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Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens

Barnaby Rudge (1841)

by Charles Dickens

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
I must admit, I really enjoyed Barnaby Rudge. Dickens' 6th book, and 5th novel, it is perhaps the least read of his "Big Fifteen" and not unfairly, but that's only because the rest of them are so vibrant! Barnaby Rudge is a bit of an anomaly, in that it has its origins in history, but it's still very Dickensian, and fits neatly into its place just after The Old Curiosity Shop, which also features a naive young thing running away with their guardian from an unforgiving society. Published in 1841, Rudge is the last book in a rapid writing frenzy that must have overtaken Dickens. It's certainly true that these early novels feel less thorough, less thematically unified than the later works (but perhaps that's because Dickens was thinking almost solely of serialisation, and not so much about ultimate publication), but it also means that they can be more surprising. One doesn't feel so often (as one does even with the best of the later books) that Dickens is making you wait forever just to get to the secrets he has kept hidden from you.

Despite being the title character (and one of my personal favourites), Barnaby himself is not really the lead in this book; it feels like a real ensemble piece, being marvelously unpredictable in terms of which characters will join which side of the riots. The riot setpieces themselves, and how easily Barnaby is swept up in them (perhaps reflecting on how so many others were swept up, in some cases unwillingly and in some cases just due to the Trump-esque mob mentality), are particularly moving. What works here is Dickens' incredible skill at description; every home and street feels truly lived in, even if none of the characters in this novel - even the irrepressible Dolly Varden - have any real internal life. To be honest, I feel as if the first half of the novel is a bit repetitive, while the second half spends so much historical time on the one situation that the book could easily be a two- or three-hour miniseries rather than the kind of lengthy soap opera which could be spun from Little Dorrit. Anyhow, if only the BBC would give us a modern Barnaby Rudge, perhaps the book would be more widely read! In truth, I'd place this fairly low down the Dickens totem pole, lower than Dombey and Son, perhaps equal to The Old Curiosity Shop, but I find it interesting to see Dickens applying his skill to history, which gives him a chance to further investigate why men do what they do, a question he will plunge into with great fervour later in his career. By the time Rudge was done, Dickens was off to America, and the next phase of his remarkable career. ( )
2 vote therebelprince | Oct 30, 2018 |
A neglected gem. After the slog that was "Dombey and Son" it was good to read a Dickens I could enjoy. In this case, it's one of his few historical novels and one of his most tightly-plotted works. The anti-Catholic Gordon Riots are described with outrage, but there's the lingering sense that Dickens never examined his own anti-Catholic sentiments too deeply, and the curt offstage death of a good Catholic man suggests that his supply of outrage for persecuted Catholics had its limits. Be that as it may, the novel is a good one: part historical, part murder mystery, part romance. It moves along at a steady clip without the longueurs you sometimes find in Victorian novels. His long accounts of the riots--and in particular his description of a mob--are terrific. ( )
  mcduck68 | Apr 23, 2018 |
This, truly, is an amazing book. My edition had illustrations on many of the pages, but it still ran to over 700 pages in length. Part of me considers just sticking with this book a significant accomplishment! But in all seriousness, this tome is a monument to observations, to knowledge of human motivations, and to mob rule.

The first half is, of course, full of Dickensian characters. For me, getting through the first 100 pages, ending with the painting of the character of Hugh, was a hurdle. I can honestly say that a reader can stick with this portion and will find joy and relief in the latter half of the book. The maidens are full of distress and loveliness, the men are jovial and satirical, but Dickens is able to twist the knife in the character of his own father by naming two horrible men, who happen to be fathers of sons John." Both men have good sons, and neither father is deserving of such good sons.

But within the details of the characters lies less satire or over-the-top descriptions and much more malice and true goodness. The character of Barnaby is kind and quaint, the character of Dolly Vickens is sweet and . . . flirtatious without caring whether she breaks men's hearts. The character of Mrs. Vickens is brilliantly martyred (helped by her lady's maid) . . . with an undercurrent of vindictiveness. And Simon Tippertit is almost, but not quite, a spoof of the hapless apprentice . . . until he joins with the apprentice "court" and becomes a court favorite by his similarly uncaring ways.

Then we get to the second half and the Gordon Riots of 1780. I had not known these riots existed, even, and they are brilliantly described in their horrible detail: the sound made by the mob is consistently referred to with water imagery (some earth imagery might also have been good, or references to an avalanche), the destruction they cause is described in horrible detail, and their motivations for destroying the churches? Well, religion is the excuse but hatred and vengeance and a need to get back it others is the real reason. Dickens' descriptions of the "false enthusiasm and vanity of being a leader" as Lord Gordon's foundation for his personality are spot-on, and the methods to motivate a crowd, not by standing on London Bridge and "calling till . . . hoarse . . . might have influenced a score of people in a month. . . . But when vague rumors got abroad, that in this Protestant association a secret power was mustering against the government for undefined and mighty purposes; . . . then the mania spread indeed and the body . . . grew forty thousand strong." These are the truest words about vain and weak leaders that I've read yet. ( )
  threadnsong | Jun 18, 2016 |
Not the very best of Dickens but still very good. It has all of his strengths and weaknesses, especially an over sentimentalised ending. It starts to have some longueurs towards the middle but then the Gordon Riots kick in and the narrative becomes all action. ( )
  stephengoldenberg | Apr 6, 2016 |
Dickens' great strength is his characters, and in this he creates another couple of gems. Gabriel Varden is a real salt of the earth type, down to earth, upright, principled as honest as the day is long and caught up in events beyond his control. By contrast, his apprentice is a slimy weasel of a man and is not worthy of the locksmith's daughter. The title character is an idiot, but not completely without sense. He's endearing enough that you do care about him. Set in the midst of the Gordon riots of the 1780s, this is a history, being written somewhat later. There's lots of weighty matters in here, crime and punishment, he death penalty, the way that a mob mentality can take over, manipulation of people and events for personal revenge, the works. There's a reason Dickens is still read today, it's because he captures the entire of the human condition. ( )
  Helenliz | Mar 26, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (31 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionscalculated
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.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140437282, 0141199695

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