An Essay on the Happenings in a Year of Crisis for Two Victorian Icons

Tall Tales

I’ve been asked, how did I get caught up in sorting out the connection between Dickens and Darwin described here? My memories may be vivid, detailed, and precise but they are often inaccurate. So, believe me at your own risk.

Some of Dickens’ writing I enjoy, most leaves me bored. A Christmas Carol with its creepy ghosts and Dickens’ use of ‘it’ and ‘he’ to characterize them is neat. I’ve read A Tale of Two Cities with its memorable opening and closing lines many times. Its climatic battle, where guns blaze and good defeats evil, is fought between two menopausal women, a unique twist, at least in my experience.

I tried to read Darwin’s On the Origin of Species but could not get through the turgid Victorian prose that clogs the middle of the book. So, as is my wont – to the disgust and outrage of many; I love spoiler alerts – I read the first and last chapters and passed on the rest of the book. A Tale of Two Cities pointed me to Dickens’ magazines where I encountered the three essays about evolution. Some of the language in the essays seemed similar to the language in On the Origin of Species so I compared the texts with a couple of on-line computer programs. You can download the result. It's not very long.

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