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The Uncommercial Traveller – Charles Dickens

13 Apr

DickoThis volume contains a series of lightly fictionalised but sharply observed and often polemical observational sketches published in Dickens’s periodical “All the Year Round” based on an authorial persona of a traveller at leisure.

Not the most thrilling of blurbs ever, I grant you but I couldn’t find anything more substantial which for a book like this, written by such a fantastic author is something that really needs to be addressed.

The Uncommercial Traveller is one of the Dickens books that doesn’t get mentioned very often.  Taking a diversion from his usual fiction, he shows his diversity with a range of essays from the comedic to serious social issues.

This collection of articles was written for the author’s own journal, All the Year Round in which he takes on the persona of the Uncommercial Traveller who journeys about and observes, giving insights into community and historical matters.

I read this book on and off over a number of months and have been intrigued by Dickens’ style.  His enquiring mind is at its best here, showing that even in his later years financial success had not dulled his need to take on the inequalities of the Victorian society or hold back with his incisive observances.

A mixture of hard-hitting journalism and observational pieces, it is the former that sticks in the mind the longest, looking at the terrible conditions people lived in – most especially in the workhouses – the lack of education and the closed class system of Britain at that time.

Although the book is not all doom and gloom by any means, Dickens’ trademark humour comes through and his joviality often belies sharp scrutiny on his surroundings.  Whether observing people in a theatre or the habits of children in church, his words are always alive with the love of experiencing things, whether good or bad, it is this insatiable curiosity that kept me coming back.

As ever with a variety of different subjects, some are more successful than others in terms of quality, that is a personal preference though but there are no real disappointments in this book.  The short nature of the chapters keep things snappy and it is impressive how much emotion and consideration the author manages to squeeze into each piece.

This is a welcome change from his novels, there is plenty in here that mirror his stories, including prose that can change from light-hearted to heartfelt very quickly,  uncovering a wide range of things hidden in plain sight and giving a judgement on his era and culture.  It’s fascinating to see how society was back in the day and how the towns and places overseas are described,

It is saying something of the quality of the man that this is one of his lesser known works, when it has so much to offer in terms of insight into his era and also gives a gripping read with the dark side of society offset by stories of courage in adversity and of the feeling that things must change.  For anybody with a Kindle or the free app for phone and PC, etc you can acquire this for free and enjoy such subjects as Birthday Celebrations, Tramps, Two Views of a Cheap Theatre and the Wapping workhouse to name a few.

 

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52 Comments

Posted by on 13/04/2015 in Classics, History, Journalism

 

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52 responses to “The Uncommercial Traveller – Charles Dickens

  1. Jill Weatherholt

    13/04/2015 at 23:49

    As always, I appreciate your honest review, Ste J.

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    • Ste J

      14/04/2015 at 10:04

      I appreciate your continued support, there are plenty more reviews in the pipeline as well.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  2. clarepooley33

    13/04/2015 at 23:53

    I haven’t read this book – heard of it but have never seen it for sale anywhere. I love his journalistic pieces – Sketches by Boz, Pictures From Italy, American Notes. He was, as you say, always curious, interested and observant. I must add this book to my long list.

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    • Ste J

      14/04/2015 at 10:07

      I collected my books years ago through one of those magazine things that come out every fortnight with a new book and I had no idea at the time how many books he had written. I haven’t read the others you mentioned or his British history for kids but after this I am looking forward to more of his non fiction works.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • clarepooley33

        14/04/2015 at 14:08

        He is a real journalist, wanting to find out and experience everything. He put a lot of people’s backs up during his tour of America as he was so unused to people’s friendliness – he thought they were being rude and was rude back! He was very suspicious of the Roman Catholics in Italy and was rude about them too! Quite gruesomely, he attended a public execution in Italy when a criminal was beheaded and described it all in detail. I like Sketches by Boz as it was his first book and he is young and enthusiastic. I have just found the book again and looked through it. It is divided into sketches, scenes, characters and tales and all taken from what he saw on his walks about London with a little embroidery of his own.

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        • Ste J

          14/04/2015 at 20:10

          Haha, excellent insight into those other works I will keep that in mind when I tackle his other works. It is interesting to see how his style changes throughout the years and how the things he sees make it into his books.

          Liked by 1 person

           
  3. quirkybooks

    14/04/2015 at 00:17

    A great write up Ste, I used to read Charles Dickens for A Level English Literature. I hadn’t heard of this book before, but the content sounds true to Dickens form. He captures the feel or the Workhouses very well, so bleak, harsh, and thank the lord we don’t have those now – That I know of!!

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    • Ste J

      14/04/2015 at 10:02

      It would have indeed been a…bleak house! The squallor that people lived in back in the day was terrible and it’s captured here in unflinching detail, it’s very well written as you would expect. This is one of his lesser known works but well worth a look, it is good to know that even one of the obscurer books of an author can be fantastically written, a hidden gem indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • quirkybooks

        15/04/2015 at 03:43

        It sounds like it is very well written.

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        • Ste J

          15/04/2015 at 19:40

          It is Dickens, his standard is always high and having so many short essays it means it is an entertaining and varied read.

          Liked by 1 person

           
          • quirkybooks

            15/04/2015 at 21:58

            Entertaining, ha! The mind boggles. Thanks for another great write up.

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  4. Bumba

    14/04/2015 at 01:25

    Thanks. This looks like a Dickens to check out.

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    • Ste J

      14/04/2015 at 09:42

      Being free, there really is no excuse not to!

      Like

       
  5. Lyn

    14/04/2015 at 01:40

    I blush to admit it, but I can’t remember ever having read Dickens — not even at school. Mind you, it was only those privileged enough to go to Senior High and be in the “A” classes who read the “classics”. I’ve seen movies based on his books of course, but never read the printed word. With this one being a freebie, maybe it’s time I started 🙂

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    • Ste J

      14/04/2015 at 09:47

      Well you have been missing out my friend, he is a sublime writer and there are so many good essays in this collection. I don’t think I would have appreciated Dickens in school either, it is strange that I never came across them in that bastion of education but I may have been put off by the style back then. As an adult I can fully appreciate his works now, even his slightly mad sentence structure is calmed down in this collection. it is a good place to start and I think you will be up for reading his other books after.

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  6. Cody McCullough

    14/04/2015 at 04:15

    I’ve been meaning to delve into some Dickens for some time now. I’ll take your post as a sign that there is no better time than right now. Thank you for reminding me that time waits for no one.

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    • Ste J

      14/04/2015 at 09:51

      It does my head in that I only have a finite time to read all the good books, I have been known to shake my fist at the Gods in public places because of it. Pick TUT up whilst its free and then you will be able to rest easy sir.

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  7. Aquileana

    14/04/2015 at 04:34

    The idea of a book based on an authorial persona of a traveller at leisure is interesting indeed…. Even more if the author is none else but Dickens…. Your insights as to the reading made me think of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman “… I guess the best way to capture things is to look at them through certain particular lens!…
    Have a great week, dear Ste… All the best to you. Aquileana ⭐

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    • Ste J

      14/04/2015 at 10:16

      I haven’t yet gotten around to reading Death of a Salesman, I like that instead of looking through the eyes of an author we are asked to look through the eyes of another anonymous traveller, it may encourage the writer in all of us. I’ll have a great week if you do to my friend.

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  8. Elizabeth Melton Parsons

    14/04/2015 at 12:43

    Love Dickens, but had never heard of this book. Now I’ll have to go searching for it. Thanks, Ste J. 🙂

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    • Ste J

      14/04/2015 at 18:44

      It will be well worth it my friend. I shall hunt out plenty more obscure books for your enjoyment in the coming months.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  9. cricketmuse

    14/04/2015 at 13:20

    I wonder how his observations compare to Twain’s traveling andcdotes? Both had a sharp witty observation about them.

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    • Ste J

      14/04/2015 at 18:49

      I haven’t read any of Twain’s travel books, his works are unsurprisingly on my list though.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • cricketmuse

        15/04/2015 at 01:52

        He has one about going to California that showcases his wit. A movie with James Garner came out a few years ago–pretty funny stuff. Caught the essence of Twain quite well.

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        • Ste J

          15/04/2015 at 19:36

          I knew Twain had a done a European travel account but as ever I feel so under read on certain authors. In the meantime I will seek out that movie.

          Liked by 1 person

           
  10. shadowoperator

    14/04/2015 at 14:16

    So, it’s not only Dickens’s insatiable curiosity we’re endebted to, but yours as well! I think I may be able to get this book on one of my online library websites. If I can, and it does sound like a good read, I may be back for another (more pertinent) comment. Thanks for the review, it provokes much speculation.

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    • Ste J

      14/04/2015 at 19:52

      If you can”t get it on your library sites, a Kindle app will allow you to download it free. I look forward to your thoughts and also to trying something new and obscure from my book pile, of which i am happy to report there are many.

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  11. Sherri

    14/04/2015 at 16:05

    Free? Sounds good to me and I do enjoy Dickens. His work fascinates me too. Thanks again for another great review!

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      14/04/2015 at 19:08

      You can’t wrong with a free book of quality. Always a pleasure to bring you a review of something undiscovered from an author you like.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  12. Andrea Stephenson

    14/04/2015 at 18:30

    Thanks for the recommendation Ste and since it’s free it’s a bargain too, I’ve downloaded it for later reading!

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    • Ste J

      14/04/2015 at 19:45

      FAntastic, I will be interested to know your thoughts once you have gotten around to reading a bit.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  13. Maniparna Sengupta Majumder

    14/04/2015 at 23:22

    Charles Dickens is one of my favourite authors. But I never have heard of this one..thanks so much Ste for introducing this to me… 🙂

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    • Ste J

      15/04/2015 at 19:45

      It’s always great when you find a new book by a favourite author, he wrote 21 books in all so perhaps there are a few more you are unfamiliar with?

      Liked by 1 person

       
  14. Theanne aka magnoliamoonpie

    14/04/2015 at 23:41

    Leaving for Amazon right now…this is a work of Dickens that I have not read…the excitement is palpable…thank you so much for bringing it to my attention 🙂

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      15/04/2015 at 19:47

      Excellent, you will have an insight into Victorian times and plenty of words to enjoy.

      Like

       
  15. Jilanne Hoffmann

    15/04/2015 at 07:24

    This is one I’ve never heard of. Thanks for pointing me in its direction. And it’s free! How often does that happen? Cheers!

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      15/04/2015 at 19:52

      It is the perfect price for a pedigree author. I’m hoping to find more obscure works from famous authors in the coming months as well, although they may not be free.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  16. Theanne aka magnoliamoonpie

    16/04/2015 at 19:26

    I Kindled this one by Dickens and I’m enjoying it…so happy you reviewed it 🙂

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  17. Christy Birmingham

    16/04/2015 at 20:48

    Ah, I had not heard of this book before. OK, you know I went and got it for free online. Yup. Done. Dang it I love books and want to read more than I have time to … sound familiar?!

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      17/04/2015 at 10:19

      If we actually met, the world would explode as we are basically the same person, so I like to think that by communicating through blogs we are saving six billion lives every day and like proper superheroes.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Christy Birmingham

        17/04/2015 at 17:08

        This is easily one of the best comments I’ve read. I’m not exaggerating. I say we get medals just for the lives we’ve saved. You’re welcome, world!!

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        • Ste J

          17/04/2015 at 20:24

          Medals, a certificate and a gift voucher worth £25 redeemable at all good book stores. I think we can push the boat out a little as we are still saving lives as we speak.

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  18. writersideup

    17/04/2015 at 00:31

    This actually sounds fascinating, Ste J. In fact, though it’s not fiction, seeing as they’re shorter pieces, I would be more inclined to read this! Thanks for bringing it to my attention. Who knows? Maybe I’ll someday get around to it 🙂

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    • Ste J

      17/04/2015 at 10:03

      Each chapter is usually around 13 pages so they are nice to dip in to and the essay on churches is a particularly fine read. I hope you do get around to enjoying it one day as it is a treat and of course free.

      Like

       

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