Dickens /Minor /Holiday Romance

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Holiday Romance – 1868 – a short story

Four children each write a section of the tale, from their viewpoint.

Charles Dickens’s four-part novella for children, A Holiday Romance was unique in four respects:
1. It is narrated by a succession of children who do not grow up to acquire adult voices that contain their childhood personas;
2. It was produced for initial American magazine publication, Our Young Folks, it was intended primarily for a child audience, to whom he considered it to be read aloud;
3. It was first published, neither in Dickens’s own journal, nor in one of his literary magazines, but in a new illustrated American monthly children’s magazine;
4. It was illustrated by three artists, one a well-known British illustrator, the other two being younger and American.

·       Ashford, Nettie (Mrs Orange)
·       Rainbird, Alice (Princess Alicia)
·       Redforth, Bob aka Robin (Lt-Col Boldheart)
·       Tinkling, William


William Tinkling in writing the first part of this tale:
He urges readers to accept that this is the truth. He is merely editing it, having concluded that his cousin, Bob Redforth, couldn’t do it.

He names his bride as Nettie Ashford, they were married in a closet of the dancing school, where they had met. Their ring was a green ne from a toy shop, the four of them set off a toy cannon on celebration. The next day Lieutenant-Colonel Robin Redforth marries Alice Rainbird and the real cannon celebrating these nuptials made a much larger noise and set a dog barking.

His wife was ‘in captivity; at Miss Grummer’s. He and the colonel had a plan to free her, which fails, Nettie averts her eyes and takes a new partner at the school. She passes him a note that asks ‘Is my husband a cow?’ The colonel decides she has missed a syllable and in fact meant ‘coward’.

William demands a trial, It is held up by the Emperor of France’s aunt not letting him out.He escapes over the wall to convene the court. The admiral conducts the prosecution, first the colonel’s bride and then his own wife, are witness to his remaining behind the lamp-post.

William asks what is the first duty of a soldier, and the President of the United States offers ‘Bravery’ but William insists it is ‘Obedience’. He proves that it was obedience not cowardice that kept him out of the battle. But as he is about to be declared no coward, the Emperor of France’s aunt grabs the court’s president by the hair and drags him off.

Two night’s later the pirate colonel and his wife, William and his meet again,they contemplate their pretending and its pitfalls, and the failings of grown-ups. They conclude they should educate the grown-ups in the forthcoming holidays.

Miss Alice Rainbird tells the second story:
Alice tells an imaginative tale of a king and queen who had nineteen children, the eldest Princess Alicia looks after the younger children. The king was about his business and bought a piece of salmon. He was morose because he had little money and the quarter day was a long way off, the day when he might expect some more money.

As he was leaving Mr Pickles the fishmonger, his errand boy stops him and mentions an old lady in the shop, the king had not seen her. She joins them and recognises the king and asks if he is the papa of the beautiful princess Alicia and suggests he is off to his office. He surmises that she must be a fairy.
She confirms his thought and identifies herself as Fairy Grandmarina. They have a rather bad-tempered exchange where each thing he says she berates him and he apologises. She then asks him to offer some of the salmon to Alicia that evening, and she will leave a bone. He should tell her to dry it, rub it and polish it until it looks like mother-of-pearl. It was a present from the fairy that it would grant her just one wish, provided she asks for it at the right time.

The do as she says. Alice then talks of a series of mishaps all resolved by Alicia’s good-natured offices. Her father regularly asks her about the fishbone, which she confirms is still with her. He finally confesses of his money troubles. Alicia explains how any difficulty should beaddressedwith a resolve to do their best, but that when they have done that and it is not enough, then it is the right time to ask others. She gets out the fishbone, polishes it, kissed it and wished it was quarter day. This proved to be the right time, and it became the quarter-day. The king’s salary rattled down the chimney.

Fairy Grandmarina appeared and asked the king if he understood why Alicia had not used the fishbone earlier? She told him to be good for the future, and live happily ever after. The fairy waived her fan, the queen appeared in fine robes, the children were all in new fitting clothes, Alicia was tapped with the fan and was dressed like a bride.

Grandmarina announced that they were off in search of Prince Certainpersonio. A coach drawn by peacocks was used to reach the Prince, and they were duly married before their assembled families. A wedding feast was held thereafter with a wedding cake forty=two yards round.

After the Prince’s speech, Grandmarina declared there would henceforth be eight quarter days each year and ten in a leap year. She told the king and queen they would have thirty-five children, and that they would all be good and beautiful, and that all of their hair would curl naturally.

That left the fishbone, Grandmarina took it back and if flew down the throat of the snapping pug-dog next door, who choked and died on it.
Robin Redforth tells the third story:
In it he is a Lieut-Col of pirates, called Boldheart, and in charge of a one-hundred-gun schooner – and it is his tenth birthday.

He had been driven to a life of piracy by a Latin-grammar master. Wearing a crimson hearth-rug his schooner, the ‘Beauty’, is in the China seas, as he sings a melody to his men. He was interrupted by a lookout calling ‘Whales!’

Robin leaps into his boat with a harpoon. Cheered on by his mean he harpoons it and returns to the schooner. They later make £2,417 10s 6d from it. He ordered the sail to be braced up and The Beauty flew over the dark waters. They attack four Spanish galleons and took them with much slaughter.
He becomes aware of some mutinous intent so calls the miscreant forward, Bill Boozey, a giant of a man steps forward but quails under his gaze. He explains their grip is the sour milk used for their teas. As he says this he steps back he goes overboard. Boldheart throws off his coat and dives in, the crew launch a boat and they fine their captain holding Boozey with his teeth. From that moment on Boozey was a devoted friend.

Boldheart sees a ship in harbour and declares it will be theirs, he calls for a double allowance of grog as they prepare for battle. The ship comes out of port to engage wearing Roman Colours, it is the Latin-grammar master. Grabbing a pike Boldheart calls for his men to board her. A battle ensued but the Roman ship had its hull and rigging shot through, it had lost its masts and the Latin-grammar master yielded.
The cook sought to kill the master, but Boldheart killed the cook. His mean pronounced a death sentence on the master, but Boldheart spared him. They prepare a cutter and cast him adrift instead with some provisions. Boldheart, despite sixteen wounds, retired for the night.

The ship faced squalls, six weeks of thunder and lightning, hurricanes, tornadoes and waterspouts, There was six feet two of water in the holds and they had no idea where they were. They were short on provisions so the allowances were reduced.

The much-weakened lookout shouted ‘Savages’. Fifteen hundred canoes each with twenty light-green savages approached. The chief of the savages was covered in feathers, looking like a fighting parrot. But fell with his face to the deck when he saw it was Boldheart. They gave them turtles, oysters and yams and invited them ashore. Where he found the Latin-grammar master being prepared to be roasted on the fire. Boldheart intervenes on the basis that the master he never teach again, and should offer to do the exercises for any boys needing his help.

Boldheart fired a succession of broadside volleys on the savages. They sailed away, on another island he married the kings daughter, in fun, and received precious items from the locals, The Beauty was heavily loaded when he decided to return to England.

Enroute he is passing Madeira, he puts a shot across the bow of a mysterious craft, the notes that it has the flag from the back garden, his father has set sail to find him. This ship, The Family, had his mother and father and many of his relatives aboard. They wanted to praise him for his glorious adventures.
The Latin-grammar master was seeking to undermine Boldheart and was hanged at the yard-arm, but not before Boldheart had lectured him on spiting boys.

His family came aboard in tears, admiring his uniform, his crew and so on, though he put cousin Tom in irons for disrespecting him, but forgave him after a few hours. Arriving back at Margate Roads, he summoned the mayor.

He ordered the mayor to bring him his wife. He is given an hour to comply, After the hour he returns sayin his wife is bathing and will be intercepted as she emerges from the bathing machine. The mayor manages to frighten her and drive her beyond her depth. But Boldheart sweeps her up in his arms. He calls for a priest and is married there, The mayor received a messenger, the government asks Boldheart to be a Lt-Col, he accepted this as his wife had wished it.

Cousin Tom was sentenced tothree dozen with a rope’s end for cheekiness, but spared. Boldheart and his wife set off for the Indian Ocean.

Nettie Ashford relates the final story:
Nettie imagines a country where children have their own way and grown-ups must obey the children. Where there is jam and jelly and marmalade, and tarts and pies and puddings, and all manner of pastry. The grown-ups here are called children.

One of the inhabitants there is Mrs Orange who is plagued by her large family, she decides to put them to school. She calls on Mrs Lemon and they compare their babies’ development. They put the babies on the mantelpiece to begin a discussion,
She asks if there are eight vacancies with Mrs Lemon for her two parents, two intimate friends of theirs, one godfather, two godmothers, and an aunt. They discuss moderate terms, and Mrs Lemon explains that they occasionally shake and have been known to slap in extreme cases.

She is given a tour of the establishment. She finds one pale, bald child, with red whiskers, in disgrace, White. She asks why and he confesses he has been betting on horses. Another, Brown, is greedy and has gout. Mrs Black plays too much and spoils her clothes.

She returns home and tells her family they are going to school, but they don’t want to go. She packs their boxes and sends them off.

Mrs Alicumpaine calls and is invited to dinner, she has invited Mr and Mrs Orange to a party. Over dinner Mr Orange says he does not care for (adult) girls because they are ‘frivolous and vain’.

At the party they are disturbed by the children (adults) and have to send some home. The children are playing at parliament, shouting ‘Hear, hear’. ‘No, No’ and ‘Question’. One boy delivered a long speech. There were toasts to the hostess and cheers. But Mrs Alicumpaine, thought it too noisy and ordered them to stop.

On their way home, the Oranges pass Mrs Lemon’s preparatory and decided not to check in on their children, and ponder if, for a fee, Mrs Lemon might keep them for the holidays.

She ponders the perfection of such a system, the children (parents) would begiven no holidays and bekept in school as long as they lived, and do whatever they were told.

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