Roget's Int'l Thesaurus
Fowler's King's English
The King James Bible
Brewer's Phrase & Fable
Frazer's Golden Bough
Shelf of Fiction
The Victorian Age, Part One
A Tale of Two Cities
INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS
The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.
His work as editorwhich, like all his work, he took the reverse of lightlyand, perhaps, some of the inevitable revenge which nature exacts for the putting forth of such power as he had shown for nearly twenty years, rather slackened Dickenss production after this; and it was not till the close of 1855 that he began to send
on its usual year and a half, or rather more, of serial appearance. This novel has been even more variously judged than
indeed, judgment of it has been known to vary remarkably, not merely as between different individuals, but as formed by the same individual at different times. Probably the general result, at first reading, has been unfavourable. Not merely the tiresome crusade element, which had made its appearance in the books immediately preceding, but the tendency to dwell, and thump, upon particular notes not always very melodious or satisfying, which, more or less, had been apparent throughout, are unluckily prominent here. And the newer featurethat is to say, the attempt at a rather elaborate plot which adds little or nothing to the real interest of the storyappears likewise. Carkers teeth, in
are excusable and almost negligible beside the trivial, tedious and exasperating business of Pancks, with his puffings and snortings, and the outward and visible signs of hypocrisy in his employer Casby. That employers daughter Flora
is so exceedingly amusing that one does not care to enquire too closely into her verisimilitude; and Mr. F.s aunt is one of those pure extravaganzas of the author who justify themselves offhand. But the Circumlocution office is merely a nuisance of a worse kind in literature than even its prototype in life; the soured blood and shabby state of the Gowans as human fringes of aristocracy might have been hit off admirably in a few touches, but are spoilt by many. The absence of that calming and restraining influence which has been noted in
is felt in every part of the book except the pure extravaganzas just referred to. The Marshalsea scenes, which, again, are autobiographic (for Dickens the elder had been immured there), escape partially because there is much of this fantastic element with a great deal of real business. But the Dorrits themselves, especially when the father is released; that unpoetical and dismal House of Usher where the Clennam family and firm abide (of all deplorable); the contrasted Merdle household with its stale social satire (Bar and Physician escape best); the old toy-theatre villains Rigaud and Flintwinch (Affery saves herself with Mr. F.s aunt, and one would like to have heard a conversation between them); even the Meagles family and the puppet Tattycoram and the villainess Miss Wadeall these come under the same curse of fundamental unreality which derives hardly any benefit from the fantastic energy expended by the author. And yet it is one of the most remarkable testimonies to Dickenss really magical power that, when the faults have become familiar and, thus, cease to tease much,
remains almost as
as any but the very best of its companions.
These faults, however, could not escape notice, and they suggested (unless
had done it before them) to Anthony Trollope a rather smart scenarioparody of Dickenss manner in
But the completion of the book brought many other matters to give Dickens mind new turns. He had already bought, but had not yet settled in, his famous country house, Gadshill place; in the spring of 1858, he was separated from his wifea fact which requires no comment here; the separation was the indirect cause of his giving up
All the Year Round;
and he thought of, and began, the readings of his own work which brought him in large sums of money; created for him a new kind of popular reputation; enabled him to display his singular histrionic faculty; but, also, beyond all doubt (combined, as they were, with unbroken, though not quite such abundant, production of original work), put a strain upon his nervous system which had a great deal to do with his comparatively early death.
. Unfavourable critics of Dickens from other than purely literary points of view have, sometimes, declared that Flora is Dora grown old, and that both had a live original. It is sufficient to say that the evidence produced for this is quite insufficient; and that, if it were true, Dickens would have made an artistic blunder almost greater than the ethical one, and extremely improbable. Flora may have been attractive enough as a girl, and if Dora had lived she might have lost much of her attraction. But, had she lived, she never could have become Flora; and Flora never, at any time of life or fortune, could have been Dora.
INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS
A Tale of Two Cities