Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Collins on Dickens

I like novelists' criticism of other writers. Here is Wilkie Collins on Chas. Dickens, with some of my comments included.

Of Oliver Twist - "The one defect in that wonderful book is the helplessly bad construction of the story. The character of Nancy is the finest he ever did...That the same man who could create Nancy created the second Mrs Dombey is the most incomprehensible anomaly that I know of in literature."

Me: I agree abot the plot of Oliver Twist, but I can't imagine what Collins is thinking here - Nancy a more finely-drawn character than  Bucket, Pecksniff, Mrs. Gamp, Steerforth, Heep, Weller, Mr. Mantalini? Puh-leeze.

Of  Barnaby Rudge - "...the weakest book that Dickens ever wrote."

Me: I couldn't get through more than about 150 pages of Rudge.

Of Martin Chuzzlewit - "Chuzzlewit (in some respects the finest novel he ever wrote) delighted his readers and so led to a large sale of the next book, Dombey [and Son]."

Me: Dickens himself thought Chuzzlewit was his best novel. I liked it a lot, but for kind of a mean reason: because it is such a scorching criticism of a 19th century Americans who very complacently tolerated race-based chattel slavery and had the gall to take umbrage at anybody who criticized the vile institution or its supporters. This novel mightily pissed off Americans of the time, to which I say, "Good job, Mr. Dickens."

Of Dombey and Son - "...the latter half of Dombey no intelligent person can have read without astonishment at the badness of it."

Me: This, from the author who wrote the bad The Dead Secret. Oh well everybody's got a right to an opinion. And all writers give up goals that they'd like to have back.

Of David Copperfield - "incomparably superior to Dombey [and Son]"

Me: Copperfield is a great novel, the one I'd recommend.

Of Edwin Drood - "...cruel to compare Dickens in the radiant prime of his genius with Dickens's last laboured effort, the melancholy work of a worn out brain."

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