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macdougall 2015-11-20 | Montreal Dickens Fellowship

Montreal Dickens Fellowship
for the best of times

Charles Dickens was as much a performer as a writer; in fact towards the end of his life he made much more money from his “readings” in England and the US than he did from his writing. For these readings he chose extracts from his books (or stories he had written) to which his audience would strongly react emotionally, and adapted them for performance. This is a re-creation of such a Dickensian performance.
The novella The Chimes was the second of Dickens’s five Christmas Books, each of which had strong social and moral messages. It was published in 1844, one year after A Christmas Carol with which it has much in common: the main characters are taught a lesson through a dream which shows them what the future could hold if they don’t change their ways: the wealthy Scrooge’s sin is that of greed and selfishness, and he is saved just in time for Christmas Day; in The Chimes the impoverished Trotty Veck’s sin is that of despair and believing the establishment propaganda he reads in the newspapers - he is cured just in time for New Year’s Day.

The book was written in the Hungry Forties, characterized by the sufferings of the poor and the attitude of the establishment that in general the poor were born bad and destined to go wrong.

Main characters in this reading:
Toby (Trotty) Veck – a poor ticket-porter
Margaret (Meg) – his daughter
Richard – a blacksmith – Meg’s fiancé
Alderman Cute – an alderman of the City of London
Mr. Filer – a political economist
Tugby – the alderman’s porter (in Trotty’s dream he is married to Mrs Chickenstalker)
Sir Joseph Bowley – wealthy land-owner and Member of Parliament
Will Fern – a poor man from the countryside, seeking his dead sister’s friend
Lilian – Will’s neice (daughter of his dead sister) (in Trotty’s dream she becomes a prostitute)
Mrs Chickenstalker – a shopkeeper (in Trotty’s dream she becomes Meg’s landlady)

Some terms explained:
Ticket-porter – a licensed courier or messenger
Polonies – slices of a large sausage (like baloney)
Pettitoes – pig’s trotters
Strutt’s Costumes – in 1796 Joseph Strutt published Dress and Habits of the English People
Flip –a drink like eggnog
Pinking – cutting cloth
Marrowbones and cleavers – an old custom whereby a bride and groom were visited by butcher’s men making hideous music
Stacks Image 10413
The Poor Traveller was a story published in the 1854 Christmas number of Dickens’s magazine Household Words.
It is a story of redemption and forgiveness. Richard, a soldier who has ‘gone wrong’ is persuaded by a charismatic officer to reform, and becomes a model soldier and a hero. When the officer is shot dead by a French officer Richard vows revenge, but when he eventually finds him he is able to forgive him.

Main characters in this reading:
Richard Doubledick – a gentleman ‘gone wrong’
Mary Marshall – Richard’s fiancée, later his wife
Captain Taunton – Richard’s superior officer
Taunton’s mother
A French officer – responsible for Taunton’s death

Some terms explained:
Take King George’s Shilling – agree to serve as a soldier or sailor
Regiment of the Line – a regiment which didn’t have a specialized role.
Black-hole – an unlighted cell for solitary confinement
Disgrace-jacket – presumably worn to identify a soldier being punished
Badajos(z) – a city in Spain
“The only son of his mother, and she was a widow” – Luke 7:12 - Jesus raises the widow’s son
Extinguishers – on the outside of houses, used to extinguish flaming torches