At any rate, as I am coming up on the end of David Copperfield (only a couple hundred pages left - I'm practically grazing the finish line), I've begun to think all over again about my appreciation for his writing. And then it occurred to me to wonder, whatever would he think of my writing? I thought about it a little while, rather tickled by the idea, and came to the conclusion that he would probably be horrified by modern day writing in general. And I don't mean what a book snob like myself considers sloppy writing - flimsy characters and thin prose - the sort of things that are objectively bad no matter what generation you live in; I mean the more subjective Standards.
The size of a novel, and the trend nowadays toward "shorter and easier to read books" - mine are large by today's standards, but they're still dwarfed by Bleak House. The notion of pared-down casts - Dickens would have had a good laugh over that. Verbose description being the Devil's own child. And as for characters...! If he found Jane Eyre appallingly independent, Regina would have him positively thrashing in his grave.
I thought to myself, as these flitted across my mind: "Oh, I can have some fun with that." So I decided to write up a critique of myself from Mr. Dickens' perspective, as a parody of the Victorian standards and the modern day standards both. It is at once laughably arrogant on my part and completely self-deprecating, so you are not allowed to take it seriously on any level.
My dear J—,
The next installment is in progress, albeit slow and, at this time, a little tedious. But Bob will keep me going, and being so near the end I cannot stop now. (Though I have half a mind to kill them all and be done with the business.)
You will by this time probably have heard of that new work, released upon an unsuspecting public a fortnight ago, by the incorrigible Mrs. H. I confess it painful, to my sensibilities, at least, to observe the unbridled pleasure with which that public has already caught it up: I hear nothing, morning, noon, or night, but one or another reference to this work. It glares at me from shop windows, and with such garish looks! It is beyond my ability to comprehend its attractions, and yet only last Friday, when I went out for a walk, I saw no less than four persons with it in hand. One of them had the distinctly mouldy air of a dustman; another was, if you can believe it, Lord R. He hid it beneath his hat when he saw me coming.
I had already heard various scathing critiques of Mrs. H.’s new piece of literature, from friends and family, and I soon made my mind up that I should not touch the creature at any cost. It was only when our mutual friend T. happened to mention, in a particularly unguarded moment, that I was featured in its pages that I yielded to my baser feelings, laid down two shillings, and took away the book. It was a moment of weakness, for which I am sure you can forgive me.
Well, I have all but reached the end of the thing, after pausing several times with wounded sensibilities. Mrs. H. performs feats worthy of legend at a speed wondrous to behold; the tale stops for no man; in a mere two hundred pages, the plot is already coursing forward like an ardent tug-boat, bearing the reader in its wake. I found myself appalled at the thought that such a brief work could capture the mind of the public; that the same men and women who demanded to know if Little Nell was dead have now embraced this. If Little Nell were not already dead, I would be tempted to kill her out of spite.
As for Mrs. H.’s characters, though I admit they are not altogether bad—I was quite gratified by a certain indefatigable female who passes through the pages early on—though I admit, as I say, that they are not bad, Mrs. H. would need a round two dozen more before the story could be called intricate. And the heroine! She is enough to make your blood run cold; Mrs. C. B.’s own rebellious orphan becomes a saint by comparison.
My own appearance, somewhere near the middle of the book, was thankfully brief. I have not yet decided whether it was intended to be favourable or not; I lean toward the latter conclusion. I seem to recall a letter from Mrs. H. some while ago, the subject of which I have now forgotten, but which was (I believe) congratulatory in tone. I can only conclude, judging by her ambiguous reference to me now, that she was not favourably impressed by Dombey. That is of little consequence to me, but I am now turning over the idea of inserting Mrs. H. in the Current Work—as a dose of retribution. I have little doubt, however, that the esteemed lady would not hesitate to return the compliment.