Here’s that Daniel Maclise portrait of young Dickens I mentioned yesterday. He didn’t improve with age, but which of us does? 

Choosing a new Dickens to read proved to be fairly easy this morning. The bookshop had a long position on Nicholas Nickleby but no Barnaby Rudge or Dombey and Son. They did have Our Mutual Friend, which even in paperback edition turned out to be a potential toe-breaker.

Then my eye was caught by a lovely little Collector’s Library edition of Hard Times. When it first came out Macaulay apparently savaged it for its ‘sullen socialism’ and it became popular with left-leaners like George Bernard Shaw. So there I stood in a quandary. To buy Our Mutual Friend in spite of its weight or Hard Times in spite of its reputation.

I bought Hard Times. Know what swung it? The fact that it will fit easily into my pocket and it has a ribbon bookmark. I don’t know about you but I’ll put up with an awful lot for a ribbon bookmark.

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