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Whose Code Was Broken, Crucifix Uncrossed

The day I quote an archbishop will be... well, today. On Dickens.

It’s difficult to tell the truth about human beings. Every novelist knows this in a special way, and when Dickens sets out to tell the truth about human beings he does it outrageously, by exaggeration, by caricature. The figures we remember most readily from his works are the great grotesques. We have, we think, never met anyone like them, and then we think again.

The truth is extreme, the truth is excessive. The truth about human beings is more grotesque and bizarre than we can imagine. And Dickens’ generous embrace of human beings does not arise out of a chilly sense of what is due to them, but out of a celebratory feeling that there is always more to be discovered.