We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln's Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes—gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another's umbrellas in a general infection of ill temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.
He wrote casually, effortlessly, humorously. You can learn all anybody needs to know about human nature from Dickens. He had been there and done that.
Compare Charles Dickens to Upton Sinclairs "The Jungle," a tale of woe set in the Chicago stockyards of a century ago. Both writers were concerned with unfair treatment of the poor. I read The Jungle in high school. I tried re-reading it several years ago. I stopped because it was such a turgid sociology tract: let us count the way poor Jurgis [?] is victimized. Sinclair just piles it on. By contrast, the characters in a Dickens novel are living, three-dimensional characters. They are not stock victims, but real persons in often difficult situations.
OTOH, The Jungle was the spearhead for some legislation. So, it may be said that the book served its purpose: a polemic for political action. But as such, it makes for poor reading a century later. Good sociology makes for poor literature.
Nabakov taught a very popular English class sixty or so years ago and one of his choices to read each term was Bleak House. He had a fascinating way (I'm told) of blocking out the movements in each scene, much like a theatre director, and was convinced that to properly understand Dickens amazing ability to write well one also had to understand how he integrated his theatre experience.
I suppose if Dickens were alive today he might have made movies as well as written books, much like J.K. Rowling (who- I'm also told- played strong roles in the development of each of her books for the screen).
I haven't read anything by him in years, but often these days I think that the various self-righteous, hypocritical do-gooding social and political mandarins we're forced to endure seem like inflated Dickensian characters come to life.
I just finished reading Barnaby Rudge and the situation (the Gordon anti-Catholic riots in 1780) and characters are a replica of today's Occupy Wall Street turbulence. Barnaby Rudge is simply a tool of one political leader's handlers; the political leader himself has only vague ideas, but his handlers have the skills to motivate discontents to organize and riot.
Of course the OWS people had no religious component to their demonstrations. On the other hand, I think it is remarkable that just a few days ago the Obama administration moves against Catholic charities with Sebelius' Obamacare ruling. So now even this aspect of the 1780 Gordon Riots gets relived. It's uncanny the resemblance between occurrences and characters in Barnaby Rudge and Obama's administration this month.
My favorite is "The Pickwick Papers". I introduced my homeschooled kids to Dickens through this novel rather than some of the more popular titles and the humor gave them a positive feeling about Dickens as a writer that they should WANT to read and not one they HAD to read.