A Green Old Age

November 23, 2020

In this week's installment, Tyger Wright, a Santa Cruz based artist, highlights a passage in 'Barnaby Rudge' where Dickens pays "tender attention to a population that is often marginalized, our elders."



I am Tyger Wright, sustained thus far in my life by fine arts, literature, and grace. Last year was the best piece of luck to find the Dickens Universe, which occurs every year very near my home in Santa Cruz, California, with the sad exception of this year, occurring only virtually because of COVID-19.

So, last year’s session's centerpiece was Barnaby Rudge, A Tale of the Riots of '80 by Charles Dickens. My passage today is from Chapter the Second in Barnaby Rudge.

In the reader's first encounter with the locksmith Gabriel Varden, Dickens describes this character in lovely language and he calls tender attention to a demographic that is often marginalized, our elders. So, here goes.

Gabriel Varden "was a round, red-faced, sturdy yeoman, with a double chin, and the voice husky with good living, good sleeping, good humour, and good health. He was past the prime of life, but Father Time is not always a hard parent, and, though he tarries for none of his children, often lays his hand gently upon those who have used him well; making them old men and women inexorably enough, but leaving their hearts and spirits young and in full vigor. With such people the gray head is but the impression of the old fellow's hand in giving them his blessing, and every wrinkle but a notch in the quiet calendar of a well-spent life."

Gabriel Varden was "of this kind: bluff, hale, hearty, and in a green, old age: at peace with himself, and evidently disposed to be so with all the world."

I am drawn to this passage because American culture often dismisses its elders as disposables. It assumes that the aging process must defile us. I find Dickens's words were lovingly in-tune with a truth, that beautiful people are all around us, regardless of how many birthdays we have had, and regardless of the physical traits arising therefrom.

Thank you to the Dickens Universe for this chance to describe one of my favorite passages from this fabulous writer, Charles Dickens. Thank you.



Dickens-to-Go is a weekly program of short videos designed to whet the viewers' appetite for "more" of their favorite author. You can join Dickens Project faculty, friends, and students as they share a favorite passage from Dickens and say a few words about why they selected it.

What are your favorite passages? We hope you will make a video too! Email Courtney Mahaney for video submission guidelines.