A great deal has been written and said about Dickens as a writer for "the people." Yet his chief public was among the middle and lower-middle classes, rather than among the proletarian mass. His mood and idiom were those of the class from which he came, and his morality throve upon class distinctions even when it claimed to supersede them. He belonged to the generation which first used the phrase "the great unwashed" and provided a Chadwick to scrub the people clean. His character was well described by Blackwood in June 1855:

We cannot but express our conviction that it is to the fact that he represents a class that he owes the speedy elevation to the top of the wave of popular favour. He is a man of very liberal sentiments — and an assailer of constituted wrongs and authorities — one of the advocates in the plea of Poor versus Rich, to the progress of which he lent no small aid in his day. But he is, notwithstanding, more distinctly than any other author of the time, a class writer, the historian and representative of one circle in the many ranks of our social scale. Despite their descents into the lowest class, and their occasional flights into the less familiar ground of fashion, it is the air and breadth of middle-class respectability which fills the books of Mr. Dickens. [p. 152]


House, Humphry. The Dickens World. Oxford UP.

Last modified 26 September 2002