Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Rose And Nancy

Dickens was in love with Rose Maylie. He was also in love with Nancy. They are essentially the same person- the young man's dream of the perfect young woman. Their characteristics are love and loyalty. If Rose had had Nancy's upbringing she would be Nancy and if Nancy had had Rose's she would be Rose. Nancy dies holding Rose's handkerchief out in front of her- as if to say to Sikes, "This is who I am. This is who you are striking down."

Because he loved them he expected the reader to love them too. Their beauty is so obvious to him that he has no need to account for it. So he leaves things out. In fact he leaves everything out- apart from the love and the loyalty. Normally he inhabits his characters- becomes them- however briefly. Legions of comical tradesmen and weird old men live for a line or two because Dickens once stood in front of a mirror and made faces and found something for them to say- but he could hardly do that with Rose and Nancy; they were too far above him- too much the other. All the rest of his people are more or less aspects of the self but his lovable young women- of whom Rose and Nancy are the prototypes- are always "Thou".

The first time Rose appears to us she makes a pleasant amiable joke, and seems in a fair way to becoming a lively, pleasant young woman- but that gets knocked on the head pretty quickly. Love objects can't be allowed a sense of humour. Why, they might use it- however gently and humanely- to mock the lover- and that would be unfortunate...

Rose and Nancy were with him to the end. "Sikes and Nancy" was the most powerful of the public reading pieces he toured with in his final years. Some say the strain of performing it shortened his life...

"The eyes, the eyes."

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