Dedicated to classics and hits.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

Anna Friel as Bella Wilfer in film adaptation of Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

Our Mutual Friend
by Charles Dickens
published 1865

 1.  A Christmas Carol - 1081 views.  June 2012.
 2.  David Copperfield - 468 views. August 2012.
 3.  Oliver Twist - 138 views. July 2012.
 4.  Nicholas Nicoleby -  82 views. June 2012.
 5.  Charles Dickens biography - 48 views. 2011.
6. Bleak House - 65 views. Sept 2012.
7. Martin Chuzzlewit - 42 views. July 2012.
8.  The Dickens World - 14 views.

  What's interesting about the popularity of the Charles Dickens books listed above- is that Martin Chuzzlewit is, in fact, his least popular novel.  A Christmas Carol is his most popular work- don't think you can question it.  David Copperfield in second place.  No review of Great Expectations- I love Gillian Anderson as Ms. Havisham though.   I would say Great Expectations is maybe 2nd above David Copperfield and Oliver Twist.

Mr. Riah from Charles Dickens Our Mutual Friend- Can you guess... he's a Jew! Charles Dickens was a wee anti-semetic

  Chuzzlewit is the only book on the list that was a critical and commercial disaster- people didn't buy it when it came out and Charles Dickens was bummed.  NOT in the top 5 is The Old Curiosity Shop which was a huge, huge hit that just happened to have been published immediately before Martin Chuzzlewit.  In Chuzzlewit Charles Dickens "departs from his formula" and doesn't provide the hearty sentimentality of A Christmas Carol or Oliver Twist.  And he was punished for it: First by the paying Audience and then by the critics. Our Mutual Friend was published in serial form between 1864 and 65.  It was his last completed work.  Oliver Twist was published in 1837.  That's 28 years of writing hits.

   The Charles Dickens who wrote Our Mutual Friend was a man who had witnessed great change.  Specifically, the increasing influence of money and business on people living in the London metropolitan area.  The Sui Generis  impact of his early work has been deadened by three decades of other authors absorbing his style and and learning from his successes.  Every Dickens novel was an event, and every author writing during that period was conscious of what audiences and critics thought about each work.

  Martin Chuzzlewit was literally Dickens only "bomb."  Although his biography always contained a fair amount of drama, he never struggled financially and had was still hugely popular at his somewhat untimely death.  Our Mutual Friend is interesting because of the money consciousness that pervades the plot, but its also labored and lengthy-- even for a Dickens novel.  This may have to do with Dickens writing Our Mutual Friend as a Victorian multi-plot novel rather then a first-person narrative.

  Our Mutual Friend also has some of the elements of the "Sensational" novel that was pioneered by his buddy Wilkie Collins.   The character of a police inspector is again present- as in David Copperfield- as a kind of stock character and an attempted murder is garishly depicted.   The character of Bella Wilfer actually sounds like she has read novels like Vanity Fair in the way that she talks about her "mercenary nature."


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