Home  »  The Short-Story: Specimens Illustrating Its Development  »  Notes to A Child’s Dream of a Star

Brander Matthews (1852–1929).  The Short-Story.  1907.

By Charles Dickens  (1812–1870)

Notes to A Child’s Dream of a Star

LIKE Scott, Dickens preferred the long story to the short. He unrolled the panorama of life as he saw it, with its contrasts of broad humor and of pathetic sentiment. Although he took great pains with the plots of his novels, they are ill-shaped for the most part, sprawling and invertebrate. He had not the power of building a story boldly yet simply. The brief tales which he inserted in the early “Pickwick Papers” lack distinction; and the short-stories written long after are often marred by the hard artificiality which characterized much of his later work. But this little tale, written in 1850 on a sudden impulse, is simple and unpretending; and it gains its beauty from this unpretentious simplicity.
Dickens told one of his biographers that as a child he used to wander at night about a churchyard, near their home, with his sister. This sister died only two years before this poetic fantasy was written. Perhaps it was the sincerity of his grief for this lost sister which keeps this story as simple as it is in its sentiment. It is a fable, a lovely apologue, slight in substance and yet adequate in itself. This story of Dickens’s may be compared profitably with Lamb’s Dream-Children” and with Andersen’s “Steadfast Tin Soldier.” All three are fantasies; all three deal with childhood; all three are poetic, each in its own fashion. They all fall well within the frame of the true short-story because the several authors sought to present a single theme with the clearest simplicity.