“Heaven lies about us in our infancy!/Shades of the prison-house begin to close/Upon the growing Boy,”*

*from “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”

“…poem about the formative years of childhood and how they helped to make Wordsworth the man, and poet, he became. Wordsworth wrote ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality’ between March 1802 and March 1804; it was published in 1807. Philip Larkin once recalled hearing William Wordsworth’s poem ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality’ recited on BBC radio, and having to pull over to the side of the road, as his eyes had filled with tears. ‘Intimations of Immortality’ remains a powerful meditation on death, the loss of childhood innocence, and the way we tend to get further away from ourselves – our true roots and our beliefs – as we grow older.” (Interesting Literature)

From: Signs for the Times – Symbolic Realism in the Mid-Victorian World (1984), by Chris Brooks:

“…Such a world desperately needs the qualities of love, selflessness and responsibility so consistently shown by Nell. But Nell’s role cannot adequately be defined in ethical terms alone.

She raised her eyes to the bright stars, looking down so mildly from
the wide worlds of air, and, gazing on them, found new stars burst
upon her view, and more beyond, and more beyond again, until the
whole great expanse sparkled with shining spheres, rising higher and
higher in immeasurable space, eternal in their numbers as in their
changeless and incorruptible existence. She bent over the calm river,
and saw them shining in the same majestic order as when the dove
beheld them gleaming through the swollen waters, upon the mountain-tops down far below, and dead mankind, a million fathoms deep

(The Old Curiosity Shop (1841) )

The passage is of central importance, not only in The Old Curiosity Shop, but also in the history of the development of Dickens’s fiction. It is the first fully realised example of the way in which Dickens’s central characters begin to assume the attributes of actors in a drama the terms of which are fundamentally spiritual and metaphysical. The passage focuses the novel’s two time systems discussed earlier in this chapter. Nell’s experience is seen in terms of a shift from a transcendental to an anthropocentric concept of time, from the stars, ‘changeless and incorruptible’ – the emblem of a divine infinity – to ‘dead mankind, a million fathoms deep’, with its insistent emphasis upon the overwhelming fact of human mortality. In the visual architecture of the image, the surface of the water is seen as the line of demarcation between the two systems; this visual structuring establishes a conceptual order in which that line becomes the hypothetical division between a reality suspended almost in the very moment of mortality and a world under the regimen of eternity. In the one, the ultimate reality is that of existence beyond change or corruption; in the other, the only permanency is that of death. But Dickens qualifies the absolutism of this visual and conceptual antithesis. If one imagines the whole metaphor in terms of a vertical cross-section, then the reflection becomes a point of stasis, with reference upwards to the stars which the surface mirrors, and downwards to the world of dead mankind, to where the reflection gleams upon the mountain-tops down far below. A line of access is thus drawn in our conceptual map of the image, linking the opposited realities of death and eternity; the stars themselves remain inviolate and inaccessible, but man does have access to the faintly reflected image of their eternal state, to intimations of immortality. In its transcendentalism, its sense of the mortal world as shadow and reflection, parallels to the image can be found in Plato’s metaphor of the cave…She sees as the dove saw, traditionally the image of peace and innocence, and, after the Flood, the messenger of hope and of new life. The typological relationship between Nell and the biblical dove identifies her as a harbinger of salvation.

It is precisely because of Nell’s spiritual identity as, in part at least, a divine agent that her death carries such imaginative significance, for with it the world of the novel loses its primary access to redemption. Nell’s potential as the messenger of salvation is never realised and her death, although it resolves the narrative, resolves nothing else. Rather, it seems to subordinate all else to itself…”

From: Dickens (1990), by Peter Ackroyd:

“…Of course (Dickens’s) own grief at the death of Little Nell was
matched by the public response. It is always said that the
crowds gathered on the harbour front of New York and
asked the incoming passengers from across the Atlantic,
“Is Little Nell dead?” The response at home was also very
encouraging to Dickens; Little Nell was even compared to
Cordelia, perhaps the first but certainly not the last
occasion when the names of Dickens and Shakespeare
were placed together. Lord Jeffrey was found in tears after
reading the death scene, and Daniel O’Connell threw the
book out of a railway window exclaiming, “He should not
have killed her!'”, a complaint echoed by many others who
sent letters to Dickens imploring him to avert that
unhappy fate…”

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