Wednesday, March 06, 2013

"Spring is Here, I Hear"

Here I am on the Tech Mall again--not a school day for me, just here to see a councillor. Apparently I need to take another Japanese class for an English degree. That and of course the other math class, which I already knew about. That's not so bad, I guess, since I do like Japanese a lot more than I like math. Though I can't help seeing the absurdity of a math and Japanese standing between myself and an English degree. Considering many of the English classes I took were over ten years ago, there'll likely be many aspects of an English education I'll be less familiar with than things from the Japanese classes.

One case in point--I know I've read John Stuart Mill, but I can't remember him well enough at all to see how Mill apparently saw himself portrayed unfavourably in the characters in Charles Dickens' Hard Times, which I began reading a few days ago. My British Literature teacher wrote his master's thesis on Charles Dickens, so it's not strange we're spending several weeks on this one author, though considering how integral Dickens was to Victorian literature, it makes sense in any case. But I was surprised to find the copy of the Norton Anthology I have only devotes around twenty pages to him, including just a short biography and one short story (I can't remember which one off hand).

So among the required texts for the class was a separate copy of Hard Times, which so far I'm liking a lot more than Oliver Twist or A Christmas Carol. The "eminently practical" Mr. Gradgrind and his blowhard friend Mr. Bounderby are pretty endlessly amusing parodies of someone, I'm assuming John Stuart Mill, and perhaps others promoting cutthroat utilitarianism.

Also supplementing the Norton Anthology is The Life of Charles Dickens, which wasn't listed among the required texts, but the professor assigned it anyway. He also didn't mention the author of the book, so I felt like I might have missed something announced in lecture at some point because no-one else seemed to question the mystery. I decided it was most likely the biography written my Dickens' friend John Forster, as it's apparently the most famous biography of Dickens, so I read the first chapter of that. And it was from this book I learned that Dickens was another hardcore John Falstaff fan, eventually buying a mansion at Gads Hill partly because it was the spot, in Henry IV part 1, where Falstaff and Hal commit robbery.

Apparently Dickens dreamed over the spot since childhood. Forster recounts this somewhat charming story told to him by Dickens wherein Dickens apparently encounters as an adult a nine year old version of himself;

"'Holloa!' said I, to the very queer small boy, 'where do you live?'

"'At Chatham,' says he.

"'What do you do there?' says I.

"'I go to school,' says he.

"I took him up in a moment, and we went on. Presently, the very queer small boy says, 'This is Gadshill we are coming to, where Falstaff went out to rob those travellers, and ran away.'

"'You know something about Falstaff, eh?' said I.

"'All about him,' said the very queer small boy. 'I am old (I am nine), and I read all sorts of books. But do let us stop at the top of the hill, and look at the house there, if you please!'

"'You admire that house?' said I.

"'Bless you, sir,' said the very queer small boy, 'when I was not more than half as old as nine, it used to be a treat for me to be brought to look at it. And now I am nine, I come by myself to look at it. And ever since I can recollect, my father, seeing me so fond of it, has often said to me, If you were to be very persevering, and were to work hard, you might some day come to live in it. Though that's impossible!' said the very queer small boy, drawing a low breath, and now staring at the house out of window with all his might.


It looks like I won't have a chance of starting at a university until fall 2014. Every year I wonder if I can hold out that long.

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