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Äèïëîì Charles Dickens life. Charles Dickens works written in Christmas story genre. Review about his creativity. The differential features between Dickens and Irvings Christmas stories. Critical views to the stories Somebodys Luggage and Mrs. Lirripers.
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Chapter I - Charles Dickens life and career and the role of Christmas stories in his creativity
1) Beginning of literary career of Charles Dickens
2) Charles Dickens' works written in Christmas story genre
3) Final creative works and changes in Charles Dickens personality
4) Review about his creativity
Chapter II - The ideological theme of Christmas stories of Charles Dickens
1) The essence of Christmas stories and characterization of the main heroes
2) The differential features between Dickens' and Irving's Christmas stories
3) Critical views to the stories Somebody's Luggage and Mrs. Lirriper's Lodgings”
Charles Dickens generally regarded as the greatest English novelist; he enjoyed a wider popularity than any previous author had done during his lifetime. Much in his work could appeal to simple and sophisticated, to the poor and the Queen, and technological developments as well as the qualities of his enabled his fame to spread worldwide very quickly. His long career fluctuations in the reception and sales of individual novels, but none of them was negligible or uncharacteristic or disregarded, and though he is now admired for aspects and phases of his work that were given less weight by his contemporaries, his popularity has never ceased and his present critical standing is higher than ever before. The most abundantly comic of English authors, he was much more than a great entertainer. The range, compassion, and intelligence of his apprehension of his society and its shortcomings enriched his novels and made him both one of the great forces in XIX century literature and an influential spokesman of the conscience of his age.
Dickens was being compared to Shakespeare, for imaginative range and energy, while he was still in his twenties. He and Shakespeare are the two unique popular classics that England has given to the world, and they are alike in being remembered not for one masterpiece (as is the case with Dante, Cervantes, or John Milton) but for a creative world, a plurality of works populated by a great variety of figures, in situations ranging from the somber to the farcical. For the common reader, both Shakespeare and Dickens survive through their characterization, though they offer much else. Dickens enjoys one temporary advantage in having lived when he did and thus being able to write of an urban industrial world, in which the notions of representative government and social responsibility were current - a world containing many of the problems and hopes that persist a century after his death and far beyond the land of his birth. À.À. Àíèêñò Äèêêåíñ ×àðëüç. Ò 1. Ìîñêâà, 1957. ñòð. 7-12
No one thinks first of Mr. Dickens as a writer. He is at once, through his books a friend. He belongs among the intimates of every pleasant tempered and large-hearted person. He is not so much the guest as the inmate of our homes. He keeps holidays with us, he helps us to celebrate the Christmas with heartier cheer, he shares at every New Year in our good wishes: for, indeed it is not purely literary character that he has done most for us, it is a man with large humanity, who has simply used literature as the means by which to bring himself into relation with his follow-men, and to inspire them with something on his own sweetness, kindness, charity, and good-will. He is great magician of our time. His wand is a book, but his power is in his own heart. It is a rare piece of good fortune for us that we are the contemporaries of this benevolent genius… These are the words not of a book-loving Miss Cosyhearts, but of a great American scholar Charles Eliot Norton, respected friend of artists and writers of both sides of the Atlantic: and this specially “friend feelings” were, of course, woke by Dickens's character as well as by his whole artistic and public personality. “all his characters are my personal friends”-and, again this is not quoted from a bookman of the “Essays of Elia” school, but from Tolstoy, who continued: “I am constantly comparing them with living person, and living persons with them, and what a spirit there was in all he wrote”. Dickens was not deceiving himself nor exaggerating, though he may have been sipping at a sweet that contained some person for him, when he spoke of “that particular relation which subsists between me and the public”.
R.H Horne was able to report, in 1844, that his works were as popular in Germany as in Britain, were available in French, Italian, and Dutch and “some of his works are translated into Russian”. Horne's information was correct: and, as Professor Henry Gifford has remarked: “no foreign writer of that time (or since) ever because thoroughly domiciled in the Russian imagination”. When Dickens as the rich and the articulate present their homage, but also he was international. It is remarkable feature of English literature that it has given the world, in Shakespeare and Dickens, the two popular classic author, with whom even the greatest of writers, ancient and modern - , Sophocles, Dante, Molier, Goethe, the greatest novelists of France, Russian, and America - are tastes outside, or even inside, their own countries. This of course does not prove, that Dickens is necessarily a greater novelist that Balzac, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, or George Eliot: only to recognize that Dickens's qualities are more readily and widely relished, and have better survived translation into other languages and presentations to other cultures.
Charles Dickens' pen-name was “Boz”. During his lifetime, Dickens was viewed as a popular entertainer of fecund imagination, while later critics championed his mastery of prose, his endless invention of memorable characters and his powerful social sensibilities. The popularity of his novels and short stories during his lifetime and to the present is demonstrated by the fact that none has ever gone out of print. Dickens played a major role in popularizing the serialized novel. Dickens' works are characterized by an attack on social evils, injustice and hypocrisy. He had also experienced in his youth oppression, when he was forced to end school in early teens and work in a factory. Dickens' lively good, bad and comic characters such as cruel miser Scrooge, the aspiring novelist David Copperfield, trusting and innocent Mr. Pickwick have fascinated generations of readers. Dickens's novels combine brutality with fairy-tale fantasy; sharp, realistic, concrete detail with romance, farce, and melodrama; the ordinary with the strange. They range through the comic, tender, dramatic, sentimental, grotesque, melodramatic, horrible, eccentric, mysterious, violent, romantic, and morally earnest. Though Dickens was aware of what his readers wanted and was determined to make as much money as he could with his writing, he believed novels had a moral purpose-to arouse innate moral sentiments and to encourage virtuous behavior in readers. It was his moral purpose that led the London Times to call Dickens "the greatest instructor of the Nineteenth Century" in his obituary. Philip Collins - A Dickens Bibliography, 1970, offprinted from George Watson, New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature, 1969, vol.3, pp. 779-182
During his lifetime, Charles Dickens was the most famous writer in Europe and America. When he visited America to give a series of lectures, his admirers followed him, waited outside his hotel, peered in windows at him, and harassed him in railway cars. In their enthusiasm, Dickens's admirers behaved very much like the fans of a superstar today.
A direct influence of the English novelist is also manifest in the writings of Russian authors of the time. His influence is most definitely felt in Dostoyevsky's stories of the late fifties (“The Village of Stepanchikovo” and “Uncle's Dream”) and the novel “The Abused and The Humiliated”.
The end of the XIX century and the beginning of the XX was a period, in the course of which various collections of Dickens' works (with a number of so-called “complete”) and several books on Dickens were published; a large number of children's and popular editions of Dickens' also appeared at that time.
The post-October epoch constitutes an exceptional page in the history of Dickens on Russia. The circulation of his works had never been so high; they had never been staged on such a large scale by our theatres as after the revolution. A fundamental thirty-volume edition Dickens' works is now being completed.
The way to a better critical evolution of Dickens' works a swell as to their genuine re-creation in Russian language has been neither straight nor smooth. Criticism had to live through a period a period of “vulgar sociologizing”, the theory and practice of translation had to overcome a vain striving at an “exact” translation of Dickens, i. e. a translation containing a scrupulous counterpart of every formal detail of the original. In addition to translations marked by pure formalism and literalism there exist nowadays a number of brilliant first-rate translations of Dickens.
Some important aspects of the way Dickens' art was understood and received in Russia are elucidated in a series of articles, which form a special Appendix to the book. The majority of these treat problems, which have hardly if ever been approached by specialists in Dickensian studies. A considerable number of these articles are founded on archive data. They deal with such topics as the translators of Dickens, the earliest responses of the Russian press to the first publication of a novel by Dickens, they provide descriptions of unpublished stage versions of his works; contain an essay of the impact Dickens' art had on Russian poetry etc.
Both the contents of the Bibliographical index and the articles of the Appendix testify to outstanding importance of the artistic heritage of the great English novelist for the past and present of Russian and also world culture. Ìàäçèãîí Ì.Â. - Ðåàëèçì ðàííåãî òâîð÷åñòâà ×àðëüçà Äèêêåíñà, Òáèëèñè, 1962. ñòð. 24-37
Charles Dickens' life and career and the role of Christmas stories in his
§1. Beginning of literary career of Charles Dickens.
Charles John Huffam Dickens was born February 7, 1812, in Portsmouth, Hampshire, but left it in infancy. His happiest childhood years were spent in Chatham (1817-1822), and area to which he often reverts in his fiction. From 1822 he lived in London, until in 1860, he moved permanently to a country house, Gad`s Hill, near Chatham. His origins were middle class, if of a newfound and precarious respectability; one grandfather was a domestic servant, and the other an embezzler. His father the clerk in the navy pay office was well paid but his extravagance and ineptitude often brought the family to financial embarrassment or disaster. (Some of his failings and his ebullience are dramatized in Mr. Micawber in the partly autobiographical David Copperfield). In 1824, the family reached bottom. Charles, the eldest son, had been withdrawn from school and was now set to manual work in a factory, and his father went to prison to dept. These shocks deeply affected Charles. Though abhorring this brief descends into the working class, he began to gain that sympathetic knowledge of their life and privations that informed his writings. Also, the image of the prison and of the lost, oppressed, or bewildered child recurs in many novels. Much else in his character and art stems from his period, including, as the XX century novelist Angus Wilson has argued, his later difficulty, as men and author in understanding women: this may be traced to his bitter resentment against his mother, who had, he felt, failed disastrously at this time to appreciate his sufferings. She had wanted him to stay at work when his father's release from prison and an improvement in the family's fortunes made the boy's return to school possible. Happily the father's view prevailed. His schooling, interrupted and unimpressive, ended at 15. He became a clerk in a solicitor's office, then a short-hand reporter in the law courts (thus gaining a knowledge of the legal world often used in the novels), and finally, like other members of his family, a parliamentary and newspaper reporter. These years left him with a lasting affection for journalism and contempt both for the law and for Parliament. His coming to manhood in the reformist 1830s, and particularly his working on the Liberal Benthamite Morning Chronicle (1834-36), greatly affected his political outlook. Another influential event now was his rejection as suitor to Maria Beadnell because his family and prospects were unsatisfactory; his hopes of gaining and chagrin at losing her sharpened his determination to succeed. His feelings about Maria then and at her later brief and disillusioning reentry into his life are reflected in David Copperfield Adoration of Dora Spenlow and the middle-aged Arthur Clennam`s discovery (in Little Dorrit) that Flora Finching, who had seemed enchanting years ago, was “diffuse and silly,” that Flora “whom he had left a lily, had become a peony.” George R. Gissing - Charles Dickens/ A Critical Study, London, 1947, reissued 1976. pp. 105-116
Much drawn to the theatre, Dickens nearly became a professional actor in 1832. In 1833 he began contributing stories and descriptive essays to magazines and newspapers; this attracted attention and were reprinted as Sketches by “Boz” (February 1836). The same month, he was invited to provide a comic serial narrative to accompany engravings by a well-known artist; seven weeks later the first installment of Pickwick Papers appeared. Within a few months Pickwick was the rage and Dickens the most popular author of the day. The Pickwick Papers was Dickens's first novel and, although published in the first year of Queen Victoria's reign, it is widely regarded as the most famous of all pre-Victorian novels. It was originally serialized in monthly numbers from April, 1836 to November, 1837, when Dickens was only twenty-five years old. On the threshold of marriage to Catherine Hogarth, Dickens was obviously pleased with commission to write the Pickwick Papers, and wrote to his fiancee that `the emolument is too tempting to resist'. We owe a great dept to Providence, as the first two choices as writers either failed to reply or refused the commission. Chesterton was of the opinion that The Pickwick Papers was Dickens's greatest novel in the literary genre at which he excelled. During 1836 he also wrote two plays and a pamphlet on a topical issue (how the poor should be allowed to enjoy the Sabbath) and, resigning from his newspaper job, undertook to edit a monthly magazine, Bentley's Miscellany, in which he serialized Oliver Twist (1837-39). This is one of the most celebrative novels following the publication of Pickwick Papers. It contains many of the classical themes of his best writing such as the plight of orphans in Victorian England; the grinding poverty of that period endured by so many people, and the working of the New Poor Law; and the sow triumph of good nature and strong character over would-be suborners, the lure of temptation, organized persecution and the ravages of the fear, desperation and menace. The literary pedigree of Oliver Twist goes back in direct line to the Gothic novel and the picaresque novels of the eighteens century, most notably those of Smollett and Fielding, which are known to have been among the Dickens's favorite reading. The novel contains some of Dickens's most famous characters, many of which have entered the language as exemplars of certain types, most notably: the exploited child - Oliver Twist, himself - who dared to ask for more; the tyrant Bumble, the parish beadle; the diabolic gang leader Fagin, and others. The first complete edition of Oliver Twist, or, the Parish Boys Progress appeared in three volumes in 1838, being published by Richard Bentley of New Burlington Street, London, with whom Dickens was often dispute. For several years his life continued at this intensity. Finding serialization congenial and profitable, he repeated the Pickwick pattern of 20 monthly parts in Nicholas Nickleby (1838-39). Comedy had predominated in Pickwick Papers, tragedy in Oliver Twist. The more complete fusion of the two was effected in Nicholas Nickleby. The two heroes are Ralph Nickleby and his nephew Nicholas. They stand forth, almost from the beginning, as antagonists in battle array the one against the other, and the story is, in the main, the history of the campaigns between them - cunning and greed being mustered on the one side, and young generous courage on the other. Then Dickens experimented with shorter weekly installments for The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-41) and Barnaby Rudge (1841). There is no hero in The Old Curiosity Shop, - unless Mr. Richard Sweveller, “perpetual grand-master of the Glorious Apollos,” be the questionable hero; the heroine is Little Nell, a child. And of all these children, the one who seems to have stood highest in popular favor, and won most hearts. George Orwell - Dickens / In Critical Essays, Boston, 1946. pp. 7-20
Exhausted at last, he then took a five-month vacation in America, touring strenuously and receiving quasi-royal honors as a literary celebrity but offending national sensibilities by protesting against the absence of copyright protection. A radical critic of British institutions, he had expected more from “the republic of my imaginations,” but he found more vulgarity and sharp practice to detest than social arrangements to admire. Some of these feelings appear in American Notes (1842) and Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-44).
His writing during these prolific years was remarkably various and, except for his plays, resourceful. Pickwick began as high-spirited farce and contained many conventional comic butts and traditional jokes; like other early works, it was manifestly indebted to the contemporary theatre, the 18th century English novelists, and a few foreign classics, notably Don Quixote. But, besides giving new life to old stereotypes, Pickwick displayed, if sometimes in embryo, many of the features that were to be blended in varying proportions throughout his fiction: attacks, satirical or denunciatory, on social evils and inadequate institutions; topical references; an encyclopedic knowledge of London (always his predominant fictional locale); pathos; a vein of the macabre; a delight in the demotic joys of Christmas; a pervasive spirit of benevolence and geniality; exhaustible powers of character creation; a wonderful speech for characteristic speech, often imaginatively heightened; a strong narrative impulse; and a prose style that, if here over dependent on a few comic mannerisms, was highly individual and inventive. Rapidly improvised and written only weeks or days ahead of its serial publication Pickwick contains weak and jejune passages and is an unsatisfactory whole - partly because Dickens was rapidly developing his craft as a novelist while writing and publishing it. What is remarkable is that a first novel, written in such circumstances, not only established him overnight and created a new tradition of popular literature but also survived, despite its crudities, as one of the best known novels in the world. John E. Butt and Kathleen Tillotson - Dickens at Work, New York, 1957, reprinted 1982. pp.203-212
His self-assurance and artistic ambitiousness had appeared in Oliver Twist, where he rejected the temptation to repeat the successful Pickwick formula. Thus containing much comedy still Oliver Twist is more centrally concerned social and moral evil (the workhouse and the criminal world); it culminates in Bill Sikes's murdering Nancy and Fagin's last night in the condemned cell at Newgate. The latter episode was memorably depicted in George Cruikshank's engraving; the imaginative potency of Dickens' characters and settings owes much, indeed, to his original illustrators (Cruikshank for Sketches by “Boz” and Oliver Twist, “Phiz” [Hablot K. Browne] for most of the other novels until 1860s). The currency of his fiction owed much, too, to its being so easy to adapt into effective stage versions. Sometimes 20 London theatres simultaneously were producing adaptations of his latest story; so even nonreaders became acquainted with simplified versions of his works. The theatre was often a subject of his fiction, too, as in the Crummles troupe in Nicholas Nickleby. This novel reverted to the Pickwick shape and atmosphere, though the indictment of the brutal Yorkshire schools (Dotheboys Hall) continued the important innovation in English fiction seen in Oliver Twist - spectacle of the lost or oppressed child as an occasion for pathos or social criticism. This was amplified in The Old Curiosity Shop, where the death of Little Nell was found overwhelming powerful at the time, though a few decades later it became a byword for “Victorian sentimentality.” In Barnaby Rudge he attempted another genre, the historical novel. Like his later attempt in this kind, A Tale of Two Cities, it was set in the late 18th century and presented with great vigor and understanding (and some ambivalence of attitude) the spectacle of large scale mob violence. George H. Ford - Dickens and His Readers, London, 1955, reprinted 1974. pp.46-48
To create an artistic unity out of the wide range of moods and materials included in every novel, with often several complicated plots involving scores of characters, was made even more difficult by Dickens writing and publishing them serially. In Martin Chuzzlewit he tried “to resist the temptation of the current Monthly Number and to keep a steadier eye upon the general purpose and design” (1844 Preface). Its American episodes had, however, been unpremeditated (he suddenly decided to boost the disappointing sales by some American - baiting and to revenge himself against insults and injures from the American press). A concentration on “the general purpose and design” was more effective in the next novel, Dombey and Son (1846-48), though the experience of writing the shorter, and unserialized, Christmas Books had helped him obtains greater coherence. Fred Kaplan - A Biography, London, 1988. pp.138
§ 2. Charles Dickens' works written in Christmas story genre.
A Christmas Carol (1843), suddenly conceived and written in a few weeks was the first of these Christmas Books (a new literary genre thus created incidentally). It was published on 19 December 1843, that has preserved the Christmas customs of old England and fixed our image of the holiday season as one of wind, ice and snow without, and smoking bishop, piping hot turkey, and family cheer within. Coming from a family large but not-too-well-off, Charles Dickens presents again and again his idealized memory of a Christmas associated with the gathering of the family which “bound together all our home enjoyments, affection and hopes” in games such as Snap Dragon and Blind Man's Buff, both of which his model lower-middle-class father, Bob Cratchit, runs home to play on Christmas Eve. Tossed off while he was amply engaged in writing Chuzzlewit, it was an extraordinary achievement - the one great Christmas myth of modern literature. His view of life was later to be described or dismissed as “Christmas philosophy” as the basis of a projected work. His “philosophy,” never very elaborated, involved more than wanting the Christmas spirit to prevail throughout the year, but his great attachment to Christmas (in his family life as well as his writings) is indeed significant and has contributed to his popularity. “Dickens dead?” exclaimed a London costermonger's girl in 1870. “Then will Father Christmas die too?” - a tribute both to his association with Christmas and to the mythological status of the man as well as of his work. The Carol immediately entered the general consciousness; Thackeray, in a review, called it “a national benefit, and to every man and woman who reads it a personal kindness.” Further Christmas books, essays, and stories followed annually (except in 1847) through 1867. None equaled the Carol in potency, though some achieved great immediate popularity. Cumulatively they represent a celebration of Christmas attempted by no other great author. Óðíîâ Ì.Â. - Íåïîäðàæàåìûé ×àðëüç Äèêêåíñ, Ìîñêâà, 1990. ñòð.204-257
However, Dickens's founding and managing his weekly literary magazines seems to have prevented his producing further complete books exclusively for the Christmas book trade (which he in large measure helped to establish with Carol and its successor, The Chimes). Instead, he developed 'framed tales' in which he would take the lead supported in the production of various chapters by such talented writers as Wilkie Collins and Elizabeth Gaskell. These 'Christmas Stories' were composed between 1850 and 1867, but cannot be classified as falling within a single short fiction subgenre. Dickens's first contribution to an 'Extra Christmas Number' was in fact not a story at all, but a reverie, "A Christmas Tree" inspired by children gathered around that German innovation, the Christmas tree (which never appears in any of the Christmas Books), probably brought to England by Victoria's consort, Prince Albert, whom she had married in 1840. Dickens's second and third short-fiction Christmas offerings, "The Poor Relation's Story" and "The Child's Story" are his contributions to A Round of Stories by the Christmas Fire in the Christmas Number of Household Words (1852). As one reads these "framed tales" it becomes increasingly difficult to sort out which pieces Dickens contributed, especially since all pieces printed in these two journals were unsigned. In 1853, Dickens contributed "The Schoolboy's Story" and "Nobody's Story" to Another Round of Stories by the Christmas Fire in the Christmas Number for Household Words. Other Christmas Stories include The Seven Poor Travellers in the Christmas Number for Household Words (14 Dec., 1854), The Holly-tree Inn (the Christmas Number for Household Words, 15 Dec., 1855), The Wreck of the 'Golden Mary' (the Christmas Number of Household Words, 6 Dec., 1856), The Perils of Certain English Prisoners (the Christmas Number for Household Words, 1857), A House to Let (the Christmas Number for Household Words, 1858), The Haunted House (the Christmas Number for All the Year Round, 1859), A Message from the Sea (the Christmas Number for All the Year Round, 1860), Tom Tiddler's Ground (the Christmas Number for All the Year Round, 1861), Somebody's Luggage (the Christmas Number for All the Year Round, 1862), Mrs. Lirriper's Lodgings (the Christmas Number of All the Year Round, 1863), Mrs. Lirriper's Legacy (the Christmas Number of All the Year Round, 1864), Doctor Marigold's Prescriptions (the Christmas Number of All the Year Round, 1865), Mugby Junction (the Christmas Number for All the Year Round, 1866), and the Collins-dominated No Thoroughfare (the Christmas Number for All the Year Round, 1867). Philip Collins - Dickens, the Critical Heritage, New York, 1971, on his critical reception in 1836-1882. pp.68-81
Thanks to modern methods of poultry raising as much as to Dickens, that American import, the turkey, began to replace the traditional (bony and greasy) goose as the centerpiece of the Christmas board, as is evident in A Christmas Carol, but the survival of the Christmas pudding abroad owes much to Dickens' image of the Cratchits' pudding singing in the copper. The "jolly Giant, glorious to see" in the Third Stave of A Christmas Carol is the earliest English version of the German Santa Klaus, but in John Leech's coloured illustration he is garbed in green, a pagan vegetation symbol as much as modern English "Father Christmas" accompanied by such pre-Christian paraphernalia as a crown of holly, a flaming link (torch), a yule log, mistletoe, and a steaming bowl of negus (punch). Our North American Santa Claus was invented just twenty years earlier, in Clement C. Moore's A Visit from Saint Nicholas, derived not from the old Roman god Saturn (whose worship from December 17th to 24th had included decorated tree boughs) like Dickens's Ghost of Christmas Present, but from the gift-giving early Christian bishop and saint from Asia Minor. Reginald C. Churchill - Bibliography of Dickensian Criticism. London: Routledge (1836-1974-75), a selective, partly annotated bibliography. pp.98-123
One of his sons wrote that, for Dickens, Christmas was "a great time, a really jovial time, and my father was always at his best, a splendid host, bright and jolly as a boy and throwing his heart and soul into everything that was going on.... And then the dance! There was no stopping him!" Amateur magician and actor, Dickens had little Christmas shopping to worry about, and no crowded malls or crass commercialization of the family festival to jangle his finely-tuned nerves. But that time in his boyhood, when he slaved in the blacking factory while his family were in the Marshalsea Prison, weighed heavily somewhere in the back of his mind, and made occasional intrusions, such as Ignorance and Want in A Christmas Carol and the street urchin in The Haunted Man. Mr. Redlaw, a kind but melancholy man, isolated. His many professional accomplishments cannot compensate for the great betrayal of his life, when the woman he loved was wooed and wed by his best friend. One night, Redlaw is haunted by his own ghost, who agrees to strip Redlaw of his painful memories. The ghost throws in an added bonus: everyone Redlaw meets also will lose their bad memories. The “gift” causes havoc in a family of poor but loving villages, because the loss of memories of past pain robs them of the ability to emphasize. The only person unaffected by Redlaw's strange power is a street urchin. Because the boy never has known kindness, he is never developed a capacity for compassion. Redlaw begins the ghost to remove his curse, but is told that only Milly, the wife of Redlaw's servant and the embodiment of unselfish love, can cure the villagers. Milly goes visiting the villager's memory return, and harmony prevails. Redlaw's regains his own memory when he forgives the man who wronged him. Dickens is obsessed with the theme of memory, and the effect that childhood experiences have on adults. Both Scrooge and Redlaw grew up poor, but became successful after years of hard works. Their accomplishments left them vaguely unsatisfied, just as Dickens' achievements couldn't exorcise the pain of his early years. He revisited his traumatic childhood again and again in his novels. “Many people have had worse childhoods than Charles Dickens,” Epstein wrote. “Few have profited by them as much.” The Haunted Man is more psychological than the preceding novellas. The idea of the divided self is embodied by Redlaw and his ghost, and Redlaw's self-loathing when he infects others with his disease expresses a common idea among those who are depressed - that the people they love would be better off without them.
How he struck his contemporaries in these early years appears in R.H. Horne's New Spirit of the Age (1844). Dickens occupied the first and longest chapter, as …manifestly the product of his age….a genuine emanation from its aggregate and entire spirit…. His mixes were extensively in society, and continually. Few public meetings in a benevolent cause are without him. He speaks effectively…. His influence upon his age is extensive - pleasurable, instructive, healthy, reformatory…. Angus Wilson - The World of Charles Dickens, New York, 1970. pp.58-64
Mr. Dickens is private, very much what might be expected from his works… His conversation is genial… He has personal activity, and is fond of games of practical skill. He is a great walker, and a very much given to dancing Sir Roger de Coverley. In private, the general impression of him is that of a first-rate practical intellect, with “no nonsense” about him. Ackroyd Peter - Dickens, London, 1990. p.85
He was indeed very much a public figure, actively and centrally involved in his world, and a man of confident presence. He was reckoned the best after-dinner speaker of the age; other superlatives he attracted included his having been the best shorthand reporter on the London press his being the best amateur actor on the stage. Later he became one of the most successful periodical editors and the finest dramatic recitalist of the day. He was splendidly endowed with many skills. “Even irrespective of his literary genius,” wrote an obituarist, “he was an able and strong-minded man, who would have succeeded in almost any profession to which he devoted himself” (Times, June 10, 1870). Few of his extra literary skills and interests were irrelevant to the range and mode of his fiction. ?d?biyyat v? inc?s?n?t q?z. Carlz Dikkens, Baki, 1970, 10 fevral
§3 Final creative works and changes in Charles Dickens' personality.
Privately in these early years, he was both domestic and social. He loved and family life and was a proud and efficient householder; he once contemplated writing a cookbook. To his many children, he was a devoted and delightful father, at least when they were young; relations with them proved less happy during their adolescence. Apart from periods in Italy (1844-45) and Switzerland and France (1846-47), he still lived in London, moving from an apartment in Furnival's Inn to larger houses as his income and family grew. Here he entertained his many friends, most of them popular authors, journalists, actors or artists, though some came from the law and other professions or from commerce and a few from the aristocracy. Some friendships dating from his youth endured to the end, and, though, often exasperated by the financial demands of his parents and other relatives, he was very fond of some of his family and loyal to most of the rest. Some literary squabbles came later, but he was on friendly terms with most of his fellow authors, of the older generation as well as his own. Necessarily solitary while writing and during the long walks (especially through the streets at night) that became essential to his creative processes; he was generally social at other times. He enjoyed society that was unpretentious and conversation that was genial and sensible but not too intellectualized or exclusively literary. High society he generally avoided, after a few early incursions into the great houses; he hated to be lionized or patronized. Ñêóðàòîâñêàÿ Ë. - Òâîð÷åñòâî Äèêêåíñà, Ìîñêâà, 1969. ñòð.92-96
He had about him “a sort of swell and overflow as of a prodigality of life.” an American journalist said. Everyone was struck by the brilliance of his eyes and his smart, even dandyish appearance (“I have a fondness of a savage for finery,” he confessed). John Forster, his intimate friend and future biographer, recalled him at the Pickwick period:
the quickness, keenness, and a practical power, the eager, restless, energetic outlook on each several feature [of his face] seemed to tell so little of a student or a writer of books, and so much of a man of action or business in the world. Light and motion flashed from every part of it.
He was proud of his art and devoted to improving and using it to good ends (his works would show, he wrote, that “Cheap Literature is not behind-hand with the Age, but holds its place, and strives to do its duty”), but his art never engaged all his formidable energies. He had no desire to be narrowly literary. George H. Ford and L. Lane (eds.), - The Dickens Critics, London, 1961, reprinted 1976. pp. 148-158
A notable, though unsuccessful, demonstration of this was his being founder-editor in 1846 of the Daily News (soon to become the leading liberal newspaper). His journalistic origins, his political convictions and readiness to act as a leader of opinion, and his wish to secure a steady income independent of his literary creativity and of any shifts in novel readers' tastes made him attempt or plan several periodical ventures in the 1840s. The return to daily journalism soon proved a mistake - the biggest fiasco in a career that included few such misdirection and failures. A more limited but happier exercise of his practical talents began soon afterward: for more than a decade he directed, energetically and with great insight and compassion, a reformatory home for young female delinquents, financed by his wealthy friend Angela Burdett-Coutts. The benevolent spirit apparent in his writings often found practical expression in his public speeches, fund-raising activities, and private acts of charity. J. Hillis Miller - Charles Dickens: The World of His Novels, London, 1958, reissued 1969. pp. 62-69
Dombey and Son (1846-48) was a crucial novel in his development, a product of more thorough planning and maturer thought and the first in which “a pervasive uneasiness about contemporary society takes the place of an intermittent concern with specific social wrongs” (Kathleen Tillotson). Using railways prominently an effectively, it was very up-to-date, though the questions pose included such perennial moral and religious challenges as are suggested by the child Paul's first words in the story: “Papa, what is money?” Some of the corruptions of money and pride of place and limitations of “respectable” values are explored, virtue and human decency being discovered most often (as elsewhere in Dickens) among the poor, humble and simple. In Paul's early death Dickens offered another famous pathetic episode; in Mr. Dombey he made a more ambitious attempt than before at serious and internal characterization. David Copperfield (1849-50) has been described as a “holiday” from this larger social concerns and most notable for its childhood chapters, “an enchanting vein which he had never quite found before and which he was never to find again” (Edmund Wilson). Largely for his reason and its autobiographical interest, it has always been among his popular novels and was Dickens' own “favorite child.” It incorporates material from the autobiography he had recently begun but soon abandoned and is written in the first person, a new technique for him. David differs from his creator in many ways, however, though Dickens uses many early experiences that had meant much to him - his period of work in the factory while his father was jailed, his schooling and reading, his passion for Maria Beadnell, and (more cursorily) his emergence from parliamentary reporting into successful novel writing. In Micawber the novel presents one of the “Dickens' characters” whose imaginative potency extends far beyond the narratives in which they figure; Pickwick and Sam Weller, Mrs. Gamp and Mr. Pecksniff, and Scrooge are some others.
Dickens' journalistic ambitions at last found a permanent form in Household Words (1850-59) and its successor, All the Year Round (1859-88). Popular weekly miscellanies of fiction, poetry, and essays on a wide range of topics, these had substantial and increasing circulations, reaching 300,000 for some of the Christmas Numbers. Dickens contributed some serials - the lamentable Child's History of England (1851-53), Hard Times (1854), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), and Great Expectations (1860-61) - the essays, some of which were collected in Reprinted Pieces (1858) and The Uncommercial Traveller (1861, later amplified). Particularly in 1850-52 and during the Crimean War, he contributed many items on current political and social affairs; in later years he wrote less - much less on politics - and the magazine was less political, too. The Uncommercial Traveller is a collection of Dickens' memories rather than of his literary purposes; but it is due to him to say that memory is often more startling in him that prophecy in anybody else. They have the character which belongs to all his vivid incidental writing: that they attack themselves always to some text which is a fact rather than an idea. He was one of those sons of Eve who are fonder of the Tree of Life than of the Tree of Knowledge - even of the knowledge of good and of evil. He was in this profoundest sense a realist. Critics have talked of an artist with his eye on the object. Dickens as an essayist always had his eye on an object before he had the faintest notion of a subject. All these works of his can best be considered as letters; they are notes of personal travel, scribbles in a diary about this or that that really happened. But Dickens was one of the few men who have the two talents that are the whole of literature - and have them both together. First, he could make a thing happen over again; and second he could make it happen better. He can be called exaggerative; but mere exaggeration conveys nothing of his typical talent. Mere whirlwinds of words, mere melodramas of earth and heaven do not affect us as Dickens affects us, because they are exaggerations of nothing. If asked for an exaggeration of something, their inventors would be entirely dumb. They would not know how to exaggerate a broom-stick. He always began with a fact even when he was most fanciful; and even when he drew the long bow he was careful to hit the white. Other distinguished novelists contributed serials, including Mrs. Gaskell, Wilkie Collins, Charles Reade, and Bulwer Lytton. The poetry was uniformly feeble; Dickens was imperceptive here. The reportage, often solidly based, was bright (sometimes painfully so) in manner. His conduct of these weeklies shows his many skills as editor and journalist but also some limitations in his tastes and intellectual ambitions. The contents are revealing in relation to his novels: he took responsibility for all the opinions expressed (for articles were anonymous) and selected and amended contributions accordingly; thus comments on topical events and so on may generally be taken as representing his opinions, whether or not he wrote them. No English author of comparable status has devoted twenty years of his maturity to such unremitting editorial work, and the weeklies' success been due not only to his illustrious name but also to his practical sagacity and sustained industry. Even in his creative work, as his eldest son said,
no city clerk was ever more methodical or orderly than he; no humdrum, monotonous, conventional task could ever have been discharged with more punctuality, or with more businesslike regularity. Stephen Wall (ed.) - Charles Dickens: A Critical Anthology, London, 1970. pp. 70-92
The novels of these years, Bleak House (1852-53), Hard Times (1854), and Little Dorrit (1855-57), were much “darker” than their predecessors. Presenting a remarkably inclusive and increasingly somber picture of contemporary society, they were inevitably often seen at the time as fictionalized propaganda about ephemeral issues. They are much more than this, though it is never easy to state how Dickens' imagination transforms their many topicalities into an artistically coherent vision that transcends their immediate historical context. Similar question are raised by his often basic fictional characters, places and institutions on actual originals. He once spoke of his mind's taking “a fanciful photograph” of a scene, and there is a continual interplay between photographic realism and “fancy” (or imagination). “He describes London like a special correspondent for posterity” (Walter Bagehot, 1858) and posterity has certainly found in his fiction the response of an acute, knowledgeable, and concerned observer to the social and political developments of the “moving age.” In the novels of the 1850s, he is politically more despondent emotionally more tragic. The satire is harsher, the humor less genial and abundant, the “happy-endings” more subdued than in early fiction. Technically, the later novels are more coherent, plots being more fully related to themes, and themes being often expressed through a more insistent sue of imagery and symbols (grim symbols, too, such as the fog in Bleak House or the prison Little Dorrit). His art here is more akin to poetry than to what is suggested by the photographic or journalistic comparisons. “Dickensian” characterization continued in the sharply defined and simplified grotesque and comic figures, such as Chadband in Bleak House or Mrs. Sparsit in Hard Times but large-scale figures of this tyle are less frequent (the Gamps and Micawbers belong to the first half of his career). Characterization also has become more subordinate to “the general purpose and design” moreover Dickens is presenting characters of greater complexity provoke more complex responses in the reader (William Dorrit for instance). Even the juvenile leads had usually been thinly conceived conventional figures, are not often more complicated in their make-up and less easily rewarded by good fortune. With his secular hopes diminishing, Dickens becomes more concerned with “the great final secret of all life” - a phrase from Little Dorrit, where the spiritual dimension of his work is most overt. Critics disagree as to how far so worldly a novelist succeeds artistically in enlarging his view to include the religious. These novels, too, being manifestly an ambitious attempt to explore the prospects of humanity at this time raise questions, still much debated, about the intelligence and profundity of his understanding of society.
Dickens' spirits and confidence in the future had indeed declined. 1855 was “a year of much unsettled discontent for him,” his friend Forster recalled, partly for political reasons (or, as Forster hints, his political indignation was exacerbated by a “discontent” that had original purposes). The Crimean War, besides exposing governmental inefficiency, was distracting attention from the “poverty, hunger, and ignorant desperation” at home. In Little Dorrit, “I have been blowing off a little of indignant steam which would otherwise bow me up…,” he wrote, “but I have no present political faith or hope - not a grain.” Not only were the present government and Parliament contemptible but “representative government is become altogether a failure with us …the whole thing has broken down…and has no hope in it.” Nor had he a coherent alternative to suggest. This desperation coincided with an acute state of personal unhappiness. The brief tragicomedy of Maria Beadnell's reentry into his life, in 1855, finally destroyed one nostalgic illusion and also betrayed a perilous emotional immaturity and hunger. He how openly identified himself with some of the sorrows dramatized in the adult David Copperfield:
Why is it, as with poor David, a sense come always crushing on me, now, when I fall into low spirits, as of one happiness I have missed in life and one friend and companion I have never made? Óèëñîí Ýíãóñ - Ìèð ×àðëüçà Äèêêåíñà, Ìîñêâà, 1975. ñòð.48-52
This comes from the correspondence with Forster in 1854-55, which contains the first admissions of his marital unhappiness; by 1856 he is writing, “I find a skeleton in my domestic closet is becoming a pretty big one”; by 1857-58, as Forster remarks, an “unsettled feeling” had become almost habitual with him, “and the satisfactions which home should have supplied, and which indeed were essential requirements of his nature, he had failed to find in his home.” From May 1858, Catherine Dickens lived apart from him. A painful scandal arose, and Dickens did not act at this time with tact, patience, or consideration. The affair disrupted some of his friendships and narrowed his social circle, but surprisingly it seems not to have damaged his popularity with the public.
Catherine Dickens maintained a dignified silence, and most of Dickens' family and friends, including his official biographer, Forster, were discreetly reticent about the separation. Not until 1939 did one of his children (Kate) speaking posthumously through conversations recorded by a friend, offer a candid inside account, it was discreditable to him, and his self-justifying letters must be viewed with caution. He there dated the unhappiness of his marriage back to 1838, attributed to his wife various “peculiarities” of temperament (including her sometimes laboring under “a mental disorder”), emphatically agreed with her statement that “she felt herself unfit for the life she had to lead as my wife, “ and maintained that she never cared for the children nor they for her. In more temperate letters, where he acknowledged her “amiable and complying” qualities, he simply and more acceptably asserted that their temperaments were utterly incomparable. She was, apparently, pleasant but rather limited such faults as she had were rather negative than positive. Though family traditions from a household that knew the Dickenses well speaks of her as “a whiney woman” and a shaving little understanding of, or patience with, the artistic temperament
Dickens' self-justifying letters lack candor in omitting to mention Ellen Ternan, an actress 27 years his junior his passion for whom had precipitated the separation. Two months earlier he had written more frankly to an intimate friend:
The domestic unhappiness remains so strong upon me that I can not write, and (waking) cannot rest, one minute. I have never known a moment's peace or content, since the last night of The Frozen Deep.
The Frozen Deep was a play in which he and Nelly (as Ellen was called) had performed together in August 1857. She was an intelligent girl, of an old theatrical family reports speak of her as having “a pretty face and well-developed figure” - or “passably pretty not much of an actress.” She left the stage in 1860; after Dickens' death she married a clergyman and helped him run a school. The affair was hushed up until the 1930s, and evidence about it remains scanty, but every addition confirms that Dickens was deeply attached to her and that their relationship lasted until his death. It seems likely that she became his mistress, though probably not until the 1860s; assertions that a child, or children, resulted remain unproved. Similarly, suggestions that the anguish experienced by some of the lovers in the later novels may reflect Dickens' own feelings remain speculative. It is tempting indeed, to associate Nelly with some of their heroines (who are more spirited and complex, less of the “legless angel,” than most of their predecessors), especially as her given names, Ellen Lawless, seemed to be echoed by those of heroines in the three novels - Estella, Bella and Helena Landless - but nothing definite is known about how she responded to Dickens, what she felt for him at the time, or how close any of these later love stories were to aspects or phrases of their relationship. G.K. Chesterton - Charles Dickens, London, 1903, reprinted 1977. pp. 114-127
“There is nothing very remarkable in the story,” commended one early transmitter of it, and this seems just. Many middle-aged men feel an itch to renew their emotional lives with a pretty young girl, even if, unlike Dickens, they cannot plead indulgence for “the wayward and unsettled feeling which is part of the tenure on which one holds an imaginative life.” But the eventual disclosure of this episode caused surprise, shock or piquant satisfaction, being related of a man whose rebelliousness against his society had seemed to take only impeccably reformist shapes. A critic in 1851, listing the reasons for his unique popularity, had cited “above all, his deep reverence for the household sanctities, his enthusiastic worship of the household gods.” After these disclosures he was, disconcertingly or intriguingly a more complex man; and, partly as a consequence, Dickens the novelist also began to be seen as more complex, less conventional, than had been realized. The stimulus was important, though Nelly's significance, biographically and critically, has proved far from inexhaustible.
In the longer term, Kathleen Tillotson's remark is more suggestive: “his life-long love affair with his reading public, when all is said, is by far the most interesting love-affair of his life.” This took a new form, about the time of Dickens' separation from his wife, in his giving public readings from his works, and it is significant that, when trying to justify their enterprise as certain to succeed, he referred to “that particular relation which subsists between me and public.” The remark suggests how much Dickens valued the public affection, not only as a stimulus to his creativity and a condition for his commercial success but also as a substitute for the love he could not find at home. He had been toying with the idea of turning paid reader since 1853, when he began giving occasional readings in aid of charity. The paid series began in April 1858, the immediate impulse being to find some energetic distraction from his marital unhappiness. But the readings drew on more permanent elements in him and his art: his remarkable histrionic talents, his love of theatricals and of seeing and delighting an audience, and the eminently performable nature of his fiction. Moreover, he could earn more by reading than by writing, and more certainly; it was easier to force him to repeat a performance than create a book.
Tired and ailing though he was, he remained inventive and adventurous in his final novels. A Tale of Two Cities (1859) was an experiment, relying less than before on characterization, dialogue and humour. It was well for him, at any rate, that the people raised in France. It was well for him, at any rate, that the guillotine was set up in the Place de la Concorde. Unconsciously, but not accidentally, Dickens was here working out the whole true comparison between swift revolutionism in Paris and slow evolutionism in London. Sidney Carton is one of those sublime ascetics whose head offends them, and who cut it off. For him at least it was better that the blood should flow in Paris than that the wine should flow any longer in London. And if I say that even now the guillotine might be the best cure for many a London lawyer. An exciting and compact narrative, it lacks too many of his strength to count among his major works. Sydney Carton's self-sacrifice was found deeply moving by Dickens and by many readers; Dr. Manette now seems a more impressive achievement in serious characterizations. The French Revolution scenes are vivid, if superficial in historical understanding. Great Expectations resembles Copperfield in being a first person narration and in drawing on parts of Dickens' personality and experience. Compact like its predecessors, it lacks the panoramic inclusiveness of Bleak House, Little Dorrit, and Our Mutual Friend, but though not his most ambitious, it is his most finely achieved novel. The hero Pip's mind is explored with great subtlety, and his development through a childhood and youth beset with hard tests of character is traced critically but sympathetically. Various “great expectations” in the book found ill founded - a comment as much on the values of the age as on characters' weaknesses and misfortune. Our Mutual Friend, a large inclusive novel, continues this critique monetary and class values. London is now grimmer than ever before, and the corruption, complacency, and superficiality of “respectable” society are fiercely attacked. Many new elements are introduced into Dickens' fictional world, but his handling of the old comic - eccentrics are sometimes tiresomely mechanical. How the unfinished Edwin Drood would have developed is uncertain. Here again Dickens left panoramic fiction to concentrate on a limited private action. The central figure was evidently to be John Jasper, eminent respectability as a cathedral organist was in extreme contrast to his haunting low opium dens and, out of violent sexual jealousy, murdering his nephew. It would have been his most elaborate treatment of the themes of crime, evil, and psychological abnormality that had recurred throughout his novels; a great celebrator of life, he was also obsessed with death.
How greatly Dickens personally had changed appears in remarks by friends who met him again, after many years, during the American reading tour in 1867-68. “I sometimes think…,” wrote one, “I must have known two individuals bearing the same name, at various periods of my own life.” But just as the fiction, despite many developments still contained stylistic and narrative features continuous with the earliest work, so, too, the man remained a “human hurricane” though he had aged considerably, his health had deteriorated, and his nerves had been jungled by traveling ever since his being in a railway accident in 1865. Other Americans noted that, though grizzled, he was “as quick and elastic in his movements as ever.” His photographs, wrote journalist after one of the readings, “give no idea of his genial expression. To us he appears like hearty, companionable man, with a deal of fun in him,” but that very day Dickens was writing, “I am nearly used up,” and listing the afflictions now “telling heavily upon me.” His pride and the old-trouper tradition made him conceal his sufferings. And, if sometimes by an effort of will, his old high spirits were often on display. His fame remained undiminished, though critical opinion was increasingly hostile to him. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, noting the immense enthusiasm for him during the American tour, remarked: “One can hardly take in the whole truth about it, and feel the universality of his fame.” But in many respects he was “a sad man” in these later years. He never was tranquil and relaxed. Various old friends were now estranged or dead or for other reason less available; he was now leading a less social life and spending more time with young friends of a caliber inferior to his former circle. His sons were caused much worry and disappointment, “all his fame goes for nothing,” said a friend, “Since he has not the one thing. He is very unhappy in his children.” His wife was not all dreary, however. He loved his country house, Gad's Hill, and he could still “warm the social atmosphere wherever he appeared with that summer glow which seemed to attend him.” T.A. Trollope, who wrote that, despaired of giving people who had not met him any idea of
The general charm of his manner….His laugh was brimful of enjoyment….His enthusiasm was boundless….He was a hearty man, a large-hearted man….a strikingly manly man.
Only a week before his death he was at the theatre,
In high spirits, brim-full of joie-de-vivre. His talk had all the sparkle of champagne, and he himself kept laughing at the majesty of his own absurdities, as one droll thought followed another….at times still so young and almost boyish in his gaiety. (Lord Redesdale, Memories, 1915)
His health remained precarious after the punishing American tour and was further impaired by his addiction to giving the strenuous “Sikes and Nancy” reading. His farewell readings tour was abandoned when, in April 1869, he collapsed. He began writing another novel and gave a short farewell season of readings in London, ending with the famous speech, “From these garish lights I vanish now for evermore…” - words repeated, less than three months later, on his funeral card. He died suddenly at Gad's Hill on June 9, 1870, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. People all over the world mourned the loss of “a friend” as well as a great entertainer and creative artist and one of the acknowledged influences upon the spirit of the age. George H. Ford - A Second Guide to Research, London, 1978. pp.34-113
§4. Review about Charles Dickens' creativity.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, attending one of Dickens' readings in Boston, “laughed as if he must crumble to pieces,” but, discussing Dickens afterward, he said:
“I am afraid that he has too much talent for his genius; it is a fearful locomotive to which he is bound and can never be free from it nor set to rest…. He daunts me! I have not the key.”
There is no simple key to so prolific and multifarious an artist nor to the complexities of the man, and interpretation of birth is made harder by his possessing and feeling to need to exercise so many talents besides his imagination. How his fiction is related to these talents - practical, journalistic, oratorical, histrionic - remains controversial. Also the geniality and unequaled comedy of the novels must be related to the sufferings, errors and self-pity of their author and to his concern both for social evils and perennial grieves and limitations of humanity. The novels cover a wide range, social, moral, emotional, and psychological. Thus, he is much concerned with very ordinary people but also with abnormality (e.g. eccentricity, depravity, madness, hallucinations, dream states). He is both the most imaginative and fantastic and the most topical and documentary of great novelists. He is unequal too; a wonderfully inventive and poetic writer, he can also, even in his mature novels, write with a painfully slack conventionality.
Biographers have only since the mid-20th enough to explore the complexity of Dickens' nature. Critics have always been challenged by his art, though from the start it contained enough easily acceptable ingredients, evident skill and gusto, to ensure popularity. The earlier novels were and by and large have continued to be Dickens' most popular works: The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Martin Chuzzlewit, A Christmas Carol, and David Copperfield. Critics began to demur against the later novels, deploring the loss of the freer comic spirit, baffled by the more symbolic mode of his art, and uneasy when the simpler reformism over isolated issues became a more radical questioning of social and assumptions and institutions. Dickens was never neglected or forgotten and never lost his popularity, but for 70 years after his death he received remarkably little serious attention (George Gissing, G.K. Chesterton, and George Bernard Shaw being notably exceptions). F.R. Leavis, later to revise his opinion, was speaking for many, in 1948, when he asserted that “the adult mind doesn't as a rule find in Dickens a challenge to an unusual and sustained seriousness”; Dickens was indeed a great genius, “but the genius was that of a great entertainer.”
Modern Dickens criticism dates from 1940-41, with the very different impulses given by George Orwell, Edmund Wilson, and Humphry House, in the 1950s, a substantial reassessment and re-editing of the works began, his finest artistry and greatest depth now being discovered in the later novels - Bleak House, Little Dorrit, and Great Expectations - and (less unanimously) in Hard Times and Our Mutual Friend. Scholars have explored his working methods, his relations with the public, and the ways in which he was simultaneously an eminently Victorian figure and an author “not of an age but for all time.” Biographically, little had been added to Forster's massive and intelligent Life (1872-74), except the Ellen Ternan story, until Edgar Johnson's in 1952. Since then, no radically new view has emerged, though several works - including those by Joseph Gold (1972) and Fred Kaplan (1975) - have given particular phases or aspects fuller attention. The centenary in 1970 demonstrated a critical consensus about his standing second only to William Shakespeare in English literature, which would have seemed incredibly 40 or even 20 years earlier.
Charles Dickens` s Christmas stories.
§1. The essence of Christmas stories and characterization of the main heroes of these works
Who ever understood children better than he? Other writers have wondered at them, he understands them, - the romance of their fun, the fun of their romance, the nonsense in their ideas, and the ideas in their nonsense. He wrote a portion of one of his best Christmas serials - “Boots at the Holly-Tree Inn” - it is called - a story of baby love which would have drawn smiles and tears from Mr. Grangrind, and which, as was recognized on the spot as absolutely true to nature by a mother in the gallery, whose sympathy I thought at the time would be too much for Mr. Dickens himself. We could picture better than he that curious animal, the British boy? Why he understood him in every phrase and under every aspect of his existence, whether he was the pupil of Dr Blimber` s classical academy or of Mr. Fagin `s establishment of technical education. Who, again, fathomed more profoundly that sea whose dimples so often deceive us as to its depth, the mind of a young girl? …
As seasonably welcome as either plum - pudding let us say, or as mince pies - and, happily, just as inevitable for many years past, on the animal coming round of December - have been the successive Christmas numbers of Mr. Dickens `s periodical have long since come to look for ward to them very succeeding twelvemonth almost as were mothers of course. We would as soon think, somehow of celebrating Christmas without, for example, dangling a pendant bunch of mistletoe overhead or without wreathing green branches and red berries about the paneling of our homerooms, as without according once more a welcome, not merely upon our hearths, but within our hearts to some new tale or series of tales more or less appropriate to the season - to the holy - days and the holly - nights of Christmas - tide-tales told by our Great Novelist at regular intervals now during a goodly span of one whole score of years - between 1845, the first memorable year thus celebrated by Mr. Dickens with the best of all his Christmas Books, The “Christmas Carol”, and the last year, 1865, hardly less noticeable in its turn as the year within which he produced about the finest of all his Christmas Numbers, “Doctor Marigold”. Happily his Christmas story - teller appears to be fairly exhaustible. He never seems to lack, year after year, some ingenious device - some device perfectly new and original in itself, and never previously thought of as a medium for the relation of as series or cluster of narratives - upon which, as upon a connecting thread, he can string together the priceless, pearls, blown eggshells, winter daisies or what not, making up the miscellaneous assortment of each successive Christmas Number. Here, in “Mugby Junction”, is the last, and certainly not the least surprising evidence of this extraordinary ingenuity of his in the way of imaginative contrivance. It is as different from “Doctor Marigold”, in the root idea of it, and in the whole manner and treatment of it, as Doctor Marigold was, in each of those particulars, different from Mrs. Lurriper. Each of Christmases short - stories stands absolutely “per se” - must be regarded as distinctly “sui generis” - “none but itself can be its parallel”. It was the same one year with “Poor Traveler” - another with the “Wreck of the Golden Mary” - another with the “Holly-Tree Inn”. Mr. Dickens never repeats himself. One while a “Lodging Housekeeper” - another Cheap Jack - now a Boots - now a Railway Polter - his identity is swallowed up, as one way say (and say, too, without one atom of extravagance) in the last of his great realistic idealizations.
…The main excellence, value, and attraction, however, of the number all lie as a matter of course in the for opening papers from the hand of our great novelist. Foremost among them, do our thinking, being beyond all comparison the best of the four - the story of “The Signalman.” Brief though it is, it is perfect as a work of art. It shows again, and in a remarkable manner, Mr. Dickens `s power in his mastery of the terrible. The pathetic force of it is truly admirerable. It is, surely, the finest Tale of Presentment that has ever yet been told. … immediately after “The Signalman” in excellence - and thoroughly delightful, if only by way of contrast, commend us to “The Boy at Mugby”- own brother to Trabb `s boy in “Great Expectations” - a friend of their heart to Tom Scott, in the “Old Curiosity Shop” - worthy of being comrade and associate of Bailey Junior in “Martin Chuzzlewit”. … Êàòàðñêèé Èãîðü Ìàêñèìèëèàíîâè÷ - Äèêêåíñ â Ðîññèè. Ñåðåäèíà XIX âåêà, Ìîñêâà, 1966. ñòð.65-77
Mr. Dickens has this Christmas earned our admiration by the freshness with which he tells his animal story. The Christmas number of “All the Year Round” is, it is well-known, a batch of stories connected together by the editorial narrative which professes to account for the collection of so many separate tales. Of the separate tales now published we do not propose to speak also one of them is by Mr. Dickens himself. They are well-selected batch of short- stories, which, however, call for no special remark. The interest of the critic and of the reader will rest upon Mr. Dickens introductory narrative, which is even better in its way than the introduction to “Mrs. Lirriper `s Lodging's. Mrs. Lirriper was one of our author's most characteristic sketches…. But this year Mr. Dickens has become forward with a character destined to be more popular than even Mrs. Lirriper. Doctor Marigold is only a sketch, but it is masterly sketch, and one that deserves a place in our memories beside the picture ever drawn by Charles Dickens. Doctor Marigold is the name of a Cheap Jack who delights us with his eloquence, with his cleverness, and with his goodness. Mr. Charles Dickens is particularly happy when he can get an equelent character, and all his more memorable personages, as Sam Weller, Mrs. Gamp, and the rest, are chiefly memorable for the peculiar eloquence with which they assert themselves. Doctor Marigold has all the eloquence of a Cheap Jack, asserts himself with vigom, and is very amusing.
This is the style of the man who is exhibited before us in many such amusing attitudes and Mr. Dickens, displaying his characteristics, has the opportunity of indulging in his broadest humor. At the same time, however, he shows the more serious aspect of the man`s character. We all know the story clown who had to crack his jokes in the saw - dust while his wife was dying in the room hard by. Cheap Jack in his fashion has to amuse the crowd that comes to buy his wares while his child is dying in his arms. The situation here is an old one, but Mr. Dickens has touched it with new feeling and set it before us in the tenderest light.
… It is not certainly by these lighter efforts that Charles Dickens ought to be judged. The two characteristics to which he owes his reputation are beyond all doubt his sentiment, and his share of that humor which really forms a part of sentiment, though it is often considered as independent of it. As a sentimentalist, Charles Dickens in his best moments has not often been surpassed in English literature. His bizarre and grotesque literary taste, and the curious light under which he sees almost all the common things and the common events of life, drag him down, in his intervals of weakness into the mere. But, with all his failings and vulgarities, Charles Dickens at his best is a very great author, and a consummate sentimentalist. His attempts to portray or to caricature or to satirize the upper classes of society has always been ludicrous failures. When Charles Dickens enters the drawing-room his genius deserts him, and hurries down the kitchen stairs into more congenial company. One is in danger, accordingly, of forgetting the astonishing poem with which he draws life in its less polished but equally healthy and vigorous forms. His sympathy for poor people is real and unaffected, and helps to make him the great writer he is; and when we look through all the romantic literature of the day, and see how little genuine feeling there is that comes up in power and pathos to Mr. Dickens `s feeling for the poor, we can not but acknowledge the charm that this trait lends to most of Christmas. There is warmth and a cheering in his stories that reminds one of the mistletoe and the holly. Nor is Charles Dickens satisfied with being himself full of warm-heartedness and sentiment. Whatever he is describing, whether it is animate or inanimate nature must fall in with and follow in his train. Orpheus, as the legend goes, made the trees come dancing after him, and Charles Dickens is not above performing the same feat with the chairs and tables, and the rest of the furniture of the room upon which his fancy descends. He has only to strike the night key-note, and immediately a concert begins about him, in which the kettles on the hearth begin to sing, the fire to talk, and the fire-irons and the fender to smile, and all together to chime in with the lyrical poem which forms the chief subject - matter of the chapter. Nobody expects to find in his Christmas stories the sentiment and the humor which might be looked for in larger works, but it is not difficult to discover something to the same tare. Doctor Marigold `s description of little Sophy `s death, for example, is not meant to compete with twenty similar pictures that Charles Dickens has drawn already; but there are little pathetic touches in it which no one in our day, except Mr. Thackeray and Mr. Dickens, is in the habit of producing. Little Nell is a far more finished portrait than little Sophy, but little Sophy bears quite the same relation to little Nell that a Christmas members of “All the Year Round” does to a two-volume novel. …
The pity is that he doesn't turn his attention annually to something a little better, and on a larger scale. A Christmas books by Charles Dickens used to be one of the entertainments of the season. It has been succeeded by a witty and pleasing chapter in which Charles Dickens attempts to carry off the absurdity and the dead weight of the chapters which he joint-stock company have added to his. The Irish legend which comes second in “Doctor Marigold `s Prescription”, and which is “not to be taken bedtime”, might we believe, be taken with perfect impunity at that or any other hour, even in the most haunted house. The narrative of the composer of popular conundrums, like popular conundrums in general, is very deadly; it is possible the gentlemen who has devoted so much of his valuable time to composing Chapter III in “Doctor Marigold `s Prescription”. Stories a Quakeress, of a detective policeman, and a murderer man `s ghost follow. They are very poor and very stupid, and are only fit for perusal in a railway train at the critical period when all the daily papers have been exhausted, and no book or periodical of any kind is to be had within a hundred miles. “Doctor Marigold `s Prescription is to be had è ò.ä.................
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