Why I still like to read Charles Dickens:

Because after 50 or so pages of difficult prose, you stub your toe on something like this:

She was not past seventeen. Cast in so slight and exquisite a mould; so mild and gentle, so pure and beautiful that earth seemed not her element, nor its rough creatures her fit companions. The very intelligence that shone in her deep blue eye, and was stamped upon her noble head, seemed scarcely of her age, or of the world; and yet the changing expression of sweetness and good humour, the thousand lights that played about the face, and left no shadow there; above all, the smile, the cheerful, happy smile, were made for Home, and fireside peace and happiness. (Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, Chp 24)
It's usually never a climactic moment or a narrative watershed that gets me with Dickens, it's the subtle description or the quiet metaphor that sneaks by my literary reservations and disarms my capacity to resist identification with characterizations.

I read this passage six years ago as was just starting to read good writing. The phrases from this paragraph still invade my sentence structure every now and again. They are a pleasant intrusion. I welcome them without reservation. They are much needed companions that come too few and far between in our image-driven social networked world.

The well-thought out reasoned argument has power; the heightened strain of exagerated rhetoric can move, but the perfectly pitched turn of phrase is borderline ineffable in its effect.
Charles Dickens
December 28, 2006


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