Highlights of the sixteenth part of the ‘Our Mutual Friend Tweets’ project can now be found on Storify! Click here to catch up on the latest developments.
And don’t forget to bookmark ‘Our Mutual Feed‘ to keep up with the story day-to-day.
This guest post was contributed by Dr Pete Orford, Lecturer in English at the University of Buckingham, stalwart online serial reader of Dickens, and Chief Investigator for The Drood Inquiry (www.droodinquiry.com).
Well, here we at part 12, and a whole year in to our reading of Our Mutual Friend (and still barely half way through!) – Happy Anniversary everybody. There’s much to enjoy this month with Boffin getting mean and moody, Bella getting doubtful and reflective, and Silas just generally getting Weggy with it, and I’m happy to chat over specifics in the comments section below, but given that it has been a year, I feel a little reflective on the story as a whole so far, as well as what is yet to come. By far what interests me most about trying to recreate the original reading experience of a Dickens novel is that sense of anticipation and speculation that falls between instalments; indeed in the first paragraph of this week’s instalment Dickens directly challenges us to look ahead to what might come: ‘Were Bella Wilfer’s bright and ready little wits at fault, or was the Golden Dustman passing through the furnace of proof and coming out dross? Ill news travels fast. We shall know full soon.’ Trying to imagine what a reader might feel and think as they await the next part is simultaneously one of the most elusive and appealing considerations when embarking on a reading project like this. Occasionally we get some insight, such as Dickens’ somewhat sniffy (and to this day unconvincing) remark that he always meant for everyone to guess John Rokesmith was actually Harmon in disguise:
When I devised this story, I foresaw the likelihood that a class of readers and commentators would suppose that I was at great pains to conceal exactly what I was at great pains to suggest: namely, that Mr John Harmon was not slain, and that Mr John Rokesmith was he. Pleasing myself with the idea that the supposition might in part arise out of some ingenuity in the story, and thinking it worthwhile, in the interests of art, to hint to an audience that an artist (of whatever denomination) may perhaps be trusted to know what he is about in his vocation, if they will concede him a little patience, I was not alarmed by the anticipation.