The Old Curiosity Shop

Early this morning I finished reading ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ by Charles Dickens, and scanned the last three of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to my Folio Society edition of 1987.

This book bears all the qualities of Mr Dickens’s story-telling. We have mystery, suspense, moving prose, humour, and more than a touch of sarcasm. There is a wealth of characters intricately knitted together. As is typical the personages are uncomplicated; they are either sinners or saints.

The prose flows at quite a rate; the descriptions of a range of locations from city to countryside are often lyrical, and at times unattractive. Dialogue expands characterisation, while refraining from irritating attempts at the vernacular such as sometimes employed elsewhere. Cameo introductions of various contemporary environments and individuals are informative. I find it is quite helpful that the author reminds us of characters we may have forgotten about.

Christopher Hibbert’s knowledgeable and informative introduction expresses the commonly held view that in this work Dickens is attempting to write out his grief at the death of his idealised and adored young sister-in-law.

Normally when I review a book I try not to reveal anything of the story. This has been largely adhered to despite my decision to feature every one of the artist’s exemplary illustrations. Mr Keeping’s final image does indicate the ending, but hopefully there is still much to discover for new readers.

‘The water toyed and sported with its ghastly freight’ is suitably grim.

The young gentleman in ‘Bidding the travellers farewell’ is recognisable from previous portraits, notably in the dock. It is clear that the young lady does not want him to leave.

‘She was dead, and past all help, or need of it’

For a number of years around the end of the last millennium, I performed a consultancy role at Portugal Prints, the Westminster Association of Mental Health project then situated in Portugal Street, WC2. This was around the corner from Portsmouth Street where stood the 16th century building which had inspired Charles Dickens as a starting point for this novel. I never actually entered the establishment in that incarnation because it was never open when I walked past and I probably couldn’t have fitted into it. Google now tells us that it is a high-end shoe shop.

A parcel arrived from Becky and Ian this morning. It contained a splendid Mother’s Day bouquet with small packet of fudge chocolates. Becky made the vase for Jessica and me when she was an art student at Newark in the early 1990s. The book is one of Becky’s presents to me for Christmas 2020. It lives on the coffee table. Jackie produced this photograph.

Just as I settled down to watch Six Nations rugby this afternoon, we suffered a power cut which meant I missed the first half of the game between Italy and Wales. Jackie decided to go shopping. There was some difficulty for her leaving the house, because

temporary traffic lights were in place to enable the electrical engineers to fix the problem of a line tangled in the conifers central to her picture.

The second rugby match was between England and France. While I watched that

the Assistant Photographer focussed on the sunset which signalled that the gale is over.

This evening we dined on oven haddock and chips, small peas, pickled onions, and gherkins with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Malbec.


  1. Happy Mother’s Day to Jackie!!! πŸ™‚ I hope Jackie, your Mum, and ALL of the other mothers in your family have a wonderful weekend! YAY to all the moms!!! πŸ™‚
    The Old Curiosity Shop is quaint and wonderful. What joy it would be to have visited there! πŸ™‚
    I always enjoy your book reviews! Thank you for sharing them! πŸ™‚
    Tell The AP her sunset photos are lovely! πŸ™‚
    Happy Weekend HUGS!!! πŸ™‚ Extra HUGS for Jackie and your Mum!!! πŸ™‚

  2. I was always feeling put upon when I saw the Old C Shop because of its position betwixt the Royal Courts, the Law Society and the Main Land Registry leaving aside all the barristers inhabiting Lincoln’s Inn. It usually forebode a problem that had to be solved….

  3. Mother’s Day! Of course that is why the visit to your mum all that more special. Ours is not till May so it slipped my mind. Happy day to Jackie too – what a cosy welcoming scene she had created in your sitting room.

  4. More splendid illustrations. I didn’t know there was a real building that inspired Dickens.
    That’s a lovely gift for Jackie. I didn’t realize it was Mother’s Day (ours is in May). Happy Mother’s Day to Jackie! Her sunset is lovely.

  5. I watched fragments of the England game and was pleasantly surprised to see some flowing passing movements interrupting the usual kicking.

  6. Thank you Derrick for sharing this series of articles of “The Old Curiosity Shop”, And I have thoroughly enjoyed your wonderful ‘copies’ of Charles Keeping’s incredible drawings…

  7. The illustration at page number 483 depicting β€˜The water toyed and sported with its ghastly freight’ is a breathtaking representation of the idea. The subject along with the effects of reflection does deliver a mighty punch. There is hardly any artwork by Keeping that does not provoke strong emotions.

    I loved the rest of the portions with the bouquet and the coffee table book captured by Jackie and described by you. The last blushes of the evening add to the mood.

  8. Happy Mothers Day to Jackie! That is a beautiful vase of flowers, and I am sure the chocolates were delicious! Many thanks to you and Jackie for the photos from your day.

    We had a lovely, sunny day here.

  9. The photos reveal every detail. Charles Dickens prose is rich in in every way and give the readers vast content base gives the readers everything to enhance everything for enlightenment.

  10. Fudge and flowers always makes a good combination. The flowers are lovely, and make fine companions to your garden flowers. I smiled at that traffic construction. I was forced to make a trip into Houston yesterday, and as luck would have it, the appointment time was early enough that I missed quite a traffic horror. The four lanes of traffic on a major freeway I used to go into town were forced down to one, and by the time I went home, that same stretch went on for miles, and miles, and…

  11. Though I didn’t read every detail, I enjoyed getting a feeling of The Old Curiosity Shop and the illustrations. It would be nice if the location really could sell curiosities again some day. I love Jackie’s pink clouds.

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