Dickens and Lewes

  • Gordon S. Haight


No reader of John Forster’s Life would suspect that Dickens was a good friend of George Henry Lewes for 32 years, almost as long as he knew Forster himself. In the first two volumes of the book Lewes’s name is mentioned only twice, once in the cast of a play, and once in a page-long list of ‘other acquaintances’: ‘Mr. George Henry Lewes he had an old and great regard for; among other men of letters should not be forgotten the cordial Thomas Ingoldsby’.1 J. W. T. Ley, the editor of Forster’s Life of Dickens, thought that this shabby allusion was inserted to placate Lewes,

who had certainly been a friend of Dickens, but whose aid had been utterly rejected in the writing of this book. Lewes was certainly offended at Forster’s determination to rely wholly upon his own knowledge of Dickens. Wilkie Collins was offended, too, and there were others who, in Dickens’s lifetime and afterwards, resented the way in which Forster was apt to arrogate the novelist all to himself. There never was a more jealous friend than Forster. There are no records of the friendship with Lewes. He and Dickens were on excellent terms always, but there were no ‘intimacies of friendship’. Lewes’s article in the Fortnightly Review in 1871 [i.e., 1872] showed that he did not understand Dickens, that he viewed him with eyes that saw only externals. He took part in some of the theatricals. (p. 544)


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  1. 1.
    The Life of Charles Dickens, ed. J. W. T. Ley (London, [1928]) pp. 456, 531.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    G. H. Lewes, ‘Dickens in Relation to Criticism’, Fortnightly Review, vol. xvii (February 1872) p. 152.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    The Letters of Charles Dickens, ed. Walter Dexter, 3 vols (London, 1938) vol. ii, p. 72.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    The George Eliot Letters, ed. Gordon S. Haight, 7 vols (New Haven, Conn., and London, 1954–5) vol. ii, pp. 423–4.Google Scholar
  5. 21.
    Edgar Johnson, Charles Dickens: His Tragedy and Triumph, 2 vols (New York, 1952) vol. i, p. 204.Google Scholar
  6. 22.
    Anthony Trollope, ‘George Henry Lewes’, Fortnightly Review, vol. xxxi (January 1879) p. 23.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Mary N. Haight 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gordon S. Haight

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