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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Barron's Booknotes
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REFERENCE

THE CRITICS

"Dickens... was... the greatest dramatic writer that the English
had had since Shakespeare, and he created the largest and most
varied world." (Edmund Wilson)

"I do not for a moment maintain that [Dickens] enjoyed
everybody in his daily life. But he enjoyed everybody in his
books.... His books are full of baffled villains stalking out or
cowardly bullies kicked downstairs. But the villains and the
cowards are such delightful people that the reader always
hopes the villain will put his head through a side window and
make a last remark; or that the bully will say one more thing,
even from the bottom of the stairs." (G. K. Chesterton)

"When (Dickens) aims at depicting the simply good, the
touchingly ingenuous, he is never so successful as with the
amusingly base; and this has its cause in the nature of things,
for the society with which he is concerned does not favour
goodness and ingenuousness... there goes on a furious struggle
for existence, and assuredly the self-forgetful do not win the
fight." (George Gissing)

"Perhaps, properly speaking, [Dickens] had no ideas on any
subject; what he had was a vast sympathetic participation in the
daily life of mankind; and what he saw of ancient institutions
made him hate them, as needless sources of oppression, misery,
selfishness, and rancour." (George Santayana)



"That Dickens was a great genius and is permanently among
the classics is certain. But the genius was that of a great
entertainer, and he had for the most part no profounder
responsibility as a creative artist than this description
suggests." (F. R. Leavis)

"(Dickens) is always preaching a sermon, and that is the final
secret of his inventiveness. For you can only create if you can
care." (George Orwell)

"When (Dickens) imagined a street, a house, a room, a figure,
he saw it not in the vague schematic way of ordinary
imagination, but in the sharp definition of actual perception, all
the salient details obtruding themselves on his attention. He,
seeing it thus vividly, made us also see it." (George Henry
Lewes)

"Dickens' London may be different from actual London, but it
is just as real, its streets are of firm brick, its inhabitants
genuine flesh and blood.... It does not matter that Dickens'
world is not lifelike: it is alive." (David Cecil)

"[In Great Expectations] the comedy makes the serious
elements stand out. It gives relief. The humorous chapters do
not simply alternate with serious ones; the strands of comedy
and tragedy are closely interwoven.... It is the fundamental
irony of the book that makes this possible from the start: the
fact that it was tragi-comic in its initial conception." (K. J.
Fielding)

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