Lucy Vickery

What Mr Micawber thinks of Charles Dickens

What Mr Micawber thinks of Charles Dickens
Credit: Kharbine-Tapabor/Shutterstock
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In Competition No. 3177 you were invited to submit a well-known fictional person’s view of their author.

Highlights in a varied and engaging entry included Janine Beacham’s Mrs Malaprop: ‘I am indelibly proud to be the procreation of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, a calibrated writer of plagues…’; Anthony Blanche’s withering verdict on Evelyn Waugh as told to J.C.H. Mounsey: ‘My dear, what can I say? An absolute horror. Snobbish of course, being trade through and through. Constantly claiming gentry in his own b-b-background when the best that could be found were rows of sturdy yeomen…’; and Peter Quint giving the lowdown on his creator, courtesy of David Shields: ‘This personage, impressive of form, somewhat forbidding of countenance, possessed of an apparently aristocratic dignity of bearing, and, as regards speech, prone, if not to prolixity, then, at the very least, to a pronounced — the word is, I judge, not inappropriate — orotundity…’

Honourable mentions also go to unlucky losers George Simmers, W.J. Webster, Chris Ramsey, John Priestland and John Gledhill. The winners earn £30.

Wilkins Micawber raised his almost-empty glass. ‘Gentlemen,’ he intoned, ‘let us celebrate our man of many words, Mr Charles Dickens. He is no straw, buffeted by the verbose and wild winds of sorry circumstance but a firm grasper of life’s abiding principle that something will always turn up.

‘In the teeming world of his fertile imagination there are great riches. A chapter amply filling its pages, result happiness; a chapter falling short, result misery. Has he ever failed in the pursuit of prosperous production? No! Look at his capacious family, their bosoms heaving with joy and gratitude for the plenitude of his generosity. Look at how he extends this beneficence beyond their bounds, bestowing himself on the tender shoots of impoverished youthful femininity. I myself am limited in capacity to my beloved Emma but Mr Dickens knows no such containment. Let his exuberant virility be an example to us all.’

D.A. Prince/Mr Micawber on Charles Dickens
Though welcome at Hartfield, I do wish Miss Austen would moderate the natural adventurousness of her nature, perhaps taking some calming gruel. Inclined both to read and write novels, pastimes injurious to hands, eyes, brain and social standing, this excessively lively young woman induces anxiety, discoursing too often upon the subject of marriage of which, thankfully, she knows nothing. Her stories I find entirely too sensational — characters therein venture out in May without shawls and there is barely one that does not culminate in nuptial scenes. I have advised her that the preservation of good health and domestic comfort are more proper pursuits — the elimination of draughts, for example, or the perfection of an especial consistency of gruel. While she notes all I say with gratifying attentiveness, a half-smile plays constantly about her face and I have never known her act upon even one of my instructions.

Adrian Fry/Mr Woodhouse on Jane Austen
Dan Brown is certainly not who he claims to be. Not only is he not a writer, he’s not Dan Brown. Applying my cryptology expertise, I shall reveal three intriguing discoveries. If we count the numerical values of the letters in his name (D=4, A=1 etc) discounting the repeated N, we have a total of 77. Now if we aggregate the values in the name CHRIST we get, you guessed it: 77! Spooky! So is Dan actually Our Saviour? However, equally intriguing is the anagram hidden in his name: ‘Dawn-born’. Sounds familiar? Isaiah 14? ‘How you have fallen from Heaven, O morning star, SON OF THE DAWN!’ Dan is Lucifer! But combining anagram and numerology, we get ‘Born AD NW’ (N+W=37). The Emperor Nero was born in AD 37! So is Dan the Devil in the incarnate form of the Emperor Nero masquerading as Our Saviour masquerading as an author?

David Silverman/Robert Langdon on Dan Brown
My dear Carrie and I are vexed to find that our creator is not one but two persons, one bearing a surname as a forename. Lupin suggested that this second person is a player in the modern guitar idiom, and responsible for ‘skiffle’. Quite what this means, I have no idea, as Lupin’s slang always eludes me. ‘My boy,’ I told him, ‘both of them are writers,’ immediately adding, ‘I have that on great authority.’ We laughed at this for an unconscionable time. Our creators, however, do not share my ready wit. They spend most of our time depicting the Pooter family in mundane, dull and sometimes embarrassing situations, none of which are likely to raise a smile. They strike me as fastidious dullards, and rather offensive to boot. They are as pleased, one might say, as Punch. Quite how they expect my diary to remain in print, nobody knows.

Bill Greenwell/Pooter on George and Weedon Grossmith
Mr Anthony Powell’s malicious misrepresentation of my character and career is explained by his envy of my ability to identify opportunities for self-advancement, my network of powerful friends and my influence at the highest levels of our society. His own deficiencies — oversensitivity, inclination to melancholy, and lack of ambition — led him to the soft refuge afforded by literature and to the raffish company of artists, musicians and other wastrels. Can anyone imagine his survival in the real world — composing a crisp civil service memorandum or minuting a board meeting at Donners-Brebner? Would his incurable addiction to irony and his elegant prolixity go unpunished?

Peddling mere hearsay and tittle-tattle, he vexatiously exaggerates my matrimonial difficulties: Pamela and I had a perfectly civilised agreement. And his snobbery is evident in his finding it discreditable, even amusing, that my own family’s considerable prosperity was founded on the manufacture of liquid manure.

Hugh King/Widmerpool on Anthony Powell

No. 3180: cautionary tales

You are invited to submit a Belloc-esque cautionary tale featuring a contemporary high-profile public figure. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 30 December.