved better treatment and conditions. That’s why he idolizes characters like Mr. Garland, who offers Kit a very respectable place to work, with a fair salary, and even a holiday. He really wants his readers to strive to be like them.

In Chapter 38, which returns the narrative to Kit, Dickens writes a long plea for “those who rule the destinies of nations” to look away from “the wide thoroughfares and great houses” and look instead to “improve the wretched dwellings in bye-ways where only Poverty may walk” (Dickens 289). He continues advocating for helping the poor and states that helping them would be a benefit for the country as a whole, thus appealing to the sense of Imperialism and Nationalism of the time. I only know this in a general sense, as it is not my academic interest.

What sparked my attention was the beginning of Dickens’s plea, in which he refers the home and hearth.

The ties that bind the wealthy and the proud to home may be forged on earth, but those which link the poor man to his humble hearth are of the true metal and bear the stamp of Heaven (Dickens 289)

Once again we are reminded of the importance of home and how Kit’s home is humble but full of warmth and homeliness. What’s material doesn’t matter much, and it offers a contrast to the Old Curiosity Shop, which was full of riches, but was dead and empty.

With this thought, I leave off and I am glad to see Kit so well settled. I know he will be alright. It is Nell who must concern us now as the narrative returns to her.

Let’s see what her next adventure will be.

May we meet again!


Week 50: In which I fancy what fancy and imagination mean in the novel

Week 6 of reading The Old Curiosity Shop.


Can you believe I have been working in this project for 50 weeks!? I wish I was a faster reader but, at the same time, I am glad to be taking my time with this one.

This week, I want to focus on the term “fancy,” which Dickens’s uses a lot and for good reason, because it has been a very strong force between chapters 31st and 34th between Nell and Dick Swiveller.

Samuel Johnson defines “fancy” as “[i]magination; the power by which the mind forms to itself images and representations of things, persons, or scenes of being,” but I think Dickens makes a distinction between ‘fancy’ and ‘imagination’. I think that, for Dickens, ‘fancy’ was more of an aptitude, a capacity of becoming imaginative while ‘imagination’ was almost like an illusion (or, I guess, creating one). While a ‘fancy’ could be creating a romantic view of life, ‘imagination’ could be something destructive and even oppressive.

He highlights this in Chapter 31st when Nell and her grandfather are stranded by the rain in a very sketchy inn and her grandfather is, once again, lured by gambling. He spends everything they have, or so he thinks.

When Nell is using the last of her money in order to give them room and board for the night, she thinks “It must have been her fancy” (233) when she feels someone is watching her hide the change in her clothes.

Later that night, she is visited by a strange figure that comes in the room and steals her money. Nell, innocent as she is, doesn’t worry to much about herself but for her grandfather so she follows the figure across the narrow passages of the inn, only to realize it was her grandfather all along!

It was but imagination, yet imagination had all the terrors of reality; nay, it was worse, for the reality could have come and gone, and there an end, but imagination it was always coming, and never went away. (Dickens 236)

I love this quote, it’s so powerful and, I believe, explains the difference between ‘fancy’ and ‘imagination’. While ‘fancy’ can be scary, it can also be romanticized. On the other hand, imagination has “all the terrors of reality” for it is based on it. Nell cannot rest for she keeps imagining her grandfather coming back into the room for more money, or going completely crazy and doing something rash. In this case, ‘fancy’ is nothing but a harmless glimpse, a maybe, but ‘imagination’ is something that can come true because it is based on something that happened and Dickens writes it as an incredibly scary experience that “never went away.”

Of course, it is this anxiety-induced imagination what ends up wearing Nell out, and it is a very mature thought for a child, but she is being forced into this behavior by her grandfather’s behavior and her need to keep them both alive.

In contrast, Dick Swiveller lives in fancy. He fancies himself the protagonist of a story where he will inherit his aunt’s money or marry Nell and get her fortune (as per Quilp’s and Fred’s encouragement) or maybe a character from one of the songs he perpetually quotes. He is always fancying something, and it’s why he is always happy.

He is now contracted as the clerk in the Brass household and, upon being introduced to Miss Brass, he immediately fancies her as a fairy tale character. She is described as androgynous, as very feminine in her masculinity (she has very dainty and pretty lashes, but they happened to be placed where a mustache should be) in one of the most hilarious and vibrant descriptions I’ve read from Dickens. She is full of contradictions, but, overall, we get the sense in that she looks and acts like her own brother  wearing a dress, which deeply confuses Dick.

“‘This is the most remarkable and supernatural sort of house!'” Dick thinks about the Brass household (264).

“She-dragons in the business, conducting themselves like professional gentlemen” he says about Miss Brass. He calls her a “she-dragon” throughout the novel and it is really very fanciful and playful, while mildly offensive; “plain cooks of three feet high appearing mysteriously from under ground” he references the appearance of the little servant girl he will baptize as The Marchioness; “strangers walking in and going to bed without leave or license in the middle of the day!” he finishes, referencing the mysterious lodger who just comes into the room and goes to sleep and apparently sleeps for more than a day, like a Sleeping Beauty (Dickens 264).

All of these situations, Dick fancies whats around him in a very childish and playful way and he is a complete contrast to Nell in the light and merriment of what he creates. Of course, he is never anxious about his station for, as he mentioned himself earlier in the novel, he choses to be merry.

I’m not sure if I’m making a very convincing case for the difference between ‘imagination’ and ‘fancy’, but I am sure there is a difference. In Dick’s world, everything is fancy because his reality is hazed. He sees reality through this haze of fancy and playfulness, while Nell imagines constant danger for she is in constant danger, her imagination just shows her the ways.

They are both very powerful characters in this novel and they chose to see the world very differently. In the end, I think Dick Swiveller holds Dickens’s choice in how to view the world or how we should: we should let our fancy carry us part of the way and the world will look to be a far better place.

May we meet again!


About Week 49: In which I celebrated Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) and that inspired this post

Week 5 of reading The Old Curiosity Shop.


Dear reader! Be advised I am talking about the end of The Old Curiosity Shop so if you haven’t read it or don’t know what happens in the end (which is almost common knowledge about this novel if you know something about Dickens’s life) Just in case, if you known nothing about what happens by the end of the novel then PLEASE STOP READING

Read more

Week 48: In which my reading has slowed down, unlike Little Nell and her father who are running madly away from everyone

Week 4 of reading The Old Curiosity Shop. 


Wow! I almost didn’t make my reading for the week. To be 100% honest with you, I got distracted by other books (The Turn of the Screw and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, both stories that Dickens would certainly approve of!) and by our Halloween and Day of the Dead celebrations.

Also, keeping up with this honesty, the parts with Little Nell and her grandfather can be quite boring. As with the first time I read this novel, I find myself far more drawn to the adventures of Dick Swiveller, Master Quilp, and Kit.

But this week it really struck me how masculine this novel is and how threatening the world Dickens is painting in this novel is for women.

Now, I often hear a lot of criticism of how Dickens was very sexist and yes, he was, but it was the 19th century so I think people shouldn’t read Dickens and expect to find feminist icons. I mean that would be awesome, but unrealistic.

Dickens was concerned with showing the people of his time what the world outside of the comfort of their homes was. He began his career as a journalist and it is easy to see how he had an interest in showing the truth of what he saw, even within the imagined London of his creation.

In this sense, I think the representation of characters like Nancy in Oliver Twist and Mrs. Quilp in The Old Curiosity Shop are extremely important. They aren’t feminist icons, not really, but they are *real*, their stories are real. Dickens saw many battered wives in his walks and saw how his society treated women, and thus that is what he wrote about.

He received a lot of criticism about Nancy, with contemporaries telling him that no one could love a man like Sikes and that just wasn’t real. But Dickens was right to respond that yes, indeed, that does happen and he was writing to show the world that there are plenty of Nancys and Sikes out there, there’s darkness in the world. But there is also light, and that is why Nancy has a huge part in Oliver’s happy ending.

Honestly, it is why I love Dickens so much.

In the case of Nell and Mrs Quilp, they are both terribly mistreated by the society in which they live. They are treated like property with people discussing their fates as if their opinions didn’t matter (and to them, it doesn’t matter how they felt or what they thought).

Quilp, Swiveller, Fred, and even the grandfather, all of them abuse Little Nell in one way or another and try to decide her fate. Quilp is the obvious bad guy so we are not surprised in that he wants to consume Nell, quite literally. Swiveller is being manipulated, but once he knows he will inherit everything he thinks the grandfather has, he doesn’t even stop and think about how Nell would feel if she learned about his plans of marrying her for money. Fred is the worst brother ever and the grandfather is definitely very comfortable with Nell as his caretaker. She is basically his wife.

Kit is a very interesting case because he also desires Little Nell, his mother even jokes that he is in love with her, and wants her to move in with him. He is so disappointed when she doesn’t. I get that he loves her but no one really thinks much about what Nell feels. I think only Master Humphrey, when he was around, actually cared about her.

What Dickens is creating here, is not only a world that is very cruel to children (much like the world in Oliver Twist and most of his novels), but also telling us about a world that is really cruel to women.

Even when they want to help each other, like Mrs. Quilp who wants to help Little Nell, they cannot because their space is violated by the men around them. Poor Mrs. Quilp is definitely someone that deserves our pity and I find it interesting how Mrs. Jiniwin (her mother) lives with her and tells her she should stand up to Quilp. She never quite tells her to leave him and we know that she wouldn’t really be safe if she did. Moreover, Quilp also manipulates her and it’s like Dickens making fun of his critics, of people telling him that they should just have them leave. Mrs Jiniwin talks a whole lot about how she ruled over her husband, but Quilp definitely controls her and you can see how, by constantly telling her daughter how she should behave, she is also a bit like Quilp.

And then, we learn that Fred Trent was also one of Mrs. Quilp’s intendeds. Poor girl! What luck! I am pretty sure she had no say in the matter. I cannot remember what happens to Mrs Quilp but I’ll keep my eyes open this time around.

I have been trying to formulate a clearer argument this week but I just have these thoughts. I keep thinking about all the masculinity in the novel and how invasive and corruptive it feels for the female characters, especially for Nell.

To end:

Dickens was also terrible to women even though he learned in later life, probably because he had daughters. He married his wife believing in the ideal Victorian woman, the “angel of the house” it was called (keeper of house, mother of many children, caretaker, overall innocent and lovely) and he left her when he discovered he wasn’t really into that. He was awful to his wife when he asked her to leave the house and stay away from their children when he met a much younger woman. However, he did advocate for women’s rights, tried to help prostitutes and women who couldn’t find employment as well as women in workhouses who were separated from their children. He also fell in love with his mistress, Ellen Ternan, mostly because she was very strong-willed, independent, and clever. Dickens admired her and it’s why we get characters like Estella in Great Expectations and Lizzie Hexam in Our Mutual Friend who are a separation from that ideal woman represented in characters such as Amy Dorrit in Little Dorrit and even Little Nell (they are always very childish and definitely have no sexuality).

Dickens’s own daughter had a hand in how he saw women later in life too. Kate Dickens, his favorite daughter, was clearly a feminist and a wonderful person with a very strong character (like her father’s). Just last year I read Charles Dickens’s Favorite Daughter: the Life, Loves, and Art of Katey Dickens Perugine and, if you haven’t, I highly recommend it. It is a very captivating tale about the Dickens family as seen through Kate’s life. Dickens is obviously a big presence in the novel and you get to learn a lot about him as a father and family man, but the story is Kate’s and she lived a very interesting life that reveals a lot about the changes of the late Victorian period.

Lucinda Hawksley, one of Dickens’s descendants, writes about a time in which Kate apologizes about her father’s depiction of women but also defends him:

‘he was a very young man when he began to write with no doubt a sincere admiration for the young women of his generation which indisposed him from any dissection of their characters for the benefit of an inquisitive public’ (Hawksley 357)

When I read his works, I do feel the “sincere admiration” for some of his female cast, for Nancy, for example, and definitely for Little Nell. I also truly believe he improves as he grows older and his later novels have significantly better and more rounded female characters, but they are not often the main ones and that’s alright.

I’ll keep my eyes open for more female characters and their development in this story. I am very interested in the Marchioness and I hope I can write about her story soon.

Hope my ramblings made some sense! Thank you for reading!

May we meet again!


About Week 47: I which my reading awakened an academic interest

Week 3 of reading The Old Curiosity Shop

Little Nell and her grandfather had left the Curiosity Shop and are now running away from Quilp and from their past. They have escaped the city and are now wandering the country in a small pilgrimage with no planned destination.

I shall leave them there, however, enjoying the fresh air and will come back to them later. I too was out of my lodgings last week, which explains my very late post, but I am back now! I couldn’t read as much as I wanted to but my reading for last week awakened an academic interest of mine but I had never thought about it in the way I was.

Let me explain: when I was completing my Master’s Degree, I focused my thesis on Little Dorrit and Great Expectations. In particular, I discussed the symbiotic relationship houses seem to have with their female owners (the Clennam House with Mrs. Clennam and Satis House with Miss Havisham). Without going into too much detail that may spoil your reading of these novels, if you haven’t read them yet, both houses are intimately connected to their owners. Both Mrs. Clennam and her house are crippled and Satis House decays and Miss Havisham does. Ultimately, both owners and their property *fall* together further highlighting that connection (you’ll have to read to find out).

I thought that this may be particular to Mrs. Clennam and Miss Havisham because of their arcs, but I’ve found this connection between house and owner very predominant in The Old Curiosity Shop and maybe I will find it as I continue my project.

Of course, in The Old Curiosity Shop the connection is not as marked but it does indicate that these homes are a reflection of their owners. This should be quite obvious, but I’ve just never seen this before (or maybe never noticed it) and it seems very Dickensian. Dickens would spend time describing where each of his character’s live. It’s why people call him wordy, but it’s just really relevant.

The Curiosity Shop itself is home to Little Nell and, without her and the objects that inhabit it (once Quilp gets a hold of it and gets rid of the curiosities) the shop looks “as dusty and dingy as if it had been so for months” and “a picture of cold desolation.” It even prompts the kids in the neighborhood to look around and see if they can see “the ghost” (Dickens 114). Basically, without Nell the shop becomes the neighborhood’s haunted house. It was already a bit creepy, thinking about these abandoned objects and the child living among them, but she was keeping it all alive and well and now that she is gone well… it’s just a haunted place.

And speaking of haunted houses…

I’ve already talked a bit about the fairytale-esque aspects of Quilp’s dwelling in Tower Hill with his pretty wife which is slightly different from Quilp’s wharf in that it’s not as dirty and dingy. This last one is very much like Quilp, it is dirty and old and it looks incredibly dangerous. The description only adds more to Quilp’s character by reminding us that it is  definitely a place we wouldn’t want to visit, as we definitely wouldn’t want to mess with Quilp.

In contrast to Quilp’s dwellings and the Curiosity Shop, both of which have a sort of sinister and darker aura, we have Dick Swiveller’s “rooms” and Kit’s home.

‘There are people who can be merry and can’t be wise, and some who can be wise (or think they can) and can’t be merry. I [says Dick] am one of the first sort’ (61)

Dick Swiveller’s house is definitely a show of his merriment and his capacity to see the best of everything. While it is only one tiny room, he calls it “his rooms, his lodgings, or his chambers” (60) showing not only the power of language and fancy, but that he can turn a bad situation into something good by fancy or imagination (this will become important later) and it’s almost like the child’s play that is missing from Little Nell. As the narrator says, “to be the friend of Swiveller, you must reject all circumstantial evidence, all reason, observation, and experience, and repose a blind believe in the bookcase” (61). This “bookcase” is a piece of furniture in Dick’s home that acts as both bookcase and bed, but, in his fancy, Dick can see it only as a bookcase when it is a bookcase and only as a bed when it becomes a bed, even if there is evidence of it being both things. It is odd that Fred is his friend, but it is easy to see how, as the narrator tells us, his friends all take advantage of him. Dick Swiveller is innocent and playful and not only his way of speaking reveals this, his home does too.

Similarly, the little home of Nubbles’ family, where Kit lives with his mother and two siblings who are younger than he, is a warm space. I love how Dickens can describe this humble home as a comely place. It’s not that they shouldn’t be, it’s just striking because he often describes the slums and where the poor live as horrible places. And yet, there’s always light among the darkness and these are places like Kit’s house. Even the illustration evokes a happy place, a warm place, a comfortable place.

We would love it if Little Nell and her grandfather would join them in their homely bliss, that they would take the room Kit offered them and they would surely be happy there but, alas! then we wouldn’t have the adventures to come.

Of course, like Kit, we will wait and see if they will ever come back.

May we meet again!


Week 46: In which I consider the child

Week 2 of reading The Old Curiosity Shop.

The section I read for this week, comprising chapters 7 to the 13th, was a very emotionally charged moment in Little Nell’s story. She is definitely down on her luck now (terminology intended!) and about to lose it all.

We’ve finally discovered what Nell’s grandfather has been up to and he becomes a figure of pity. I do, however, have mixed feelings about him, which I think the narrator shares with me.

Master Humphrey looks disapprovingly at Nell’s grandfather because he does not let her be a child and play and because he leaves her alone at night and I tend to concur with his view.

However, in Chapter 9, we see a very pitiful figure asking Quil for mercy, asking him to consider the fate of “the Child,” Little Nell.

We find out that he has been gambling a lot of money, which he gets from Quilp, so that he can win a fortune for Nell, and he mentions how he is now due to win. It is definitely a shameful behavior but he says he is not as bad as the others he gambles with because he is doing it for Little Nell, not for his own gain. He became afraid of what would happen to him after his death and began gambling the little fortune he had yet, strangely, he didn’t sell any of the shop’s articles. Maybe he was attached to them, like Nell seems to be, or maybe he didn’t want to worry her.

Anyway, Little Nell tells him that she would rather be a beggar than to see him so stressed out, and they both seem to age faster after her grandfather makes that choice.

As a mother, I definitely understand that you try to do everything for your child, and sometimes you even consider doing things you wouldn’t be proud of, but he didn’t truly consider how gambling could end up leaving her worst off than how he started, which is what Quilp represents.

But I find this representation of Nell’s grandfather as very interesting because, knowing a bit about Dickens’s life, one learns about his own father being imprisoned for debt and how Dickens had to work to maintain his family. I think this representation is a good light to look at his own father, thinking that he was doing it for a good reason (for his children) instead of for selfish reasons, but we cannot he sure.

On a larger scale, he represents everything Dickens truly hated: whatever stops children from being children.

Allegorically, Nell’s grandfather represents a world of responsibility and hard labor. Nell has to live for his care and be responsible for him. She gets no wages and without him the alternative is submitting herself to either her brother (who wants to marry her off) or Quilp, a fate we wouldn’t wish on anyone. Truly, she is better a child than growing up for her prospects look bleak.

Her grandfather represents that cruel world that prevented a child from enjoying imaginative play and carelessness. She is being forced to grow up and that is killing her.

But what about you, dear reader, what did you make of Nelly’s grandfather? I’m curious to know so let me know in the comments!

May we meet again!


PS: I’ve mentioned a lot how I think The Old Curiosity Shop is like a fairy tale for adults. One thing I find so fascinating is how Dickens, a man who excelled beyond measure at naming his characters, would not give a name to Nell’s grandfather.

Week 45: In which we meet Master Humphrey and then…

Week 1 of reading The Old Curiosity Shop. 

Wow! Don’t you just love it when a story just grips you and won’t let you go?

That’s what the opening chapters of Old Curiosity Shop have always done to me. I’ve often reread them, reveling in the effect they have on me. Is it the narrator? the intrusion into the mysterious life of the curiosity-dealer? the innocent child among the grotesque and decrepit objects in the shop? the fantastical characters we meet along the way?

For me, three things stand out in these seven opening chapters: Master Humphrey and his disappearance, the Old Curiosity Shop itself, and Daniel Quilp. Let’s delve into these:


Where else would we get a disappearing narrator than in a serialized novel?

Let me explain. I’ve always seen the change in Point of View as Master Humphrey’s disappearance just because it sounds more Dickensian but honestly, Dickens just wanted to change POV in his narrative but it was already out so what happens? Master Humphrey says the following:

And now that I have carried this history so far in my own character and introduced these personages to the reader, I shall for the convenience of the narrative detach myself from its further course, and leave those who have prominent and necessary parts in it to speak and act for themselves (Dickens 35)

Mind. Blown.

The first time I read this, I was in shock because I didn’t know this was possible. As a writer, we are always told POV is extremely important and we must chose the best voice to tell our story and then this happens. A narrator aware of his position as narrator decides, “oh shots! my bad! This story should be told from the third person”

This would never happen today (except maybe in comics) and it’s sad. It really makes me wish for serialized fiction.

To understand Master Humphrey (and his mysterious disappearance) we must think of the publishing story of Old Curiosity Shop.

First of all, it wasn’t intended as a novel. Dickens, tired of serializing two or three novels at a time in monthly installments, decided to open his own publication (Master Humphrey’s Clock) where he would have Master Humphrey, an old man with a walking problem, find papers with great stories written or meet strangers who would tell him stories, both of which were submitted by other authors. This way, Dickens would get a break.

Yeah, right.

People weren’t happy about this so sales dropped. They wanted the new Dickens novel! I would’ve too.

So he began The Old Curiosity Shop, which he wanted to publish sporadically and ended up serializing weekly. The characters took over and the sales went sky high. It ended up being one of his best novels.

So that is why Master Humphrey just disappears from our narrative. It just happened very organically. It is a display of an author’s writing process you don’t get to see after extensive editing. It really makes the story incredibly unique in my book


The Curiosity Shop itself is a wonderful place filled with remnants of past lives. It is a place full of untold stories and, most likely, magical objects. I am very attracted to it and wish to know more about it but its main function in the story is to contrast with the innocence of little Nell.

When we first meet her in the illustrations, she looks so tiny, and even oppressed, surrounded by all these objects. It’s a dark place but a very unique place and Master Humphrey remarks what Dickens tells us in his Preface

‘It would be a curious speculation,’ said I, after some restless turns across and across the room, ‘to imagine her in her future life, holding her solitary way among a crowd of wild grotesque companions; the only pure, fresh, youthful object in the throng’ (22)

The shop shows us how Nell stands “pure, fresh, and youthful” among all the forgotten objects that invoque thoughts of old, rusty, and damaged things.

I will leave it here and promise to discuss more about the Shop in a later posts.


Finally, Daniel Quilp.

Oh Quilp!

If there is a character who is fantastical and real at the same time that is Daniel Quilp. He is so intriguing and repulsive.

I will write a post about him later because he is not going anywhere yet and yes, it gets better.

But the chapter with Mrs Quilp (Chapter 4) is the most feminist (in its opening), hilarious, and disquieting chapter ever. It’s is incredibly sexually charged (repressed Victorians, where?) and truly introduces Quilp by first showing us his fairy tale wife who lives in Tower Hill and anxiously awaits his coming. She is the princess in the Tower, married to a cruel Rumpelstiltskin, a trickster with words.

I love it!

Ok. I will stop now.

So much to talk about but there’s a lot more coming. What did you think of the opening? Please tell me in the comments!

Thank you for reading and may we meet again!


Week 44: In which I continue my journey

Happy October everyone!


Like December was Dickens’s favorite month and Christmas his favorite holiday, October is my favorite month of the year and Halloween/Day of the Dead my favorite celebration. It also happens to be my birthday month, so that just adds to the fun.

This is why I am so incredibly happy that I will be reading one of my favorite of Dickens’s novels this month. So, here it is, my next adventure: The Old Curiosity Shop.

When I first started this project, I had intended to read all the Dickens’s novels I had yet to read, which were mostly his early novels. But I got so invested in the project I decided to re-read them as well and this will be my first reread. My goal is to finish reading all his novels before I turn thirty, which will be in October two years from now, that will make it 11 books in two years! I hope I can make it!


But back to my next read.

The Old Curiosity Shop is, sadly, not a popular Dickens’s novel and it hasn’t been read as often, probably because Nell’s plot is quite sentimental (a popular thing for the time). But it truly is a very rich novel and, in my opinion, definitely worth reading.

In the Preface to the First Cheap Edition of The Old Curiosity Shop published in 1848, Dickens writes:

I had it always in my fancy to surround the lonely figure of the child with grotesque and wild, but not impossible companions, and to gather about her innocent face, and pure intentions, associates as strange and uncongenial as the grim objects that are about her [in the curiosity shop]

And this is truly the best summary of the story. However, as it often happens in Dickens’s novels, some of the minor characters take the story and run away with it and, in this case, make a fantastic side story happening alongside Nell’s. You just have to read it to believe me.

I first read this novel in April of 2013, when I had just begun my affair with Dickens, so it was due for a reread.

It has some of my favorite elements of Dickensian fiction: the presence of the supernatural, the grotesque, the fairy-tale-esque in its “Realism.”

To me, Dickens is the only author who can have imps, ghosts, ghouls, and just any kind of supernatural element in a very realistic setting without us having to call it Fantasy. It is simply real in the realm of the novel and quite possible in our own realm. I argue that, in Dickens’s fiction, this presence of the supernatural actually enriches the realistic elements of his fiction (like his social criticism and political satire, for example) and he can be more critical about his culture and his world when he is writing supernatural stuff. But, by all means, disagree with me, just read the novel.

Actually, I am planning to become more active in the months and years to come. I am really excited about this project and I just want to be more involved. This is why I decided to open an Instagram account, which you are welcome to follow, and to encourage you to read along with me.


In lieu of this last point, I decided to share my reading schedule with you, dear reader.

If you have always wanted to read this novel or you haven’t read it yet, please join me and share your thoughts with me!

I am going to try to commit to this reading schedule so I don’t suffer like I did with Nickleby which took me longer than expected and to post every Saturday (Master Humphrey’s Clock was out on Saturdays) with some discussion points.

So, dear reader, have you read The Old Curiosity Shop? Would you like to? Let me know in the comments.

And, as always, thank you for reading and may we meet again!