What better way to learn then to read who great author’s read. If I read an author, and admire him, then I want to learn from him. I want to get behind the author. One way to do that is to read who the author reads.
I am reading, American Notes, by Charles Dickens. This was one of my book sale finds. What a treasure for $1.00. In this book Dickens writes notes about his visit to America in 1842. His notes contain criticism, praise, and critique. He writes from the view point of an Englishmen and his disappointment in this new country is apparent.
Dickens is a master at description. He takes me into the rooms, onto the trains, and into the worlds of those he encounters. I am suddenly sickened by modern movies. They no longer hold a candle to the world I can enter with Dickens.
I suddenly want to know who he reads, and not having a MFA, I need to discover who that is. In this book he mentions, The Lowell Offering, which he describes as “a repository of original articles, written exclusively by females actively employed in the mills.” (pg. 86).
Dickens visited Lowell, and there was exposed to the mills. He describes the women that worked in the mills, and says that he brought 400 pages with him from their publication. He states that he read the pages from beginning to end.
For just a moment let the last sentence sink into your mind. He read all 400 pages from beginning to end. This is Charles Dickens we are talking about. Even in my uneducated state I can fathom the impact of this statement. A literary giant, and master of description, read through this publication. Perhaps I should read through it to, and I will, when my Amazon order get’s here.
Dickens commends the work to his fellow Englishmen. He states,
“putting entirely out of sight the fact of the articles having been written by these girls after the arduous labors of the day, that it will compare advantageously with a great many English Annuals.”
If Charles Dickens says it compares, then I believe this publication will compare.
The women in the mills wrote after hard 12 hour days in the mill. They wrote stories about their work and the women in the mill. The publication contains larger themes of self-denial, contentment, and according to Dickens, teaches good doctrine of enlarged benevolence. Values that our world needs today.
I came home tonight. Tired from the day and weary of mind as I anticipate four more days in the work week. A meeting after work brought bad news, and the reality of the struggles in our community. The thought of reading social media updates and being faced with politics, death, destruction, and evil disheartened me. So instead I made a fresh pie, pot of coffee, and dove into the 1840’s with Charles Dickens.
You know what? I feel at ease, and refreshed. My mind is at rest. It is filled with the art of the written word, and has been given a release into a world that existed before I was born. Ahhh. Thank you Dickens. I look forward to reading about the women in the mill, and gleaning what you gleaned, and learning what you learned. Perhaps as I do the goodness that existed in a simpler time will rub off on me, and on the others I encounter this week.
In Love With Everything Pre-20th Century,