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ception to the triviality of his heroes. is, of course, a great deal of want, and David Copperfield has some marks of life wretchedness, and crime; but the poor about him. And it is generally believed people are compensated for their poverty that in this novel Mr. Dickens has drawn by being more cheerful and virtuous than largely from actual experience.
the rich; and the wretchedness and crime After all, Mr. Dickens the artist is only are chiefly owing to the absurdity of our subsidiary to Mr. Dickens the philoso- government and laws, to our neglect of pher, the moralist, and the politician. sanitary improvements, and to the selfishWe should not have ventured to regard ness of the great. A few obvious rehim in this threefold capacity were it not forms, such as putting all the right men that he expressly claims to have views in in the right places, and seeing that the some of his prefaces, * and that he insists laboring population lived in airy, clean, on those views in his books.
and well-ventilated houses, would soon Most people who affect to think have put things to rights. This is his theory, some kind of notion about the world in and his practice accords with it. The general. It commonly resolves itself deserving people are rewarded with a into one of these two propositions: (1), uniformity which is exceedingly gratifythat things are right; (2), that they are ing. Those who are young enough are not right. The philosophy of Mr. Dick- married happily—some of the very good ens is contained in the former statement. ones twice; those who, like Miss Trot.
There is an optimism based on the be. wood, the brothers Cheeryble, Mr. Pick. lief that events are so arranged as to turn wick, and Tom Pinch, could scarcely be out happily in the long run. Upon this hy married without destroying the romance pothesis the facts of life are explained by of the thing, become accessories, before allowing plenty of time for arrangement, or after the fact, to the marriage of some. and by pointing out the imperfection of body else, and live a quasi-domestic life our means of judgment:
surrounded by their friends' children.
No mercy is shown to the Fagins, the * All nature is but art, unknown to thee, All chance direction that thou canst not see,
Quilps, the Pecksniffs, the Squeers, the All discord harmony not understood,
Heeps. The rewards of virtue
it is All partial evil universal good.”
true, somewhat commonplace, and the This is the optimism of theory, and it highest good of which any example is amounts to this, that there is, speaking much above the level of material comfort.
found in these volumes does not rise strictly, no evil at all in the world.
On the other side there is the view We believe that if Mr. Dickens were which treats misfortune, crime, and what king he would first of all take care that in ever makes men miserable, as so much England seven half penny loaves should foreign matter introduced, by a kind of be sold for a penny, and he would make divine accident, into an organism ex
it felony to drink small beer. pressly constructed for happiness. Those
As a mere matter of political expedi who adopt it do not attempt to explain rel with this view. It is what would be
ency, we are not at all disposed to quar. , duty of getting rid, as fast as possible, of tive to that large class of people who in
“ " wbatever interferes with the general well being; they also have the peculiarity obligations. But it is by no means the
sist on taking a commercial view of moral of believing that they can do so. This is the optimism of practice-the wisdom
last word on the subject. When an au. of Social Science Associations, of politi- to write a funny book;" very well : no
thor steps forward and says, “I propose cal reformers, and more particularly of Mr. Dickens himself. His theory of life ories. But Mr. Dickens claims to repre,
one troubles himself to examine his the. is very complete and comfortable. He believes the world we live in, to be, in sent large phases of modern thought and the main, a happy world, where virtue is he should have set out with so trivial a
life. Therefore we think it a pity that rewarded and vice punished on the strict belief as that virtue is usually rewarded est principles of poetic justice. There and vice usually punished. See particularly the Prefaces to Martin
His moral and political speculations Chuzzlexit, Little Dorrit
, and Bleak House. take their color from the opinions of the
public for whom he works. Like many | hero may pass through his various adven: other novelists, he has two classes of tures, he may struggle, be disappointed, readers. There are those (including, we and be made supremely happy, without should think, everybody who has sense professing to see his way clearly through to understand a joke,) who admire him everything, or having to act on convicgreatiy for certain special qualities. Then tions he does not feel. Circumstances there are those who thoroughly under- may be artificially constructed so as to stand and believe in him, and whom he favor him thus far. And when a novelist may be said to represent-just as Cam. has to describe emotions or passions bridge men are represented by Mr. Kings which call for reticence, he has an unlimley. This class is not easily defined. It ited power of indicating their shades and is chiefly made up of the impulsive peo- depth inferentially, by the effect they ple who write letters to the Times, of produce, without minute analysis or outpractical, well-to-do men who understand spoken description. their own business, and see no difficul. No writer with whom we are acquaintties elsewhere; and of those to whom it ed has taken less advantage of this happy is a pleasure to have their feelings strong- privilege tban Mr. Dickens. He abuses ly acted upon. That Mr. Dickens must the liberty of dogmatism, and he revels keep constantly before him the require in describing incidents which good taste ments of some such class as this, is plain would carefully conceal. His death-bed from his manner of dealing with the pa- scenes exceed in number and variety those thetic, as well as from the freedom with of any other author, living or dead. They which he constantly expresses himself on are arranged in much the same way as subjects which he cannot possibly be sup- they would be put on the stage of the posed to understand.
Adelphi Theatre. There is nothing more distinctive of It is not distinctive of Mr. Dickens the refinement which proceeds from edu- that he minutely analyzes states of mind cation than these two qualities-a reluc- and feeling that a person who appreciated tance to draw conclusions, and a reserve their meaning would touch with extreme of expression on subjects which nearly reserve; but it is distinctive of him that concern us. In dealing with practical he often seeks to make a secondary and affairs, all men are indeed equally forced still more objectionable use of them by to rely on half truths, to act on experi- turning them, as it were, into political ences which they know to be merely ap- capital. In one of his novels there are proximate, and to speak of things which some reflections in a country churchyard. they feel are vulgarized by being put into These thoughts are suggested by some words. But they do so under protest, poor men's tombs, and they are not very well knowing that they must either do bad, being, in fact, a part of Gray's this or nothing. Were they to wait for “ Elegy” done into prose. Then we have the precise juncture which would enable the clergyman's horse stumbling about them to act and speak with absolute pro- and cropping the grass, and close by a priety, they would wait long. Circum- lean ass in a pound, who having tresstances, so far as they are any help at all, passed in the churchyard“ without being usually favor common purposes, and fur- qualified and ordained, was looking with ther every-day ends. Actual life is ac- hungry eyes on his priestly neighbor.” cordingly a continued sacrifice to oppor. Now we wonder that Mr. Dickens did tunity, in which we are obliged to do not see that there was a want of fitness some violence to ourselves and much vio- in this. There is no objection to medilence to our convictions, for the sake of tations in a country churchyard, but it is influencing the world around us. odd that any one who felt the influence
But the novelist is not under the influ- of the place sufficiently to care to write ence of this necessity. It is open to him about it at all, should have had his attento arrange events in such a manner that tion strongly directed to the difference the persons he creates may move in them, between rich and poor, and to the exclumay act and be acted on by them, with- sive privileges of the clergy. It may be out compromising their better thoughts all perfectly true; but it is so out of place and feelings. In a book, a speaker is not that one cannot help suspecting that the absolutely bound to talk claptrap. The scene, with all its accessories – the ivy
and the tombs of the “poor humble men” | quite a different person—distinguished -is merely introduced to heighten the for his affectionate qualities and domeseffect of his little bit of bunkum at the tic habits; and we take leave of him enend. And if so, Mr. Dickens has been joying a bottle of Madeira in the comtrifling with the sympathies of his readers pany of Captain Cuttle. for an unworthy purpose.
This is more like the melodrama in To the love of melodramatic effect Nicholas Nickleby than anything else: and partiality for violent contrast must
" What do you mean to do for me, old be referred a manner of treatment which fellow?' asked Mr. Lenville, poking the strugseriously interferes with the artistic gling fire with his walking-stick, and after. beauty of many of these novels. We wards wiping it on the skirt of his coat; allude to the practice of suddenly con- anything in the gruff and grumble way?' verting people without showing sufficient "You turn your wife and child out of reason for the change.
doors,' said Nicholas; and in a fit of rage To do justice to Mr. Dickens's views,
and jealousy stab your eldest son in the
library.' we must rather abuse our privilege of
***Do I though?' exclaimed Mr. Lenville. making extracts.
* That's very good business.' There is Mr. Dombey, in many re * After which,' said Nicholas, 'you are spects an extremely well-drawn charac- troubled with remorse till the last act, and ter; a type of the aristocratic pride of then you make up your mind to destroy your. commerce. He has his ancestors, his self. But just as you are raising the pistol traditions, and an hereditary name,
to your head, a clock strikes--ten!'
* • I see,' cried Mr. Lenville. “Very good.' which he is above all things anxious to
"You pause,' said Nicholas; you recolpreserve. He loses his wife, and regrets lect to have heard a clock strike ten in your her after his fashion. “Something lay infancy. The pistol falls from your handat the bottom of his cold heart, colder you are overcome-you burst into tears, and and heavier than its ordinary load; but become a virtuous and exemplary character it was more a sense of the child's loss for ever afterwards.' than his own, awakening within him an "• Capital!' said Mr. Lenville; 'that's a
sure card. Get the curtain down with a almost angry sorrow. That the life and progress on which he built such hopes umphant success.'" *
touch of nature like that, and it'll be a tri. should be endangered in the outset by so mean a want; that Dombey and Son But the most astonishing case of conshould be tottering for a nurse, was in- version is afforded by the history of deed a humiliation.' His son dies next; Merry Pecksniff. She is introduced in the only result is, that he is more frigid the following description : and dignified than before. There is something painful in the obstinate in- of her simplicity and innocence, which were
“Miss Pecksniff sat upon a stool, because difference with which he repels the ad- great—very great. Miss Pecksniff' sat upon vances of his daughter, not because she a stool because she was all girlishness, and thwarts, but because she cannot advance playfulness, and wildness, and kittenish buoyhis ambition. He marries a second ancy. She was the most arch and at the time, and pays dearly for it. Domestic same time the most artless creature, was the misery is followed by commercial ruin; youngest Miss Pecksniff, that you can possibut through every change of circum- bly imagine. It was her great charm. She
was too fresh and guileless to wear combs in stance Mr. Dombey is still the same. The her hair, or to turn it up, or to frizzle it, or reader is about to close the book with
to braid it. She wore it in a crop, a loosely some admiration for the stoicism with flowing crop, which had so many rows of which such a variety of misfortune has curls in it that the top row was only one been met, when in the last chapter or curl.” so, Mr. Dombey suddenly encounters So she is described throughout the first his daughter, who has lately eloped with half of the book. She is a hypocrite, a man to whom he has a particular objection. A meeting of this kind does as we should expect a daughter of Mr.
Pecksniff to be. Without
delibernot usually bring out the amiable side ately vicious intention, she is simply of the parental character, but it pro- thoughtless, vain, insolent, and spiteful. duces a remarkably soothing effect on Mr. Dombey, who instantly becomes * Nicholas Nickleby, pp. 225, 6.
She perfectly understands her father's | tin, that your married life may perhaps be game with regard to old Martin Chuz- miserable, full of bitterness, and most unzlewit, and she plays it unhesitatingly happy?' and well. At length she meets a man tore the grass up by the roots.
Merry looked down again; and now she who is, without exception, the most des
My dear Vr. Chuzzlewit, what shocking picable ruffian that Mr. Dickens ever words! Of course, I shall quarrel with him; held up to the execration of his readers. I should quarrel with any husband. Married He makes love to her sister, and ends people always quarrel, I believe. But as to by abruptly proposing to herself. He being miserable, and bitter, and all those has money, and she accepts him. dreadful things, you know, why I couldn't
Here are her views, a week before her be absolutely that, unless he always had the marriage, on the duties and responsibil- myself. ì always do now,' cried Merry, nod
best of it; and I mean to have the best of it ities of that state :
ding her head, and giggling very much ; ‘for “. Are you forced into this match? Are I make a perfect slave of the creature.'', you insidiously advised or tempted to contract it
, by any one? I will not ask by whom; They are married. Jonas Chuzzlewit is by any one?'
certainly not a model husband. From No,' said Merry, shrugging her shoul- the antecedents of the lady we are quite ders, 'I don't know that I am.'
prepared to find that she makes good * Don't know that you are ! Are you?'
her promise not to allow him always to “No,' replied Merry. “Nobody ever said have the best of it. But Mr. Dickens anything to me about it. If any one had tried to make me have him, I wouldn't have had appears to have thought that, although him at all.'
he had painted Jonas in the blackest "*I am told that he was at first supposed colors, and drawn him in the most reto be your sister's admirer,' said Martin. pulsive form, that was scarcely enough.
Oh, good gracious! My dear Mr. Chuz- | He still wanted a little contrast to zlewit, it would be very hard to make him, heighten the effect. And he wished to though he is a monster, accountable for other show how character may be developed people's vanity,' said Merry. And poor dear independently of circumstances, and Cherry is the vainest darling!' " " It was her mistake then?'
may, even on the shortest notice, ac" " I hope it was,' cried Merry; 'but all quire a bent the very opposite of that along, the dear child has been so dreadfully which those circumstances would tend jealous, and so cross, that, upon my word and to produce. So, to the unbounded astonhonor, it's impossible to please her, and it's ishment of the reader, and in defiance no use trying.'
of all truth and probability, the woman “Not forced, persuaded, or controlled, who married her husband chiefly to spite said Martin, thoughtfully. * And that's true, her sister; who, according to the testi
There is one chance yet. You may have lapsed into this engagement in very gid mony of her friends, had no heart; diness. It may have been the wanton act of whose head, as she confesses herself, was a light head. Is that so?'
a perfect balloon -- throwing aside at 'My dear Mr. Chuzzlewit,' simpered Mer- once the ingrained selfishness and meanry, 'as to lightheadedness, there never was ness of nearly thirty years, becomes in such a feather of a head as mine. It's a per- less than two months a model of uncomfect balloon, I declare! You never did, you plaining endurance and self-denying afknow !!
fection. “ He waited quietly till she had finished, change is that she has married a man
The only reason for which and then said, steadily and slowly, and in a softened voice, as if he would still invite her whom she always despised; who is a confidence :
coward and a bully, and on the high"• Have you any wish-or is there anything road to become a murderer. within your breast that whispers you may We have illustrated at some length form the wish, if you have time to think-to the mental habit which is most constantbe released from this engagement ?' * Again Miss Merry pouted, and looked remarkable writer. His mind is in frag
ly presented to us in the works of this down, and plucked the grass, and shrugged ments. To this strongly marked intel. her shoulders. No. She didn't know that she had. She was pretty sure she hadn't. lectual quality may be traced both his Quite sure, she might say. She didn't mind characteristic excellences and his characit.'
teristic defects. Inability to discern the "Has it ever occurred to you,' said Mar- | relations of things, aided by a fancy
fertile and plastic in a high degree, has is all very well meant, but very ignoenabled him to summon at will the most rant. ludicrous and grotesque images, and has "Ordinary people,” says Addison, given vigor to whatever can be done in “are so dazzled with riches, that they parts—to bis isolated sketches, for ex- pay as much deference to the understandample, and to his descriptions of simple ing of a man of estate as of a man of passion. On the other hand, it has pre- learning, and are very hardly brought to vented him from either constructing a regard any truth, how important soever story or penetrating a character. It is it be, which is preached to them, if they due to this that his views, both of life know that there are several people of £500 and morals, are imperfect and of the first a-year who do not believe it.”* We may impression, being, in fact, just what safely acquit Mr. Dickens of this particwould occur off hand to any ordinary ular form of error. He is so far from warm-hearted person who had not re- thinking a man to be any better because flected on the subject. With these char- he is rich, that he thinks he can hardly acteristics it is particularly unfortunate be good except he be poor. Such an that he should have attempted to ex opinion, directly and indirectly enforced press himself on questions of State. Mr. by so powerful a writer, cannot fail of Tupper's poetry, Dr. Cumming's theol- harm. We fear that it has helped to ogy, Mr. Samuel Warren's sentiment, widen the breach, already sufficiently are not worse than Mr. Dickens's poli- great, which separates the two classes. tics. And this is saying a good deal. It is scarcely an excuse to say that our He seems, however, to have thought author's bias proceeds from a desire to otherwise. It is difficult to name any help the unfortunate and to relieve the important subject which has arisen with oppressed. There is no question as to in the last quarter of a century on which the excellence of his intentions. But he has not written something. Imprison. good intentions do not absolve one from ment for Debt, the Poor Laws, the Court the necessity of considering the truth of of Chancery, the Ten Hours' Bill and an opinion or the result of proclaiming the relations of Workman and Employ it. And sympathy is not exactly the iner, Administrative Reform, the Ecclesias- strument by the use of which a right tical Courts, the Civil Service Examina- judgment is insured on complicated and tions, and National Education, have all difficult questions. Mr. Dickens, howbeen illustrated, criticised, and adjudicat- ever, is so impressed with the impored upon. We should be sorry to say that tance of cultivating the feelings, that he he has not pointed out many defects in is led to infer that, if the feelings are the working of these institutions; it was right, the judgment is not likely to be not difficult to do so; but he has uni- wrong. And thus, whatever has the formly overstated the case, he has often appearance of being hard and unsympanot understood it, and never has he thetic, is the object of his most particapointed out any remedy. It may be lar aversion. To people who do not unadded that his criticism has generally derstand the province of political econcome too late. The account of the omy, that science certainly has a some. Fleet prison in Pickwick was published in what uncompromising and forbidding the year in which the Act for the amend- aspect. Accordingly Mr. Dickens runs ment of the Insolvent Laws was passed. full tilt against it, apparently because it The Poor Laws had just been improved does not happen to be the same thing as when Oliver Twist exposed the horrors moral philosophy. "What is the first of the workhouse system. The descrip- principle of this science ?” asks the tion of Mr. Bounderby and the hands schoolmaster in Hard Times. “To do of Coketown closely followed the last unto others as I would they should do of a series of statutes regulating the unto me,” replies the model child ; and management of factories. Jarndyce and we are expected to agree with this abJarndyce might or might not have been surd answer. Hard-hearted economists true in the time of Lord Eldon, but it tell us that if a man's means only allow bears about as much relation to the pres- him to keep four children at a certain ent practice of the Court of Chancery level of comfort, he has no right to have as to that of the Star Chamber.
It eight. Mr. Dickens immediately de