Charles Dickens
Little Dorrit: ABC TV, 27 June 2010, 8:35 p.m.
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Although I was a student then teacher of English literature and composition at all levels of the educational process, from primary to post-secondary school from the 1950s through the 1990s, I never really got ‘into’ the works of Charles Dickens(1812-1870). None of his books were ever on any of the curricula that I had to teach. The opening sentence to one of my all time favorite books in the world The Catcher In the Rye by J.D. Salinger placed my attitude as a young and middle-aged man to Charles Dickens and his books. That sentence read: "If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know about my life is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap..." As I got into late adulthood, though, the years after 60, according to one model of human development in the lifespan, I began to take an interest in Dickens, his life and his writings.

Tonight I watched the first of a new mini-series Little Dorrit. It was screened in the U.K. in 2008, in the USA in 2009 and now it was here in Australia in 2010.1 Little Dorrit was published between 1855 and 1857. It was, among other things, an indictment of the British system of justice. Virginia Woolf maintained, in a helpful turn of phrase, that "we remodel our psychological geography when we read Dickens," as he produces "characters who exist not in detail, not accurately or exactly, but abundantly in a cluster of wild yet extraordinarily revealing remarks."

All authors might be said to incorporate autobiographical elements in their fiction or, in my case, in their poetry. With both Dickens and I, though, this autobiographical aspect to their writing is very noticeable. Dickens took pains to mask what he considered his shameful, lowly past. I do not take pains to mask my life, my relationships, my religion or my mental-illness, although I certainly do not reveal-all. Dickens's own father was sent to prison for debt, and this became a common theme in many of his books. The detailed depiction of life in the Marshalsea prison in Little Dorrit resulted from Dickens's own experiences of that institution. The delightful Claire Foy, as Amy Dorrit, is an idealised character; this idealising of character serves only to highlight Dickens's goal of poignant social commentary. An important impact of Dickens's episodic writing style resulted from his exposure to the opinions of his readers. Since Dickens did not write the chapters very far ahead of their publication, he was allowed to witness the public reaction and alter the story depending on those public reactions. I, too, found, this aspect of public reaction important in my writing on the internet since I retired from FT, PT and casual work in the years 1999 to 2005.-Ron Price with thanks to 1ABC TV, 27 June 2010, 8:35 p.m.

Well, Charles, I can understand
your despair about society and
those seemingly unbridgeable
gaps..Yes, people do so stick
to their beliefs---assumptions
about life with their emotions
wrapped around them—their
faith, Charles, that’s their faith.
We all have our faith; for each
of us our faith decides what our
mountains are from day to day..

Yes, Charles, we all go on our
pilgrimage in search of eternity
as restless travellers in search of
our true selves often imprisoned
as they are in the greatest prison
of all---the prison of self.1 Thank
you, Charles, for so many things:
helping me with my writing, my
autobiographical self and listening
to my readers as best I can before
writing more in my serialized and
seemingly endless prose---poetry.

1 Takao Saijo, “Charles Dickens: His Novels and Society,” Internet Site, 27 June 2010. This term ‘the prison of self’ is also one found in the Baha’i writings which have been important to me for nearly 60 years.

Ron Price
27 June 2010