Quotations by Dickens, Charles


“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
A Christmas Carol (1843)
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“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

Dickens - forged in life - wist_info quote

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
A Christmas Carol (1843)

Sometimes oddly paraphrased, "We forge the chains we wear in life."
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I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round — apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that — as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
A Christmas Carol [Fred] (1843)
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It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
A Christmas Carol, ch. 1 (1843)
Added on 12-Aug-13 | Last updated 12-Aug-13
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Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
A Christmas Carol, stave 1
Added on 16-May-11 | Last updated 16-May-11
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“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”
“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.
“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”
“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”
“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.
“Both very busy, sir.”
“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”
“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”
“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.
“You wish to be anonymous?”
“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned — they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”
“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides — excuse me — I don’t know that.”
“But you might know it,” observed the gentleman.
“It’s not my business,” Scrooge returned. “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
A Christmas Carol, Stave 1 “Marley’s Ghost” (1843)

Full text.
Added on 3-Sep-11 | Last updated 3-Sep-11
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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
A Tale of Two Cities, ch. 1 (1859)
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It is an essential part of every national character to pique itself mightily upon its faults, and to deduce tokens of its virtue or its wisdom from their very exaggeration. One great blemish in the popular mind of America, and the prolific parent of an innumerable brood of evils, is Universal Distrust. Yet the American citizen plumes himself upon this spirit, even when he is sufficiently dispassionate to perceive the ruin it works; and will often adduce it, in spite of his own reason, as an instance of the great sagacity and acuteness of the people, and their superior shrewdness and independence.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
American Notes, ch. 18 (1842)
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Any man who attains a high place among you, from the President downwards, may date his downfall from that moment; for any printed lie that any notorious villain pens, although it militate directly against the character and conduct of a life, appeals at once to your distrust, and is believed. You will strain at a gnat in the way of trustfulness and confidence, however fairly won and well deserved; but you will swallow a whole caravan of camels, if they be laden with unworthy doubts and mean suspicions. Is this well, think you, or likely to elevate the character of the governors or the governed among you?

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
American Notes, ch. 18 (1842)
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[F]or cheerfulness and content are great beautifiers, and are famous preservers of youthful looks, depend upon it.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
Barnaby Rudge, ch. 82 (1841)
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Often given as "Cheerfulness and contentment are great beautifiers and are famous preservers of youthful looks."
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I say, David, to the young this is a world for action, and not for moping and droning in.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
David Copperfield, ch. 10 (Mr. Murdstone) (1850)
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Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
David Copperfield, ch. 12 (1850)
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Let sleeping dogs lie — who wants to rouse ’em?

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
David Copperfield, ch. 39 (1850)
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Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
Great Expectations, ch 40 (1861)
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No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for any one else.

Dickens - lighten burden - wist_info

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
Our Mutual Friend, ch. 9 (1864-65)
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“It’s always best on these occasions to do what the mob do.”
“But suppose there are two mobs?” suggested Mr. Snodgrass.
“Shout with the largest,” replied Mr. Pickwick.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
Pickwick Papers, ch. 13 (1837)
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Reflect on your present blessings, of which every man has many; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
The Adventures of Oliver Twist (1838)
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O let us love our occupations,
Bless the squire and his relations,
Live upon our daily rations,
And always know our proper stations.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
The Chimes, “The Second Quarter” (1844)
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Oh the nerves, the nerves; the mysteries of this machine called Man! Oh the little that unhinges it: poor creatures that we are!

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
The Chimes, “Third Quarter” (1844)
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My life is one demd horrid grind.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
The Life And Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, ch. 64 (Mr Mantalini) (1839)
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May I not be forgiven for thinking it is a wonderful testimony to my being made for art, that when in the midst of this trouble and pain I sit down to my book, some beneficent power shows it all to me and tempts me to be interested, and I don’t invent it — really do not — but see it and write it down?

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
Letter to biographer, John Forster

in J. F. Nisbet, The Insanity of Genius, ch. 10 (1893)
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