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Volume Six The Companion to Hard Times by Margaret Simpson

978-1-873403-56-3, Helm, 1997, 304pp, £30.00 [Purchase Online]

About Volume 6: The Companion to ‘Hard Times’, by Margeret Simpson ‘Margaret Simpson’s book is a cornucopia of interest and delight, the result of a great deal of resourceful and imaginative research. … This volume, however, is more than just a miscellaneous commentary. Through many of the entries runs the argument that Hard Times needs to be placed, for its richest explication, in the context of Household Words. The proposition is not new, but Simpson’s presentation of it is the fullest yet. … what this … reveals is the imaginative and sympathetic thoughtfulness which informs this Companion and makes it so attractive. It is a book full of facts, but they are deployed in no Gradgrindian spirit.’  Stephen Gill, The Review of English Studies, n.s. 50: 199, 1999

Hard Times

‘Sixième volume d’une série de "companions" éditée par Susan Shatto et David Paroissien, l’œuvre de Margaret Simpson est, à l’image des ouvrages précédents, un outil de travail précieux pour les chercheurs aussi bien que pour les étudiants …Elle offre au lecteur une connaissance très étendue de l’époque victorienne incluant des sujets tels que le droit, l’éducation, la médicine, l’industrie et ses techniques de fabrication, le système économique et politique (l’utilitarisme par exemple) aussi bien que des sujets plus marginaux tels la vie des animateurs de cirque et le traitement des états dépressifs chez les femmes de la bourgeoisie. Les explications des références bibliques sont approfondies et examinent l’utilisation qui en est faire par Dickens et ses contemporains. … En outre, l’index est détaillé et pratique, la "select bibliography" de bonne qualité, et les illustrations éclairantes et bien analysées.’ Sara Thornton, Études anglaises, T.52: 1, 1999

Margaret Simpson’s admirably thorough Companion can stand as a valuable supplement to paperback and scholarly editions, not least because a reader can keep it open next to the novel itself. Not e even the longest on-page footnote could comfortably provide as much background on nineteenth-century labour relations as Simpson’s annotations, some of which are almost essays in themselves. Even more useful are the links made between the serialized sections of the novel and contemporary articles on similar topics in Household Words. But the incidental delights are also worthy of notice … this book is comprehensive without being coercive; it should prompt gratitude—and not just from research students engaged in one-upmanship. The Times Literary Supplement, March 1998.

‘… there is even more to be said for the scheme of the Companions that the way to annotate is by presenting an extra volume for each novel. If there remains the lurking fear that such notes may be a distraction, there is an enormous gain in the way that, rightly used, they can open up our understanding to the complexity and subtleties of Dickens’s writing. … Hard Times …has never been explained so clearly, justified so fully, and on the basis of original research explained so well as in the account given by this present, ever helpful, alert and attentive companion. It is encyclopaedic; not everything in it is vital to every reading; but is difficult to envisage a discriminating reading that would not gain from much that it tells us. … What the notes do show in their author’s expertly probing hands, is how ambitious and dense the novel is, how far beyond the full comprehension of even most of its contemporary readers, and how we need well-informed help to rise to the challenge of understanding it.’ K. J. Fielding, Dickens Quarterly, 15, September 1998

‘Margaret Simpson’s volume is a reference book of copious proportions. It dwarfs, in scale, the annotation normally accompanying modern editions of the novel: some of the entries amount to miniature essays. All that’s missing from the volume is the text itself. However, that description of the Companion is somewhat misleading. This is a book in its own right, a fragmentary social and cultural history oriented around a single fictional text. It makes for fascinating reading, maybe even for those who have little or no knowledge of the novel itself. The depth and range or research into the familiar and arcane topics treated are very impressive….’ Malcolm Andrews, The Dickensian, Summer 1998

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