From Christmas stories to family greed

Dear Charlie,

Welcome to 2013, Charlie dear! Have you made any resolutions? For starters, I would recommend a resolution to stop being dead, because I’m growing quite fond of you and would really like this correspondence to be a little less one sided. I didn’t need any more resolutions – reading your collected works in a year is proving challenging enough.

However, I did finish The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices on January 2 and am well into the first volume of Martin Chuzzlewit, so it’s been quite the eventful week. The former, and the last of your Christmas stories, reminded me strongly of our friend Mr. Pickwick and his seemingly random adventures, but now with a more satiric and cynical bite (although still very funny). Since you think that Mr. Goodchild’s aimless and purposeless tasks to be another form of idleness, I wonder if you would look back and consider Mr. Pickwick equally idle? I have a soft spot for old Mr. P., as I feel you do. I don’t yet know much about your later years, so I don’t know if your early penchant for walking the streets and observing people and events changed at all, or if Mr. Goodchild’s particular form of idleness as you portray it is necessarily a bad thing.

The Lazy Tour of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins!

Ha! And just as I write that, a cursory tour of the interwebs informs me that the story was based on a trip you took with Wilkie Collins, that it was a collaborative effort between the two of you, and that Goodchild was based on you! Well, no wonder the character is more of a vehicle for your observations of things like the horse races at Doncaster than he is a moral cautionary tale. And Mr. Idle’s hilarious musings on the perils of not being idle were those of Collins himself! Eesh, I feel I should read the whole thing again now that I know this. Goes to show you how a bit of foreknowledge can utterly change one’s perceptions of a work. At least I noted a similarity between Goodchild and you without knowing the extent of the connection. My New Year’s resolution clearly needs to be to do some damned research before I start blogging about things I don’t know. :-/ I will read this article about your friendship with Mr. Collins as the first part of my resolution.

Now it’s on to Martin Chuzzlewit, and I’m glad to be into one of your larger works again (I deliberately skipped over your adventures in the US and Italy because I needed a full course meal after the many Christmas appetizers). I learn that you liked this work more than your adoring public did, which must have been a bit of a rude awakening for you. Being about half way through the first volume, I can only guess that the absence of a likeable character may have played a part. Everyone has their own agendas, and they seem intent on pursuing them without regard to anyone else. Not that there aren’t some great characters (Mr. Pecksniff and his daughters, for instance, and their trip to London was hysterical), but so far I haven’t found anyone yet to really root for (except Tom Pinch, but I feel sorry for him more than anything, much like I did with poor old Barnaby). Even young Martin Chuzzlewit is a bit of a patronizing ass, isn’t he? I hope he improves upon longer acquaintance.

Don’t get me wrong, my friend, I am very much enjoying the book, and am very interested to see where all this family animosity and greed is heading (nowhere good, I imagine).

And please start working on that New Year’s resolution, would you? I know I’ll be working on mine.

Affectionately yours,