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Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens

Barnaby Rudge (1841)

by Charles Dickens

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Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
Dickens introduces this novel with several chapters of pure fiction set in 1775, laying out two romance plots and a murder mystery. Then the story jumps ahead five years to the Gordon Riots of 1780 when historical events take over the plot, catching up his characters in the turmoil. There's good understanding shown here of how a mob gathers, acts, and is reacted to. This was Dickens' first crack at writing historical fiction and he used several sources to get the details right. Significant characters in the novel (e.g. Lord Gordon) were real people, and their personalities are believed to be accurately portrayed.

If this is Dickens' least popular novel, I blame its title character. Barnaby is an innocent simpleton whose cognitive abilities slide up and down the scale as the plot demands. He's a rare personality that Dickens could not get a handle on, or at least was less true in portraying for the sake of directing his story. He was also Dickens' third variant on the helpless innocent motif, following Oliver and Little Nell, and the most shallow even by that comparison. From the first page we meet him he is living a vacant-minded idyllic life, and almost nothing shakes him from it. It's as flat a character arc as you might imagine.

The book isn't really about Barnaby, however, despite its title, since there's nothing central about him and he remains a sideshow in his own story. The secondary plot romances are far more engaging and often feel primary. Only thematically can I find a purpose for Barnaby, where he serves as an extreme symbol of disparity between mob mentality and the individuals that comprise it. Potential blame for this novel's being unpopular might also lie with the subject matter. How many people outside England today have heard of the Gordon Riots, or can imagine Protestant extremists? On the other hand riots, political unrest and religious angst are abundantly relevant in our modern context. This work could win a renaissance for reminding us there is nothing new under the sun. ( )
  Cecrow | Apr 27, 2015 |
A mixture of fact and fiction and an indication of things yet to come. The historical perspective of A Tale of Two Cities plus a hint of future plot manipulation and twists and turns best exemplified by Great Expectations. The Gordon Riots of 1780 is the backdrop, but as always, human nature is paramount to the tale. Religion was not the important factor to these characters. Despite the cries of 'No Popery,' each and everyone had a hidden agenda. The character of Barnaby himself was less than consistent in tone, but most of the characters were very well-drawn and, frankly, the female characters were a breath of fresh air after that insipid Nell. Overall, a good read. ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 18, 2014 |
Typical Dickens - beautifully drawn characters, both heroes and villains and brilliant descriptions of London and its surrounds. Enjoyable, but overly long. ( )
  cazfrancis | Sep 23, 2014 |
4 stars for the book; 4½ stars for this audiobook.

This tale is sort of Romeo and Juliet set in the time of the Gordon Riots between Protestents & Catholics. Of course, as usual with Dickens, there are plenty of subplots and interesting characters.

Mil Nicholson once again is marvelous in this Librivox recording of Dickens. Highly recommended. ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 23, 2014 |
This is Dickens fifth novel and it was his first attempt to write an historical novel and was inspired by the Walter Scott's novels.

In the first chapters, Dickens describes the Maypole and introduces the main characters: Gabriel Varden with his wife and his daughter, Simon Tappertit, John and Joe Willet, Solomon Daisy, the Haredales, the Rudges and a mysterious stranger.

Maypole Inn in the village of Chigwell:

A hint of mystery is also inserted in these initial chapters through the Haredale murder. And a black raven gives a gothic touch into the narrative. Just to remind that a black raven has a special meaning in literature.

It seems that "Barbaby Rudge" was published first in Dickens's weekly journal Master Humphrey's Clock in 1841.

In some editions, the original tittle of this book was "Gabriel Vardon, the Locksmith of London."

One you start to read the description of the Gordon Riots, you won't be able to stop to read this book.

Page 116:
The despisers of mankind--apart from the mere fools and mimics, of that creed--are of two sorts. They who believe their merit neglected and unappreciated, make up one class; they who receive adulation and flattery, knowing their own worthlessness, compose the other. Be sure that the coldest-hearted misanthropes are ever of this last order.

Page 138:
So do the shadows of our own desires stand between us and our better angels, and thus their brightness is eclipsed.

Page 222:
In the exhaustless catalogue of Heaven's mercies to mankind, the power we have of finding some germs of comfort in the hardest trials must ever occupy the foremost place...

Page 244:
'All good friends to our cause, I hope will be particular, and do no injury to the property of any true Protestant. I am well assured that the proprietor of this house is a staunch and worthy friend to the cause. GEORGE GORDON.'

Page 251:
The great mass never reasoned or thought at all, but were stimulated by their own headlong passions, by poverty, by ignorance, by the love of mischief, and the hope of plunder.

The historical description of the Gordon Riots can be found at:

Victorian Web


A Web of English History

Charles Dickens Page

A TV series was made based on this magnificent book:

TV Series (1960)

An interesting historical reference: The Gordon Riots: Politics, Culture and Insurrection in Late Eighteenth-Century Britain by Ian Haywood and John Seed. ( )
  Lnatal | Mar 31, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (31 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bowen, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Browne, Hablot KnightIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buckland, A. H.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cattermole, GeorgeIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Spence, GordonEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tillotson, KathleenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In the year 1775, there stood upon the borders of Epping Forest, at a distance of about twelve miles from London--measuring from the Standard in Cornhill, or rather from the spot on or near to which the Standard used to be in days of yore--a house of public entertainment called the Maypole; which fact was demonstrated to all such travellers as could neither read nor write (and at that time a vast number both of travellers and stay-at-homes were in this condition) by the emblem reared on the roadside over against the house, which, if not of those goodly proportions that Maypoles were wont to present in olden times, was a fair young ash, thirty feet in height, and straight as any arrow that ever English yeoman drew.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140437282, Paperback)

The title character of Barnaby Rudge, a feeble minded individual, is a passive actor who is swept along by events. Based on Gordon Riots of June 1780, the riots reach a climax in the storming and destruction of the Newgate Prison. This work is famous for its descriptions of mob violence which shows Dickens' descriptive abilities. First published in 1841.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:03 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Dickens' first historical novel is set against the famous No Popery riots instigated by Lord George Gordon in 1780. Prejudice and intolerance are woven into the mysterious tale of a long unsolved murder and a forbidden romance.

» see all 9 descriptions

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14 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140437282, 0141199695

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