Sunday, May 09, 2021

Fortnightly Book, May 9

The next fortnightly book will be Hard Times for These Times, or Hard Times, as it is most commonly known, by Charles Dickens. It is Dickens's shortest novel, and unlike other Dickens novels takes place almost entirely in a fictional city, Coketown, rather than in London. Dickens at the time was putting out a magazine, Household Words, which was struggling a bit, so he wrote Hard Times to help drum up sales. When it was serialized in the magazine from April to August 1854, it succeeded reasonably well. (Enough that he followed it up by serializing another novelist's work, Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, from September to January; it did not succeed so well at increasing sales.)

Chesterton's comments on it are interesting. He suggests that in some ways it is the harshest of Dickens's novels -- i.e., the least moderated by sentimentalism -- and that it is very focused on equality. We shall see; I've read parts of it, and know of course a bit about Gradgrind and Bounderby, but I've never actually read the story all the way through.

I'll be reading in a Heritage Press edition, published 1966. It has the same Joseph Blumenthal design as most Dickens HP editions, with gray, red, and gold linen binding. Unlike most editions of Hard Times, it is illustrated, with fifteen wash drawings and a number of line drawings by Charles Raymond. The type is eleven-point Baskerville. You can actually see pictures of a version of the edition I am using at "The George Macy Imagery". (I agree with the author's comment that Raymond's work here seems a little lifeless.)

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