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The Excuse 9 

Biography 11 

The Cheery, Joyous, Gladsome Message . 27 

" The Pickwick Papers 46 

" Oliver Twist " 51 

" Nicholas Nickleby " 56 

" The Old Curiosity Shop " . . . . 61 

" Barnaby Rudge " 64 

" Martin Chuzzlewit " 68 

" The Christmas Books " 75 


" David Copperfield " 83 

" Bleak House *' 91 

" Hard Times " 100 

" Little Dorrit " 103 

" A Tale of Two Cities " .... 106 

" Great Expectations " Ill 

" Our Mutual Friend " 115 

" The Mystery of Edwin Drood " . • 120 



"Dickens," Mr. G. K. Chesterton has written, 
"is as individual as the sea and as English 
as Nelson ; " and I can find no better excuse than 
this for writing another — and a very little — book 
about him. Dickens is to me a writer apart. I have 
been reading and re-reading his novels since I was 
six. I know his characters as I hardly know any of 
the men and women I have met in the flesh. Dickens 
is the novelist of the lettered and of the unlettered. 
The man at the street corner who has hardly heard 
of Thackeray knows all about Sam Weller and Mrs. 
Gamp. This is the glory of Dickens, In the pages 
that follow I have retold, briefly and simply, the 
events of his life. I have summarised his " cheery, 
gladsome message," and I have endeavoured to sug- 
gest the particular value and significance of each of 
his principal books. A writer so universal inevitably 
appeals to different men in different manners. Of 


all the books I have read on Dickens, I find myself 
in most complete agreement with Mr. Chesterton's 
characteristic monograph. I have quoted frequently 
from his pages, and I have to acknowledge my in- 
debtedness for many suggestive annotations that 
have helped to fuller understanding. 



Charles Dickens was born at Landport, outside 
Portsmouth, on the 7th of February 1812. He was 
the eldest son and the second child of John Dickens, 
a clerk in the Navy Pay Office and the original of 
Mr. Micawber, his mother appearing in his novels as 
Mrs. Nickleby. The family a year or two after his 
birth moved to London, and when Dickens was be- 
tween four and five years old his father was given an 
appointment in Chatham Dockyard, and he and his 
family lived at Chatham until the novelist was nine. 
In after years he recalled himself as " a very small 
and not over particularly taken care of boy." He 
was too sickly to be much good at games, and long 
before he was in his teens he was a prodigious reader. 
John Forster says that the account of the early 
reading of David Copperfield is literally auto-bio- 
graphical, and that Charles Dickens' boy's imagina- 
tion wafe quickened by Roderick Random, Peregrine 
Pickle, Humphrey Clinker, Tom Jones, The Vicar of 
Wakefield, Don Quixote, Gil Bias, Robinson Crusoe, 


and The Arabian Nights. His reading enthused him 
with a desire to write, and when he was about eight 
he composed a tragedy called Miznar, the Sultan of 
Itidia, which was acted by his brothers and sisters. 
Dickens always loved the theatre and he always had 
a tendency to " show ofi," and it is not surprising to 
know that as a small child he used to sing comic 
songs at all the family parties. 

When he was nine his father was moved to Somerset 
House, and the family went to live in a small mean 
house with a small mean back-garden in Bay ham 
Street, Camden Town. John Dickens had become 
involved in his Micawberesque money entanglements, 
and there was a great contrast between the com- 
parative comfort of the life at Chatham and the 
unqualified poverty in Camden Town. The elder 
Dickens was kindly, affectionate, and conscientious, 
but he was essentially what is called " easy-going," 
and, as his son wrote, " he appeared to have utterly 
lost at this time the idea of educating me at all, and 
to have utterly put from him the notion that I had 
any claim upon him in that regard whatever. So 
I degenerated into cleaning his boots of a morning 
and my own ; and making myself useful in the work 
of the little house ; and looking after my younger 
brothers and sisters (we were now six in all) ; and 
going on such poor errands as arose out of our poor 
way of living." As a matter of fact it was at Bay ham 
Street, Camden Town, with a washerwoman next 
door and a Bow Street officer opposite, that Charles 


Dickens began his essential education. He began to 
learn the humour and the dignity that belong to the 
lives of the simple and the poor. He began the 
journey that was to end in Charles Dickens, the 
author of The Pickwick Papers, of David Copperfield, 
and of Bleak Hoitse. The circumstances of the family 
grew worse and worse. " I know," wrote Dickens, 
" we got on very badly with the butcher and baker, 
that very often we had not too much for dinner, and 
that at last my father was arrested." John Dickens 
declared that the sun had set for him for ever, and 
was carried off to the Marshalsea — perhaps the most 
providential arrest in the whole history of the world, 
for his son's boyish experiences of the horrors and 
the stupidity of the debtors' prison brought fruit 
years afterwards in Pickwick and Little Dorrit, and 
directly led to the abolition of the whole cruel absurd 
system of imprisonment for debt. 

Frequent visits to the pawnbroker, and the gradual 
selling up of the home until there was nothing left 
" except a few chairs, a kitchen table, and some beds," 
led to Charles Dickens beginning life as a money 
earner. He was just ten years old, and the good 
offices of a relative secured him an engagement at 
Warren's Blacking Manufactory in Hungerford Mar- 
ket at a salary of six shillings a week. The horror 
of this part of his life never left him, and it is fully 
described in David Copperfield. No grown man ever 
remembered the tragedies of his childhood so vividly 
and so naturally as Dickens remembered them. No 


grown man ever sympathised with a child's sorrow so 
entirely, and this splendid power was a heritage from 
the blacking factory. In a fragment of autobiog- 
raphy quoted by Forster and largely used in David 
Copperjield, Dickens said : 

*' It is wonderful to me how I could have been so easily cast 
away at such an age. It is wonderful to me that even after my 
descent into the poor little drudge I had been since we came to 
London, no one had compassion on me — a. child of singular 
abilities, quick, eager, delicate, and soon hurt, bodily and 
mentally — to suggest that something might have been spared, 
as certainly it might have been, to place me at any common 
schooL Our friends, I take it, were tired out. No one made 
any sign. My father and mother were quite satisfied ; they 
could hardly have been more so if I had been twenty years of 
age, distinguished at a Grammar School and going to Cam- 
bridge. . . . 

" The deep remembrance of the sense I had of being utterly 
neglected and hopeless, of the shame I felt in my position, of 
the misery it was to my young heart to beheve that day after 
day what I had learned and thou^t and deUghted in and raised 
my fancy and my emulation up by, was passing away from 
me never to be brought back any more, cannot be written." 

Soon after he went to the blacking factory the 
whole family moved into the Marshalsea, and Dickens 
was sent to lodge in Little College Street, Camden 
Town, with " a reduced old lady," the original of 
Mrs. Pipkin in Dombey and Son. His father paid his 
lodging, but otherwise he was left entirely on his 
own resources — " no advice, no counsel, no encourage- 
ment, no consolation, no support from anyone that 
I can call to mind, so help me God ! " And the boy 


was just ten. It is wonderful indeed that he should 
have grown into the supreme laughter-maker of the 
after years ; and yet, perhaps, as I shall try to show, 
it was not so wonderful, for miracles do happen and 
miracles always happen according to natural law — a 
fact of importance of which both scientists and 
theologians often appear strangely ignorant. 

A legacy of some hundred pounds was left to the 
elder Dickens. He took his release from the Mar- 
shalsea, and soon afterwards he quarrelled with 
his blacking-manufacturer relative, and Charles was 
happily discharged. He was sent to a school in 
the Hampstead Road called the Wellington House 
Academy, and there he stayed until he was fourteen. 
Some of the characteristics of the school were used 
afterwards in the description of Salem House in 
David Cojp'perjiM. On leaving school his father ob- 
tained for him an engagement in the office of Mr. 
Edward Blackmore, a solicitor in Gray's Inn, and 
there he acquired that intimate knowledge of the 
futility and chicanery of the law which he was to 
use with such splendid efiect in The Pichwick Papers, 
Bleak House, and Great Expectations. 

John Dickens — he was a man of ability and at times 
of resource — had become a parliamentary reporter on 
the staff of The Morning Herald, and his son decided 
to learn shorthand as the first step in his real career. 
He worked almost viciously. " Whatever I have 
tried to do in life," he once said, " I have tried with 
all my heart to do well." To teach oneself short- 


hand from a text-book is not an easy task. " The 
changes that were rung upon dots which in such a 
position meant such a thing, and in such another 
position something else entirely different ; the won- 
derful vagaries that were played by circles ; the 
unaccountable consequences that resulted from mast- 
like flies' legs ; the tremendous effects of a curve in 
the wrong place, not only troubled my waking hours, 
but reappeared before me in my sleep." 

He worked as a shorthand writer for two years in 
an office in Doctors' Commons, and when he was 
nineteen he entered the House of Commons gallery 
as one of the representatives of a paper called The 
True Sun. It is one of the characteristics of Charles 
Dickens' career that despite the hardships of his 
youth, and his almost entire lack of influential friends, 
success came to him quickly and easily. He had a 
story published in The Old Monthly Magazine when 
he was twenty-one. He had constant newspaper 
work from the time he was nineteen, and this work 
gave him all kinds of useful knowledge and experi- 
ence. He does not appear to have had any trouble 
in getting his writings accepted and published, and 
in February 1835 the signature " Boz " — the nick- 
name of one of his brothers — first appeared in The 
Monthly Magazine, and his career as a novelist may 
be said to have begun. 

In the latter part of this book I have dealt with 
each of his novels in their order, and here it is only 
necessary briefly to summarise the facts of their 



publication. In 1836 he collected the Sketches by 
Boz, and sold the copyright for £150, and on the 
31st of March of the same year Messrs. Chapman & 
Hall began the publication in shilling numbers of 
The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. The 
same year saw the end of his career as a parliamen- 
tary reporter and the production at the St. James's 
Theatre of a farce of his called Strange Gentlemen and 
an opera Village Coquettes, for which he wrote the 
dialogue and the words of the songs. 

Charles Dickens married Miss Catherine Hogarth 
in the Pickwick year, and he must have been an ex- 
tremely attractive and impressive-looking young man. 
Forster when he first saw him was struck by " the 
quickness, keenness, and practical power, the eager, 
restless, energetic outlook on each several feature 
that seemed to tell so little of a student or writer 
of books and so much of a man of action." Mrs. 
Carlyle said of his face " that it was as if made of 
steel," and Leigh Hunt wrote, " It has the life and 
soul in it of fifty human beings." 

No man could possibly have anticipated the enor- 
mous popularity achieved by Dickens by his very 
first book, and unfortunately for him, before that 
popularity was assured he had entered into agree- 
ments which overloaded him with work. While the 
early numbers of Pickwick were appearing, and before 
Sam Weller had been created, Dickens had agreed 
with ^li. Bentley to edit a monthly magazine and 
to write three stories, on terms good enough for a 

(t,017) 2 


beginner, but altogether inadequate for the author of 
Pickmck. In the latter part of 1836 he was writing 
at the same time the first half of Oliver Twist and the 
last half of Pickwick. In the years 1837 and 1838 
he edited a life of the famous clown Grimaldi, finished 
Oliver Twist, and began Nicholas Nickleby, which kept 
him busy almost to the end of 1839. 

He had lived since his marriage in Doughty Street, 
and although he was still only twenty-seven years 
old he had become a prominent figure in a liter- 
ary and artistic society which included Thackeray, 
Macready, Talfourd, Maclise, Landseer, and Douglas 
Jerrold. In 1840 he began the publication of Master 
Humphrey's Clock, the idea of which was a weekly 
threepenny publication based on the Tatler and 
Spectator, only far more popular, and in which one 
of his stories should appear in regular instalments. 
This story was The Old Curiosity Shop, and its success 
was even greater than that of Pickwick. Quite early 
in his writing life Dickens began his frequent visits 
to Broadstairs, and in 1840 he moved from Doughty 
Street to Devonshire Terrace. This year was the 
year of Barnaby Rudge, which he had begun during 
the progress of Oliver Twist, but had put aside for 
some months. 

In January 1842, Dickens made his first visit to 
America. I have dealt at some length with his im- 
pressions in the chapter on Martin Chuzzlewit. It is 
very difficult, I think, to label him with any political 
tag, but he was certainly essentially and emphatically 


an anti-Tory, and he was without question prepared 
to like America and the Americans. And despite the 
fact that he detested some of the individuals he met 
when he landed, particularly " one man in very dirty 
gaiters and with very protruding upper teeth, who 
said to all comers after him, ' So you've been intro- 
duced to our friend Dickens,' " he was extremely 
touched by his reception. Dickens loved popularity, 
but his popularity in the United States was a little 
too insistent : 

" If I turn into the street I am followed by a multitude. If 
I stay at home the house becomes with caUers like a fair. 
If I visit a public institution with only one friend, the directors 
come down incontinently, waylay me in the yard, and address 
me in a long speech. I go to a party in the eveniug, and am 
so enclosed and hemmed about by people, stand where 1 will, 
that I am exhausted for want of air. I dine out, and have to 
talk about everything to everybody. I go to church for quiet, 
€Uid there is a violent rush to the neighbourhood of the pew 
I sit in, and a clergyman preaches at me. I take my seat in 
a railroad car, and the very conductor won't leave me alone. I 
get out at a station, and can't drink a glass of water without 
having a hundred,j)eople looking down my throat when I open 
my mouth to swallow." 

He was home again in 1842, and in the months 
after his return he wrote his American Notes, any 
detailed description of which has been omitted from 
this book for want of space and because its " line " is 
almost exactly similar to that of Martin Chuzzlewif, 
the first number of which appeared in January 1843. 
Martin Chuzzlewit was a comparative failure, and the 


highest sale of any of the numbers was 23,000 as 
compared with the 50,000 numbers of Pickimck and 
the 60,000 of The Old Curiosity Shop; but since 
Dickens' death it has become the third most popular 
of all his novels, following Pickwick and David Copper- 
fidd. The Christmas Carol appeared a few days be- 
fore the Christmas of this year, and was an immediate 
and tremendous success. A few months later Dickens 
went for a long holiday in Italy, not returning to 
England until June 1845, when he at once began 
working on his scheme for a daily newspaper — ^he 
was wedded to the idea of fathering periodicals — and 
the first number of The Daily News appeared under 
his editorship on the 21st of January 1846. The 
work was altogether too much for him, and he re- 
signed the position a fortnight afterwards, ceasing to 
have any connection with the paper after four months, 
and starting for the Continent again to forget a mis- 
take and to get back again into the vein for writing 
another novel. His stay in Lausanne and Geneva 
was followed by three months in Paris. In 1847 he 
lived a great deal at Brighton and Broadstairs, 
writing Domhey and Son. The Haunted Man was 
written in 1848, The Chitnes having been completed 
in Italy three years before. Dickens spent much of 
1849 and 1850 in Broadstairs and Bonchurch, Isle 
of Wight, with David Copperfield. He loathed Bon- 
church, and it made him dull and ill. In one of his 
letters to Forster he says : " Naples is hot and dirty, 
New York feverish, Washington bilious, Genoa ex- 


citing, Paris rainy, but Bonchurch smashing. I am 
quite convinced that I should die here in a year." 

In 1850 he started Household Words. The original 
idea was fantastic and poetical — a weekly journal 
dominated by a certain Shadow, " a cheerful, useful, 
and always welcome Shadow," who should express 
his opinion of all manner of things week after week. 
But the practical Forster vetoed the Shadow, and 
Household Words with more conventional ambitions 
first appeared on the 30th of March. The assistant 
editor was W. G. Wills, and its first serial was written 
by Mrs. Gaskell. 

Dickens left the house in Devonshire Terrace in 
1851. Whilst living there his fame had become world- 
wide, and he had gathered round him a small but 
desirable circle of genuine friends. Among them were 
the Macreadys, Mark Lemon, Tenniel, Milner Gibson, 
Lord Lovelace, John Delane, the Landseers, the 
Carlyles, Thackeray, Mrs. Gaskell, Douglas Jerrold, 
Tennyson, Tom Taylor, the Kembles, Frith, Mazzini, 
Sims Reeves, Mrs. Keeley, George Henry Lewes, and 
some others. At this time he was very busy as an 
amateur actor, playing in his own house and in halls 
in various parts of the country on behalf of the 
funds of the Guild of Literature or for some other 
worthy cause. ^ There is no question that he had 
very great stage ability, used to the full years after- 
wards when he gave his public readings. In 1853 
he went again to Switzerland and Italy. Although 
Dickens travelled on the Continent a great deal, as 


Mr. Chesterton suggests, he always remained entirely 
uncosmopolitan, and entirely an Englishman, and it 
is a highly suggestive and important fact that he 
should have written so thoroughly an English book 
as The Chimes in Genoa. Dickens had no vulgar 
racial prejudices. He had none of the detestable 
John Bull arrogance that has made the Englishman 
abroad so generally disliked. He simply lacked the 
faculty to perceive the essentials of any people but 
his own. He liked Italy and he loved the poor 
Frenchman, but like the hero of Sir William Gilbert's 
song he always remained an Englishman. 

Bleak House was begun in 1851 and finished at 
Boulogne in 1853. Hard Times was begun in 1853 
and finished also at Boulogne in 1854. Dickens was 
very seriously overworking at this time editing House- 
hold Words, writing Bleak Hou^e and the quite un- 
necessary Child's History of England simultaneously. 
He was living in a turmoil, working to save his soul, 
tr}^ing to put out of his mind the family unhappiness 
which was beginning to be insupportable. He began 
Little Dorrit in 1855, and he finished the story during 
his stay in Paris in 1856 to 1857. In 1856 he was 
in Doncaster at the time of the St. Leger, and it is 
not without interest that this great anti-Puritanic 
Englishman should have found horse-racing entirely 
detestable. " I vow to God," he wrote, " that I can 
see nothing in it but cruelty, covetousness, calcula- 
tion, insensibility, and low wickedness." In 1856 he 
bought the house at Gadshill, outside Chatham, which 


was his home during the rest of his Hfe and where 
he eventually died. 

Dickens' marriage with Catherine Hogarth was 
never, I imagine, entirely satisfactory, and it eventu- 
ally became impossible. He was a man who, because 
he was so English, was intensely domestic, earnestly 
yearning for all that home means to an Englishman. 
But he was a man who, because he was an artist to 
whom success and unbounded popularity had come 
when he was very young, was nervous, jumpy, sen- 
sitive, capricious, just the sort of man impossible as 
a husband to any woman who lacked the genius for 
loving and for understanding. John Forster bluntly 
regards Dickens' parting from his wife as a serious 
blot on his career. Mr. Chesterton, who is also nothing 
if not domestic, also rates him severely, and evidently 
regards the parting as largely his fault ; but surely, 
with the very full knowledge that we have of Dickens 
and the partial and fairly definite knowledge that we 
have of Mrs. Dickens, their hopeless incompatibility 
is obvious, and it is evident that if they had gone on 
living together the man's life would have petered out 
in utter heart-break and premature sterility. Dickens 
wrote to Forster in 1856 : 

" If I were sick or disabled to-morrow, I know how sorry she 
would be and how deeply grieved myself to think how we had 
lost each other. But exactly the same incompatibility would 
arise the moment I was well again ; and nothing on earth could 
make her imderstand me or suit us to each other. Her tem- 
perament will not go with mine. . . . The years have not 


made it easier to bear for either of us ; and for her sake as well 
as mine the wish will force itself upon me that something must 
be done. ... I claim no immunity from blame, there is plenty 
of fault on my side I daresay in the way of a thousand uncer- 
tainties, caprices, and difficulties of disposition ; but only one 
thing will alter all that, and that is the end which alters 

Dickens and his wife parted for ever in May 1857. 
His eldest son went with his mother, the other children 
stayed with him. The whole thing was lamentable 
but absolutely inevitable. 

Dickens began his public readings in 1858. He gave 
altogether four series, one in 1858-59, another in 
1861-63, another in 1866-67, and the last in 1868 and 
1870. All his instinctive histrionic power came out in 
these platform experiences. He read with inimitable 
art, and he moved his audiences exactly as he had 
moved his readers. He was given royal receptions in 
every town he visited, and his success in England was 
repeated when he returned to America in 1867 for a 
reading tour. Dickens liked America better than he 
had done on his first visit, and America forgave him 
Martin Chuzzlewit and treated him magnificently. He 
made £20,000 from the American readings and some- 
thing like £23,000 from the English series ; but the 
work was too much for him, and the strain was largely 
responsible for his comparatively early death. In 1859 
Household Words became All the Year Round, and A 
Tale of Two Cities began its serial publication in the 
first number. In 1860 he wrote The Uncommercial 
Traveller, and in 1860 and 1861 Great Expectations, 


which also appeared serially in AU the Year Round. 
In 1864 and 1865, amid failing health and much 
family sorrow, he wrote Our Mutual Friendy quite 
the gayest of his later books. He was taken ill 
during his readings on the 23rd of April 1869, and 
although he worked on he was never really well 
again. He died at Gadshill on the 9th of June 

No writer had ever attracted the love of his readers 
as Dickens attracted it. No professional writer was 
ever so deeply and genuinely mourned. He was 
buried in Westminster Abbey on the 14:th of June, 
and for three days, Dean Stanley wrote, " there was 
a constant pressure on the spot, many flowers were 
strewn upon it by unknown hands, many tears shed 
from unknown eyes." Horace Greeley, writing of 
the grief in America, says : " The loss of no single 
man during the present generation, if we except 
Abraham Lincoln alone, has carried mourning into 
so many families." Carlyle has perhaps written his 
epitaph better than any other of his contemporaries : 
'* A most cordial, sincere, clear-sighted, quietly de- 
[cisive, just, and loving man. . . . The good, the 
gentle, high-gifted, ever friendly, noble Dickens, every 
inch of him an honest man." 

The characters he created are so real to us because 
they were real to him. " He laughed and wept with 
them, was as much elated by their fun as cast down by 
their grief, and brought to the consideration of them a 
belief in their reality as well as in the influences they 


were meant to exercise which in every circumstance 
sustained him." 

He was an affectionate father. " I hope," he wrote 
to one of his sons, " you will always be able to say in 
after life that you had a kind father." He was the 
most considerate and kindly of editors. He was the 
friend of his poorer neighbours, and never insulted 
them with patronage. He preached a gospel of 
brotherly love. He loved ghost stories and he loved 
children. He was a great dreamer and a great 



A man's opinions are generally of small importance 
either to himself or to anybody else. When our views 
affect our dreams, they matter to ourselves. When 
they affect our conduct, they matter to our neighbours. 
And only then. But it is essential to all of us, both as 
individuals and as units of society, to think sanely of 
the world into which we have been born and of the 
life of which we form a part. It is impossible to live 
beautifully, which means to add to the total of happi- 
ness and to take away from the total of pain, or to 
dream beautifully, which means to be in complete 
harmony with the wonders of the universe, unless we 
have acquired an accurate sense of values, unless we 
have learned to distinguish the real from the sham, 
the ephemeral from the eternal, the glitter from the 
gold. The man, therefore, who can teach this to his 
fellows is the greatest of all public benefactors. 

Charles Dickens is such a man. The gospel accord- 
ing to Dickens is a gospel which no one can afford 
to disregard. It is a restatement of eternal truth, 
and the manner of the restatement coming from a 


man who is almost a contemporary, adds to its 
importance, for it is obvious that eternal truth must 
always be capable of statement in terms of the 
present. Few things are therefore of more vital im- 
portance to the Englishman of to-day than that he 
should understand Dickens completely and rightly. 

Thackeray as a literary artist was limited by the 
fact that he was always a gentleman. The glory of 
Dickens is that he was a common man writing about 
common men for common men. He was magnifi- 
cently vulgar. He was never shocked by common 
ways. On the contrary, he realised their splendour 
and their humour. Sir Arthur Pinero once made the 
astounding discovery that comedy could only be 
found in the lives of the leisured and the wealthy. 
Dickens demonstrates the humour of the common- 
place and the lovable heroism of the fool. Most of 
us are poor and commonplace. Many of us are fools, 
and Dickens tells us that our lives, as well as the 
lives of our betters, may be full of colour and thrills. 
Anyone can see the splendour of the Lord Mayor's 
coachman. It took Dickens to see the splendour of 
Mr. Toots. The common man is the victim of his 
superiors. He is never left alone. He is always, in 
these " social " days, being inspected and reformed 
and " chivied " into discomfort and naturalness. 
But Dickens takes the common man by the hand, 
invites him to accompany Sam Weller to the "swarry" 
at Bath, and bids him rejoice in his commonness. 
The superior person " in a bright crimson coat with 


longtails, vividly red breeches, and a cocked hat " 
(or even if he wears less picturesque raiment) is a 
pernicious ass. The common man is the child of 
the gods. 

Dickens more than any other great writer knew the 
life of the very poor and understood the tragedy of the 
everyday menace of the empty cupboard. But he 
never forgot the humanity and the humour (the two 
things are really identical) of the life of the very 
poor. He and John Bunyan are the only men in 
the whole pageant of English literature who speak 
for the inarticulate common poor man. Dickens 
died a world-famous novelist. He had earned heaps 
of money. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. 
But he remained the child of the mean street. Mr. 
H. G. Wells, a novelist in my opinion generally under- 
estimated by his contemporaries, is nominally by 
birth of the lower middle class. He has described 
with great skill and accurate detail the every days 
of the struggling little shopkeeper. But compare his 
description of the small baker's family in Tcnw 
Bungay with Dickens' picture of the Kenwigs, and 
the difference between the two writers is at once 
apparent. Mr. Wells looks back with horror at a life 
from which he has escaped. Dickens writes of the 
Kenwigs with the joy and pride of the man who is one 
of the family. Mr. Wells was bom in a strange land, 
and has moved into his own country. Dickens lived, 
spiritually, his whole life with his kin. Mr. Wells sees 
nothing to laugh at in the old squalor. Dickens finds 


the Kenwigs enormously funny. It is inhuman not to 
be amusing. All men are really amusing if one only 
understands, just because they are human. But it is 
bad manners to laugh when we do not understand. 
The man in the bowler is a cad if he laughs at a duke 
in his coronet. But most dukes are frightfully amus- 
ing to the other dukes, just as most dustmen are 
frightfully amusing to the other dustmen. 

But if Dickens proclaims the humanity of the com- 
mon man by laughing at him, he also demonstrates 
over and over again his fine dignity. Reginald 
Wilfer who endured dull work, the nickname of 
Rumty and a wife, " a tall woman and an angular," 
and remained a cheerful little cherub, and the more 
picturesque but not a whit more adorable Bob 
Cratchit, are evidence of the novelist's understanding 
of the courage, the self-sacrifice, the lovableness of 
the man in the street. Only men with souls can be 
happy when the wind is in the east, and the amazing 
happiness of the common man is the evidence of his 
affinity with the eternal. An omnibus on a wet day 
may appear to be filled with dull fellows journeying 
from dull offices to dull homes, but Dickens would 
find it full of heroes journeying with dignity along 
the pathway trodden before them by heroes and 

His attitude to his villains must also be considered 
in the endeavour fully to understand the Dickens 
gospel. Sikes is altogether hateful and melodramatic. 
So are Ralph Nickleby and Sir John Chester and 


Jonas Chuzzlewit. But the villains that we really 
remember are comic — Quilp and Squeers, Mr. Peck- 
sniff and Jingle, even Fagin ; and Dickens' attitude 
to naughtiness is extremely characteristic. Squeers is 
a most complete and audacious rascal, and yet Squeers 
makes us laugh. Fagin is a villain of the deepest 
dye, but for all that he is obviously designed as a 
comic figure. Under the influence of superior persons 
we have grown absurdly exclusive. We do not only 
hate sin (or profess to hate it), but we refuse to regard 
the sinner as a man and a brother. Consequently we 
torture the sinners against society's laws, not as our 
forefathers tortured with easy human neglect, but 
with soul-killing rules and regulations. We wash 
them and half -feed them and give them a little work, 
and we drown their souls in whitewash. I profess 
that I would sooner be half-starved with Jingle and 
Job on the poor prisoner's side of the old Fleet than 
be locked up in the grim modern horror that deadens 
the beauty of Dartmoor. Dickens was never superior. 
He was not too refined or too virtuous to laugh at 
the Artful Dodger. Modern reformers and philan- 
thropists are for ever thanking God that they are 
not as the other men whom they profess to help. 
Only the Salvation Army has the real Dickens spirit. 
Its officers call burglars " brother " and harlots 
" sister," and they mean it, and, in consequence, the 
Salvation Army is practically the only organisation 
that persuades burglars to give up burgling and har- 
lots to abandon their calling. Dickens bids us laugh 


at his virtuous characters, at Mr. Pickwick and 
Sam Weller, at Mark Tapley and Tom Pinch, at 
Captain Cuttle and Mr. Boffin. If he did not also 
bid us laugh at his vicious creations, he would be at 
once suggesting that virtue was more amusing than 
vice, and that the vicious have no souls to be saved. 
Man is indeed essentially funny, and in this he 
stands alone among created things. A lion is not 
funny, or a cow or a nightingale, or even a hippo- 
potamus, and apes and dogs are only funny when 
they have been taught to imitate man. It is man's 
birthright to be funny. The guilelessness of Mr. 
Pickwick, the good-nature of Mark Tapley, the tender 
consideration of Captain Cuttle, the weak-mindedness 
of Mrs. Nickleby, the hypocrisy of Mr. Pecksnifi, the 
dissipation of Dick Swiveller, the smugness of Mrs. 
Chadband, the devotion of Miss Tox are all funny, 
and it should be noted that we do not like Mark 
Tapley any the less or hate Pecksniff any the less 
because we laugh at them both. The everyday 
remark, " This is a funny world," is profoundly true. 
It is a splendid world, a thrilling world, a disappoint- 
ing world, perhaps at times a sad world, but all the 
time it is a funny world. Dickens realised this, and 
it is not without significance that the characters in 
his novels that we cannot laugh at are the failures, 
unconvincing and unreal. Mrs. Nickleby, Squeers, 
Tim Linkinwater, the Brothers Cheeryble, Newman 
Noggs, are all splendidly human. Kate Nickleby, 
Nicholas, and Ralph are lay figures. There is blood 


in the veins of Mr. Podsnap, but only sawdust in the 
veins of John Harmon. The man you can never 
laugh at is not a real man, and to confess that we can 
see nothing amusing in any man or any woman is to 
prove that we do not really know them. 

It has been said (it is not true) that Dickens in- 
vented the English Christmas, and he decidedly 
found good cheer and much food and drink eminently 
human and desirable. He loved parties and de- 
scribed them with a relish — Mr. Wardle's party, the 
Kenwigs' party, the Cratchits' Christmas dinner, old 
Chuzzlewit's party. Man is a social being and he can 
only rejoice with his friends, and most of us have far 
too few parties and festivities. Food and wine loosen 
tongues and help to destroy the absurd reticence 
which is the most insistent of our national vices. 
Who are we that we should desire to hide ourselves 
from our fellows ? If all men were open and candid 
the world would be ever so much more interesting, 
and suspicion, dislike, and misunderstanding would 
be almost completely destroyed. The Dickens man 
is eager to tell all his secrets and to hear all the 
secrets of his next-door neighbour. Men tell secrets 
over the dinner table if the dinner has been good 
and the company well assorted. 

Pickwick, whom all the world loves (Dickens began, 
by the way, to create a completely ridiculous char- 
acter and ended quite naturally by making him 
completely lovable), often drank too much, so did 
Dick Swiveller. Gabriel Varden was always empty- 

(2.017) 3 


ing Toby, and Pips " knocked off his wine pretty- 
handsomely." Dickens certainly had no sort of 
sympathy with teetotallers (the red-nosed shepherd 
was a most pernicious humbug) or with any form 
of asceticism. We cannot imagine him dining at a 
vegetarian restaurant or adopting a fruitarian diet. 
I suggest that it is of the first importance that the 
man whose books, from the first page he wrote to the 
last, breathe the most splendid humanity should have 
given the characters he loved best what the man in 
the street regards as " a good time," and should have 
had no little sympathy with the roisterer. I am bold 
enough to believe that man was born to eat red meat 
and to drink good wine, and that the lentil-fed ascetic 
(in Europe anyhow — the Asiatic man has different 
passions, different dreams, and different hopes) is only 
half a man. It may be the best half, but he is sharply 
differentiated from the man in the omnibus and he 
cannot understand. The trail of the lentil lies on much 
of the literature and much of the legislation of our 
time, and in consequence the literature is freakish and 
in its essence divorced from the workaday realities, 
and the legislation is harassing and ineffective. When 
we speak of " Hfe "we do not mean life as it is lived 
by the members of the Fabian Society, by teetotal 
fanatics, or by super-refined ladies and gentlemen 
with ample means and leisure, but life as it is led by 
the common multitude, and it is the glory of Dickens 
that he understood this common multitude, that he 
shared its tastes and its prejudices, that he recognised 


its sorrows and its humours, and that with his seer's 
eyes he saw how its Hving could be made fuller and 
more splendid and more satisfying. Mr. Bernard 
Shaw can never help the world very much, for Mr. 
Shaw, disliking the world that God created, has 
created a world for himself. He will talk to us, and 
sell his books and plays to us. But he will not eat 
with us or drink with us, and he cannot pray with us 
for he does not understand our prayers. But Dickens 
was, in the best sense, a man of the world. He is 
the fellow of the man in the street and the man in the 
public-house, and he finds it quite amusing that the 
elderly gentleman should drink too much milk punch 
on a hot afternoon, and part of the manliness of an 
excellent locksmith that he should have frequent jugs 
of beer. 

The attitude of Dickens to the criminal is the 
common attitude of the common man in mean 
streets. The man in prison is gently spoken of as 
the man in trouble. His attitude to the weak-witted 
is similarly common and kind. If I wanted to find 
an argument against such a law as the Mental De- 
ficiency Act (and heaven knows, it would be easy to 
find a score !) I should just say " Mr. Toots." There 
is nothing more profound than the folly of the wise. 
There is nothing more beautiful than the wisdom of 
the foolish. The one idea of the Christian reUgion is 
summed up in the sentenc:, *' Thou hast hid those 
things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed 
them unto babes." It is inevitable that the wise 


and prudent should be always with ns and that they • 
should never allow us to forget their presence. But 
sweetness, light, and love and sympathy are best 
understood by the simple-minded. They give them 
to us with open hands. Dickens knew this. Mr. i 
Dick would have been, if he had lived to-day, inevi- ' 
tably locked up in an admirably arranged asylum. 
But happy with his kite and Betsey Trotwood, he did 
no end of good. Mr. Toots was very silly, but he was 
the very soul of kindness and consideration and as 
true a gentleman as Colonel Newcome himself. Dr. 
Saleeby and his fellow-eugenists must read of his 
marriage with the Nipper with utter horror, but I 
am quite certain that their children were altogether 
delightful and desirable. Almost all the completely 
lovable characters in the Dickens novels are rather 
stupid — Mr. Dick and Micawber, Mr. Toots and 
Captain Cuttle, Tom Pinch, Mr. Pickwick, Joe Gar- 
gery, Mr. Boffin, George the trooper, even Sydney 
Carton. In The Pickwick Pa'pers he makes the 
beautiful Arabella Allen fall in love with the empty- 
headed Mr. Winkle, and once more demonstrated his 
profound knowledge of life. No woman really loved 
a wise man. Women love men that appear wise, 
but that only means they have discovered some 
heavenly folly that is hidden from the rest of the 
world. We vastly overestimate the value of clever- 
ness, and society is unquestionably in grave danger 
of falHng under the heel of a clever minority. Their 
tyranny will be the hardest that history has ever 


known, and it will lead to a revolution, compared to 
which the French Revolution will be mere child's 
play. Dickens asserts the fact that in all essentials 
the simple man — the average common man — under- 
stands far more clearly than the learned and the wise. 
No man by reasoning can discover God, and indeed 
the man of subtle reasoning is leagues farther from 
Grod than the fool. " You are an ignorant man, you 
say," old Martin Chuzzlewit observed to Mark 
Tapley. " Wery much so," Mr. Tapley replied. 
*' And I am a learned, well-instructed man, you 
think ? " " Likewise wery much so," Mr. Tapley 
answered. But the whole story of Martin Chuzzle- 
wit is a demonstration of the blindness of the man 
who was learned and well-instructed and the splendid 
sane judgment of the ignorant. 

I have said enough to prove Dickens' affinity with 
the average man. I have shown how fine a patriot 
he was, for there is no work more patriotic than to 
demonstrate the glories of one's own country. Mr. 
Gilbert Chesterton writes of him as the child of the 
great Revolution, as a man of the age that believed 
in human equality. In common with all the great 
poets (for the man who discovered Puck in a stable- 
yard was a poet if ever there was one) Dickens be- 
longed tQ all ages and to one nation. Men in the 
nineteenth century may have believed in equality. 
No one believes in anything so absurd to-day. But 
men have always yearned for liberty, and the spirit 
of liberty breathes in the pages of the Dickens novels. 


The common natural man (who is to me what the head 
of Charles I. was to Mr. Dick) is eager to do what he 
likes, to say what he likes, to sin as he likes. If he is 
prevented from being himself, his life is tasteless and 
tiresome, and Dickens with his realisation of the good 
times the common natural can have, if he is let alone, 
acclaims the joy of liberty and the utter beastliness 
of serfdom. Dickens lived and died before the 
advent of Mr. Sidney Webb (alas and alack ! for if 
he had known him he would assuredly have put him 
into a novel and killed Webbism for ever), but the 
two men represent exactly the two fundamentally 
different points of view. Had Mr. Webb known Mr. 
Toots and Mr. Micawber he would have regarded them 
with pity and have proceeded to save them from them- 
selves. Mr. Toots would have been sent to a home for 
the mentally afflicted, and Mr. Micawber to a labour 
colony. But Dickens loved Toots and Micawber, and, 
because he loved them, he was able to understand 
that, allowed to be themselves, they would have 
quite a good time, and would help others to a good 
time also. Most men are happy if they are per- 
mitted to Uve according to the laws of their being. 
To force the lazy to work, to force the wine-bibber 
to sign the pledge and to prevent him from breaking 
it, to force the man who loves to be dirty to wash, 
is to make unhappiness, and it surely needs some 
tremendous reason to justify adding to the world's 
total of unhappiness. Moreover, this desire to force 
people to change their habits, which I christened 


" Webbism " in another book of mine, is absolutely 
unchristian, for Christianity bids the reformer to 
seek to change the hearts and the desires, to convince 
the loafer that it is amusing to work, to persuade the 
drunkard that it is more thrilling to be sober, to fill the 
unwashed with the inclination to be clean. And there 
is something attractively kindly and human in the 
admonition that, all persuasion having failed, " he 
that is filthy let him be filthy still." It is of course 
true that social well-being does demand some re- 
striction of individual action and eccentricity. But 
the restriction should be as light as possible. Eng- 
land will be an awful hell when we are all made 
industrious, sober, and clean by Act of Parliament. 
Indeed it will not be England. 

Dickens is the most English of all the great writers 
who have made the English language glorious, more 
English than Shakespeare, more English than Bunyan. 
Shakespeare was a Catholic inasmuch as he was influ- 
enced by the colour and the joy of the Catholic re- 
ligion. Bunyan was Puritan. England and Dickens 
are neither Catholic nor Puritan, a fact of the first 
importance that politicians and reformers unfortu- 
nately forget. Actual references to religion occur 
rarely in the novels. Dickens pilloried Chadband 
and the deputy-shepherd. In The Old Curiosity 
Shop he draws a sympathetic picture of a village 
clergyman, " a simple-hearted old gentleman of a 
shrinking subdued spirit, accustomed to retirement 
and very little acquainted with the world." In The 


Mystery of Edwin Drood the clerical sketches are 
equally kindly. Dickens here again is the average 
Englishman who does not go to church very much, 
but accepts the Christian doctrines as a matter of 
course, and is anxious for the presence of a clergyman 
at marriages and burials. The Englishman who does 
not label himself is quite properly labelled Church of 
England, and the main line of the Church of England 
(I am not forgetting the many enthusiasts) is to 
regard God as a benevolent but rather distant power 
always on the side of kindness and right, but not to 
be spoken of or spoken to except at moments of 
crises and then with due formality. There is a great 
deal of nonsense talked about English characteristics. 
The English are not a law-abiding people. No people 
ever hated laws and lawyers so much. They obey 
them because they are lethargic and humorous. The 
English are not really as reticent as the Irish and 
they are far more romantic. But it is certainly un- 
English to talk of one's God. 

I have said that the English hate lawyers. We are 
governed by them because we are too busy gardening, 
and drinking, and watching football matches, and 
following other romantic pursuits, to govern our- 
selves, but we hate them all the same, and Dickens 
when he drew the comic Dodson and Fogg, that most 
horrid villain Mr. Tulkinghorn, the offensively clean 
Mr. Jaggers, Buzfuz the windbag and Stryver the 
humbug, as well as Fips, who for all his good-nature 
was content to spend his days behind " a little 


blear-eyed glass door " in a very dark passage, and 
Mr. Perker, who for all his friendship with Mr. Pick- 
wick could not help admiring the rascality of Dodson 
and Fogg, he created lawyers that are eternal and that 
exactly represent the common English view. The 
utter hopeless nonsense of the machinery of law 
denounced by Shakespeare was held up for hatred 
and ridicule by Dickens in Bleah Hcmse. Thanks to 
him something was done to reform the horror of the 
Court of Chancery, but the law courts are still the 
protection of rogues and the scourge of the poor and 
the foolish. 

On Tom Hood's grave is written the legend, " He 
sang the Song of the Shirt." On Dickens' grave 
should be written, " He set the Prisoners Free." 
He laughed the Fleet and the Marshalsea off the face 
of the earth. He ridiculed imprisonment for debt 
out of existence. The day that Sam Weller, accom- 
panied by his father, the mottle-faced gentleman, 
and seven other stage-coachmen, was handed into 
the custody of Roper and the phlegmatic Neddy, at 
the gates of the Fleet, the doom of that ancient 
institution was sealed. Most prisons are ridiculous, 
as everything cruel is ridiculous. To imprison men 
for debt was not only wicked, it was silly, but the 
world did not realise its folly until Dickens proclaimed 
it. Then the debtors' prisons were pulled down. 
Our present prisons for thieves and drunkards are 
equally absurd criminal-making, soul-destroying ma- 
chines, but they go on existing despite lectures and 


newspaper articles and pamphlets, because we do not 
understand that the country that possesses such 
absurd institutions is just ridiculous. If Dickens 
had lived to send Mr. Pickwick to Dartmoor and to 
incarcerate old Dorrit in Reading gaol, the whole 
English penal system would have been reformed on 
lines of sanity and common sense. England does not 
mind being cruel, but it hates to be ridiculous, and 
Dickens because he was an Englishman, and because 
of his understanding of the folly of cruelty, was the 
most effective reformer that fortune ever sent to 
these islands. 

When he dreamed Bumble he began the humanising 
of the poor laws. Bumble is the real author of the 
humane regulations issued by the Local Government 
Board, notably during the presidencies of Mr. Chaplin 
and Mr. Walter Long, and Bumble collaborated with 
Mr. Asquith when he initiated Old Age Pensions. 
After Oliver Twist had asked for more, the torture 
of Uttle children in poorhouses became difficult and 
uncomfortable. The workhouse officials who suc- 
ceeded Bumble and his wife have been afraid that the 
inmates may find them absurd if they are harsh. 
The big human laugh of Charles Dickens has cleansed 
away the dust of the devil. 

Dickens had no great admiration for success. What 
comedies he would have created from the pages of Dr. 
Smiles ! He jeered honestly and fiercely at the Vic- 
torian captains of industry when he drew Gradgrind 
and Bounderby. He was wholesomely and decently 


uninterested in aristocrats, of whom (like most of us) 
he knew nothing, but his Sir Leicester Dedlock is 
a conventional English picture, and he obviously 
approves of George's devotion to his mother's old 
master. Money-lenders he hated with the fervour 
of a Russian moujik, and his old Small weed is more 
horrible than Shylock. In common with all good 
Englishmen he never understood foreigners and he 
always suspected them. In no book in our language 
are the causes of the French Revolution more clearly 
indicated than in A Tale of Two Cities, but Dickens 
was too English to see anything but the horror of the 
revolutionary mob, and his quite natural and quite 
unintelligent disgust drove him to make a British 
body-snatcher into a hero. The French maid in 
Bleak House and the foreign gentleman in Litde Dorrit 
are stage figures, but very, very English, and it was 
as an Englishman that Dickens saw and disliked 
America. Cant flourishes in every country under the 
sun — less in France than in any other country, more 
in the United States. We English are not so easily 
gulled by cant as the Americans — no man dares make 
a Fourth of July oration here — but we are addicted 
to it. Popular dramas and popular fiction are all 
cant. Popular agitations are built on cant. Dickens 
himself,, with all his humour, wrote mere cant when 
he attempted to describe scenes of passion and senti- 
ment. Edith Dombey's speech to darker in the 
French hotel — "How many times have you laid 
bare my wound of love for that sweet innocent girl 


and lacerated it ? How often have you fanned the 
fire in which for two years I have writhed ; and 
tempted me to take a desperate revenge when it has 
most tortured me " — is every bit as ridiculous as 
the speech of the American gentleman about the 
British lion, to which he says : " Bring forth that 
lion. Alone I dare him. I taunt that lion." It 
was inevitable that a man addicted to his national 
variety of cant should be immensely impressed by 
the absurdity of a novel variety. Englishmen never 
talk patriotism glibly. It is unusual here to proclaim 
one's love either for one's wife or one's country. In 
America, Dickens found men yelling their love for 
their country at the tops of their voices and all the 
time, and he invented Mr. Lafayette Kettle and 
General Choke. He was sore with America for the 
abominable piracies of his books, and besides, as 
]VIr. Chesterton says, " America is a mystery to any 
good Englishman," and Dickens was certainly a good 

Mr. Bernard Shaw, in an Introduction he has re- 
cently written to an edition of Hard Times, describes 
Slackbridge, the trade-union organiser, as " a mere 
figment of the middle-class imagination," and remarks 
with some truth that while Dickens knew some 
classes of the poor very well, " of the segregated 
factory populations of our purely industrial towns, 
he knew no more than an observant professional man 
can pick up in a flying visit to Manchester." But 
Dickens had no class prejudices at all. He dis- 


trusted revolution and lie disliked all leaders, in this 
again representing the common man. The rank and 
file of a trade union always mistrust and dislike their 
officials, and the life of the labour leader is hard. 
Moreover, Dickens believed that society's ways would 
be righted if the man with the privilege and the good 
fortune paid for them by service and consideration. 
It is the old and nowadays rather discredited belief of 
Lord Shaftesbury and Disraeli and George Bentinck 
and the Christian Church, the belief that might accu- 
rately be labelled as *' old-fashioned English." 

Dickens was the super-Englishman preaching in 
English to the commonplace English that life was 
thrilling and splendid and funny, that freedom was 
the one essential to happiness, that all cruelty was 
merely silly, that the simple and the poor were more 
lovable than the learned and the rich, that kindness 
was the greatest of all virtues, and humbug the 
worst of all sins. He restated with his own inimitable 
humour and courage and knowledge the gospel that 
every preacher has preached if he has received his 
message from God. 



The Sketches hy Boz are the beginning of Dickens as 
an imaginative writer. They show that as a boy of 
little more than twenty he already realised the humour 
of the commonplace, and therefore its dignity. They 
show the line of his genius, and they are the promise 
of his powers. But if the Sketches hy Boz promise 
us Dickens, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick 
Club are Dickens. He wrote Pickwick when he was 
twenty-four, and it remains the best read and the 
best loved of his novels. Dickens was never a story- 
teller. He was the creator of gorgeous unforgettable 
characters, and of all the splendid beings whom he 
dreamed into existence none are more splendid than 
Pickwick, Sam Weller, Bob Sawyer, and the Fat 

Messrs. Chapman k Hall gave Dickens a commis- 
sion to write a series of adventures of a set of comic 
sportsmen, and it was arranged that an artist called 
Seymour should supply the illustrations. Seymour 
did seven pictures and then committed suicide, and 


H. B. Browne, the inimitable Phiz, became Dickens' 
illustrator. After Seymour's death his widow claimed 
that the whole idea of the book was her husband's, 
and Dickens, who was always sensitive and rather 
quarrelsome, was furious ; but the claim is quite 
absurd, because it was not until after Seymour's 
disappearance that the real Pickwick began to be 
written. The book was published in parts. It was 
written by a yoimg novelist, just married and with 
need of every penny he could earn, as a piece of hack 
work. But it happened to Dickens, as it has hap- 
pened to many lesser men, that as he wrote he gradu- 
ally grew interested in his work. The scheme changed 
and developed, and before he had got half way through 
he made the great discovery. He discovered Charles 

Pichwick as a commercial proposition started badly. 
The first two or three chapters were unquestionably 
dull, and the public, whatever else it buys, will never 
patronise dullness. With the appearance of Sam 
Weller it began to be a popular success, and with the 
appearance of Sam Weller the Dickens that we know 
made his bow to the world. With Sam as his com- 
panion, Mr. Pickwick is whirled on from one ridiculous 
adventure to another, and as he whirls the silly old 
man whom we meet in the first chapter " with one 
hand gracefully concealed behind his coat tails, and 
the other waving in the air to assist his glorious 
declaration," becomes a nineteenth-century Oberon 
journeying through fairyland with Puck as his com- 


panion. Snodgrass, Winkle, and Tupman, all card- 
board puppets, are soon dropped (to be picked up now 
and again for the sake of the proprieties), and as 
chapter follows chapter, and Dickens lives familiarly 
with Mr. Pickwick, he learns to love him as we always 
love the people we laugh with. He came to jeer 
and he remained to worship, and when at last we 
arrive at the end of the adventure — ^they might 
have gone on for ever and they probably would, had 
the publishers been willing — Mr. Pickwick remains 
for all time the figure of dignified simplicity and wise 
guilelessness, the eternal proof of the wisdom of 
believing everything you are told, thinking no evil 
and loving all the world, but especially the unlovable. 
When Mr. Pickwick thirsts for revenge and chases 
Jingle from the mansion of the lordly Nupkins, it 
is Jingle who is the victor and Pickwick who is 
humiliated : 

" * Ha ! ha ! ' said Jingle, ' good fellow Pickwick — true 
heart — stout old boy — but mvst not be passionate — bad thing, 
very — bye, bye — see you again some day — keep up your 
spirits — now Job — trot,' " 

— and his exit is the exit of a hero. It is true that 
Muzzle is said to have immediately afterwards 
tripped Jingle and Job down the steps, but I never 
beUeved that incident. The Jingles of this world 
are never tripped up by the Muzzles. But when 
Mr. Pickwick again meets Jingle starving in the 
Fleet, and forgives and helps him, the tables are 


turned and simplicity conquers the astute, as it always 
does in the end. 

Mr. Pickwick is sued by Mrs. Bardell, and suffers 
grievous things at the hands of Dodson, Fogg, and 
Buzfuz. While he sufiers he still remains deliciously 
funny, but he retains at the same time a perfectly 
radiant dignity, and when Dickens gets to this point 
he is inspired with the great truth that simplicity 
never can suffer fruitlessly, and he uses Mr. Pickwick 
to show the hollow sham of courts of justice, and he 
puts a hammer in his hand and bids him knock the 
Fleet prison to smithereens. 

Sam Weller and his father are Dickens' first picture 
of the shrewd, self-reliant, humorous, kindly poor. 
Both the Wellers are incapable of meanness, and both 
are men of fastidious taste. Mr. Winkle makes love 
like a clown, Sam makes love chivalrously like a 
knight. And could anything be finer than old Weller's 
making over of his legacy to the care of Mr. Pickwick ? 
Humbug they see through and hate. They are both 
a little dazzled by words and even impressed by Mr. 
Solomon Pell, though they are suspicious enough in 
their dealings with that eminent practitioner to ap- 
point umpires to see fair play. 

Bob Sawyer and Ben Allen are very drunken and 
Yery dirty, but they are very funny and human, and 
we can quite understand Mr. Pickwick liking them. 
^Irs. Raddles is the immortal termagant, and Socrates 
must have suffered from Xanthippe much as Mr. 
Raddles suffered from his vixenish lady. It is a 

(2,017) 4 


rather curious instance, by the way of a change of 
view, that while Mrs. Raddles bade her husband 
hold his tongue " for fear I should be perwoked to 
forgit my sect and strike you," the modern sufiragette 
remembers her sex and breaks windows in conse- 

The characters in Pickwick are not the mere char- 
acters of a novel. We do not remember them as we 
remember Becky Sharp and Mrs. Poyser, Tom Jones 
and Ivanhoe. They belong, as Mr. Chesterton has 
said, to popular mythology. They are of the same 
immortal order as Punch, and Christmas and ApoUyon. 
And in Pickwick as in his later books, we are im- 
pressed with the prodigality of Dickens' invention. 
He had the lust of creation. In almost every chapter 
some new prodigy makes his appearance — old Mrs. 
Wardle, Mr. Pott the bagman, the long gamekeeper, 
Mr. Nupkins, Jack Hopkins, Mr. Dowler, Mr. John 
Smawker, all wonderful, unforgettable creations. 
Dickens calls them into being, and because he has 
created them they are immortal. Everybody knows 
them and knows all about them. They have a com- 
plete life that has never belonged to the creations 
of any other writer. They live a fuller life than 
Hamlet. They have more friends than d'Artagnan. 

And they are good to know. They make life more 
amusing and more interesting, and their friendship 
leads to sweeter, kinder living. " The age of chivalry 
is dead," said a purblind politician. " The age of 
romance and miracles never dies,'* asserts Dickens. 


Shakespeare found Puck in a Warwickshire wood. 
Dickens discovered him in the Borough. Puck is 
everywhere with fauns and elfs and dryads. Im- 
mortality hides in jerry-built villas. Venus can 
ascend from a suburban garden as easily as from the 
waves. Pichmck is a farce and a parable, a sort of 
heavenly pantomime. The curtain goes up and we 
see the pantaloon " ruminating on the strange multi- 
plicity of human afiairs." At the end, " Mr. Pick- 
wick having won the race, pauses for an instant and 
looks round him. As he does so the tears roll down 
his cheeks in the fulness of his joy." 

And the curtain falls. 

There is something surely completely reasonable 
and natural in Carlyle's story of the dying man who, 
after having received ghostly consolation from a 
solemn clergyman, was heard to remark, '* Thank 
God, Pickwick will be out in ten days." 


After the farce the melodrama, after Pickwick, 
Oliver Twist. It was the custom of the age, and 
Dickens, like all simple folk, loved melodrama. He 
wrote the^story with Nicholas Nicklehy and Barnuhy 
Rud^e already shaping in his brain, and in the midst 
of it he suffered bitterly from the death of his sister- 
in-law, Mary Hogarth, whom he had dearly loved. 
But I do not think that Oliver Tioist needs much 


explanation, nor does it appear to me odd that tlie 
young writer who had just grown famous with 
Pickwick should have slightly changed his tune. 
I say " slightly," for although Oliver Twist is de- 
signedly a melodrama, its reality is another moral 
farce. The interminable intrigue is of absolutely no 
consequence. I have read the book (or most of it) 
scores of times, and I am still hazy as to who Oliver 
really was. Monks is a tiresome unreality, and no 
living man was ever the least interested in Rose 
Fleming, Harry MayUe, or Mr. Brownlow. One 
amazing figure dominates the whole book and his 
name is Bumble. Oliver himself is the compere of 
the story. He " introduces " Bumble, and after- 
wards Fagin and Sikes — and his real part is played. 

The suffering of a child is the most damnable thing 
under the sun. Dickens had suffered grievously when 
he was very young, and he never forgot. No one ever 
has. To be unhappy when you are a baby is to carry 
a scarred soul to the grave. I remember hearing the 
Rev. Stewart Headlam once say that the object of 
Christianity was the destruction of premature death. 
It surely aims also at the abolition of premature suffer- 
ing. In Oliver Twist, Dickens found tortured children 
in workhouses. In Nicholas Nickleby he found them 
in Yorkshire schools. In Dotnbey and Son he found 
them in well-conducted academies. And at them all 
he hurled his thunderbolts of ridicule. The English 
workhouse in 1838 was the torture chamber of the 
poor — it is better in 1913, but it has by no means 


entirely changed its character. Cruelty flourished 
within its walls, and it was ruled by pinchbeck Tor- 
quemadas as conscienceless, as well-meaning, and 
as bowel-less as their great prototype. To have 
denounced them as wicked would have done little 
good and would not altogether have been fair. To 
have attacked the system as an outrage against the 
natural rights of man would have been equally use- 
less. Dickens turned the searchlight of his humour 
on beadle and master and guardians, and cried aloud, 
" Look at the fools ! " Nothing is really more efiec- 
tive than to call people names, if you have the genius 
to select the right names. Dickens called the work- 
house tyrant " Bumble," and crowned him with 
immortal ridicule. We shall certainly not understand 
Dickens if we imagine that it was only the abuses of 
the Poor Law that stirred his soul to wrath. He 
hated the whole scheme. Mr. A. C. Benson, writing 
of Oliver Tvnst, says : " Harsh, dreary, loveless as 
the life of the workhouse undoubtedly was, it was at 
least more tolerable than the hideous independence, 
the filthy confusion it was designed to relieve." That 
from Dickens' point of view was absolutely untrue, 
because Dickens regarded freedom as the greatest 
possession of man. He disliked the idea of locking 
up any inan in a prison. He grew furious at the 
thought of the imprisonment of the poor. Bumble 
still flourishes. He has been given new powers. It 
is possible that he may have still more. But he wiU 
remain Bumble to the end, and because Dickens has 


made us realise his complete folly, his power to maim 
and harm will always be modified and restricted. 

Oliver Twist is hurried from the workhouse to the 
thieves' kitchen, and the change is all to his advan- 
tage, for Fagin is infinitely more human than Bumble, 
and even Bill Sikes is to be preferred to the gentleman 
in the white waistcoat. Dickens had no first-hand 
knowledge of the life of the criminal class. But he 
was always attracted by " the dirtiest paths of life," 
to their suffering, to their fun, to their dignity. Un- 
like Mr. Shaw, he was a bad critic and a bad appreci- 
ator of his own work. Our modems can never be 
really great, try how they may. Dickens was great 
despite himself. In a Preface to Oliver Twist he 
claims, quite unnecessarily, that he had not made 
crime attractive, and he bashes away at the critics 
who objected to the sordidness of his characters. 
" I have," he says, " no faith in the delicacy which 
could not bear to look upon them." He had indeed 
no faith in delicacy at all. He could have said with 
as much truth as the gentleman in The Private Sec- 
retary, " I am not delicate." He was as humanly 
indelicate as Rabelais and Shakespeare and Walt 
Whitman, though I think he did not know it. Mr. 
Benson says, " When I read it (Oliver Twist) as a 
child, the pathetic and ever charming figure of the 
book appeared to me to be Fagin. His civility, his 
patience, his soft-spokenness, and the tragic doom 
which overwhelmed him, made him a character far 
removed from anything detestable and revolting. 


The young thieves are irresistibly delightful, almost 
heroic. Nancy is wholly delightful." Here is an- 
other instance of Dickens' achievement being quite 
different from his intention. He intended to paint 
crime as detestable and pitiful. But the criminals 
he described were men and women, and as the de- 
scription developed they became real and funny and 
eventually likeable. Both Bumble and Fagin are 
comic characters. We hate Bumble with a righteous 
hatred because he was a pompous humbug. We 
never quite hate Fagin because his coat was thread- 
bare and he never pretended to any particular virtue. 
The Artful Dodger is an immense creation, a Sam 
Weller as Sam might have been if he had met 
Fagin instead of Mr. Pickwick. Dickens found men 
and brothers among thieves as well as among stage- 

Bill Sikes and Nancy are impossibly black and 
white. Dickens declared that Nancy was true, and 
he spelt the word " true " in large capitals. Women 
have certainly loved burglars as well as other heroic 
persons. Women have certainly loved men who 
beat them. The falsehood comes in when such love 
is represented as dignified and beautiful. It is as 
wholesome as an affection for sour wine and decayed 
pheasant. Dickens was an arch-sentimentalist. To 
him a woman devotedly loving a heartless, ruthless 
brute was a beautiful sight. As a matter of fact it 
is a deplorable and revolting insanity. The story of 
Sikes and Nancy has been told over and over again 


by hack novelists and dramatists. But even when 
Dickens tells a conventional story he embellishes it 
with some rare distinction, and the flight of Sikes 
after the murder of Nancy is a flesh-creeping tour de 
force that Poe might have envied. What a wonder- 
fid dramatic touch is the meeting with the pedlar 
with " the invaluable composition for removing all 
sorts of stains, rust, dirt, mildew, spick, speck, spot, 
or spatter, from silk, satin, linen, or woollen stuff 
. . . whether it is wine stain, fruit stain, beer stain, 
water stain, paint stain, pitch stain, blood stain. . . ." 
Dickens' stories may have been thin and conven- 
tional, but he told them as no other man has ever 
told them. 


If the Dickens novels are to be judged by the num- 
ber of demigods that they contain, Nicholas Nickleby 
stands in the forefront of the great pageant. Mr. de 
Morgan has quite truthfully said that " the element 
of plot contributes so small a part of the fascination 
of the book that only a recent reader would venture 
to say offhand in what the plot consists." The 
original intention of Nicholas Nickleby was a romance, 
just as the original intention of Pickwick was a 
pantomime and of Oliver Twist a melodrama. Nich- 
olas, a young gentleman, as Mr. Crummies told him, 
" with genteel comedy in your walk and manner, 


juvenile tragedy in your eye," suffers grievous tilings 
at the hands of his wicked uncle, is aided in his ex- 
tremity by the Brothers Cheeryble, and is left pros- 
perous and happily married to the beautiful Made- 
leine Bray. But the odd thing is that we are never 
really interested in Nicholas at all, and his only im- 
portance to us arises from the splendid people he 
meets on his journey from poverty to affluence. 
When the hero of a popular drama kisses the heroine, 
the gallery always laughs. The common natural 
Englishman never takes love-making seriously, and 
Dickens, who so exactly represents the common 
natural Englishman, when he writes a love story 
always appears to be writing with his tongue in his 
cheek. He is serious against his instincts and he 
becomes artificial and unconvincing. The conse- 
quence is that we soon forget his lovers altogether, 
and our whole interest is absorbed by the genuine 
Dickens presentation and explanation of the inci- 
dental characters. 

Nicholas is the only romantic hero who ever had a 
comic mother. Motherhood is the most completely 
beautiful thing in the world, and mothers are the 
most completely lovable persons, and if I am right 
in my reading of Dickens' philosophy, that everyone 
who is human and lovable is necessarily funny, then 
it was essential that he should create a funny mother. 
Mrs. Nickleby was a good mother. She loved her 
son and daughter. When the gentleman in the small 
clothes asked her to be his, she promptly replied that 


she had made up her mind to remain a widow and to 
devote herself to her children. Her ambitions for 
them were boundless, and if she was easily gulled by 
Sir Mulberry Hawk and his satellites, it was only 
because she fancied no position too high for her pretty 
daughter. Mrs. Nickleby is a fool, but she is a very 
happy fool. She has had misfortunes, but the mis- 
fortunes, far from leaving her hard and bitter, have 
merely left her with stores of delightful memories. 
She exhibits all the countless compensations that are 
given to the simple. Mr. Watkins estreated his bail 
for which " poor papa " was responsible and ran 
away to the United States, but " he sent us a pair of 
snow shoes with such an affectionate letter," and the 
money loss is entirely forgotten and the snow shoes 
and the letter are recalled with unfailing delight. 
Mrs. Nickleby, as the simple often are, is something 
of a poet. " A fine warm summer day like this," 
she says, " with the birds singing in every direction, 
always puts me in mind of roast pig with sage and 
onion sauce and made gravy." Who could be un- 
happy with such amazing thoughts ? 

The Yorkshire school was the book's hit at the 
devil, and the devil, who hates ridicule, was sorely 
wounded. Other people had denounced the horrors 
of these child-maiming machines. No one else ever 
created Squeers, and Squeers destroyed the York- 
shire school as certainly as Mr. Pickwick destroyed 
the Fleet Prison. As in the case of Fagin we never 
quite hat€ Squeers, because he is comic and poor and 


liuman. He is given liis deserts and we are half- 
sorry for him. 

Mr. Crummies is another great creation, and he 
illustrates Dickens' fine appreciation of the dignity 
of failure. Mr. Crummies was not, I imagine, a good 
actor. He must have always been hard put to it 
to pay his company and to settle with his landlady, 
but how he admired his family, how he revelled in 
his art, how completely he enjoyed himself ! 

I have already referred to the Kenwigs and the 
joy with which Dickens describes the fun and happi- 
ness of the lives of the struggling carver in ivory who 
lived in two rooms in " a bygone faded and tumble- 
down street'* with his wife, whose uncle collected 
the water rate, and his five children. Kenwig was 
a good fellow, hospitable, proud of his wife and chil- 
dren, and Kenwig despite disappointments had a good 
time. It takes a seer to discover the good times in 
" a bygone faded tumbledown " street, and its 
existence is the best argument for the transportation 
of its inhabitants, who by being happy declare their 
relationship with the gods, to more comfortable 

Mr. Mantalini is as wonderful as Mrs. Nickleby, 
more wonderful than Squeers. Mr. Chesterton de- 
scribes Mantalini as *' a comic masterpiece, a perfect 
absurdity," and quite properly adds that he is above 
criticism and above analysis. He is just Mantalini, 
perhaps a distant relation of Micawber, but unlike 
anyone else who ever existed in dreams or in the 


flesh, and how much duller the world would be if we 
had never known him. Dickens in his eagerness to 
punish naughtiness is cruel to Mantalini at the end 
of the book. To be forced to turn a mangle was a 
dreadful and unworthy end for the colossal creature 
who compared his wife " to a little rose in a demnition 

Sir Mulberry Hawk and Lord Verisopht, Ralph 
Nickleby and Smike are part of the machinery of the 
romance, and are as unreal and as inhuman as Nich- 
olas and Kate and Madeleine Bray. They are made 
of wood, though in the case of Ralph Nickleby the 
wood is quite cleverly painted. The Brothers 
Cheeryble exist largely to checkmate Ralph, but 
good fairies do exist in the world, and good fairies 
do sometimes live in quiet shady little squares 
and eat with their knives and have never been to 

Newman Noggs, the broken-down gentleman, is 
another of Dickens' loving pictures of failure, a hero 
for others, a hopeless coward for himself. Gentle, 
coiui:eous, persistent, shabby, a mighty fine fellow is 
Newman Noggs. And there are John Browdie and 
Tim Linkinwater, and little good-hearted Miss La 
Creedy, liappy simple folk whom it makes us happier 
to know, and Fanny Squeers who for all her cattiness 
we pity, and the incomparable Mr. Snevellecci. Any 
one of these characters would make an average suc- 
cessful book, but Dickens is never satisfied. His 
creative power is almost limitless. 



When I was a small boy I read a pernicious book 
called Eric, or Little by Little. I have always hated 
good children from that date, and among the good 
children I unhesitatingly include Little Nell and Paul 
Dombey. Little Nell bores one during her unnatural 
life of unqualified goodness — her care of her asinine 
old grandfather is absurd — and her death comes as 
a welcome relief. For reasons which I shall en- 
deavour to explain I regard The Old Curiosity Shop as 
great among the great, but often as I read it, I always 
skip the Little Nell chapters, except during the 
episodes with Mrs. Jarley and Codlin and Short. To 
understand the genius of Dickens one must thoroughly 
realise the utter failure of such characters as Nell, 
which with odd perversity he would go on manufac- 
turing. He is like a woman who leaves her bonny 
baby in the cradle and invites the world to admire a 
simpering wax doll. As Mr. Chesterton has said (and 
I do not pretend to be able to say it half so well), " He 
could not help making people laugh ; but he loved to 
make them cry." It is an invariable rule that the 
Dickens characters that make us laugh are flesh 
and blood, and the characters that ask us to cry 
(generally in vain) are wax and sawdust. 

The real hero of The Old Curiosity Shop is Dick 
Swiveller, and I am inclined to think that he is the 
finest of all the Dickens creations. Mantalini had 


no soul. Micawber feeds on words and is satisfied. 
Mr. Pecksniff is a conscious humbug. But Dick 
Swiveller is at once completely comic, completely 
human, and in consequence completely lovable. He 
is a profligate. He enjoys his profligacy, but he 
never for a moment thinks of himself as a virtuous 
citizen. He does not wish to be a virtuous citizen. 
He thoroughly enjoys his impecuniosity. He ob- 
tains his dinner " on tick " and, as he puts his fist 
into a large potato, remarks, " I like this plan of 
sending 'em with the peel on. There's a charm in 
drawing a potato from its native element (if I may 
so express it) to which the rich and powerful are 
strangers." And he is quite right. He is careless, 
but he is always humorous, and not only is the hu- 
morous man nearly always essentially good, but his 
goodness is so attractive that even the vicious love 
him. Sampson Brass was sorry to part with JMr. 
Richard, and he was the only person that Sally ever 
loved in all her gloomy life. The whole Dickens 
philosophy may be deduced from Dick Swiveller. 
" Here," says the novelist, " is an idle vicious amiable 
young ne'er-do-well. I will show you what a splen- 
did fellow he is." And the showing is a restatement 
of the basis of the Christian religion. 
/ The love story of Dick Swiveller and the Mar- 
chioness is one of the most perfect romances in the 
whole of literature. We are barely interested in the 
love of Nicholas Nickleby, of Joe Willet, of Martin 
Chuzzlewit, of Esther Summerson, of John Harmon. 


We are thrilled by the romance of Dick Swiveller 
because Dickens was only himself when he was comic, 
and this comic love story is a great and moving love 
story. No natural man cares a jot for Madeleine 
Bray or Martin's Mary. But no natural man ever 
read The Old Curiosity Shop without adoring the 
Marchioness. She is so real, so resourceful, so tender, 
so feminine, and so comic. And the most splendid 
of all, she is a little dirty drab of a servant girl sleep- 
ing in a cellar. Above all things I believe that man, 
the common average man, is very mysterious and 
very wonderful, and Dick and the Marchioness form 
no small part of the foundation of my faith. Dick 
required no suggestion from the Marchioness to do 
his utmost to save Kit, but it was because of the 
Marchioness that he set out to save Dick. She 
thought he was a fine fellow and he just had to try 
and be a fine fellow. That is always the consequence 
of being loved./; Dickens really made a mistake in 
allowing Dick a hundred and fifty pounds a year 
instead of the twenty-five thousand pounds he would 
have had if he had been " another sort of nephew," 
for he would have spent his money handsomely, 
and most rich men have such dull ways of getting 
rid of their fortunes. 

Dickens' sympathetic understanding of the pleasure 
of the poor, which is evidenced in the description of 
the Kenwigs' party, is shown again in the scene in 
which Kit and his family go to Astley's. Mrs. Jarley 
is not unlike Crummies, and is another charming 


picture of the small theatrical show folk whom 
Dickens (because they were ungenteel and struggling) 
knew and loved. Mrs. Jiniwin, Mr. Chuckster, and 
the pony are short but characteristic additions to 
the Dickens gallery, and the villains of the story, 
Sampson and Sally Brass and Quilp, are colossal. 
They are all comic characters. Quilp is a variation 
of the type that has appeared in a hundred stories. 
the man warped in body and soul, and generally he 
is made horrible and inhuman, but in The Old Curiosity 
Shop he is possible and human because he is funny. 
Sampson Brass is another of the lawyer rogues that 
Dickens loved to portray, and Sally is a better man 
and a harder rascal than her brother. In this Dickens 
anticipated Mr. Shaw's great discovery. In all the 
small things of life (including its small villainies) 
woman is the superior of man, and when woman is 
admitted to the roll of attorneys it is by no means 
certain that the practice of the law will become any 
more scrupulous. 


Dickens always instinctively disliked the gentle- 
man. There is no gentleman in Pickioich, for Mr. 
Chesterton is surely mistaken in supposing that 
Dickens meant to satirise the country gentleman 
when he drew Mr. Nupkins, but in Nicholas NicTdehy, 
Sir Mulberry Hawk, gentleman, is more hateful than 


Ralph Nickleby the money-lender. In Barnaby 
Rudge, Sir John Chester, that most refined and gen- 
tlemanly villain, is the central figure of the intrigue. 
Sir John was too tidy to be wholesome. When he 
first introduces him to us, Dickens remembers " his 
blooming face, white teeth, exactly ordered dress, 
and perfect calnmess " — Carter in Dombey and Son 
also had gleaming teeth — and pictures him " a staid 
grave, placid gentleman, something past the prime of 
life, yet upright in his carriage for all that, and slim as 
a greyhound." Gravity and placidity are popularly 
supposed to be the accompaniments of virtue, but 
Dickens knew better. Old Tony Weller had none of 
the gravity or becoming dignity of age, but he had 
a heart of gold. Sir John Chester was a hateful 
rascal. I do not think that Sir John Chester is real, 
but it is certainly true that gentlemanliness is often 

Barnaby Rudge is a comparative failure. It is not 
an historical novel at all, any more than Mr. Bernard 
Shaw's CrcBsus and Cleopatra is an historical play. 
Dickens and Mr. Shaw are both entirely without the 
power of understanding or reproducing the thought 
and the soul of an age that has passed, and it must 
be remembered that no age is so far away as the 
generation that has just passed. The London of the 
Gordon Riots was farther from the London of Dickens 
than the Rome of Caesar from the Bedford Park of 
the Fabian Society. Dickens loved trying his hand 
at everything. Some one apparently told him that 

(2,017) 5 


the Gordon Riots had never been made the subject 
for a novel, and he at once determined to use them. 
If Barnaby Rudge is to be judged as an historical 
novel and compared with Scott and Dumas, with 
Esmond, and Mr. Ford Maddox Hueffer's The Fifth 
Queen, or even with A Tale of Two Cities, its failure 
is pathetic. But of course such comparisons are 
ridiculous. The label of a Dickens novel is a thing 
of no importance at all. The outstanding distinction 
of Barnaby Rudge is that it has an idiot for its hero, 
not a weak-minded Mr. Toots, but a *' natural " and 
a fine hero too, loyal, courageous, loving and lovable. 
Dickens repeats the old assertion of the charm of 
simplicity. The real value of the story lies in the 
fact that the only two characters in the book who 
really believed in the Anti-Papist cause were Barnaby 
Rudge and Lord George Gordon himself, and that 
both of them were daft. Was ever bigotry so bril- 
liantly analysed before ? Barnaby marched with 
simple-minded gallantry in the ranks of the rioters. 
He had no thought but the thought of " the cause," 
and he had not the least idea what " the cause " 
was. ^1 

Barnaby was an idiot, but he was picturesque, ana™ 
like the costermonger, and like Disraeli, and like all 
Jew^ who are not ashamed of their race, Dickens 
loved the picturesque. The greatest of all the defi- 
ciences of the English gentleman is that he shivers 
at the idea of being picturesque, and since the man 
who is not a gentleman persists in copying the 


gentleman, our streets (if they are not peopled by 
costers) are dull and drab. 

Dickens' fine scorn of the whole business of what 
is humorously called " the administration of justice " 
led him to revel in the description of the hanging 
laws (repealed in his day, thanks to Sir Samuel 
Romilly, that strange phenomenon a humane lawyer) 
and in the little colourful picture of Dennis the hang- 
man, a Hogarthian caricature, but unforgettable in 
its strength and completeness. Barnaby Rudge brings 
few notable additions to the Dickens family. Hare- 
dale and the two Chesters, Hugh and Joe Willet, 
and Gashford are all lay figures. Gabriel Varden is 
attractive, and I have always regarded Dolly as 
most pleasant and flesh and blood, and Mrs. Varden 
is splendid, the sketch from which her creator de- 
veloped Mrs. Wilfer. She was " a lady of what is 
commonly called an uncertain temper — a phrase 
which being interpreted signifies a temper tolerably 
certain to make everybody more or less uncomfort- 
able." Dickens makes Mrs. Varden repent, but 
ladies of uncertain temper remain uncertain to 
the end, and before Our Mutital Friend was written 
he had realised that fact. Mrs. Wilfer never re- 

There^ remain Sim Tappertit, the immortal bur- 
lesque of the romantic hero whom Dickens so often 
himself tried to create, Miss Miggs, and old John 
Willet. There is nothing in any of the Dickens 
novels more delightful than the 'prentice scenes in 


Barnaby Rvdge. One of the boys has acknowledged 
that he loves his master's daughter : 

'• * Hare you,' rejoined Mr. Tappertit, catching him by the 
wrist, and giving him a cufE which would have been expressive 
of the most deadly malevolence but for an accidental hiccup 
that rather interfered with it, ' have you a — rival ? ' 

" * Not as I know on,' replied the 'prentice. 

" * If you had one — ' said Mr. Tappertit — * What would you 

" The 'prentice looked fierce and clenched his fists. 

" ' It is enough,' cried Mr. Tappertit hastily ; ' we are ob- 
served, I thank you ! ' " 

What perfect fooling it is ! Miss Miggs, among 
other things, supplies an answer to the puzzling ques- 
tion as to how the Government finds female prison 
warders, and Mr. Willet is a salutary warning that 
as sometimes cleverness may be kindly (it does not 
happen too often), so sometimes simplicity may be 


The plot of Martin ChuzzLewit is the thinnest peg 
on which mortal has ever hung a masterpiece. The 
idea apparently (for it is impossible to be quite sure) 
is to exhibit the folly of selfishness by relating the 
history of a middle-class family ; but, as always 
happens with Dickens, the first design is left to flow 
dully and sluggishly through a thrilling border of 


side characters and side interests. Old Chuzzlewit's 
quarrel with his grandson, his elaborate, tiresome, 
and altogether silly plot to expose a humbug whom 
no one in the world believed in except Tom Pinch, 
his final overthrow of the humbug, and his recon- 
ciliation with young Martin are all Dickens at his 
crudest and worst. Jonas is a quite unbelievable 
villain, and the murder and his subsequent fear are 
a mere repetition and a pale repetition of Bill Sikes. 
Yet for all this, much of Martin Chuzzlewit is Dickens 
at his best. Pecksniff, Tom Pinch, Mark Tapley, t^*^" 
and Mrs. Gamp are masterpieces, and the whole of 
the American incidents pitchforked into the middle 
of the book with the inconsequence of the songs in 
a musical comedy are splendid. Dickens' supreme 
skill as a caricaturist is used to the full in this book. 
With inspired exaggeration he summarises his char- 
acters in a sentence. Chevy Slime is always " waiting 
round the comer." The sharp lacing of the three 
spinster daughters was " expressed in their noses." 
A grand-nephew of Mr. Chuzzlewit possessed only 
*' the first idea and sketchy notion of a face," and so 
on. When he elaborates the descriptions, as with 
Jonas and his father, we first begin to lose the sense 
of reality, and after a while we become convinced 
that they are not real at all. 

Pecksnifi is the complete humbug, but he is so 
complete that he ceases to be a humbug. Micawber 
sincerely believed that Micawber was unlucky, but 
Pecksniff never believed that Pecksniff was anything 


but a hollow fraud. He overdid his sentiments. 
His true character was apparent to all the world, to 
Mark Tapley, to John Westlock as well as to Jonas 
and Montague Tigg. Tom Pinch was entirely im- 
pressed by his well-sounding sentences, but Tom 
Pinch is the type of those simple and on the whole 
eminently wise people who believe in everyone. 
Tom was quite happy while he believed in Pecksniff. 
He was very unhappy when his faith was shaken — 
it was never more than shaken — and old Chuzzlewit's 
manoeuvres were really unsuccessful as far as Tom 
was concerned. Tom Pinch is of course almost an- 
other Mr. Toots, and it is a splendid truth that the 
Toots and the Pinches nearly always find a Nipper 
or a John Westlock to look after them, and to be 
themselves made happy and dignified by their love. 
Tom, as I say. worshipped Pecksniff, and it does not 
really matter what god it is that we worship as long 
as we do bow ourselves occasionally in humility in 
the dust. 

Mrs. Gamp is the second great character in Martin 
Chuzdewit — a snuffy, dirty, greedy, and hard-hearted 
old woman, but still irresistibly comic. If the debt- 
ors' prison was pulled down by Pickwick and Dorrit, 
and the workhouse was humanised by Bumble, it is 
also true that the modern capable kindly sick nurse 
owes her existence to Mrs. Gamp. Reform here, 
too, has come through laughter. Dickens did not 
mean us to like Mrs. Gamp. He wanted us to fume 
with rage at her heartlessness as he meant us to weep 


at the death of Paul Dombey and thrill at the noble- 
heartedness of Nicholas Nickleby. As it is, Mrs. 
Gamp is a complete joy, and for her we would will- 
ingly exchange a wilderness of Paul Dombeys and 
Nicholas Nicklebys. And once more Dickens shows 
his never-failing appreciation of humanity (he is the 
one complete Comtist), for Mrs. Gamp is dignified 
by her imagination. To the blatant materialism of 
Betsey Prig there was " no sich a person as Mrs. 
Harris," but to Mrs. Gamp she was the only real 
person in the world, and as Sairey lay o' nights in 
her best bed, " ornamented with divers pippins carved 
in timber, which on the slightest provocation, and 
frequently on none at all, came tumbling down," 
she too dreamt her dreams. The philosophy, too, of 
the poor, who accept the hardest buffetings of for- 
tune with humour and resignation, was never more 
aptly summarised than in Mrs. Gamp*s immortal 
reflection : "He was born in a wale, and he lived in 
a wale, and he must take the consequence of sich a 

Tom Pinch, the lovable simpleton, has already 
been sufficiently described ; but his little sister Ruth j 
is one of the most attractive of all Dickens' heroines, | 
and the story of John Westlock's proposal is human 
and credible because it is fantastic, and the Temple 
Fountain, the burly drayman, and the fiery-faced 
laundress are allowed to play parts in its development. 
Every man is a fantastic, but men and women are 
never so fantastic as when they are in love. That is 


why love scenes on the stage with lovers in fashionable 
clothes are always silly. Lovers should have flowers 
wreathed in their hair and be clothed in purple and 
gold. They have as a matter of fact flowers wreathed 
in their hair, and they do wear garments of purple and 
gold ; and unless the artist who attempts to picture 
them for us has sufficient skill to show us the flowers 
and the fairy raiment, we know instinctively that 
they are not real. Romeo and Juliet are real, and 
Antony and Cleopatra, and Tristan and Isolde, and 
Richard Feverel and Lucy — and Ruth and John 

Mark Tapley is another edition of Sam Weller, the 
cheery, honest, self-respecting servant whom Dickens 
knew and loved. Montague Tigg starts by being 
farcical and real, and finishes by being melodramatic 
and rather absurd. Mr. Nadgett, the secret finder, 
is a brilliant thumbnail sketch. Mr. Mould, Jobling, 
Mrs. Lupin, Charity Chuzzlewit, and Mrs. Todgers 
are all admirably Dickensonian. 

Dickens had been to America just before he started 
to write Martin Ghuzzlewity and as a consequence 
(and for no other earthly reason) he took Martin and 
Mark across the Atlantic. I have already referred to 
his attitude to America. It was his power to see the 
fun of things, the fun of pomposity, the fun of hum- 
bug, the fun of simplicity, the fun of vice, the fun of 
virtue. In his own country he had discovered Bumble 
and Pecksnifi, Sir John Chester and Squeers ; why 
should he not with the same discerning eyes discover 


in America Mr. Jefferson Brick with his immense 
belief in the " big word " ; Major Pawkins, the 
patriot, whose motto was " run a moist pen slick 
through everything and start fresh " ; Mr. Scadder, 
the " honestest fellow in the world " ; and Mr. Elijah 
Pogram, the orator ? It is a good thing for a man 
to love his country, but in his American pictures 
Dickens shows how grotesque is the patriotism which 
never ceases talking, and that having exhausted its 
praise of the praiseworthy is forced to go on to praise 
of the trivial and the offensive. It is a common fact 
that no habit is more arresting than that of express- 
ing admiration for the unadmirable, when it has once 
been begun. Should an Englishman constantly affirm 
that he loved England because of the beauty of its 
countryside, the essential liberty of its people, and 
the stability of its institutions, because it was the 
birthplace of Shakespeare and Nelson, and because 
it is the home of bad cooking and wasteful house- 
keeping, it would inevitably happen that after a 
while it would be the bad cooking and the wasteful 
housekeeping that would alone be the subject of his 
eulogies. Moreover, the United States in the middle 
of the last century were a new nation inhabited by 
a very young people. They were proud of their 
country, but they did not quite know why they were 
proud. They were a little shy before strangers, and 
like all shy people they were aggressive and assertive. 
Fearing criticism they resented it, and they were, in 
consequence, obstinately determined to acclaim the 


beauty of all their institutions, including the gentle- 
man who " sucked his knife for some moments and 
made a cut with it at the butter." 

Dickens' satirical description of the New York 
woman with the culture pose, whose weekly studies 
included that of the " philosophy of vegetables," is 
still sufficiently topical. The modern American 
woman is the tireless assimilator of small text-books. 
She may always be relied upon to know a little — 
a very little — of whatever the worid is talking about 
— Nietzsche or Bergson, theosophy or the Russian 

In his gibes at the Norris family, who, although 
they were keen abolitionists, believed that there 
was " a natural antipathy between the two races," 
Dickens merely represented the ignorance of the 
negro problem and of the instinctive white feeling to 
negroes that is always shown by people who have 
never lived in countries where the black man is an 
important factor. 

It must surely have been from the pages of Martin 
Chuzdewit that the United States received its name 
of the " Land of the Dollar." " AU their cares," 
Dickens writes, " hopes, joys, affections, virtues, and 
associations seemed to be melted down into dollars. 
Whatever the chance contributions that fell into the 
cauldron of their talk, they made the gruel thick and 
stiff with dollars. Men were weighed by their dollars, 
measures judged by their dollars ; life was auction- 
eered, appraised, put up, and knocked down for its 


dollars." That is still partially true of America, and 
it is, alas ! far truer of our England than it was of 
the England of Dickens. 

But it must always be remembered that Martin 
ChuzzUwU was written years before the great and 
in many respects the splendid war which made the 
United States a nation and gave it its soul. 


It is often said by the ununderstanding that 
Dickens invented Christmas. As a matter of fact 
Dickens thoroughly understood the English poor man, 
and that the English Christmas is the English poor 
man's idea of a good time. There is not a labourer 
in a London model dwelling or a peasant in a village 
alehouse whose heart would not beat with joy at the 
thought of going with Mr. Pickwick to old Wardle's 
Christmas party. The blinds drawn and the door 
locked (and the worse the weather is outside the 
better), lots and lots to eat and drink, a cosy room 
and a bright fire and nobody at dinner but one's 
own family, a gargantuan heavy feast with the church 
bells ringing (not too loudly) in the distance — that is 
the English poor man's notion of the way to spend 
the one great festival of the year. You may not 
agree with him. You may detest plum pudding and 
loathe meeting your family. You may prefer to 
spend Christmas Day ski-ing in Switzerland or dining 


at the Metropole, Brighton, but do not make the 
mistake of supposing that Charles Dickens invented 
the English Christmas. It would be as rational to 
suppose that he invented England. 

He wrote The Christmas Carol in 1843. He wrote 
The Chimes in 1844, in Italy, and it is significant 
that this essentially English story should have been 
composed amid essentially un-English surroundings. 
He went on writing Christmas stories almost to the 
year of his death. In many respects The Christmas 
Carol is the best of them, but the title of The Cricket 
on the Hearth summarises all that Christmas meant 
to Dickens and still means to the average common 
EngHshman. It means going home. Dickens, as 
Forster with his unrivalled knowledge insists over 
and over again, loved home, needed home. When 
he was unhappy, he wandered over the face of the 
earth longing to be happily home all the while. The 
German loves kis country more than the Englishman. 
The Parisian loves his city more than the Londoner. 
But the Englishman loves his back parlour, the place 
where the coal fire burns cheerfully and wastefully 
and where his slippers are kept. The fire and the 
slippers and the cricket on the hearth ! The English- 
man loves his back parlour, for there he is safe from 
interference, from patronage, and from criticism, the 
three things that he most abhors ! There, at least, 
he can do what he likes. Scrooge and the ghosts in 
The Christmas Carol are all used to work up an 
interest in Bob Cratchit's Christmas party and in 


Scrooge's nephew, to lead to the splendid simple re- 
telling of the poetry of the life of the poor. How 
beautifully Dickens could describe the pathos that 
he understood is shown to perfection in the little 
scene when Bob comes back from Tiny Tim's grave 
and says quite simply to his wife : "It would have 
done you good to see how green a place it is." 

" They were not a handsome family ; they were not well 
dressed ; their shoes were not waterproof ; their clothes were 
scanty ; and Peter might have known, and very likely did, 
the inside of a pawnbroker's. But they were happy, grateful, 
pleased with one another and contented with the true." 

Dickens did not lack indignation for the leaking 
boots and the thin clothes, but he realised the benefi- 
cence of the Christmas spirit that makes it possible 
for the needy to be happy while social reformers are, 
with exceeding dilatoriness, thinking out plans for 
supplying them with new boots and warmer dresses 
and trousers. Christmas converted Scrooge, and it 
was a very English conversion. And it was over a 
Christmas bowl of smoking bishop (a most humane 
and English situation) that he discussed family aSairs 
with his clerk. 

In The Chimes, Dickens jeers at the people and the 
tendencies that threaten the English Christmas, and 
indeed threaten (and more insistently now than when 
he wrote) everything that we mean when we talk of 
England. The enemies of the people are the men 
and women, often highly conscientious and philan- 


thropic, who want to rob the people of themselves, 
which is worse even than robbing them of their com- 
mon lands. The poor only hate the rich when the 
rich without understanding indulge in orgies of inter- 
ference. Sir Joseph Bowley sits on Royal Commis- 
sions nowadays ; he is often a Socialist, but his 
speech remains the same : 

" * I do my duty as the *' Poor Man's Friend and Father ; " 
and I endeavour to educate his mind by illustrating on all 
occasions the one great moral lesson which that class requires. 
That is entire Dependence on myself. They have no business 
whatever with — with themselves. If wicked and designing 
persons tell them otherwise, and they become impatient and 
discontented, and are guilty of insubordinate conduct and 
black-hearted ingratitude — ^which is undoubtedly the case — 
I am the Friend and Father still. It is ordained. It is in 
the nature of things.' " 

Certainly Charles Dickens wrote for all time, for 
to-day as for yesterday. 


Dombey and Son is the last of the early novels of 
Dickens. David Copperjleld is the first of the later 
series. I am not going to attempt to make compari- 
sons between the work of the wonder youth of twenty 
and the writing of the matured and successful man. 
It is true that the glaring weakness apparent to many 
carping critics in Oliver Tvnst and The Old Curiosity 


Shof appears hardly at all in David Cojyperfidd, and 
comparatively little in the novels that follow it, but 
at the same time the individual splendour of Dickens 
is nowhere more insistent than in Pichoick. Experi- 
ence and the reading of other people's books led to a 
toning down of his faults, but they remained, and 
they remained faults. His power continued his own, 
and in their greatness there is a unity in all his 
writings from Pickwick to Edwin Drood. 

The plot of Dombey and Son is far removed from 
the wild unreality of Oliver Twist or the stodgy 
sentimentality of Nicholas NicTdehy. The idea is 
dramatic and human — a proud cold man loving his 
son and made cruel to his daughter by that love, 
the death of the boy and an increasing hatred of the 
girl, a second loveless marriage that the house may 
be carried on, and at the end utter and complete dis- 
appointment. Dombey s have lived in the world. 
Florence is born a real girl. Edith is a real woman. 
But the characters in the Dickens novels are only 
real when they are unreal. He can only describe 
human souls when he puts them into fairy bodies. 
All of us have known scores of young women exactly 
like Florence Dombey, and yet at the end of the 
novel we know nothing of Florence. We have never 
been introduced. She does not exist for us at all. 
None of us has ever known a sea captain like Captain 
Cuttle, and yet after one chapter we recognise him 
as a man and a brother. The fact is that the truth 
can never be told in reaHstic terms. A photograph 


of John Jones does not show us the real John Jones 
at all, but Max Beerbohm's caricature of Mr. Claud 
Lowther, standing graceful and gigantic with the 
Paris boulevards at his feet, is a complete revelation 
of Mr. Claud Lowther. 

Mr. Dombey begins flesh and blood. He soon 
becomes sawdust. He is real enough in loving Paul 
and disliking Florence. He is absurd when he sends 
messages to his wife through his servant. Paul is 
real when he is being tortured by Mrs. Pipchin and 
Dr. Blimber (Dickens loved children and hated 
cruelty), but he too becomes an irritating sentimental 
puppet when he makes death-bed speeches : " How 
fast the river runs between its green banks and its 
rushes, Flo ! But it's very near the sea. I hear the 
waves ! " Florence is not a real girl at all. She is 
too sweet and forgiving for this world. Edith is real 
when she marries Dombey for his money. She is of 
the world of Surrey-side melodrama when she says 
to her husband : " If I loved you to devotion, could 
I do more than render up my whole will and being to 
you, as you have just demanded ? If my heart were 
pure and all untried and you its idol, could you ask 
more, could you have more ? " Carker is the con- 
ventional villain, his gleaming teeth being the sign of 
villainy, as the riding-breeches of the naughty gentle- 
man used to be at the Adelphi. Dickens had a good 
story to tell in Dombey and Son, but he could not 
tell it. 

Toots is the real hero of the book, and Toots, as I 


have already hinted, is also the typical Dickens hero, 
dull, stupid, unattractive, but modest, loyal, sincere, 
altogether lovable. Walter Gay is a bore, and always 
must be a bore. But Toots would be a charming 
companion if one took the trouble to know him. 
Captain Cuttle is worthy to be Toots's friend. He 
could think no evil because he had never dreamed 
evil. His eyes were clear and his heart was simple. 
" Captain Gills," says Mr. Toots, " let me have the 
pleasure of shaking hands. You've a way of saying 
things that gives me an agreeable warmth all up my 
back." Glorious Captain Cuttle (as John Forster 
calls him) has given tens of thousands that same 
agreeable warmth. Susan Nipper is comic, while 
Florence is pathetic, and Susan is warm and lovable. 
Major Bagstock is one of the greater Dickens char- 
acters. He is a near relation of Pecksniff, and, as 
Mr. Chesterton says, he is the better humbug be- 
cause the affectation of rugged geniality is much more 
effective than the affectation of smug humility. Miss 
Tox m pathetic, but she is comically pathetic. It is 
sad to love Dombey and not to be loved by him. 
But it is funny to love Dombey at all, and Miss Tox, 
because of her funny love, is real and interesting. 
Polly, Cousin Feenix (almost the only aristocrat that 
Dickens ever had a good word for), Jack Bunsby, 
the Game Chicken, are all gratefully added to the 
memories Dickens has given us. 

Dickens himself had suffered from Mrs. Pipchin, 
and in Dombey and Son he bashes away at the torture 

(2,017) 6 


of children which he had already so valiantly attacked 
in Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. The rich boy 
left to the tender mercies of Mrs. Pipchin — " a mar- 
vellous ill-favoured, ill-conditioned old lady of a 
stooping figure, with a mottled face, like bad marble, 
a hook nose, and a hard grey eye which looked as if 
it might have been hammered at on an anvil without 
sustaining any injury " — was every bit as much to 
be pitied as the poor boy left to Mr. Bumble. It was 
her system " not to encourage a child's mind to 
develop and expand itself like a young flower, but to 
open it by force like an oyster " — a system quite as 
cruel and idiotic as that of Mr. Squeers. If Paul 
Dombey had been created a generation later, he would 
not have been subsequently sent to Dr. Blimber's 
establishment but to a public school, and it would 
have been good to have had Dickens' picture of that 
institution. Paul would certainly have worked less 
and played more, and perhaps he would have been 
happier, but he and his fellows would doubtless still 
have regarded the Romans as " their implacable 
enemies," and quite justifiably. 

Dickens defended himself from the charge that the 
conversion of Mr. Dombey was forced and unnatural. 
He declares in his Preface that " Mr. Dombey under- 
goes no violent change, either in this book or in real 
life." The change in the book is surely violent 
enough. But there is no change in real life, because 
Dombey does not exist in real life. And whether he 
changes or not does not matter a jot. It is Toots 


and Cuttle, and Susan and Mrs. Pipchin that matter, 
and heaven forfend that they should ever change ! 


" I seem to be sending some part of myself into the 
Shadowy World," wrote Dickens to John Forster as 
he was finishing David Copperfield. There was more 
than a small part of Dickens in every book he wrote 
(we all of us, even the least considerable, put ourselves 
into our books if they have any meaning at all), but 
he did not send himself into a world of shadows but 
into a world of warm realities. David Copperfield 
is, in its incidents, largely autobiographical, but there 
is less of the essential Dickens to be discovered in 
David than can be discovered in Captain Cuttle or 
Newman Noggs. 

David Copperfleld is commonly said to mark the 
beginning of the novelist's second period. But it is 
easy vastly to exaggerate the importance of the tran- 
sition. If in Picktoick Dickens shows us the farce 
of the commonplace, in Oliver Twist the tragedy of 
the commonplace, and in The Christmas Carol the 
pathos and heroism of the commonplace, he shows 
us in David Copperfleld the romance of the common- 
place. He had been accused of wild exaggeration, 
and although no man ever exaggerated so superbly 
or with so fine a sense of truth, with the odd perver- 


sion that always made him resent himself, he was 
eager to deny and disprove the charge. He deter- 
mined to write a book with a scheme which would 
prevent him constantly dropping into fantasy. He 
would confine himself to real life. The incidents 
should be incidents that had actually happened. He 
would write his own story. And the result is another 
fairy tale. When he sat down to remember exactly 
what had happened to Charles Dickens, he discovered 
that the adventures were just as gorgeously improb- 
able and the meetings just as completely thrilling as 
anything that ever happened to Martin Chuzzlewit 
or Mr. Pickwick. Every true biography is a fairy 
tale, because every real man and every real woman 
are fairies. The realist is always an unconscious liar. 
He does not tell the truth because the truth cannot be 
told in his language. Everything about a man — his 
birth, his life, and his death — is utterly improbable, 
wild, contradictory, eerie. We must obey the fairy 
laws (like the lady in the Savoy opera), whether we 
will or no ; but we do not know that we are obeying 
them, and we make funny little laws for ourselves 
which it does not matter a jot whether we obey or not. 
Dickens saw the fairies all the time. When he began 
to write David Copperfield he determined to shut his 
eyes to everything that was not revealed to the stock- 
broker. But the fairies were not to be denied, he 
could not shut himself away from them, and David 
had hardly been born before the wicked fairy Murd- 
stone and the fairy godmother Peggotty were hurting 


and blessing him. David Co'p'perfield is above all 
things the complete assertion that Everyman's life 
is a romantic adventure, even if Everyman be a suc- 
cessful novelist, and success more than anything 
else makes adventure and romance difficult. 

The great distinction of the first part of the novel 
is that Dickens not only remembered the incidents 
of his childhood, but he remembered exactly how 
those incidents affected him when he was a child. 
He was always, as has already been said more than 
once, righteously wroth at the torture of children, 
but until David CopperfiM his children are themselves 
uninteresting monstrosities — Oliver Twist, Smike, 
Nell, Paul Dombey, Florence, are all ridiculously 
false. But Dickens exactly remembered what he 
himself was like, or rather he had the rare knowledge 
of what he was like, and David is real, and the world 
in which David lived is the world as David saw it. 
The charm of the earlier chapters of David Copperfield 
is exactly the charm of Peter Pan. Sir James Barrie's 
hero is a genuine boy, and he lives in a genuine boy's 
world. So does David. Mr. Chesterton has already 
pointed this out. Murdstone, if David Copperfield 
had met him when he was grown up, would necessarily 
have been a less hateful person, and Steerforth would 
most certainly not have been a hero. We have all 
of us suffered the horrible disillusionment that comes 
from meeting our school hero when he has married 
and begotten a family. Dan'l Peggotty, Barkis, Ham, 
even Em'Iy, are described as the boy saw them, and 


they remain until the end characters seen through 
a boy's eyes. David first met Micawber when he was 
a child, and we shall never understand the whole 
grandeur of Micawber if we forget this fact. It is 
profoundly true that our entire judgment of our 
fellows depends upon the first five minutes of our 
acquaintance. To be introduced to a stranger when 
we are suffering from acute dyspepsia is instinctively 
to dislike that stranger to the end of our days even if 
his virtues are conspicuous and his failings undiscover- 
able. Similarly we love our mothers and reverence 
their judgments because we are never more than 
three or four years old in our relations with them, 
'they are to us exactly as they were when we first 
knew them. As with individuals, so with incidents. 
The horrors of the bottling factory were the horrors 
felt by a sensitive child. Just as Thackeray in Esmond 
contrived to think and to write absolutely in the 
manner of the seventeenth century, so in David 
CofperfM Dickens contrived to judge exactly in the 
manner of a small boy. 

David himself ceases to be interesting, ceases al- 
most to be real when he ceases to be a child. There 
is some justification for Mr. Hall Caine's assertion 
that " the latter part of David Coffer field is a great 
falling off from the earlier portion," and it is certainly 
true that after Mr. Dick has made his famous sugges- 
tion that David shall first be washed and then put 
to bed, we care for him very little. But delightful 
adventurers gather round his path — Betsey Trot- 


wood with her fine appreciation of the lovableness of 
simple Mr. Dick ; Uriah Heep, the greatest of all 
revelations of the pride of humility ; Traddles, made 
human by his hair ; Dora, the Peggottys, and above 
all the Micawbers. Dickens may have, with David 
CopperfiM, passed to a fuller and more perfect art, 
but Agnes is the same perfectly imperfect heroine 
as Madeleine Bray, more actively virtuous, but just 
as artificial, and Dr. Strong is equally compact of 
sentimentality. Dora is the most delicious young 
woman in the Dickens novels. The quite useless 
things and the quite useless people in this world are 
often the most delightful and therefore the most use- 
ful. Dora could not cook and she could not house- 
keep. She was irresponsible and entirely simple. 
And she was admirable. The best thing that David 
Copperfield ever did was to love her. The worst 
thing that Dickens ever did was to make Dora implore 
her husband to marry Agnes after her death. In one 
short scene he almost destroys a beautiful creation. 
Dora naturally loves Betsey Trotwood. She would 
naturally have been afraid of Agnes, and no human 
wife ever nominated her successor. In his descrip- 
tion of Dora's death Dickens for once restrained his 
tendency to mawkish sentiment, and then comes 
at the end this gruesome jar. It is as if a saint 
were to spend his last moments on earth strumming 
a banjo. 

The whole story of little Em'ly and Steerforth is 
sheer Adelphi melodrama, another version of the 


old story of the guileless village maiden and tlie wicked 
baronet. No girl was ever so guileless as Em'ly. 
Steerforth, and his mother, and Rosa Dartle are 
merely padding though Steerforth's later life (he is 
interesting as a boy) is to an extent rescued by his 
death, which gives Dickens the opportunity for a 
rare colourful example of descriptive word painting. 
Dan'I Peggotty is a repetition of the dignity of the 
poor. Mr. Hall Caine calls him as magnificent an 
English gentleman as Colonel Newcome. The word 
gentleman nowadays has acquired an arbitrary 
meaning, and it stands for most of the qualities that 
Dickens detested, but Dan'l is a mighty fine old man. 
Referring to him, Forster says, " the humour uplifts 
and refines the sentiment," and the sentence is full 
of suggestion. Sentiment sans humour is inhuman. 
Ham is as simple as Mr. Dick, but Ham is merely 
stupid while Mr. Dick is comic, and Mr. Dick is real 
— we know him and love him — and Ham is tiresome 
and easily (almost gladly) forgotten. 

There remain the Micawbers, Dickens' master- 
pieces. Mr. Chesterton boldly declares that Mrs. 
Micawber is " very nearly the best thing in Dickens." 
Her resignation is superb. Her faith is magnificent, 
and its magnificence is mainly due to the fact that 
nothing ever can possibly turn up. It was, of course, 
a fatal error to send the Micawbers to Australia, and 
it is quite certain that their failure there would have 
been as complete as it was on the banks of the 
Medway. Dickens was the victim of the fashion for 


happy endings. He had to clear things up in his 
last chapters and leave all his characters content and 
prosperous. There is no artistic objection to happy 
endings, for fortunately most human stories end with 
smiles. But men can only end as they began, by 
being themselves. The Micawbers must remain 
Micawbers, and to be a Micawber is to be a failure. 
To Mrs. Micawber's loyal mind the whole business 
is incomprehensible, an interesting and not un- 
pleasant puzzle. Her husband is, without question, 
a failure, but why, since there appears every reason 
that he should be a success ? But logic is of small 
value. Things never happen according to the rules. 
Mrs. Micawber's devotion to her husband is as beauti- 
ful as Lady Macbeth's devotion to hers. She is the 
comic wife as Mrs. Nickleby is the comic mother, and 
she is a perfect wife. She declares that she will never 
desert Mr. Micawber, and she never does. She never 
even dreams of deserting him. Failure is his chief 
possession. To fail is his function in life, and her 
whole existence revolves round his failures. They 
are her landmarks. " My mamma," she says, 
" departed this life before Mr. Micawber's difficulties 
commenced, or at least before they became pressing. 
My papa lived to bail Mr. Micawber several times, and 
then expired regretted by a numerous circle." Mrs. 
Micawber was never unhappy, only a little bewildered. 
" Here," she declared on a memorable occasion, " is 
Mr. Micawber without any suitable position or em- 
ployment. Where does the responsibility rest ? 


Clearly with society. Then I would make a fact so 
disgraceful known, and boldly challenge society to 
set it right." After which there was clearly nothing 
left for Mrs. Micawber to do but to finish her punch 
and to go to bed. 

Micawber was suggested by the novelist's father, 
and Dickens was far too sensitive and far too senti- 
mental to have deliberately lampooned his father. 
There is no vice in failure, and there is no virtue in 
success. It is possible to succeed magnificently, 
though few men manage to do it. It is equally pos- 
sible to fail magnificently. Besides, from his own 
point of view Micawber was anything but a failure. 
He enjoyed himself prodigiously. Every crisis 
brought its thrill. Every difficulty was a text for 
fine talk. Micawber is the master talker. Words 
are his food and drink. The Uriah Heep incident is 
a mistake. Micawber as a detective is a wild in- 
congruity. But Micawber talking of himself is a joy. 
The success of the Salvation Army is unquestionably 
partly due to the fact that it allows ex-sinners to 
make speeches about their sins and to exaggerate 
their former wickedness. It is tremendously excit- 
ing to be a horrible example. Micawber was his own 
horrible example. Micawber had his troubles, but 
he had infinite compensations. He was very poor, 
but he was generally happy. Very poor men often 
are very happy, and this fact, if we carefully con- 
sider it, is the finest possible argument for strenuous 
efforts to abolish the existence of poverty. 



The enthusiasts for the first and second periods 
theory point out that in Bleak House the plot is 
essential and sustained, that in the second chapter 
Lady Dedlock^s " past " is suggested, and that the 
story moves steadily along the line of the mystery 
until it is finally established by the detestable Tulk- 
inghom that she is the mother of Esther Summerson 
and that she has been the mistress of the mysterious 
law writer. This in a partial sense is true. It is 
true that Dickens set out to write the tragedy of 
Lady Dedlock, and that this time he persisted and 
carried out his intention. But for all that the tragedy 
of Lady Dedlock is a small part of Bleak Hoiise, al- 
most an inconsiderable part. The real subject of the 
book is the tragedy of the law. John Forster says 
" that the didactic in Dickens' earlier novels derived 
its strength from being merely incidental . . . and 
not in a small degree from the playful sportiveness 
and fancy that lighted up its graver illustrations." 
In Bleak House the didactic, Forster continues, " is 
of sterner stufi, is too little relieved and all-pervad- 
ing." But what Forster regards as a weakness, 
Mr. Chesterton applauds as a virtue. The debtors' 
prison is an episode in Pickwick, the Yorkshire school 
is only an episode in Nicholas Nickleby. " He puts," 
says Mr. Chesterton, " the Court of Chancery in the 
middle of the stage. . ; . The righteous indignation 


of the book is not at the red heat of anarchy, but at 
the white heat of art." But I suggest that while 
the denunciation is more sustained, the method is 
exactly the same. Dickens sent a funny old man into 
the Fleet prison and showed that the Fleet prison 
was cruel and silly. He imagined a funny scoundrel 
as the master of a Yorkshire school, and he showed, 
because he had created Squeers, that Yorkshire 
schools were cruel and silly. Squeers was the effec- 
tive shot, not Smike. Similarly the rotten stupid- 
ity of the Court of Chancery is brought vividly into 
the light, not by Richard Carstone's gradual de- 
moralisation, but by the comic-pathetic figure of 
Miss Flite sighing at the back of the court in Lin- 
coln's Inn, with her bag of documents, waiting for a 
verdict, and by the comic-grotesque Krook, the pro- 
prietor of the rag-and-bottle shop in Chancery Lane. 
" There's no great odds between my noble and learned 
brother and myself," he tells Esther ; " they call me 
Lord Chancellor and my shop Chancery, and we both 
grub on in a muddle." A filthy collection of old 
bottles and musty useless parchment, of rusty keys 
and rags, was Dickens' tremendous simile for the 
court ; and a funny old man, " short, cadaverous, and 
withered," his inspired caricature of its Chancellor. 
Death, misery, heartache, insanity were ground out 
by the machine, but the machine itself was a thing 
to laugh at. Its judge was as hideously absurd as 
Bumble. The worst of the evils of the Court of 
Chancery have disappeared, laughed out of exist- 


ence by the same immortal humorist who laughed 
away the debtor's prison and laughed the workhouses 

It is worth remarking that never once did Dickens 
create a really attractive lawyer, for even Perker and 
Fips are lawyers first and men afterwards. He knew 
lawyers, and not even his great laughter could human- 
ise a race that must inevitably fatten on humanity. 
England is still the prey of lawyers. The administra- 
tion of the law still encourages trickery, dishonour, 
and lies, and the poor and the honest are still hope- 
lessly penalised in the world of wigs and precedents. 
In Bleak House all the lawyers are in the conspiracy 
to fleece clients, and not one of them is the least 
affected by any desire for the attainment of justice. 
They live by rather boring trickery, by acting a 
dreary drama. To Conversation Kenge, his client 
was a singular man because he declined to have any 
dealings with law courts. Mr. Vholes knew quite 
well he was leading Richard to destruction, but he 
went on doing it. Mr. Tulkinghorn is the most real 
and the most hateful villain in the whole of Dickens, 
one of those inhuman monsters that stray at times 
into the world to prove that the devil still exists. 
Ralph JJickleby is wicked but unreal. Fagin is 
wicked but threadbare and comic. Mr. Tulkinghorn 
is alive and bloodless. The bloodless man (and there 
are men in the world without blood in their veins) is 
tiresome when he is virtuous. When he is wicked, he 
is horrible. Mr. Tulkinghorn hurt Lady Dedlock just 


for the sake of hurting her, coldly, deliberately, with- 
out a trace of anger. There was no earthly reason 
for his persistence. He had not the excuse of 
Torquemada. He cared nothing for her soul. He 
merely loved to wound. He is one of those grim 
figures that cause men to call upon their God for 
protection, for humanity cannot fight the inhuman. 
Dickens' picture of Mr. Tulkinghorn is perfect. His 
villain is villainously clothed. " The old gentleman 
is rusty to look at. ... He is of what is called the 
old school — a, phrase generally meaning any school 
that seems never to have been young — and wears 
knee-breeches tied with ribbons, and gaiters and 
stockings. One peculiarity of his black clothes and 
of his black stockings, be they silk or worsted, is 
that they never shine. Mute, close, irresponsive to 
any glancing light, his dress is like himself. He never 
converses when not professionally consulted." Thrice 
hateful Mr. Tulkinghorn ! Dickens did well to con- 
trive that he should be murdered. It was the only 
thing to do with him. 

Mr. Guppy is another of the Bleak Home lawyers. 
He is only a lawyer's clerk — " brought up in a sharp 
school and accustomed to a variety of general practice*' 
— a not too scrupulous little cad, and just because he is 
a little cad infinitely less detestable than Mr. Tulking- 
horn. Dickens coxdd always see the soul of the cad. 
He could rarely see the soul of a gentleman. Gentle- 
manliness is unquestionably one of the curses of 
England. There was indeed supreme wisdom in the 


often-quoted assertion of my friend, Rev. Charles 
Marson, that " the Church of England wants fewer 
gentlemen and more sanctified cads like the apostles." 
Mr. Guppy's mother only appears for a moment, but 
she gives Dickens the opportunity for writing one of 
his supreme farcical scenes : 

'* ' Why, get along with you,' said she to my Guardian. 
" What do you mean ? Ain't my son good enough for you . 
You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Get out with you ! ' 

" ' My good lady,' returned my Guardian, ' it is hardly 
reasonable to ask me to get out of my own room.' 

" ' I don't care for that,' said Mrs. Guppy, ' get out with 
you. If we ain't good enough for you, go and procure some- 
body that is good enough. Go along and find 'em.' " 

Dickens' attitude to the society of his day is very 
clearly indicated in Bleak House. It is not quite clear 
that he was a Radical, if by a Radical is meant that 
Dickens ever believed that mid-Victorian England 
was governed by an aristocracy and was angry about 
it. In Bleak House and in Little Dorrit he pilloried 
government by incompetent professional politicians, 
the people who remain our governors. " Lord Coodle 
would go out, Sir Thomas Doodle would not come in, 
and there being nobody in Great Britain (to speak of) 
except Coodle and Doodle, there has been no govern- 
ment.^" In Pickwick he satirised elections, and he 
was properly suspicious of elected persons, here again 
speaking for the common average man, become, since 
the novelist died, even more completely the slave of 
the man for whom he votes. For the House of 


Commons he expressed the contempt which is now 
being expressed by the rank and file of the trade 
unions, and he foresaw the gulf ever growing wider, 
in prejudice and desire, between the governors and 
the governed. Dickens did not, I think, resent 
aristocracy, but he had the same pity for the aristo- 
crat that the lodge-keeper habitually has for the 
squire. It is quite untrue that the poor envy the 
rich. They always laugh at them (not too obtrusively, 
for the poor are generally well-mannered) and they 
pity them. The picture of Sir Leicester Dedlock is 
drawn with an evident desire to be absolutely fair. 
Pride is his main characteristic, but Dickens accents 
his chivalry. He is a fine old proud English gentle- 
man, and his moral is that a proud gentleman is 
pitiful and ridiculous because he is proud and a gentle- 
man. But because too of his qualities, the people who 
serve him, who accept his interpretation of himself 
and give him unselfish service — Mrs. Rouncewell and 
her son Greorge — attain a dignity that never belongs to 
Sir Leicester himself. Dickens understood the servant 
class. He never falsely exaggerated their servility. 
Bather he depicts them as strong men and women 
self-exiled from their own people, humorously 
mothering their betters. The elder Rouncewell, 
the successful ironmaster, a Dr. Smiles character, is 
drawn hastily and sympathetically perhaps, to please 
" the danmed compact Liberal majority." When 
in Hard Times he elaborated Rouncewell he became 


The melodrama of Bleak House is the most effective 
melodrama Dickens ever wrote, but it is melodrama. 
Lady Dedlock and her lover, Joe and the French maid 
all belong to the old Adelphi, though in Joe the hatred 
of cruelty and the impatience with official stupidity 
are once more very evident. The " young gonoph " 
had been " a-moving and a-moving on " ever since 
he was born, and he was puzzled where he could 
move on to any more. Mr. Snagsby was perplexed 
by the problem. But the constable was quite sure 
about things. " My instructions don't go to that ; 
my instructions are that every boy is to move 

Jarndyce, and Ada and Esther Summerson are cloy- 
ingly good and not convincing. As Mr. Galsworthy 
says, " the novelist who looks up to his characters 
never makes them live. Jarndyce and Esther 
Summerson are not vitalised properly because Dickens 
cast an upturned eye on them; he dared not touch 
them with the comic, and their blood therefore lacks 
the red corpuscles that inhabit the veins of char- 
acters less solemnly conceived." Mrs. Jellyby and 
Mr. Chadband are both blows at pose and humbug. 
Dickens, for all the exaggeration of his imagination, 
loved restraint in religion. He was so English that 
he was keenly Church of England, and his distaste 
for Puritanism and Nonconformity unquestionably 
led him to rather unfair caricatures. Stiggins and 
Chadband are both a little malicious and a good deal 
ignorant. Old Turveydrop, the man who taught 

(2,017) 7 


gentility to the ungenteel, is a far more effective 
portrait, and the Bagnets are another splendid family 
of the poor and unpretentious. 

Harold Skimpole demands more detailed considera- 
tion. It is a matter of small concern now whether or 
not Skimpole was founded on Leigh Hunt. He is a 
very near relation of Micawber's, anyway, but while 
Dickens loved Micawber he disliked Skimpole. With 
his average common man's instinct he mistrusted suc- 
cess, and in Micawber he drew the immortal failure. 
But Micawber with all his bills and all his duns was 
always genuinely hopeful that something would turn 
up, and fully determined to take advantage of the 
something when it appeared. But Skimpole had no 
such illusions. He was a humbug. His pose of being 
an innocent child was just as much hypocrisy as Mr. 
Pecksniff's pose of philanthropy. He was a highly 
successful amiable sponger. He had hothouse 
grapes while Mr. Micawber only had small beer, 
and he was guilty of petty meannesses that would 
have made Micawber blush and that would have 
sent Mrs. Micawber back to her family. Yet Skim- 
pole talks prodigious wisdom. There is a scene 
early in the story when the bailiff is in possession 
at his house : 

" ' Then you didn't think, at all events,' proceeded Mr. 
Skimpole, ' to this effect. Harold Skimpole loves to see the 
sun shine, loves to hear the wind blow, loves to watch the 
changing lights and shadows ; loves to hear the birds, those 
choristers in Nature's great cathedral. And does it seem to 


me that I am about to deprive Harold Skimpole of his share 
in such possessions which are his only birthright ! You 
thought nothing to that effect ? ' 

" ' I certainly did — not,' said Coavinses. . . . 

" ' Very odd and very curious the mental process is in you 
men of business,' said Mr. Skimpole thoughtfully." 

Out of the mouths of scamps as well as out of the 
mouths of babes and sucklings sometimes cometh 
wisdom. The mental process in men of business is 
odd and curious, and when once men of business do 
begin to bother their heads about other people's 
birthrights and other people's happiness, the whole 
machinery of business will quite completely come to 
an end. Dickens did not like Skimpole as an indi- 
vidual, but he was one of the great unsuccessful and 
was an average common man, and Dickens used him 
to enunciate great truths. " Every man's not obliged 
to be solvent," said Mr. Skimpole. It is the birth- 
right of man to be insolvent, intemperate, lazy, 
foolish if he will, that is, to be himself. That is 
the idea of all the Dickens novels. It is the great 
human idea at which the Gradgrinds of the 'fifties 
jibed, and against which our purblind reformers 

Bleak House is, after The Pickwick Papers, my 
favourite Dickens novel. It is so full, so varied — ^ 
as Mr. Galsworthy has said, " so utterly readable." 




Mr. Bernard Shaw, in an essay on Hard Times, 
suggests that it marks Dickens' " definite break with 
the Manchester rule of Radicalism," and that in it he 
is found with " Karl Marx, Carlyle, Ruskin, Morris, 
and Carpenter rising up against civilisation as a 
disease." Ruskin himself thought the book " in 
several respects the greatest work he has written." 
But if my interpretation of Dickens is even com- 
paratively correct, both Ruskin and Mr. Shaw must 
be read with caution, for Ruskin wished that in such 
a book as Hard Times Dickens " would use severer 
and more accurate analysis " — would, that is, cease 
to be Dickens. While Mr. Shaw makes the amazingly 
rash and quite inaccurate statement that " England 
is not full of Micawbers and Swivellers," the whole 
significance of Dickens as a national benefactor is 
that he has shown us that every cheap suburb is 
full of Micawbers and Swivellers. Mr. Shaw is of 
course quite right when he says that Dickens had 
little first-hand knowledge of the details of life in the 
industrial towns. He was always a Cockney. But 
he knew enough to have discovered another misery- 
making machine and to denounce it. Debtors' prisons, 
workhouses, Yorkshire schools, law courts made men 
and children unhappy, and were therefore hateful and 
damnable. Now Dickens, with Lord Shaftesbury and 
the rest of the men of good intent of his generation, 

" HARD TIMES." 101 

discovered that factories also made for unhappiness, 
and he at once turned his hot satirical indignation 
against them. John Halifax was a factory owner, 
and was drawn as a saint — a smug contrast to his 
naughty aristocratic landlord. Rouncewell, the iron- 
master, is more dignified and more manly than Sir 
Leicester Dedlock. But Bounderby in Hard Times 
is a hateful, narrow-souled, ignorant tyrant. There 
is something suggestive and important in Dickens* 
almost malignant hatred of Bounderby. He was a 
self-made man. He boasted that he had come 
from the gutter. Now it is notorious that the most 
disliked of all masters are the masters who have 
themselves been men. Popular instincts are nearly 
always right. The heroes of Dr. Smiles are detested 
by the bricklayers, the engineers, the labourers they 
employ, because the bricklayers, the engineers, and 
the labourers laugh at the Smilesian virtues, and are 
well aware of the lying, the intrigues, the unwhole^ 
some industry that are needed to cause a man to rise 
above his fellows. Bounderby, to make his greatness 
the more dazzling, blasphemed against his mother. 
He sweated and toiled and bullied, and as Dickens 
went on elaborating him and hating him he at last 
began^to laugh at him, and Bounderby shed his skin 
of unreality and became, for all time, the type of 
hard, soulless, stupid employer. 

Bounderby is real. We have all met the man, the 
large, assertive wealthy ass, and we have all chortled 
with joy at the warning addressed to him by Mr. 


E. W. B. Childers, the circus proprietor : " That isn't 
a strong building, and too much of you might bring 
it down." 

Unhappily Stephen Blackpool, the unlucky work- 
man, is inhumanly good. He is never a real man 
at all, and is merely used to point out the horrors 
of a bad marriage (still indissolvable if you are poor) 
and the misery of the factory. Dickens does not 
seem to know how the factory can be abolished. 
" Lettin' alone will never do it," says Blackpool. 
He was, with Ruskin, against laissez-faire. He saw 
no good in trade unionism, foreseeing again with a 
seer's insight the creation of a new tyranny. Mr. 
Shaw points out that he had no sort of faith in 
democracy, in the people setting things right for 
themselves. In fifty years they have done pitifully 
little. The average common man never has arranged 
things for himself and never can, and it is only when 
" they as is put over me " (masters, labour leaders, 
what you wiU) understand and love their neighbours 
as well as themselves that the money-making machine 
will be finally scrapped. 

Gradgrind begins as a conscientious child-torturer 
and finishes as a shadow. James Harthouse is yet 
another laugh at the gentleman, Mrs. Sparsit is one 
of the great grotesques, a ladylike Mrs. Gamp, grissy 
Jupe is a natural, lovable girl whose language is as 
high-falutin as Edith Dombey's. 

Hard Times is not one of the outstanding successes. 
It was a topical story with a moral, and the moral is 



that the world must make its facts and figures sub- 
servient to Faith and Hope and Charity. 


" A gentleman I am, a gentleman I'll Kve, and a 
gentleman I'll die. It's my intent to be a gentle 
man. It's my game." The words are the words of 
Blandois, the French villain of Litde Dorrit, a stage 
villain, the wicked Frenchman as a very English 
Englishman imagined him, cousin-german to the 
ruffian in yellow whiskers and protruding teeth, who 
in the days before the entente appeared in every cheap 
French melodrama to ejaculate " Godam ! " every 
minute and perpetrate all manner of naughtiness. 
But Blandois is the familar protest against gentle- 
manliness. He was the worse villain because of his 
gentility. Henry Gowan is the other prominent 
gentleman of the story, a miserable, cowardly crea- 
ture, despising the goodness of the Meagles and 
accepting benefits from them, living on his wife and 
looking down on her — the very summary of the hate- 
fulness v of the class whom Dickens disliked and in a 
sense dreaded. 

Little Dorrit is a gloomy story. It has many of the 
old characteristics, a heroine impossibly heroic, an- 
other Little Nell ; a hero, a hopeless prig, duller 
because older than Nicholas Nickleby. Doubtless 


Arthur Clenham and Amy will be very happy after 
their marriage, but they will be very tiresome people 
to meet. Old Dorrit is the child of the Marshalsea, 
not the father. His pomposity, his selfishness, his 
vain posturings, his ungracious sponging are the 
direct result of his years in prison. When fortune 
comes to him he is arrogant, foolish, and insolent. 
His manhood has been killed by the law. There is 
no hope for old Dorrit. Prisons do kill men's souls. 
They are doing it every day in England. But it is 
a very curious fact that the tragedy of Dorrit is not 
as effective in making us realise the wickedness of 
prisons as the farce of Mr. Pickwick in the Fleet. 
The horror of imprisonment for debt never left 
Dickens. His father had been locked in the Mar- 
shalsea. His first book laughed at the folly of the 
whole business. In Little Dorrit he almost weeps at 
its wickedness. Perhaps we shall one day realise 
that all prisons are just as foolish and jusfc as wicked 
as debtors' prisons used to be, but that will only be 
when the Howard Society has discovered another 
Dickens to laugh down their walls. The contrast 
between Dorrit, who neither understood nor felt and 
was comparatively content, and his humble brother 
Erederick, who understood and felt and was very 
unhappy, is deft and dramatic. In Uriah Heep, 
Dickens had shown the beastliness of humility. In 
Frederick Dorrit he shows its pathos. All virtues 
(and possibly all vices) have two sides at least, and 
sometimes a dozen. Fanny and Tip are comically 


pitiful and very real. Flora and Mr. F.'s aunt are 
deliciously comic, while old Casby the benevolent 
patriarch, and bustling good-hearted Mr. Panck who 
at the patriarch's orders screwed the last penny out 
of his unlucky tenants in Bleeding Heart Yard, must 
surely have suggested to Mr. Bernard Shaw the plot 
of his Widowers' Hoitses. 

The Circumlocution Office, where things were never 
done and which existed only to give the Barnacles 
nice fat jobs, was, and indeed is, a fine summary of 
the greed and the stupidity of the people who govern 
England. Dickens pulled down prisons, but despite 
his satire the Circumlocution Office still flourishes. 
" He had," he once said, " very little confidence in 
the people who govern us (with a small p), and very 
great confidence in the people whom they govern 
(with a large P)," and the Grcumlocution Office 
explains his want of confidence. Dickens always 
detested what is called society, and in Mr. Merdle, 
who stole and forged to get into society only to be 
utterly bored when he got there, he laughs at the 
idiocy of the whole business. Mrs. Clenham is a sober, 
dark figure of religious gloom and selfishness, a far 
more effective proof of the horrors of the self life 
than Anthony Chuzzlewit or Jonas ; and in Miss 
Wade he makes us realise the highly important truth 
that the man and woman who shut their lives tightly 
up within themselves grow almost inevitably into 
self -tormentors. The man who is always being 
slighted and humiliated is the man who lives for 


himself and thinks of himself as himself. The man 
who is happy and unsnobbable, who is never slighted 
and always petted, is the man who sends his soul 
flying round the world and insists on being a man 
and a brother. 

Little Dorrit gives me less pleasure than any of the 
other novels. It is not a complete failure. It is cer- 
tainly not " twaddle," as it was described in Black- 
wood^ s, and it is interesting to remember that while 
Bismarck and Jules Favre were negotiating for the 
surrender of Paris, Von Moltke sat reading Little 
Dorrit. That was only a few months after Dickens' 
death. Perhaps the great soldier was realising that 
the description of the Circumlocution Office supplies 
the explanation of why England is not as great as 
we always feel she ought to be. 


Using the word novel in its conventional sense, 
Dickens only wrote two novels, and one of them, 
Edwin Drood, was never finished. The other, A 
Tale of Two Cities, was a deliberate attempt to do 
something which he had never done before. He is, 
in fiction, the supreme creator of characters. In 
A Tale of Two Cities he is concerned primarily with 
incidents. In a letter to Forster he said : " I set 
myself the little task of making a picturesque story. 


rising in every chapter, with characters true to nature, 
but whom the story should express more than they 
should express themselves by dialogue. I mean, in 
other words, that I fancied a story of incident 
might be written . . . pounding its characters in 
its own mortar and beating their interest out of 

As a story the book is a superb success. " There 
is no piece of fiction known to me," writes Forster, 
" in which the dramatic life of a few simple private 
people is in such a manner knitted and interwoven 
with the interest of a terrible public event that the 
one seems part of the other." One was part of the 
other. The lives of thousands of simple private 
people were affected by the French Revolution. Mr. 
Chesterton refers to the novel's " dignity and elo- 
quence," and Forster to its " dramatic vivacity and 
constructive art ; " and when we realise that Dickens 
was working in a new and unfamiliar medium, his 
success is the more remarkable. 

The plot is of course borrowed from Carlyle. To 
Dickens the Revolution was based on and inspired, 
not by the writings of Voltaire and Rousseau, but by 
the misery of the people. Mr. Chesterton declares 
that the revolution was " a war for intellectual prin- 
ciples." Dickens is concerned only with the motive. 
of hunger, and without that motive there would have 
been norevolution. Prince Krapotkin writes : " Two 
great currents prepared and made the great French 
Revolution. One of them, the current of ideas con- 


ceming the political reorganisation of the State, came 
from the middle classes ; the other, the current of 
action, came from the people, both peasants and 
workers in towns, who wanted to obtain immediate 
and definite improvements in their economic condi- 
tion." Mme. Defarge, knitting the condemnation of 
aristocrats in the wine-shop in the Faubourg St. 
Antoine, is not only the figure of colourful romance ; 
she is the figure of history. The story is developed 
very deftly: the old Marquis (the familiar gentle- 
manly villain, too black for reality), sowing oppres- 
sion ; his nephew, the man of sympathy and the new 
era, reaping revenge. The coil of the Revolution 
intrigue that begins in the wine-shop and reaches the 
road-mender is thriliingly woven. The Manettes, with 
old Lorry the stout-hearted bank manager, Miss Pross 
the faithful operator, and Jerry the body-snatcher 
messenger, are brought into the plot with convincing 
naturalness, and incident follows incident with Greek 
inevitableness. We can feel that Dr. Manette's 
prayers and sufferings are not to contrive to save his 
daughter's happiness, and we cannot see how her 
pain is to be averted. Then comes Sydney Carton, 
the god in the machine, the great outstanding figure 
in the novel, waster, drunkard, hero. Dickens before 
had found humour and kindness in drimkards. Carton 
dies quickly, with no rant or fine words, for the 
woman he loves. The substitution for Darnay is 
plausible. The death on the guillotine is beautifully 
told. Even Carton's hackneyed death speech has a 


natural dignity. Sydney Carton was his own enemy. 
He was Everyman's friend. 

Dickens changed sides while he was writing A Tale 
of Two Cities, At the beginning he was all with the 
revolutionists. We sit with him in the wine-shop or 
trudge along with the road- mender, and we are eager 
for the day when they shall pay a reckoning to the 
oppressor. At the Bastille he is still on their side. 
But the Terror revolts him. I do not think he at 
all understands its cause or its full significance, but 
he thoroughly understands the horror of vengeance. 
Sometimes punishment must come. But woe to him 
whose hand must punish ! To be revenged is to be 
demoralised, whether the vengeance is trivial or awful. 
Lucie went to Mme. Defarge to beg her aid : 

" ' As ji wife and a mother,' cried Lucie most earnestly, ' I 
implore you to have pity on me and not to exercise any power 
that you possess against my innocent husband, but to use it 
on his behalf. sister-woman, think of me as a wife and a 

" Madame Defarge looked, coldly as ever, at the suppliant 
and said, turning to her friend The Vengeance : 

" ' The wives and mothers we have been used to see since we 
were as little as this child, and much less, have not been greatly 
considered. We have known their husbands and fathers laid 
in prison and kept from them, often enough. All our hves we 
have seen our sister-women suffer in themselves and in their 
children, poverty, nakedness, hunger, thirst, sickness, misery, 
oppression, and neglect of all kinds.' 

" ' We have seen nothing else,' returned The Venge- 

" ' We have borne this a long time,' said Madame Defarge, 
turning her eyes again upon Lucie. ' Judge you ! Is it likely 


that the trouble of one wife and mother would be much to us 
now ? ' 

" She resumed her knittmg and went out." 

Cruelty begets cruelty, and Lucie is the victim of 
Monseigneur the Marquis as fully as the child whom 
his coach ran over. Dickens saw the necessity of 
the revenge, but he saw the horror of the revenge 
when it was achieved. The whole drama is true, 
and the truth is reflected by a man who knew men 
and women, their souls and their dreams. 

The metamorphosis of Jerry Cruncher from a 
ghoulish criminal to a valiant servant was, as I have 
suggested before, evidently due to Dickens' British 
antipathy to the crowd (average men and women, be 
it said) who gathered joyfully round the guillotine, 
and the death of Madame Defarge, shot accidentally 
by poor Miss Pross, is one of the most dramatic scenes 
in the book. It was, as he said himself, " divine 
justice." " When I use Miss Pross," he wrote in one 
of his letters, " to bring about such a catastrophe, I 
have the positive intention of making that half-comic 
intervention a part of the desperate woman's failure ; 
and of opposing that mean death, instead of a des- 
perate one in the streets which she wouldn't have 
minded, to the dignity of Carton's." 

Madame Defarge lived in gloomy and not undigni- 
fied tragedy. Her death was comic. Carton lived 
in comic failure. His death was splendid tragedy. 
It is in this way that fate hands out its compensa- 



I have carefully avoided in this little book any 
attempt to place the Dickens novels in their order of 
merit, particularly as I personally certainly do not 
subscribe to the average critical judgment. But it 
is only fair to say that Great Expectations is generally 
regarded as among the two or three most completely 
artistic of its author's achievements. It is almost a 
sombre story, a dramatic presentment of the deceit- \/ 
fulness of riches. Pip at the beginning has many 
points of resemblance with David Copperfield, but 
while David is chastened into manliness by adversity, 
Pip is ut terly demoralised bv comparativ e yv(^si\ih 
Generally speaking, the only rich men who are not 
detestable are the men who are born rich. The motif 
of Great Expectations is far subtler and far more 
observant than that of any of the earlier books. 
Dickeus, as a rule, presumes that grapes will be 
gathered from grape vines, although it is absurd to 
expect to gather them from thistles. But unhappily 
it happens in the world that evil follows the best 
intentions, and that often when we mean to aid, we 
only succeed in injuring. Magwitch, the escaped con- 
vict, whom Pip befriended on the marshes outside 
Chatham, hugs the memory of the boy's simple 
kindness to his heart. It had come to him as an 
odd solitary unexpected phenomenon. Kindness had 
passed Magwitch by. He had terrified the child 


into stealing food for him, but neither Magwitch 
nor any other living creature was insensible to 
sympathy : 

" Pitjong his desolation and watching him as he gradually 
settled down before the fire, I made bold to say, ' I am glad 
you enjoy it.' 

" * Did you speak ? ' 

" ' I said, I was glad you enjoy it.' 

" * Thankee, my boy, I do.' " 

And at once Pip became the biggest personality in 
the convict's life. He loved him, and when he grew 
rich, after being transported to Australia, he was 
eager to pay for the pie, and his one misty idea of 
how to pay for it was to make Pip a gentleman. 

'"I swore that time, soon as ever I earned a guinea, that 
guinea should go to you. I swore arterwards, sure as ever I 
speculated and got rich, you should get rich. I hved rough 
that you should live smooth, I worked hard that you should 
be above work. What odds, dear boy ? Do I tell it for you 
to feel an obligation ? Not a bit. I tell it fur you to know 
as that there hunted dunghill dog wot you kep life in, got 
his head so high that he could make a gentleman — and Pip, 
you're him.' " 

Pip was him, and that was the pathos and tragedy 
of it. The " dunghill dog " found his soul with the 
faith that he was making a gentleman — and the 
gentleman was just a futile snob who forgot the love 
of Joe Gargery and allowed himself to be patronised 
by Pumblechook, the pompous, oily corn-chandler. 


But when Magwitch stole back to London to review 
his handiwork, and incidentally to risk his life, he 
saved Pip from himself. The first knowledge that 
he owed his fortune to a convict, a mean low thief, 
" a heavy grubber," was horrible. " I remained too 
stunned to think ; and it was not until I began to 
think that I began fully to know how wretched I 
was, and how the ship in which I had sailed was 
gone to pieces." But Magwitch beheved that Pip 
was a gentleman and his love made Pip a man. He 
stood by his benefactor in his peril unto the very 

" ' And what's the best of all,' he said, * you're been more 
comfortable alonger me since I was under a dark cloud, than 
when the sun shone. That's best of all ! ' " 

Men can only be saved by love. That is the one 
great fact of life compared to which all other facts 
are of small importance. Love is omnipotent and 
can never fail. The love of Magwitch, the " heavy 
grubber," made a hateful shallow snob into a decent 
man. No argument, no reason, no philosophy could 
ever have wrought that miracle. There is nothing 
in English literature more splendid, more complete, 
and more effective than the love of Magwitch for 
Pip. To love is to live, for there is no life without 
love. And to live is to make life. 

Apart from its central theme, Gfecut Expectatiwis is 
to me — and I write with the genuine modesty that 

(2.017) 8 


becomes a heavy debtor to the genius of Dickens — 
sketchy and unsatisfactory. Jaggers, the criminal 
^lawyer, is perhaps the most attractive of all the 
Dickens lawyers, but he is hard and far too clean, 
and his devotion to " the strict line " of fact led him, 
as was inevitable, to the support of a very cruel lie. 
Wemmick, his clerk, is dehghtful, kindly, poor, and 
humorous, a real man and an ideal Dickens man. 
Miss Havisham and Estella are both melodramatic. 
Dickens was persuaded by Bulwer Lytton to change 
the end of the story and allow Pip after all to marry 
Estella. " Bulwer, who has been, as I think you 
know," he wrote Forster, " extraordinarily taken 
by the book, so strongly urged it upon me after 
reading the proofs, and supported his views with 
such good reasons, that I resolved to make the 
change." It did not matter very much, for Greai 
Expectations really ends with the death of Mag witch. 

Joe Gargery is another splendid simple man, and 
the descriptive scenes in the haze of the marshes, 
and the March day on the river, are among the 
best things of the sort that Dickens ever wrote. 

The story carries on the exposure of gentlemanli- 
ness. " I've seen my boy, and he can be a gentle- 
man without me," said Mag witch when he was 
arrested for the last time. ..." It's best as a gentle- 
man should not be knowed to belong to me now." 

" I will never stir from your side," said I, " when 
I am suffered to be near you." 

The gentleman had grown into a man ! 



Out Mutual Friend has two distinctions — a villain, 
Bradley Headstone, made real not by Lis comicality 
but by his suffering, and a gentleman, Eugene Wray- 
burn, who is almost a hero. The book was written 
with difficulty and in a period of worry and ill- 
health. John Forster declared that it will never 
" rank with his higher efforts," and Forster has had 
a tremendous influence on the popular judgment of 
the Dickens novels, but I entirely agree with Mr. 
William de Morgan's recent eulogy. It has some- 
thing of the constructive skill of A Tale of Two 
CitieSj and much of the exuberant humour of the 
earlier books. Indeed Mr. de Morgan does not go 
too far when he says, that " in respect of its humour 
it is in no respect inferior to any work of Charles 
Dickens, and that for its redundant wealth of that 
quality it might almost claim to stand highest." 
The book contains forty-five characters, and in crea- 
ting them Dickens' originality certainly shows no 
falling off. Boffin, the golden dustman, is sneered 
at by the superior, but he is a jolly, lovable, common 
old man, altogether worthy of his jolly, lovable, 
common old wife, and his love for Bella Wilfer and 
his devotion to John Harmon are beautiful and 
human. Bella is a delightful heroine. Compare her 
with Arabella Allen, or Kate Nickleby, or Roso 
Maylie, or Mary or Florence Dombey, or Agnea 


Wickfield, or Esther Summerson, or Estella, and her 
flesh-and-bloodness is splendidly apparent. She is 
as real as Dolly Varden or Dora, and the reader 
envies John Harmon his bride, which is the feeling 
the reader must have when the heroine of a novel 
is real. John Harmon in himself is one of the lay 
figures created merely to feign to be dead, as Dickens 
practically admitted in one of his letters. But little 
Reginald Wilfer, Bella's cherubic father, the plucky 
little clerk struggling with adversity and a wearing 
wife, is entirely delicious. Mrs. Wilfer is another of 
the greater characters, a complete satire on dignity. 
To describe her as based on Mrs. Nickleby is inexact. 
She is grisly, feasting on her own importance, the 
summary of the absurdity of " standing on your 
dignity," for only men and women without dignity 
are ever dignified. Equally splendid is Silas Wegg, 
the man with one leg and no heart, who dropped 
into poetry and battened on Bo£5n. Perhaps if 
Dickens had created Silas Wegg ten years earlier ke 
might have been as lovable as Tony Weller. As it 
is, while he is completely wicked he is completely 
funny, and it is with something akin to regret that 
we read of his summary ejection from the Harmon 
household by the energetic Sloppy. 

Charley Hexam is an example of the fact that a 
little learning is not only dangerous but degrading. 
** The educated boy ia spectacles," whom Dickens 
and Leech once saw at Chatham, is in every respect 
a worse man than his " uneducated father in fustian," 


meaner, quite as cruel, infinitely more a coward. 
Mrs. Higden and the doll's dressmaker repeat the 
dignity and the humour of poyerty. Riah and 
Fledgely are an admission that a Jew may be kindly 
and a Christian cruel. Mr. de Morgan will not have 
it that Riah was intended as a sort of analogy for 
Fagin, and he points out that the reason why Fagin 
was the leader and Bill Sikes and his fellows were the 
led, was because Fagin did not drink and they did. 
Riah is not an apology for Fagin, for Fagin needed 
no apology. He is a kindly old Jew, over-senti- 
mentalised and not too real. 

Twemlow is the pathos of gentlemanliness ; the 
Veneerings, *' bran new people in a bran new house," 
its farce ; Lady Tapkins and the Lanmiles, the gen- 
teel adventurers, its tragedy. Podsnap is another 
Dombey, and in him Dickens has satirised the suc- 
cessful wealthy English middle class that believes in 
itself with the flimsiest reason, and that is completely 
oblivious of the glorious fact that life is a thrilling 
adventure. Podsnap was " a too smiling large man 
with a fatal freshness in him." He was quite satis- 
fied, and " he never could quite make out why every- 
body was not quite satisfied." When Podsnap 
denounced things as not English, " with a flourish of 
the arm and a flush of the face they were swept 
away," and it was Podsnap who invented " the young 
person." He had a young person of his own, a 
daughter, and Miss Podsnap envied sweeps, because 
they apparently enjoyed themselves on May Day. 


Podsnappery still counts for a good deal in England, 
but Miss Podsnap is working out her emancipation 
by bonneting policemen and hunger-striking. 

Pip is a good fellow who is degraded by becoming 
a gentleman. Wrayburn is a good fellow who wastes 
his life and is mischievous and cruel because he is 
born a gentleman. He can eat and drink and be 
moderately (very moderately) merry without the 
necessity for work, and to fill his empty hours he 
pursues Lizxie Hexam and is insolent to Bradley 
Headstone. " I scorn you," said Headstone to him, 
and although scorn is always stupid, there is no 
question that the earnest, industrious, conscientious 
schoolmaster was superficially far and away the 
better man. But Dr. Smiles is not always right, and 
Lizzie Hexam chose msely when she preferred Eugene 
to Headstone. Love always sees clearly and fully, 
and love taught Lizzie that Wraybum's failings had 
" grown up through his being like one cast away, for 
the want of something to trust in and care for and 
think well of." To be idle and thoughtless is to 
be damned ! So it happened, and it happened in 
accordance with the laws of life, that Lizzie's love, 
and the dignity that belongs to love, made a man 
of Wrayburn even at the eleventh hour, as Mag- 
witch's love made a man of Pip. And even a gentle- 
man can be saved. 

As I have suggested. Dr. Smiles would have joyed 
over Headstone and he would have delighted Mr. 
Peter Keary. He was compact of virtues, and yet 


Dickens, with the insight of a poet, quite properly 
makes him the villain of his story. Wrayburn 
wanted Lizzie for himself, as a sort of plaything, 
with little or no thought for her happiness. But he 
laughed at himself, and because he could laugh at 
himself and could look at the world as a man and 
not merely as Eugene Wraybum, he was able at last 
to see the beauty of Lizzie's character, and gradually 
to learn to love her, and the first sign of love is the 
desire to make the loved one happy. Bradley Head- 
stone never laughed at himself. He saw nothing 
funny in Bradley Headstone. Dr. Smiles' young 
men never do see how funny they are, which is why 
they are so successful and so detestable. He too 
wanted Lizzie for himself. He had no thought of her 
happiness. He hated Eugene and tried to murder 
him, not because he feared he would hurt Lizzie, but 
because he prevented him securing her. Jealousy is 
always irrational and always beastly. A dog in the 
manger is a figure completely hateful. Mr. de 
Morgan says, " I place the scene in which Bradley 
Headstone discloses his fatal passion for Lizzie above 
every analogous scene known to me in fiction," and 
certainly the revelation of character is amazingly 
complete. He goes to her as self-satisfied as Podsnap 
himself. He is " a man of unimpeachable character 
who has made for himself every step of his way in 
life," and he says to her : 

" * I love you. What other men mean when they use that 
expression, I cannot tell. What I mean is that I am under the 


influence of some tremendous attraction which I have resisted 
in vain and which overmasters me. You could draw me to fire, 
you could draw me to water, you could draw me to the gallows, 
you could draw me to any death, you could draw me to any- 
thing I have most avoided, you could draw me to any exposure 
or disgrace. This and the confusion of my thoughts, so that 
I am fit for nothing, is what I mean by your being the ruin of 
me. But if you would return a favourable answer to my offer 
of myself in marriage you could draw me to any good — every 
good — with equal force. My circumstances are quite easy, 
and you would want for nothing. My reputation stands quite 
high, and would be a shield for yours. . . . Whatever con- 
siderations I may have thought of against this offer, I have 
conquered and I make it with all my heart.' " 

Condescension and conceit breathe in every sen- 
tence and a woeful lack of humour. What woman 
ever loved a man because of his unimpeachable 
character and his high reputation ? What love is 
it that calculates and considers instead of laughing 
and singing ? Dr. Smiles' young men do " love " 
(save the mark) like this, and Dickens showed his 
sense of the eternal fitness of things by hurrying off his 
Smilesian young man to a rough drowning in a weir. 

For the rest, Rough Riderhood is a humorous 
rascal, Miss Abbey is an attractively strong-minded 
female, and the whole book is to me compact of 


The Mystery of Edwin Brood is really Dickens* 
second novel. It stands with A Tale of Two Cities in 


a class apart, and it is the superior of its predecessor. 
A Tale of Two Cities is a good historical story, Edwin 
Drood is a supreme detective story. Ite mystery is 
so mysterious that it has not been discovered to this 
day. Dickens was ill when he began it ; he died before 
it was half finished. Its craftmanship is finer than 
that of any of his other books. In it Dickens has 
proved that he can observe and construct and relate 
in the manner of the masters of fiction. In it he 
dreams and exaggerates, and laughs out great truths 
no longer in the manner of the Charles Dickens whom 
the world loves. Edwin Drood is a sad book. It is 
sad because of the gloom of its atmosphere and its 
theme. It is sad because it reminds us that few men 
are ever themselves allowed to write " finis " to their 
works. It is still more sad because it is a proof 
(there are many proofs) that as a man grows old, 
particularly when he is successful and prosperous, 
he grows more and more unlike himself. At twenty 
we are all individual. At fifty we are all more or 
less like each other. The world can only be really 
moved to kindness by the young, because it is only 
the young who have words and voices, and alack ! 
there are so many old folk on the earth and they are 
so sadly deaf. 

Edmn Drood is the tragedy of an opium maniac. 
The voice of Jasper is the key of the intrigue. Dickens 
remained English, at least, to the end. He was 
tolerant to the excessive imbibing of beer and punch. 
He was horror-stricken by an excess that he did 


not understand. I do not suggest that Jasper is 
impossible or even unfairly exaggerated. But if 
Jasper is real, so are De Quincey and Francis Thomp- 
son. The English view is the right view for an 
Englishman, but like other views it is partial and 
does not see everything. 

The book, or I should say the fragment, abounds 
with well-defined characters. Landless and Jasper 
are fearful in their awful possibilities. Durdles is 
humourless, but not unrelated to the body-snatcher 
of A Tale of Two Cities. Honeythunder is another 
Dickensian onslaught on pretentious humbug, and 
Mr. Crisparkle is, of all the characters whom Dickens 
conceived and did not adorn with his matchless 
exaggeration, the most real and most appealing. 
He is sane, honest, clean, a sterling man with a 
proper disbelief in platform heroics, and a thorough 
determination not to be affected by any "moved 
and seconded and carried unanimously profession 
of faith in some ridiculous delusion or mischievous 
imposition." We are nowadays being " moved and 
seconded and carried unanimously " into all kinds 
of cruel and wild absurdities, but happily there are 
many Crisparkles left in England. 

I have not space to discuss here the suggestions as 
to how the story should have been developed and 
ended. Sir William Eobertson NicoU has recently 
devoted a whole volume to the subject. I am con- 
cerned only with what Dickens wrote and not with 
what he might have written, and I confess that the 


Drood speculations do not particularly interest me. 
He began his swan song and he was stayed in the 
middle, and there is no more to be said. 

Only this. The Dickens of Edwin Drood is not the 
Dickens of Pickwick or even of Our Mittual Friend, 
but on one page at least he laughs in the old wild and 
splendid fashion. Mrs. Sapsea's epitaph is, as Mr. 
Chesterton says, " entirely delightful and entirely 
insane," and to be delightfully insane mMst surely 
be to be magnificently sane. Mrs. Sapsea's name 
was Ethelinda — " the reverential wife of Mr. Thomas 
Sapsea, auctioneer, valuer, estate agent, &c., of this 
city, whose knowledge of the world, though some- 
what extensive, never brought him acquainted with 
a spirit more capable of looking up to him. Stranger, 
pause and ask thyself the question, Canst thou do 
likewise ? If not, with a blush retire." 

It is impossible to comment on such a piece of 
wondrous nonsense; we can only laugh and be 



" We have nothing but the highest praise for these little books, and no 
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1. The Foundations of Science . . . ByW.C.D.Whetfiam,MA.,F.R.S. 

2. Embryology— The Beginnings of Life . By Prot Gerald L«ighton, M.D. 

3. Biology By Prof. W. D. Henderson, M.A- 

4. Zoology: The Study of Animal Life .{%.r~'; ^ ^' ^acBride, M.A., 

5. BoUny: The Modem Study of Plants. ByM.'GSt«j»es,D.Sc.,Ph.D.,F.L.S. 

6. Bacteriology 

7. The Structure of the Earth 

8. Evolution .... 
10. Heredity . . . ■ 
XI. Inorgajuc Chemistry • 

12. Organic Chemistry . 

13. The Principles of Electricity 

14. Radiation .... 

15. The Science of the Stars 

16. The Science of Light 

17. Weather-Science 

By W. E. Camejfie-Dickson, M.D. 

By Prof. T. G. Bonney, F.R.S. 

By E. S. Goodrich, M.A., F.R.S. 

By J. A. S. Watson, B.Sc 

By Pro£ E. C C Baly, F,R.S. 

By Prof. J. B. Cohen, B.Sc, F.R.S. 

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By P. Phillips, D.Sc 

By E, W. Maunder, F.R.AS. 

By P. Phillips, D.Sc. 

By R. G. K. Lcmpfert, M.A 

18. Hypnotism and Self-Education . . By A M. Hutchison, M.D 

19. The Baby: A Mother's Bookby a Mother By a University W^oman. 

20. Youth and Sex— Dangers and Safe- \ By Mary Scharlieb, M.D., M.S.,* 

guards for Bovs and Girls . . ./ F. Arthor Sibly, M.A, LLD. 

21. Marriage and Motherhood— A Wife's \ By H. S. Davidson, M.B., 

Han&ook / F.R.C.S.E. 

22. Lord Kelvin By A Russell, D.Sc, M.I. E.E. 

23. Huxley ....... By Prof. G. Leighton, M.D. 

24. Sir William Hnggims and Spectrin- 1 By E. W. Maunder, F.R. AS., of the 

scopic Astronomy j Rojral Observatory, Greenwich. 

35. Emanuel Swedenborg . . . . By L. B. De Beaumont, D.Sc 

36. Henr^^Bergson : The Philosophy of J gy jj ^j^^^, C^ 

27. Psychology' .**.!*. i i By H. J.Wati,M.A,Ph.D.,D.PhiL 

28. Ethics By Canon Rashdall, D.Litt.. F.B.A 

29. Kant's Philosophy By A D. Lindsay, M.A., Oxford. 

30. Christianity and Christian Science . By M. C. Stnrge. 
33. Roman CaUiolicism By H. B. Cozon. 

33. The Oxford Movement .... By Wilfrid Ward. 

•n,- n;Ki- ««^ r-.-Sf :«•««, I^J ^- "• Bennett, M.A., D.D. 

34. The Bible and Critiasm . . . -j iittD.,&W.F.Adeney,M.A,DJX 

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37. Bismarck and Origin of German Empire By Prof. F. M. Powicke. 

38. Oliver Cromwell By Hilda Johnstone, M.A. 

39. Mary Queen of Scots . . . By E. aNeill, M.A 
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ii. JuHus^Caesar : Soldier. Statesman, Em- 1 gy jjj^^ Hardinge. 

42. En^gWdinUieMak/ng ! ! \ ;|By^Prof. F.J.C. Hcanuhaw, M.A.. 

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44. The Monarchy and the People . . By W. T. Waug h, M.A 

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46. Empire and Democracy . • . . By G. S. Veitcb, M.A., Litt.D. 

47. Women's Suffrage By M. G. Fawcett, LL.D. 

48. A History of Greece .... By E. Feareoiide, B.A. 

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52. Wordsworth By Rosaline Maesoo. 

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54. Francis Bacon By Prof. A R. Skemp, MJL 

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S7> Dante . • • • • • • •ByA.G. Ferrers HowcU. 

THE PEOPLE'S BOOKS— (c<.»/.««.<r;. 

58. Charles Dickens 

60. A Dictionary of Synonyms 

61. Home Rule 
6a. Practical Astrooomy , 

63. Aviation . 

64. Navisration 

65. Pond Life . 

66. Dietetics . 

67. Aristotle . 

68. Friedrich Nietzsche .... 

69. Eucken : Philosophy of Life . 

70. Experimental Psychology of Beauty . 

71. The Problem of Truth .... 
7a. Church of England 

73. Anglo-Catholicism 

74. Hopeand Mission of the Free Churches 

75. Judaism 

76. Theosophy ...... 

78. Wellington and Waterloo ^ 

79. Mediaeval Socialism .... 

80. Syndicalism 

8«. Co-operation 

S3. Insurance as a Means of Investment . 
85. A History of English Literature . 

87. Charles Lamb 

88. Goethe 

92. Training of the Child: A Parents'' 

Manual , 

93. Tennyson ' 

94. The Nature of Mathematics 

95. Applications of Electricity for Non-' 

Technical Readers . , . 

96. Gardening 

97. Vegetable Gardening .... 

98. Atlas of the World 

loi. Luther and the Reformation 

103. Turkey and the Eastern Question , 
X04. Architecture (108 Illustrations) . . 

105. Trade Unions 

106. Everyday Law 

107. Robert Louis Stevenson • 

108. Shelley 

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sxi. Spiritualism 

X12. Kindergarten Teaching at Home . ^ 

113. Schopenhauer . . . , 
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115. Coleridge 

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118. Princmles of Logic . 

119. Foundations of Religion 

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121. Land, Industry, and Taxation 

122. Canada 

123. Tolstoy . ... 

124. Greek Literature . 

125. The Navy of To-day 

128. A French Self-Tutor . 

129. Germany 

130. Treitschke . . . • 

131. The Hohenzollems. • • 

132. Belgium . . . • • 
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By Sidney Dark- 

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