One of our regular Christmas decorations is positioned under the glass of an African display table I bought in Finsbury Park in the late 1970s. It features our granddaughter Florence as Mary alongside Joseph in a Primary School Nativity Play.
I spent the afternoon completing my reading of my 1984 Folio Society Edition of Charles Dickens’s Dombey and Son. Despite the emotional and practical difficulties in the author’s getting to grips with this work described by Christopher Hibbert in his excellent introduction, Dickens has produced what I have found his most engaging novel. I agree with Thackeray’s observation that “It is unsurpassed. It is stupendous”. All the writer’s descriptive skills; his humour; his flowing prose; his compassion; and his forward looking, come into play with a consummate construction not always apparent in other works. I was most impressed by the way in which he draws a large cast of characters together in the last few paragraphs as he brings the book to a complete conclusion. The lives are largely not happy ones, but they have credible participants, of which Florence is a key member. As usual I will refrain from giving any more detail in case any readers are tempted to tackle the tome.
Charles Keeping’s final septet of illustrations speak for themselves.
‘ ‘Sol Gills ahoy’ ‘
‘A burying-ground, where the few tombs and tombstones are almost black’
‘Nothing lay there, any longer, but the ruin of the mortal house’
‘He wept, alone’
‘Down among the mast, oar, and block makers’
‘Edith sunk down to her knees, and caught her round the neck’
‘The Wooden Midshipman’
This evening we dined on Jackie’s succulent beef in red wine; creamy mashed potatoes; crunchy carrots and broccoli; firm Brussels sprouts; and tender runner beans, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Merlot.