Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919). Theodore Roosevelt’s Letters to His Children. 1919.

More About Dickens

White House, May 20, 1906.

Mother read us your note and I was interested in the discussion between you and ——— over Dickens. Dickens’ characters are really to a great extent personified attributes rather than individuals. In consequence, while there are not nearly as many who are actually like people one meets, as for instance in Thackeray, there are a great many more who possess characteristics which we encounter continually, though rarely as strongly developed as in the fictional originals. So Dickens’ characters last almost as Bunyan’s do. For instance, Jefferson Brick and Elijah Pogram and Hannibal Chollop are all real personifications of certain bad tendencies in American life, and I am continually thinking of or alluding to some newspaper editor or Senator or homicidal rowdy by one of these three names. I never met any one exactly like Uriah Heep, but now and then we see individuals show traits which make it easy to describe them, with reference to those traits, as Uriah Heep. It is just the same with Micawber. Mrs. Nickleby is not quite a real person, but she typifies, in accentuated form, traits which a great many real persons possess, and I am continually thinking of her when I meet them. There are half a dozen books of Dickens which have, I think, furnished more characters which are the constant companions of the ordinary educated man around us, than is true of any other half-dozen volumes published within the same period.