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The Mystery of Edwin Drood

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Lingua: inglese
Lunghezza: circa 97800 parole (tempo di lettura: 306-444 minuti)
Prezzo: Gratis
Estratto

CHAPTER I

THE DAWN





    An ancient English Cathedral Tower? How can the ancient English Cathedral tower be here! The well-known massive gray square tower of its old Cathedral? How can that be here! There is no spike of rusty iron in the air, between the eye and it, from any point of the real prospect. What is the spike that intervenes, and who has set it up? Maybe it is set up by the Sultan's orders for the impaling of a horde of Turkish robbers, one by one. It is so, for cymbals clash, and the Sultan goes by to his palace in long procession. Ten thousand scimitars flash in the sunlight, and thrice ten thousand dancing-girls strew flowers. Then, follow white elephants caparisoned in countless gorgeous colours, and infinite in number and attendants. Still the Cathedral Tower rises in the background, where it cannot be, and still no writhing figure is on the grim spike. Stay! Is the spike so low a thing as the rusty spike on the top of a post of an old bedstead that has tumbled all awry? Some vague period of drowsy laughter must be devoted to the consideration of this possibility.
    Shaking from head to foot, the man whose scattered consciousness has thus fantastically pieced itself together, at length rises, supports his trembling frame upon his arms, and looks around. He is in the meanest and closest of small rooms. Through the ragged window-curtain, the light of early day steals in from a miserable court. He lies, dressed, across a large unseemly bed, upon a bedstead that has indeed given way under the weight upon it. Lying, also dressed and also across the bed, not longwise, are a Chinaman, a Lascar, and a haggard woman. The two first are in a sleep or stupor; the last is blowing at a kind of pipe, to kindle it. And as she blows, and shading it with her lean hand, concentrates its red spark of light, it serves in the dim morning as a lamp to show him what he sees of her.
    'Another?' says this woman, in a querulous, rattling whisper. 'Have another?'
    He looks about him, with his hand to his forehead.
    'Ye've smoked as many as five since ye come in at midnight,' the woman goes on, as she chronically complains. 'Poor me, poor me, my head is so bad. Them two come in after ye. Ah, poor me, the business is slack, is slack! Few Chinamen about the Docks, and fewer Lascars, and no ships coming in, these say! Here's another ready for ye, deary. Ye'll remember like a good soul, won't ye, that the market price is dreffle high just now? More nor three shillings and sixpence for a thimbleful! And ye'll remember that nobody but me (and Jack Chinaman t'other side the court; but he can't do it as well as me) has the true secret of mixing it? Ye'll pay up accordingly, deary, won't ye?'
    She blows at the pipe as she speaks, and, occasionally bubbling at it, inhales much of its contents.
    'O me, O me, my lungs is weak, my lungs is bad! It's nearly ready for ye, deary. Ah, poor me, poor me, my poor hand shakes like to drop off! I see ye coming-to, and I ses to my poor self, ''I'll have another ready for him, and he'll bear in mind the market price of opium, and pay according.'' O my poor head! I makes my pipes of old penny ink-bottles, ye see, deary--this is one--and I fits-in a mouthpiece, this way, and I takes my mixter out of this thimble with this little horn spoon; and so I fills, deary. Ah, my poor nerves! I got Heavens-hard drunk for sixteen year afore I took to this; but this don't hurt me, not to speak of. And it takes away the hunger as well as wittles, deary.'
    She hands him the nearly-emptied pipe, and sinks back, turning over on her face.
    He rises unsteadily from the bed, lays the pipe upon the hearth- stone, draws back the ragged curtain, and looks with repugnance at his three companions. He notices that the woman has opium-smoked herself into a strange likeness of the Chinaman. His form of cheek, eye, and temple, and his colour, are repeated in her. Said Chinaman convulsively wrestles with one of his many Gods or Devils, perhaps, and snarls horribly. The Lascar laughs and dribbles at the mouth. The hostess is still.
    'What visions can SHE have?' the waking man muses, as he turns her face towards him, and stands looking down at it. 'Visions of many butchers' shops, and public-houses, and much credit? Of an increase of hideous customers, and this horrible bedstead set upright again, and this horrible court swept clean? What can she rise to, under any quantity of opium, higher than that!--Eh?'
    He bends down his ear, to listen to her mutterings.
    'Unintelligible!'
    As he watches the spasmodic shoots and darts that break out of her face and limbs, like fitful lightning out of a dark sky, some contagion in them seizes upon him: insomuch that he has to withdraw himself to a lean arm-chair by the hearth--placed there, perhaps, for such emergencies--and to sit in it, holding tight, until he has got the better of this unclean spirit of imitation.

...continua...

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:: Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens was born at Seaport on February 1812 and moved to London in 1814 with his father, a government clerk, in needy circumstances. He received a somewhat scanty education, but secured knowledge for himself by reading.
Dickens's father was imprisoned for debt, his wife and children, with the exception of Charles, who was employed as a bottle-washer in a blacking warehouse, joined him in the Marshalsea Prison.
When the family finances were put at least partly to rights and his father was released, the twelve year old Dickens, already scarred psychologically by the experience, was further wounded by his mother's insistence that he continued to work at the factory.
Later he became a clerk in an attorney's office and, improving his shorthand, he became a newspaper reporter. He also contributed humorous pieces to a magazine.
In 1835 he met and became engaged to Catherine Hogarth.
In 1836 an editor engaged the new writer to prepare a series of comic sketches on sporting subjects and suggested, as a subject, the adventures of an eccentric club. The result was the immortal Pickwick Papers published, as were many of Dickens's novels, in monthly parts.
The Pickwick Papers continued through November 1837, and it became an enormous popular success.
Dickens proceeded to marry Catherine Hogarth in 1836.
His great genius now fully appeared and his fame rose to its highest point. He then wrote Oliver Twist, a picture of criminal life, which exposed the conduct of workhouses and initiated that vein of pathos and satire on institutions that became a characteristic of his stories.
Next appeared Nicholas Nickleby (1838), which severely criticized the management of cheap boarding schools and The old curiosity shop (1840-1841), a blend of sadness and humour.
After finishing Barnaby Rudge (1841), Dickens set off for America. He went full of enthusiasm for the young republic but, in spite of triumphant reception, he returned disillusioned.
His experiences are recorded in American Notes (1842) and in Martin Chuzzlewit.
The series of Christmas books appeared in 1843, the most popular tales being A Christmas Carol, The Chimes and The Cricket on the Hearth.
After a long visit to Italy in 1844 Dickens produced Pictures from Italy. Next followed the semi-autobiographical novel, David Copperfield, perhaps Dickens's greatest work.
In later works, such as Bleak House (1853) and Little Dorrit (1857), Dickens's social criticism became more radical and his comedy more savage.
In 1850 he started the weekly periodical Household Words, succeeded in 1859 by All the year round; in these he published A tale of two Cities (1859), Great Expectations (1860-1861) and other less important novels up to the unfinished Mystery of Edwin Drood, which was being published as usual in instalments when Dickens suddenly died in 1870, in London, physically and nervously exhausted by the strain of his enormous activity.
Public grief at his death was considerable and he was buried in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey.

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