Unfortunately I do not have the same enthusiasm for Gissing as you, but we're entitled to our own opinions.
I think that Dickens really is being underappreciated as a figure of his times. Although you may not enjoy Dickens' writings, you must have at least a vague pleasant feeling when reading another author of the times who was influenced or wrote for the paper. In fact, I was most amused to find that in Vanity Fair, Thackeray originally had a line complimenting Dickens but later removed it due to a feud between the men because Thackeray had begun his own paper to rival Dickens'.
Dickens may be a bit overly dramatic and use extremities in his characters, but if you look at his biography, you can see how they may be based on his experiences. He had such a dismal life, it would be hard not to form stereotypes.
Another thing mentioned was how writing of society's problems does not necessarily mark a good read, but such is often believed in the case of classical novels. You see many classics considered thus merely because they first dealt with revolutionary gender roles, the issue of slavery, and homosexuality. Although having the courage to stand out from a crowd and scream a view untouched by the rest of society is not the grounds for the well-written works, it should be taken into consideration when passing judgement.
Also, I really don't believe that all the characters were either wholly good or wholly bad or placed into such categories by their social status. The character of Nancy proved to be a wonderful person, despite her theiving ways while Monks is the legitimate heir of a respectable gentleman, yet he schemes to bring about Oliver's demise.
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> ... these negative opinions of Dickens really set me off.
Saying he was more highly regarded than Collins or Hardy is a negative
statement? And have you read George Gissing?
Fact is, in the 1950s into the '60s Dickens was not well received in
academia. His characters are amusing and diverse but at the same time
mono-dimensional and static. I would suggest that at least half of
Dickens's novels are weak and even embarrassing (I can say the same
thing about Wordsworth or Eliot so it's not really a damning
statement.) As the study of literature changed from the strict
textualism of the New Critics to embrace more external concerns such as
Historicity and Social Reform, Dickens rose higher in estimation and
today a few of his novels are regularly studied at the university level
(although you should see some of the strange shit they study today.)
I invite everyone that loves Dickens to try a little Gissing. GG did
not write episodically and did not get paid by the word so you might
find his prose a bit richer and denser; in fact, you might discover
that he is a better writer than Dickens. The scope of GG's work
probably isn't comparable to Dickens but when it comes to presenting
the less desirable side of life in Victorian England, Gissing is
The life of George Gissing is also rather interesting. I haven't read a
biography to suggest but I will remind everyone that Gissing was the
original biographer of Dickens.
Low-Country Mike (Barely in New Jersey)
Where is the justice of political power if it executes the murderer and
jails the plunderer, and then itself marches upon neighboring lands,
killing thousands and pillaging the very hills? -- Kahlil Gibran
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