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Past Meetings | Montreal Dickens Fellowship

Montreal Dickens Fellowship
for the best of times

 

April 6, 2021


Our 8th Zoom meeting was very successful. We had 23 attendees. As always I want to thank our host, Norm Haslem, for making it all possible.

It was great to “see” everyone and get caught up. I want to welcome new member, Trudis Goldsmith-Reber and welcome back our San Francisco guest Claude Genain. I want to give a shout out also to past member Harriet Slimovitch who was also present.

Our discussion began with an informal review of our vaccination statuses. Most of us have received our first doses and are anxiously awaiting our second. Barbara S. wanted to warn us of the dangers of letting our guard down despite having received the vaccine as we are by no means fully protected!

Members commented on the photos I had sent depicting the ravages of smallpox. They agreed that although they were very gross, they really reinforced the serious consequences of this terrible disease!

We then discussed why we thought Lady Deadlock was so adamant about not seeing Esther again. Although we agreed she gave little value to her social position, it was her fear for Esther's and for her husband’s disgrace, that motivated her to keep her distance. She felt any subterfuge would be sure to be discovered by Mr. Tulkinghorn.

When Mr. Tulkinghorn revealed part of her secret in front of a large crowd , everyone detested him a little more. We agreed he was motivated by a love of power, for power’s sake alone, especially over the haughty aristocracy and perhaps over women in general.

We then talked about how dark the book is. It is so serious and deals with so many heavy issues. Louise suggested that this was due to Dickens wanting to strongly counteract the pride everyone took in the Great Exhibition of 1851 and really highlight the need for so many important reforms at home. By putting faces to the serious social, health, educational, legal problems of the day, Dickens had a lot of power to do a lot of good.

What a difference in the tone, though, from, “Pickwick Papers” or from "Nicholas Nickleby”! We did appreciate the comic relief afforded by the Bagnets and the Turveydrops!

When asked what the painting on Mr. Tulkinghor’s ceiling “Allegory” represented. Ellie commented that the word Allegory is used 14 times in the novel. An Allegory is a story or lengthened description of a metaphor or symbol. This suggests that the Roman pointing down from above has a story to tell. Judith suggested that he is pointing down in judgement on the evils of the world represented by the villainous Tulkinghorn. Others suggested that Dickens used this image as foreshadowing something bad to happen in this room.

Dickens used foreshadowing very often. So much so that not many were surprised by Mr. Jarndyce’s proposal (nor by Mr. Tulkinghorn’s murder).

Most participants were delighted by the proposal and felt that it was appropriate. A lively discussion ensued about large age differences in marriages . Lynn commented that these might lead to divorce while other thought the opposite. Judith pointed out that the age gap was much more common at that time, given that many women died in childbirth and many men were widowers looking for a family. In addition, marrying Esther would assure her ability to stay at Bleak House when Ada left. Also her disfigurement, lack of pedigree and illigitimacy might make her poor marriage material and he wanted to protect her.

Ellie felt it a bit creepy as he was such a father figure to her and Esther had had such hopes of romance with Alan Woodcourt. Others felt they would be very happy. Averil said that their having children would bring her much joy!! Claude commented that this was perhaps Dickens’s way of portraying his desire to question social norms.

Jo's death was perceived by some as being too maudlin. Others felt it really struck home Dickens’s message to all walks of society from the Queen downward ( including right Reverends and wrong Reverends) that they had best use actions, not empty preaching with confusing messages, to EDUCATE the poor and look after the sufferings and health of their own citizens!

Everyone seemed to like Mr. Bucket (or Mr. Bouquet) as Judith thinks of him. Tony felt that because we first met him beside Mr. Tulkinghorn and had a hand in the removal of Jo that he was a negative character but came to like him better as the story progressed. Harriet felt that his resemblance to “modern day” detective “Columbo” played by Peter Fauk, with his cozying up to suspects and reentering the room at the last minute with a disarming question, was remarkable. It was suggested that the writers of “Columbo” were , in fact, strongly influenced by Dickens!

When asked if Dickens’s portrayal of women was accurate, many felt it was ,especially in his minor characters. Lynn and Averil felt that Mrs. Woodcourt with her racial snobbery was true to life. Many have known dominant wives like Mrs. Jellyby or Mrs. Pardiggle or Mrs Snagsby or even Mrs. Bagnet. Judith reminded us that this suggestion of inaccuracy usually referred to Dickens’s beautiful young heroines of his earlier novels.

Our last discussion centered on the depiction of domestic violence in the novel. The bricklayers wife reveals to Alan Woodcourt that she had been beaten by her husband but that she forgives him. Judith suggested that this was all too common in Victorian days when women had no support or recourse. They were the property of their husbands and could be beaten ( lawfully even with a stick within a certain diameter!) We remarked on how Dickens used his influence to support women’s rights and broach even this serious but likely taboo problem of his day.

Philip concluded our discussion by commenting on how much he was enjoying Dickens’s excellent prose. Ellie made the comment that Dickens is even better when read slowly multiple times or read aloud so that we can really appreciate his mastery of language!!

We all enjoyed our viewing of part of the movie and agreed it was very well cast.

Thanks to all for participating!!!

Until next time keep safe and well,
 

March 2, 2021



Our Fellowship meeting this past Tuesday was another great success with 23 enthusiastic participants!

We want to, again, thank our generous host, Norm Haslem, for giving us his time and expertise ! We are so grateful for your help!

In keeping with the philosophy of always celebrating all good things ( especially in these difficult times), today I am celebrating his kindness by donating $100.00 in his honour to the “Tiny Tim” fund of the Montreal Children’s Hospital. I know Dickens would approve!!

We were very pleased to welcome back former member, Harriet Slimovitch, and recent guest Claude Genain from sunny California. It was great to “see” you both! Claude told us of the Canada geese that he has seen en route back up north.( Lynn told us that she has witnessed the arrival of some of them!)
Louise shared that she has seen a Blue Jay to add to my sighting of a Cardinal!
We all expressed our eagerness for the arrival of spring !!

Our meeting began with a general discussion about COVID and the vaccine status of our members. Some of us have already received the first dose and many have appointments scheduled. It was great to hear such positive news!

Some international branches have contemplated resuming “in-person” meetings, but here in Quebec, we have quite a way to go before we will feel safe in resuming our library meetings. We are so grateful to Norm and ZOOM, though, for allowing us to keep up our meetings while we wait for a safe return to “normalcy”. In answer to a member’s question, I announced that next year’s book will be “Hard Times”, a smallish book, but packed with so much history and food for thought!!!

I asked for feedback from members about how they were finding our replacing oral chapter summaries with on-line summaries. Thus far, this change seems to be working, giving us much more time for discussion, but please let me know your thoughts on this issue. We are flexible.

The articles I had shared on “Spontaneous Combustion” were well received.

As always, our discussion was very lively with great group participation! There was a consensus that Dickens was melodramatic to keep readers hooked but that it added to the enjoyment of the novel.We had a very energetic discussion about Esther’s disfigurement and the history of Smallpox, especially in how it relates to our modern day pandemic. Several members suggested further reading on the subject:

1.) Sylvia (and Carly): “Plague’” by Michael Bliss, Harper Collins 1941.( A history of Smallpox in Montreal) Nonfiction

2.) Sylvia: “Vent de Panique” by Suzanne Julien, Pierre Tisseyre 1997.Fiction

3.) Suzanne: “The Plague” by Albert Camus. Fiction, Year of Wonder, G. Brooks

4.) Claude: “ The Coming Plague” by Laurie Garret, 1994

5.) Lynn: “Doomsday Book” by Connie Willis, 1992. Science/ Historical Fiction

I have ordered “Plague” and “Vent de Panique” from Amazon for our library. I’ll let you know when I receive them. I live in N.D.G. and members are welcome to pick up these books( as well as any other Books and Dickens CD’s) from my mailbox.

We all agreed that Esther’s scarring lent a macabre element to the book and that, more importantly, his having three unvaccinated members of a broad range of society come down with Smallpox, went a long way to convincing the public to be immunized (Judith told us Queen Victoria had herself and her family vaccinated after reading “Bleak House”, as an example to her subjects). Indeed after “Bleak House”, the government passed legislature making immunization mandatory, adding to Dickens’s standing as a great reformer!!!

Our discussion continued with animated comparisons between the various characters who took on adult roles as children (Charley, Caddy) and childlike roles as adults ( Mr. Skimpole). We all hated Mr. Skimpole and commented on John Jarndyce’s disturbing “childlike” attraction to his seeming innocence.

Richard was seen to be childlike too in his gullibility in believing in Chancery. Judith pointed out that he was very well and likely expensively educated at Winchester so it wasn’t a question of lack of education. We all were impressed with his obsession with the case as a sort of addiction, not unlike gambling.

Mr. Vholes, as a realistic representative of lawyers, was discussed. Everyone thought he was using his family as a false front of respectability and was vampire-like and underhanded as his name and description suggests. When I suggested that perhaps he was just doing his job well (within a corrupt system), if a definition of the law was “To make money for itself”, members countered that not all lawyers, even then, were so corrupt. (Dickens had experience with unscrupulous lawyers as a youth and through legal battles over copyright issues). Lynn raised the point that though there continue to be corrupt lawyers today, most are honest and hard working. ( My son, Reuben, is a lawyer and is currently on Chapter 17 of “Bleak House”!) . Judith reminded us that the legal system in the Victorian era was in very, very bad shape compared to day!!

Unfortunately, we did not get to all our study questions, but I’m sure all would agree that our discussion covered a lot of “territory” and was most enlightening.
After a small break, we watched a part of our film, which we all enjoyed, it representing the book so well. Members found both Esther’s disfigurement and Krook’s “spontaneous combustion" well done.

I look forward to our next meeting, Tuesday, April 6, 1:00-3:30 P.M.
Until then, keep safe and well. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Happy Easter and Happy Passover!
 

February 2, 2021

Introduction:

Welcome everyone to our first ever ZOOM Dickens birthday party. I am so glad you could join us and I am very grateful to our host, Norm Haslam, for helping to make this a reality. Thank you so much Norm!

As you know we usually hold this event in “Dickens Place", the book lined back room of the Spaghetti Warehouse restaurant in Old Montreal, where Dickens is said to have visited in 1842. Although it is sad not to be keeping with this tradition, I think we all agree that we do not miss the often icy and snowy trek to our venue! Especially on a day like today, more guests can join us than we usually have and we can appreciate our ZOOM experience all the more!

I would like to express a special welcome to Louise’s friend Claude, who is joining us for the first time today all the way from the San Francisco area in California. Welcome! Its nice to think of our festivities extending so far and into such a warm, sunny area!

In keeping with the spirit of our parties, I have my program with me, as well as some yummy refreshments and some rose for making toasts. I also have a pineapple in honour of Judith’s presentation. Alas there will be no fund raising raffle today but I want to take a moment to express my thanks to all of you on behalf of the "Tiny Tim” fund of the Montreal Children’s Hospital to all of you for your fees and many generous added donations that have enabled us to make a holiday donation $750 (doubled to $1500 by hockey star P.K. Suban) on top of our June donation of $500! Our budget is strong and hopefully we will see our way to making another donation in June! This money goes to help families of sick children in need for medical supplies, drugs, accommodations, travel expenses and subsidies for parents who have to leave work to be with they child in the hospital. These times are so hard for everyone but imagine the nightmare for families of sick children!

Our mascot, Grip is overseeing our festivities and I have my portrait of Dickens and my red geraniums to decorate my space. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to enjoy a cake from Louise, but I hope you enjoyed the montage of cakes from bygone days that Sylvia put together for us. They really are impressive and we look forward, Louise, to many more masterpieces in the future! What a celebration we will have when this is all over.

On a personal note, we are all well. We had a hiccup with my husband Jack having a short hospitalization for some heart issues, but he is doing well now, back to work and busy as ever. If you are in need of Ear, Nose and Throat help, let me know. He is seeing well screened patients in person and also doing Tele-Medicine in between in- person visits.

We are anxiously awaiting the safe arrival of our fifth grandchild (a boy).
(5 minutes before the start of the party, my son called to tell me, his wife Erica had just been admitted to the hospital in active labor!!! )

Otherwise we are doing a lot of face-timing with our family and friends. I am doing lots of puzzles and games to keep my mind from turning to more of a sieve than it already is! I have been rereading all kinds of books from my shelves. Right now I am going through the “Anne” books by Lucy Maude Montgomery. I can’t even list all he Dickens references I am coming across. I especially love the more obscure ones that only someone with a somewhat increased familiarity with Dickens would have. Like the reference I came across yesterday to Mark Tapley (Martin’s faithful and optimistic servant and friend) from “Martin Chuzzlewit”.

In other news, my son Reuben in Toronto is now reading ‘Bleak House”, my 6 year old twin grandsons in Toronto really enjoyed watching “A Muppets Christmas Carol” and I have been really enjoying (along with many of you) reconnecting with the Jane Austen society of North America (led by our own Judith)!

Thanks to Mary Schurman for finding our fellow member and friend Gail, who was hospitalized in the autumn after a fall. It took me some time to find her but I did manage to track her down at the Montreal General Hospital. She was transferred there a few days ago from Catherine Booth Hospital. Although somewhat disoriented from all her recent transfers or perhaps from medications, and having trouble walking, she is in stable condition as far as I could tell . She did appreciate my call, and the love I sent on from all of us, asking what our next book was and expressing hope for a return to normalcy. She is confined to in a single patient room with no T.V. and, with COVID, no visits allowed, but she says the nursing staff are kind and she keeps busy by reading, really enjoying “Agatha Christie” right now. If you want to reach her, e-mail me for her contact info.

I hope that you are all keeping safe and well. Despite the awful weather today, the days are getting longer and February is a short month!! March will hopefully come in like a lamb and go out like a pussy cat, heralding the spring we so long to see!

May the coming year see an end to this terrible pandemic or at least an end to the high number of cases and a handle on the severity of the disease. There is a lot of reason for real hope for a much better year with new and improved vaccines every day, better testing, research into better treatments. Every day that goes by brings a world full of ongoing research as scientists learn more about the virus. We just have to keep very vigilant to keep safe and healthy and very patient and we must really try to take pleasure in everything we can.

Speaking of pleasure, Dickens has always been a friend and comfort to me in good times and bad. I am so pleased we can meet to celebrate his 209th birthday. We have a great program planned, so without further ada I would like to begin our festivities

Toast and Presentation by Louise:

Louise gave an excellent and fascinating talk on the history of medical research in the Victorian era and Dickens and Medicine, focussing on Neurological disease described in Dickens. It was an amazing talk and we all learned so very much!!! She then toasted medical research, a topic so vital to us all today!!! Thank you Louise!! Your talk was so informative but also inspiring in these difficult times! I look forward to receiving your transcript and will send it along as soon as possible.

First Trivia Quiz:

Our first Trivia Quiz: Identify the Novels, prepared by Judith was a lot of fun. We had to match phrases with Dickens novels. It was so clever and we all did very well. Thank you Judith!!

Toast by Sylvia:

This was followed by Sylvia’s heartfelt toast to the enduring quality of Dickens’s writing. Her appreciation of Dickens came to her later in life. She initially found his writing wordy and meandering. She appreciated Dickens in film. (There have been hundreds of adaptations of his work!). She especially was inspired by the 1958 version of “a Tale of Two Cities” with Dirk Bogarde. Today she is an enthusiastic member of our fellowship and the talented creator and manager of our amazing web site. Thank you Sylvia!!!

Presentation by Judith:

Judith then blew us away with an amazing history of the pineapple, a fruit enjoyed by Dickens. Her large font of information and entertaining way of speaking (without a note!), mesmerized us. We came away “drunk” with knowledge and looking forward to becoming drunk on “Pineapple Rum”, one of Dickens’s favourite drinks!! Thank you Judith! Cant wait to read your transcript!

Ellie commented that as much as she loves Dickens’s writing and the camaraderie of our Fellowship, she really loves how learning about Dickens leads to expanding her knowledge about such a wide and interesting range of topics!!!

Second Trivia Quiz:

After a 10 minute break, we had fun guessing about “Bleak House”, our current novel , in a second Trivia quiz Bleak House Chapters 1 - 30 (prepared by Judith). We all did really well and it was exciting to realize how much we are learning while we are having fun!

Ellie's Collectible Dickens Quiz:


We ended our party with a quiz based on Ellie presenting 20 pieces from her collection of Dickens figurines, Toby jugs, tea pots. plates, etc. Participants enjoyed talking about collecting and did very well in recognizing the characters and the books they come from. The jury is still out about Ellie’s mental health in her “relationship” with these inanimate objects!!!

Unfortunately, we did not have time for our third Trivia Quiz. So sorry, Judith!! We will save it for another time! Thanks to all for participating in our festivities. Thank you Claude, for joining us all the way from San Francisco. Please join us again. You are most welcome!!

I look forward to seeing you all in person. Keep well and safe! All my Best, Ellie
 

January 5, 2021


Introduction:

Welcome everyone to our fifth ZOOM meeting of the year. We have 24 attendees. I am so glad you could join us and I am very grateful to our host, Norm Haslam, for helping to make this a reality. Thank you so much Norm!

In keeping with the spirit of our usual meetings, I have with me my decorative “tea time” placemat, my refreshments, an engraving of Dickens, some samples of our Dickens library, a framed photo of Dickens and a water color of a red geranium plant. I have a bell for calling to order any disruptive ZOOMERS! I am wearing a Dickensian hat and sporting my geranium pin. Lastly I have my copy of “Bleak House” and a copy of our study questions.

I want to wish everyone a very Happy New Year!!!! I hope that despite our social distancing, you were able to connect in some way with loved ones over the holidays.

May the coming year see an end to this terrible pandemic or at least an end to the high number of cases and a handle on the severity of the disease. There is a lot of reason for real hope for a much better year with new and improved vaccines every day, better testing, research into better treatments. Every day that goes by brings a world full of ongoing research as scientists learn more about the virus. We just have to keep very vigilant to keep safe and healthy and very patient and we must really try to take pleasure in everything we can.

On a personal note:

We had a very quiet holiday. Jack and I played a lot of Scrabble, did a lot of face-timing with our family and friends and walked at a distance with our Montreal son David, Erica and Aiden who is now 17 months old. We did manage to go up north to our cottage by ourselves for a few days. It was good to have a change but weird not to spend any in person time with my three out of town kids and grandkids as we always do.

Our daughter-in- law, Erica (David’s wife) in Montreal is due with their second boy Feb 7. It is very exciting, although we will likely be seeing him only through widow panes and on the computer for the time being. Unbelievable! but as long as everyone is healthy, I feel very blessed.

Despite all the craziness and having the 3 kids at home, Erin and Sam in Toronto have managed to both sell their home and buy a new house!! They are due to move in March.

Two of our sons David and Joey are family practitioners working on the front lines (David in a “Hot “ COVID clinic in Montreal and Joey in an Emergency Room in Plattsburgh) They have both gotten their first doses of the vaccine. Jack who starts back today seeing Ear Nose and Throat patients still awaits news of when he will be eligible. Reuben continues to work hard in his law firm in Toronto. We have had family Jeopardy games on ZOOM a few times.

I have also started meeting with my three siblings on ZOOM (one in Ste Agathe 75, One in Niagara on the Lake (72) and my sister in Scranton (69) (I am 65) to reminisce about our childhoods. We share photos and memories. It is something to look forward to.


I am happy to put my Dickens cap back on and reconnect with all of you. I so miss seeing you all in person and really look forward to a time when we can meet face to face! What a celebration we will have!! For now, though, I feel lucky to connect with you through ZOOM and e-mails.

I hope you have been enjoying “Bleak House”. Today, I will do a little housekeeping, then we will be looking at chapters 21-30 and discussing our study questions. I hope you have had a chance to review the chapters on our web site. After a short break we will be viewing the next episode of our movie.


Housekeeping:

Our ZOOM meetings have thus far very successful, with lots of enthusiastic participants. Thank you!

I have been having trouble with my e-mail and I apologize to those who have been unable to reach me. Thank you to everyone who sent articles, book reviews, sightings , cartoons and fun tidbits over the holidays. I will share these with you all once my computer is working well. I can now send and receive e-mails over the internet but my Mac Mail is dead. We are working on it though. Please do not hesitate to write me with any sightings or creative suggestions for surviving the pandemic with our love of Dickens intact and thriving.

Sylvia has been working hard to make sure all our questions; meeting and chapter summaries, essays and quizzes are all available on our web site. Thank you Sylvia!!

Our next meeting is Tuesday, February 2, 2021, 1:00-3:30 P.M. It is our annual Dickens birthday party and although we cannot meet at the Spaghetti Warehouse Restaurant this year, we will still meet to make toasts and celebrate his birthday. We will have Trivia Quizzes and perhaps some presentations but we will not be discussing chapters or seeing the movie until our March 2, 2021, meeting when we will be looking at chapters 31-40.

Ellie gave a brief review of two books she read over the holidays:

“The Darwin Affair” by Tim Mason. This is a gory, gruesome murder mystery featuring Inspector Fields, a true police officer, Dickens used to accompany on his rounds of London. Dickens based the character of Mr. Bucket on him. I did not particularly enjoy this book. Too gory, Hardly any reference to Dickens or Darwin.

“Haversham” by Ronald Frame. This is a prequel to “Great Expectations”. I enjoy the story. There was a lot of original book in it and an imaginative description of how Miss Haversham became who she was. Well written and fast paced.

Both these books as well as many others are available in our library. Call me if you want to borrow any.

I asked again if anyone has been in touch with Gail Ewan. I had continued to call her and e-mail her to no avail. I had communicated my concern with Ana from the M.C.L.L. office where Gail works as a volunteer. She was going to try to reach both Gail and Mathilda. Thankfully Mary Schurman told us that she had “found” Gail. She had had pneumonia and is currently convalescing at Catherine Booth Hospital.
(514 484-7878 # 64240.) I will call her as soon as I can.

Veronique, and several other members had planned to meet on line to discuss the Merchant House production of “A Christmas Carol”
Apparently they did not meet after all as there were too few participants. For those that did attend virtually, the consensus was that although it was a good show, perhaps it wasn’t as good as one man performances they had seen in the past.

Those that attended Andrew MacDougall’s reading at M.C.L.L., told us that they thoroughly enjoyed his excellent performance.

After, “Housekeeping”, we had a very lively discussion of our study questions for chapters 21-30. We began with comments on whether or not Mr. Smallweed is Jewish. As he is a money lender and wears a skullcap, it is a real question in light of Dickens’s history of antisemitism with Fagin. There were opinions on both sides and a final consensus was not reached.
Much of our discussion was based on comparing the marriages portrayed in the book and on the emergence of the new “nouveau riche’ society during the industrial revolution embodied in Mr. Rouncewell and his son.
Thanks to all for their comments and enthusiasm.

We all enjoyed Episode 3 of our BBC film.We agreed how well it is cast. The costumes and settings were also much appreciated by our members!

Thanks to Norm and all our members for contributing to our discussion and making our meeting so successful.

 

December 1, 2020

Introduction and Housekeeping:

Welcome everyone to our fourth ZOOM meeting of the year. We have 25 participants. I am so glad you could join us and I am very grateful to our host, Norm Haslam, for helping to make this a reality. Thank you so much Norm!

In keeping with the spirit of our usual meetings, I have with me my decorative “tea time” placemat, my refreshments, a figurine of Dickens, some samples of our Dickens library, a framed photo of Dickens, a red geranium and “Grip” our raven mascot. I have a bell for calling to order any disruptive ZOOMERS! I am wearing my fancy Dickensian bonnet and sporting my geranium and Dickens pins. I have my copy of “Bleak House”, a copy of our study questions and our three Trivia quizzes.

I hope you have prepared some treats as we celebrate the upcoming holidays. I have some festive greenery, my Hanukah menorah, a mug depicting the “Ghost of Christmas Present” and my Champagne/ Ginger Ale glass ready to make a toast to the immortal Dickens.

I know how tough it is for everyone to be separated from friends and family especially at the holidays. There is increasing hope for an end to the pandemic with vaccines, better testing, research into better treatments. Every day that goes by brings a world full of ongoing research as scientists learn more about the virus. Our job is to keep safe and healthy and patient and to take pleasure in everything we can. Recently two of our members (Carly and Judith) had occasion to meet for coffee and an exchange of Dickensian maps from opposite ends of a park bench. Both took much pleasure from this small “in person” encounter, striking home the fact that small moments of delight are still possible in this very tough time!

Ordinarily, I plan to share any housekeeping with you in e-mails, to free up time for discussion. Today, however, I am making an exception as we are not reviewing new chapters and are not watching the movie.

Our agenda today is: Housekeeping, Judith’s talk on Opium, Break, Trivia Quizzes on “Bleak House” and Dickens Open Discussion

I. Housekeeping:

Our ZOOM meetings have thus far very successful, with lots of enthusiastic participants. I have received lots of positive feedback about our new format giving us more time for discussion. Sylvia, who unfortunately cannot join us today, has been working hard to make sure all our questions; meeting and chapter summaries, essays and quizzes are all available on our web site. Thank you Sylvia!!

Norm asked us all to update our ZOOM programs to 5.43 or 5.44 depending on our devices. This can be found on the Zoom site.

I know we have all been enjoying the movie. It really follows the book well and gives us a chance to visualize the setting and costumes and it is very well cast.

I usually give a timeline of what was happening in the U.K. and in the world for the years our novel was written. It is fun to put the book into an international global perspective. This year, I sent it out in an e-mail. Please take the time to check it out! I also sent out Judith’s summary of her talk about Macbeth from our last meeting. Thank you Judith!

Some of you were excited at my suggestion of having a “group outing” online to view the New York City’s Merchant House production of “A Christmas Carol”. Unfortunately, the response was too limited and people few felt unable to commit to a show so far ahead. Instead, I suggest we get tickets individually if we are interested. Veronique has very kindly invited those who are interested to contact her so she can arrange a post show discussion. Please contact her: ronniegeoffrion@icloud.com. 514-661-0232.

For those of you who ordered maps before the pandemic, I apologize for the delay and thank Judith for organizing this during such a tough time. Let her know your addresses and she will post them to you. You can mail me $7.50 per map

Ellie Clavier-Rothstein
4552 Wilson
Montreal, Quebec
H4A 2V4

Suzanne asked if maps can still be ordered (one is of “A Walk Along the Thames” the other is “A Walk Through the London of A Christmas Carol”). She also asked if Judith might give us her own virtual walking tour of London. She reminded us of Susan Waxman’s excellent “walk” through London several years back. Judith said she will give it some thought and will let Suzanne have the numbers of the Literary Map Company. I reminded participants that there are excellent virtual tours of Dickens’s London on You Tube.
If you have any questions regarding the maps, contact Judith at: judithann.elson@gmail.com

Our next meeting is Tuesday, January 5, 2021 1:00-3:30 P.M.

We will be discussing Chapters 21-30 of “Bleak House” We will not be having “live” chapter summaries. You can find the study questions, discussion summaries and chapter summaries from both Spark Notes and Literature on line. Please do avail your self of these offerings. They will greatly add to your enjoyment of the novel and the discussion. We will also resume our viewing of the movie.

I have just joined “Dickens Commons”, a sight for Dickens lovers from around the world. It is organized by the founders of the “Dickens Project” and “Dickens Universe” out of Santa Cruz California. They will send notices of virtual Dickens events and discussions that are available internationally for free! (And those at a cost). I will pass this info. on to you as I receive it!

I have also just heard yesterday from renowned and talented Dickens impersonator, John Huston (who entertained us twice some years back at the Atwater Library) who is performing “A Christmas Carol” virtually. There is a charge $20. I will pass his info along to you in an e-mail.

Keep checking your e-mails and our website: www.dickensmontreal.ca Look under Schedule and Past Meetings and Future Meetings for summaries, commentaries and meeting notes.
Sylvia, who cannot join us today, is working hard, continually up dating our site.

I would again like to know if anyone has been in touch with Gail Ewan. I have tried to call her and e-mail her to no avail.
I will continue to do so. Gail, we wish you a speedy recovery from your recent fall. You are missed! Please let us know how you are doing!!
Timmy suggested we try to contact Gail’s friend Mathilda. Thanks Timmy.

On a personal note, I have been delighted to incorporate Dickens into my twin grandsons’ Bubby curriculum. I have performed both “Oliver Twist” and “A Christmas Carol” using my dishes and other Dickens collectibles. Lots of fun!!!

Judith, working as our London representative is working on renewing our London membership. I will be receiving the “Dickensian” magazine and you are welcome to borrow it along with any back issues or books from our library. I live in N.D.G. you can pick up and return without contact.

I hope I am not forgetting anything vital.
Renee I have your stamps and will be sending them out this week.
Please do not hesitate to write me with any sightings or creative suggestions for surviving the pandemic with our love of Dickens intact and thriving.

Thank you again Norm! Thanks to everyone for joining us! I now present Judith with her talk on Opium. There are some excellent YouTube videos on the subject. I will try to send you the links in the near future!

 

November 3, 2020

Introduction and Housekeeping:

Welcome everyone to our third ZOOM meeting of the year. I am so glad you could join us and I am very grateful to our host, Norm Haslam, for helping to make this a reality. Thank you so much Norm!

In keeping with the spirit of our usual meetings, I have with me my decorative “tea time” placemat, my refreshments, a bronze portrait of Dickens, some samples of our Dickens library, a framed photo of Dickens and a watercolor of a red geranium plant. I have a Sam Weller bell for calling to order any disruptive ZOOMERS! I am wearing a Dickensian cap and sporting my geranium pin. Lastly I have my copy of “Bleak House” and a copy of our study questions.

Please settle back and enjoy your own refreshments. We will be having a 5-10 minute break just before our film viewing.

As I mentioned in a previous e-mail, I have decided to change our format in order to increase our time for discussion and perusal of our study questions. Instead of having members read summaries of the assigned chapters, we have made links to summaries and analyses from both “Sparks Notes” and “Literature on Line” readily available on our website. I have also included these in e-mails. This will only work to your advantage if you take the time to read these summaries before each meeting. Having meetings once a month sometimes makes it difficult to remember the book from meeting to meeting. Also some members are either behind on their reading or have chosen not to read the actual book. These summaries allow everyone to participate in the discussion.

The movie is also a good way to keep up, BUT be aware that although the film is an excellent representation of the book, it does omit some characters and subplots. Some members prefer to hear the summaries read out loud. If we catch up on our discussion and members prefer to go back to “live” summaries, perhaps we will do so if the summaries are kept to 15-20 minutes. (This is indeed a challenge!)

I have also decided to extend our meeting time by a half hour, going until 3:30 P.M. instead of 3:00 P.M. Many thanks to our host Norm for accommodating us in this change.

Please try to join our meeting on time, so we can start as close to 1:00 P.M. as possible. I will try to minimize any housekeeping, so we can increase our discussion time.

I have e-mailed and posted on our website, a summary of the historical background to “Bleak House”. Please have a look at this commentary and give me feedback!

I recognize that it is much easier to sit back and listen to summaries and background and that having these on line may seem like homework. As you know my main objective is always to provide a fun and informative experience, but if we want to talk more at our meetings, something has got to give! Reading on line before our ZOOM meetings can also be fun!!! I will continue to share information in e-mails to free up time during our meetings. Keep checking our website: www.dickensmontreal.ca for summaries, commentaries and meeting notes.

I hope these changes help to increase our enjoyment of our meetings. Please let me know what you think. Your feedback is so important.

Our next meeting is Tuesday, December 1, 2020. 1:00-3:30 P.M. We will not be discussing new chapters until January. In December we will continue our discussion of Chapters 11-20 and of the film. We will also be having a Trivia Quiz. I will likely distribute the Trivia questions (based on the first 20 chapters of Bleak house and possibly on Dickens’s novels written prior to “Bleak House”) just before that meeting. We will not be having a guest speaker as suggested in our formal schedule. Judith will be giving us a brief a talk on Opium during our Dec. meeting.

I encourage participants to bring their holiday spirit to our next meeting. It will be our last meeting before Hanukah and Christmas.

Lastly, I would like to know if anyone has been in touch with Gail Ewan. Two weeks ago she e-mailed me that she had had a fall and was in hospital. She expected to be released by now. I have tried to call her and e-mail her to no avail. I will continue to do so.

Gail, we wish you a speedy recovery. You are missed! Please let us know how you are doing!!
I hope you are all keeping safe and well and remaining vigilant in your precautions

******************************************

Discussion Summary:

We were delighted to welcome 22 enthusiastic participants at our third ZOOM meeting.

Our discussion centered on our study questions.

Participants agreed that Dickens was masterful in setting the dark tone of the novel in the opening pages. The dense, smelly, pervasive fog clearly represented both the terrible social problems of the time (poor sanitation, poverty, disease) and the confusion and corruption of the chancery courts, permeating all levels of society. Some members agreed that Dickens definitely transported us to his own time with his very evocative imagery.

We are definitely hooked!

Chesney Wold (meaning hilly area) reminded some of mold or wall. In fact it was based on a real estate belonging to some friends of Dickens. Sir Leicester impressed everyone as a perfect representative of the old school. Participants had mixed feelings about Lady Deadlock. Some felt she was too bored and not despairing enough. Others could not see why her husband married her having so little apparent knowledge of her background. The mystery of the law writer was well prepared for us and we all agreed Mr. Tulkinghorn was very creepy (especially well played in the film).

Readers enjoyed the two narratives, feeling they kept the story flowing and easier to read. They liked Esther keeping the thread of the story, while the narrator could insert himself in scenes she could not have witnessed. All agreed that despite there being so many characters, they were very memorable. Many were enjoying the names that Dickens had chosen. Miss Barbary suggested stinging barbs, barbarism and even ruthless Barbary pirates. All judged Mrs. Jellyby as a poor mother despite her hard work on behalf of other countries. Many participants are cat lovers and appreciated Krook’s cat Lady Jane. Someone commented that Krook was similar to a hoarder.

One of the study questions related to similarities between the novel and “MacBeth”. Judith gave us a fantastic comparison highlighting the close similarities of both in terms of the use of darkness, murder, filth, death, shadows, candles, witches, poison, sleep, guilt, , omens, etc... Judith will be providing us an outline of her comments. Thanks so much Judith! You always add so much to our knowledge and enjoyment!

We all enjoyed Episode 2 of the film:
Here is the link: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/xy3f6s

After the film, our discussion continued. We all felt the film is excellent, very well cast with great sets and costumes. We all agreed that it is dark and hard on the eyes but historically accurate. All are looking forward to our next viewing.

Thanks again to Norm. I look forward to seeing you next time.



A summary of Familial, Societal and Historical Influences on Dickens's Writing of "Bleak House". (To read, click on "Read More" button)
 

October 20, 2020

Introduction and Housekeeping:

Welcome everyone to our second ZOOM meeting of the year. I am so glad you could join us and I am very grateful to our host, Norm Haslam, for helping to make this a reality. Thank you so much Norm!

In keeping with the spirit of our usual meetings, I have with me my decorative “tea time” placemat, my refreshments, a plate with a picture of Lady Deadlock on it, some samples of our Dickens library, a framed photo of Dickens and a watercolor of a red geranium plant. I have a facsimile of our mascot “Grip” and a bell for calling to order any disruptive ZOOMERS! I am wearing a Dickensian cap and sporting my geranium and Dickens pins. Lastly I have my copy of “Bleak House” and a copy of our study questions.

Please settle back and enjoy your own refreshments while we hear summaries of Chapters 1-10 from Louise and Judith. This will be followed by a brief talk from Judith on the Chancery courts and what I am sure will be a lively discussion based on our study questions. At our last meeting, I introduced the book and gave an overview of Dickens’s life during the years that he was writing “Bleak House”. week, I had intended to review what was happening in British society in so far as it impacted on Dickens’s writing of the book and finally to give a World Time Line for those years to put it all into an international perspective.

Unfortunately, with the viewing of the film, time is very short. Rather than use up time for presentations and discussion, I have decided to write my commentary and send it as attachments in e-mails between meetings.

Today, I will only focus on some very brief housekeeping issues. We now have 25 paid members, and have exceeded our collection of $500 for our selected charity the “Tiny Tim” fund of the Montreal Children’s Hospital, which I will be donating now instead of our usual June 2021 donation. Thanks for making this possible. I fully understand if you have opted out of membership this year. These are extraordinary times. I do want to stress that, however, that our ZOOM meetings are open to both members and non-members.

I hope you are all keeping safe and well, remaining vigilant in your precautions and trying to remember all the positives in your lives. We are so lucky to be able to come together in a spirit of friendship while continuing to learn and grow, even if it has to be virtually for now.


A Summary of Judith’s Talk on the Chancery Courts:


The Court of Chancery was in existence since the 13th century. The British legal system was divided into two parts: The court of common law and the court of chancery. They were meant to be distinct but in fact there was much confusion and conflict between the two for hundreds of years. Indeed, up until after Dickens’s death in 1870, the legal system was in a real mess! Laws were unclear, loose and out of date. There were many arguments. Only in the 1870’s did Britain see significant legal reform.

During Dickens’s lifetime, the Court of Chancery was headed by the Lord High Chancellor. This court dealt with, among other things, land claims and inheritance cases.
At that time, wills were not formalized or registered. When someone died and the “will” was challenged, the case often became very involved. The rules were often unclear and the processing of claims was extremely slow. Often claimants died before a judgement could be made, passing the suit onto further generations. Lawyers, who worked for fees, had a vested interested in dragging out the cases. Often the entire challenged inheritance was eaten up in lawyer’s fees and court costs, leaving the claimants penniless.

The chancery courts were also responsible for the welfare of “lunatic’ and orphaned claimants. They provided shelter, housing, career counseling and guardianship when needed.


Many thanks to Judith for helping to make sense of the British legal system as presented in these chapters!

Louise and Judith then gave us very detailed and informative chapter summaries. This was no small feat, as the first ten chapters are packed with introductions to many characters, themes plots and subplots. Thanks so much for all your efforts!!

If you did not attend the meeting, chapter summaries are available on our web site: www.dickensmontreal.ca under the heading Dickens’s novels: Bleak House. Here you will find summaries and analyses in Cliff Notes, Schmoop Notes, etc.

Unfortunately, we did not have time to formally discuss our study questions before we viewed the 2005 BBC version of Bleak House. Here is a link to the movie

Bleak House Movie Episode 1 https://www.dailymotion.com/video/xy32gt

 

September 8, 2020

Welcome everyone to our first ZOOM meeting of the year. I am so glad you could join us and I am very grateful to our host, Norm Haslam, for helping to make this a reality. Thank you so much Norm!

(Norm, recommended to us by Judith E., retired after spending 35 years working in education as an audio-visual technician at (formerly) Quebec’s largest exemplary Centennial Regional High School on the south shore. He spent 14 years volunteering as a community television producer and host of a talk show titled “Wake–Up”. He is currently a licensed lay worship leader with the United Church of Canada. During the pandemic, he has been volunteering as a ZOOM host for M.C.L.L. (McGill Community for Lifelong Learning).

In keeping with the spirit of our usual meetings, I have with me my decorative “tea time” placemat, my refreshments, a figurine of Charles Dickens, our newest addition to our Dickens library: “The Mystery of Charles Dickens” by A. N. Wilson, my copy and several C.D.’s of “Bleak House”, a framed photo of Dickens and a watercolor of a red geranium plant. I am wearing my Dickens hat and sporting my geranium pin.

Please settle back and enjoy your own refreshments while I review our past year, give you a preview of next year, and introduce you to our book of the year: “Bleak House”

First I would like to acknowledge the extraordinary changes that have befallen us. Last year, when the word Corona brought images of golden rays around the sun, personal protective equipment meant raincoats and umbrellas, and zoom meant racing somewhere, we enjoyed discussing “David Copperfield” up close and in person amid our lively group of kindred spirits.

We visited Finnegan’s Market in Hudson for a Dickens Treasure Hunt, followed by a lovely tea at “Clarence and Cripp’s British Emporium”, we met our new mascot “Grip” the raven, brunched at ‘Tutti Frutti” restaurant before our delightful viewing of Ronnie Burkett’s one-man marionette performance of “A Christmas Carol” at the Centaur Theatre, feasted on candy canes and Chanukah gelt at our Christmas luncheon at “Ye Olde Orchard Pub”, while we were entertained by Judith E’s talk on Port wine, challenged ourselves in a Dickens trivia quiz and raffled off a slew of fun prizes to raise money for the “Tiny Tim” Fund of the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Our Dickens birthday party in Old Montreal was great fun as we listened to spell- binding readings from Dickens and were treated to another amazing Dickens cake selected with love by Louise! Throughout all, our learning about Dickens never ceased but as always, the warm camaraderie made our group so special!

It seems like so long ago!!! Who among us would have ever imagined that our entire planet would be turned upside down within the year? Some would say it has been the “Worst of Times”. Certainly it has been the “Worser of Times”(sorry Dickens).
Then of course, reality sank in and we realized that COVID was here to stay for the foreseeable future. Our remaining year was cancelled, except for our highly successful ZOOM Victorian tea in June. Since then all communication has been by phone or on line. I have been in touch with most of our 34 members. Everyone, thankfully, is keeping safe and well, despite the enormous stress. I really appreciate hearing news of how you are all doing.

We were to have had several speakers last spring. I will be contacting them to see if a ZOOM talk might be arranged for this year. Of course once the danger is over, we will have a BIG PARTY!!!! and plan more great events (perhaps a weekend retreat to New York City to see “A Christmas Carol” at the Merchant House or to Trenton, Ontario for their, Christmas Dickens festival). I cant wait until we can organize a group outing to see the newly released movie “David Copperfield”!

In the meantime, while no one can deny the hardships and tragedies of this extraordinary situation, we must remain vigilant in our precautions and remember all the positives in our lives. We are so lucky to be able to come together in a spirit of friendship while continuing to learn and grow, even if it has to be virtually for now.

Our agenda for today’s meeting:
Housekeeping
Introduction to “Bleak House”
Break
Dickens’s life while writing the novel

 

February 4, 2020

21 of us gathered at the L’Usine de Spaghetti Restaurant in Old Montreal to celebrate Charles Dickens’s 208th birthday. Several of our members brought friends and family who were most welcome. We assembled in the historic “Dickens Place” at the back of the restaurant where Dickens himself is said to have spent time writing in 1842. As always, the food and service were wonderful.

After an introduction and review of our year to date and preview of what is to come by Ellie, she then presented a book on Dickens and Christmas to Margaret who had won our Christmas Dickens trivia quiz but who had to leave that luncheon early. Small gifts (“Pickwick" tea and biscuits) were then presented to our chapter summarizers, Louise, Margaret and Judith with much thanks.

A toast to the Fellowship was then made by Louise. She reviewed an excellent article she had read about what makes Dickens relevant to readers today. Thank you Louise! Margaret then read a rousing excerpt from Nicholas Nickleby in which her favourite heroine Kate Nickleby stood up to her evil uncle Ralph. All were spellbound by Margaret’s beautiful voice as she performed as multiple characters. Thank you Margaret! After our meal, Sylvia gave a toast to the Immortal Memory and to Ellie and reviewed an article by Alex Hudson written for the BBC news magazine in which he discussed six things Dickens gave the modern world. So interesting. Thank you Sylvia!

Our Dickens trivia quiz, prepared by Judith, challenged us to match 20 Dickens characters with their occupations. It was great fun! Sylvia (with Margaret at her side) won the quiz and was presented with a book of Dickens quotes.

Judith then thoroughly entertained us with an excerpt from “Great Expectations” in which we are introduced to the Gargery family. Thank you Judith for reminding us how wonderful it is to hear Dickens read aloud!!

Our meal was capped off by the presentation of the one of our most beautiful birthday cakes to date. It was amazing!! and so delicious!! Thank you Louise for arranging our venue and designing this David Copperfield masterpiece!!!

We then raffled off the many presents our members had generously donated, which included, books, bread, soap, candles, cookies, scarf,,etc..raising $129.00 for the Tiny Tim Fund of the Montreal Children’s Hospital!

Thank you to everyone from the Montreal Dickens Fellowship and from the L’Usine de Spaghetti Restaurant for helping to make this event so special!!!

Please check out the photos on our website photo gallery Dickens' Birthday Luncheon 2020.
 

January 7, 2020

 

December 3, 2019

On a cold winter afternoon in December, 30 of us gathered at Ye Olde Orchard Pub for our Holiday luncheon. We were seated in a private back room adorned with a giant fiddle on the ceiling. Our tables were decorated with centrepieces sporting characters from Dickens novels, candy canes and Chanukah gelt (chocolate coins) and there was a ledge displaying the many raffle prizes that our members so generously donated. Ellie welcomed everyone and wished everyone the happiest of holidays. After ordering from their large and varied menu, Judith gave us a very informative and entertaining talk on port wine. Thank you Judith. We all learned so much. Tables then competed to identify the Dickens character decorations at each table.

A trivia quiz was lots of fun, with Margaret winning, although she had to leave before claiming her prize. Our raffle raised almost a hundred dollars for the Tiny Tim Fund of the Montreal Children’s hospital.

The food was great with very generous portions. Our venue was snug and occasionally draughty but a very jolly time was had by all.

Many thanks to everyone for helping to make our party so much fun.
Wishing everyone a happy holiday filled with good cheer!

Please check out the photos on our website photo gallery Ye Olde Orchard Pub December 2019.
 

November 24, 2019

Centaur Theatre, Performance of "Little Dickens"
Brunch at the Tutti Frutti Restaurant, 56 Notre Dame West at 10:00
Pre-show "Chat Up" at 12:30
Show starting at 2:00

Photos: "Little Dickens"

 

October 19, 2019

On a gorgeous autumn day with the fall colours at their peak, and the sun warming the slightly “crispy” air, 17 of us, sporting images of Dickens, descended upon Finnegan’s Market in Hudson, for our annual Dickens Treasure Hunt. We divided into teams and spent ~ 2 hours browsing amid the colourful stalls for those elusive Dickens plates, toby juts, door stops, wall hangings, books etc. 7 items were found by our winning team!!! Good job!! Many of us did some browsing and shopping in Hudson as well.

A Dickens plate was awarded to the winners at Clarence and Cripps' beautiful British Emporium where we all enjoyed a most delicious lunch. We were joined by Charlotte’s special friend, our new fellowship mascot, life-size puppet GRIP the raven!! Many thanks to owners, Nicky and Derrick for helping to make our outing such a success.

Thanks to all our participants for making our day so special!! We all had fun and look forward to many more outings! Follow the link to view photos: Finnegan's Market 2019
 

September 24, 2019

We were very pleased to welcome over 20 members at our second meeting of the year (with regrets from over 5). A special welcome to new member Meredith Alston.

A figurine of Daniel Peggoty adorned our table. Copies of DVDs and books covered our sideboard. The first half of our meeting was devoted to housekeeping, planning for our upcoming events, sightings, etc…

20 of us will be going on our Dickens treasure hunt in a few weeks! So far 9 members have bought tickets for the Centaur for Nov.. We have 20 seats reserved. Many members have pledged to buy tickets at our Nov.5 meeting. A search for venues for our Christmas party and June Victorian tea are still underway! We all signed a card for Lise that Charlotte will deliver.

Ellie then gave a review of the U.K. and world history for 1849/50. After our break, Judith gave a wonderful summary of Chapters 1-4. Thank you so much Judith! We then looked at some of our prepared questions. Thanks to all our participants for another lively discussion and thanks for the yummy treats donated!!
 

September 3, 2019


We were excited to welcome back 22 members at our first meeting of the year (with 5 sending regrets!). A special welcome to new member Zsuzsi Kapas and to relatively new members Anne Greenberg and Barbara Silverman.

As always books pertaining to Dickens and “Victoriana” were on display and a porcelain figurine of David Copperfield adorned our table. After dues were collected, Elle distributed folders containing geranium name cards, our schedule for the year, the frontispiece of David Copperfield, study questions for our next meeting, topic selections for discussions, tips for presenting, a map of Dickens’s London and information regarding our chosen charity the Tiny Tim Fund of the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Outings to Finnegan’s market for our Dickens Treasure Hunt and the Centaur Theatre’s marionette “A Christmas Carol” were discussed.

Judith E., our London representative, reported on her visits with representatives of the London Fellowship and the Dickens Museum. Our yearly fees were paid and we now will be receiving the “Dickensian”, the Fellowship’s quarterly magazine. Ellie was glad to report that she had been in contact with former member Sam Browman who had lost his wife and fellow member, so sadly last year. He is doing better. Maura announced that the St. James Literary Society will be holding a tribute to Sharon in the spring. Charlotte gave her news of member Lise Dube who is having a hard time recovering from knee surgery. We will send her our get well wishes.

After our break, Ellie gave a detailed introduction to our book of the year ”David Copperfield”, including an outline of Dickens’s life in 1849/50.

The coming year will be filled with interesting meetings and exciting events. It was great to discuss upcoming activities while getting reacquainted with each other and getting to make new friends. ZsuZsi’s Baba au Rum was a knockout hit!! Thank you so much! We all look forward to another fun filled and informative year!
   

June 25, 2019

On a rainy, humid, Tuesday afternoon, 29 of us gathered, from 1-4:00 p.m., at the Burgundy Lion Pub's tea room for our annual end of year Victorian afternoon tea. Despite the rain, many of us sported colourful sun bonnets, (Thank-you, Sylvia, for the extra hats!). We assembled in their lovely, sky-lit, indoor terrace which was decorated with all kinds of greenery, china tea pots and cups and saucers. We were seated at a 2 long tables adorned with beautiful dishes. We all selected our favourite teas from a very complete tea menu.

Ellie gave us a review of our year's activities and a preview of coming "attractions" next year. Louise amused and educated us with a "History of the Cucumber Sandwich" and a lovely toast to the Fellowship.

Ellie then welcomed our guest Michelle Lefebvre from the Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation and presented her with a cheque for $850.00 in support of their "Tiny Tim" fund. Michelle gave us a moving account of how our donations are spent. Over the last 7 years we have raised $4350.00!!! for this very worthy cause.

After a delicious tea consisting of sandwiches and mini quiches. Judith gave us a very informative and entertaining talk on the "History of Tea". We all learned so much! Sylvia then gave a heartfelt and inspiring toast to Dickens and to Ellie.

We finished off our afternoon with mini cakes and scones as we raffled off many donated prizes, including 6 red geranium plants from Louise.
Thanks to everyone for their generous donations. Our raffle raised $128.00 towards next year's Tiny Tim fund donation!

Many thanks to the Burgundy Lion staff for their excellent service, to Michelle for her tireless efforts for children, to Louise, Judith and Sylvia for their wonderful contributions and to all who attended and helped to make this event so special!

Have a great summer and see you next year!!!
 

June 4, 2019

On a lovely spring afternoon, 23 of us gathered for our last library meeting of the year. Our table was adorned with a figurine of Dickens and our "old" Madeira bottle ready to be finally opened and served! On the side table were displayed a wide assortment of books including many on Victorian Medicine and two new ones for our library donated by Donna!(one on Dickens and one on Victorian London). Thanks so much for these great additions to our library!

After previewing our upcoming year (including our Dickens treasure hunt in Hudson, tentatively, Oct. 19 and a theatre outing to the Centaur to see "Little Dickens, a marionette show of a Christmas Carol, Sunday matinee, tentatively November 24, we discussed our donation to the "Miniature Portrait Fund". We raised $125.50!!! Thank you all soo much for your generosity!!! When Ellie wrote to the appeal organizers about the fate of our money should their goal of $180,000 Pounds not be reached, they thanked us for our generosity but said that they had just reached their goal and we should donate it to the Tiny Tim Fund. All agreed with this plan.

Ellie then gave a well researched and highly informative talk about Dickens, Victorian medicine and his impact on the Medical world of his time. It was accompanied by 100 colourful slides. It was well received and we all learned so much!

Finally the Madeira was opened and we toasted Dickens and our fellowship branch. Thanks to everyone who contributed to our little closing party! Hope to see you at our Burgundy Lion Afternoon Tea on June 25! If you can't make it, we will miss you, but have a wonderful summer!!

Further details about next year will be forthcoming over the summer. Next year's book is "David Copperfield" and Ellie will be moderating a study group on "Our Mutual Friend" at M.C.L.L. in the fall. Books are being ordered at Paragraph bookstore downtown. Call ahead to be sure they are in.
 

May 7, 2019


21 of us gathered at the library to hear Lise Dube's talk about Dickens's patroness, Angela Burdett Coutts. Books were displayed on this topic. As always Lise delivered a very well researched and beautifully presented talk. We all learned so much about this fascinating woman! Thank you so much Lise!!! After our break, and a discussion about some ideas for next year, Louise gave a beautifully prepared summary of our very packed last 12 chapters of "Dombey and Son", which was followed by an animated discussion about the ending of the novel. Thank you so much Louise for all your work on this! Next meeting we will bring up the old Madeira from the cellar for a final toast!

Hope to see everyone at our next two meetings, Dickens and Medicine, June 4 and our Burgundy Lion, Afternoon Tea, June 25.
 

April 2, 2019


16 of us met on this chilly afternoon. It was a "free meeting" with no presenter so we had a good chance to catch up on our "Dombey and Son" questions and discussion after Judith's excellent chapters' summary which really covered a lot of territory!! We also participated in a Dickens trivia quiz created by Judith. It was lots of fun!. We decided to do these more often. (Judith has a few more up her sleeve! Thank you so much Judith. Your enthusiasm and wonderful contributions to our group are so appreciated!!)). Thank you to all for participating in our very animated discussion!
 

March 19, 2019


Photos from event
 

February 5, 2019


13 of us gathered in the charming "Dickens Place" private room of the L'Usine de Spaghetti Restaurant in Old Montreal to celebrate the birthday of our favourite author, Charles Dickens. Despite the cold and icy roads outside, there was lots of warm camaraderie within. Ellie reviewed our year thus far and Louise gave an insightful toast to the "Immortal Memory" using quotes from Dickens himself. Thank You Louise!

Judith thoroughly entertained us with a gripping reading from "A Tale of Two Cities", in which Miss Pross battles with Madame Defarge. Thank you Judith!.

After a delicious meal, as ever accompanied by friendly and efficient service, we settled down to our second annual Dickens birthday Trivia Quiz. This year participants had to match quotations to characters. Judith won the prize (a Pickwick, Dickens plate), but everyone did fairly well. (It was quite challenging!!)

Louise then presented a beautiful cake for desert. It was covered with an image of a Dickens jug decorated with many characters from his works. (Thank you, Sylvia for suggesting this!) Surrounding the colourful image was a border of Victorian Tea Roses fashioned out of coral coloured icing. It was gorgeous and thoroughly delicious as well!

Our raffle ended the luncheon with a variety of small prizes, raising $58.00 for the "Tiny Tim" fund of the Montreal Dickens Hospital.

Welcome to new member, Barbara Silverman. Thanks to Louise for arranging the venue, giving the toast, ordering the cake and taking photos!. Thanks to Judith for once again entertaining us so well. Please check out the photos on our website photo gallery Dickens’ Birthday Luncheon 2019

Finally, many thanks to all of our enthusiastic participants for helping to make our event so successful!.
 

January 8, 2019


16 enthusiastic members ventured out in the slushy snow to attend our first library meeting of the new year. Ellie welcomed everyone and handed out questions for our March meeting. She reviewed our Christmas party at the Burgundy Lion and shared details about two invitations to our membership (Sherlock Holmes birthday party and the TO fellowships Dickens birthday party). Sightings were shared. Sylvia was thanked for her fantastic job on our website. Despite some technical difficulty.

Timmy then gave a very interesting and colourful PowerPoint presentation about Victorian bathing costumes.

This was followed by a short video on the newly discovered miniature portrait of Dickens. After our break (thanks so much Donna for the wonderful chocolates!) Louise gave us a very thorough yet concise summary of chapters 21-30 of "Dombey and Son". Thank you Louise. A very lively discussion followed . Thanks to all for your avid participation!!

 

December 4, 2018


On Tuesday, Dec 4, 2018, 24 enthusiastic members of our Montreal Fellowship gathered at the British Pub "The Burgundy Lion" for our Christmas luncheon. Seated in their lovely indoor terrace/tea room, light beaming in from skylights, we were surrounded by luscious plants and a pretty assortment of decorative china cup, saucers and teapots.

Each table setting was accompanied by candy canes and delicious chocolates. A side table held 14 assorted raffle prizes and guests generously bought tickets and made donations for the "Tiny Tim" Fund of the Montreal Children's Hospital. Ellie welcomed everyone and read an excerpt about "The Old Madeira" from "Dombey and Son", our novel of the year.

Glasses of Madeira were then distributed to all the guests (compliments of the Fellowship), which were thoroughly enjoyed while Judith treated us to a highly informative and entertaining talk about Madeira. Thank you so much Judith!! Sylvia then toasted Dickens, his devotion to helping the poor and his generous holiday spirit.

Our meals were delicious and the conversation lively. At the end of the meal, our raffle raised $120 for our children's cause. A big thank you to the "Burgundy Lion" for obtaining the Madeira and for their wonderful service and a big thank you to all our guests for making this event so successful and a hearty welcome to new members: Chris, Annette, Diane and Elaine!!

Photos from Burgundy Lion December 2018

Wishing everyone Happy Holidays!!
 

November 6, 2018


On November 6th, 24 of us attended our third library meeting of the year. After welcoming our guest speaker Donny Zaldin and his wife Barbara, Ellie reviewed our Finnegan Market Dickens treasure hunt, Willow Inn lunch and our first ever weekend retreat in Merrickville (with the theme of "Dickens on Holiday"). Both special trips were very successful!

As at our previous meetings, the bottle of the "Old Madeira" shared the table with us, not to be opened until our last meeting!

Judith gave us a wonderful summary of Chapters 11-20 of "Dombey and Son". Thank you Judith! As always, we thoroughly enjoy your enthusiastic style!

After a small break, we were treated to Donny Zaldin's excellent Powerpoint presentation on "Dickens as the Father of the Victorian Christmas". His talk was colourful, informative and entertaining, detailing why Christmas was so important to Dickens. Many thanks for sharing your knowledge with us! We were all impressed and enjoyed your talk and the lively discussion which followed.

Our next event is our Burgundy Lion Holiday lunch on Dec.4. Our next library meeting is Jan. 8 at the library (D&S Chapters, 21-30).

 

October 27, 2018


On a bitterly cold Saturday morning 14 intrepid Dickens lovers descended upon Finnegan's antique market in Hudson to join in our annual Dickens treasure hunt. Despite the freezing temperature. Our 4 teams had lots of fun searching amid the different stalls for those elusive Dickens plates,
pictures. Books etc....
8 items were found! Small prizes were awarded afterwards at the Willow Inn where we all toasted Dickens and enjoyed a fabulous lunch! Thanks to all for making it such a fun day and thanks to all for the beautiful mug presented to Ellie for organizing the outing!
Follow the link to view photos: Finnegan's Market 2018
 

October 2, 2018


15 members attended our second meeting of the year. "Housekeeping" included planning for our Finnegan's market treasure hunt and our Merrickville conference. Andrew's reading of "A Tale of Two Cities" was reviewed. New member Veronique was welcomed. Ellie then gave a timeline of Dickens's life and British and world history for 1846-47. Margaret gave excellent chapter summaries!!! Thank you!
A brief discussion of our questions followed. Thanks to all for your enthusiastic participation!!
 

September 4, 2018


Our first meeting of the year was a great success! 18 enthusiastic members were present. We accomplished lots of planning and organizing, and had a thorough introduction to our novel of the year "Dombey and Son", which included a timeline for Dickens's life at that time (1846/47). A figurine of "Captain Cuttle" adorned our table, and an assortment of books and DVD's pertaining to the novel and Victorian era were on display. Dues were paid, folders were distributed containing the frontispiece from our novel, chapter questions, our schedule,topics for discussion, tips on making presentations, info on our children's charity, the "Tiny Tim" fund of the Montreal Children's Hospital, and a map of Victorian London.

Ellie had recently acquired and passed around a beautiful first edition of the bound "Dombey and Son"( a true bargain at $35.00 as it is missing one of the plates!). Louise provided some examples of Audio versions of the book.

Plans for our Merrickville mini conference were outlined. On Nov 2, 3, 4, thirteen of us will be participating in a weekend focussed on "Dickens on Holiday". There is still room available!

Upcoming events include Carly's presentation on Nursing in the Victorian era, Sept 21, at M.C.L.L., Andrew Macgougal's reading of "A Tale of Two Cities' at M.C.L.L., Sept 28, and our Finnegan's market Dickens treasure hunt October 27.

Refreshments were served as usual.

It was wonderful to welcome back past members and welcome new ones. It promises to be a great year!



 

June 26, 2018


On a gloriously sunny and warm day, 36 guests gathered in the lovely story-telling garden of the Westmount Library to enjoy our 6th annual Victorian afternoon tea. It was our largest attendance ever, and although we were a trifle squeezed for space, a great time was had by all.

Our large U-shaped tables and additional small cocktail tables were beautifully set and decorated with programs, delicate china, colourful napkins and 12 potted red geranium plants. Framed pictures of Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria adorned a large side table along with flowers, cut-outs of Dickens characters and some copies of our books for next year.

Our refreshments prepared lovingly by a great team of members consisted of fruit salad, a variety of dainty and delicious finger sandwiches, potato knishes, bagel and smoked salmon bites, buttery scones with clotted cream and two types of jam, small cakes, cookies, date squares and mince tarts. Plenty of cold, sweet, lemony Iced tea was on hand to quench our thirsts in the hot sun.

Several of our guests wore elegant period costumes while the majority sported flower laden and colourful sun bonnets.

Opening comments by Ellie included a review of this years meetings and events and our book of the year "Martin Chuzzlewit" and a preview of next year's calendar and next year's book, "Dombey and Son". Our summary providers, Margaret, Judith and Louise were thanked as were Judith and Lise for giving us splendid talks and Margaret and Judith for reading selections on this occasion.

Louise then gave us some great background information about Dickens's favourite flower and we all toasted the red geranium.

Margaret followed with an animated reading from "Martin Chuzzlewit" about Mrs. Gamp's waxing and waning relationship with Betsy Prig.

We were delighted to welcome back MS. Michèle Le Fèvre of the Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation who accepted our $500.00 check to the "Tiny Tim" fund. She brought a giant "check" as a prop to take photos with.

Next we were thoroughly entertained by two young music students from the McGill Faculty of music. Leah Bethel sang a selection of Victorian songs, accompanied by classical guitar student, Max Badea-Hasasian. We were all blown away!

Judith then captured our imaginations with an excerpt from "A Tale of Two Cities" about Jerry Cruncher, a resurrection man.

Sylvia came next with a recollection of our past teas, a toast to Ellie and finally an eloquent toast to the immortal memory of Charles Dickens.

A second musical interlude delighted us as many gathered in shady spots to enjoy the concert.

Finally, our twelve geranium plants were raffled off. Congratulations to the winners!

Many, many thanks to all our food contributors and Margaret for coordinating it all. Our volunteers who helped set up, serve and clear away were fantastic. Thanks too to our ticket-takers, toast-makers, readers, musician, photographers and the staff of the Westmount Library (especially Louis) for helping to make our event so successful. All profits, as always, will be donated to the "Tiny Tim Fund".

Please view the photos of the Victorian Afternoon Tea 2018 in our photo gallery.
 

May 1, 2018


On May 1, 20 Dickens lovers gathered at the Burgundy Lion British pub, to celebrate spring, enjoy a delicious lunch and listen to Judith Elson give a most interesting talk on Victorian table etiquette. As always, Judith entertained us thoroughly and blew us away with her knowledge! This, combined with Ellie's reading from Martin Chuzzlewit, in which Dickens fiercely lampooned the American's lack of social graces at meal time, put us all on our best behaviour!!

As before, the Pub management and staff did a fantastic job in serving us and attending to every detail! Many, many thanks to Robert and to Fred for making the experience so seamless and pleasant. We all thoroughly enjoyed the private use of their new indoor "terrace", with its beautiful foliage and "tea" decorations. It was a perfect setting for our sumptuous meal and lively discussion. Participants shared stories from their own backgrounds and families as we sipped our "yummy" Sherry Cobblers, prepared so well by Robert as per Dickens's own recipe!( lemon juice, honey, sherry, raspberry juice)

Two bottles of Sherry, two candles and a book were raffled off, raising over $100.00 for the Tiny Tim Fund of the Montreal Children's Hospital. Thank you to our photographers and for everyone for coming and making this event such a success!! A hearty welcome to Dr. Carly Pepler who joined the Fellowship!

Please join us for our next meeting on June 5, at the Westmount Library, when Lise Dube will present one of her excellent Power Point presentations " The Women in Dickens's Life".
 

February 6, 2018


Our Birthday luncheon, celebrating the 206th anniversary of Dickens's birth, was held in Old Montreal at L'Usine de Spaghetti Restaurant onTuesday, February 6. It was a great success, despite somewhat limited attendance due to illness, poor road conditions, poor weather and quite a few members being out of town. Ten intrepid souls did manage to make it. As always the food was outstanding and the service warm, friendly and efficient. Thanks so much to the management for the much appreciated extras of pizza wedges. Each place setting had toffee treats and a program. Victorian hats and gloves were provided for those wanting to dress up.

Ellie welcomed everyone and gave an overview of the year to date and a preview of things to come.

Louise toasted the Montreal Branch of the Dickens Fellowship.

Dickens Fellowship Quiz 1
Dickens Fellowship Quiz 2

Although our readers were unable to attend, we did have our very first "GREAT DICKENS TRIVIA QUIZ". Each of our guests received a small package which contained 40 questions (divided into two parts) pertaining to Dickens's life and his works. Everyone had a lot of fun stepping up to the challenge! Congratulations to Mary-Louise Engels for winning with a great score of 37/40!!. She was presented with a plaque that will circulate among future winners.

Sylvia gave us a warm and insightful toast to the “Immortal Memory” of Charles Dickens and a warm tribute to Ellie for her leadership.

Louise presented yet another spectacular birthday cake, this one bearing the image of a Dickens character plate on a beautiful victorian floral background surrounded by blue flowers! Delicious!!!

8 prizes were raffled off, raising $40 for the Tiny Tim Fund! Please check out the photos on our website photo gallery Dickens’ Birthday Luncheon 2018
 

January 9, 2018


Our first meeting of the year was a great success. Despite being terribly hard to get around, with miserable traffic, slow buses and high snowbanks, 24 intrepid souls braved the elements to attend! Many thanks to all who made the effort! And it was well worth while. We got a lot of "Housekeeping" done before Margaret gave us her excellent chapter summaries. We all loved hearing her unique style and lovely voice. It is no small task to condense such a lot of material and still keep it flowing and entertaining! Thank you Margaret!!

After a short break for refreshments, we were presented with an excellent talk by Dr. Martin Bressani on the development of architecture as a profession in the nineteenth century. Accompanied by well chosen and interesting slides, we learned about the history of master masons and builders of the middle ages, through the renaissance up to Georgian times and through to the industrial revolution. Focussing on architects Soane and Pugin, we learned about the development of different architectural "Training" and different artistic philosophies. We even got a "tour" through the Soane Museum of Architecture in London!

Seth Pecksniff was examined as a representative of historically accurate architectural corruption which was rampant in Dickens day. We had an interesting discussion of why Dickens chose Architecture as Pecksniff's profession. It was suggested that Dickens was lampooning a topic very present in the news of his day. Perhaps he was poking fun at famous architect Pugin who was known to believe in the moral responsibility of architecture or perhaps he was reflecting his engineer brother-in law's disgust with the current architectural underhanded practices of unfair competitions and unscrupulous non-training of apprentices.

Dr. Bressani led us gently through this complex topic with obvious expertise in his field and a very well prepared presentation. Thank you so much, Martin! We all learned so much! At the conclusion, Dr, Bressani was presented with a cash Honorarium and with the book "Building Jerusalem; The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City" by Hunt Tristram. Thanks again to all of our participants!
 

November 28, 2017


The Man who invented Christmas

We had a very successful outing today! Lunch at Roasters was fun. I wore a top hat and cut-off gloves to set the mood. Our group was made up of current members, some old friends and some new ones. There were 15 of us and a good time was had by all! We were joined by another 5 participants for the movie at the AMC Forum Cineplex across the street.

Some of us had an impromptu gathering outside the theatre after the movie and discussed our reactions.

I liked the movie overall with some reservations. The settings were great (it was fun to see Doughty street represented, but his "study" decor seemed overdone).The costumes were excellent.The message of Christmas cheer was uplifting!

It did have lots of historical information about Dickens presented in a very short time. Many of us felt that our knowledge of Dickens's life was a real asset in understanding the movie. Many felt that the uninformed viewer may have found the movie confusing.Too much packed into too little time. Lots of characters with underdeveloped stories (his nephew as model for Tiny Tim, Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig, etc..) Unless you were well versed in the book itself or knowledgeable about Dickens's life, some viewers may have been a bit lost and missed many of the references. At times, I felt the movie dragged. Not quite enough humour for my taste and a little too much running around.

In general, I felt the acting was excellent, but I was a little disturbed by some of the casting. Dan Steven's height and piercing blue eyes were very un Dickens-like to me. Kate Dickens was a little too thin for my taste (she had 4 children at the time and was expecting their fifth.) I liked Miriam Margolyes as fictional housekeeper Mrs. Fisk. (I like everything she does) but I felt her role unnecessary to the story. Mostly, as she is a staunch Dickens lover and supporter of the International Dickens Fellowship, I felt her participation in the film, added some authenticity to the project. As did the participation of Dickens lover Simon Callow as illustrator Leech. Dickens's father was portrayed well but his importance to the plot seemed a bit exaggerated. Christopher Plummer was an excellent Scrooge and Marley's ghost was terrific!!

I felt that some aspects of Dickens life were overemphasized or historically inaccurate (his resolution of his difficult relationship with his father, his resolution of his past guilty secrets, turning him into a man determined to help his fellow man). Dickens was a very complex man whose demons followed him throughout his life. The writing of "A Christmas Carol" did not result in a rebirth of his character as is suggested by its parallel course with Scrooge's reformation.

As in the movie "The Invisible Woman", I was disturbed that the Dickens "novice" might take fiction for fact in this movie. However, I am happy with this endeavour, as it seemed to be a serious project, that might encourage people to read Dickens's works and learn more about his complex personality.

So all in all, a reserved thumbs up from me. Worth seeing but not earth-shattering.....
 

November 7, 2017

Fifteen of us gathered on this cool, crispy fall day to discuss "Martin Chuzzlewit" and, as always, a wide range of "Dickensian” and Victorian topics.

A warm welcome was extended to guests Phil Ehrensaft, Barbara Good and Nadia Khawandanah. Membership cards were distributed, multiple Dickens sightings were noted.

We reviewed our "Dickens Treasure Hunt" outing in Hudson last week and previewed Andrew MacDougal's upcoming reading of "Great Expectations” at M.C.L.L. ( Nov.24 10-12:00)

Bakers were organized for our Christmas luncheon (Dec.5) ( Thank-you Margaret!) and a tentative date was set for a lunch at Alexis Neon Plaza followed by a group viewing of the movie: "The Man who Invented Christmas"( Saturday Dec.2). Details will be forthcoming.

Judith E. gave us a wonderful and enthusiastic summary of Chapters 11-20. Her memory for detail and entertaining storytelling made this significant job seem effortless. Thank you again Judith! After breaking for refreshments of cookies, chocolates, tea and coffee, we had a lively discussion based on our questions. Many thanks to all participants who, as always, helped contribute to another fun meeting!

We had been invited to Judith Flanders talk at the McGill Library on the "History of Christmas" ( Nov.15, 5:30 P.M.), but the lecture was full. Ellie will ask that in addition to the 6 members who wish to attend being placed on a waiting list, the committee give thought to expanding the size of their venue to accommodate everyone
 

October 21, 2017

On Saturday, October 21st, 16 Dickens lovers, some sporting Victorian hats and all wearing pictures of Charles Dickens (thank-you Louise!) descended upon Finnegan's Market for our second annual Dickens Treasure Hunt. It was a crispy, sunny day with the autumn colours out in full force. After dividing up into small teams, we browsed and shopped our way through a delightful maze of sunlit stalls filled with antiques, crafts, fruits and vegetables and a wide selection of delicious homemade goodies.

We then met up at the quaint, newly re-opened Willow Inn in Hudson for a most delectable luncheon. Louise made a toast to our Fellowship and everyone thanked Ellie for organizing the event. We then compared Dickens sightings. One of our teams found 7 items (more than even Ellie found!) and they were awarded a ceramic wall hanging of "Mr. Pickwick". The service was wonderful, the conversation animated and the meal was memorable. Many thanks to all our participants. We look forward to our next outing in Hudson next fall!!

Follow the link to view photos: Finnegan’s Market 2017
 

October 3, 2017

17 of us met on a lovely fall afternoon to have our second meeting of the year. A toby jug of Martin Chuzzlewit senior adorned our table. Books were displayed and refreshments were served. Condolences were sent to Timmy on the loss of her grandson.

Sylvia announced that she is preparing our membership cards for the year.

Merrickville updates and Finnegan's Market updates were given.

Ellie told us that she received an offer to sell us the old street sign from "Dickens Street" in Old Montreal. Thanks to Louise for volunteering to pursue this possibility.

After a review of Victorian and world timelines for 1842/43, Margaret gave us an excellent summary of Ch. 1-10 of "Martin Chuzzlewit”. We then had a very lively discussion based on our prepared questions. We look forward to our second annual Dickens Treasure Hunt in Hudson Oct. 21.

 

September 12, 2017


Our first meeting of the year was very successful. 19 enthusiastic members were present. We accomplished quite a lot of planning and had lots of lively discussion. A figurine of Mr. Pecksniff adorned our table. A variety of books and films from our growing Dickens library were on display (including "American Notes" and "Dickens in America”). We welcomed new member, Jana Lackman, and returning member, Judith Bercussen. A thank you note from Lise was read. (She was ill last year and will give her talk on "Dickens and Women" this June). Dues were paid. Folders containing the frontispiece from our novel, chapter questions, our schedule, topics for discussion, tips on making presentations, info on the "Tiny Tim" fund and a map of Victorian London were handed out.

International Fellowship News:
The Cambridge branch of the Dickens Fellowship is also doing "Martin Chuzzlewit" and their questions will be circulated to our group.
The Cleveland branch is looking for a North American Dickens Fellowship meeting venue. We will watch their search with interest!
The next DF A.G.M. will be held in Sydney, Austrailia

Closer to home: Plans are underway to organize a weekend mini-conference for our branch to be held in Merrickville, Ont. for fall 2018. More details to come.

Our book for next year will be "Dombey and Son". Currently MCLL is offering Ellie's study group on "Oliver Twist”. Places are still available. In Spring term, Ellie will be doing "Nicholas Nickleby".

We will keep in touch with both the Jane Austen Society of NA and the Bimetallic Question (Sherlock Holmes Society) to see if we can plan joint events in the future.

Our Dickens Treasure Hunt in Hudson was discussed. Details to come.

Finally, Ellie gave a presentation on "Why Dickens? and Why Martin Chuzzlewit”. She gave a thorough background on Dickens's life in and up to 1842 and on the details of the writing of our novel.

It was wonderful to see everyone after the summer! We are all excited for another fun year!!
 

June 27, 2017


On a sunny/rainy Tuesday afternoon, June 27, 2017, 27 guests gathered in Victoria concert hall to enjoy the Montreal Dickens Fellowship's fifth Victorian afternoon tea. The occasional jarring clap of thunder notwithstanding, we brought the sunlit garden atmosphere inside. Several of our guests wore elegant period costumes and many sported colourful, flower-laden sun bonnets.

Our large U-shaped table was set and lovingly decorated by our dedicated volunteers with programs, delicate china, pretty coloured napkins and twelve potted red geranium plants (thank-you so much Louise, for hunting these down in the countryside!) Pictures of Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria and a variety of Dickens characters adorned side tables festooned with garlands of flowers. Even the stage was decorated with flowers, while our podium was draped with a lovely teacloth carrying the image of Dickens himself (thank you Charlotte).

Our refreshments, prepared by a talented selection of our members, consisted of berry salad, a variety of dainty and delicious finger sandwiches, bagel bites with smoked salmon, buttery scones with jam and clotted cream, potato bites and several kinds of cookies, muffins and squares. Volunteer servers were quick to serve and replenish our cups with sweet, lemony iced tea!

Opening comments by Ellie included a review of our past year and an introduction to next year's book "Martin Chuzzlewit". Our "Barnaby Rudge" chapter "summarizers", Louise, Margaret and Judith were thanked and presented with small gifts to show our appreciation. Ellie then presented Judith with an antique brooch to show how grateful we are for her many contributions to all of our meetings with her enthusiasm and extensive knowledge. Thank you Judith!!!

Louise then gave a heartfelt toast to our branch. Margaret was next with an animated reading about Kate and her uncle's friends from "Nicholas Nickleby" showing us that not all of Dickens young women are weak and helpless!

This was followed by our musical guest Ezra Poplove (Timmy's grandson") who delighted us with several cello solo pieces. He really swept us all away with his amazing talent and spirit! Thank you so much Ezra for helping to make our event so special and truly enjoyable!

Judith then read from "Great Expectations" giving us the haunting introduction to "Miss Havisham" which sent chills up our spines. After a thoughtful toast to Dickens (and Ellie) from Sylvia, Ezra entertained us again.

Judith then gave us a "reprise" of her talk about ravens and "Grip" in particular.

After closing remarks and many thanks to all our contributors, we raffled off several prizes donated by generous members and all of the geranium plants.

Many many thanks to everyone (including the Westmount Library and Victoria Hall staff) for helping to make our event such a success. (All profits as always will go to the Tiny Tim Fund of the Montreal Children's Hospital).

Please view the photos of the Victorian Afternoon Tea 2017 in our photo gallery.
 

May 2, 2017


On May 2nd, 19 of us (including members and several new guests) met to continue our review of "Barnaby Rudge" and listen to well-known Montreal lawyer, Julius Grey, discuss how the works of Charles Dickens have influenced his journey through life.

After a brief summary of past events, we spent a few moments previewing and planning for our Victorian tea in June. A "Get Well" card was passed around for Lise Dube who was to have given a presentation, June 6, on the women in Dickens's life, but who has had to postpone because of knee surgery.

Margaret Nicolai gave us a brief but thoroughly enjoyable summary of Chapters 49-73. Many thanks Margaret for all your hard work!

Our guest speaker then gave a very passionate and personal account of how Dickens's novel "David Copperfield" played an enormous role in his struggle to "fit in" and succeed after emigrating from Poland as a young boy. Indeed, M. Grey went on to describe how, throughout his life, his political and social views were often strongly influenced by Dickens's writing. We all were impressed by his tremendous familiarity with all of Dickens's works and by his vast knowledge of literature in general. Guests particularly enjoyed his engaging demeanour and the candour with which he shared his personal reflections.

After an interesting discussion about good and evil in "Barnaby Rudge" as it related to M. Grey's remarks, we presented our guest with a copy of "Charles Dickens and the Law" by Thomas A. Fyfe.

Many thanks to Julius Grey for his interesting perspective on Dickens's works and very thought-provoking talk!
 

April 4, 2017


Our first pub meeting was held Tuesday afternoon, April 4, at the "Burgundy Lion". 23 of us ventured out into the pouring rain to enjoy a cozy afternoon of warm camaraderie along with a small 'bumper' of Dickens's favourite warm gin punch as we all were thoroughly entertained and educated by Judith Elson's wonderful talk on "Gin”. We learnt how two hundred years ago gin was one of the worst enemies of the poor who drank it in vast quantities. Parliament tried to control its consumption but without much success. The history of gin is part of the history of England; it enriched a few and helped to impoverish many.

The atmosphere in the pub was delightfully British (as was the delicious food!), the service was excellent and the conversation very lively. We all had a wonderful time!

A bottle of "Beefeaters" gin, the book "Drinking with Dickens", a Pop-up book about the Victorian home and a CD of classical music were raffled off, raising money for our charity 'the Tiny Tim Fund" of the Montreal Children's Hospital.

Many, many thanks to Judith for "wowing" us once again with her lovely voice, extensive knowledge (not a note in sight!) and infectious enthusiasm. Even the staff were mesmerized!
Thanks also to our photographers and to Sylvia for helping in the organization.

Finally a big thank you to the management and staff of the "Burgundy Lion" for making the punch and for helping make the afternoon such a success.

Please check out the photos on our website photo gallery Burgundy Lion


Don't forget to mark your calendars for May 2, when Julius Grey, prominent Montreal lawyer, will be sharing his love of Dickens with us at our library meeting.
 

March 7, 2017


On Tuesday, March 7, our Fellowship's seventh meeting of the year was held in the Prud'Homme room of Victoria Hall. 26 of us were on hand to hear Dr. Joe Schwarcz speak about 'Science in the Victorian Era".

As always, a selection of books and tapes from our Dickens library were on display as was an assortment of baked treats (including a large tin of Hamantaschen to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim). Many thanks to those members who contributed to our refreshments!

Our meeting began with a brief review of our successful Dickens birthday party in Old Montreal. Ellie then announced that our next meeting on April 4 will be held at the "Burgundy Lion" pub, where Judith Elson will be presenting a talk on "Gin". see Burgundy Lion flyer

Guests will purchase their own lunches and drinks. A small sampling of Dickens's favourite Gin punch will be provided by the Fellowship.

New membership cards were distributed to paid members. A Montreal Fellowship "business card" has been created by Sylvia and is now available for those who want to "spread the word" about our group.

Once the "housekeeping" portion of our meeting was completed, Judith gave us an extremely well-prepared and fascinating summary of Chapters 31-48 of "Barnaby Rudge". As always, Judith kept us spellbound with her magical way of making our story (and history) come alive.

After a short pause for refreshments, "Dr. Joe" took centre stage with an amazing Power Point presentation on science in the Victorian era. His talk was highly entertaining and very informative, mingling science,history and magic (he even performed mystifying magic tricks!). Most impressive was the way he put a definite "Dickensian" twist to his material. Member Lynn Morgan took copious notes throughout his presentation and has kindly summarized them for us! Follow the link to read her very thorough summary of Dr. Joe’s talk on “Science in the Victorian Era” Thank you so much Lynn for all you effort!!

After a lively question/answer period and discussion, Dr. Joe sold copies of two of his books ( part of the profits, going to the Montreal Children's Hospital, Ellie purchased them for our library)

To thank Dr. Joe for his entertaining and informative lecture, Dr. Ellie Clavier-Rothstein presented him with a copy of Victorian Pharmacy: Rediscovering Home Remedies and Recipes authored by Jane Eastoe with a foreword by Ruth Goodman. This is a book filled with beautiful photographs from the BBC television series on which it is based, “The Victorian Pharmacy”. Since the talk was just before Purim, Ellie presented Dr. Joe with a pretty tin full of her delicious, home-baked Hamantaschen.

Thank you Dr. Joe for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us. We all thoroughly enjoyed your presentation!

Thanks again to everyone for making this meeting such a success. We look forward to seeing you at the "Burgundy Lion" in April.
 

February 7, 2017


Our luncheon celebrating Charles Dickens's 205th birthday took place on February 7 and was a great success!. Sixteen of us braved the extreme cold, snow and icy streets to gather in the back room of the Spaghetti Factory restaurant, known as "Dickens Place". As always the food was outstanding and the service warm, friendly and efficient. Thanks so much to the management for the much appreciated extras of pizza wedges and chocolate cake bites! Each place setting had chocolate/toffee treats and a program outlining the readings and presenters. Victorian hats and gloves were provided for those wanting to dress up.

Ellie welcomed everyone and gave an overview of the year to date and a preview of things to come. Louise toasted the Montreal Branch of the Dickens Fellowship. Judith gave us a lively and entertaining reading and presentation on "Grip" the raven and on the history of ravens in general. Margaret dazzled us with her reading from Barnaby Rudge, making the characters come alive. Sylvia gave us a warm and insightful toast to the “Immortal Memory” of Charles Dickens and a warm tribute to Ellie for her leadership. In honour of our fifth anniversary, Louise presented Ellie, on behalf of the members, a beautiful ceramic toby jug of "The Highwayman", found at the Finnegan's Treasure Hunt (so perfect for our study of "Barnaby Rudge”!) Wilfrid topped off the readings with an emotion filled selection about Barnaby himself.

Louise presented yet another spectacular birthday cake, this one bearing the image of a Royal Doulton Dickens character plate. Delicious!!!

We then raffled off prizes (thanks to all for their generous donations!), collecting $85. for the Tiny Tim Fund of the Montreal Children's Hospital.

Many thanks to our wonderful readers, Judith, Margaret and Wilfrid; Louise and Sylvia for their toasts; Charlotte, Wilfrid, Louise and Sylvia for their photos; Louise for the cake and organization of the restaurant and to everyone for the beautiful toby jug and for coming out in the chilly weather to celebrate! We missed those of you who were unable to attend, but look forward to seeing you soon! Please check out the photos on our website photo gallery Dickens Birthday Luncheon Feb. 7/17

Remember to save the date for our next meeting on Tuesday, March 7. It will be presentation by Dr. Joe Schwarz on "Science in the Victorian Era".

I look forward to seeing you then!
 

January 17, 2017


Sixteen members and one first time guest (Catherine Watson, welcome!!) attended our first meeting of the New Year. So glad to reconnect with so many members, especially as the date was changed with so little notice!. Thanks to all who were able to attend and my apologies for those who could not make it.

After reviewing our Christmas party and viewing of "Barnaby Rudge", we had a lively discussion about Masterpiece Theatre's "Victoria", which had aired the previous night. Several members recommended books they had recently heard about or read. Donna, generously added to our Dickens Library "The Mammoth Book of Dickensian Whodunits" (Mike Ashley) and Wilfrid recommended "The Reception of Charles Dickens in Europe" (Michael Hollington).

We then previewed up-coming events. On Feb.7, we will be having our Birthday luncheon in Old Montreal. Judith and Margaret will be entertaining us with selections from "Barnaby Rudge". Members were asked to donate raffle prizes. The doors open at 11:30 (lunch is from 12:00-3:00). Louise has yet again arranged to have what is sure to be yet another spectacular cake! Members were reminded about Joe Schwartz's upcoming talk in March about Science and the Victorian era. Several Dickens sightings were discussed including the upcoming film: "The Man Who Invented Christmas" (starring Dan Stevens who played Matthew on Downton Abbey)

Margaret then did an outstanding job of summarizing chapters 20-30, bringing us just up to the appearance of Lord George Gordon. After a brief refreshment break, (many thanks for the yummy treats!) Judith captivated us all with an extremely thorough and insightful history of the Catholic religion in Britain up to and including the Gordon Riots. Judith always blows us away with her knowledge and her clear and enthusiastic style of speaking, without any notes at all! We were all wishing we had had such an excellent teacher when we were learning history!! Thank you so much Judith!

Unfortunately, we were unable to get to our prepared questions due to the energetic discussion that followed Judith's presentation. We will catch up at another meeting.
 

December 6, 2016


Our Christmas Pot Luck Luncheon, held at Ellie’s home, on a snow-bound day was a big success! 22 enthusiastic guests attended, contributing a wide variety of special treats. Many many thanks to everyone for their delicious offerings!! Charlotte, your dolls were most welcome and festive guests! From party sandwiches, potato latkes and chocolate Chanukah gelt to yummy dips and salads; from gingerbread men, cookies, chips, nuts, pastries and mince tarts to hot spiced cider and port wine, our taste buds were tantalized with holiday cheer!

After an hour of lively conversation, we all settled down to begin our odyssey of watching the 6 hour black and white 1960 version of Barnaby Rudge. Everyone agreed that it was an excellent adaptation! It was very close to the novel itself, with great casting, acting, sets, costumes and scenery.

After our rich and sumptuous lunch, many of us had flickering eyelids and trouble focussing on the film and slowly but surely, our guests departed with regrets, leaving only three stalwart viewers by 6 P.M. Although we never watched the whole film, and no one had any appetite for pizza, we decided to call it a day and reconvene at some future date to finish our viewing.

Thanks to everyone for their contributions, good wishes and enthusiasm which made the afternoon such a success! Thanks also for your generous donations to the "Tiny Tim Fund" of the Montreal Children's Hospital. We raised $100.00!

A very Happy New Year to all and God Bless us Everyone!!


I have had several special requests for some outstanding recipes:

Helen Remai's Delicious Cheese Spread

1 pkg. (8oz/250 g) cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup basil pesto*
1/2 cup sun-dried tomato pesto*
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

Mix cream cheese & butter; add onion.
Line a 2-cup bowl with plastic wrap. Layer 1/3 of the cheese mixture on the bottom; spread with the green pesto; add 2nd layer of cheese mixture, then spread with the red pesto, and finally spread the remaining 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Unmold, and press pine nuts on top.

*I use the LeGrand brand which is made in Quebec, sold in pouches, and is readily available; however I’m sure any pesto would be fine. I have a friend who uses chopped sun dried tomatoes instead of the red pesto.

It’s also worth noting that spreading the cheese mixture is nearly impossible, however it really doesn’t have to be done very evenly as when it’s all finished the layers don’t show and the flavours meld together.

Herewith the recipe for Gingerbread Men from Margaret:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon white vinegar
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten

Combine butter, sugar, molasses and vinegar in a saucepan.
Bring to a boil and let cool
Mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Stir beaten egg into molasses mixture.
Blend flour mixture into molasses mixture
Mix well then chill dough, covered, in fridge

Break off 1/3 of the cooled dough, roll out on a lightly floured surface
Cut into gingerbread men
Continue with remaining dough

Place on cookie sheet, covered with parchment paper
Decorate with raisins or candies
Bake in 375F oven +/- 8 minutes
Remove and cool on wire racks


Some photos of the events can be seen at: “Christmas Luncheon 2016


 

September 27, 2016


On Tuesday, September 27th meeting was attended by 15 of us. It was yet another beautiful, sunny, fresh fall day. Those of us who had participated in the weekend's Dickens treasure hunt and lunch at the Willow Inn in Hudson were still on a high and our meeting began with a very lively recounting of our adventures.

As always, there were interesting books on hand. Members were particularly interested in a book entitled "Eating Out with Dickens", which highlighted inns and pubs which Dickens featured in his novels which are still in existence today. There were photos of "The Olde Kings Head Inn" in Chigwell (original for the Maypole) and the "The Boot", both in "Barnaby Rudge". Ellie brought in a plate featuring Dolly Varden and recounted how she had seen a Dolly Varden doll evaluated on the "Antiques Roadshow" for $30,000!

Judith then gave us a very entertaining and informative talk on the history of stagecoaches and horses. An animated discussion ranging from highwaymen and gun control today to "Black Beauty" and what it meant to be first, second or third class passengers.(..... First, get out and walk, second get out and push, third get out and push harder!....)

After a pause for refreshments, Margaret gave us an excellent summary of the first ten chapters of "Barnaby Rudge". Many thanks Margaret. I know your summary gave a lot of clarity to our members!!

Our review of our prepared questions led us to a discussion of the Maypole Inn, which led us to a discussion of cozy, social pubs VS technology filled coffee house which led us to a discussion of historic and/or favourite alcoholic beverages and historic pubs in the Montreal area!

Ellie suggested that we plan to meet in one of these pubs to get a feel for the atmosphere and to do research on some of these beverages!!!
Many thanks to all for a fun meeting!
 

September 24, 2016


On Saturday, September 24, 15 of us thoroughly enjoyed the fresh country air and beautiful autumn sunshine at a very crowded Finnegan's Market in Hudson Quebec (50 minutes northwest of Montreal). Some of us sported colourful Victorian bonnets and geranium pins. All of us displayed a portrait of Dickens and the name of the Dickens Fellowship pinned to our clothing (Thank-you Louise for providing these adornments!). We had many compliments and generated much curiosity and discussion about our group.

Pairing off into four teams, we spent two fun hours, browsing, shopping and hunting for anything that was associated with Dickens. Many of us made purchases ranging from shawls and table runners to scones and cinnamon buns. While we saw lots of very interesting Victoriana, there were relatively few true Dickens pieces. We did manage to collectively see 8 items directly related to our favourite author: two ceramic wall decorations of Mr. Pickwick and Bill Sykes, a volume of "Great Expectations", 3 Oliver Twist candy dishes, a Captain Cuttle figurine and a mug featuring Mr. Pecksniff! Congratulations to the winning team of Susan, Louise, Margaret and Judith, who identified the most objects!! Our winners got extra tickets when, just before lunch, we raffled off the three candy dishes. Our prize winners were Renee, Susan and Suzanne!

A 2 1/2 hour delicious lunch in the pub of the (sadly soon to close) iconic Willow Inn was a perfect way to cap off our adventure. Ellie was presented with the Pecksniff mug (a brand new addition to her collection!) as a token of appreciation for organizing our event. Many, many thanks to everyone for this lovely gesture and for your enthusiastic participation which made this outing so special! A special thanks to drivers Ellie and Timmy for making it possible for many of us to attend! We look forward to many more treasure hunts in the future!!

To see photos of our outing: Finnegan’s Market 2016

 

September 6, 2016


Our First Meeting Was a Great Success!

On Tuesday, Sept. 6, 19 enthusiastic members gathered at the Westmount Library for our first meeting of the year. I was wonderful to see old friends and to greet three new members! Welcome Renee, Lucille and Matilda!

Our meeting opened with a renewal of fees, review of summer events and a preview of the coming year's schedule. Ellie brought in one of her summer finds, an old biscuit tin sporting an image of the Maypole Inn! A small raffle was held for 9 geranium pins (leftover from past years). Judith E. will be in London next month and will be obtaining more pins for Fellowship members.

Folders were distributed which contained name cards, our schedule, illustrations from Barnaby Rudge (BR), topics for discussion, a London map, questions on Chapters 1-10 of BR for our next meeting on Sept 27, a list of references and information on the Tiny Tim Fund (to date we have raised $3000 for this worthy cause supporting the Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation).

Plans were discussed for our upcoming Dickens treasure hunt at Finnegan's Market (and lunch at the Willow Inn) in Hudson on Saturday, September 24 (10-4:00P.M.) We are arranging transportation.

After reviewing a hodgepodge of "housekeeping issues" which included gathering contact info, a discussion about membership cards, scheduling readers for our summaries, etc, we had a refreshment break, checking out the books on display and enjoying coffee, tea and delicious baked goodies provided by our members. Many thanks to those who brought food. We especially enjoyed Ellie's Bakewell tarts (apparently a favourite of Dickens).

After our break, Ellie gave an overview of BR. She then gave us a timeline of Dickens's life and of the world in 1841. Several members volunteered to give presentations at future meetings.

A good time was had by all and we look forward to another fun and informative year!

 

June 21, 2016


On a breezy Tuesday afternoon, June 21,2016, 30 Dickens lovers assembled in the lovely, sun-speckled storytelling garden of the Westmount Children's library for our fourth annual Victorian afternoon tea.  Several of our guests came in full, elegant period costume while many sported colourful, flower-laden bonnets.

Our U-shaped table was set and lovingly decorated by our dedicated volunteers with china, pretty coloured napkins and potted red geraniums sporting pictures of Dickens. Thank you Louise for hunting down these beautiful flowers( Dickens's favourite flower). Pictures of Queen Victoria, Charles Dickens and a variety of Dickens characters adorned a side table.

Our refreshments, lovingly put together by a selection of our members, consisted of fruit salad, a variety of dainty sandwiches,  a variety of delicious cookies and squares and large, buttery scones, served with cream and jam. Plenty of iced tea was on hand to quench our thirst.

Opening comments by Ellie (President) included a review of our past year and preview of next year (we will be discussing "Barnaby Rudge”). Louise (Secretary) then gave a toast to our branch. Margaret ( Vice -President) started off the readings with a very funny excerpt from "David Copperfield" entitled "David and the Waiter".

This year we were delighted to welcome musical guests, violist, Grace Takeda, and cellist, Stephen Moran, both recent music graduates of McGill University. Together they have performed in a variety of chamber settings encompassing many different styles. (They will both be continuing their musical studies in New York City at the Juilliard School of Music and Stony Brook University respectively). We were treated to a 20 minute classical music interlude. Many, many thanks to these talented performers who really added to our enjoyment of the afternoon!

Judith E. then continued our readings with a very animated reading of the first chapter of "Great Expectations", where Pip meets the convict Magwitch, chilling and thrilling everyone! After a spirited toast by Sylvia (Vice-President) to Ellie and to the immortal memory of Dickens, Wilfrid gave us a powerful performance based on excerpts from "Hard Times" (centred on the love story between Stephen and Rachel). We were all blown away by his great acting skills!

After closing remarks and many thanks to all the contributors, our afternoon ended with the raffling off of the 12 geranium plants.  Many, many thanks to everyone who helped in entertaining us, bringing food, setting up and clearing away. It was truly a group effort! Thanks also to the Westmount library staff and especially Louis (superintendent) for all their help . Profits from our event will donated to the Tiny Tim Fund of the Montreal Children’s Hospital. We have already raised $3,000.00 for them since our inception.

Thank-you everyone for helping to make our fourth annual, year-end tea such a wonderful success!

Please view the photos of the Victorian Afternoon Tea 2016 in our photo gallery.

 

June 7, 2016


20 of us were present at our last regular meeting of the year.

After some last minute planning for our upcoming Victorian afternoon tea (many thanks to Margaret for organizing our bakers! and for providing goodies), we were delighted to welcome as our guest, Ms. Michèle Le Fèvre, representative of the Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation. Ms. Lefevre gave us a very animated and heartfelt description of the important benefits to needy Montreal children and their families that is provided for by our designated charity, the "Tiny Tim Fund". At the end of her presentation we were very proud indeed to present to her a cheque for $2500.00 !, bringing our total contribution to date to $3,000.00 (over a 3 1/2 year period!). Many many thanks to everyone whose generosity has helped this wonderful children's cause. The plight of children was so near and dear to Dickens's heart. I know he would be very happy!

Originally we were to have had a talk about "Tea" as a prelude to our June event. Unfortunately our speaker had to postpone her presentation due to an unforeseen conflict. We were really grateful to have member, Susan Waxman, step up to the plate at the last moment and give us a wonderfully and thoughtfully prepared review of the time she spent in London this past winter on a homemade Dickens adventure. Complete with a map of Dickens's London, she guided us up and down the streets (her son had planned and accompanied her on this tour, researching the area very well!) With her great sense of humour, enthusiasm about Dickens and captivating storytelling ability we all felt that we were right there with them having the time of our lives!. She also gave us an illustrated guided tour of the Dickens Museum on Doughty street. So fascinating. Thank you Susan. We all had a blast!

 

May 3, 2016


19 of us were most fortunate to be treated to another of Lise Dube's wonderful Powerpoint presentations. This time Lise talked about Dickens's own brothers and sisters and their stories and details about all of his children (seven sons and three daughters) and their descendants. Her handouts were most helpful and her slides were colourful and fascinating. She is really an artist in presenting her very well researched information. We all learned so much and had a very lively discussion afterwards!. Thank-you Lise! I hope you have another presentation waiting in the wings! We are so lucky that you enjoy preparing these gems that we all get so much out of!

 

April 7, 2016


On a very wet and nasty evening, 10 intrepid Dickens fans braved the elements to attend our first combined meeting with the Sherlock Holmes Society of Montreal (The Bimetallic Question). We met with ~20 of their members at Westmount Library where a warm welcome and a feast of cookies, cakes, cheese, pate, port and sherry awaited us. After an introduction by Carol Abramson (emcee for the evening), the Sherlockians made a series of eloquent and informative toasts (to the Master, to the Woman, to Mrs. Hudson, to Watson, to the Society) punctuated by an interesting "show and tell". This was not unlike our "Dickens Sightings" with their members talking about books or articles they had come across. One member brought in some silver collectibles with images of Dickens characters on them (much to Ellie's delight!). An other member invited both groups to do a combined tour of the Chateau Ramezay (perhaps during the summer or autumn).

After a thorough introduction to the Montreal Dickens Fellowship by Ellie, invited guest speaker, lawyer and Toronto Sherlockian, Cliff Goldfarb, gave us a fascinating comparison of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens. He highlighted their similarities (both were important, very popular, prolific authors of their times, coming from dysfunctional families to gain international recognition, championing the rights of the oppressed, challenging injustices, both tireless self-promoters, shrewd businessmen, both with strong Portsmouth and London associations, both used serialization of their material and widespread distribution taking advantages of advances in printing and rail travel , etc...) and their differences (Conan Doyle was a staunch believer in Spiritualism while Dickens was a non-believer).

Cliff concluded by describing a seance in which Dickens was to have revealed to Conan Doyle the (as yet unknown) ending to "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" in which he reportedly told him that Edwin Drood did not die but was aided in his subterfuge by a clergyman. Conan Doyle firmly believed in this occurrence, but (much to the relief of our Dickens contingent) Cliff Goldfarb was quick to assure us that he was extremely sceptical!

Our evening ended with many thanks on both sides. We presented bottles of port to our hosts and to our invited guests.

Tentative plans were made to have combined events at least once a year! Many thanks to Paul Bilette, Susan Finch, Carol Abramson and of course to our guest, Cliff Goldfarb for this delightful and informative event!!

Minutes of the Meeting of The Bimetallic Question April 7, 2016: Follow the link to read the Minutes from Sherlock Holmes Society.

If Arthur Conan Doyle met Charles Dickens. A talk by Cliff Goldfarb. Follow the link to read the Article by Cliff

 

April 5, 2016


On this Tuesday afternoon, 17 members of the Fellowship gathered at Ellie's home to watch three episodes of "Dickensian''.

After a delightful light snack of party sandwiches, cookies, chips, fruits, vegetables and chocolate, we settled down to watch the B.B.C. "soap opera" which has been much touted in the media (although not yet available to Canadian audiences). While many were sceptical about such a melange of different characters and story lines, most of us found it quite delightful. Many found it somewhat confusing, but most found that if you just stopped trying to identify all the characters and enjoyed it for it's original plot alone (it is a murder mystery about the murder of evil Jacob Marley) it was very entertaining with great costumes, beautiful sets and wonderful acting.

Hopefully we will organize more viewings to watch the next 17 episodes!!.

Many thanks to all those who came bearing tasty treats!!

 

February 2, 2016


Our luncheon celebrating Dickens's 204th birthday took place on Tuesday, Feb. 2 and was another great success! 19 of us gathered in the cozy back room ("Dickens Place") of "L'Usine de Spaghetti" restaurant in Old Montreal. As in former years, the food was delicious and the service exceptional! Tables were decorated with colorful cut-outs of Dickens characters. Each place setting had chocolate treats and a program outlining the readings and presenters. Victorian hats and gloves were provided for those wanting to dress up.

Ellie welcomed everyone and gave an overview of the year to date and a preview of things to come. Louise toasted the Montreal Branch of the Dickens Fellowship. Andrew Macdougall gave us a lively reading of Dickens’s sentimental Christmas story “The Boots at Holly Tree Inn”. Sylvia toasted the “Immortal Memory” of Charles Dickens and Ellie for her leadership. We all applauded Sylvia as our very skilled Webmaster. Judith Elson and Margaret Nicolai gave us a very animated version of “The Magic Fishbone” a charming fairy tale written by Dickens later in his life. We all enjoyed the readings very much.

Louise presented yet another spectacular birthday cake, this one bearing the image of Robert Buss’s ”Dickens’s Dream”. It was a perfect choice as our last meeting featured a quiz about the images in this uncompleted painting. (Link to Dickens’s Dream and character key.)

We then raffled off prizes, collecting over $150. for the Tiny Tim Fund of the Montreal Children's Hospital. Many, many thanks to the Spaghetti Warehouse Restaurant for donating a $50. gift certificate from their restaurant as one of the prizes. The restaurant manageress presented this prize, which was won by enthusiastic member Tony D’Aristotile.

Many thanks to our wonderful readers Andrew, Judith and Margaret; Louise and Sylvia for their toasts; Charlotte, Louise and Sylvia for their photos; Louise for the cake and organization of the restaurant and their generous gift, and to everyone for coming out in the chilly weather to celebrate! We missed those of you who were unable to attend, but look forward to seeing you soon! Please check out the photos on our website photo gallery Dickens Birthday Luncheon Feb. 2/16

Remember to save the date for our next meeting on Tuesday, March 1. It will be an open discussion. Due to March break, the library has moved our venue to the concert hall (main room) of Victoria Hall, next door.

I look forward to seeing you then!


 

January 5, 2016



16 intrepid Dickensians braved the biting cold weather to attend our first meeting of 2016. It was a big success. Ellie began with some "Housekeeping" which included:
1) Wishes for the happiest of New Years!
2) A review of our Dec. 8, Christmas luncheon, with a heartfelt thank-you to all who contributed!
3. A reminder that the Fellowship will be reviewing "Barnaby Rudge" next year at the library and that Ellie will be moderating a study group at M.C.L.L. in the spring on "Hard Times”. She will ask Paragraph books to stock both books as they are hard to find.
4) A confirmation that "L'Usine de Spaghetti" is booked and the cake is ordered for our February 2nd Dickens birthday party. Many, Many thanks to Louise for looking after this. Members were asked to bring in raffle prizes to help raise money for the "Tiny Tim" fund of the Montreal Children's Hospital. A search for entertainment is underway. Last year the restaurant generously offered to donate a gift certificate to our raffle. Louise will be following this up. Members were asked to let Ellie know if they will need a lift.

This luncheon is open to everyone. You don't have to be a member to come. Participants are invited to bring guests if they like. Everyone pays for their own lunch. We supply the cake!! If you are planning to attend, let Ellie know.
5) Saturday, Feb. 6, is the Toronto Birthday Luncheon. Anyone interested in attending should contact Ellie for the details.
6) Our winter/spring schedule was previewed (see website/ future meetings)
7) The trailer to the B.B.C.'s new continuing drama, “Dickensian” was discussed. This new half hour "soap", based on a "mishmash" of Dickens characters, debuted on Boxing day. None of us has seen it. Ellie is going to look into how to get the B.B.C. channel.
8) We will be setting up a new meeting for those interested in working on a Montreal branch newsletter. Contact Ellie if you are interested in participating.
Judith Bercusson and Dr. Lorne Huston then gave a wonderful Powerpoint presentation and Quiz called " What Dickens Character Am I ? and What Book Do I Come From?" based on images of figurines of Dickens characters that they had found on the internet. Participants were given paper and asked to identify 18 colourful characters. Judith provided clues to each one and added some extra questions of her own!

Sylvia then presented a blown up poster of Robert Buss's painting of "Dickens's Dream", complete with a key to all the illustrations! Participants enjoyed guessing which books were represented in this amazing painting. Click on the following link to view the painting and character key: character key

After our break (Many thanks to Margaret, Maura, Sylvia and Ellie for their delectable goodies!), Ellie presented a similar quiz using 34 collectibles (toby jugs, plates, figurines, pictures) that she had brought from her private collection.

Everyone enjoyed seeing and handling these beautiful Dickens souvenirs. Follow the link to view photos of the Jan. 5/16 meeting

A big thank you to Judith and Lorne for their very hard work in organizing this very fun activity, to Sylvia for bringing the enlarged poster and key and to Ellie for bringing in some of her "treasures".

We look forward to seeing you at next month's Birthday Luncheon!

 

December 8, 2015



Our Christmas pot-luck luncheon was a big success thanks to the excellent baking, cooking and decorating skills of our 20 enthusiastic participants. Many, many thanks to everyone for their delicious contributions. Charlotte, your dolls, Santa and court jester were very welcome guests and really dressed up our festivities! Sylvia, your candle and Christmas greenery really gave a seasonal touch to our table!

From date squares, brownies, gingerbread men, mince tarts, chocolates, donuts and mint drops to quiche Lorraine, potato latkes, bagels and lox, party sandwiches, melon in prochiutto, cheese straws, fruit, cheese of different kinds, crackers, nuts, bread and salad all washed down with warm spiced cider, wine and the most delicious Port!, our mouths and stomachs really filled up with holiday cheer!

Lively conversations animated the first half of the party. Louise and everyone made a lovely toast to Ellie for hosting the luncheon. Ellie's home abounded with Dickens figurines, books and collectibles, causing some to say that Dickens would approve of a celebration to honour him in such a setting at his favourite time of year!

For the second half of the party we watched the 2006 Masterpiece theatre version of "The Old Curiosity Shop". At the beginning, reviews were mixed although most disagreed with the casting, but by the end, when the film makers actually changed the story, everyone was surprised and very disappointed!!! Still it was fun and made for a very spirited discussion!!

Thanks to everyone for their participation, good wishes, fun spirits, and the $50 we raised for the Tiny Tim fund!!

Wishing you all a very happy holiday season and much health and happiness in the New Year (and always)! God bless us everyone!

Some photos of the event can be seen at “Christmas Tea 2015”




 

December 1, 2015



Our fourth and final meeting of the fall, in which we wrapped up our discussion of "The Old Curiosity Shop" was very successful. 18 enthusiastic members were present despite it being a damp, cold, rainy afternoon.

Plans for our Christmas luncheon on Dec. 8 were finalized. Thanks to Margaret for organizing the food contributions. We look forward to sampling our talented cooks' and bakers' offerings! The pot-luck lunch will be held at Ellie's home. Please contact her if you are planning to attend and need the address.

The scheduled extra meeting (which was to take place immediately after our regular meeting) to discuss beginning a Montreal branch newsletter was postponed as quite a few interested members could not be present. We will regroup early in the new year.

Gail told us about an article on London's fog which appeared in Macleans magazine and Timmy told us about the book"Medicine Walk" which parallels our book with a young man leading his sick father in the wilderness.Dickens was mentioned in both!

Ellie reviewed Andrew MacDougall's terrific readings of "The Chimes" and "The Poor Traveller" which he gave (in the persona of Dickens) at M.C.L.L. It was a treat to listen to his animated performance and members were encouraged to attend any future readings.

Susan blew us away with her excellently prepared talk on the "freak show" in Victorian England. With loads of references to "The Old Curiosity Shop", we learned how Dickens was fascinated by this "socially acceptable" form of entertainment. Her picture boards with photos of "feature attractions" of the day, both titillated us and disgusted us, as the originals must have affected both Victorian society and Dickens's readers. She compared the book itself to a freak show full of curiosities including Quilp, grandfather and Nell herself. A very stimulating and lively discussion ensued.

Margaret and Ellie then gave the final chapter summaries and many members contributed to a discussion about Nell's death, Sally's masculinity and the fairy tale quality of the story.

Judith E. shared her experience in Malta as president of the Canadian Commonwealth Society. She participated in a conference on early and forced marriage of children. Our members were very interested, especially as championing childhood rights and stopping abuse were topics very dear to Dickens.

Finally we want to welcome new member Wilfrid Dube! So glad to have you join us!

Happy Holidays to all!!!

 

November 3, 2015



Tuesday's Fellowship meeting, our third of the year, was very successful with 15 enthusiastic participants. We reviewed our upcoming calendar of events, noting that our Christmas Luncheon will be on the 8th of Dec. at Ellie's home from 12:00-3:00 P.M. At that time a pot luck lunch will be served followed by a viewing of the Masterpiece Theatre's "The Old Curiosity Shop". If you plan to attend, please let Ellie know. If you would like to bring food (we will be having finger foods both savoury and sweet) please let Margaret know ( margaretn0006@gmail.com) as she will be coordinating the food.

Andrew MacDougall's Dickens reading will be at 10:00 A.M. on Friday Nov 20 at MCLL.

There will be a presentation on Shakespeare on Nov. 9 at Pollack Hall but it is filling up fast so if you want to attend call MCLL ASAP.

April 7, there will be a combined meeting of the Bimetallic Society (Sherlock Holmes) and our fellowship. Cliff Goldfarb from Toronto will be discussing the alleged ”meeting" of the two great authors. He will also join us as our guest at our April 5th meeting. More details to come.

Ellie brought in an old china plate representing our book. She also reviewed the book "Becoming Tom Thumb", the story of 3 foot tall Charles Stratton, which reveals a lot about society's reactions to people with physical anomalies, carnival and circus life and English and American history of the Victorian era. It has been borrowed for this month but will be added to our Library in December.

A list of our members with their e-mail addresses was handed out to everyone to facilitate and encourage communication among ourselves between meetings.

Judith B. has been researching and planning articles and features for our proposed news magazine.We discussed setting up a planning meeting for those interested in planning and/or contributing prose, poems, book or movie reviews, event reviews, sightings,etc.. Anyone interested should let Ellie know.

Judith E. told us about her visit to Buckingham place on behalf of the Canadian branch of the Commonwealth Society. It was suggested that next time we all accompany her as her escorts!

Next year's book is "Barnaby Rudge". It was suggested that Ellie consider changing her MCLL class in the spring from "Barnaby Rudge" to another book, so as not to prevent disinterest in our fellowship meetings in the fall for those who have taken the course. Ellie is considering doing "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" instead for the spring term at MCLL. She will confirm this soon.

We were then treated to chapter summaries (21-50) by Judith E., Margaret and Ellie. After a short refreshment break (thanks so very much to Maura for the croissants and her delicious home-made strawberry jam!), we discussed our study questions. A very animated discussion evolved regarding parent-child relationships and whether or not Nell was aiding or abetting her grandfather's gambling addiction. Ellie passed around an article studying the "Thing" in the Old Curiosity Shop, looking at how inanimate objects merge into animate ones and vice-versa.

Many thanks to our chapter "summarizers" for their efforts. It was suggested that more members volunteer for this interesting task. As we are reviewing the book in a shorter period of time, there are many chapters to do per meeting. It would be great to hear from more members! Individual chapter summaries may be found on "The Literature Network" (and then shortened further) by Googling the specific chapters individually . Please let Ellie know if you are interested.
 

October 6, 2015



Our October meeting was a great success although, due to a scheduling error, the library had us meet in a small conference room. Our 22 enthusiastic participants were snug but a fun, informative time was had by all. We began our meeting by receiving several red geranium plants from Louise to be cared for over the winter until their red blooms appear again. Tony volunteered to find them a loving home. Many thanks to Louise and to Tony! Louise then recounted her harrowing eye witness account of a vicious dog attack on a little girl near her home.

Ellie then summarized upcoming events, including Andrew MacDougall's Nov. 20 Dickens reading at M.C.L.L.. She had met with Paul Billette of the Montreal Bimetallic Society and announced that plans for a combined meeting in April to discuss Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle , were underway.

Members were again informed about the library's new policy to include more Westmount Members and library users among us. Ellie encouraged everyone to join the library if they could. As it is, we do have many participants who reside in Westmount or use the library. Suggestions to boost these numbers were discussed.

Louise then gave us a very detailed and enthusiastic summary of the first ten chapters of the book. An animated discussion based on our pre-distributed study questions ensued. Many members were particularly interested in what it meant to be a child in the Victorian era.

Sylvia distributed membership cards to paid members.This will allow for free entrance to the Dickens Museum in London. We wish Judith E. bon voyage as she travels to London to visit Buckingham Palace as the President of the Canadian branch of the Commonwealth Society and one of the judges in their creative writing competition.

Articles were handed out to those members interested in researching and possibly presenting on Punch and Judy Shows and the Circus and "freak" shows in the Victorian era.

Finally the date for our Christmas luncheon was changed to December 8 ( 12-3 P.M.) at my home to accommodate more members who will be out of town the following week.

Thanks to all for a lively meeting!

 

September 1, 2015


Our first meeting of the year was very successful with 15 enthusiastic participants (including two new members, Welcome Susan and Mich!). Tea and coffee were served. Many thanks to Louie for setting up and to Maura and Ellie for the delicious goodies. Ellie brought in a figurine of "Little Nell" and a wallhanging of little Nell and her grandfather, while Heather brought in a small china replica of the Old Curiosity Shop and a miniature stagecoach and team of horses from her grandmother's collection. A selection of CD's of "The Old Curiosity Shop" and books about Dickens and the Victorian age were also on view.

We began our meeting with some general housekeeping. Memberships were renewed and Dickens sightings reviewed. Ellie informed us of this summer's sad passing of English country dance instructor Michel Landry. Ellie sent a condolence card on behalf of the Fellowship to Arduina Alonzo, his wife and dancing partner.

Dickens folders were circulated containing the frontispiece of "The Old Curiosity Shop" as it appeared in the weekly journal "Master Humphrey's Clock", a reading schedule for the year, study questions, a map of Dickens’s London, a list of readings and resources, topic suggestions and tip sheets for making presentations. We then discussed our schedule for the year . The West mount Library would like us to expand our membership to include more Westmount residents and library users. Different strategies were discussed to help us achieve this end, which included publicizing our Fellowship at Manoir Westmount and in the Westmount "Independent". Participants were encouraged to join the library.

Ellie gave us an introduction to our chosen book, “The Old Curiosity Shop," Margaret then gave us an animated and insightful summary of the first ten chapters . Thank-you Margaret . A very lively discussion ensued based on the prepared questions.

Thanks to all participants! To those of you who could not be present because of the early date of our first meeting, health, travel or scheduling conflicts, we missed you and hope to see you in the future!

Ellie invited all present (and will be e-mailing an invitation to past members and enthusiasts) to her home for a pot luck tea on Tuesday Sept. 8, 2015.
 

June 9, 2015


On Tuesday afternoon, June 9, 2015, 26 Dickens lovers met in the majestic Concert Hall of Victoria Hall for a lovely Victorian Afernoon Tea. Originally planned to be held in the story-telling garden of the Westmount Library, at first we were disappointed to have our Tea indoors due to the threat of rain. As it turned out the venue was excellent. The staff was most accommodating setting up our tables and chairs and providing us with dishes, tableware and full use of their kitchen facilities. Many thanks to Donna Lach, Helene and Claude for making our change of venue so seamless.

Our U-shaped table was set and decorated lovingly by our dedicated member volunteers with china, pretty coloured napkins and potted red geraniums each bearing a picture of a Dickens character (these were later raffled off). Thank-you Louise for providing these perfect table adornments! Classical music C.D's helped set the mood. Pictures of Queen Victoria, Dickens, and a variety of Dickens characters were displayed on a side table as were a variety of raffle prizes.

Many of our guests came in Victorian costume. Colourful large hats were in abundance and added to the fun ambiance. Our repast, lovingly put together by a selection of our members, consisted of mixed berry salad, a variety of dainty sandwiches, fudge and a variety of cookies and squares. Buttery scones were served with cream and jam. Plenty of iced tea was on hand to quench our thirst. Opening comments by Ellie (President) included a review of our past year and preview of next year (we will be discussing "The Old Curiosity Shop”) and an introduction of our honorary guest Judith Berlyn, librarian of the Chateau Ramezay, who facilitated our documentation of our branch's original 1919-1963 archives. Louise (Secretary) then gave a toast to our branch.

We were then thoroughly entertained by selections from Dickens works which centered on characters from David Copperfield (Betsy Trotwood), Great Expectations (Miss Havisham and Pip's sister) and Martin Chuzzlewit (Mrs. Gamp) read by Margaret Nicolai , Averill Craig and Judith Elson all avid readers and Dickens lovers. A lively discussion about our favourite Dickens characters and whether or not we would like to meet Dickens, ensued. Sylvia (Vice-President) then toasted the originator of the Victorian tea (Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford) and made a final toast to our fellowship, Ellie and finally to the immortal memory of Dickens.

After closing remarks and many thanks to all the contributors, our afternoon ended with the raffle. (many gifts and 10 geraniums were raffled off) Many, many thanks to everyone who helped in entertaining us, bringing food, setting up and clearing away. It was truly a group effort! Thanks also to Catherine Swift and Louis (superintendent) for all their help . Profits from our event will donated to the Tiny Tim Fund of the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

Thank-you everyone for helping to make our third annual, year-end tea such a wonderful success!

Please view the photos of the event in our photo gallery: Afternoon Tea 2015
 

February 3, 2015


Our luncheon celebrating Dickens's 203rd birthday was a great success! 20 of us gathered in the ambiance-loaded "Dickens Place" at the back of "L'Usine de Spaghetti" Restaurant in Old Montreal. As in former years, the food was delicious and the service exceptional!

Ellie welcomed everyone and gave a brief introduction to our Fellowship as there were new guests in attendance. Louise toasted the "Immortal Memory" of Charles Dickens. Judith Elson gave us a very animated reading of the first chapter of "Great Expectations," chilling and thrilling everyone! First-time guest, Pamela Jones, invited us all to attend an homage to her late husband, composer Robert Frederick Jones, featuring his one-act opera "Miss Havisham's Testament". It will be performed at Christ Church Cathedral on March 21, 4:30 P.M.

Ellie then read the first few pages of "Dombey and Son" (her favourite novel) to whet our appetites for her spring study group at M.C.L.L. We then raffled off 10 prizes, collecting $138.00 for the Tiny Tim Fund of the Montreal Children's Hospital. Louise presented us with a fabulous and delicious birthday cake bearing the image of Dickens's portrait by Daniel Maclise (the frontispiece for our current novel "Nicholas Nickleby"). Our newest member, Heather Wileman-Brown, concluded our festivities with a lovely Irish folk song.

Many thanks to Tony for providing lifts, Donna and Zsuzsi for helping to set up, Judith for her reading, Louise for her cake and toasts and photos, and to everyone for coming out in the chilly water to celebrate! We missed those of you who were unable to attend, but look forward to seeing you soon! Please check out the photos on our website photo gallery Dickens Birthday Luncheon Feb. 3/15

Remember to save the dates for our next discussion of "Nicholas Nickleby" on Tuesday, March 3 and for our upcoming Victorian Tea/Dance on Sunday, March 29 at Victoria Hall. (follow our blog for more details)

 

January 6 , 2015


Meeting Cancelled
 

December 2 , 2014


Our Christmas tea / Nicholas Nickleby December meeting was a huge success thanks to the hard work of so many enthusiastic participants. There were 20 attendees. The switch from the Westmount Library to my home (due to a last minute municipal strike) turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Charlotte's exquisite holiday decorations and Sylvia's Christmas music set the mood. Our bakers surpassed themselves with melt in your mouth fudge, mince tarts, mini gingerbread men, chocolate cake, mandlebroit, chocolate peanut clusters, lemon and shortbread cookies and the most decadent selection of squares ever. We had party sandwiches, noodle kugel, veggies and dip and hot potato latkes with applesauce and sour cream. Our feast was washed down with wine and hot cinnamon cider. Margaret entertained us with her telling of the story "The Forbidden Child" by Leon Garfield and I read my short story "Figgy pudding". We finally reviewed Chapters 9-24 of Nicholas Nickleby. Our lively discussion was capped off with the singing of Christmas and Chanukah songs with Timmy accompanying us on the piano! Many thanks to everyone for the toasts, wonderful baking and holiday cheer. We even raised $75.00 for the Tiny Tim Fund in generous donations! Wishing you all a happy holiday season!

Some photos of the event can be seen at " Christmas Tea 2014"

Ellie
P.S. Thanks to everyone for your very kind gift for Erin, Sam and the babies!!! It is so very appreciated!!!

 

November 4, 2014


Our third meeting of the year was very successful with 23 participants. It began with our guest speakers, Dr. Elaine Bander and Dr. Yael Halevi-Wise, speaking about their experiences teaching Dickens to their students. Elaine spoke about teaching "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" as it is half a novel (shorter than other Dickens works) and very suspenseful. Her high school students enjoyed coming up with their own endings. Yael spoke about teaching classes to bright, highly motivated University students who enjoyed other Victorian novelists but who just could not be engaged by Dickens's works. We had a very lively discussion about getting kids to read in general. Harriet, Mary, Sharon, Judith and Margaret, as retired teachers, all had interesting suggestions from their own past experiences. Our discussion was very animated and we all hated to leave the topic .

The second half of our meeting was taken up by our discussion of Nicholas Nickleby. Judith did a superb summary of our chapters. We delayed our questions for next time. (We will be covering Chapters 9-16, and 17-24 at our December tea.)

Many thanks to our guests for a fascinating look at teaching Dickens and to our enthusiastic participants who had so much to contribute. Thanks to members for their delicious goodies.

If you would like to contribute time, dishes, goodies, music, ideas, etc. to our "in-house" Victorian Christmas tea Dec. 2, please contact Margaret Nicolai (margaretn0006@gmail.com) or Sylvia Rabinovitch (srabin@videotron.ca.) Victorian costume is welcome! If you are planning to attend, please let me, Margaret or Sylvia know.


 

October 7, 2014


Our second meeting of the year was a great success with 24 very active participants including 6 guests and 3 new members. Welcome to Linda, Suzanne and Canjita!

On display was a print of Daniel Maclise's portrait of Dickens (frontispiece for Nicholas Nickleby), a small china pitcher depicting Nicholas at the Kenwigs's, some samples of Victorian clothing donated by guest Ann Lloyd and a selection of books on Dickens and Victoriana, including some editions of his works that have been abridged for children. As per usual, refreshments were served. Many thanks to Margaret and Maura for their delicious cookies!

Our meeting began with "housekeeping". Fees were paid, sightings and miscellaneous internet items were reviewed. Donna remarked that the apartment building at the corner of Sherbrooke and Claremont is called "Pickwick Arms". Ellie( sporting her Victorian hat!) sighted two movies with Dickens quotes. "Sincerely Yours" with Liberace and "Enter Laughing" with Jose Ferrer. Judith enjoying reading a new historical fiction based on Dickens's life "The Butterflies are Free" by Anne-Marie Vukelic.

Updates were given on:

1.) Our Christmas tea. We will be having a Victorian tea at our meeting on Dec. 2. Margaret will be coordinating bakers. Anyone wishing to help in any way, please contact her through me. It would be lovely to arrange for musical entertainment. Does anyone know any singer or choir that could come and softly sing carols? (it is a library after all!) .Or perhaps we could have members read very brief excerpts from Dickens' Christmas books. Let me know if you have any ideas. Start collecting raffle prizes!

2.) Our Fezziwig Ball in March. Planning is still very much underway. Judith E., Louise and Margaret have been making preliminary inquiries into venues, dates, dancing instruction, etc. If anyone knows of a large, inexpensive venue (church hall, party room, etc.) please let me know.

3.) Bristo July 2015. Judith E. gave us an update on inquiries into a group trip to Bristol next July for the Fellowship A.G.M. She is looking into extending our trip by 5 days to include London, staying in the Bloomsbury area for easy access to Dickens sights, restaurants, museums etc. Costs are still up in the air. Very rough estimates are < $1500 for the conference, Bristol food and accommodation, etc. / $2700 for London trip extension, including air fare and meals. Once dates are confirmed, I will let everyone know more details. Please consider coming as groups of 12 or more get reduced rates! Thanks so much Judith for all your effort!

Our panel on Anti Semitism in Dickens began with Frank Brodie presenting his excellent paper on the question "Was Dickens an anti-Semite or were his anti Jewish depictions merely a reflection of current Victorian attitudes?" After a very thorough look at these depictions of Jews in Dickens works, society's reaction to his work and Dickens's own statements on the subject, Frank concluded with a plea of " no contest" equivalent to halfway between guilty and not guilty. He opted to give Dickens the benefit of the doubt. Both Judith B. and Gladys were much more critical of Dickens. Judith gave a scathing account of his blatant anti semitism through excerpts of horrible descriptions from his works. She also reviewed Will Eisner's graphic novel,"Fagin the Jew" which gives a fictionalized background to the life of Jews at that time.

Gladys gave an extremely thorough and well researched overview of the topic and of Anti semitism in other Victorian novels. She also concluded that Dickens was not blame free but rather, being in a prominent position to influence society's knowledge of Jews was perhaps the guiltiest one of all! Our ensuing discussion was very heated indeed. We discussed if we should separate the artistic genius from the individual with flawed thoughts or behaviours. Harriet likened the question to " Should we appreciate Hitler's talent as an artist?" Maura likened the question to " How can I like J.F.K. who was abusive to women?" Many participants were saddened by seeing their beloved author in such an unfavourable light. Our discussion ran overtime and we never got to review our chapters of Nicholas Nickleby at all!! ( they were deferred to our next meeting)

A big, big thank-you to our excellent presenters and to all who participated!! Both Frank and Gladys have transcripts of their presentations on line. Please contact me and I will send them to you.

At our next meeting on Nov. 4, will we resume our discussion of Nicholas Nickleby and have a discussion about "Teaching Kids Dickens" Please join us!!



 

September 2, 2014


Our first meeting of the year was very successful with 19 enthusiastic participants (including several guests). On display were our recently awarded charter and a print of Daniel Maclise’s portrait of Dickens (used as the frontispiece for “Nicholas Nickleby”). A selection of books about Dickens and the Victorian age was also on view.

We began our meeting with some general housekeeping. Memberships were renewed and Dickens sightings reviewed. (Dickens was mentioned at the Emmy award ceremony!) Ellie gave out “mapkins” (maps of Chicago on napkins) as souvenirs from the July meeting. She also passed around a Charles Dickens action figure she came across during the summer. So cute! A quick review was given of Ellie’s “Google Alerts” highlighting Dickens sightings on the Internet. Of note was the sale of a copy of “A Tale of Two Cities,” dedicated to George Eliot, for 275,000 Pounds!!

Folders were circulated containing a copy of a cover of one of the serialized instalments from “Nicholas Nickleby," a reading schedule for the year, study questions, a map of Dickens’s London, a list of readings and resources, topic suggestions and tip sheets for making presentations. We then discussed upcoming events in the city (e.g., The Jane Austen society has it’s A.G.M. in October) and our own schedule which includes organizing a Christmas tea and a Fezziwig ball in March. Judith E., Margaret, Louise and Gail volunteered to form a committee to help plan the ball. They will be looking into English country dance lessons and checking out Victoria Hall as a venue.

Louise then told us about the mini Dickens conference in Salem Mass. that she, Lise and Charlotte are planning to attend at the end of the month. It sounded wonderful! We will hear all about it at our next meeting.

Judith E. is making inquiries into a group trip to Bristol for the A.G.M. next summer. There was much enthusiasm about this. She will give us more information regarding pricing, accommodation, transportation, etc., at our next meeting. It seems that groups of 12 or more get better rates so please think about coming! Those of us who attended this year’s meeting had a fantastic time! Thanks to Louie, the library’s superintendent, we were able to access our website on the internet and Ellie gave a pictorial review of our trip.

Ellie then gave us an introduction to our chosen book, “Nicholas Nickleby," a timeline of Dickens's life as it related to our book and a timeline of the world in 1838 and 1839. She discussed the important economic, social and political climate that surrounded Dickens prior to and during these years. Margaret then gave us an animated and insightful summary of the first eight chapters of “Nicholas Nickleby”. Thank-you Margaret (and thank-you for your delicious cucumber sandwiches which were such a treat)! Judith E. raised the interesting point that there is a discrepancy in the ages of Nicholas and Kate in the book. Are they 17 and 19? Or is Nicholas older as they are said to be five years apart in age? Ellie will check this out. We only had time to begin to tackle some of the prepared questions.

Thanks to all participants! To those of you who could not be present because of health, travel or scheduling conflicts, we missed you and hope to see you in the future!



 

June 10, 2014


On Tuesday afternoon, June 10, 2014, 27 Dickens lovers met in the beautiful story-telling garden of the Westmount library for a lovely Victorian Tea. Despite a rainy forecast, the skies were perfectly clear. Indeed, it was lucky so many of us had wide brimmed, colourfully festooned Victorian hats to shade us from the very warm sun! Many ladies also came in period costume to add to the ambiance.

The table was set with fine china and decorated with potted red geraniums each bearing a picture of Dickens and named for one of his works (these were later raffled off). Thank-you Louise for providing these perfect table adornments! Classical music wafted over the sunshine dappled courtyard. Pictures of Queen Victoria and Dickens, and a framed portrait of Dickens were displayed on a side table bearing raffle prizes.

Our repast, lovingly put together by a selection of our members, consisted of mixed berry salad; cucumber, egg, tuna and smoked salmon sandwiches and a variety of cookies and squares. Buttery scones were served with individual servings of cream and jam. Plenty of iced tea was on hand to quench our thirst. After opening comments by Ellie (President) with a review of our past year and preview of next year, Louise (Secretary) then gave a toast to our branch and to every Dickens character.

Michèle Le Fèvre, representing the Tiny Tim Fund of the Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation, then gave a very moving report on the important work the Fund is doing to help Montreal's underprivileged children and their families with devastating medical expenses associated with serious illness. We were all touched by her words and felt proud to be able to help such a worthy cause which would certainly have been near and dear to Dickens's heart. We were then entertained by five selections from Dickens works . Margaret Nicolai and Judith Elson, both avid readers and Dickens lovers, read passages from "Oliver Twist" entitled "Mr. Bumble's Susceptibility" and "The Bumbles at Home". Professional actor and branch member ,Barrie Baldaro, read "Mr. Squeers" from "Nicholas Nickleby". Bournemouth born, talented Clive Brewer read "The Economies of Dotheboys Hall" and Andrew Macdougall, would-be Dickens impersonator and West end Operatic society member, read a selection from "Martin Chuzzlewit" called "Sairey Gamp" and regaled us with a musical interlude from "Iolanthe" (Gilbert and Sullivan). Sylvia (Vice-President) then gave us a delightful history of the Victorian afternoon tea and made a final toast to our fellowship, Ellie and finally to the immortal memory of Dickens.

After closing remarks and many thanks to all the contributors, our afternoon ended with the raffle. ( 7 gifts and 12 geraniums were raffled off) No one went home empty handed. Many, many thanks to everyone who helped in entertaining us, bringing food, setting up and clearing away. It was truly a group effort! Thanks also to Donna Lach, Catherine Swift and Flavius (superintendent) for all their help in providing and setting up our venue! Profits from our event will donated to the Tiny Tim Fund of the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

Thank-you everyone for helping to make our second annual, year-end tea such a wonderful success!

Please view the photos of the event in our photo gallery: Afternoon Tea 2014

There was a short but very nice segment about our event on the CTV news that very evening! follow link to view clip on CTV news

 

May 6, 2014


Our last regular meeting of the year was very successful. 16 of us were present. Lots of planning was done for our upcoming Victorian tea with everyone pledging to contribute something toward it. Our agenda for next year was discussed as was our summer trip to Chicago this year (11 of us are going!) and a possible tour to England next summer!

Judith E. gave us a wonderful summary of the final chapters of "Oliver Twist" and a lively discussion of our final questions followed. We all agreed that we had really enjoyed the book and we look forward to reviewing "Nicholas Nickleby" next year. Thanks to everyone for your participation!
 

April 1, 2014


Sixteen of us met on Tuesday afternoon. We began our meeting excitedly talking about our group trip to Chicago for the Dickens Fellowship annual meeting in July. Eight of us are now going! We also discussed plans for our Victorian Tea. We changed the date to June 10 (one week later) as it accommodates more people and gives us more time for preparation. Shout outs were given for cooks, bakers and musical entertainment.

We then discussed starting an e-newsletter for members only. Any contributing articles, sightings, reviews, opinions, etc. would be most welcome.

Dr. Lorne Houston (our historical consultant) then gave a fascinating presentation on the founding members of our original Montreal branch. It really was a history of Montreal as well, touching on such illustrious members as humorist Stephen Leacock and first Westmount librarian Mary Solace Saxe. He spoke about the branch's strong interest in theatricals and outlined many of their performances. It was a very enthusiastic talk and raised our level of interest in pursuing some detective work about the old branch. He and Sylvia are hoping to hear from the Chateau du Ramesay about records they may have and Lorne will be seeing if the McCord Museum might have some archival information. Thanks so much Lorne for all your research and such an interesting review of our Montreal Fellowship history!

Margaret then gave a thorough and well-spoken summary of our "Oliver Twist" Chapters. Our study questions formed the basis for an animated discussion on antisemitism, Dickens and prostitutes, honour among thieves and battered women.

Many thanks to all participants for a great meeting. Special thanks to Donna who donated her copy of "Drood" to our lending library and to Sharon for the Dickens Museum napkins!
 

March 4, 2014


Fourteen of us attended Tuesday’s meeting at the library. Included were two new members (our paid membership is now up to 25!), Lise Dube and Charlotte French. Welcome! After we shared a very positive review of our birthday luncheon and a not so positive review of the movie “The Invisible Woman”, Timmy Cohen presented a wonderful, very well researched, slide show about Victorian Fashion. We all learned so much! Who knew that early Victorians did not wear left and right shoes but the same shaped shoe on each foot. This was followed by a lively discussion about corsets and stays, swooning and London pollution, sanitation issues and mourning etiquette. A big thanks to Timmy for a job well done!

Judith E. began our second half with an entertaining and insightful summary of our assigned chapters of “Oliver Twist”. An animated exchange ensued guided by the prepared study questions. We all agreed that although we found Rose Maylie overly sweet and Dickens “infatuation” with his dead sister-in-law somewhat creepy, we were blown away by his genius with words, his ability to keep his readers at the edge of their seats, his humour and his passion for reform.

Ellie and Louise announced that they have been giving serious thought to attending this year’s Dickens Fellowship Meeting in Chicago (July 16-21). It will be five days of Dickens seminars by famous Dickensians (including Dickens’ descendant Lucinda Hawkesly Dickens), guided tours of Chicago, dinners and banquets and evening entertainment with a Dickens theme. Accommodations will be at Loyola College.

Quite a few members expressed interest in going as a group. It would be a blast.

Here are the links to the pertinent websites.
www.dickensfellowship.org/annual-conference-2014-chicagoil-usa
www.chicagodickensfellowship.org/conference.html

Registration and final payments are due by April 1st! ($1015.00 not including airfare). If you are interested in going, please let Ellie know as soon as you can. We are thinking of driving or bussing to Burlington VT. The cost of flying from there would be much less.

We will try to find out more details like: What is their cancellation/refund policy if any? Is there a possibility of last minute (summertime) registration for members who cannot commit yet?

This trip is a very real possibility! Let’s make it happen! (We also discussed a group trip to London for next year!)

Ellie will be hosting a Victorian hat making party prior to our June tea. More will be coming on that.

Our next meeting is on April 1. Lorne Huston will be treating us to a look backwards to our Montreal Fellowship (and City of Montreal!) history as early as 1909, through his detective work about our former members. It is a fascinating presentation.Try not to miss it!

Thanks, Ellie
 

February 4, 2014



To celebrate Dickens' 202nd birthday, 25 of us gathered in the lovely back room (called "Place Dickens") of the l'Usine de Spaghetti in Old Montreal. It was a sunny, relatively mild day (-7 C.). The quaint cobblestone streets were snow-covered. Inside it was roast toasty. Dickens is said to have written notes for his works at this very site during his visit to Montreal in 1842. His portrait hangs at the entrance. The stone-walled room, decorated with antiques and collectibles from Montreal's past and lined with shelves and shelves of antique books, was the perfect venue for our festivities.

Our tables were arranged in a large "U", with our guest reader Andrew Macdougall at the top and center, near Ellie (our president), Sylvia (vice-president and webmaster) and Louise (secretary and photographer). Programmes, bookmarks and chocolates graced each place setting. Costumes (a variety of Victorian hats and gloves) were provided for those who wished to dress up. Ellie began by recapping the years events. She announced that this spring (April 5) the London's Dickens Fellowship Council will formally be considering our application for official status. Louise then gave a toast to Charles Dickens.

As we munched on crusty rolls and garlic toasts, salads from the salad bar, complementary meatballs and then our individual meals (all served quietly and most efficiently), we settled in for Andrew's reading of "Dr. Marigold's Prescriptions". Dressed in Victorian attire, in the persona of Dickens himself, Andrew gave a spirited and emotional reading of this short story which appeared in the Christmas edition of Dickens' journal "All the Year Round" in 1865. His performance was amazing and we all enjoyed it very much.

For desert we were treated to a wonderful birthday cake decorated with a marvellous image of Dickens. Many thanks to Louise for ordering the cake (it was from Patisserie Brossard). It was delicious!

Sylvia then gave a toast to "The Immortal Memory" and to Ellie for her enthusiastic leadership.

We then raffled off 6 prizes raising $65.00 for the Tiny Tim Fund of the Montreal Children's Hospital.

Our delicious luncheon ended with a lively discussion of "The Invisible Woman" which we had recently viewed as a group.

All in all, it was a lovely afternoon. Thanks to everyone who attended. Special thanks to Andrew, Ellie, our toasters Sylvia and Louise (who arranged the venue and the cake), all our lift providers and the excellent staff of the "L'Usine de Spaghetti" who made us very comfortable with their excellent service!

Please view the photos of the event in our photo gallery: Dickens' Birthday Luncheon Feb. 4/14
 

January 7, 2014



13 intrepid Dickensians braved the cold and icy sidewalks to attend our meeting. The Westmount Room was roasty toasty and the warm drinks and yummy baked goodies were appreciated by all. Thanks to our bakers for the delicious treats.

We began by circulating a member contact list and by re-introducing ourselves as we had some newcomers. Welcome new members Barry and Edith!

Ellie wished all a Happy New Year and reminded everyone about Scrooge's resolution to keep Christmas (and all the warmth and good will we feel at holiday time) in his heart all year long. A Christmas Carol's universal message that it is never too late to turn over a new leaf is still very timely for us all.

The beginning of the meeting was a review of our past events: John Huston, Vlasta Vrana's reading at the Atwater library, the screening of Oliver! at the Westmount Library, and a discussion of upcoming happenings: the Sherlock Holmes dinner, our birthday luncheon, hopefully our group outing to "The Invisible Woman" (members were very optimistic that it just a delay), Jan.24 Celebration of winter at Christ Church Cathedral and the future screening of the new movie, "Mr. Pip" with Hugh Laurie. Members were encouraged to make full use of the new lending library. A big thank-you to Sylvia for all her hard work on this project and on our amazing web site!

The middle of our meeting was devoted to summarizing Chapters 17-32. Thank you to Judith B. and Louise for a job well done!. During the second hour of our meeting we had a lively discussion of Oliver Twist based on the twenty or so questions Ellie had circulated. Topics ranged from Dickens safety when walking the streets of London in the wee hours, to prayer in workhouses; from humour, pathos and coincidence in Dickens writings to educational reform. Thanks everyone for a great session!
 

December 3, 2013



Fourteen of us met on this sunny, crisp afternoon. Ellie began by reviewing Andrew MacDougal's readings at M.C.L.L. He was great and Ellie has arranged for him to be our guest performer at our birthday luncheon in February (Feb.4, mark the date on your calendars!) He will be reprising his reading of "Doctor Marigold", one of Dickens' lesser known Christmas stories.

We then discussed our planning for our upcoming John Huston event. Many thanks to Louise and Sylvia who worked hard delivering notices all over the place!

Two interesting sightings were mentioned. Ellie found a large article on Dickensian fashion in this month's edition of Vogue magazine. Avril found a Dickens quiz and Great Expectations word analysis on the Oxford Dictionary's web page.

We were reminded about the Sunday, Dec.27 showing of the musical "Oliver!". It is at 2 p.m. in the Westmount Room of the Westmount Library. Margaret will be saying a few words about Dickens. Louise will bring cookies.

Sylvia, our webmaster, has been working very diligently on creating a "Members Only" section on our website. Members will now have access to our extensive lending library. There are ~90 books in Ellie's collection of works by or about Dickens and the Victorian era. Many, many thanks to Sylvia for all her effort in making this area of our site so visually appealing, informative and reader friendly. We chose a password for members. If you are a member who was not present, contact me for this password. If you are not a member, think about becoming one!

Louise then gave us a most fascinating presentation of Dickens' portraits. She showed many, well-researched slides of these many portraits, telling us about the artists, commenting on the styles, telling us her personal reactions to the portraits, how these works of art were received in their day, etc.. She even told us what Dickens himself thought of many of them. It was so interesting to see how his face reflected what was going on in his life at the time. Her extensive knowledge and passion for both art and Dickens was amazing and quite contagious. We all learned so much and were delighted with her enthusiasm! Thank you Louise for all your hard work. We all enjoyed the fruits of your labor so much! Some photos of Louise can be seen in the Photo Gallery, Fellowship Meetings, "Dickens in Portraits".

A big apology to Judith B. who had prepared our chapters summary for Oliver Twist. We ran out of time due to our lively, interesting discussion about Louise's talk! We will hear the summary and discuss the questions at our next meeting in January. So sorry, Judith. I know you always put a lot of effort into your work, but we will be so glad to hear your summary and comments next time!
 

November 5, 2013



Our second meeting at Westmount Library was very successful. There were 16 enthusiastic participants. We discussed upcoming  plans and events which include:

Andrew MacDougall's reading at M.C.L.L. (Nov. 22),
Louise G de Tonnancour's Powerpoint presentation on Portraits of Dickens (Dec. 3) and
John Huston's Christmas Carol performances on Dec. 8 and 9.  

A "baking list" for this event was distributed  by Margaret Nicolai (who will be our special events refreshment coordinator) to the participants. Thank you to all who have volunteered to bake.

We also discussed the Christmas screening of "Oliver!", the possibility of year round screening of Dickens films at M.C.L.L., and our status as a newly forming branch of the Fellowship centred in London. We previewed our plans to provide a lending library and e-newsletter to members and reviewed the books "Dickens and the Workhouse" by Ruth Richardson and "Fagin the Jew" by Will Eisner.

We then had a very lively discussion of the previous evening's presentation by Dr. Goldie Morgentaler on"Fagin and the Jew in English Literature". Those of us who attended found it fascinating and very thought provoking. We had a very interesting exchange about antisemitism.

Judith Elman gave us an animated and insightful summary of our assigned chapters of "Oliver Twist" which was a pleasure to listen to. Our review of our previously distributed questions, led, as always to a fun discussion about such diverse topics as Aristotle, pedophilia, the up and down sides of being trusting, sexual dangers of corn flakes and pet owners resemblance to their pets!

Many thanks to all the participants.
 

October 1, 2013


Our first meeting of the year was very successful with fourteen enthusiastic participants (including several new members!). We began with a glowing review of last year. A photo of our donating a $500.00 cheque to the Tiny Tim Fund of the Montreal Children’s Hospital was displayed, as were an Oliver Twist teapot and a selection of books about Dickens and the Victorian age.

Folders were circulated containing the frontispiece from Oliver Twist, a reading schedule for the year, study questions, a map of Dickens’ London, a list of readings and resources and tip sheets for making ( totally voluntary) presentations. After some housekeeping, Dickens sighting reports, reviews of recent books and general catching up, we reviewed our website, and discussed upcoming events (see Blog) and plans which included screenings of Oliver Twist and a planned lending library of Dickens related books and materials (to be under the direction of Louise deTonnancour).

Ellie then gave a timeline of Dickens' life as it related to our chosen book, and a timeline of the world in 1837. She discussed the important political reforms that spurred Dickens on to write this biting satire. Margaret then gave us an animated and insightful summary of the first eight chapters of Oliver Twist. Thank-you Margaret (and thank-you for your delicious lemon cookies which were such a treat!). We then tackled some of the prepared questions, which led to a lively discussion about the Poor Act of 1834, the workhouse, orphans, Dickens' London, Dickens' descriptions and his humor.

Thanks to all participants! To those of you who could not be present because of health, travel or scheduling conflicts, we missed you and hope to see you in the future!
 

June 4, 2013


Our tea was a huge success despite a lively, cool wind which played havoc with our table linen and parasols! Thirty of us met in the lovely, storytelling garden of the Westmount Library to share a delightful Victorian afternoon.

The table was set with fine china and decorated with potted red geraniums each bearing a picture of Dickens and named for one of his works (these were later raffled off). Thank-you Louise for providing these perfect table adornments! Classical music wafted over the sunshine dappled courtyard. Many of us wore colourful ribbon and feather-laden hats and period clothing. Pictures of Queen Victoria, a framed portrait of Dickens and a sampling of his works were displayed on a side table bearing other raffle prizes.

Our repast, lovingly put together by a selection of our members, consisted of mixed berry salad, cucumber sandwiches, egg and tuna pinwheel sandwiches, mini stuffed potatoes, chocolate cake, a variety of cookies and chocolates and maple squares. Buttery scones were served with individual servings of cream and jam. Plenty of iced tea was on hand to quench our thirst. After singing God Save the Queen as a shout out to Queen Victoria, we listened to a review of our past year and preview of next year by Ellie (President). Louise (Secretary) then gave a toast to our branch.

The Golden Stagers, complete with props and costumes, then entertained us with three wonderful tableaux from "Our Mutual Friend", "Oliver Twist" and "Martin Chuzzlewit". These scenes were excellently acted and the performers had us in stitches. A special thank-you to our "corpse" played by Isadore Greenbaum who assured us he had spent many hours practising the day before! Jean Carriere (director) and Richard Lock (who wrote the adaptations) did a fantastic job. We really enjoyed your efforts and hope your group will continue to participate in our Dickensian events!

Margaret Nicolai entertained us with her reading of "Ode to an Expiring Frog", as did Toby Clarke with her reading from "A Tale of Two Cities". Sylvia (Vice-President) made a final toast to our fellowship, praised our various presenters and our special events such as our John Huston performance of "A Christmas Carol" and our Birthday Luncheon where the Golden Stagers regaled us with the trial scene from "Pickwick". Her comments about the special camaraderie we all feel as we learn about our favourite author were heartfelt and very well received.

Our afternoon ended with the raffle. Many, many thanks to everyone who helped in bringing food, setting up and clearing away. It was truly a group effort! Thanks also to Donna Lach, Catherine Swift and Louie (superintendent) for all their help in providing and setting up our venue! Proceeds from donations and our raffle will be added to the $300.00 our branch has already raised for the Tiny Tim Fund of the Montreal Children's Hospital.

Thank-you everyone for helping to make the first of our annual, year-end teas such a wonderful success!

Please view the photos of the event in our photo gallery: Victorian Afternoon Tea
 

May 7, 2013


It was a small group (8 people with 2 new guests) largely because of the overlap with the Golden Stagers Dickens study group. Ellie gave Andrew Macdougal's readings from Dickens (April 19) a big thumbs up. We discussed planning for next year's sessions. Gladys gave us a very well researched, informative and entertaining talk on Dickens and money. This was followed by a lively discussion of such varied topics as Jane Austen's works, Oscar Wilde's imprisonment, the colonization of Australia and the prison expenses of Mr. Pickwick. Planning for our June 4th tea was discussed. Further details will be forthcoming as soon as possible.
 

April 2, 2013


13 of us met to discuss chapters 43-49 of Pickwick. Ellie brought us up to date on Dickens sightings and happenings around town. ( see Blog) She then gave us an informative talk on doctors and hospitals in the Victorian era and more specifically in Dickens' life and works. Margaret gave an animated summary of the chapters and a lively discussion, based on our questions, followed.
 

March 5, 2013


12 members attended. We met in the Prud'homme Room at Victoria Hall due to a March break scheduling overload at the Library. The library staff went above and beyond to provide us with a wonderful alternate venue. Many thanks to Catherine, Louis and the Victoria Hall staff!

Ellie began the meeting with several Dickens sightings, a review of past events and a preview of upcoming events, including her 10 week class on "A Tale of Two Cities" at M.C.L.L. which begins Wednesday April 10th, 11:45-1:45. The Golden Stagers will also have a class on acting and Dickens at M.C.L.L. as they prepare for performances of Bardell VS Pickwick and sketches from the novels at Manoir Westmount and our June High Tea. (Please see future meetings and our Blog for updates and news.) As usual there was a display of books on the topic (in this case Victorian architecture and Interior Design), a variety of collectibles (Sam and Tony Weller and a tin depicting Mr. Pickwick on the ice) and refreshments. Many thanks to Margaret for her delicious cucumber sandwiches!

Timmy then gave a fascinating overview of Dickens obsession with home decoration. We were treated to a beautiful, colorful and very well researched slide presentation of Victorian exteriors and interiors with a peek at the Dickens' Museum and Gad's Hill Place. It was so interesting to learn about this whole other side of Dickens! Many thanks Timmy!

Ellie gave a small presentation on the surprising connections between Sweeney Todd and various sausage stories in Pickwick and Martin Chuzzlewit and on the similarities between the aristocracy's language in Pickwick and that of Elmer Fudd ( perhaps originating with Dickens and perpetuated by Victorian circus celebrity Tom Thumb!)

Margaret did a fantastic job summarizing our chapters, and included many hysterically funny excerpts in her presentation. Thanks Margaret. We alway enjoy your wonderful reading (and speaking) voice and insigntful comments.

Our discussion of the chapters based on our questions was lively with participation from everyone.

Thanks to all for a great meeting.!
 

February 5, 2013


Nineteen of us braved the bitter cold to celebrate the "Inimitable"'s 201st birthday at "L'Usine de Spaghetti" in Old Montreal. Their back room called "Place Dickens", with its picture of Dickens, stone walls and shelves of antique books was the perfect setting for our festivities. The food was excellent and the service outstanding. Louise and Sylvia made toasts to Dickens' immortal memory. (Sylvia: "A toast was made to Ellie. She has worked tirelessly and with incredible enthusiasm to reinstate the Montreal branch of the Dickens fellowship. With her wealth of knowledge about Dickens, she has done a wonderful job on enlightening us on many fascinating details about his novels and personal life.") Ellie read a short funny piece she wrote based on "A Tale of Two Cities" called "Mademoiselle Defarge's Wool Shoppe". Margaret regaled us with" Ode to an Expiring Frog" from Pickwick. The "Golden Stagers" gave a hilarious performance of "Bardell VS Pickwick". A big thank-you to all. Everyone enjoyed a delicious birthday cake with a great photo of Dickens on it. Thank-you Louise! There were seven door prize winners and we raised $30.00 for the Tiny Tim Fund of the Montreal Children's Hospital. Everyone was well pleased with the venue and had a really fun time. Please check out the photos of the event in our photo gallery! Dickens Birthday Luncheon
 

January 29, 2013

Only eight brave souls ventured out in the freezing rain to hear Ellie present her power-point presentation on Dickens. It was a fun, informative evening none-the-less.There was a very lively question period and everyone had a good time. We had a beautiful birthday cake to commemorate Dickens' 201st birthday. This evening session will be given again when the weather is better. Many thanks to those who attended!
 

January 8, 2013

Fifteen members met for a lively discussion of Pickwick. We reviewed past events. Louise gave us an excellent summary of Chapters 15-28. Margaret entertained us with "Ode to an Expiring Frog". Jean brought along some fellow members of the Golden Stagers acting troupe and parts were assigned for Pickwick Vs Bardell.
 

December 4, 2012


There were 14 participants at this last meeting before the holidays and our John Huston event. More people officially joined the fellowship, bringing our current number to 20! A reporter from the "Westmount Independent" was present taking photos and interviewing. Ellie thanked Sylvia for all her hard work on the website and for accepting the position of Vice-President of our fellowship. Zsuzsi was thanked for her help with publicity and accepting the role of Public Relations Director. Louise was thanked for her help in organizing our February Dickens birthday party in Old Montreal. Our executive board is still wide open and looking for volunteers! We reviewed the website and our winter/spring schedule. Members were encouraged to use the "Blog" for posting interesting events, articles, comments and sightings.

Jean Carriere was introduced as a new member and he spoke about the "Golden Stagers" involvement with acting out scenes from Dickens. Several fellowship members volunteered to participate in these theatricals. He has written a version of the trial scene, Bardell VS Pickwick (chapter 33), which will be performed at our Birthday celebration, February 2nd, 2013. Jean will try to get McGill Radio to air this comic sketch.

Last minute plans were reviewed for the upcoming event. Packaging was distributed for holiday goodies. Many thanks to our bakers! (especially to ZsuZsi who provided very yummy cookies for this meeting). Harriet commented on Ellie's C.B.C. interview by Sonali Karnick on "All in a Weekend". John and Elaine had each visited a Dickens exhibit in New York and thoughtfully brought us back literature to share! Thank you! We reviewed several of our pre-assigned questions and had a very interesting discussion on the positive and negative aspect of the "embedded stories" within Pickwick. There was a lively exchange about the loss of imagination and creativity in today's children due to increasing technology. Many of our members are teachers and had valuable insights on this topic!

Elaine gave an excellent and very thorough overview of Christmas as it was celebrated before Dickens, throughout his life and during the Victorian era. She explored how Dickens' image of Christmas, so prominent in many of his works, changed over his lifetime, becoming darker as his life and works did. It was a fascinating presentation which was both informative and entertaining. Thank you so much Elaine!
 

November 6, 2012


There were 15 participants present. Our meeting began with announcements about upcoming events. We also discussed how helpful Cliff Notes (on-line link for: The Pickwick Papers) could be in giving chapter summaries. Since we only meet monthly, some members find it helpful as a refresher. Also we decided to have a previously assigned member give a brief recap of the selected chapters at each meeting. This also makes meetings more visitor friendly.

We then did some planning for John Huston’s performance. Many thanks to our volunteers who will be helping out with baking and with the food and ticket tables. A shout out to Louise our new photographer and to Sylvia for all her hard work on our web site. We decided that advance ticket sales will be available to members and to those on our mailing list.

Ellie discussed author J.K. Rowling’s similarities to Dickens and pointed out the connection between Pickwick and Don Quixote, calling for someone to take this on as a presentation topic.

Sherry Steinberg gave a very well researched power-point presentation on Dickens and Music, filled with many interesting photos and beautiful musical excerpts. She told us about Dickens’ music education (or lack thereof), his favorite composers and instruments and gave us many examples of references to music in his writings. We all learned about the eerie sound of the Aeolian harp. She even sang “ The Canadian Boat Song” for us! A very big thank-you to Sherry for all her hard work and a very BIG apology for the equipment malfunction (we now know that the library’s internet is literally not up to speed!). Unfortunately, due to these technical problems, we did not have time to discuss Pickwick at all!! We will get caught up at our next meeting
 

October 2, 2012


We had our first meeting of the year. There were 12 participants eager to discuss Pickwick. Introductions were made. We had a lively discussion surrounding study questions on Chapters 1-7. Members submitted their dues. Refreshments were served. Many thanks to Sylvia for the home-made delicious cookies! We watched the beginning of the B.B.C. 1985 adaptation of Pickwick.
 

June 5, 2012


We had our final meeting of the spring with an attendance of 22. Ellie gave a presentation on the writing of Pickwick (without giving away the story) and discussed 1830's England and the world as an introduction and launch into our official beginning this coming fall. Everyone was excited to read Pickwick and was looking forward to the fall meetings!
 

May 16, 2012


We met again in May and watched Charlie Rose's excellent interview about Charles Dickens. There were 19 participants. An interesting discussion was had.
 

April 27, 2012


There were 25 participants. Folders with our new logo ("Our Montreal Friend") were distributed. Inside was a blank name plate with geranium image, a recommended reading hand-out, a list of suggested topics for presentation, a brief guide to making good presentations, a copy of the frontispiece of Pickwick (to whet their appetites), a print-out from a chapter about Pickwick, a description of the "Tiny Tim Fund" and a Dickens Wonderword. We viewed the A &E biography of Charles Dickens and had an interesting discussion and refreshments.
 

March 6, 2012


A second meeting for those interested in planning our official program was scheduled for March 6th. It was similarly advertised. Prior to this meeting an e-mail in the form of a questionnaire was sent to all the branches of the Fellowship worldwide, asking their advice on a long list of questions. There was a wonderful response to these queries, bringing home the meaning of FELLOWSHIP!!!!!! The March meeting, which had 14 participants, had a very productive and lively discussion. The upshot of this planary session was:

We would begin meeting the first Tuesday of every month 2:30-4:30 at the library venue (many of the interested participants are senior and preferred weekdays).

The official meetings would begin in the fall. We would then begin to charge $20 for individuals and $30 for couples. Until then we would meet monthly to amass new members, celebrate all things Dickens and prepare for Pickwick!!

We would cover a book per year starting with "The Pickwick Papers". We would divide it into a selected number of chapters per session. We would pre-read each selection and think about pre prepared questions pertaining to the selected chapters. We would also watch the B.B.C. adaptation in segments at each meeting. We all wanted to include a chance to read aloud at each meeting!

 

February 7th, 2012


Our President Dr. Ellie Clavier-Rothstein gave a power-point presentation about Dickens' relevance and prevalence in our current society. It was a funny and colorful, hour-long slide show, complete with many cartoons, you-tube clips, movie and T.V. references about how Dickens interfaces with our everyday lives and pervades our popular culture. An introduction to the Fellowship and our little known Montreal branch history were also given. This meeting had been publicized at a variety of venues such as bookstores, libraries and colleges. There were 20 participants at this meeting which also featured a toast to the immortal memory and refreshments complete with birthday cake. The talk was very well received. A stimulating discussion followed. Everyone signed their names and addresses in a special book and were asked to spread the word about the fellowship. Geranium seeds and a Dickens crossword puzzle were given out (thanks to the Toronto branch for these ideas!). The library set out a display of their collection of Dickens works and related books. It was a great beginning!