Punch and Judy

I was in the UK over the Queen’s Jubilee.  Specifically, I was in Reading visiting friends who are vehement  Republicans.  Which, I learned, does not mean that they will be supporting Mitt Romney in the next election, but that she’d like to abolish the monarchy.

Despite their political leanings, my friends very kindly indulged me on the jubilee day, making tea sandwiches and taking me to the celebration in the town square.  I think as a Canadian and a Victorianist I’ve always felt a little kindly toward the royal family, though this might not have been the case if I had grown up in the UK.  I have fond memories of celebrating Victoria Day with my family, and I one of the first things I remember learning that distinguished Canadians from Americans was having the (colonial) tie to the UK, symbolized by the monarchy.  I.e.  the Queen is on one side of our quarter, and a moose on the other side.  For some reason that never sounds odd until you explain it to foreign friends! Continue reading “Punch and Judy”


Portrait of a Novel: Great Expectations, Page One

As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like were unreasonably derived from their tombstones…

Pip at gravestone, from David Lean’s 1946 film adaptation of Great Expectations

Dickens’ Great Expectations opens with a poignant consideration of the limits of a medium, then shows us how a keen imagination can vault over these bounds. Young Pip has already a sense that the images he’s produced are “unreasonably derived” from these letterforms, but his act of creative misinterpretation allows him, in his childish and charming way, to mitigate the absolute loss of his parents. The “engraved” names appear to him as imprints of his parent’s bodies upon the stone: Pip explains that the “shape of the letters on my father’s” stone “gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair.” From his mother’s inscription, he “drew a childish conclusion that my mother was freckled and sickly.” Continue reading “Portrait of a Novel: Great Expectations, Page One”