Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man may prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. – King Solomon
C.S. Lewis describes friendship in his book The Four Loves as two people meeting and finding that they share the same interests. For instance, a man who loves art will find a friend in his relations with those who express the same feelings for that art. Friendship is not so much a love for another person as it is a love that the other person understands why art, in this case, makes you come alive. To be understood is what makes friendship.
If we accept this philosophy, than I have found a new friend in G.K. Chesterton this past month in reading his biography of Charles Dickens. Many know that Dickens is my favorite fiction writer, and the same would be true of Chesterton. Chesterton writes in a similar fashion as C.S. Lewis—wordy and abstract, obscure literary refrences, fantastic analogies and inferences. Like much of Lewis, Chesterton writes this particular book without any references or notes which may have just been the style at the time but make for an easier, more flowing read in my opinion.
Giving that I would have to be born in a different country with a different IQ and what not, I do believe that I would have been great friends with Chesterton. The writing of his is—again like Lewis—a style in which it reads as if he is simply talking directly with me, or, due to the intellegence difference, at me as a professor would a pupil. Thus, the biography is not a dry, catalogue of events that took place in Dickens’ life. In fact, very little “fact” will be found in this biography. Instead, Chesterton mentions what Dickens went through as if I already knew what happened and then philosophizes about it for the remainder of the chapter. The effect is more of a theological treatise on the life and writings of Charles Dickens, who is lauded throughout as an exceptional writer who created not characters, but “dieties” who will live forever.
His tradition is another tradition altogether; his aim is another aim altogether to those of the modern novelists who trace the alchemy of experience and the autumn tints of character. He is there, like the common people of all ages, to make dieties; he is there, as I have said, to exaggerate life in the direction of life. The spirit he at bottom celebrates is that of two friends drinking wine together and talking through the night. But for him they are two deathless friends talking through an endless night and pouring wine from and inexhaustible bottle.
And so, as I was reading the book, I felt myself wanting to engage in conversation with Chesterton, wanting to simply sit back and discuss something that struck both of our interests. And then, as Lewis describes, more would have to join. For friendship does not exclude itself to pairs as eros does but invites more company. That is why the more people enjoying something makes that which they are enjoying all the greater. When three friends come together to dicuss a topic of ever-increasing joy, what comes up first but the question as to where the fourth is at the moment?
And that topic that I believe Chesterton and I would never drop would be perhaps the best of Dickens’ characters. The one that is my favorite, and I am sure after reading this book is Chesterton’s.
Mr. Samuel Pickwick is not the fairy; he is the fairy prince; that is to say, he is the abstract wanderer and wonderer, the Ulysses of comedy; the half-human and half-elfin creature—human enough to wander, human enough to wonder, but still sustained with that merry fatalism that is natural to immortal beings—sustained by that hint of divinity which tells him in the darkest hour that he is doomed to live happily ever afterwards. He has set out walking to the end of the world, but he knows he will find an inn there.
Chesterton once again asserts that Dickens created much more than characters, but fairies—creatures out of a fantasy. It is hard to dispute this in my mind. No author I have read has created so much exaggeration in their characters as Dickens. Hate him for everything, but one cannot hate Dickens for the characters he created. They are highly unrealistic, often obnoxious, but always fantastic. Every character Dickens created could be in a farce, and many were. Chesterton ended his proclamation on the greatness of Dickens in hopes that we would all day meet up with him and his characters.
We have a long way to travel before we get back to what Dickens meant: and the passage is along a rambling English road, a twisting road such as Mr. Pickwick travelled. But this at least is part of what he meant; that comradeship and serious joy are not interludes in our travel; but that rather our travels are interludes in comradeship and joy, which through God shall endure for ever. The inn does not point to the road; the road points to the inn. And all roads point at last to an ultimate inn, where we shall meet Dickens and all his characters: and when we drink again it shall be from the great flagons in the tavern at the end of the world.
May it be that I join him and Lewis there someday!