Friday, February 5, 2010

Dancing with Mr. D

I've long been a fan of Charles Dickens, and have referenced him on my various blogs, most notably here, here, and here.

February 7th is the 198th anniversary of ol' Chuck's birth. I'm posting this a couple of days ahead of time for it to be a "birthday greeting" in its purest form, but who cares? He isn't going to see my blog, anyway.

I don't really have too much to say about the man -- at this very moment, that is -- other than the following three personal mini-anecdotes, but I'm sure I'll come up with something else before the end of this post!

1. My very first exposure to Mr. D's work was the fantastic cartoon, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. Out of all the older and newer adaptations I've seen since then -- and I've seen a lot of them, fellow babies! -- the Magoo version is my favorite, if only for its nostalgic value for me personally. A great story (albeit condensed), bolstered by a memorable soundtrack... What more could a six-year-old ask for?

Ol' Eb Scrooge is shown his probable future by The Ghost of
Christmas Yet to Come, a scene which scared the livin' crap
out of this li'l fox when I first viewed it, all alone in the dark!

2. The second time I was entertained by a Dickens story was when I accompanied the entire seventh grade class of my Middle School to a screening of Oliver!, the Oscar-winning musical based on Oliver Twist. Not much to add to that, other than the fact that Dickens' way with a yarn was already favorably working its way into my consciousness, preparing me for the following.

3. My first encounter with Dickens' actual writing was in high school, when my English Lit class got to read Great Expectations. I was one of those nerds who not only enjoyed the novel, but read ahead of the assigned chapters.

Picture this, if you will: The teacher asks the class a question. David's hand shoots up eagerly; he has the answer! The other kids in the class slump down in their seats in an attempt to make themselves invisible. The teacher looks around; she does not want to have to call on David yet again, but finally... she does.

David launches into a long, involved answer, touching upon many major and minor plot points in what is at that moment his very favorite novel.

Finally, the teacher interrupts. "Yes, David, that's all well and good... But most of what you're describing now takes place in chapters twelve through fourteen... and the rest of the class is on chapter five."

And here's a bit of Silver Fox trivia that you may never have noticed: If you scroll up to the title of this blog, you'll see something which may seem a bit odd, which is that the phrase "The Lair of the Silver Fox" has a period at its end. It's a title, not a sentence, so why the period? Dickens' two weekly magazines, Household Words and All the Year Round, in which he serialized some of his greatest stories (including Great Expectations), both had a period at the end of their names. Call it a tiny tribute, or a superstitious affectation... whatever. It's there, and it ain't goin' nowhere.

Here's a little gem from my private collection,
and there are more copies of All the Year Round,
as well as Household Words, where this came from!
Right-clicking on the image should enable you to open it
in a slightly larger size in another tab or window.

So, without further ado... Happy Birthday, Boz!

Thanks for your time.


  1. We just recently watched David Lean's film of Great Expectations with John Mills, Alec Guinness, and Jean Simmons. I had studied it years ago in a "Novel into Film" course, but it was a real treat.

    You cannot beat CD for his characterizations, names and that clever blending of tragic circumstance with supreme wit.

    Happy Birthday Mr. Dickens!


  2. LOVED that "Olive or twist" cartoon.

  3. Happy Birthday to Mr. Dickens!

    Love the story of the young Mr. Lynch and Great Expectations. :)

  4. @Poetikat: I believe that was Alec Guinness' first film, but I'm not 100% sure. And Jeans Simmons, lost so recently... *sigh*

    @AngelMay: I've been holding onto that one for months.

    @Betsy: Maybe next year, I'll hold an internet event where everyone gets to come as his/her favorite Dickens character. (Bill Shatner could show dressed as Micawber, since he's been looking more and more like W.C. Fields lately.) And at the end, I'll show a 16mm print of "A Christmas Carol" backwards, so we can all see a kindly old man turn into a miserly old b***ard.

  5. I haven't thought of that Mr. Magoo version in forever. It strikes a nostalgic chord for me, as well. Loved it.

    TCM aired David Lean's version of Great Expectations this week and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    (Oh, I see Kat did, too!)

  6. @Willow: Yup. I don't watch broadcast TV at home any more, but I still have an ancient VHS of "G.E." that I can pop in my late-1800s, wind-up Edison VCR for viewing on my old, round-screen, whale-oil-powered Tele-Vision when the urge strikes me.

  7. @Willow - Have you watched, "Wuthering Heights" yet? I recorded that one too.


  8. He's a legend alright. Spend a lot of time touring the West Coast of the US as well. Miriam Margoyles did a wonderful documentary of his travels and lectures on all things Dickens.

  9. Mr. Fox, I think that's a great idea! So fun! Make sure I get an invite! ;)

  10. very nice. happy birthday mr dickens....

  11. "Reading ahead" of the class always gave me great pleasure. I had the secrets that they didn't have. And, as with you, it disturbed my teachers, which only added to the pleasure.

    As for Dickens, my favorite childhood friend was his Artful Dodger.

  12. Big fan of Dickens. Our annual Christmas ritual is "A Christmas Carol" with Alastair Sim. My husband has a late 19th century set of Dicken's work. My father read "A Child's History of England" to us when we were kids...over and over, btw.

  13. @Baino: Never saw that documentary, but I'd like to.

    @Betsy: That "event" might be a nice idea. No "Foxster," either. Just me. No Tara, no Gretchen, no guns fired into ceilings... but of course, the real Skip would hopefully attend! I'll be the one dressed as Abel Magwitch.

    @Brian: Thanks!

    @Bruce: Yeah, freaking out the teachers was always a plus. And did you hear we lost Jack Wilde a while back?

    @California Girl: Oh, so you've heard of Dickens, then? ;-)

  14. Wait...Jean Simmons of KISS died???!

  15. Such an enjoyable post and a reminder to read again one of the many special Dickens stories
    Read to me as a child, read by me to my children and now again to my grandson. The stories go on and on. Such discriptions, characters to engulf and satisfy an eager mind. Marvellous BBC productions and wonderful films and portrayals over the years. Wicked, sad and totally wonderful Dickens - I'm off to read David Copperfield just once more time from my very old leatherbound well thumb copy.
    "Happy Birthday Mr Dickens" and thank you for this great post Mr Fox

  16. My introduction to Dickens: Pickwick Papers - still brings a smile to my face


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