Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Go, Go, Go, Shawty It's Your Birthday
We Gon' Party Like It's Yo Birthday
Happy Birthday Charles Dickens *

Charles Dickens
February 7, 1812-June 9, 1870

Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on February 7, 1812. A prolific writer, he was always working on a new essay, installment or novel. He rarely missed a deadline, and he played a major role in popularizing the serialized novel. A man with a head full of endless plots and characters.

Dickens' Letter & Signature
From the Blotch, It Looks Like
He Dropped Some Of His Espresso Macchiato
When He Wrote It

Right now I am watching Bleak House on PBS, and it's a juggling act to keep the players straight. It's hard to imagine how he did it with a pot of ink and sheets of paper.

The Great Expectations Cocktail

To honor Dickens' birthday, I am offering up a cocktail called Great Expectations. It consists of four raspberries, four blackberries, 1 shot of vodka, 1/2 shot of Chambord raspberry liqueur, and top the drink with champagne (that's the Great Expectations part.)

The White House, Washington, D.C.
Daguerreotype, 1846

Dickens was infamous for giving out raspberries himself, including his remarks on Washington, D.C. when he visited our city in 1842:

Trinity Episcopal Church,
Washington, D.C.

1846 Daguerrotype

"It is sometimes called the City of Magnificent Distances, but it might with greater propriety be termed the City of Magnificent Intentions...Spacious avenues, that begin in nothing and lead nowhere; streets, miles long, that only want houses, roads and inhabitants; public buildings that need but a public to be complete; and ornaments of great thoroughfares, which only lack great thoroughfares to ornament--are its leading features."

United States Capitol -- Daguerreotype, 1846

He wasn't too crazy about the tobacco chewing Senators, either. Their spitting appalled him: "Both houses are handsomely carpeted, but the state to which these carpets are reduced by the universal disregard of the spittoon with which every honorable member is accommodated, and the extraordinary improvements on the pattern which are squirted and dabbled upon it in every direction, do not admit of being described. I will merely observe, that I strongly recommend all strangers not to look at the floor; and if they happen to drop anything...not to pick it up with an ungloved hand on any account."

Charles Dickens Writing Desk

You just know if Dickens was around today, he would be blogging. It was made for him. Back when he first started writing, Dickens wanted a memorable way of identifying the sketches as his. He finally picked a nickname for himself. One of his favorite characters in Oliver Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield was called Moses. Dickens younger brother couldn't pronounce Moses, but rather pronounced it "Bozes," and this was shortened to "Boz." He first used this name in a collection of essays, published in 1833 entitled Sketches by Boz. He was an immediate success. Wouldn't he just love Site Meter? Let's see...what would he call his blog? How about...DC Bozhelor.

"Now, I return to this young fellow.
And the communication
I have got to make is,
that he has great expectations."

* with apologies to 50 Cent for the paraphrasing.


Blogger KOB said...

Somehow I think Dickens would be more appalled by Congress today. You can clean a carpet. The Great Expecations drink, by the way, sounds very good.

12:35 AM  
Blogger Megarita said...

Oooooooh how much are you loving Bleak House!!?? So pleased with it. Dickens was a screwed up fellow, no doubt, but it helps to know that he got paid by the word....method to the byzantine madness.

8:00 AM  
Anonymous Mataz said...

Depending on how this shakes out, your asterik might have to be giving apologies to 2 Live Crew founder Luther Campbell instead.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Megarita: You'll notice I didn't write about how Dickens abandoned his wife who bore him ten children to go running off with an actress. Mr. "Family, Hearth and Home." When Catherine Dickens died, she instructed her daughter Kate to give the early letters her husband had written to her to the British Museum so that "...the world may know he loved me once." Bleak House, indeed.

Mataz: I had read about this copyright infringement case that is pending. It's not the first time a song has hit the courts. It amused me to attach rap lyrics to Dickens' name. Take it to da house, bleak house, da house. Playas in da house, bleak house, freak house..."

9:46 AM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Yes I think Dickins would be a blogger, and he (like so many others) would be diagnosed, probably as either bipolar or a depressive, and no doubt heavily medicated.

The old pics of DC are amazing.

9:53 AM  
Blogger I-66 said...

really I think 50 Cent should be apologizing to all of us.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Reya: I was amazed I found those old daguerreotypes, and they correspond so well to what Dickens wrote. Dickens' big paranoia was about money. He had gone to debtor's prison with his father, and even after his adult lifetime of success, he viewed his family as a drain on his financial resources and constantly feared that return to debt. He achieved fame at such an early age. If he were alive today, I'm sure we'd be seeing him on US magazine double fisting his Starbucks, about to get into his Ferrari.

I-66: Mr. Cent is doing very well. He even has a vitamin water named after himself. Think of what Dickens could do with his popularity in this day and age in terms of marketing his name and his character's names. Pickwick polo shirts.

10:07 AM  
Blogger A Unique Alias said...

I believe the U.S. Treasury has first crack at ol' Fiddy Cent.

Got a good laugh out of this one, Cube. I've always had a love/hate relationship with Charles Dickens - - I think he's a great writer, it's just a shame he wrote about so much bullshit.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Lizzie said...

I'm with AUA, I've always had a love/hate relationship with Dickens too. My love for Great Expectations was diminished somewhat when I had to read Hard Times not once, but twice in high school. I was feeling the love again as I was reading your post... until I got to your comment about his abandonment of his wife and children and Catherine Dickens'dying request of her daughter. What a cad.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Tales From the Club said...

Reya's comment above about the old pictures of DC reminded me of one of my favorite photo websites. It's the Georgetown University Library Special Collection and it has some great shots of the campus back in day when the baseball field was still right at 37th and O. Given your occasional hint that you might have some sort of Gtown connection Cubie, I thought you'd appreciate the site.

P.S. The Club has relocated.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

I always loved Charles Dickens. He was a master at character development. Where was Trinity Episcopal Church? Did it become the National Cathedral and change locations?

3:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to try the Great Expectations drink. Sounds yummy.

4:05 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

AUA: Agreed. I think a lot of people have problems with Dickens. I have issues with him and Tolstoy and other writers who had a loyal family, only to find the man in later life abandon them, and this in times when that abandon had a real impact, not that it doesn't today. I was rereading the judgments he sat on the rather raw Washington streets and how negative he sounds. He was giving an accurate reporting in it's newness, but he failed to contemplate Washington's future and the hope and ambition behind that design.

Lizzie: It's hard to put aside the dichotomy of Dickens' idealizations of family life, versus the reality of his own. We have to remember he often wrote in serialized form and had to hold the readers attention with his overblown characters and plot ploys. Maudlin and tearjerker comes to mind, quite often. On the other hand, he did quite often accurately capture those microcosmic moments of his own society. In his favor (and because he suffered from it in his youth), he never forgot the indignity of poverty and the abuse of the impoverished child.

Tales: I had forgotten about this collection, and now you've reminded me again. Thank you so much for offering this up. I love when people bring something to the blog table. :)

Barbara: That is the unfinished Capitol in the background, and based on the position of that church, I would say it is gone, and I don't know when it was pulled down. That's the kind of fun thing someone with a lot of time on their hands (not me) could research. There was also a daguerreotype of the U.S. Patent Office taken in the same year that I didn't post. It's funny, seeing Washington look so...raw.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Chase: I told someone today about my blog piece who SHOULD be reading me but doesn't (and when you see this comment, you know who you are), and they said "What a great name for a cocktail!" I tickled myself with thinking of the champagne as the "great expectation." I truly am simple minded and brain addled, Chase. P.S. The piece you just wrote is staggering. I haven't even been able to work up an adquate comment beyond "Wow." I am so glad that KOB of DC Blogs featured you today on it.

4:38 PM  
Blogger mysterygirl! said...

I love the Great Expectations cocktail. I'm glad to share a birthday with him-- MUCH cooler than Ashton Kutcher. :)

Ooooh, Bleak House.

5:42 PM  
Blogger wharman said...

You are a witty woman with good researching skills. What a satisfying post.

8:17 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Debtors' prison. That could not have been a positive experience. Cool to know about that. I've never been a fan.

Champagne IS a great expectation. I bet that drink would pack a wallop. Maybe I'll try one. Did you? Is it good?

8:22 PM  
Blogger Stef said...

Another great post, Cubie. You manage to be both educational and entertaining, which is no small feat. :-)

I've had my moments with Dickens, like many others. But to this day I still believe he had a knack for starting his novels with the best lines ever:

I am born. - David Copperfield.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. - A Tale of Two Cities.

9:30 PM  
Blogger Momentary Academic said...

I think that Dickens would be the most popular blogger around. And we'd all envy him. I know that I would.

9:33 PM  

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