Criticisms and Interpretations VI. By George Gissing
TO speak severely of Mr. Micawber is beyond the power of the most conscientious critic, whether in life or art; the most rigid economist would be glad to grasp him by the hand and to pay for the bowl of punch over which this type of genial impecuniosity would dilate upon his embarrassments and his hopes; the least compromising realist has but to open at a dialogue or a letter in which Mr. Micawbers name is seen, and straightway he forgets his theories. No selfish intention can be attributed to him. His bill might not be provided for when he declared it was, and, in consequence, poor Traddles may lose the table he has purchased for the dearest girl in the world, but Mr. Micawber had all the time been firmly assured that something would turn up; he will sympathise profoundly with Traddles, and write him an epistle which makes amends for the loss of many tables. No man ever lived who was so consistently delightfulcertainly Dickens father cannot have been so, but in this idealized portraiture we have essential truth. Men of this stamp do not abound, but they are met with, even to-day. As a rule, he who waits for something to turn up, mixing punch the while, does so with a very keen eye on his neighbours pocket, and is recommended to us neither by Skimpoles fantastic gaiety nor by Micawbers eloquence and warmth of heart; nevertheless, one knows the irrepressibly hopeful man, full of kindliness, often distinguished by unconscious affectations of speech, who goes through life an unreluctant pensioner on the friends won by his many good and genial qualities. The one point on which experience gives no support to the imaginative figure is his conversion to practical activity. Mr. Micawber in Australia does the heart good; but he is a pious vision. We refuse to think of a wife worn out by anxieties, of children growing up in squalor; we gladly accept the flourishing colonist; but this is tribute to the author whom we love. Dickens never wrought more successfully for our pleasure and for his own fame.From Charles Dickens.