It was Christmas Eve. I begin this way because it is the proper, orthodox, respectable way to begin, and I have been brought up in a proper, orthodox, respectable way, and taught to always do the proper, orthodox, respectable thing; and the habit clings to me. Of course, as a mere matter of information it is quite unnecessary to mention the date at all. The experienced reader knows it was Christmas Eve ... It always is Christmas Eve, in a ghost story.In Told After Supper (1891), Jerome K. Jerome parodied the tradition of telling Christmas ghost stories, but it's plain to see that he had fun writing them. And horror writer Ramsey Campbell, himself the author of a number of Christmas stories, recently dropped by /r/WeirdLit to list off a few places to find more. [more inside]
The term "fakelore" has one basic core definition: modern tales that are similar to true folklore, the stories and traditions of a culture or group. But there are a few different takes on what exactly fakelore is, from the anti-alcohol lessons inserted in the modified fairy tales re-written and illustrated by George Cruikshank, which earned Horatian satire from Charles Dickens, to Paul Bunyan (the Red River Lumber Company produced the most well-known material; full scans - but this hasn't kept people from giving him a grave marker) and Pecos Bill (Google books preview), who were created as for marketing purposes or to replicate traditional tall tales, and more recently 'so-called "multicultural folktale" picture books [that] are a popular means for teaching about other cultures, especially in the primary grades.'
As the nights are beginning to draw in and Halloween approaches, how about something to make the flesh creep and send a shiver down the spine? Charles Dickens was a master of the macabre, whether it’s in his Christmas ghost stories such as A Christmas Carol, in the chilling Gothic emptiness of Satis House in Great Expectations or the dirty squalor of London in Oliver Twist. But there was another novelist who most people have never heard of, whose books also offered the Victorian reading public a good helping of horror. At the height of his career, he sold more copies of his work than Dickens, who is widely thought to have been the bestselling novelist of the age. This other writer’s name was George W. M. Reynolds, and he has recently been called ‘the other Dickens’. 2014 marks the bicentenary of his birth.
What did Mozart do all day? A poster breaks down the daily habits and self-reported routines of hundreds of composers, painters, writers, scientists, etc to illustrate how people find the time to construct their work.
...They have got up among themselves a periodical called THE LOWELL OFFERING, "a repository of original articles, written exclusively by females actively employed in the mills," -- which is duly printed, published, and sold; and whereof I brought away from Lowell four hundred good solid pages, which I have read from beginning to end...Of the merits of the Lowell Offering as a literary production I will only observe, putting entirely out of sight the fact of the articles having been written by these girls after the arduous labours of the day, that it will compare advantageously with a great many English Annuals. It is pleasant to find that many of its Tales are of the Mills, and of those who work in them; that they inculcate habits of self-denial and contentment, and teach good doctrines of enlarged benevolence.On an early leg of his 1842 American tour, Charles Dickens paid a visit to Lowell, Massachusetts, where he toured the famous river-powered textile mills and met some of the thousands of young women employed there. The literary journal he carried away, the Offering, inculcated certain of its benevolent doctrines through stories about Christmas, ghosts, mystic journeys through time and space, and mystic journeys through time and space with ghosts. Soon after his return to England, Dickens published A Christmas Carol. Coincidence? [more inside]
The Dead Authors Podcast: Legendary time-traveling writer H.G. Wells (Paul F. Tompkins) welcomes literary giants to The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles for a lively discussion in front of a live audience. Unscripted, barely researched, all fun! [more inside]
Mid-19th C. terrors, ca. 1840-1865: short fiction selected for the occasion by Miriam Burstein, a.k.a. The Little Professor, an expert on 19th C. British literature (especially including "lost" but formerly popular religious novels). [more inside]
Adam Thirlwell has written five essays in as many years for The New Republic. They all concern themselves with literature, especially French, though the first one was about Charles Dickens and how he was the most avant-garde writer of the 19th Century. The second was about Roland Barthes' plans to write a novel which came to nothing when he died. In Visionary Materialism, Thirlwell explores Rimbaud's Illuminations from several angles. Genocide and the Fine Arts is about Claude Lanzmann, the director of Shoah, and his complicated relationship with his famous work. The latest one, Baudelaire's Humiliation as a Way of Life, is about Baudelaire's place at the crux of the 19th Century revolution in letters.
The Roundabout Theatre Company in New York revived the musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood (also known as just Drood) in 2012. The costumes got them so excited, that they couldn't resist rapping about the Victorian bustles (NSFW) (wiki, and previously). Includes Chita Rivera briefly krumping (previously).
The Pickwick Papers, one of the most honored first novels of all time, was conceived as a showcase for the comic etchings of the celebrated illustrator Robert Seymour. His publishers tapped a 24 year old journalist named Charles Dickens (their third choice) to provide the humorous "commentary" linking the pictures, which were to depict the hunting mishaps of a club of cockney sportsmen. Dickens, who knew nothing about hunting, ignored the prospectus and wrote his own way forward. As it became clear that Seymour was ill-equipped to depict the darker turns of Dickens' imagination, illustrator and writer fell into a conflict which ended in horror. [more inside]
"Some remarkable Books, Antiquities, Pictures and Rarities of several kinds, scarce or never seen by any man now living."
Musæum Clausum is a catalog of invented books, pictures and antiquities written by 17th Century Englishman Sir Thomas Browne. It is a fantastical and witty meditation on the ravages of time on literature and other works of man. The Musæum Clausum is perhaps the finest example of the invented, or invisible, library, a genre which seems to have originated with Rabelais. The genre has been of special interest to Beachcombing's Bizarre History Blog (older posts), where he has written about the invisible libraries of writers such as Charles Dickens, Neil Gaiman, H. P. Lovecraft and invisible libraries in video games. The natural medium for invisible libraries might be pictures, and Musæum Clausum inspired a suite of etchings by Erik Desmazieres.
The earliest surviving Charles Dickens film, thought lost since 1954, has been re-found in the British Film Institute's archive. The Death of Poor Joe (YouTube HD, IMDB, Wikipedia), a one minute-long silent film based on an episode in Dickens' novel Bleak House, was filmed in 1901.
170 years ago, a gala ball was held in his honor on Valentine's Day. Flattered by New York City's elites, the author considered the occasion the finest moment of his life, particularly since he felt the United States was an ideal example of how Britain's class-bound society should live. But in the following weeks, when besieged by fawning groupies and actually meeting directly with the less than well-heeled folk of the New World, that his disposition turned sour. [more inside]
Since the time of Dickens there has been a long-standing tradition of telling spooky stories on Christmas Eve... Who better to be a guide to a selection of ghostly tales than faux-Edwardian and author of Supernatural Horror in Literature, Mr. Howard P Lovecraft? Scaretastic suggetions from some of his favourite authors within... [more inside]
Hartwick College, a small school in New York's Catskills, is the beneficiary of a trust that “could ultimately shatter the nation’s financial structure.”
"It was a good thing to have a couple of thousand people all rigid and frozen together, in the palm of one's hand." - Charles Dickens
"Biped. Omnivorous. 20 major works, namely, ten monthly serials, five weekly serials, five novellas..."
Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol has been reprinted, abridged, disected, redrawn and re-told on film numerous times, but the original 66 page manuscript has rarely been seen by the public. The manuscript was obtained by The Morgan Library & Museum during the 1890s, where it is currently on display. If you can't make it to New York this time of year, you can take a close look at 4 heavily edited pages and attempt to decipher Dickens' original writing, thanks to The New York Times.
Over 2000 classic short stories from American Literature as well as an option to sign up for a short story of the day rss feed. Among the authors on offer are Kate Chopin, Saki, O. Henry, Louisa May Alcott, Ambrose Bierce, H. P. Lovecraft, Jack London, James Joyce, Willa Cather, Guy de Maupassant, Charles Dickens, Herman Hesse, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Franz Kafka, Honoré de Balzac, Edith Warton, P. G. Wodehouse, Virginia Woolf, Langston Hughes, Leo Tolstoy, Aldous Huxley, Roald Dahl, Henry James, Katherine Mansfield and I could keep going for a while. The point is, there's over 2000 short stories in there.
An Interactive Map of Charles Dickens' London. After you have had a chance to peruse the map, see then and now pictures or take a quiz about Dickens' London. If you want to see it with your own eyes, take a walking tour. Or if you are daring enough, you can try to virtually survive Dickens' London.