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Dickens has always presented problems for literary criticism For theorists whose critical presuppositions emphasize intelligence sensitivity and an author in complete control of his work the cruder aspects of his popular art have often proved an insurmountable obstacle while for the formulators of traditions his gigantic idiosyncrasies can never be made to conform If difficulties such as these have been overcome by the awareness that Dickens sets his own standards there remains a further problem his won lifetime Dickens has invariably seemed as much an institution as an individual The institution of the Dickens of Christmas celebrated by Chersterton The change may perhaps be defined by suggesting that it is now becoming increasingly necessary to insist that he was Dickenss art was at once varied and constant if themes emphases and preoccupations developed towards the ultimate pessimism of Little Dorrit and Our Mutual Friend it is important to remember that Flora Finching and her aunt are cousins not far removed When he collapsed in 1870 having almost completed the sixth instalment of Edwin Drood the manner of his death was peculiarly appropriate his audience were left in the state of anticipation to which he had accustomed them but this time there was to be no resolutionIn the nineteenth century the writing of novels emerged from a permitted indulgence to an acceptable career It is customary to think of Dickens as a critic of much of the Victorian ethos but whatever reservations the novels may express about self-aggrandizement no career could demonstrate the ideal of the self-made man more effectively than his own The facts of Dickenss early life have been rehearsed frequently enough and there is little need to recount them here other than to emphasize the extent to which Dickens the chronicler of afflicted children saw in his own childhood the archetypal experience of the child frustrated by the pressures of an urban and commercialize environment The account of his childhood employment in the
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