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

“Martin Chuzzlewit”

White House, February 29, 1908.

Of course I entirely agree with you about “Martin Chuzzlewit.” But the point seems to me that the preposterous perversion of truth and the ill-nature and malice of the book are of consequence chiefly as indicating Dickens’ own character, about which I care not a rap; whereas, the characters in American shortcomings and vices and follies as typified are immortal, and, moreover, can be studied with great profit by all of us to-day. Dickens was an ill-natured, selfish cad and boor, who had no understanding of what the word gentleman meant, and no appreciation of hospitality or good treatment. He was utterly incapable of seeing the high purpose and the real greatness which (in spite of the presence also of much that was bad or vile) could have been visible all around him here in America to any man whose vision was both keen and lofty. He could not see the qualities of the young men growing up here, though it was these qualities that enabled these men to conquer the West and to fight to a finish the great Civil War, and though they were to produce leadership like that of Lincoln, Lee, and Grant. Naturally he would think there was no gentleman in New York, because by no possibility could he have recognized a gentleman if he had met one. Naturally he would condemn all America because he had not the soul to see what America was really doing. But he was in his element in describing with bitter truthfulness Scadder and Jefferson Brick, and Elijah Pogram, and Hannibal Chollup, and Mrs. Hominy and the various other characters, great and small, that have always made me enjoy “Martin Chuzzlewit.” Most of these characters we still have with us.