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Sample text

1 Years later his daughter Katey said that his only fault was that he had too many children - as, indeed, had been suggested back in 1850 by one of his few friends who dared to cross him, the ancient and revered Lord Jeffrey. Catherine Dickens was pregnant again; had not this better be the last time, Jeffrey enquired? '2 Catherine, however, had two more children, with the last of whom Dickens felt he 'could have dispensed'. 4 Dickens, anti-Malthusian in his books, was so in his life too. Though up-to-date enough to insist on Catherine's having chloroform for her later confinements, he seems to have scorned those other 'fruits of philosophy' which might have made resort to prayer unnecessary.

His novels are rarely concerned with the relations between father and son. s Dickens the parent seems to have little direct relevance to Dickens the novelist. His young men and women sometimes enjoy a confidential relationship with an elder, but it is generally an avuncular rather than parental figure, an unmarried or childless benefactor - Pickwick, Brownlow, the Cheerybles, the Old Bachelor, Marton, Captain CuttIe, Betsy Trotwood, Jarndyce, the Boffins, and Grewgious. This parent-substitute figure owes something, of course, to literary convention: ageing bachelors, and childless aunts and uncles, notoriously have ample funds to- bestow or bequeath, and their benevolent intervention has enabled generations of heroes in drama and fiction to get married.

61 He felt no compelling reason, however, to obtain an Old School Tie for his boys, and here perhaps lay one of the reasons for their indifferent success. He seems to have been unaware of the growing prestige and usefulness of this qualification for life. Moreover, obsessed by the large number of his offspring and his inability to bequeath them a substantial property, and influenced no doubt by his own success after a modest term of schooling, he was intent from the start on getting them into the world early so that they could 'make their own way'.

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