dear mr d
This is the third of your books I have read in the last 3 months; the others are David Copperfield and Great Expectations. I have to admit that I preferred those but I did get to the end of Dombey et al. And that’s the worry – the et al.
There were a lot of characters in the book and I could see you have had to plan it very carefully so as to keep track of them. I am not sure that Alice and her mother were useful except in that they did illustrate the ways in which women were bartered in your time and Alice made a useful counterpart to Edith. But hmmmm as characters they were a bit extraneous.
As usual it’s your comic characters that you paint so well and of whom you are so scathing. I shivered at the prospect of Mrs Skewton:
The rose-coloured curtains blushed, in course of time, on Cleopatra’s bodily recovery, and on her dress – more juvenile than ever, to repair the ravages of illness – and on the rouge, and on the teeth, and on the curls, and on the diamonds, and the short sleeves, and the whole wardrobe of the doll that had rumbled down before the mirror” (p.621).
There is a raft of characters and I think sometimes we lose the place of Florence. She seems to us in the 21st century a bit insipid and overly good. It’s clear that she is loved by those who meet her, but not her father, and you show a great deal of sympathy for children who are neglected by their parents. But I think you show more of the character of Paul the son, but I guess that’s it – the book IS called Dombey and Son.
Colonel Bagstock is a dreadful man and Carker of course wonderful oily. A more urbane Uriah Heep perhaps? The various people employed to teach the young are frightful. Did you have awful experiences as a child in school? I wept for the fate of Rob the Grinder and the self-congratulatory satisfaction of the rich who do good for the poor. You’ll be surprised to hear mr d that there are still people in the world like this, and they behave this way not only not the poor but also to people of other cultures. I see you have a native in your book – in your time the people in England had colonised were, I believe, employed in England although slavery had only been abolished for about 10 years when you wrote this book. Your attitude to other races is understandable and you don’t say anything untoward about the native just that he bears the brunt of Colonel Bagstock’s ill temper. My point is just that self righteousness still exists. I guess we are still human.
So. There you go. I did love the book but I was keen to get to the end and round everybody up. Such a symphony of marriages and domestic satisfaction!
And I am pleased that Paul Dombey snr found some resolution and love in his life.
You should visit sometime. You’d find us largely unchanged just moving around a bit faster and having at our disposal an astonishing array of ways to communicate.