One should read Dickens to learn something of the world. In constructing his characters, Dickens displays an intimate knowledge of how human beings function. There is a great deal of what we would call “psychology” in work. And on occasion, Dickens stops from the sheer act of creating and lets in on how this particular character functions and why. Here is a splendid example from Barnaby Rudge (chapter 23) concerning Mr. Chester:
‘My Lord Chesterfield,’ he said, pressing his hand tenderly upon the book as he laid it down, ‘if I could but have profited by your genius soon enough to have formed my son on the model you have left to all wise fathers, both he and I would have been rich men. Shakespeare was undoubtedly very fine in his way; Milton good, though prosy; Lord Bacon deep, and decidedly knowing; but the writer who should be his country’s pride, is my Lord Chesterfield.’ He became thoughtful again, and the toothpick was in requisition. ‘I thought I was tolerably accomplished as a man of the world,’ he continued, ‘I flattered myself that I was pretty well versed in all those little arts and graces which distinguish men of the world from boors and peasants, and separate their character from those intensely vulgar sentiments which are called the national character. Apart from any natural prepossession in my own favour, I believed I was. Still, in every page of this enlightened writer, I find some captivating hypocrisy which has never occurred to me before, or some superlative piece of selfishness to which I was utterly a stranger. I should quite blush for myself before this stupendous creature, if remembering his precepts, one might blush at anything. An amazing man! a nobleman indeed! any King or Queen may make a Lord, but only the Devil himself— and the Graces— can make a Chesterfield.’
Men who are thoroughly false and hollow, seldom try to hide those vices from themselves; and yet in the very act of avowing them, they lay claim to the virtues they feign most to despise. ‘For,’ say they, ‘this is honesty, this is truth. All mankind are like us, but they have not the candour to avow it.’ The more they affect to deny the existence of any sincerity in the world, the more they would be thought to possess it in its boldest shape; and this is an unconscious compliment to Truth on the part of these philosophers, which will turn the laugh against them to the Day of Judgment.
Note: Lord Chesterfield’s career can be read of Chesterfield was selfish, calculating and contemptuous; he was not naturally generous, and he practised dissimulation till it became part of his nature.
You can find Chesterfield’s quotations, such as this:
La Rochefoucault, is, I know, blamed, but I think without reason, for deriving all our actions from the source of self-love. For my own part, I see a great deal of truth, and no harm at all, in that opinion. It is certain that we seek our own happiness in everything we do.
and letters to his son here.