I am still proceeding, in slow and stately fashion, through this enormous biography of Dickens. As I remarked to my sister in an email I just sent to her, I have written books faster than I am reading this one. But a few moments ago, I came across a paragraph that Slater quotes from one of Dickens' letters, and it resonated to powerfully with me that I thought I would share it. The year is 1852, and Dickens, in addition to writing Bleak House, is editing and writing for a magazine he has started called Household Words. many of the articles in the magazine are impassioned condemnations of the many social evils that Dickens saw in English society and that he propagandized against both in his fictions and in his quite extensive journalistic writing. On October 31, 1852, he writes to Henry Morley, who was one of several contributors to the magazine. The essays needed, Dickens says, "are not to be done without trouble; and the main trouble necessary to them is the devising of some pleasant means of telling what is to be told. The indispensable necessity of varying the manner of narration as much as possible, and investing it with some little grace or other, would be very evident to you if you knew as well as I do how severe the struggle is, to get the publication down to the masses of readers, and to displace the prodigious heaps of nonsense and worse than nonsense which suffocate their better sense."
I cannot think of a better description of the task faced by all of us who seek to penetrate the fog of misinformation, prejudice, and sheer bile that clouds the minds of the general public today. I do not know whether I can share Dickens' faith in their "better sense," but without his powers of description and satire, I despair of dispelling that fog.