A soft black drizzle

Confession: I adore long, slow books with words like magic—Dickens and Bleak House at the moment.


Source: Claude Monet, The Houses of Parliament (Effect of Fog), 1903, oil on canvas, public domain on wikipedia


Assignment: Shari Zook, please describe the state of the city in the painting above.

“Alright. Here goes:

London was full of mud and fog that morning.”

Not bad, not bad.


Assignment: Charles Dickens, please describe the state of the city in the painting above.

“London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes—gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another’s umbrellas in a general infection of ill-temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.”

Charles Dickens, Bleak House, 1852-1853


Having spent a paragraph on the mud, he then addresses the fog…

Dickens spins straw into gold.

This is why I read seriously.

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Janelle Glick
11 years ago

that image of the megalosaurus – hilarious really – his mind must have been chuck full of remarkable and startling moments. I can imagine him sitting at his writing desk, melancholy and reflective, when suddenly his pen runs away from him and he looks twice to realize that a dinosaur has just invaded his thoughts… Of course he must return to business as usual. 🙂

GrandmaKitty Brown
11 years ago

This is why i read, too. This is also why i don’t write. 😛

11 years ago

I get so excited when I get a Charles Dickens book to read. And most of them are soooo deliciously long.

Rachel Shenk
11 years ago

He seriously can spin straw into gold! I so don’t read books like that, but I have to admit they do hold a certain appeal; the ability to transport you right into the streets with the mud and fog! And I can definitely appreciate the mastery of the art of the English language!

11 years ago

What can I say? The guy got paid by the word.

11 years ago
Reply to  The Boss

Now that’s cynicism “as big as full-grown snowflakes.”

11 years ago

I’ve just lately fallen in love with Dickens myself. His characters, and his fog and mud apparently, are so multi-faceted.

11 years ago

When I had to read things like that for school I did it but never fully enjoyed them. Now that I can read for the pure pleasure of it, I’m getting back into several classics that I remembered “liking” but couldn’t remember much else. I re-read To Kill a Mockingbird last year and it’s definitely near the top of my “great reads”. I read Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities in high school and again, I remember liking it, but not much more. I’d like to re-read that as well, and it sounds like Bleak House would also be right up my alley.

Mama Zook
11 years ago

I’m needing help sorting out my 16 or 17 boxes of books that need to be downsized for our move…any takers? Shari, should we send you out a ticket to come to Oregon!?

11 years ago
Reply to  Mama Zook


Mama Zook
11 years ago
Reply to  Shari Zook

tell me when your first open appointment time is!! Or would you not be able to take time off from this wonderful blog? By the way I felt very selfish when I was asking for help with boxes of books, when you’d love to be able to give Sweet sister, Jean a visit and a clean bill of health!! FYI, we’d all love if you could do just that!

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