Riot Study: Hunting Catholics with Barnaby Rudge

Well, I would have been reading and writing today, had I not been caught up in upgrading my Blogger account and messing with my “classic” template while trying to take advantage of a few new features. With the exception of added labels, I ended up keeping things as they were, but I will probably tinker with the design over the weekend. Meanwhile, I just got back from the theater (an all-male production of Taming of the Shrew, which I am reviewing shortly). To remind all those of us blogging or shopping or hopping about town that it might be a “far, far better thing” to pick up one of his volumes, young Mr. Dickens has been installed here to usher in the festive season of fireside reading.

It is undoubtedly due to that sentimental ghost story A Christmas Carol and its countless re- or disincarnations that Dickens is so closely associated with December, the darkest month of the year, cheered, as if to reward or placate believers of some faiths, with tunes, tinsel, and treats. No Scrooge in the matter, I got tickets to a stage production of A Christmas Carol starring screen veteran Ron Moody, best known for his role in the musical Oliver! (a more recent production of which I discuss here). Young Twist and old Scrooge, those two have outlasted most of Dickens’s children, in the shadow of which vast nursery lies one Barnaby Rudge.

In the spirit of charity, I have picked up this ill favored Barnaby Rudge, serialized in 1841. Subtitled “A Tale of the Riots of ‘Eighty” it is a fictionalized account of the anti-Catholic uprisings in England, Protestant anxieties stirred by a member of Parliament opposed to the Catholic Relief Act. With the Pope’s visit to Turkey, a Muslim country whose faith he offended a few months earlier, and the multi-million sex abuse claim settlement by the Catholic diocese in Los Angeles making headlines these days, this old page-turner promises to be topical reading. No escapism here. What’s your literary treat for the “holidays”?

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