“The Ungovernable Sense of Life”

January 8, 2006 @ 2:39 am | Filed under: Books, Chesterton & Dickens

From G. K. Chesterton’s Charles Dickens, the Last of the Great Men

No man ever encouraged his characters so much as Dickens. “I am an affectionate father,” he says, “to every child of my fancy.” He was not only an affectionate father, he was an ever-indulgent father. The children of his fancy are spoilt children. They shake the house like heavy and shouting schoolboys; they smash the story to pieces like so much furniture. When we moderns write stories our characters are better controlled. But, alas! our characters are rather easier to control. We are in no danger from the gigantic gambols of creatures like Mantalini and Micawber. We are in no danger of giving our readers too much Weller or Wegg. We have not got it to give. When we experience the ungovernable sense of life which goes along with the old Dickens sense of liberty, we experience the best of the revolution. We are filled with the first of all democratic dontrines, that all men are interesting; Dickens tried to make some of his people appear dull people, but he could not keep them dull. He could not make a monotonous man. The bores in his books are brighter than the wits in other books.

And also:

Dickens’s art is like life because, like life, it is irresponsible, because, like life, it is incredible.

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