The poet should prefer probable impossibilities to improbable impossibilities.
—Aristotle, the Poetics

When I first started writing people used to say my novels were exaggerated. They never were exaggerated, merely aspects of realism.
—Muriel Spark, Loitering with Intent

In a review of the reissue of London Labour and the London Poor in 1968, W. H. Auden remarked that Henry Mayhew’s sprawling portrait of Victorian London street life—brimming with such vivid specimens as Jack Black, Rat-Killer to Her Majesty—led him to revise his understanding of Dickens. Far from being a “fantastic creator of over-life-size characters,” Auden concluded, Dickens was in fact “much more of a ‘realist’ than he is generally taken for.”


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