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Patrick McCarthy <[log in to unmask]>
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Charles Dickens Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 27 Jul 2004 18:38:57 -0700
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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 27 Jul 2004 15:55:42 +1000
From: [log in to unmask]
To: Charles Dickens Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Cc: Patrick McCarthy <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: 'George Silverman's Explanation' and related thoughts

Dear List Members,

I was heartened to read Michael Eaton's post about how he has been
enjoying the discussion of 'George Silverman's Explanation' - and the
parallel he drew between that work and Samuel Beckett's 'Krapp's Last

Ah, yes!

But before I attempt a brief comment on that, let me say that I regret
overlooking - and recommending - until now Deborah A. Thomas's lucid
couple of pages on CD's tale in her Introduction to the Penguin English
Library edition of 'Charles Dickens: Selected Short Fiction' (1976).

There, she notes Silverman's questionable 'voyeurism'.  (This may be the
link to what I said last time about the tale's anticipation of certain
films.)  She concludes: 'Ultimately, however, the conflicting
evaluations evoked by this monologue are juxtaposed so subtly that they
cannot be definitively resolved.'

And she adds: 'Like Conrad's Jim, Dickens's Silverman seems designed to
remain an enigmatic reflection of the ambiguity of human existence.'

Now, what so pleased me about the invoking of both Samuel Beckett (by
Michael Eaton) and Joseph Conrad (by Deborah A. Thomas) - not to mention
'the ambiguity of human existence' - was that both those authors were
deeply influenced by the work of philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.  As
List Members may recall, I have indicated here in a couple of posts my
belief that Schopenhauer, perhaps more than any other PHILOSOPHER, may
be the person who best articulates many of the matters underlying the
Romantic movement (through which he lived) and its legacy, including
issues that surface in CD's novels.

Like: the inextricability of life and death in every moment of our
lives, the inevitability of our being deluded, the resultant need for
compassion ...

(I'm not saying, however, that CD didn't write about only, or much more
than, those things; nor am I saying that he got these matters from
Schopenhauer - they are broadly 'religious' ones, after all.  And of
course I'm not making any limiting judgement about CD's powers of

Schopenhauer is also a key influence on the thinking of Carl Jung,
something which I was going to raise here recently apropos the thread
about CD and psychology.

In sum, Michael Eaton's post has certainly touched on several related
interests of mine, and I'm most grateful.

I hasten to conclude with a note for 'further reading'.  Interested
Forum Members may like to look at my long review of our friend Grahame
Smith's excellent 'Dickens and the Dream of Cinema'.  The review
appeared in the last issue of the leading Australian film journal,
'Senses of Cinema' (on the Web).  Here's a link:

- Ken Mogg.