Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 November 2012
A colleague here asked if I didn't find the whole thing [a television documentary about the Munich Air Crash] just too relentlessly sentimental. Well, as it happens, I did, and I liked that. I don't think there's enough sentiment around. Sentimentality is a maligned emotion…I'm particularly fond of it because it's kryptonite to irony and cynicism…—A. A. Gill, 2011
Oh my dear, dear Dickens! What a No. 5 you have now given us! I have so cried and sobbed over it last night, and again this morning; and felt my heart purified by those tears, and blessed and loved you for making me shed them; and I can never bless and love you enough.—Francis Lord Jeffrey, 1847
Men ought not to be laughed at for weeping until we come to a more clear Notion of what is to be imputed to the Hardness of the Head, and the Softness of the Heart.—Richard Steele, 1722
This book began over two decades ago with my desire to achieve a fuller and fairer reading of Dickens. It seemed to me then that critics dismissing great swathes of Dickens's novels as ‘sentimental’, felt that they had thereby satisfactorily settled a critical question, whereas in fact they had merely raised several new ones. Dickens's sentimental scenes and characters were to me as crucial to the overall power of the novels as his darker or comic figures and scenes.