18 votes
Accepted

What is meant by "without resorting to the sexton's spade that buried Jacob Marley" in A Christmas Carol?

I think that by this point in the story, Scrooge can sense himself starting to reform. In this scene he is saying that had he devoted more time to paying attention to little, pleasant things like Fran'...
17 votes
Accepted

Dickens invented the scary clown?

The claim that ‘Dickens invented the scary clown’ seems to be rooted in the work of Andrew McConnel Scott, Professor of English at the University of Buffalo, through his paper ‘Clowns on the Verge of ...
  • 15.9k
14 votes
Accepted

What does "Some people do the same by their religion" mean?

The phrase "do the same" refers to what Mrs. Joe is doing with her cleanliness: making it more uncomfortable, although it should be theoretically better, than dirt. This is the same as how &...
  • 65k
13 votes

What is meant by "without resorting to the sexton's spade that buried Jacob Marley" in A Christmas Carol?

I think the play on words is a bit simpler than that. "Cultivate" is a word primarily used for gardening or farming, requiring a spade to turn the soil. Thus, Dickens is making a play on ...
  • 8,307
12 votes

What does the term "one heat down" in Dickens's "Little Dorrit" mean?

Per World Wide Words, heat once had a meaning of a single burst of intense physical activity of any sort, often in the phrase at a heat, at one go, in one continuous operation (World Wide Words ...
  • 413
11 votes
Accepted

Why does Mr Merdle ask for a penknife with a darker handle in "Little Dorrit"?

A man may have a fancy as to the particulars of how he takes his own life, but here are a couple of things which may have informed his choice. He may have found the shimmering, iridescent paleness of ...
  • 15.9k
11 votes

Why did Dickens write A Christmas Carol

Dickens had a variety of motivations in writing A Christmas Carol. Financial. Dickens earned a living as an author, and sales of his previous novel, Martin Chuzzlewit, were slowing. As a result, his ...
  • 15.3k
11 votes
Accepted

What does, "‘Much of that!’ said he, glancing about him over the cold wet flat. ‘I wish I was a frog. Or a eel!'" mean?

The word “flat” is used here in the sense flat n. C.5.b. A tract of low-lying marshy land; a swamp. Oxford English Dictionary. If you weren’t familiar with this sense of the word, you might guess it ...
  • 42.3k
10 votes
Accepted

Are Nicholas's sentiments on playwrights those of his creator?

In the book Charles Dickens in Context, by Sally Ledger and Holly Furneaux, quoting from Google Books: [Survival] for both playwright and playhouse required the rapid production of new scripts. ...
  • 6,664
9 votes
Accepted

Why does Mr. Pumblechook call Mrs. Joe "mum"?

“Mum” is a dialect spelling of “ma’am”, a shortened form of “madam” that was “formerly the ordinary respectful form of address to a woman” (OED). Here are a couple of examples, in both cases a servant ...
  • 42.3k
9 votes
Accepted

What did Charles Dickens say about genius and pain?

The quotation Genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains is proverbial and dates to the late 19th century, more or less around Dickens's time. However, nothing like it is found in any of his ...
  • 15.4k
9 votes
Accepted

Use of 'Genius' in Nicholas Nickleby?

He appears to be using it in a sarcastic manner. He is saying that they are so stupid, that he'll call them geniuses. It's like when someone says: "Washington DC is the capital of the United States?" ...
  • 20.7k
8 votes
Accepted

What does "...they had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trousers-pockets..." from mean?

Dickens was inspired to write this scene by a visit to St James’ Church in Cooling, Kent, where he saw these stone sarcophagi in the graveyard: (Photo by Hywel Williams, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.) ...
  • 42.3k
7 votes
Accepted

In Great Expectations, why were thieves happy when Mr. Jaggers spoke?

"dread" - being frightened that something worrying would happen "rapture" - ecstasy - but can also mean "a state of being carried away by overwhelming emotion" From my ...
  • 141
7 votes
Accepted

What does "much worse fed and lodged and treated altogether than" mean in chapter 12 from Dickens's Little Dorrit?

Little Dorrit is set in early Victorian England, roughly twenty years after the New Poor Law or Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. The act was intended to reduce the cost of relief (aid) given to the ...
  • 39.7k
7 votes

Who is saying "what was a man to do?" from the following passage in "Little Dorrit"?

The passage is an example of free indirect speech. The narrator renders Mr Plornish's speech without quotation marks but he does not use indirect speech either. Using direct speech, the passage may ...
  • 39.7k
7 votes

Do native speakers face difficulty understanding Charles Dickens?

There will be things which many modern readers may not understand without going and looking it up, for example: Dialects: Dickens frequently has characters use class or regional dialects, with their ...
  • 15.9k
6 votes

What did Charles Dickens say about genius and pain?

Fred R. Shapiro's The Yale Book of Quotations attributes "Genius . . . an infinite capacity for taking pains" to "Jane Ellice Hopkins, English reformer, 1836–1904" in Work Amongst Working Men ch. 4 (...
  • 2,500
6 votes
Accepted

What exactly does Dickens mean to say here?

A Bill of Exchange is a financial instrument which promised to pay money after a fixed period, was signed by the person drawing the instrument up and the 'acceptor', who was the person responsible ...
  • 15.9k
6 votes

Does "Great Expectations" refer to the sport of cricket, in the scene of Joe meeting Pip in London?

Yes, it refers to cricket, with the wicket-keeper being the fielder behind the wicket, who has dedicated equipment and is frequently called on to catch the ball. The catcher in baseball is similar. It'...
6 votes

What does, "‘Much of that!’ said he, glancing about him over the cold wet flat. ‘I wish I was a frog. Or a eel!'" mean?

That speech is a response to Pip's "good night". ‘Goo-good night, sir,’ I faltered. ‘Much of that!’ said he, glancing about him over the cold wet flat. ‘I wish I was a frog. Or a eel!’ ...
  • 169
6 votes
Accepted

What does, "The period of exaggerated reaction consequent on all public wrongdoing..." mean?

A fuller quotation sets the context better: At that time jails were much neglected, and the period of exaggerated reaction consequent on all public wrongdoing—and which is always its heaviest and ...
  • 15.9k
5 votes
Accepted

What does this paragraph mean in Dickens' American Notes?

He's basically saying that he hasn't referred to the way he was received, or allowed the way he was received to influence what he has written. He says that if he had done either of those things he ...
  • 15.9k
5 votes

What does this paragraph mean in Dickens' American Notes?

Dickens seems to have encountered plenty of muzzles in America. In Martin Chuzzlewhitt (which Adam Burke mentioned) part of his criticism of the country concerns the ubiquity of guns. Mr. Chollop [ . ...
5 votes

What does "in coarse gray" and "iron" mean here?

Dickens is describing Pip's first encounter with a convict, Magwitch. in a coarse gray This is shorthand for "coarse gray cloth". It is uncommon, but not unfamiliar, in English to describe ...
  • 15.3k
5 votes

What does "raw" mean in this context from Great Expectations?

In the context of this sentence, "raw" refers to the weather. The following definition from Wiktionary applies here: Unpleasantly cold or damp. So Pip is saying that the weather that ...
  • 39.7k
5 votes
Accepted

What does "a sort of Hercules in strength and weakness" mean?

“A sort of Hercules in strength” is easy. The mythical Hercules was renowned for his strength, for example in the eleventh labour where (in one version) he holds up the sky, in place of Atlas, while ...
  • 42.3k
5 votes
Accepted

What is "the fabled obelisk" alluding to in The Boy at Mugby?

The use of the work "obelisk" is most likely a malapropism here. The narrator is confusing the less familiar word basilisk with the more familiar word obelisk. An obelisk is a type of monument and ...
  • 39.7k
5 votes

Use of 'Genius' in Nicholas Nickleby?

In Nicholas Nickleby, Dickens uses the word genius thirty-three times, using five out of the ten major senses of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary. There must be a deliberate playfulness in ...
  • 42.3k
5 votes

What does the "who has not dined with these?" mean?

The bit immediately prior to your quote reads: Indeed, the mansions and their inhabitants were so much alike in that respect, that the people were often to be found drawn up on opposite sides of ...
  • 15.9k

Only top scored, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible