Tuesday, November 20, 2007

few words, two books, lights

A few words can go a long way. Here is Jane Austen writing to her sister Casandra, as it happened on 20 November 1800, about a ball which she had attended:
"Mrs Blount was the only one much admired. She appeared exactly as she did in September, with the same broad face, diamond bandeau, white shoes, pink husband and fat neck."

One of my favourite and one my least favourite Victorian novels are being broadcast by the BBC. They are Dombey and Son, by Charles Dickens, on the radio; and Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell on the tv. A couple of years ago I ploughed through Dombey detesting more and more its tendentious plot, sentimentality and cardboard characters. I read Cranford 50 years ago and was delighted then, as I am now, seeing it on tv, by its humorous, accurate picture of small town life.

Coming home in the rain, I walk over the reflection of street lights which shine mournfully on the black road and red brick pavements.


Lucy said...

Oh I am glad it was Cranford you liked! I gave up on the radio Dombey yesterday on the first episode; I read it at university but remember little of it, though I did like Bleak House. The telly version made me want to re-read Cranford. So many gems; I liked the line something like "She must have been in a very overanxious state when she wrote the letter, there were exclamation marks!" which I take as cautionary... also the scene from the book I remember about eating duck with peas and having to eat the peas off the small roundbladed knife, the fork having only two prongs.

Unknown said...

You and I and an old friend of mine called Robbie, (and I hope many others), seem to agree on Dombey and Son, which is gratifying. I have, as it happens, read Bleak House and Dombey and Son,in the last few years, because I felt rather guiltily that I had been neglecting Dickens,in favour of Balzac, Flaubert, Zola, and the Russians. I admired Bleak House without enjoying it very much. You know what I think of Dombey.