Harry Potter 19th Century Style?

Below is an extract,  redacted, from a Wikipedia piece on the book I have just finished reading.

The hype surrounding the conclusion of the series was unprecedented; ——- fans were reported to storm the piers of New York City, shouting to arriving sailors (who might have already read the last instalment in the United Kingdom), “Is ——- alive?” In 2007, many newspapers claimed the excitement at the release of the last volume ————– was the only historical comparison that could be made to the excitement at the release of the last Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Any idea which book it might have been?

More clues:

it was described by Queen Victoria as “very interesting and cleverly written.”

in a 1962 TV version a later Doctor Who played the villain and the actress who later became Frank Spencer’s wife was the heroine.

No more clues. I confess that I had never read the book before but I had read several others by the author. I would certainly add it to my recommended list. It was a rattling good yarn, no less, with large dollops of morality thrown in. The villain is exquisitely drawn. Almost Shakespearean in character perhaps although as this was set in the 19th century it is not one of Bill’s works. The heroine was perhaps a little too good to be true. There was no glue sniffing, no hallucinogenic drugs, no three-day benders on Alco-pops, no screaming for David Cassidy, no wardrobe malfunctions and of course, no four letter words.

Has your curiosity got the better of you yet? Scroll down for the answer.














Well that of course was the final clue. The book was The Old Curiosity Shop. By Charles Dickens no less. I suppose it is one of those classic reads that everybody says they have read but never has. I have several of those. Lord of The Rings is the first that springs to mind. I struggled through The Hobbit but despite half a dozen goes I never made it through TLOTR. I was more an ISIRTA man. No problem with TOCS though. It kept me on edge for a day and a half. If you haven’t read the book yet and feel moved to do so let me warn you that the heroine, Nell, dies and although the villain also meets an unfortunate end I think I could have killed off Quilp in a much better way. Nell’s grandfather also pegs out. Most of the other characters get their just deserts or on the other side live happily ever after. I hope I’m not spoiling it for you.

Dickens never attempts to liven things up with a Super Hero. There is no Super- or Batman although there may have been a robin in there somewhere. He just writes wonderful prose that pushes the story on leaving you, at the end of each chapter, awaiting the next exciting episode. For published in ‘episodes’ it was…….. Imagine, you get your weekly copy of the SCMP Magazine and there is the next chapter of The Old Curiosity Shop. You would wait over 70 weeks until the final chapter were delivered. Personally I thought the horse was a bit of a star and I am not sure Charles D. would be allowed to call a character Dick Swiveller nowadays. I think that would be struck out. I’m sorry Mr. D., could you tone it down a bit please? There may be kiddies reading.

Any way, I am sufficiently enraptured of CD’s writing that I have immediately embarked on Nicholas Nickleby. The splendidly named Wackford Squeers is a man I seem to recall may have once headed up a school I attended. Now this book I have watched serialised on TV but never read. So off we go and I shall (maybe) report back on whether this is another early Potter-work or whether perhaps it is more in the fashion of Jilly Cooper. Please let it be the former.


9 thoughts on “Harry Potter 19th Century Style?

    • I have never read War & Peace, Gerard. There are so many classics I have yet to tackle and they are generally available free for download. Both my Dickens were free.

  1. Dickens is marvellous. I read A Christmas Carol every year to get me in the mood (ho ho ho!) We are living in something a little like Peggotty’s boat house at the moment, albeit the spanish version . Everything is upside down and inside out – we have no ‘lectrics, so candles and scones on the walls, it’s very pretty, though hard work trotting out to the bucket each night in the freezing cold. I’ve got to admit that I’ve not read The Old Curiosity Shop but then I’ve never read any of the Harry Potters either. Sorry if I’m behind with your posts, Andrew. I’m trying to keep up with comments and reading but it’s chaos here and we don’t always have the internet. Once the dust has settled, both metaphorically and physically, I shall be back on form. Hoping to spot some interesting birds and report back to you – there was one the other morning that called out ‘Buenos dias, buenos dias’ but I’ve not heard it again.

  2. Like Gerard, I have read a few of Dickens’ works…and seen way too many versions of A Christmas Carol…but this title I have not. I’ll have to take a look now after your glowing review, Andrew.

  3. Thanks for the mention of this GREAT author! (I understand a whole team write the Potter books – I read one and found it very inconsistent.) Dickens would walk write all morning and walk the streets until late and observe for himself. It was more fact than fiction when you compare it with Mayhew’s embellished journalism, in my opinion; and with eternal life messages. Dickens was read to me as a child (my Father began reading it himself from age 8). One of my tutors was the wonderful Professor Michael Slater, author of a number of Dickens’ books; also Dr Andrew Sanders, another highly knowledgeable adviser on films and plays. There is a half-timbered 1500s shop called “The Old Curiosity Shop” in London, I visited many years ago, which was a fascinating place then, but now sells men’s shoes. “Make ’em laugh, make ’em cry, but above, all make ’em wait.” was, I believe Dickens’ advice on writing. The fate of Little Nell was discussed in parliament at the time (as it was serialised) and when Dickens travelled to New York by ship, people held up banners: “DON’T LET LITTLE NELL DIE”. Oscar Wilde said: “One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing”. But then, he could skim read a 3 volume novel and recite a certain page of it when tested, so he always knew what was coming next. I love quoting Dickens and one of my posts focuses on Charles John Huffam Dickens, here if it is of interest http://solsticetree.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/easier-times/

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