In the World to Be of It is a new collection of essays on the novels of Charles Dickens. Its title-and its theme-come from a letter Dickens wrote to his friend and fellow novelist Wilkie Collins in 1858:
"Everything that happens shows beyond mistake that you can't shut out the world; that you are in it, to be of it; that you get yourself into a false position the moment you try to sever yourself from it; and that you must mingle with it, and make the best of it, and make the best of yourself into the bargain."
These thoughtful essays propose "in the world, to be of it" as Dickens's main theme-and his most urgent and important argument to his readers. Hornback is not a typical modern critic; he is a reader, not a critical theorist. In these essays, his focus is on making what Dickens sees in and says about our world usefully intelligible to us.