It was a miserable day, cold, grey and with flecks of icy rain in the sharp wind… we were wandering around, well-wrapped up, when we passed this shop full of peculiar items. There didn’t seem to be an opening time, there wasn’t really any indication that it ever opened, there were just piles of interesting and random things… junk maybe, in the window.
The Old Curiosity Shop was written in a serial form and the chapters were printed between April 1840 and February 1841. It appeared in a magazine called Master Humphrey’s Clock, It was published as a complete book in 1841, Dickens fourth novel. It tells the story of Little Nell who, with her grandfather is turned out of his old shop by an evil character, the marvellously named Daniel Quilp, to whom granddad owes a lot of money. it is no secret that the story ends in tragedy with the death of Nell and her befuddled grandfather sitting by her grave waiting for her to return.
I read it not too long ago, and have to say that it is not my favourite book by Dickens although it was so popular when it was written as a serial, that desperate American readers virtually stormed the ship bringing the final instalment from London to New York. Oscar Wilde remarked that he was moved to tears by the sad ending of Little Nell, tears of laughter that is! However, Dickens found that writing the passages dealing with the death was a traumatic experience for him, maybe bringing back memories of his sister-in-law with whom he was probably in love, and who had died at the age of seventeen in 1837.
Many of Dickens novels seem fresh and open to the modern reader, some, in my opinion, despite the genius of his writing, don’t. There are books by Dickens I know I will read again, but this is not one!