Tag Archives: book review

weekend sojourners

Author’s Note: Time is like a fashionable host that flies with his arms outstretched and welcomes a new guest. Pleasure and activities make the hours seem short. Forget the finiteness of time and live for today. Carpe Diem. Enjoy the moment, for your thought about unknown tomorrow will build your own prison.

 

Charles Dickens wanted to…

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Letters revealing Dickens’ attempt to accuse his wife of being mentally unstable (from Google)

All would have been well if the truth had remained buried under the dusty files of forgotten letters from the past in the bottom drawer of History.  Alas, it happened – a recent revelation of the letters delineating Charles Dickens, a literary great whom I admired, concocting a plot to send his sane wife to a mental institution in order that he and his 18-year old paramour could be forever together.   

How and why these forgotten letters have been brought into light out of the blue are clandestine from my reading of the article about such letters from the recent issue of a history magazine. Besides, the possession of the letters is curiously divided between the Atlantic Ocean because some of the letters are held by Harvard University in the U.S., while the others by the University of York in the U.K. The article does not provide the reader with more detailed information as to whys and wherefores of such divisional custodianship of the letters, not to mention the background of such uncovering of the provocative textual artifact that would certainly do no good on Dickens in any way. Methinks it would be a possibility that a descendant of the estranged wife Catherine Hogarth or even of their eldest child might have staged this rather dramatic publicity of the letters revealing the other side of the great writer out of indignation as comeuppance for his sins of adultery and perjury, which in a twist of whimsical irony befits the ethos of #MeToo Movement.

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Mrs. Catherine Dickens

The content of one such letter written by a neighbor of Catherine Hogarth details the following: (1) Dickens at the age of 45 fell madly in love with 18-year old actress named Ellen Ternan: (2) it was the death-knell of the marriage, pace Dickens’ complaints about his legal wife; (3) his wife confronted him when a bracelet meant for the young actress providentially was delivered to her, after which she separated from him by moving to a house in Kent with their eldest child. The rest of the children were in the care of their aunt, while Dickens continued his relationship with the actress until his death; and (4) after the separation, Dickens tried to seek for divorce from the court by trying to prove that his wife was mentally unstable and that she would be sent to an asylum. However, the attempt to seek such remedy was foiled by the absence of proof of her insanity.

The whole scandalous charade of this great literary figure reminds me of the axiom by Ralph Waldo Emerson that the admiration of great works of geniuses should not become the worship of idols. That is, one must disembarrass the idea of a story from the person of the author, who is only a fallible, whimsical, temperamental human. The works of writers, I believe, are a separate reality based upon their epistemological knowledge magically alloyed in imaginativeness, ideals, and dreams in the peculiar alchemy of literature that deserves of distinguished approbation and recognition. In this regard, my disappointment with Dickens as a person should be kept separate from my admiration of the humane characters he created and the benevolent stories he entertained. Sometimes, it’s better not to know much about whom you like lest his follies and faults should dishearten you against your wishes and imaginations. For these reasons, I am more in sorrow than in anger upon reading this troubling article about Dickens, one of my all-time favorite writers, which leads me to the lamentation of Et tu, Mr. Dickens?

‘The Signal-Man’, by Charles Dickens – review

The Signal-Man (Original 1866 Edition): AnnotatedThe Signal-Man (Original 1866 Edition): Annotated by Charles Dickens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Charles Dickens wrote this short story of a lonely signalman in 1866 based upon the Clayton tunnel crash in 1861. The setting of the story was a station by this tunnel with a dismal and eerie atmosphere around it, which dovetailed with the ambiance of the story itself. But while I was reading the story and thereupon, I was unsure of who’s the ghost here: the narrator or the signalman? First of all, the image of the narrator calling the signalman’s attention to him from above seems to me uncanny enough to conjure up the calling of a spectre wandering about the haunted tunnel. Or it might be that the signalman, the station, and the train per se were all in fact illusions, bewitched elements of the tunnel crash victims eternally haunting the place, not knowing their demise. Or in terms of modern psychoanalytical perspective, either the narrator or the signalman saw his own representations of the reality in his own mind, the hallucinations, which were different from and invisible to the others. And that is what I found this story at once hauntingly rueful and lingering with the images.

small simple sweet

A merry heart goes all the day, warding off evils of everyday existential life. The Bard said, “Frame your mind to mirth and merriment, which bars a thousand harms and lengthens life.” Which also strikes the biblical chord of “Refrain from anger. Turn from wrath. Do not fret; it leads only to evil.” It all fits Sally’s way of fulfilling demands placed on her daily tasks in life and enjoying small pleasures in the simple and sweet novelty of it all.

Author’s note: with my new iPhone, nothing is impossible 🙂 I hope to make a short film, using a series of stop motions, in future.

‘Legally Haunted Houses’ by Dylan Clearfield – review

Legally Haunted HousesLegally Haunted Houses by Dylan Clearfield

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For a person like me who likes to read genuine supernatural stories free from dramatic accounts of witnesses, psychic, paranormal investigators, and/or parapsychologists, this is a perfect read consisting of historical cases in France, England, Canada, and the States that were rendered haunted by the court of law.

For example, the case of Stambovsky v. Ackley in the appellate division of New York Supreme Court has become a bedrock case law of caveat emptor, which is literally translated as “Let the buyer beware,” meaning that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made. The appellate court ruled that since the buyer should not/could be able to ascertain a condition in which haunting occurred upon reasonable investigation in due diligence on the buyer’s part, the plaintiff Stambovsky was awarded the rescission of the contract of sale of the house.

All of the stories contained in this collection of the cases are recorded in historical as well as legal documents, which weigh heavily against sensational TV programs and hyped-up accounts of psychics and the like in its genuineness. And it’s a light read readers can finish at one setting. Mind you, truth can be scarier than fiction.

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