I am enticed to read this book when visiting Dickens Museum in London. I rambled along the Nursery Room on the third floor, which is transformed into a comprehensive feature of stories and antiques covering Dicken’s youth. I peeked into one of the capacities exhibiting A Family Bible belonging to Dickens, The Life of Our Lord, as well as a lace bookmark and a golden brooch. In the captions it says about Dickens and his religious views of being a Protestant. Seems like this book could get me improve my relationship with Dickens and know more about his family life. Of this timely occasion after I went back to Hong Kong I saw it being available in my local library, and I venture to borrow it in thrills!
This book is not meant to be published at Dickens’s will; this manuscript was in the hands of Georgina Hogwarth (Catherine’s younger sister, closer to Dickens during his affair with Nelly Ternan) after his demise until her death in 1917, and finally was published 64 years later after his death when all his children passed away.
It is suitable for children made for an easy-reading purpose (stocked in children library in my local one’s), and is divided into 11 chapters, told from the birth of Jesus until his resurrection. It seems like Dickens wants his children to get familiarised with some words provided with definitions in his word words, for example, “the Miracle of Christ”, “Our Saviour”, “Transfiguration”, “The Parables of Our Saviour” (“He taught His Disciples in these stories, because He knew the people liked to hear them, and would remember what He said better, if He said it in that way. They are called Parable – THE PARABLES OF OUR CHRIST – and I wish you to remember that word, as I shall have some more of these Parables to tell you about.”) The Parables parts are the ones I enjoy the most, for instance, The Parable of the Prodigal Son. I did religious studies in secondary school, but I have forgotten the stories already, so it is quite beneficial to ring the bells again in an easy way. Thanks Dickens.
I am not familiar with the Bible so it is not for me to comment on whether Dickens has retold the stories and presented the life of Jesus in the most righteous and fairest way; but here Dickens tries his utmost to inculcate Christian values and virtue to his children through Jesus’s major anecdotes and stories taken out from the New Testament in the Bible, which reflects his spiritual and religious facade. From this reading we can see a more intimate side of his as well. It only consists of 93 pages and is a pocket-sized, so it is definitely an easy read, and interesting to pick this up.
”Every young man starting life ought to know how to cope with an angry swan, so I will briefly relate the proper procedure. You begin by picking up the raincoat which somebody has dropped; and then, judging the distance to a nicety, you simply shove the raincoat over the bird’s head; and taking the boat-hook which you have prudently brought with you, you insert it underneath the swan and heave. The swan goes into a bush and starts trying to unscramble itself; and you saunter back to your boat, taking with you any friends who happen at the moment to be sitting on roofs in the vicinity.”
There are some lines which I find quite amusing, very philosophical!
- The mentioning of Gretna Green
- One can pardon any injury to oneself, unless it hurts one’s vanity. Moreover, even in a genuine case of rescue, the rescued man must always feel a little aggrieved with his rescuer, when he thinks the matter over in cold blood. He must regard him unconsciously as the super regards the actor-manager, indebted to him for the means of supporting existence, but grudging him the limelight and the centre of the stage and the applause. Besides, every one instinctively dislikes being under an obligation which they can never wholly repay. And when a man discovers that he has experienced all these mixed sensations for nothing, as the professor had done, his wrath is likely to be no slight thing.
- Hours after–or so it seemed to me–we reached the spot at which our ways divided. We stopped, and I felt as if I had been suddenly cast back into the workaday world from some distant and pleasanter planet.
- Instinct prompted me to join the fray; but prudence told me that such a course would be fatal.
- The fowls had had their moments of unrest since they had been our property, but what they had gone through with us was peace comparedwith what befell them then. Not even on the second evening of our visit, when we had run unmeasured miles in pursuit of them, had there been such confusion.
Apart from Ukridge, there are many characters who make me laugh hysterically throughout the novel.
The first character that emerges from my mind would be Dr. Derrick. This irascible professor is showing his emotion so conspicuously at all times, who reminds me of another character: Lord Worplesdon in Jeeves and Wooster. He appears driving his gears especially when seeing Ukridge and his fellow chap Garner. There is a scene which I think shows his annoyance and irritability towards these two scoundrels in its utmost effect, as he absolutely has no chance to be held at bay and let them explain and talk as long as they like in amusing disturbance:
“And so it came about that, having reached the Cob and spying in the distance the grey head of the professor bobbing about on the face of the waters, we dived in and swam rapidly towards him…
This he seemed to realise, for, as if to close the interview, he proceeded to make his way as quickly as he could to the shore. Unfortunately, his first dash brought him squarely up against Ukridge, who, not having expected the collision, clutched wildly at him and took him below the surface again. They came up a moment later on the worst terms.
“Are you trying to drown me, sir?” barked the professor.
“My dear old horse,” said Ukridge complainingly, “it’s Dr. Da little hard. You might look where you’re going.”
“You grappled with me!”
“You took me by surprise, laddie. Rid yourself of the impression that you’re playing water-polo.”
“You–you–you–” So far from cooling the professor, liberal doses of water seemed to make him more heated. “You impudent scoundrel!”
(Echoes of Lord Worplesdon’s “What…? What…? What…?”)
“Then may I consider,” I said, “that your objections are removed? I have your consent?”
He stamped angrily, and his bare foot came down on a small, sharp pebble. With a brief exclamation he seized his foot in one hand and hopped up the beach. While hopping, he delivered his ultimatum. Probably the only instance on record of a father adopting this attitude in dismissing a suitor.
“You may not!” he cried. “You may consider no such thing. My objections were never more absolute. You detain me in the water, sir, till I am blue, sir, blue with cold, in order to listen to the most preposterous and impudent nonsense I ever heard.”
Wodehouse in this novel really thought of a clever trick to to introduce Aunt Elizabeth, a lady who is exceptionally capable of character delineation. Although we couldn’t meet her in person, her appearance is substituted and reflected by a fowl , together with the end of her consenting the financially assistance to Mrs. Ukridge complete the look.
- “I had wandered into the paddock at the moment. I looked up. Coming towards me at her best pace was a small hen. I recognised her immediately. It was the disagreeable, sardonic-looking bird which Ukridge, on the strength of an alleged similarity of profile to his wife’s nearest relative, had christened Aunt Elizabeth. A Bolshevist hen, always at the bottom of any disturbance in the fowl-run, a bird which ate its head off daily at our expense and bit the hands which fed it by resolutely declining to lay a single egg.”
- “Rather! And I’ll tell you another thing, old horse. I scored heavily at the end of the visit. She’d got to the quoting-proverbs stage by that time. ‘Ah, my dear,’ she said to Millie. ‘Marry in haste, repent at leisure.’ Millie stood up to her like a little brick. ‘I’m afraid that proverb doesn’t apply to me, Aunt Elizabeth,’ she said, ‘because I haven’t repented!’ What do you think of that, Laddie?”
- For the last week monotony had been the keynote of our commissariat. We had had cold chicken and eggs for breakfast, boiled chicken and eggs for lunch, and roast chicken and eggs for dinner. Meals became a nuisance, and Mrs. Beale complained bitterly that we did not give her a chance. She was a cook who would have graced an alderman’s house and served up noble dinners for gourmets, and here she was in this remote corner of the world ringing the changes on boiled chicken and roast chicken and boiled eggs and poached eggs.
- Phyllis would meet me in the village, on the Cob, on the links, and pass by as if I were the Invisible Man. And why? Because of the reptile, Hawk. The worm, Hawk. The dastard and varlet, Hawk.
A tall thin young man in a frock coat and silk hat from Whiteley’s
“Disgraceful, sir. Is it not disgraceful!” said a voice in my ear.
The young man from Whiteley’s stood beside me. He did not look happy. His forehead was damp. Somebody seemed to have stepped on his hat, and his coat was smeared with mould.
It’s been so long since I have last read Wodehouse’s novels. I guess part of it is to cure my lovesickness resulted from my trip to England. I want to get some books full of sense of humour and British vibe, so I borrowed some works by Wodehouse last week: Love among the Chickens, Tales of Wrykyn and Elsewhere, and Galahad at Blandings. Love among the Chickens is the first story on Ukridge’s adventures of mercantile businesses which I as of yet untapped. Although I get rusty of not having read his works for a long time and not familiar with the innovative metaphors, informal idioms and styles, but upon my Sam! It gets better along the pages and I feel a sense of pure joy after the read.
In the first few pages, we are introduced by Lickford, who is a friend of first-narrative person (hero) Jeremy Garnet, to meet the profligate and harmless rogue named Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge:
“…S.F.U. clad in a villainous old suit of grey flannels (I’ll swear it was the one he had on last time I saw him), with pince-nez tacked on his ears with ginger-beer wine as usual…He also wore a mackintosh, though it was a blazing day.”
and yes, as Garnet the old horse says, “His whole career, as long as I had known him, had been dotted with little eccentricities of a type which an unfeeling world generally stigmatises as shady.” Ukridges always borrows couples of bobs from his friends and other parties, then slurs over and prolongs the decision of not paying them back with subtle and cunning excuses that Garnet could recall his mischievous classmate’s/colleague’s anecdotes very well.
However, just as disagreeable his character may be and no matter how cloistered friends contrive to run away from him, he is ubiquitous and none could escape on being clung by him on working in concert with his fun and whimsical thoughts. This time Ukridge is planning to operate a chicken farm in Combe Regis in Dorset.
To my opinion, I in the beginning don’t really bring myself to draw into Ukridge character, I think he, who is exactly a rogue, is not that likeable compared to other Wodehouse’s prunes. But then when I read up to this page, I realise how eccentric and wild his mental engine is absorbing, possessing information from and reacting to the outside world (which can kind of be elicited from his name), he really interests me and I couldn’t wait to see more of this chump:
(as told by Garnet)“…Have you ever played a game called Pigs in Clover? We have just finished a merry bout of it, with hens instead of marbles, which has lasted for an hour and a half…He likes his manoeuvres to be on a large, dashing, Napoleonic scale. He said, ‘Open the yard gate and let the blighters come out into the open; then sail in and drive them in mass formation through the back door into the basement.’ It was a great idea, but there was one fatal flaw in it. It didn’t allow for the hens scattering. We opened the gate, and out they all came like an audience coming out of a theatre…Then Bob, the Hired Man’s dog, an animal who likes to be in whatever’s going on, rushed out of the house into the middle of them, barking. There was a perfect stampede, and Heaven only knows where some of those fowls are now…
“We also arranged Ukridge’s sugar-box coops in a row, and when we caught a fowl we put it in the coop and stuck a board in front of it.” Not only that, other chickens are put under the basement of the house. How crazy and unconventional is the method in operating a chicken farm!
Apart from his most random thoughts and money-laundering habits, Ukridge this lunatic is also undoubtedly an accredited blighter and nuisance of what I have gathered from the story; he is no less disturbing compared to other prunes like Bertie Wooster and Freddie Threepwood. Ukridge is again another fervent and frivolous companion to other characters; he gives out the most avuncular and sunniest solution to his friends, with fulsome hope but to expect no hopeful results. He once said, “Bachelors are excrescences!” and once Garnet is on the brink of getting engaged, the advice he seeks from Ukridge to deal with the fearsome father-in-law would not be the best as we could all expect:
“Ukridge,” I said, when I got back, “I want your advice.”
It stirred him like a trumpet blast. I suppose, when a man is in the habit of giving unsolicited counsel to everyone he meets, it is as invigorating as an electric shock to him to be asked for it spontaneously.
“Bring it out, laddie!” he replied cordially. “I’m with you. Here, come along into the garden, and state your case.”
“Reviewing the matter later, I could see that I made one or two blunders in my conduct of the campaign to win over Professor Derrick.
“My second mistake – and this was brought home to me almost immediately – was in bringing Ukridge along. I confess that my heart sank… Unfortunately, all my efforts to dissuade him from accompanying me were attributed by him to a pardonable nervousness – or, as he put it, to the needle.
‘Buck up, laddie!’ he roared encouragingly. ‘I had anticipated this. Something seemed to tell me that your nerve would go when it came to the point. You’re deuced lucky, old horse, to have a man like me at your side. Why, if you were alone, you wouldn’t have a word to say for yourself. You’d just gape at the man and yammer. But I’m with you laddie, I’m with you. If your flow of conversation dries up, count on me to keep the thing going.'”
However, as most typical Wodehouse’s ending of solving a problem in the most sunniest manner and solution as well as in a rush, we may probably count on this prune Ukridge who must not be showing in despair and distrait, but to prepare an heroic and gallant action and tirade to steal the show!