Quotation by J.B. Priestley

[Micawber] is not only the greatest of Dickens' comic figures, but, with the one exception of Falstaff, he is the greatest comic figure in the whole range of English literature, a literature supremely rich in such characters. Falstaff is greater because he is himself a comic genius; in him the two familiar types of characters, the comic rogue and the comic butt, are combined, for he is a comic rogue who is his own butt, and as such he is unique. To this must be added his extraordinary versatility, the teeming abundance of his wit and humour, ranging from crude horse-play to a kind of comic philosophy, which is only displayed within a comparatively small compass ... but makes him tower over every other comic character. Micawber must be included in quite another category, namely, that of the great solemn fools, who do not offer us their wit and humour but only themselves, who do not make jokes but are themselves one endless joke. If Micawber—and all the persons of his kind (and most of us have known a few)Mshould realise even for a moment that he is funny, he would be ruined for us; but happily he does not, and while we are actually in his presence—and what a presence—we too must be as solemn as he is, the greatest of all the great solemn fools.
J.B. (John Boynton) Priestley (1894–1984), British author. "Mr. Micawber," The English Comic Characters, Dodd (1925).
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