A lovely sunny morning so off to the front for a stimulating cappuccino and make a start on the life of Charlie boy so refreshingly pictured above in the 1945 autobiography by the wonderfully named Una Pope-Hennessy. I am a great admirer of the great man and have always enjoyed his films and musicals. But I confess his written work has been literally a closed book since my unfortunate introduction to him through cramming Bleak House as an 'A' level English student. I think I was able to opt out of Great Expectations at 'O' level (and indeed opted out of most of the early seventies) so first came up against him in the form of a two year struggle with Bleak House .
Now I daresay that as originally published monthly in 20 illustrated pamphlets of 32 pages each it was as eagerly awaited and devoured by his adoring public as anything put out these days by Marshall Cavendish. If they had been so minded and able no doubt his publishers too would have included a free diecast model of the novel's characters. But in a fat, ink stained, plastic wrapped unillustrated school issue tome it did little to inspire the febriled mind of this teenager. The book's central theme is a satire on the gross inefficiencies and social inequalities of society as typified by the tortuous machinations of the Court of Chancery. The language is one of fog, mist, mud and human despair. And for two years it was subjected to such a line by line word by word autopsy of methodology and imagery as Dicken's himself would have railed to the heavens about. I think I finished about a third of it, scraped a 'D' (equivalent to Grade A 5 star unleaded under the present system) and waited for last year's BBC production to find out the end.
I open the biography, page one, line one " In Bleak House it is laid down as 'a melancholy truth'..... " . Better make that a triple espresso and six sugars.