This is a series wherein I will discuss whatever book I’m reading or have just finished. Feel free to post in the comments what you’re reading or your own thoughts about the books I discuss.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
I’ve written about Great Expectations before and may do so again after today. I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I started reading it purely because of a distant fascination with Miss Havisham, and found all kinds of hilarity, as well as amazing characterizations. And now that I am 90% of the way through the book, I’ve discovered Dickens’s genius at plotting.
One of my new reasons to love this book is Herbert Pocket, a young man of about Pip’s age who befriends him when Pip first moves to London to be educated and turned into a gentleman. During their first dinner together (starting around chapter 22), Herbert explains some of Miss Havisham’s unfortunate backstory and gives us this little gem about her father:
“…it is indisputable that while you cannot possibly be genteel and bake, you may be as genteel as never was and brew. You see it every day.”
RocketMan should get a kick out of that, as he doesn’t think he can bake (but he can!), but loves to brew, and could care less about being genteel.
Herbert also gently helps Pip learn table manners:
We had made some progress in the dinner, when I reminded Herbert of his promise to tell me about Miss Havisham.
“True,” he replied. “I’ll redeem it at once. Let me introduce the topic, Handel [Herbert’s little nickname for Pip], by mentioning that in London it is not the custom to put the knife in the mouth, – for fear of accidents, – and that while the fork is reserved for that use, it is not put further in than necessary. It is scarcely worth mentioning, only it’s as well to do as other people do. Also, the spoon is not generally used over-hand, but under. This has two advantages. You get at your mouth better (which after all is the object), and you save a good deal of the attitude of opening oysters, on the part of the right elbow.”
He offered these friendly suggestions in such a lively way, that we both laughed and I scarcely blushed.
I wish my father had taught me table manners in a similar way. I must remember this for my children!
“…At last his father disinherited him; but he softened when he was dying, and left him well off, though not nearly so well off as Miss Havisham. – Take another glass of wine, and excuse my mentioning that society as a body does not expect one to be so strictly conscientious in emptying one’s glass, as to turn it bottom upwards with the rim on one’s nose.”
I had been doing this, in an excess of attention to his recital. I thanked him, and apologized. He said, “Not at all,” and resumed.
Hee hee. What a nice young man. Just a little further on, while still telling Pip about Miss Havisham’s dastardly brother:
“Now, I come to the cruel part of the story, – merely breaking off, my dear Handel, to remark that a dinner napkin will not go into a tumbler.”
Why I was trying to pack mine into my tumbler, I am wholly unable to say. I only know that I found myself, with a perseverance worthy of a much better cause, making the most strenuous exertions to compress it within those limits. Again I thanked him and apologized, and again he said in the cheerfullest manner, “Not at all, I am sure!” and resumed.
If you don’t find this as hilarious as I did, then I guess I’m revealing a little too much about myself. Of course, it is out of context. Dickens set the scene much better than I did.
What are some of your favorite classics and why?