Volume Six The Companion to Hard Times by Margaret Simpson
978-1-873403-56-3, Helm, 1997, 304pp, £30.00 [Purchase
About Volume 6: The
Companion to Hard Times, by Margeret Simpson Margaret
Simpsons 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 Simpsons presentation of it is the fullest yet.
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
Sixième volume dune série de
"companions" éditée par Susan Shatto et David Paroissien, luvre de
Margaret Simpson est, à limage 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 lépoque victorienne incluant des sujets
tels que le droit, léducation, la médicine, lindustrie et ses techniques de
fabrication, le système économique et politique (lutilitarisme 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 lutilisation qui en est faire
par Dickens et ses contemporains.
En outre, lindex est détaillé et
pratique, la "select bibliography" de bonne qualité, et les illustrations
éclairantes et bien analysées. Sara Thornton, Études anglaises, T.52:
Margaret Simpsons 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 Simpsons 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 gratitudeand 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 Dickenss writing.
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 authors 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,
Margaret Simpsons 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
thats 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
Andrews, The Dickensian, Summer 1998
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