The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

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The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

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jun 18, 2007, 2:28pm

Things have been really quiet in this group for a really long time. Hence the suggestion for those who wish it to join me in a reading of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby.

Pleasures shared are always pleasures doubled at least for me and I am sure I can learn from you all.

My start date for the book will be about June 25th so that will give people plenty of time to: 1)locate a copy and 2) cancel all engagements of a social or business nature.


jun 18, 2007, 6:08pm

Uh, did you mean for the touchstone to go to a DVD, or did you mean Nicholas Nickleby, the book? I ask, in (large) part, because giving the book's full title only finds the movie, for whatever reason.

jun 18, 2007, 6:50pm

Anna Claire,

Thanks for the question and yes, I meant the book. In fact I have a first editon of same published in London and it has the title that I show up above.

I have a lot to learn re touchestones...


jun 18, 2007, 7:00pm

You're right about the title you gave being the full one. Then again, other books have titles that get similarly "shrunk" (like Hamlet, which starts as -- on second thought, maybe I'll shut my trap now).

jun 20, 2007, 8:16am

The start date of June 25th is fast approaching and my sense is that there is not exactly a mob banging on the doors to join in.

However, if there is at least one other person willing to join it I will promise said person:

1) a uniquely joyful, light and entertaining experience unmatched by anything on tv or at your local movie theatre.

2) no commericial interuptions

2) Plus a summary of the Preface to the original work by the author of same. This Preface is not included in most printings of this work but provides insight into the work itself. This in itself is worth the price of admission, which happens to be free.


jun 20, 2007, 9:11pm

Det här meddelandet har tagits bort av dess författare.

jun 20, 2007, 11:38pm

>5 Urquhart: Urquhart ~ Unfortunately I'm still in 'Barsetshire-land' but I would be happy to take a detour and join you in reading NN. Or I could even break with my usual protocol of one book at a time, and read NN and my other book simultaneously.

Librivox also provides access to the first half of the book in audio version at (please note that these are sort of draft versions, since the recordings for later chapters aren't complete yet, and haven't been catalogued on the Librivox site). There is no reading for chapter six.

Its a very long book.... do you have a schedule or rough idea on how many chapters per week you'll be reading?

p.s. I stopped going to movie theatres along time ago...its either books, LT, or (rarely) TV/DVD for me.

jun 21, 2007, 8:19am

Well, as you know, I was in Barsethire-land as well. I read Barchester Towers, The Warden, and Dr. Thorne and thought maybe I needed a bit of a rest from AT for a while.

On the subject of Librovox, I am afraid that it is entirely new website for me and I have to learn about it. However, and more to the point, I think it is a great idea to do this all using audiobooks. In fact, as most people know, Dickens was in a theatre group and quite active along those lines during his lifetime.

For me, I find it 100% easier to switch out of the pace and rhythm of the 21st century and to get into the rhythm and ambiance of Dickens if it is read by a good reader versus my own reading of him, which I have done many times. In fact, people often refer to Shakespeare and the need to read him aloud and I have come to believe similarily with Dickens who we know did extensive public readings during his life time. For that reason, I did AT and am doing NN on audiobooks. Of course the reader of an audio book is paramount, so make sure the reader is a really good one. (Of course no one is as good as Jim Dale who does the Harry Potter series but there are good people out there and it is necessary to hunt around in order to find them.)

One thing about Dickens that I love so much is his humor. Many people found Anthony Trollope to be very humorous and I confessed in our discussions to not seeing it. With Dickens there is often humor of one sort or another on every other page. Maybe humor is personal like chocolate or vanilla and one either gets it or not.

You are of course right about the length of NN and I would suggest that where as with 21st century literature we have to rush to the mountain top, that back in the 19th century it was the leisurely amble that was considered the way to pass one's time in a book as being the modus operandi. Surely the leisurely gait of the amble characterized The Warden and Dr. Thorne, at least in my view.

Of course, I do hope my verbal ambling has not become a bit too much here, but I believe that for me I have come to see my relationship with Dickens is more one of a love affair with his work versus an intellectual exploration of different esoteric themes. I think that is where many people lose out on CD. He is not an author of the intellect as much as one of the heart. So any comments I have will not be of the esoteric and intellectual sort.

Finally, since to be with an author you love is not about getting but rather sharing, the pace of my reading or listening will be similar to one that I learned while living in London and listening to a Book at Bedtime on the BBC for an hour each evening.

Please, I do want you to choose whatever you feel most comfortable with reading; I don't presume to interfere with your choice but would welcome you on this journey if you cared to join in.


jun 21, 2007, 8:46am

I am not a member of this group, but I am considering reading NN simply because I want to read more Dickens and it might help to have company on this journey. I am one of those who finds Trollope humorous, I must warn you. It wasn't exactly on my TBR list, but I have a copy of the Everyman's Library edition (1993) which includes the author's original prefaces. Would three be a crowd?

jun 21, 2007, 3:30pm

Hi Marise and thanks so much for the note.

Would three be a crowd? Well, if a pleasure shared is a pleasure doubled then having more people join in the read will be sure to make for a whole lot more fun.

In fact for this long time reader of Dickens, my sense is that his works are about being with others and the sense of community, so, to have others join in just makes it all the more Dickensian an affair.

Only four days to start date of June 25th.


Redigerat: jun 21, 2007, 10:23pm

Being a commentary on the length of this book and how that length might be viewed:...........

It has been mentioned that this book is quite long and possibly therfore a bit daunting, so I thought people might wish to know how that is viewed by at least one person.

Reading books usually requires:

1)the choice of a title, which is certainly not easy among all the other choices one needs to make in the hurly burly of the day to day.

2) the cost of having to pay for public transportation or gas to go out and get the book.

May I suggest therefore that reading long books has the advantage of

1)cutting down on yet another choice that one has to make in this world and

2) saves money of buying another book and the cost of transportation to go out and do same. I mean NN is worth the cost of at least three of a 21st century author such as Ian McEwan Just look at the length of On Chesil Beach. I am not critical of McEwan but I do suggest there are advantages to long books that people don't always consider.

3) also one has the advantage of having the book on the book shelf so one can go back many, many years later and enjoy it all over again. On the other hand, I am not exactly sure how many times I want to reread On Chesil Beach in the years to come.

I think with sadness of the fact that everyone is forced to read Charles Dickens in school and so always associates the author with school. Schools of course being what Dickens definitely did not like and the drudgery and oppression of same that he definitely did not like and addresses in this book.

Which does not mean I don't like short books. I mean Jean-Baptiste Marie Roger de Saint-Exupéry wrote The Little Prince which is a truly wonder full book and I will always love. So size is not always necessary.

But possibly I digress and what I would hope is that people enjoy.

Only four days to go......

jun 21, 2007, 7:25pm

Hi folks,

Just an idea, Urquhart, but if you would like more to join in here you could put a post in the main Book Talk group mentioning that we are having an informal group read (with a link to here). There might be folks who love NN but aren't aware of the Dickens group.

The reason I use Librivox is that its free and the majority of the readers are actually pretty good, considering they are volunteers. Audio books are very expensive in Australia and if there is no option to preview how the book is read you, or you don't know anything about the reader you take a pretty big punt.

jun 21, 2007, 8:45pm

Many thanks for the idea. I did as you directed and am grateful for the suggestion.

Since I am new here I would hope that everyone would feel free to make any and all suggestions.

Thanks again.

jun 21, 2007, 8:52pm

Since I love Dickens, and always have, I shall join.
The only problem is that my copy of NN is a big and cumbersome book, so I will not be able to cary it on the train with me. It will probably take me longer to read it than most of you. Can I still participate?

jun 21, 2007, 8:54pm

Thanks, I just added a direct link to this thread, should anyone get lost or wander off along the way....



jun 21, 2007, 9:36pm

Well the longer the read will mean a greater amount of pleasure.

Also as Jean Genet said "Anticipation is everything." So you will have more to look forward to as we go along.

jun 21, 2007, 9:41pm

A major question if I might:

how do we handle the Spoiler Problem?

Since everyone is reading at a different pace and no one wants to spoil it for anyone how can we speak meaningfully about the book as we read along?

Any veterans out there willing to share their wisdom?

My experience in the Anthony Trollope group suggests that this does not have to be a problem if we are careful.

Redigerat: jun 21, 2007, 9:47pm

>14 aluvalibri:
Glad you joined in Paola! My copy is also large and cumbersome. I remember reading (in another thread) someone suggesting a "slow reading" movement, you know, like the slow eating movement. This will be fun.

jun 21, 2007, 10:21pm

Yay! aluva i& marise are here... welcome :)

I'm happy with a 'slow read' or whatever suits others. Wake me up if I nod off tho'....

Spoilers.... hmmm... not sure (not a 'veteran' here by any means...) As you say, Urquhart, it hasn't been a problem in the AT group.



jun 22, 2007, 7:42am

Thanks for the welcome! Marise, I like the idea of "slow reading", it makes you savour a book more....which is what I am trying to do right now, while reading Embers by Sandor Marai. It is one of those books you want to taste slowly and enjoy every word, just like a sip of very good wine...Oh the wonderful joys of reading!
How can people live without reading?

jun 22, 2007, 1:59pm

Re: The subject of audiobooks of NN.

Audiobooks come in many flavors. While not all readers can be as good as Jim Dale (of Harry Potter fame) there are other very acceptable readers.

Robert Whitfield is the reader of one version of NN that people may find enjoyable. His version is in CD and tape format and is from Blackstone Audio.

There are other readers of NN that may not be so enjoyable so be careful in your choice.

jun 22, 2007, 2:03pm

I'll join in too. It's been 27 years since I read Nicholas Nickleby; it was my first Dickens.

jun 22, 2007, 2:07pm

Lola is here too...wonderful!

jun 25, 2007, 9:59am

Hi Folks,

June 25th and hopefully people have been able to find a copy of NN.

Above I mentioned that I would be happy to provide some thoughts on the "summary of the Preface to the original work by the author of same. This Preface is not included in many printings and most audiobooks of this work but provides insight into the work itself."

On the chance that maybe someone does not have a Preface to their particular addition, here goes....

Apparently CD wrote more than one Preface to this book, if the Preface I am reading is to be believed. In the Preface that I have I note the following points of interest:

-"This story is begun within a few months after the publication of the completed "Pickwick Papers."
(My note: The difference in style and ambiance of the Pickwick Papers and that of NN is obviously very considerable.)

-The second paragraph of the Preface begins

"Of the monstrous neglect of education in England, and the disregard of it by the State as a means of forming good or bad citizens, and miserable or happy men, this class of schools long afforded a notable example."

-"But, what about the hundreds of thousands of minds that have been deformed for ever by the incapable pettifoggers who have preteded to form them?'

-"The Author has received, from private quarters far beyond the reach of suspicion or distrust, accounts of atrocities, in the perpetration of which, upon neglectd or repudiated children, these schools have been the main instruments, very far exceeding any that appear in these pages."

All of which is pretty sobering stuff and, for me at least, puts the story that follows in a context of expose of investigative reporting rather than being just another engaging story.

Yes, there are going to be moments of sunshine and humor along the way, but the theme of the Preface certainly puts the reader on notice that much of what is referred to in the schools will be based on what CD knew to be the conditions at that time.

Do other people have a different Preface for their edition of the book?

Is your perspective on the reading of the Preface different from mine?

Hope this finds everyone well and ready for the journey.


jun 26, 2007, 7:30am

Hi folks ... (hi Lola! :)

OK, well, the preface in my (Penguin Classic) version is entitled "Preface to the First Cheap Edition, 1848", and is the same as one that was read on Librivox. My guess is its the same as the preface you have, Urquhart.

Having not read Pickwick Papers I am naive to any influence its publication right before Nicholas Nickleby may have had on this story.

The information provided about Yorkshire schools is indeed a little depressing –it reminded me of nastly old Mr Creakle and Salem House School in David Copperfield. I’m looking forward to a bit of humour to balance out the harsh cruelty that we are about to witness.

jun 26, 2007, 8:25am

I reviewed a copy of the Penguin Classics NN and find it excellent. It has:

1)An introduction to CD

2)2 Prefaces

3)Extensive Notes

4)3 Appendices

5)Lots of the original illustrations

Using the Penguin Classic along side the audio version could make for a real experience when doing NN in this way.

As to humor, at least as to my own tastes, I find that throughout the book there is harsh cruelty on the one hand and then the humor soon after. He is always balancing the very light and poignant with the really dark and cruel. It is the contrast of the light and dark throughout that I find so unique to CD. In fact I find no author who has 'the specific type of humor' that CD has.

The journey continues...

jun 26, 2007, 8:37am

My EL edition has the original illustrations, too, and I think that really adds to my enjoyment. I am up to Chapter XI this morning. What do you make of the two stories "The Five Sisters of York" and "The Baron of Grogzwig" told in Chapter VI?

Also notice that each left hand page has the book title at the top (typical), but each right hand page has a brief phrase that summarizes the events occuring on that page, sometimes humorously.

jun 26, 2007, 8:41am

I could not start yet. Yesterday I had an infernal day...not even time to catch my breath, never mind reading. Hopefully I will manage to do it this evening, when I am home.

jun 26, 2007, 11:18am

Hello everyone, just joined when I found out you were having this "book discussion" on NN starting yesterday. I have started the audiobook version and find it very well done indeed. I also have a copy of the Penguin edition. Will have to go back and read the preface & intro.

I love the pacing of this book. The descriptions are fantastic. I've gotten to the point where Squeers (phon.) is described. That face would put me off MY breakfast.

I was just reading Fannie Flagg's "Can't Wait to Get to Heaven" and found that a dismal experience. I was listening to it on CD, but it just didn't seem to go anywhere. I stopped at disk 6 of 8. It's a joy to listen to NN.

The only other Dickens books that I have read in my lifetime - Great Expectations, Oliver Twist & David Copperfield. I also did A Christmas Carol. I hope that makes me acceptable for this Dickens-dedicated group. I hope I can keep up with you.

Be talking to you soon.

jun 26, 2007, 12:24pm

Welcome, Tricia!!

jun 27, 2007, 6:47am

Have you ever enjoyed a song and in a way be carried away by the special melody and rhythm while forgetting to concentrate on the words?

Listening to NN read on audiobook, I keep luxuriating in Dickens love of words, rhythms, and flow of the story and forget sometimes to concentrate on some of the specifics of what he is actually saying. It is as if I will have to read the book after listening to it so that I will be able to linger and savor portions of it.

Everyone has their preferences in authors, but for me to listen to his musicality and how Dickens savors his words, characters, themes, and plot is unique.

jun 27, 2007, 11:32pm

In Chapter 2, I love the name: 'United Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual Delivery Company' !!

Redigerat: jun 28, 2007, 8:22am

It is a wonderful name and what he does with that scene is inimitable.

It is as if he were a high wire acrobat with out a safety net going through all these wonderful displays of skill and creative power.

For me what he is really saying is that he is so confident of his powers that he can take the most casual topic and under his powers produce a work of charm and joy. I guess it is hubris of a wonderful sort.

jun 28, 2007, 10:27am

As always with Dickens, the characters' names are great, too. "Knag", "Snobb", "Scaley" and my favorite so far, "Verisopht!"

jun 28, 2007, 3:50pm

And then there are places such as Dotheboys Hall. And when the boys are described one realizes that indeed the boys have been 'done' to.

jun 29, 2007, 8:38am

>27 marise: Hi Marise ~ I'll confess I sort of skimmed over those stories - perhaps I'll come back to them later. I was to eager to get on with the next chapter and find out what happened when Nicholas reached Yorkshire. I'm sure those stories are there for a reason...

I'm up to Chapter 15 now. I'm really enjoying the LibriVox audio reading by Chris who I think has a bit of an Lancashire accent (?). Anyway, he reads quite well and evokes the necessary emotions. I'm sad that LibriVox only have audio for Chapters 1 to Chapter 26. After that, I'll have to read my paper copy... oh well!

Loved the little 'cat-fight' between Fanny Squeers & 'Tilda :D Meanwhile, there is definately something very suspicious and frankly very odd about Newman Noggs, the ex-gentleman!

jun 29, 2007, 9:35am

I am SOOOOOO frustrated!!!! I still have not had the chance of sitting down and read past the introduction!!!!!!
Since I am going on vacation, I will finally have the time to do it.

jun 29, 2007, 4:56pm

Ok folks, the following is going to be difficult but hang with me on this....

I don't want to spoil anything for anyone so I stick with themes and some themes that I think are important are alluded to in the following message.

It was sent to me privately by someone who I think has brilliant insight and who I have asked to join us but she has chosen not to do so to date and probably moved on to bigger and better things and probably pretty much forgotten about us by now.

However these are her thoughts and I withhold her name out of respect for her privacy, but I believe she is brilliant in her comments.....

"Thank you for your comment! I think the Charles Dickens/comic book comparison is more yours than mine ... I tend not to mix my likes. But after hearing the comparison from you, I have to admit there are similarities.

1.) The serialization
2.) The focus on moral lessons
3.) The stories of redemption
4.) The social commentary
5.) Their iconic qualities
6.) Their names as representative of their personalities

Adding to this is Stan Lee, who created many Marvel Comic heroes (Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, etc.) is a fan of Dickens himself.

I do disagree with only good people and only bad people in Dickens books and comic books, though. In comics, heroes and heroines may change their ways, and sometimes it's for the good. In the same way, some of Dickens later characters may be bad and sympathetic. I'm thinking of this especially in Great Expectations. I always felt bad for Miss Havisham and Estella, as much as they hurt others. And who can forget Magwitch's turnaround? I feel similar about Harry Osborn in Spider-Man.

Illustrations as manga? Perhaps ... Maybe if you look into political cartoons leading into comic strips leading into comic books leading into manga ...

Dickens' women are a bit of a conundrum. I'm not much for who are referred to as the Mary Hogarth-based characters. (Kate Nickelby, Rose Maylie, et. al.) But I think he got better as time went on. Stan Lee also had an issue where most of his women ended up sounding the same. (All of his were motivated by love, though ... and Dickens young women just seem to be caring about doing good and a husband just pops up for them at the end as a reward ...) But I think he got better as time went on. Louisa Bounderby and Estella show some variation. Even the many different types of young women in David Copperfield were a step in the right direction.

Nice discussion!"

Those are her comments and may be worth thinking about as you read through the book.

Her comments are especially valuable to me because they are not of the literary criticism genre on the one hand but rather cultivate new soil elsewhere.

jun 29, 2007, 5:35pm

Well, it is interesting to me because I have been thinking that the illustrations reminded me of comic strips, especially combined with the humorous writing. But I had never really put it all together like that.

I agree with her about Kate Nickleby.

jun 30, 2007, 9:53am

One female character never mentioned anywhere is Rosa Dartel (the young woman who lives with Steerforth's mother) in David Copperfield. Her absolutely seething white anger and meanness of character as being a reason for her to live is magnificent; yet no one ever mentions her.

We see the meanness and bullying here in NN with Ralph Nickleby, Squeers (sp), Ms. Nagg, and others. In fact his theme of bullying of the weak and less fortunate is a theme that stands out for me so far in this reading of NN.

jul 2, 2007, 2:54pm

Bullying is definitely the primary theme to me, a modern reader. Though Dickens was always trying to highlight a particular social ill, which in this case may be bad & cruel boarding schools.

However, it is clear that Ralph Nickleby is a bully and he even intimidates the other bullies. King bully.

I would like to know if anyone can give the names meaning that Dickens is using. How would one define Squeers - squeezing, squat, queer(looking)?

There is a Dickens Dictionary out there, but I do not have access to one in my library.

I did look up Squeers in and found the following interesting note. Just goes to show how powerful the written word can be.
From E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
"It is said that Mr. Squeers is a caricature of Mr. Shaw, a Yorkshire schoolmaster; but Mr. Shaw was a kind-hearted man, and his boys were well fed, happy, and not ill-taught. Like Squeers he had only one eye, and like Squeers he had a daughter. It is said that his school was ruined by Dickens’s caricature."

I have listened to the audiobook, which is fantatstic, and am now up to chapter 15 (or cd #6). I find that I pay more attention if I listen to an audiobook. With a print version it is so easy to skim.

It also sounds like I'm missing part of the fun by not having illustrations to look at. See what I can find.

jul 2, 2007, 4:12pm

Folks, there is access to illustrations if you want them in Google by putting in: nicholas nickleby illustrations.

I was going to down load them to flickr or where ever but I did not want to spoil you folks.

I believe the NN illustrations are by Phiz, while Cruikshank did the later ones. Each have their own style.

I don't know what the definition of manga illustrations is but surely these are a type of manga.


jul 2, 2007, 5:46pm

Thanks, Urquhart.

Saw some - you might say they are manga-like in the sense that they are caricatures - facial expressions & structure that are stretched way beyond normal. In manga - generally the eyes are over-large.

jul 3, 2007, 9:19pm


I hope it's not too late to join the discussion. I just started the book and am only about 30 pages in, but have a few days off so am looking forward to getting immersed in it.

Other Dickens works I have read are Great Expectations, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, and A Christmas Carol. He is quite possibly my favorite writer; no one else compares for me. I liked what Urquhart said about the musicality of his writing; his words really are to be savored. I love his sense of humor and the way it almost sneaks up on you as you read. The part at the very beginning where Godfrey Nickleby inherits Ralph Nickleby's estate, because Ralph had decided not to bequeath his fortune to the Humane Society after they saved his poor relative, was priceless.

Looking forward to the rest of the book!

jul 3, 2007, 10:09pm

So glad you could join us!

jul 4, 2007, 7:44am

Thanks for joining Litfan. I think you nailed it when you suggested that "his words really are to be savored." Most people read and enjoy him without being able to see that he in fact does "savor" words and that words for him are delicious morsels to be truly "savored."

Redigerat: jul 4, 2007, 8:35am

An unusual thread this but possibly some out there might click with it. It is obvious that I love CD and his writings, but what I can not see is why it is that more people do not really love his writing.

Using NN as an example please help me to understand why people would not like to read the book. Too often on group readings people do not feel free to list grievances of what they do not like about a book. Is it too long? Is there not enough sex and violence?

Why is it that there is so little resonance with people out there reading this book?

I would really like to know but frankly do not.

jul 4, 2007, 10:03am


That's a good question-- as a Dickens lover it's difficult for me to grasp that not everyone loves him. The other night I got a clue as to what part of the issue might be, courtesy of my husband's reaction when I read him a passage that I found utterly hilarious. He found the language cumbersome and got so distracted by it that he couldn't figure out what Dickens was trying to say. He's a very intelligent person but his intelligence is very technical/mathematical in nature-- he's just not a language person. I think in many ways our society is becoming more technically-focused and more concise in use of language-- look at text messaging, for example. Beauty of language is sacrificed for the sake of getting information across faster and faster.

I think perhaps for a lot of people, because Dickens doesn't write in the way that we talk in everyday conversation, reading him can feel confusing. I've found that if I read Dickens after I've read a contemporary work of fiction, I have to sort of settle my brain into what feels somewhat like a different language. For me it's a joy because the language is beautiful and the hidden treasures I discover make it worth the extra concentration it takes to read him. But what's a joy for me may feel like a struggle to someone else. I'm sure that's not the whole explanation for why some people don't like NN or Dickens, but it may have something to do with it.

jul 4, 2007, 10:31am

Litfan, that is interesting when you say re your husband:

"he couldn't figure out what Dickens was trying to say."

I think CD does that often.

For me in NN there are many instances of his writing becoming like a geyser breaking forth from the ground or a water fall bubbling over with excess water. He just writes with so much exhuberance and gusto and gets caught up in the acrobatics that he forgets what he was talking about.

I am someone who speaks slowly and when writing struggles with each and every word to articulate a thought but CD never struggles; for him it is all falling off a log. For him the writing is all a glorious skill and he is having glorious fun.

If you haven't heard the book on audiobook with a really good reader, you have to give it a try. Robert Whitfield is the reader for my audiobook version of NN.

jul 8, 2007, 9:09am

Urquhart, I like your comparison to acrobatics, it's very fitting.

I am into chapter IX now so the following may contain spoilers if others haven't read to that point.

RE message 27 and the stories told within the novel: One common thread that I could see was concerns about life on earth vs. afterlife. This was more prevalent in the first story and less in the second, where the Baron only briefly mentioned his concern that if he killed himself there was no guarantee the next world was any better than this one. I'm really not quite sure what Dickens is saying with these stories and am curious as to how others interpret them. In "The Five Sisters of York," he mentions that the "policy of the courts" made the sisters "widowed maidens and humbled outcasts." Does anyone have any thoughts on what this means? I was at a loss.

So far I am curious to see what Nicholas does next. He's certainly between the devil and the deep blue sea-- if he stays at Dotheboys he's condoning Squeers' actions, but if he leaves, his sister and mother will likely lose everything.

Dickens does a fabulous job of conveying the hypocrisy of Squeers with irony and subtle humor. I find the relationship between Mr. Squeers and Mrs. Squeers quite interesting-- for such a bully at school he seems quite intimidated by his wife at home, and she certainly seems to hold the power in the family. It's interesting that in "The Baron of Grogzwig" the baron's wife slowly gains control over his habits, friends, etc. to the detriment of his well-being and his coffers. Dickens also mentions earlier in the novel that Mr. Nickleby's bad investment occurred the one and only time he listened to Mrs. Nickleby's advice and resulted in disaster. It's an interesting look at gender and power in relationships and seems almost to be a warning about what happens if women are "in charge"-- I wonder if this is Dickens' own view, or if he's trying to poke fun at the gender stereotypes of that time?

Redigerat: jul 8, 2007, 3:35pm

I have finished the book and this has been a wonderful experience. Don't want to say too much, though, until everyone is ready.

But I will say the last two pages of Chapter L are just so profound and beautifully written!

jul 8, 2007, 7:12pm

Wow Marise you're a quick reader! I'm looking forward to Chapter L now :-) I am about one third of the way through the book, after spending most of today reading. It's very hard to put down because I get so drawn into the story-- I nearly forgot to eat dinner!

jul 9, 2007, 3:18pm

Congratulations to Marise! Well done!

I am about half way through and am torn between wanting to finish on the one hand and wanting to prolong the pleasure of it all on the other.

Like a fine wine, I enjoy going at a pace where I can still appreciate it without doing too much at one sitting and thereby getting drunk on the ebullience of it all.

jul 9, 2007, 3:37pm

I admit to staying up way past my usual bedtime more than once because I could not stop reading! Now I can catch up on my sleep!

I found as I got near the end I deliberately slowed down because I did not want it to end. Also, after Chapter 50, I just had to pause for a day or so and contemplate the beauty of his words.

jul 9, 2007, 7:04pm

I'm up to Chapter 51 now! I'm trying to slow down but I do find myself wanting to skim (just a little)... the same thing happened when I read David Copperfield. For NN, I had the pleasure of free audio for the first 26 chapters and it really brought the story alive and was read a pace that gave you time to think. I got much more out of it than reading it alone as I find it quite diffiicult to read slowly...but I'm trying! :-)

jul 10, 2007, 12:24pm

Marise, I am happy to relate that I am now "into" the book and just simply LOVE it!
It is so much fun to get reacquainted with Dickens' sense of humour and great descriptive powers. Bliss!!!

jul 10, 2007, 1:31pm

I knew you would get over your "reader's block!" I just hate it when real life interferes with my reading! :)

jul 12, 2007, 5:37pm

Very sad at the prospect of having only 6 more chapters to the book and then it is all over......

In the meantime I ask myself the question that Nicholas posed to himself and that he in fact a coxcomb? At the point where he asks the question it would appear he is by his own definition definitely a coxcomb. But time will tell.....

jul 14, 2007, 10:08am

No one wants to spoil it for anyone but can't we start discussing the themes, characters, etc.?

jul 14, 2007, 2:55pm

I am about halfway - and very much looking forward to proceed with the rest -. Once again, Dickens has worked his magic on me: every time I pick up one of his books I cannot put it down and get very impatient/angry with whomever interrupts my reading.

All of this said, please go ahead with the discussion without me. I will be happy to read your comments and add something if I think it is appropriate for me to do so at the moment.

jul 15, 2007, 8:44am

I am still only about a third of the way through the book-- it's been a somewhat hectic week-- but will follow along as best I can and try to catch up ASAP. Someone needs to pass a law that work weeks can't be any more than 20 hours so that work stops interfering with my reading :-)

jul 15, 2007, 12:47pm

Well said, Litfan!!

jul 15, 2007, 3:00pm

One theme for me is that in listening to NN I sense all over again what a true genius he is........

The way some pundits define genius is by the quantity, variety, and quality of the works produced and I am continually amazed how very much CD excels in all these categories.

I know of no author who can:

-say so much in such a brief number of words and

-write seemingly endlessly on virtually any topic be it crumpets, muffins, etc.

-have such a wealth of trully different characters.

-create so very many archetypal characters that ring so very true.

-force one to fall in love with the beauty of how he is writing everybit as much as how the plot is developing.

-force one to think that they need to go back and read certain passages for 2 or 3 times.

-create so very many archetypal images that one can carry through life always. One example being the suitor of Mrs. Nickleby who throws cucumbers and marrows over the fence in his expression of his live for her. In like way how many times in one's life has one been deeply in love and yet helpless and with out the words or means of expressing that love? This ability to write of the human condition on the one hand while being light hearted and truly comic on the other is truly exceptional to Dickens alone.

-paints his scenes with both delicate and broad brush strokes to the extent that one can not help but see the scene vividly. It is like a television story unrolling in the mind as the story develops...

Because of these few listed characteristics and more I find him both a genius and totally without equal. However if there are authors even close to him I would certainly like to discover them. More often than not authors get caught up in heavy duty 'intellectual' themes and lose touch with the humor and joy of a written piece.

For instance, there is Wodehouse who does just humor and Thomas Mann who does most everything without humor. But Dickens stands alone in his deft touch of delicacy, humor, and comments on the human condition.

At least IMHO......

Redigerat: jul 21, 2007, 8:54am

Finally finished the book and found it wonderful. If anyone else wishes to post comments I would be happy to do so but the current lack of same suggests it best to allow the matter to drop.

jul 21, 2007, 10:05pm

I finished it the week before last but find I'm still thinking about it. Seems I underestimated Newman Noggs's kindness towards the was just that he seemed so suspicious to begin with.

Mrs Nicekleby reminded me of a member of my husband's family who just doesn't seem to know when to stop talking and gets sidetracked with irrelevant details :)

I'm looking forward to reading NN again some day.

jul 21, 2007, 10:57pm

I found Mrs. Nickleby extremely irritating! I found myself wishing someone, especially Kate, would stand up to her and tell her off.

In fact, I wish that Kate was a stronger character, but I know I am viewing her through 21st century lenses.

jul 22, 2007, 6:31pm

Someone I know gave up on reading NN about a third of the way through and commented that it was too long and too wordy.

For me, I discovered that reading this book was not about plot resolution or a subtle point being made. Rather it was an opportunity to share and be in the presence of someone whose sensibility I was allowed to share in for a lengthy period of time.

For me the denouement of the last 2 chapters just underlined the fact the whole point of the book was the journey and not destination.

My major regret is that more people did not take part in discussing the book.

jul 22, 2007, 6:35pm

Urquhart, do not despair! I am still reading it (yes, I got sidetracked by a lot of things, pleasant and not, and now I am eager to go back to it).

I cannot imagine giving up reading can it be possible?

jul 22, 2007, 8:07pm

I am advised not to despair but I do.

Can people please advise how this NN thread could have been a more inclusive one than it has been?

Why is it that the comments were so few in the reading of the book?

I tried throughout this thread to not mention anything that might have been seen as a Spoiler to anyone that was in process of reading the book.

jul 22, 2007, 8:13pm

I thought your comments were wonderful! You often pointed out aspects of the story or the writing that I probably wouldn't have thought about otherwise and it greatly enhanced my enjoyment of reading this book. I now have a whole new appreciation of Dickens that I did not get when reading on my own. Please do not dispair!

I wish I could have contributed more, but I am such a newcomer to both Dickens and LT, I felt shy about it.

Redigerat: jul 22, 2007, 9:05pm

Marise, that was nice of you to say but being Dickensian at heart I sense myself slowly sinking ever deeper into the sea of despond as a result of this experience.

Possibly by reading the new Harry Potter book I can put this experience behind me. I am on disk 4 of the audiobook of same and maybe if I can focus on that it will help. And yet for someone like myself who has found Dickens to be the alpha and omega I am afraid there is little hope.

I know of no one even close to Dickens.

I was going to start a thread comparing the Potter series with Dickens' series of books but I don't have the heart to do even that.

jul 22, 2007, 9:34pm

Urquhart If you want to do some author comparisons I'll bet there's a lot of gold to be mined by comparing Dickens to Dostoevsky. They both look deeply into their flawed societies. I'll bet they have more in common than one might suspect.

jul 22, 2007, 9:43pm

I would agree they both see flaws in their societies but I do not sense much in the way of joy, humor, and beauty in the works of Dostoyevsky that I have read.

I have only read The Idiot and Crime and Punishment so I have a very limited basis from which to draw, but it is in the combining of the joy, humor, and beauty with the flaws and dark side of humanity and society that makes for me special Dickensian experience.

Shakespeare has dark and light, humor, joy, and beauty but it is all wrapped up in so very much hyperbole and intellectual brouhaha that I stick to Dickens and let the rest of the world go its way.

Also Dickens allows for times of bathos / pathos that is rare and I enjoy that too.

jul 29, 2007, 6:44pm

Hi Urquhart, just wanted to let you know I am still reading-- I haven't forgotten the group :-) Life has gotten crazy lately and I was trying to stay away from LT until I finished Harry Potter so as to avoid inadvertently stumbling upon a spoiler. I'm getting ready to dive back into NN; I hope it's not too late to continue the discussion and will be back once I have made further progress on the book.

jul 29, 2007, 6:52pm

Hi Litfan, Actually I finished the latest Potter book also and liked it. I do hope people at some point in their lives have the opportunity to hear Jim Dale read the Potter books; he is wonderful.

And of course the Potter books are very Dickensian in their characters fighting to be nice and to be against evil and meanness and bullies.

aug 7, 2007, 9:52am

Hello Urquhart and fellow Dickens lovers - was there ever such an unlikeable character as Wackford Squeers in Nicholas Nickleby? He embodies one of the things I love about Dickens. Dickens can create and characterize the most unlikeable people and we join the author in his revulsion of the character. Yet at the same time, Dickens can bring out a humorous element in the most despicable of characters so that we almost laugh and cry at the same time! Think about Mr. Jingles in Pickwick Papers or Pecksniff in Martin Chuzzlewit. We hate their deceit and hypocrisy yet smile while we do so. And I admit I smile every time I think of Squeers getting a good thrashing from Nicholas.

aug 7, 2007, 11:17am

Right you are, coliver!
I felt a deep revulsion for Ralph Nickleby as well, I must say, and perhaps even stronger due to his blood ties with Nicholas and Kate.

aug 7, 2007, 12:37pm

Wasn't it horrifying the way RN invited Kate to be hostess at his dinner and then allowed those men to ogle her and treat her as though she would go to the highest bidder?!

aug 7, 2007, 12:40pm

PLEASE! That scene made me sooooo angry!!!!!!!
But I guess it was exactly what our beloved Dickens wanted to accomplish, don't you agree?

aug 7, 2007, 12:45pm

Yes, I believe he did. What do you think would have been her mother's reaction if she had told her about that episode? It seemed to me she couldn't rely on her mother at all and probably felt her mother would not have believed her. In fact, Mrs. Nickleby really angered me, too.

aug 7, 2007, 12:53pm

Mrs. Nickleby is one of the characters I cannot stand, just like Mrs. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice or the mother in Sense and Sensibility (I cannot recall the name...having a senior moment, here).
I believe figures like that were/are created as an antithesis to the main characters, and in order to emphasize the latter's positive features.

aug 7, 2007, 12:58pm

But why always women/mothers?

Redigerat: aug 7, 2007, 2:45pm

Marise, I do not want to misread by implication your quote of:
"But why always women/mothers?"
Do you imply that Dickens' women are negative?

If so I would like to suggest that in Dickens no character comes off as real or practical; everyone is a charactertures (sp) much like a comic book but in written form. Even hot-headed Nicholas Nickleby is ready to get in a fight repeatedly to defend his sister's good name, etc.

As to women in CD they also are charactertures. Yes he portrays women as often doll like but let's not forget David Copperfield and Steerforth's mother and also her companion Rosa Dartle. Both are very Formidable women who have such strong characters that he fears them.

And there is wonder full Peggoty, and magnificent and practical Aunt Betsy Trotwood, and then of course his final wife Agnes. She is not a doll; she is practical; she is loving and caring and certainly far more level headed than David Copperfield.

Agnes is someone he must learn to love and rise to the level of maturity and understanding to appreciate and love.

As far as being sexist then Mr. Dick is certainly as mentally unstable as they come and Mr. Ralph Nickleby evil. So in summary as far as mental vacuity and being venial then the male characters would certainly have to be at the head of the line.

Hopefully my comments address the issue you raise.

aug 7, 2007, 2:55pm

No, I don't mean that his women are always negative and yes, I understand about his people being characatures (still not right, where is my dictionary??), but that I find so many of the women in Nicholas Nickleby irritating in the extreme: passive, silly, self centered, blaming others for their mistakes. I know that part of it is that I am viewing these women from such a distance historically. But I do feel that Dickens does not allow them the same depth of character that the male characters have.

I am not accusing Mr. Dickens of being sexist! Also, Paola mentioned two Jane Austen characters, and I was responding to that as well.

Please keep in mind that I am a relative newcomer to Dickens, so I have not read David Copperfield. I think I shall make that my next choice after Our Mutual Friend so that I have a more rounded experience of Dickens' women!

As always, Urquhart, you give me much to think about and inspire me to continue to read Dickens! Thanks!

aug 7, 2007, 3:48pm

Marise, my apologies for not reading carefully enough what it was you wrote.

For the record, I believe I should have spelled the word:......... caricatures....ta da! I literally could not find it in the dictionery and went to as always.

You mention re women that:

"Dickens does not allow them the same depth of character that the male characters have."

to which I would probably have to agree. And yet I would add in the same breath and redundantly that he really only deals with caricatures whatever character he creates.

But then again I believe you and I both love types since we both love books by people like Kipling (that I keep by my bedside) and Galsworthy ( whose Forsyte saga I have read 3 times)

If you do decide to read David Copperfield please do feel free to start a thread on that. Most everyone could add comments as you go along in your reading and it would be a great excuse to revisit old friends.

Please Note! One only reads David Copperfield for the first time one time in one's life. It is so special and precious an experience that I would suggest you allow yourself the time, space, and place to do so. Like fine wine, it is best savoured rather than gulped or rushed.

aug 7, 2007, 4:42pm

I too have read The Forsyte Sage at least 3 times! Truly one of my favorites.

I will take your advice with David Copperfield and try to choose a time when I can really savor it. And I will keep in mind your caution about the caricature nature of his characters!

aug 7, 2007, 9:43pm

David Copperfield is my favourite among Dickens' books.
I have read it at least three times - the first in Italian, when I was about 12 years old - and each and every time got completely and totally in love with the plot and the characters.
To me, no other among the Dickens' books I read is as fascinating and, yes, mesmerizing. I probably sound excessive, but I cannot think of other adjectives I would rather use.
Marise, as Urquhart so wisely suggests, dedicate time to the pleasure of reading it, because it is like a precious vintage wine, and you will want to appreciate it sip by sip or, in this specific case, page by page.

The Forsyte Saga is another masterpiece. I have read it once only, but I have the feeling I will have to repeat the experience to better savour the language and the depth of the characters.

I don't mean to cause a stir, but I have to admit I don't really like Kipling. I tried to read his Jungle Book more than once with no success. Perhaps I should try something else...

aug 7, 2007, 9:57pm

I went to a university lab school in grades 1-6 and our librarian lead a "great books" reading group for the advanced readers in 5th and 6th. One of the books we had to read in that group was The Jungle Book and I do remember feeling rather bogged down in parts, but I also remember liking it. That is also where I read A Christmas Carol for the first time. I liked some of Kipling's short stories, too. And The Light That Failed, though its been a long time.

aug 8, 2007, 9:07am

There is always Kim -please disregard incorrect Touchstone. Kim of course and The Big Game that in a way is still being played out so many years later.

And then also his poetry Road to Mandalay and others-please disregard incorrect Touchstone. There is something so wonderfully 19th Century English music hall to his cadences and pathos that make him easy to enjoy.

Since it is obvious that for many of us..."David Copperfield is my favourite among Dickens' books"...I begin to sense that we are all waiting for Marise to start reading that book and Start a Thread so we can all read over her shoulder with the promise of no spoilers......

aug 8, 2007, 9:09am

Sounds good, Urquhart. I can see myself peeking over Marise's shoulder...chuckling now and then, and cringing when Uriah Heep appears.....YUCK!

aug 8, 2007, 9:17am

What, there is a rock band in DC?! Just kidding!!!!!!! And showing my age. :)

aug 8, 2007, 10:01am

Mention of Kipling's Mandalay (wrong touchstone) made me nostalgic for the good ole days when I could drink a gallon of beer and tell my car to take me home.

There was a full bore English pub in Atlanta in the sixties and seventies named the Churchill Arms. It had a large picture of Queen Elizabeth II over the bar and from time to time someone would toast her in a loud voice. The place had room for about 25 people and every Friday and Saturday night there would never be fewer than 200 in there. There was a dart board in the back and someone was always playing. They had a men's room and a ladies room, but as the night wore on they somehow turned into two unisex bathrooms with the head of the line playing guard. Many of the people there were from Great Britain, consulate workers, and businessmen. I went because it was the only place in Atlanta you could buy real beer at the time.

Anyway, back to Mandalay. Every Friday and Saturday night there was a piano player, a woman in her fifties, who played drinking songs. The favorite by far was Kipling's Mandalay. When she played that everything except the darts stopped and everyone except the dart players sang. We would raise the roof, sometimes almost literally. It was marvelous.

Redigerat: aug 8, 2007, 5:55pm

Thanks Geneg.

Since I am the only person I have ever met that likes Kipling, it is especially nice to know that others do as well. The fact that the woman and patrons sang it heartens me and suggests that my tastes are not so anomic.

Today Kipling is known as a diehard colonialist twit who only wrote children's stories. And although I am against colonialism I do like his verse and stories and try to ignore the politics.

Wikipedia advises:

"Kipling was one of the most popular writers in English, in both prose and verse, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The author Henry James famously said of him: "Kipling strikes me personally as the most complete man of genius (as distinct from fine intelligence) that I have ever known."

In 1907, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English language writer to receive the prize, and he remains its youngest-ever recipient. Among other honours, he was sounded out for the British Poet Laureateship and on several occasions for a knighthood, all of which he rejected."

So at one point in time he was definitely not considered the twit that he is today.