Good Mrs Brown

If you have not read Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens I would highly recommend you do and you will come across Good Mrs Brown.

One of the most despicable characters Good Mrs Brown is an elderly rag dealer who briefly kidnaps the young Florence from a street crowd and steals her fine clothes. She only refrains from cutting off Florence’s hair because she has a daughter of her own who’s ‘far away’, a piece of foreshadowing for the appearance of Alice later in the book. She greedily provides Mr Dombey with Rob the Grinder’s information on where his wife and Mr Carker the Manager have fled.

In this scene, you Miss Florence Dombey has been separated from her Nanny, Miss Susan Nipper.

Good Mrs Brown but not that good really!

‘With a wild confusion before her, of people running up and down, and shouting, and wheels running over them, and boys fighting, and mad bulls coming up, and the nurse in the midst of all these dangers being torn to pieces, Florence screamed and ran. She ran till she was exhausted, urging Susan to do the same; and then, stopping and wringing her hands as she remembered they had left the other nurse behind, found, with a sensation of terror not to be described, that she was quite alone.

‘Susan! Susan!’ cried Florence, clapping her hands in the very ecstasy of her alarm. ‘Oh, where are they? where are they?’

‘Where are they?’ said an old woman, coming hobbling across as fast as she could from the opposite side of the way. ‘Why did you run away from ’em?’

‘I was frightened,’ answered Florence. ‘I didn’t know what I did. I thought they were with me. Where are they?’

The old woman took her by the wrist, and said, ‘I’ll show you.’

She was a very ugly old woman, with red rims round her eyes, and a mouth that mumbled and chattered of itself when she was not speaking. She was miserably dressed, and carried some skins over her arm. She seemed to have followed Florence some little way at all events, for she had lost her breath; and this made her uglier still, as she stood trying to regain it: working her shrivelled yellow face and throat into all sorts of contortions.

Florence was afraid of her, and looked, hesitating, up the street, of which she had almost reached the bottom. It was a solitary place — more a back road than a street — and there was no one in it but her-self and the old woman.

‘You needn’t be frightened now,’ said the old woman, still holding her tight. ‘Come along with me.’

‘I— I don’t know you. What’s your name?’ asked Florence.

‘Mrs Brown,’ said the old woman. ‘Good Mrs Brown.’

‘Are they near here?’ asked Florence, beginning to be led away.

‘Susan ain’t far off,’ said Good Mrs Brown; ‘and the others are close to her.’

‘Is anybody hurt?’ cried Florence.

‘Not a bit of it,’ said Good Mrs Brown.

The child shed tears of delight on hearing this, and accompanied the old woman willingly; though she could not help glancing at her face as they went along — particularly at that industrious mouth — and wondering whether Bad Mrs Brown, if there were such a person, was at all like her.

They had not gone far, but had gone by some very uncomfortable places, such as brick-fields and tile-yards, when the old woman turned down a dirty lane, where the mud lay in deep black ruts in the middle of the road. She stopped before a shabby little house, as closely shut up as a house that was full of cracks and crevices could be. Opening the door with a key she took out of her bonnet, she pushed the child before her into a back room, where there was a great heap of rags of different colours lying on the floor; a heap of bones, and a heap of sifted dust or cinders; but there was no furniture at all, and the walls and ceiling were quite black.

The child became so terrified the she was stricken speechless, and looked as though about to swoon.

‘Now don’t be a young mule,’ said Good Mrs Brown, reviving her with a shake. ‘I’m not a going to hurt you. Sit upon the rags.’

Florence obeyed her, holding out her folded hands, in mute supplication.

‘I’m not a going to keep you, even, above an hour,’ said Mrs Brown. ‘D’ye understand what I say?’

The child answered with great difficulty, ‘Yes.’

‘Then,’ said Good Mrs Brown, taking her own seat on the bones, ‘don’t vex me. If you don’t, I tell you I won’t hurt you. But if you do, I’ll kill you. I could have you killed at any time — even if you was in your own bed at home. Now let’s know who you are, and what you are, and all about it.’

The old woman’s threats and promises; the dread of giving her offence; and the habit, unusual to a child, but almost natural to Florence now, of being quiet, and repressing what she felt, and feared, and hoped; enabled her to do this bidding, and to tell her little history, or what she knew of it. Mrs Brown listened attentively, until she had finished.

‘So your name’s Dombey, eh?’ said Mrs Brown.

‘I want that pretty frock, Miss Dombey,’ said Good Mrs Brown, ‘and that little bonnet, and a petticoat or two, and anything else you can spare. Come! Take ’em off.’

Florence obeyed, as fast as her trembling hands would allow; keeping, all the while, a frightened eye on Mrs Brown. When she had divested herself of all the articles of apparel mentioned by that lady, Mrs B. examined them at leisure, and seemed tolerably well satisfied with their quality and value.

‘Humph!’ she said, running her eyes over the child’s slight figure, ‘I don’t see anything else — except the shoes. I must have the shoes, Miss Dombey.’

Poor little Florence took them off with equal alacrity, only too glad to have any more means of conciliation about her. The old woman then produced some wretched substitutes from the bottom of the heap of rags, which she turned up for that purpose; together with a girl’s cloak, quite worn out and very old; and the crushed remains of a bonnet that had probably been picked up from some ditch or dunghill. In this dainty raiment, she instructed Florence to dress herself; and as such preparation seemed a prelude to her release, the child complied with increased readiness, if possible.

In hurriedly putting on the bonnet, if that may be called a bonnet which was more like a pad to carry loads on, she caught it in her hair which grew luxuriantly, and could not immediately disentangle it. Good Mrs Brown whipped out a large pair of scissors, and fell into an unaccountable state of excitement.

‘Why couldn’t you let me be!’ said Mrs Brown, ‘when I was contented? You little fool!’

‘I beg your pardon. I don’t know what I have done,’ panted Florence. ‘I couldn’t help it.’

‘Couldn’t help it!’ cried Mrs Brown. ‘How do you expect I can help it? Why, Lord!’ said the old woman, ruffling her curls with a furious pleasure, ‘anybody but me would have had ’em off, first of all.’ Florence was so relieved to find that it was only her hair and not her head which Mrs Brown coveted, that she offered no resistance or entreaty, and merely raised her mild eyes towards the face of that good soul.

‘If I hadn’t once had a gal of my own — beyond seas now-that was proud of her hair,’ said Mrs Brown, ‘I’d have had every lock of it. She’s far away, she’s far away! Oho! Oho!’

Mrs Brown’s was not a melodious cry, but, accompanied with a wild tossing up of her lean arms, it was full of passionate grief, and thrilled to the heart of Florence, whom it frightened more than ever. It had its part, perhaps, in saving her curls; for Mrs Brown, after hovering about her with the scissors for some moments, like a new kind of butterfly, bade her hide them under the bonnet and let no trace of them escape to tempt her. Having accomplished this victory over herself, Mrs Brown resumed her seat on the bones, and smoked a very short black pipe, mowing and mumbling all the time, as if she were eating the stem.

When the pipe was smoked out, she gave the child a rabbit-skin to carry, that she might appear the more like her ordinary companion, and told her that she was now going to lead her to a public street whence she could inquire her way to her friends. But she cautioned her, with threats of summary and deadly vengeance in case of disobedience, not to talk to strangers, nor to repair to her own home (which may have been too near for Mrs Brown’s convenience), but to her father’s office in the City; also to wait at the street corner where she would be left, until the clock struck three. These directions Mrs Brown enforced with assurances that there would be potent eyes and ears in her employment cognizant of all she did; and these directions Florence promised faithfully and earnestly to observe.

At length, Mrs Brown, issuing forth, conducted her changed and ragged little friend through a labyrinth of narrow streets and lanes and alleys, which emerged, after a long time, upon a stable yard, with a gateway at the end, whence the roar of a great thoroughfare made itself audible. Pointing out this gateway, and informing Florence that when the clocks struck three she was to go to the left, Mrs Brown, after making a parting grasp at her hair which seemed involuntary and quite beyond her own control, told her she knew what to do, and bade her go and do it: remembering that she was watched.

With a lighter heart, but still sore afraid, Florence felt herself released, and tripped off to the corner. When she reached it, she looked back and saw the head of Good Mrs Brown peeping out of the low wooden passage, where she had issued her parting injunctions; likewise the fist of Good Mrs Brown shaking towards her. But though she often looked back afterwards — every minute, at least, in her nervous recollection of the old woman — she could not see her again.

Dickens series coming

Press Release from the BBC
From the author of Peaky Blinders and Taboo, comes Steven Knight’s vision of Charles Dickens in a series of adaptations of his classic novels for BBC One.
  • A Christmas Carol announced as the first in a series of adaptations
  • Produced by Ridley Scott’s Scott Free London in association with Tom Hardy’s Hardy Son and Baker

624Commissioned by Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, and Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content, and produced by Scott Free London in association with Hardy Son and Baker, Knight will use his trademark style to create a boxset of Dickens’ most iconic novels in the next few years.

A Christmas Carol will be the first adaptation in this planned series. As Ebenzer Scrooge, the miserly cold-hearted boss, is visited by four ghosts from the past, present and the future, on a freezing Christmas Eve, he must face up to how his self-interested, penny pinching behaviour has impacted his own life and those around him, leaving him in a paranoid bubble of fear. Is it too late for him to save the spirit of Christmas, and himself?

Knight says: “Any question about narrative storytelling is answered by Dickens. To have the chance to revisit the text and interpret in a new way is the greatest privilege. We need luck and wisdom to do this justice.”

Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, says: “Steven’s unique ability to reimagine the past and to turn it in to must see drama make him the perfect writer to reimagine Dickens’ most famous works for a new generation. And in A Christmas Carol, that most familiar of Dickens’ stories, he has found the perfect place to start.”

Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content says: “It’s incredibly exciting to have a genius like Steven Knight embark on a series of Dickens adaptations. What can I say? Be prepared to be blown away by his wholly original and visionary take on some of Britain’s best loved classics.”

Ridley Scott says: “It’s terrific to be continuing the creative partnership of Scott Free London with Tom and Steve that started with Taboo and continues with this exciting and ambitious anthology of British classics.”

Kate Crowe, Head of TV, Scott Free London, says: “A Christmas Carol explores miserliness, isolation and selfishness against generosity, charity and open-heartedness; a clash of ideologies that is as significant today as it ever has been.”

Tom Hardy, Hardy Son and Baker, says: “It’s extremely exciting to have the opportunity to team up with Ridley Scott, Steven Knight and our partners at the BBC with this rare and wonderful opportunity to revisit and interpret Dickens’ classic works. A Christmas Carol is a fabulous magical piece of theatre and an embarrassment of riches for our creative team – from character all the way through to design. Here’s to having a lot of intricate and wonderful fun. We feel very lucky.”

A Christmas Carol is a 3×60’ drama for Christmas 2019. It will be produced by Scott Free London in association with Hardy Son and Baker for BBC One. It will be executive produced by Steven Knight, Ridley Scott, Tom Hardy, Kate Crowe and Dean Baker, alongside Piers Wenger for the BBC.

Further details will be announced in due course.

Newgate Prison

Newgate Prison closed in 1902.

It had been operating for about 700 years. It was notorious and had held some surprising criminals such as:

  • Daniel Defoe (Who wrote Moll Flanders and Robinson Crusoe
  • William Kidd (the pirate known as Captain Kidd)
  • Lord George Gordon – UK politician whom the Gordon Riots are named after
  • Sir Thomas Malory – highwayman, possible author of Le Morte d’Arthur
  • Catherine Murphy, an English counterfeiter who became the last woman to be officially executed by burning in England and Great Britain in 1789 – Ouch!

And many, many others. Reformer Elizabeth Fry had for some time been particularly concerned at the conditions in which female prisoners and their children were held (yes children went to prison or were born in prison and stayed with their parents). She presented credible evidence to the House of Commons and improvements were made. In 1858, the interior was rebuilt with individual cells.

A big draw for Newgate were public hangings (I can’t think of anything worse!) these were crowded affairs and many people would gather to see these criminals hang. In fact one of the great events in the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign was a public hanging, a bit like a royal wedding in that the number of spectators might range anywhere from 20,000 up to 100,000, the number, according to The Times, attending Kirkdale Gaol in Liverpool for the mutiple hanging of four men on 11 September 1863.

In amongst the mob one found many of the labouring classes; mill-hands, factory girls and women, bricklayer’s labourers and dock workmen, either hoping for some entertainment on their way to work or enjoying St. Monday. Women and children were frequent spectators and at the last public execution in England, The Times commented on the “blue velvet hats and huge white feathers which lined the great beams which kept the mass from crushing each other in their eagerness to see a man put to death.” At any execution one might see ragged children darting to and fro to “play their usual pranks at the foot of the gallows.”

For about 60% of offences punishable by the death sentence, the magistrates recorded that it had been carried out, then gave a less serious punishment. As the century went on, the number of people who were sentenced to be hanged decreased. Between 1801 and 1837, 13 executions took place in Bedford, but between 1838 and 1878 there were only 4. Despite this, between 1800 and 1900, of the 3524 people sentenced to hang in England and Wales, only 1353 were for murder.

From 1868, public executions were discontinued and executions were carried out on gallows inside Newgate. Michael Barrett was the last man to be hanged in public outside Newgate Prison (and the last person to be publicly executed in Great Britain) on 26 May 1868. In total (publicly or otherwise), 1,169 people were executed at the prison.

The Old Bailey now stands on the site of Newgate Prison.

 

Dickensian…?

1364030393139So…

Dickensian by the BBC…

What do you think?

A big mix up from all corners of the Dickens universe and more.

I have to say I like it…it is not Dickens but then of course it isn’t but with some great casting and great creative writing it is fun and has potential.

So what do you think? Is it sacrilege…should Dickens wonderful characters be used like this?

Would Dickens enjoy it?

 

Dickens London Haunts

Untitled 1

http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-dickens-london-1924/

Take a look at this. The real London locations which formed the settings for various Dickens novels are shown, sometimes with characters from the books superimposed. The remaining locations are all associated with scenes from the books: the Old Curiosity Shop off the Aldwych, the Adelphi arches (now Embankment), the site of the blacking factory at Hungerford Market and Jacob’s Island from Oliver Twist.

Based on a successful magazine, the film series Wonderful London captures the life of the capital in the 1920s. These simple travelogues contrast different aspects of city life; East End and West End, poor and rich, natives and immigrants, looking beyond the stereotypes to show surprising views of the city. These six restorations by the BFI National Archive reintroduce the films’ original colours, with new piano accompaniments by John Sweeney.

No, no, no, no….

oliverPB09I wonder what Charles Dickens would’ve though of the variety of mediums used to interpret his books.

I think he would’ve loved film and television, stage he was very keen on himself but musicals…i’m not sure!

‘Oliver!’ which is the award winning version of ‘Oliver Twist’ is to be remade. I don’t really like musicals although there are a few exception and ‘Oliver!’ just happens to be one of them.

It sticks fairly faithfully to the story without, of course hanging Fagin at the end. Nevertheless I enjoy it as do many other.

For whatever reason Sony Pictures have decided to make a new version (as if it needs doing) of this five Oscar winning title.

According to Variety this version reported to be a darker take on the original 1968 classic and will be shot on location in and around London earlier next year.

The film should be released sometime at the end of 2016…this sounds like a bad idea…what do you think?

Charles Dickens in Richmond

I came across this from Richmond Council.

Untitled 1The purpose of these notes is to describe Charles Dickens’s associations with our borough and to illustrate how he made use of his knowledge of this particular part of the Thames Valley in his novels.

Estella in Great Expectations (1861) states:- “Our lesson is that there are two Richmonds, one in Surrey and one in Yorkshire, and that mine is the Surrey Richmond.” As early as August 1836 – during the period when The Pickwick Papers was being published in monthly installments – we find him on holiday in Petersham. His letters are headed simply “Mrs. Denman’s, Petersham, near Richmond”. He may well have been staying at the Dysart Arms where the proprietor at that time was a John Denman. A letter written in October 1837 to his friend and biographer John Forster, inviting him to participate in a pleasure trip, suggests that Dickens was already familiar with other parts of the borough:- “I think Richmond and Twickenham through the Park, out at Knightsbridge, and over Barnes Common, would make a beautiful ride.”

Readers of The Pickwick Papers will remember that, in the final chapter, Tracey Tupman retires to Richmond:- “…where he ever since resided. He walks constantly on The Terrace during the summer months, with a youthful and jaunty air which has rendered him the admiration of the numerous elderly ladies of single condition, who reside in the vicinity.” During the first half of the 19th century, the Star and Garter Hotel on Richmond Hill gained an enviable reputation under the management of Joseph Ellis. Dickens and his wife stayed there towards the end of March 1838. The purpose of this particular visit – apart from that of aiding his wife’s convalescence- was to be out of London on the day that the first number of Nicholas Nickleby was published, for – as Forster writes in his biography – “Having been away from town when Pickwick’s first number came out, he made it a superstition to be absent at many future similar times.” On this occasion, Forster spent a Sunday with Dickens at Richmond to celebrate their respective birthdays and also Dickens’ wedding anniversary.

This celebration apparently became a tradition over a period of twenty years (except when Dickens and his wife were out of England) and it always took place at the Star and Garter.

The Hotel was, indeed, a favourite resort of the author, whether as a place to meet friends and to celebrate a particular event o, or as simply a haven where he could recuperate after many strenuous weeks of work. Early in 1844, a dinner party took place there to celebrate the birth of the novelist’s third son. But perhaps the most important Dickens gathering at the Star and Garter was that of June 1850 when Thackeray and Tennyson were among the guests celebrating the publication of David Copperfield. Returning once more to the year 1838, we find Dickens and his family spending the summer in Twickenham – at 4, Ailsa Park Villas (near the present St. Margarets station), which he rented during June and July. In a letter to Forster of May 1838, he wrote:- “Kate is going in a fly to Twickenham to look at the cottage and we are to join her there.” Dickens was now working on Oliver Twist, but he found time to entertain many visitors at Twickenham and also to form a balloon club for the amusement of his children.

The club was called “The Gammon Aeronautical Balloon Association for the encouragement of Science and the Consumption of Spirits of Wine”. Forster was elected president with the duty of supplying the balloons. In the spring of the following year Dickens became re-acquainted with Petersham. His diary entry for Tuesday 30th April 1839 reads:- “Took possession of Elm Cottage, Petersham [in the Petersham Road] for 4 months – Rent for term: £100.” The outdoor recreations here, as described by Forster, were rather more strenuous than those at Twickenham:- “Extensive garden-grounds admitted much athletic competition, from the more difficult forms of which I in general modestly retired, but where Dickens for the most part held his own against even such accomplished athletes as MacLise [Daniel MacLise, the artist] and Mr Beard [Thomas Beard, a journalist friend]. Bar-leaping, bowling and quoits were among the games carried on with the greatest ardour; and in sustained energy, what is called keeping it up, Dickens certainly distancing every competitor. Even the lighter recreations of battledore and bagatelle were pursued with relentless activity; and at such and which he visited daily while the amusements as the Petersham races, in those days rather celebrated, and which he visited daily while they lasted, he worked much harder himself than the running horses did.” From Petersham it was not far to Hampton and Dickens also visited the race meeting held there in June. It cannot be mere coincidence that in the July number of Nickleby, Sir Mulberry Hawk and Lord Frederick also visited the Hampton races:- “The little racecourse at Hampton was in the full tide and height of its gaiety; the sun high in the cloudless sky. Every gaudy colour that fluttered in the air from carriage seat and garish tent-top shone out in its gaudiest hues.”

The subsequent quarrel between the two men on the way back from the races led to the duel which took place in Petersham:- “Shall we join the company in the avenue of trees which leads from Petersham to Ham House and settle the exact spot when we are there?……they at length turned to the right, and, taking a track across a little meadow, passed Ham House and came into some fields beyond. In one of these they stopped.” In a more sinister connection, Hampton had also featured briefly in Oliver Twist. It is there that Bill Sikes and Oliver halt for a while at ” an old public-house with a defaced sign-board” on their way to the burglary at Chertsey. Dickens also took advantage of the river for exercise, as is shown in his letter to MacLise, dated 28th June 1839:- “Beard is hearty, new and thicker ropes have been put up at the tree, the little birds have flown, their very nests have disappeared, the roads about are jewelled after dusk by glowworms, the leaves are all out and the flowers too, swimming feats from Petersham to Richmond Bridge have been achieved before breakfast, I myself have risen at 6 and plunged head foremost into the water to the astonishment and admiration of all beholders…” Among the other celebrities at that time resident in the area were the Berry sisters, Agnes and Mary, who entertained Dickens to dinner on July 1st 1839.

In June Dickens had received a letter from the Rev. Sydney Smith:- “The Miss Berrys, now at Richmond, live only to become acquainted with you and have commissioned me to request you to dine with them Friday, the 29th or Monday July 1st to meet a Canon of St. Paul’s, the Rector of Combe Florey and the Vicar of Halberton [i.e. Smith himself, who was all three] – all equally well known to you; to say nothing of other and better people.

The Miss Berrys and Lady Charlotte Lindsay have not the smallest objection to be put into a Number, but, on the contrary, would be proud of the distinction; and Lady Charlotte, in particular, you may marry to Newman Noggs. Pray come, it is as much as my place is worth to send them a refusal.” According to Chancellor in his History and Antiquities of Richmond, Kew, Petersham, Ham etc. (1894), Dickens also lived for a time at Woodbine Cottage which was situated near Elm Cottage in the Petersham Road. There seems to be no mention of this, however, in the novelist’s published letters. Dickens’s sojourn at Petersham lasted until the end of August 1839 and we next hear of him in the vicinity in May 1840. Early in that month he wrote to Forster:- “We are to be heard of at the Eel Pie House, Twickenham where we shall dine at half past five or thereabouts and where we will take care of you if you come.” The novelist must have visited this popular establishment on at least one previous occasion, for in Nicholas Nickleby (the last instalment of which appeared in October 1839), Morleena Kenwigs travels to Eel Pie Island by steamer from Westminster Bridge Local History Notes From Richmond Libraries’ Local Studies Collection Page 4 of 4 “to make merry upon a cold collation, bottled-beer, shrub and shrimps and to dance to the music of a locomotive band.” In Little Dorrit (1857), the Meagles cottage was by the river between Richmond Bridge and Teddington Lock;_ “It stood in a garden and was defended by a goodly show of handsome trees and spreading evergreens. It was made of an old brick house, which a part had been altogether pulled down, and another part had been changed into the present cottage…within view was the peaceful river, and the ferry boat.”

Finally, there is the vivid description in Great Expectations of the house by Richmond Green, to which Estella is sent by Miss Haversham:- “…a staid old house, where hoops and powder and patches, embroidered coats, rolled stockings, ruffles and swords, had their court days many a time. Some ancient trees before the house were still cut into fashions as formal and unnatural as the hoops and wigs and stiff skirts; but their own allotted places in the great procession of the dead were not far off, and they would soon drop into them and go the silent way of the rest.”

Notes From Richmond Libraries’ Local Studies Collection.