Tuesday, 7 February 2017


Today’s Quote of the Day comes to us from one of the 19th century’s most beloved literary figures, the English writer Charles Dickens, in honor of the 205th anniversary of his birth, and is extracted from the author’s 1861 novel Great Expectations, in a (narrative) dialogue between the stories’ main character Pip (Philip) - whose early fate seemed predestined to see him employed as a humble blacksmith - and the character Herbert Pocket, the son of Pip’s tutor:
“…I informed him in exchange that my Christian name was Philip.
"I don't take to Philip," said he, smiling, "for it sounds like a moral boy out of the spelling-book, who was so lazy that he fell into a pond, or so fat that he couldn't see out of his eyes, or so avaricious that he locked up his cake till the mice ate it, or so determined to go a bird's-nesting that he got himself eaten by bears who lived handy in the neighborhood. I tell you what I should like. We are so harmonious, and you have been a blacksmith, --- would you mind it?"
"I shouldn't mind anything that you propose," I answered, "but I don't understand you."

"Would you mind Handel for a familiar name? There's a charming piece of music by Handel, called the Harmonious Blacksmith."

"I should like it very much."

"Then, my dear Handel," said he, turning round as the door opened, "here is the dinner…”
The music to which Dickens so cleverly alludes is George Frideric Handel’s Suite no. 5 in E major,  known colloquially as “The Harmonious Blacksmith,” and is an obvious nod from the author to the composer himself.

Handel's Harmonious Blacksmith:

It is widely known amongst literary and classical music intelligentsia that Dickens possessed a deep fondness for Western Classical music. He knew casually the German composer Giacomo Meyerbeer, adored the works of Chopin, Mozart and Felix Mendelssohn and was a confidante of Sir Arthur Sullivan. A frequent visitor to the opera, Dickens is said to have patronized many an operatic performance during his travels in Europe. According to the memoirs of Sullivan, the pair once attended together a performance of Orfeo ed Euridice by 18th century reformist composer Christoph Willibald Gluck.

Dickens also boasted a brief stint as librettist for a small operetta, The Village Coquettes, produced in 1836.

Che farò senza Euridice? from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, as performed by Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux in the “trouser role” of Orfeo:

Suggested Reading (external link):
  • Dickens and Music at WQXR (archived) 
  • Read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens for free at Project Gutenberg

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