From G.K. Chesterton’s ‘Editor’s Introduction’ to Dombey and Son, the 1907 ‘Everyman’ edition, xv and xvi, speaking about the character of Mr. Toots, who Dickens describes in the list at the beginning of the novel as “MR. P. TOOTS, a wealthy young gentleman, of good heart but inferior abilities”. In other words, Mr. Toots is a kind of omnipresent buffoon in the novel, from whom Chesterton derives an enormous truth:

“Toots may be considered as being in some ways the masterpiece of Dickens. Nowhere else did Dickens express with such astonishing insight and truth his main contention, which is that to be good and idiotic is not a poor fate, but, on the contrary, an experience of primeval innocence, which wonders at all things. Dickens did not know, any more than any great man ever knows, what was the particular thing that he had to preach. He did not know it; he only preached it. But the particular thing he had to preach was this: That humility is the only possible basis of enjoyment. That if one has no other way of being humble except being poor, then it is better to be poor and to enjoy. That if one has no other way of being humble, except being imbecile then it is better to be imbecile, and to enjoy. That is the deep, unconscious truth in the character of Toots — that all his externals are flashy and false; all his internals unconscious, obscure and true. He wears loud clothes, and he is silent inside them. His shirts and waistcoats are covered with bright spots of pink and purple, while his soul is always covered with the sacred shame. He always gets all the outside things of life wrong, and all the inside things right. …he prefers goodness to strength… It is through the eyes of such characters as Toots that Dickens really sees the whole of his tales. Toots is perhaps the only man, except Dickens, who enjoys everything that happened in the story of ‘Dombey and Son.'”