Charles Dickens: The Last of the Great Men

Charles Dickens: The Last of the Great Men

Charles Dickens: The Last of the Great Men

Charles Dickens: The Last of the Great Men

Excerpt

This happiest work by the late Gilbert Keith Chesterton, God rest his soul, is as luminous and infectious a book as ever one author wrote about another. Because the writer of this foreword to the present edition has read that book a dozen times since its first publication in 1906, he feels qualified to describe it as readable--to put it mildly. You will note that Mr. Chesterton himself described it as "a critical study" but, since it involved no study--he knew the material by heart--and is not in the least critical, let us rather call it a hymn of praise, a song of gratitude for such gifts as Charles Dickens and the privilege of being alive.

"The hour of absinthe is over," sang Mr. Chesterton (this was in 1906, of course). "We shall not be much further troubled with the little artists who found Dickens too sane for their sorrows and too clean for their delights. But we have a long way to travel before we get back to what Dickens meant: and the passage is along a rambling English road, a twisting road such as Mr. Pickwick travelled. But this at least is part of what he meant; that comradeship and serious joy are not interludes in our travel; but that rather our travels are interludes in comradeship and joy, which through God shall endure for ever. The inn does not point to the road; the road points to the inn. And all roads point at last to an ultimate inn, where we shall meet Dickens and all his characters; and when we drink again it shall be from the great flagons in the tavern at the end of the world."

On that day in June, 1936, when G. K. C. wheezed his last, I had a notion that there may well have been some little stir in that tavern. I seemed to see a whiskered . . .

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