(WARNING: I ramble :-P )
Can you imagine what it would be like to grow up without the classics?
I can. It just hit me the other day that I really did not grow up surrounded by them like many I know here in the blogsphere. Before you think I was raised in a completely ignorant home, let me amend my statement a little. I was not completely without any classics in our house, but the ones we did own fell into three categories: 1. Children's Classics, 2. Fantasy Classics, 3. Science Fiction Classics. I know many of the books we had could be counted into all three categories.
We had The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Secret Garden, The Wizard of Oz, Journey to the Center of The Earth, The Princess and The Goblin, The Princess and Curdie, At The Back of the North Wind, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and (the only one I cannot place in one of those three categories) Daddy Long Legs.
As you can see, I can name them off rather easily- I did not look at anything to remember.
There was no Dickens, no Bronte, no Austen, no Elliot, no Scott, no Gaskell- not even Shakespeare! Though, we did later acquire the Anne of Green Gables series and A Little Princess.
It was not because my parents did not approve of those authors and books- on the contrary! But they themselves had not really grown up reading them, so they did not hold much interest in buying and reading them as we were growing up. I am really rather sorry for that fact. In a way, I wish they had so I would have gotten into reading those wonderful works much sooner than I did.
I didn't even read any Alcott until I was in junior high, and I did not even try venturing beyond her books and the Anne books until high school. (Okay, I also admit, I have the t.v. series Wishbone, which came out when I was in junior high, to thank for really starting to spark my interest in eventually checking out the classics)
The first true non-children's classic I actually ever read was Jane Eyre, and I was in high school. I read it after seeing both the 1940's movie starring Orson Welles and the 1983 BBC production starring Zelah Clarke and Timothy Dalton. We bought it in between those viewings at a home school book fair, along with The Hound of The Baskervilles, Robin Hood, and The Oddessey. (More classics!) And it was my sister reading it first, along with the first movie that sparked my interest in trying it. However, my first attempt was a failure. I didn't get beyond the first few pages. But after I saw the BBC production, which my sister had bought, I was sparked to read the whole thing, and this time I got through it! Unfortunately, I still tended to refuse to expand my literary horizons to more classics. While my sister continued on to include Austen with the modern books in her reading list, I stuck with Alcott and Burnette (and the original Elsie Dinsmore books) and modern books. I was of that unfortunate persuasion who thought Austen must be dull. How wrong I was! And how much I stunted my own literary growth! I was proud of my accomplishment in reading Jane Eyre, but I thought that was enough as I had not the regular encouragement to read more classics. Of course I had some classics in my high school literature courses, but the fact that I was forced to read them, and I found them dull, did not help encourage me either.
It was not until I was not only out of high school, but after I had graduated from Bible school (and I did read The Phantom of the Opera while I was there) as well that I finally found out how wrong I really was.
When I had joined at The Lion's Call, a Narnia fan site where I am now staff, I found so many others talking about all these great BBC period dramas based off of the classics, and I had to check them out! Yes, period dramas saved my literary life! It is they who sparked my interest a few years ago in finally reading all the classics I can get my hands on! And I think I have done somewhat well- though I still have far to go. Of course, I had to start with Austen, and I am happy to admit she is wonderful! For a few years now, I have been a great fan, and have expanded even further. So, while I do tend to read modern books the most, I have a couple Dickens books under my belt and a few others and I'm reading more classics all the time. I am currently working on The Scarlet Pimpernel.
So, my friends, if I am unable to place something out of the classics or am lost about a book, do not worry, I am learning! And I am doing my best to catch up on the period dramas, too. I'm loving every minute of it. :-)