Saturday, September 8, 2018

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens (novel #109)

…it is not on earth that Heaven’s justice ends.

Well Mr. Dickens – you surprised me. This being the seventh Dickens novel I’ve read, I considered myself quite the expert and was rather smug; I recognized this motif.

Sweet, innocent, pure-hearted child victimized by a cruel injustice or heart-breaking misfortune – only in this case it was both – visited upon two different youths: one suffering injustice the other misfortune – so much the better – the poetic justice in the end would be twice as satisfying. The only drama was how the Inimitable author would set everything right.

The Dickens’ trademarks were there: the villainous caricatures, the aptronyms, the kindly poor, the powerful benefactors, a touch of humor.

But then…it seems I have yet more to learn of Dickens

The old curiosity shop is the business establishment of the aged Mr. Trent, who lives there with his adored and angelic granddaughter Nell. In the employ of Mr. Trent is young Kit, the honest and dutiful son of a widowed mother. I’ll spare the spoilers but you might infer whom the two aforementioned innocent youths might be.

Besides the surprising plot twist that I did not anticipate, there was another surprise. Another character, young Mr. Richard Swiveller, was early thought to be quite a wastrel and a cad, but he turns out to be a shining knight.

I have to admit I was not entirely satisfied with Dickens’ ending. But, the tale was riveting, and I have to give the author high marks for unpredictability. At any rate, I took the ending better than Oscar Wilde did. Have you read The Old Curiosity Shop? What did you think?

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel satisfies – Back to the Classics Challenge 2018 – Category: a 19thCentury classic.

Other excerpts:

But Nature often enshrines gallant and noble hearts in weak bosoms…

Oh! It is hard to take to heart the lesson that such deaths will teach, but let no man reject it, for it is one that all must learn, and is a mighty universal Truth. When Death strikes down the innocent and young, for every fragile form from which he lets the panting spirit free, a hundred virtues rise, in shapes of mercy, charity, and love, to walk the world and bless it. Of every tear that sorrowing mortals shed on such green graves, some good is born, some gentler nature comes. In the Destroyer’s steps there spring up bright creations that defy his power, and his dark path becomes a way of light to Heaven.

…for your popular rumour, unlike the rolling stone of the proverb, is one which gathers a deal of moss in its wanderings up and down…

With failing strength and heightening resolution, there had sprung up a purified and altered mind; there had grown in her bosom blessed thoughts and hopes, which are the portion of few but the weak and drooping.

…it is not on earth that Heaven’s justice ends.

Such are the changes which a few years bring about, and so do things pass away, like a tale that is told!

And something I always enjoy finding – a reference to other classic literature: Nell Reads from Pilgrim’s Progress



  1. I liked it, too, and yes it is a bit of a surprise what happens! It was the last of DIckens' novels for me and the most recent one I read, except for rereading Edwin Drood. I had the same expectations as you, I imagine, but no...

    1. I was happy to be surprised. I'm just about half way through Dickens' novels now and haven't disliked any. (loved most)

  2. I just read this too for the same category. I love Dickens but this will probably not end up as one of my favorites. I kind of agree with Oscar Wilde.

    That said, I loved Dick Swiveller and the Marchioness as characters. Dicken's supporting characters are almost always a joy to read and often far more interesting than the protagonist.

    1. Indeed, Dick and the Marchioness were a delight. It won't be my favorite Dickens either...not even close.

  3. I've never read it, although I've been drawn to the title, because I've heard that as you say, the ending is a big let down. I've always wondered whether I should reconsider.

    1. The title is intriguing, but is really just an incidental detail. It could have been any business. I still recommend it.


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