The finest moment in Charles Dickens’ novels and stories for me – thus far that is, I’m currently reading my way through him, like Ahab in quest of the white whale – is in Chapter 11 of Bleak House. Here we find a coroner’s court in session focused on the death of an unknown man, a “law writer” who made his living copying out legal documents, who died from an overdose of opium, either accidently or not. One potential witness, a young boy who sweeps streets whose testimony is not admitted because he can neither read nor write and can’t grasp the ramifications of his swearing falsely, is so moved by the demise or the unknown man who showed him kindness and gave him warm lodging on frigid winter nights that he sheds a tear and says simply “he wos wery good to me, he wos.” The chapter ends with the boy going late at night as the only mourner to the unmarked grave to sweep with his old broom, his only possession, the resting place clean.
If you intend to be a writer, know this. Your finest moments will emerge without your striving for them. Any such intention will only diminish them. Just let them come.