A Book of Modern Essays

By Bruce Welker McCullough; Edwin Berry Burgum | Go to book overview

DICKENS*

GEORGE SANTAYANA

(There are those to-day who assume an attitude of superiority towards Dickens. They tell us that he was a sentimentalist, and often wet with his tears the paper he was writing upon. His women, they say, are idealized out of all resemblance to the character of earthly females, until, if they are young, they are little better than angels in temporary exile upon the earth. And his men, besides hailing from the vulgar classes, if possessed of a favorite epithet, are incapable of uttering a sentence without it; if dowered with an ugly nose, seem to have no other feature worth mentioning.

It has remained for a philosopher to set us right. George Santayana, a native of Spain, was a colleague of William James and Josiah Royce in the department of philosophy at Harvard. A younger man, he has survived them, though he has long since left Cambridge and gone to England to live. His Interpretations of Poetry and Religion ( 1900) and his Life of Reason in five volumes ( 1905-06) are sufficiently intensive studies of the nature and place of beauty in human life to make us respect his judgment. His recent Character and Opinion in the United States ( 1920) and his Soliloquies in England ( 1922) are the fruit of a dispassionate, a close and original, observation of the national society in both countries. So his declaration of allegiance to Dickens, if the charm of its easy style does not win us, will perhaps overcome our prejudices by the weight of authority.

Santayana finds Dickens essentially human. He admits his deficiencies. Dickens' situations may be melodramatic, his notion of Christianity absurdly Victorian, his conception of high so-

____________________
*
From Soliloquies in England. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1922.

-347-

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A Book of Modern Essays
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction v
  • Contents ix
  • "Highbrow" and "Lowbrow" 1
  • What is a Puritan? 17
  • Portrait of a Family 45
  • The Norwegian Migration to America 63
  • The West and American Ideals 79
  • The Once Open Road 101
  • Sentimental America 113
  • Louisiana: (Madame de la Louisiane) 127
  • Fez 141
  • The Rhythm of Life 147
  • Summer 153
  • On an Unknown Country 161
  • Ideals and Day-Dreams 169
  • Castles in Spain 187
  • Science and the Faith of the Modern 201
  • On Friendship 219
  • A Relic 225
  • The Cheerful Breakfast Table 235
  • Conversation 249
  • Trivia 259
  • On Jargon 265
  • Names Practical and Poetic 285
  • The American Language 297
  • What the American Rhodes Scholar Gets from Oxford 321
  • Literary Taste 339
  • Dickens 347
  • The Vicar of Wakefield 365
  • Don Quixote 373
  • The Novel Démeublé 389
  • The Politics of Martha and of Mary 397
  • Autumn Tints in Chivalry 419
  • Index of Authors 431
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