The Dickens Digest: Four Great Dickens Masterpieces Condensed for the Modern Reader

The Dickens Digest: Four Great Dickens Masterpieces Condensed for the Modern Reader

The Dickens Digest: Four Great Dickens Masterpieces Condensed for the Modern Reader

The Dickens Digest: Four Great Dickens Masterpieces Condensed for the Modern Reader

Excerpt

In everybody," Chesterton says, "there is a thing that loves babies, that fears death, that likes sunlight; that thing enjoys Dickens." In everybody, that is, who reads him. But there is a growing majority of people who "always wanted to read Dickens, but never got around to it," or who loved him as a child but know that if they read him again, particularly if they read him aloud, they would be bound to skip. This book is for them.

What the Dickens Digest offers is not a skeleton of the novels chosen, but the essential narrative in the words of its creator, freed of the prolixity that annoys modern readers. I have been a Dickens lover for too long a time to be willing for anybody to miss the pleasure and privilege of reading him. My purpose has been to reproduce faithfully scenes, dialogues, descriptions that acquaint the reader with the essential Dickens, omitting nothing that contributes to the rapid progress of the stories and the characters. My first concern, as the choice of titles shows, is to give the reader Dickens's most famous, most familiar characters.

To bring these four gigantic books within the compass of a single volume it was necessary to eliminate, first of all, padding. It was also desirable. All four of these books were written as serials or in monthly numbers. Their plot complications, their repetitions, their digressions, their "rant and cant" were by-products, not only of the nineteenth-century taste for a leisurely style, but of the pressure under which Dickens wrote, hastily, almost without plan, entirely without opportunity for careful revision and correction. The padding, then, came out first. Next, some of the social satire was dispensed with, satire that in tone and intention means little to the reader today. Finally, the technique of compression learned through long experience in book condensing eliminated the circumlocution that accounts for much of Dickens's verbosity. And the four novels were brought down to the length of one.

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