Virginia Barton

5 February 2014: Portsmouth’s promise

5 February 2014




ad for p'smouth dickens


This splendid ad is by way of a trailer for an event about which I intend to write next week.

Unless, that is, we’ve been washed away. Or you may be struggling under feet of snow, or –  if you happen to be in Australia – coping with excessive heat.

Never has the conversation been so narrowly focus’d; politics relegated to the margins and Putin’s Winter Games of only secondary interest. 


But it’s to be hoped that the goings-on in Portsmouth will be a distraction, if nothing else…






  • Rosanne says on: February 5, 2014 at 11:11 pm



    There was a great exhibit at the Morgan Library in NYC in celebration of Dickens’ two-hundredth birthday (and he didn’t look a day under 198). Quite a fellow.

    • Ginny says on: February 6, 2014 at 5:59 pm


      Which is your favorite of the great man’s novels, Rosanne? How would you respond to Robert’s request for the top 5?

      Have you seen the Ralph Fiennes film about Dickens and Ternan? Now there’s a good book, Claire Tomalin’s The Invisible Woman. Click here for my review.

      The last time I went to the cinema it was to see Anna Karenina. A dear friend took me and even had chocs for me to munch. Enter Vronsky and I got up and walked out, leaving my dear friend totally puzzled and taken aback by my rude behaviour. He was just ALL WRONG. (Humbles if I told that before…) Ginny

  • Robert says on: February 6, 2014 at 2:38 pm


    I must confess I am a novice when it comes to Dickens, apart from “Christmas Carol”.

    Can you recommend a reading list, maybe the Top 5 novels to read? Thank you.

    • Ginny says on: February 6, 2014 at 5:59 pm


      Oh Robert, that’s a request dear to my heart! I just love sounding off about favorite books, music, paintings, and so on!

      Here goes: Great Expectations, Tale of Two Cities — two “easy” titles to begin with, though when you re-read them you will find more and more in them, specially the first.

      Bleak House, David Copperfield (which is close to autobiography, at least in part) and perhaps Dombey and Son or Nick Nickleby.

      I know that when I go and look at my shelf I will kick myself for not mentioning Barnaby Rudge or Pickwick or Chuzzlewit! And there are gems in almost any volume of Household Words.

      Personally, I love to read “round” a fave author with a biography, or an account of their circle of friends.

      My personal love is Bleak House, but I would give a beginner Great Expectations.

      Sincerely hope you grow to love the characters that walk and talk between the pages. Ginny

      • Robert says on: February 6, 2014 at 8:15 pm


        Thank you so much! I think I’ll start with Great Expectations and work my way up the list.

        First I must finish Middlemarch, a Christmas gift from a friend who knows how ignorant I am when it comes to the classics. What do you think of George Eliot?

        • Ginny says on: February 8, 2014 at 8:11 pm


          Who could forget Mr Casaubon, Robert? Among that explosion of literary talent in Victorian England, Eliot ranks as one of the one of the greats, doesn’t she? Do try Daniel Deronda some time; you may find Gwendolen is even more loveable than Dorothea.

          I can’t presume to advise you what to read, Robert, I can only tell you what I enjoy reading myself, and what I have been advised to read by wiser heads than mine. BH cannot stand Dickens but loves Miss Austen. It’s very personal, isn’t it, and I truthfully (and unashamedly) admit to being one of the proles who
          “knows nothing about art, but knows what they like.”

          A long trail stretches ahead of you and I envy your journey! ginny

          P.S. I must just add that I’m appalled that I forgot Little Dorrit, how could I? But I told you that would happen when I looked at my bookshelf.

  • Rosanne says on: February 6, 2014 at 8:34 pm


    Hi Ginny,

    I’m averse to ranking literature, films, restaurants in top-down order — preferring to appreciate things more laterally, to make room for the unrankable and the lesser-known or idiosyncratic.

    I might, however, make an exception to my aversion to rank ordering when it comes to fruit jellies of the sort that really, really taste like fruit. Number one, so far (and willingly subject to change) is: Patrick Roger in Paris.

    Back to Dickens. My personal favorite is Bleak House — emphasis on the word “personal”. I would have no opinion about whether it was his best. Dickens had a keen eye, a critical mind, and a compassionate heart and that is apparent in all his work.

    • Ginny says on: February 8, 2014 at 8:11 pm


      I am intrigued by the fruit jellies, Rosanne, especially in connection with Paris. Are these the wobbly ones in a sundae dish with custard or a squirt of cream? Or are they the sweetie ones in a jolly little bag that you suck till the insides of your cheeks are raw?

      Neither sounds specially Parisian; but I havn’t been there since the mid-eighties. Anything may have happened in the interim. I never came across Patrick Roger, who is he? Or is it a the name of a classy tempting pudding place? Or just a corner shop? You can tell I’m floundering.

      I’m glad Bleak House is your favorite Dickens because I too love it and will never ever forget little Miss Flyte… Gin

  • Rosanne says on: February 10, 2014 at 10:16 pm


    There are jellies and then there are jellies. The divine jellies with which I am in love are clear, dense but soft colored squares that taste like the rich essence of the fruit that flavors them. Garden-variety jellies taste of sugar. Patrick Roger is a chocolatier that drew me into the shop because there was a larger than life sized chocolate orangutan in the window. The jellies were a bonus.

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