Charles Dickens


My Dear Sirs:

Not many minutes elapsed after I was informed of your literary venture before I firmly resolved to communicate my feelings concerning your proposed attempt at publishing such a magazine. I hope that my letter has reached you in sufficient time to do a little practical good before your maiden issue. One consideration important to me must be pursued immediately. I refer, sirs; to the very noticeable similarity between the title of your magazine, The Artful Dodge, and a deservedly remembered character from one of my own works. If symbolism was in fact the intention behind the christening of your publication in such a manner, it is hoped that neither of the literary parties involved, that is, your magazine or my character, shall suffer from an association of this sort. I cannot bring myself to believe that you would name your magazine our of deference to me or my work; nor, can I entertain the notion that you would select such a character as an historical source toward which you would refer your contemporary readers. On the contrary, I realize quite well that neither of the present editors of The Artful Dodge has ever shown a striking, at the least fleeting I would say, interest in my own works. Since I have strong feelings about being a spring of water that would flow outward in personally contrary channels, I hope just as urgently that even if you do not direct your magazine in the course prepared by my own accomplishments. By this I mean, and I am ready now to be frank, I fear that in naming your magazine The Artful Dodge you may supply the connotation of flippant dexterity, fluid deviousness, or refined scoundrelry to the serious tasks towards which all responsible literature should be directed. That literature should be nimble and vibrant goes without saying. But for literary form to be a spineless means along the route of least resistance toward a goal of lotus-stuffed diversion, oblivious to the important clarification of what is at stake in the life with which we are confronted, this line of development, in which the delight which literature may justifiably offer the reader becomes instead decay, I shall not begin to admit of following, let alone recommend or approve. I do not wish The Artful Dodge, if it insists on utilizing this name, to become the banner for an army of frivolous elves, who would fiddle away at literature while a deserving segment of society burns for a literature which would be of true significance. But let me turn my critical comments onto a more sounding path. May your magazine be the grounds where is displayed a supple fortitude, created by literary endeavor, in the face of a stagnant enemy of both artistic and social concoction. It is such a banner of sincerity and playful fortitude that I would gladly entrust to your keeping.

But now that I have admonished you much in the manner of a parent discipling her children before they have done wrong, that is, unfairly and with a stronger regard to my own good conscience than to your proper and just upbringing, let me turn to another matter which furnishes me with some degree of uneasiness, and which is something that you have indeed done and is not a product of any predilection on my part towards admonition when it is not as of yet due. I notice that your first issue includes neither advertising nor, shall we say, a suitable degree of professional “means of production.” Let me instruct you, all in the spirit of well-intentioned advice, that it would due to heed the gentle proddings of the practicalities with which God has seen fit to provide us and to seek out methods of funding your literary venture by means other than the monies of your readers. If my own literary works, which have on the whole withstood the obscuring influence that a hundred years could well cloak around any work of art, were quite able to be initially presented along with advertisements in magazines and pamphlets without suffering, then you too are capable of withstanding a few advertisements scattered about the pages of your magazine also. If politics makes strange bedfellows, it must further and perhaps even more assuredly be stated that literature must endure some sort of realistic but unaesthetic bonds with the rest of society; in this manner literature will remain neither aloof nor ignored. Therefore, let me once again be blunt: acquire advertising and entertain seriously the idea of promising your forthcoming issues a better process of printing. Both your readers and your magazine would benefit from such a vow.

I would much look forward also to your solicitation of authentic letter from your contemporaries to supplement these “forged letters” with which you intend to populate your magazine. Take care that you do not litter your issues with the tombstones of the past at the expense of walking space of the present. One does not usually go to a museum for fresh air. But, I would not be adverse to affirming a position not overly far from the converse of the above. These “forged letters” of yours could just as well furnish the reader with an interesting and hopefully illuminating link with the all too often unused, and, for the timid reader, frightful, corridors of the past. Perhaps everyone needs an occasional encounter with a Marley’s ghost, even of a preconceived demeanor, as I admit mine was. Forgive me even of a preconceived demeanor, as I admit mine was. Forgive me for my levity as I have forgiven you for writing this “forged letter.”

I hope that I have addressed thoughtful and concerned men.

Believe me
Most sincerely yours,
Charles Dickens


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