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Críticas: 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 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 ... 'Hard Times' ... has never been explained so clearly, justified so fully, and on the basis of oriignal research expalined 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 it is difficult to envisage a reading that would not gain from much that it tells us ... -- K. J. Fielding Dickens Quarterly ... 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 ... -- Malcolm Andrews Dickensian 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 Sixieme volume d'une serie de "companions" editee par Susan Shatto et David Paroissien, l'/uvre de Margaret Simpson est, a l'image des ouvrages precedents, un outil de travail precieux pour les chercheurs aussi bien que pour les etudiants ...Elle offre au lecteur une connaissance tres etendue de l'epoque victorienne incluant des sujets tels que le droit, l'education, la medicine, l'industrie et ses techniques de fabrication, le systeme economique et politique (l'utilitarisme par exemple) aussi bien que des sujets plus marginaux tels la vie des animateurs de cirque et le traitement des etats depressifs chez les femmes de la bourgeoisie. Les explications des references bibliques sont approfondies et examinent l'utilisation qui en est faire par Dickens et ses contemporains. ... En outre, l'index est detaille et pratique, la "select bibliography" de bonne qualite, et les illustrations eclairantes et bien analysees. -- Sara Thornton Etudes anglaises, T.52: 1 ... 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 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 Margaret Simpson's Companion is the sixth in this series of reference books to accompany Dickens's novels. Its predecessors are Michael Cotsell's Our Mutual Friend (1986), Wendy S. Jacobson's The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1986), Susan Shatto's Bleak House (1988), Andrew Sanders's A Tale of Two Cities (1988), and David Paroissien's OliverTwist (1992). Paroissien's Great Expectations is forthcoming. The publishers of the volume under review justifiably claim that the Companions "provide the most comprehensive annotation of the works of Dickens ever undertaken." Hard Times is a favourite text on school and college courses presumably because it is the shortest of Dickens's novels, is less forbidding to the young, and has a satisfying anti-materialistic message. Not surprisingly, it has been published in many annotated editions. Those currently or recently available in the United Kingdom include paperbacks published by Penguin (edited by Kate Flint, whose edition has superseded David Craig's Penguin), the Oxford University Press as one of their World's Classics (Paul Schlicke), Dent as part of the Everyman Dickens (Grahame Smith), Methuen as one of their English Texts (Terry Eagleton) and the Norton edition (George Ford and Sylvere Monod). All contain annotation and other explanatory material: I have found Smith's edition particularly useful and admire Eagleton's discursive and penetrating commentaries. Margaret Simpson's Companion fulfils the publisher's claim that I have quoted: it is wonderfully comprehensive. I find it impossible to resist quoting Mr Gradgrind's command at the beginning of Hard Times: "Now, what I want is, Facts." All the facts are unquestionably here. To illustrate the encyclopaedic nature of Margaret Simpson's work, I take two examples that occur close together. Louisa's utterance, "I was tired. I have been tired a long time" (in Book 1, Chapter 3), leads to a lengthy essay that first comments on neurotic disorders, which Simpson argues mirror "the repressed position of women in Victorian society." She then relates the ennui that permeates the novel (in her opinion) to observations made by Carlyle, Ruskin and Arnold on associated states of mind. Dickens's comment that Mr Bounderby "could never sufficiently vaunt himself a self-made man" (Book 1, Chapter 4) provokes an extensive discussion on smiles and the idea of self-help, Dickens's positive and negative views on the idea, and fictional and factual examples of self-made men, including Bulwer Lytton's Mr. Bluff in England and the English and a prominent contemporary Preston mill owner named Thomas Miller. Throughout she makes relevant references to Household Words, where the novel first appeared as a weekly serial. Its "special nature," she states in her Introduction, "lies in its relationship to Household Words and in the journal's vital role in Dickens's literary and social vision." As well as her explanatory notes, she gives us eighteen full page illustrations (among them an engraving of Mortimer Grimshaw, the model for Dickens's Slackbridge, the union agitator), glossaries, tables, and reproductions of Dickens's "number plans." I sometimes felt that I was being taken away from the novel into a consideration of a work of social history, but I realise that this is an ungrateful criticism in view of the immense amount of information that Simpson has supplied, basing her explanations and commentaries on a wide variety of primary and secondary sources. When, for example, she discusses Dickens's portrayal of Coketown, the town in the north of England where the action of the novel is set (Book I, Chapter 5), she cites Dickens's fiction, letters and speeches in addition to five secondary, historical source books. One of her explanations puzzled me a little. In her Introduction and in the notes, she refers to Dickens's description of Louisa and Tom Gradgrind's room as having "much of the genial aspect of a room devoted to hair-cutting" (Book 1, Chapter 4). Simpson thinks that this phrase "not only hints at Dickens's own enjoyment of barbers' shops [which she illustrates from some of his other fiction) but also enriches the characterization of Louisa." But surely he is being ironical here? Isn't a hair-cutting chamber, as Dickens calls it, a utilitarian room? Tom declares to his sister that "you can brighten even this place," which at night is compared by Dickens to a dark cavern (Book 1, Chapter 8). As I've indicated, everything necessary for the student of Hard Times is here in abundance: explanations of allusions, details of relevant political, social and cultural issues, and bibliographical material. All readers of Dickens's comparatively short but taut, intense novel will find this Companion an indispensable fund of information. -- Donald Hawes Analytical & Enumerative Bibliography, 11 (1), p. 95-7. As I've indicated, everything necessary for the student of Hard Times is here in abundance: explanations of allusions, details of relevant political, social and cultural issues, and bibliographical material. All readers of Dickens's comparatively short but taut, intense novel will find this Companion an indispensable fund of information. -- Donald Hawes Analytical & Enumerative Bibliography
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