Archbishop Rowan Williams' Address at the wreath laying ceremony for Charles Dickens

Dickens is the enemy not so much of an unjust view of human beings, as of a boring view of human beings. He loves the poor and the destitute, not from a sense of duty but from a sense of outrage that their lives are being made flat and dead. He wants them to live. He wants them to expand into the space that should be available for human beings to be what God meant them to be. In Hard Times, he left us, of course, one of the most unforgettable pictures of what education looks like if it forgets that exuberance and excess, and treats human beings as small containers for information and skill.

And that sense of the grotesque is, strange as it may sound to say it, one of the things that makes Dickens a great religious writer. As we’ve heard [in the earlier reading from The Life of Our Lord] he could write simply and movingly about Christ.

Read it all.


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4 comments on “Archbishop Rowan Williams' Address at the wreath laying ceremony for Charles Dickens

  1. Henry Greville says:

    It’s hard to beat Dickens and Dostoevski for writing from perspectives that were deeply Christian, yet non-churchy.

  2. Teatime2 says:

    I’m ashamed I didn’t know until this week that Dickens wrote a “Life of Christ” and that he read it nightly to his own child. I’d love to read it.

  3. Adam 12 says:

    In this extract it strikes me that the ABC is perhaps showing us something of his own life about now: “part of this sense of exuberance in Dickens is the recognition that all of us live by projecting myths and dramas about ourselves. We tell stories about ourselves, we write scripts for ourselves, and we love to act them out.

    But what happens when those stories and those scripts are so far from reality that we cannot actually survive the touch of truth? “

  4. Dan Crawford says:

    Lately, I began rereading A Tale of Two Cities which I had last read in high school. And as I always learn when I read Dickens, he is a magnificent writer who tells stories about people (even the bad ones) we can care about. It’s an ability that seems to have eluded many contemporary novelists and screenwriters.