From the forums

7th June 2013 at 01:00

Dickens' 'galumphing humour' is no joke

(Author) Hilary Mantel doesn't like Charles Dickens (because of "his moralising and crass sentimentality and the galumphing humour".) He's the only author who makes me laugh out loud when I read him and who brings tears to my eyes.


I've never been able to read Dickens (since being forced to for exams - Great Expectations) but I quite enjoy the television adaptations.


Well, everyone is entitled to an opinion. I've read only a few of his works but the sheer overuse of language makes them rather turgid for me. I know he was paid by the word when published in the periodicals but I prefer a briskness to my reading material.


My favourite 19th-century novel is George Eliot's Middlemarch but I love to immerse myself in Dickens' highly entertaining world, even if it is sentimental and verbose for many modern tastes. Ms Mantel seems to have forgotten that Dickens was very much a man of his Victorian time, with his heart in the right place when considering the suffering of the poor, even if he was not always as sensitive in his private life. She needs to read F.R.Leavis' Dickens the Novelist.


I agree, bobvincent, and would also add George Orwell's essay on Dickens to Mantel's reading list. One of the things he pinpoints is Dickens' universality: "All art is propaganda. Neither Dickens himself nor the majority of Victorian novelists would have thought of denying this. On the other hand, not all propaganda is art ... Dickens is one of those writers who are felt to be worth stealing. He has been stolen by Marxists, by Catholics and, above all, by Conservatives." If there are better novels of their kind than A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations or Hard Times then I have yet to read them.


When people refer to Dickens' work it is always in the sense of a moralising, somewhat didactic, teller of Victorian tales. But he is magnificently funny. Wonderful humour oozes from the page ... Mantel is right: he was a moral crusader but laughter was the sharpest (weapon) of his arsenal.


... Give me Victor Hugo any day.



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