Years ago, Lionel Trilling denied he was "joining the
company of the genial madmen who belong to Dickens Fellowships
and make Dickens Tours and, on a higher stage of development,
write learned notes for THE DICKENSIAN." It should be mentioned
that the remark was partially defensive. Trilling was arguing,
rather grandly, that Dickens should be seriously taken by "intelligent
and advanced" persons of his day, not an opinion with wide currency
among New York inellectuals.
The Dickens Fellowship paid Trilling no mind, and its
publication, THE DICKENSIAN, is now getting on with its 90th
year. It publishes not just learned notes, but Fellowship news,
book reviews, letters, but also articles that range from the
broadly critical and scholarly, to the gossipy and trivial. The
reason is not hard to seek: the publication serves a wide and varied
readership. Nothing having to do with the mighty Inimitable is
foreign to it, and the standard of intelligence and generosity, in
editing and writing, has been consistently maintained.
The Winter, 1994, issue has just reached us, and it strikes
us as having something interesting for every lover of Dickens. David
Parker and two friends give a lively and wonderfully precise account
of the Maclise oil painting and watercolor of Catherine Dickens that
in time will come to the Dickens House. Paul Schlicke, who has made
the entertainments in Dickens a principal interest, looks at Dick
Swiveller's "Glorious Apollers" and places them among the variety
of convivial societies that flourished in early Victorian days.
And Charles Forsythe, the delightful decoder of EDWIN DROOD, casts a
critical (and unconvinced) eye at "an imaginative fresh DROOD scenario."
More is at hand, but I want to give special mention to the
reviews. Someone, probably Malcolm Andrews, has been making sure
the books get into the hands of the right readers. For this issue
he has Ed Eigner review his--that is Andrews' own--DICKENS AND THE
GROWN-UP CHILD, a touchy business of course. Eigner tell us how
the book differs from earlier studies--it emphasizes "cultural
history rather than psychological analysis"--and then notes both
limitations and strengths before concluding with the work's value
in the areas it considers.
Grahame Smith, David Cowles, and Henry Claridge (a colleague
of Andrews at Kent) also do strong reviews for this issue, and if
they have severe things to say, they impress us as judicious and--
as Dickens would have approved--readable.
But this would not be THE DICKENSIAN without its fascinated
glances at the Dickens family. In this issue we may read more of
"the sorry tale" of Dickens's brothers Fred and Augustus, of whose
"venal" doings (the adjective is Trilling's) I leave the unitiated
as ignorant as they deserve to be.
And lastly, and sadly, two memorial notices of Ada Nisbet,
the beloved and esteemed UCLA scholar, one of the notices by
George Ford--written only a month or so before his own death. I was
stunned to see it.