Essays On Charles Dickens

Dickens seems to have succeeded in attacking everybody and antagonizing nobody.

Naturally this makes one wonder whether after all there was something unreal in his attack upon society.

Taking 'middle-class' to mean what Krupskaya might be expected to mean by it, this was probably a truer judgement than those of Chesterton and Jackson.

But it is worth noticing that the dislike of Dickens implied in this remark is something unusual.

It might well have been otherwise, for even if Dickens was a bourgeois, he was certainly a subversive writer, a radical, one might truthfully say a rebel.

Everyone who has read widely in his work has felt this.If you ask any ordinary reader which of Dickens's proletarian characters he can remember, the three he is almost certain to mention are Bill Sykes, Sam Weller, and Mrs. A burglar, a valet, and a drunken midwife--not exactly a representative cross-section of the English working class.Secondly, in the ordinarily accepted sense of the word, Dickens is not a 'revolutionary' writer. Whatever else Dickens may have been, he was not a hole-and-corner soul-saver, the kind of well-meaning idiot who thinks that the world will be perfect if you amend a few bylaws and abolish a few anomalies.But the ordinary town proletariat, the people who make the wheels go round, have always been ignored by novelists.When they do find their way between the covers of a book, it is nearly always as objects of pity or as comic relief.The central action of Dickens's stories almost invariably takes place in middle-class surroundings.If one examines his novels in detail one finds that his real subject-matter is the London commercial bourgeoisie and their hangers-on--lawyers, clerks, tradesmen, innkeepers, small craftsmen, and servants.I Dickens is one of those writers who are well worth stealing.Even the burial of his body in Westminster Abbey was a species of theft, if you come to think of it. Jackson, has made spirited efforts to turn Dickens into a blood-thirsty revolutionary.He really hated the abuses he could understand, he showed them up in a series of novels which for all their absurdity are extremely readable, and he probably helped to alter public opinion on a few minor but important points.But it was quite beyond him to grasp that, given the existing form of society, certain evils CANNOT be remedied.


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