Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Reading Dickens: Highlights of the Old Curiosity Shop

Below you will find quotes and summary thoughts as I finished reading Charles Dickens' "The Old Curiosity Shop"

On the subject of little children: "It is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us."

"Oh these holidays! Why will they leave us some regret? Why cannot we push them back only a week or two in our memories, so as to put them at once at that convenient distance whence they may be regarded either with a calm indifference or a pleasant effort of recollection? Why will they hang about us like the flavor of yesterday's wine? ...Such is the difference between yesterday and today. We are all going to the play or coming home from it."

A working class man talking about a fire in his furnace: "It's like a book to me, the only book I ever learned to read, and many an old story it tells me. It's music, for I should know its voice among a thousand, and there are other voices in its roar. It has its pictures too. You don't know how many strange faces and features I trace in the red-hot coals. It's my memory, that fire, and shows me all my life."

The soul's feelings on the physical body it leaves at death: "It still felt for it a love like that which captives have been known to bear towards the cell in which they have been long confined, and even at parting hung upon its narrow bounds affectionately."

"There is nothing innocent or good that dies and is forgotten. Let us hold to that faith, or none. An infant, a prattling child, dying in its cradle, will live again the better thoughts of those who loved it, and play its part, through them, in the redeeming actions of the world, though its body be burnt to ashes or drowned in the deepest sea. There is not an angel added to the Host of Heaven, but does its blessed work on earth in those that love it here. Forgotten! oh, if the good deeds of human creatures could be traced to their source, how beautifully would even death appear; for how much charity, mercy, and purified affection, would be seem to have their growth in dusty graves."

"You haven't seen a silver pencil case this morning, have you?"
"I didn't meet many in the street," rejoined Mr. Swiveller. "I saw one - a stout pencil-case of respectable appearance - but as he was in company with an elderly penknife and a young toothpick, with whom he was in earnest conversation, I felt a delicacy in speaking to him"

"When Death strikes down the innocent and young, for every fragile form from which he sets the panting spirit free, a hundred virtues rise, in shapes of mercy, charity, and love, to walk the world and bless it. ...In the Destroyer's steps there springs up bright creations that defy his power, and his dark path becomes a way of light to Heaven." 

The reason that you read a sprawling Dickens' work is to unearth treasures like these. As well as to run into larger than life characters, who in caricature remind you of the people you run into at church, or see shopping at Wal-mart, walking the city streets, or who go to your family reunions. The Old Curiosity Shop is admittedly melodramatic in spots, not the best of Dicken's works, but still classic literature. As a theme, the book seems to emphasize that nothing is wasted. Even in tragedy, seeds of hope are planted that blossom into flowers of redemption that result in continuing fruit of life for years to come. I recommend taking up the challenge of reading it!