History, Literature, Quote of the Day

Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens! On Hearts, Tempers, and the Magic of Touch

Charles DickensI rarely contemplate the works of Charles Dickens for very long before thinking about a college professor of mine (we’re talking mid-1970s here).  This individual was a native of South Korea, and he taught at my alma mater, Duquesne University, from 1973-1990.

I understand that–in his chosen field, as the ‘writer-in-residence,’ and as a professor of creative writing–he was quite good in his teaching.  But at the time, college professors were expected to extend themselves beyond their particular interests, and I therefore found myself a reluctant participant in his class on early 20th-century American poetry, during which he made an offhand reference to “that nineteenth-century British poet Charles Dickinson,” apparently confusing him with his American ‘cousin,’ Emily.  (There was more, in which he became even more garbled in the telling.)

Bless.  I wasn’t scarred for life, but it’s an amusing memory.

The only other recollection I have of this fellow (which itself is a poor recommendation for the class I sat through) is that of a party among the faculty and the graduate students a few years later, in which our hero was the host.  “What an interesting salad!” exclaimed one of the guests.  “What sort of greens are these?”  “Oh,” he responded. “Just some things I picked up at the side of the road in Frick Park.”

Glory be.

But I digress.

Charles Dickens.

He was born 111 years ago today, on February 7, 1812.  And he’s a veritable treasure trove, when it comes to quotes.

Today, though, I offer one from one of his last, and one of his lesser-known novels, Our Mutual Friend:

Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts

For my own part, I think Dickens was always on the side of “heart,” as exemplified in so much of his writing from first to last.  And that’s why I like him. As time went on, I think he tried to placate his critics in some of his writing, which left him open to accusations of “sentimentality” among his contemporaries.

Sentimentality?  I’ll take it, over the alternative, every time.

Because I’m human.

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