There are many younger people now, so we are told, who do not read Dickens. Nor is it to be wondered at. We live in a badly damaged world. It is a world of flickering shadows, tossed by electric currents, of a babel of voices on the harrassed air, a world of inconceivable rapidity, of instantaneous effects, of sudden laughter and momentary tragedy, where every sensation is made and electrocuted in a second and passes into oblivion.
...The issue of a long drawn lawsuit in the Court of Chancery passing from generation to generation and leaving behind the wreck of broken lives, and wasted hopes--there is nothing abstract or imaginary here. It dominates the story from its sombre magnificent opening in the Court of Chancery setting in the London fog, to the climax of the closing scene when the great suit of Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce ends--like the fall of an ancient building, eaten into nothingness and collapsing into dust. So ends it with the sardonic laughter of the Court, and Richard Carstone, dazed, unhearing, marked for death. The theme has all the majesty and inevitability of Greek tragedy. Round it is gathered every thread of the narration: the bright loves, the broken lives, and the beauty of renunciation stronger than love itself.
Human beings are made of aspects, not of realities. Each of us is such and such things from certain angles and in certain lights. We are many things to many people and show to the occasion and the hour a different aspect of our being. It is the art of genius to seize the deceiving aspects of real people and turn them into the realities of imaginary ones. The act involved is not transcription but creation.Curiosity led me to open an earlier biography of Dickens, one written by Ralph Straus and published in 1928, and there (again in the early pages) I was intrigued, as a bookseller, to read that “Dickens alone among modern ‘best sellers’ began to be ‘collected.’” So did the whole book-collecting field of Modern Firsts begin with Dickens?
Of school he had but little; of college none at all. The early flowering of his boyish genius received neither encouragement nor recognition. If he was precocious, there was none to know it. A little boy reading in an attic his tattered books – who cared for that? A child in an agony of humiliation at his lot as a little working drudge – who was there to notice that? In all the pictures drawn by Dickens, there is none more poignant than the picture of little Dickens himself. The pathos of little Oliver, of Tiny Tim, and little Paul is drawn with a sympathy that sprang from the childhood experiences of Charles Dickens.