Imagine the scene.
“Smoke lowering down from the chimney pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes – gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun.”
“Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among the green aits and meadows; fog down the river, were it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping, and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city.”
London is notorious for its weather. It is in a natural bowl that holds the air, and a sea-level river runs through this bowl, pumping moist air in. Back in the 19th century, at the start of the industrial age, when every chimney emitted coal smoke, when factories lived in with the dwellings, that heavy fog was mixed with smog. And then there was the raw sewage in the streets and in the river, filling the air with their pungent tones. Not pleasant.
19th century London has been famous for this vision, but rarely has it been better described than in the opening of Bleak House.
Dickens can be wordy, notoriously wordy, and yet the words cast a spell, create a vision, in a way that simple, terse prose cannot. And this description of London is one of his great achievements.
As is the entire book, Bleak House.
This is a story that makes you question Charity while always being thankful of people who are truly charitable. It rips apart the snobby lords of the manors while forcing you to be sympathetic of the most cold, aloof Lady of them all. It even kicks the poor with an unkind vision while drawing tears for the poorest of all.
Yes, Dickens is a wordy writer, but he is perhaps the greatest at knowing exactly how to use those words to best manipulate your emotions. Using only good and kind words he makes you hate one person while using ugly, disdainful words you love another, or, if not really love, at least feel for them with all of your heart.
Sound intriguing? Well, join us in our Bleak House Challenge!
Yvette Prior and myself are doing a Bleak House challenge, like the Little Dorrit challenge we did last year.
We are planning on having a series of posts on or around the 9th of June. Actually, I plan on a series of posts that week, perhaps from Sunday, June 5 to Saturday, June 11.
Not only are Yvette and myself going to do a series of posts, we want others to get involved. We would, of course, love to have others do Bleak House posts themselves, but also encourage discussion on our posts. As an incentive, we are going to put the names of the participants into a drawing for an Amazon gift certificate so you can buy more Dickens’ books. OK, just more books, they don’t have to be Dickens… ;)
This is a long book so you need to get a head start! And I will let you know right now that, unlike last year when I waited for the last minute, I have already finished reading Bleak House! So go get your copy now! No money for books until you win that gift card? You can get a free version here: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1023
There have been a few posts about this . Here they are so far:
It’s only a little more than a month away, start reading now ;)