Yet the famous lines from David Copperfield published when the author was 38 show how closely he would have agreed with Alan Hevesi on the subject of budgets—household and urban: "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. As for a view of urban riots and those who would inflame them, the Novelist vs. Much of Barnaby Rudge , the author's fifth novel, turns on anti-Catholic convulsions instigated in London by Lord George Gordon in Beyond the customary cast of ebullient and well-differentiated characters—and the inevitable coincidences— Rudge is marked by an abhorrence of the rabble roused: "A mob is usually a creature of very mysterious existence, particularly in a large city.
Where it comes from or whither it goes, few men can tell. Assembling and dispersing with equal suddenness, it is as difficult to follow to its various sources as the sea itself; nor does the parallel stop here, for the ocean is not more fickle and uncertain, more terrible when roused, more unreasonable, or more cruel" italics mine. The only intelligent answer to such behavior, reasons the author, is the force of law—backed up by police, if necessary, or even by armed militia. Bumble calls the law "a Ass, a Idiot"? Is this the same Charles Dickens who wrote Bleak House , with this indelible portrait: "The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest, near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation: Temple Bar.
I t is indeed the same man. The author was quite familiar with the taints and hazards of the court; he knew only too well how crafty barristers could manipulate facts to fit their own agendas. But he recognized that civilization and savagery are separated by a fragile membrane called the legal system, and that without it, the home every Briton regards as his castle would be vulnerable to discord, chaos, and terror.
Thus, when Governor Eyre of Jamaica forcefully—but legally—put down a native rebellion, Dickens took exception to the plaints of such intellectuals as John Stuart Mill and Herbert Spencer.
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Rising in defense of the governor, Dickens called Eyre's actions a "hopeful piece of business. Thomas Carlyle viewed the revolt as purifying; William Wordsworth remembered that being alive and young on Bastille Day was "very heaven.
He acknowledged the profound evils that occurred before and during the regime of Louis XVI. Yet shortly before Karl Marx dreamed the Bolsheviks into being, Charles Dickens saw that political revolutions tend to produce mirror images of the oppressors, and that new dictators can be every bit as sanguinary as the rulers they displace: "The men were terrible, in the bloody-minded anger with which they looked from windows, caught up what arms they had, and came pouring down into the streets; but, the women were a sight to chill the boldest.
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From such household occupations as their bare poverty yielded, from their children, from their aged and their sick crouching on the bare ground famished and naked, they ran out with streaming hair, urging one another, and themselves, to madness with the wildest cries and actions. Numbers of the women, lashed into blind frenzy, whirled about, striking and tearing at their own friends until they dropped into a passionate swoon, and were only saved by the men belonging to them from being trampled under foot.
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George Bernard Shaw, not always the most discerning political analyst, has a point when he observes, "Charles Dickens, whose books, though classed as novels and duly hampered with absurd plots which nobody ever remembers, are really extraordinarily vivid parables. All the political futility which has forced men of the caliber of Mussolini and Hitler to assume dictatorship might have been saved if people had only believed what Dickens told them.
A s for Britain's foreign adventures, Dickens again showed a bend to the right, supporting them enthusiastically—provided that the politicians remained firm in their resolve. Alas, they seldom did. In a voice that could have come from a retired U. I am certain that these men will get us conquered at last, as I am that I shall die. We have been feared and hated a long time. To become a jest after that, is a very, very serious thing. Nobody knows what the English people will be when they wake up at last and find it out.
Well, then, if Dickens feared the mob, disliked the press, and distrusted those who squandered military victories, what remained? Just a few assorted items like tradition, patriotism, honest employment, stable neighborhoods, shared values, the consolations of the fireside, the voices of children, the easy chatter and gossip at dinner, and the intimate celebrations of births and holidays. No writer has ever come close to his appreciations of ordinary family life, the kind of tributes that Hollywood and the Beltway ignorantly deride as a picket fence, Ozzie-and-Harriet fantasy.
Dickens knew better. He relished the hearth partly because it represented the security he lacked as a child. But he also clung to the ideal because he knew that nothing emanating from the state or the school can equal the power of responsible parental affection and authority. He knew that these, and these alone, inoculate people from the disease of cultural decline. As he put it, "In love of home, love of country has its rise. No doubt you have your own nominees in mind for the next election. Candidates for the presidency, Senate, Congress, and mayoralty, please copy. Send a question or comment using the form below.
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