Tuesday, April 24, 2018


Happy Endings

George Orwell, "Charles Dickens," The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, I: An Age Like This, 1920-1940 (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968), pp. 413-460 (at 448):
The ideal to be striven after, then, appears to be something like this: a hundred thousand pounds, a quaint old house with plenty of ivy on it, a sweetly womanly wife, a horde of children, and no work. Everything is safe, soft, peaceful and, above all, domestic. In the moss-grown churchyard down the road are the graves of the loved ones who passed away before the happy ending happened. The servants are comic and feudal, the children prattle round your feet, the old friends sit at your fireside, talking of past days, there is the endless succession of enormous meals, the cold punch and sherry negus, the feather beds and warming-pans, the Christmas parties with charades and blind man's buff; but nothing ever happens, except the yearly childbirth. The curious thing is that it is a genuinely happy picture, or so Dickens is able to make it appear. The thought of that kind of existence is satisfying to him.

From Eric Thomson:
By coincidence, just this afternoon I've been reading some similar sentiments on Dickens from Carlyle.

David Alec Wilson, Carlyle at his Zenith (1848-53) (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co, 1927), p. 126:
"Dickens" said Carlyle [to Gavan Duffy], "is a good little fellow, one of the most cheery, innocent natures I have ever encountered, and maintains something of the reporter's independence." But "his theory of life is entirely wrong. He thinks men ought to be buttered up, and the world made soft and accommodating for them, and all sorts of fellows have turkey for Christmas dinner. Commanding and controlling and punishing them he would give up without any misgivings, in order to coax and soothe and delude them into doing right. But it is not in this manner the eternal laws operate but quite otherwise. Dickens has not written anything which will be found of much use in solving the problems of life. But he is worth something; worth a penny to read of an evening before going to bed."

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