Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

READING NOTES

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.

3 comments:

NotHobbes said...

(RE Blog post "A New Fantasy Game" 17/08/10)
After writing to Morley, Dickens retires for the evening and endures the most troublesome and interrupted sleep; dreaming he is walking through the boroughs of London some 150 or so years into the future, he can scarcely believe the poverty and human tragedy confronting him.

http://www.londonspovertyprofile.org.uk/test/about/

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Great. Thanks for the link. Dickens would indeed have been appalled.

Jude said...

I love Dickens. His social commentary, wit and satirical perspective on industrialising Britain in the 19th C is unsurpassed. We have just been treated to the latest BBC adaptation of "Little Dorrit" (wonderful) which got me reading it again. The description of the Circumlocution Office run by the Barnacle family is the most wonderfully hilarious and satirical description of bureaucracy I have ever read. Jude