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CHAPTER XIV.

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DICKENS AS A JOURNALIST.

E have previously alluded to the fact that Mr. Dickens had for some time past been thinking of connecting himself with a new daily paper which was to appear early in the new year. The idea was well taken up. Money was freely spent by the various shareholders, and many advertisements told the public that a newspaper, which should supply everything in the first style of newspaper talent, would be published at the price of twopence-halfpenny. The name chosen was the Daily News, and Mr. Dickens was widely advertised as "the head of the literary department." Expectation was raised to a high pitch by this announcement; and in 1846, on the 21st of January, the first number appeared. The new journal, however, did not prove so successful as was expected. The staffs of other papers had been long organized, their expenses—of course immense—were well and judiciously controlled, and the arrangements complete. All these things were new to the Daily News, and the expenses entered into did not render it possible, with the circulation it had then reached, to sell the paper at the original price; and it was shortly after raised to threepence, and finally to the same price as the Times.

Very recently, and only a few days after the death of the great novelist, the paper here alluded to gave this account of his connection with the journal:—

"Some of our readers may not be aware that the 'Pictures from Italy/ which are now included in all editions of Charles Dickens's works, were originally contributed to this newspaper, and that its early numbers were brought out under his editorship. In the first number of this journal, in the Daily News of January 21, 1846, appeared No. 1 of ' Travelling Letters, written on the Road, by Charles Dickens.' In the Daily News of February 14th, of the same year, Mr. Dickens wrote the following verses—which will be new to many—elicited by a speech at one of the night meetings of the wives of agricultural labourers in Wiltshire, held to petition for freetrade :—

THE HYMN OF THE WILTSHIRE LABOURERS.

"Don't you all think that we have a great need to cry to our God to put it in the hearts of our greaseous Queen and her members of Parlerment to grant us free bread! "—Lucy Simpkins, at Brem Hill.

Oh God, who by Thy Prophet's hand

Didst smite the rocky brake,
Whence water came at Thy command,

Thy people's thirst to slake:

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Strike, now, upon this granite wall,

Stern, obdurate, and high; And let some drops of pity fall

For us who starve and die!

The God, who took a little child

And set him in the midst,
And promised him His mercy mild,

As, by Thy Son, Thou didst:
Look down upon our children dear.

So gaunt, so cold, so spare, And let their images appear

Where Lords and Gentry are!

Oh God, teach them to feel how we,

When our poor infants droop,
Are weakened in our trust in Thee,

And how our spirits stoop:
For, in Thy rest, so bright and fair,

All tears and sorrows sleep;
And their young looks, so full of care,

Would make Thine angels weep!

The God, who with His finger drew

The Judgment coming on,
Write for these men, what must ensue,

Ere many years be gone!
Oh God, whose bow is in the sky,

Let them not brave and dare,
Until they look (too late) on high

And see an Arrow there!

Oh God, remind them In the bread

They break upon the knee, These sacred words may yet be read,

"In memory of Me "!

Oh God, remind them of His sweet

Compassion for the poor,
And how He gave them Bread to eat,

And went from door to door.

Charles Dickens.

"There is the true ring in these lines. They have the note which Dickens sounded consistently through life of right against might; the note which lound expression in the Anti-Corn Law agitation, in the -protests against workhouse enormities, in the raid against those eccentricities in legislation which are anomalies to the rich and bitter hardships to the poor. Let the reader remark how consistently the weekly periodicals which Mr. Dickens has guided have taken this side, and how the many pens employed on them have taken this side whenever political or social subjects have been discussed; and he will understand that the author was not a mere jester and story-teller, but a true philanthropist and reformer."*

Dickens's friends very soon saw that he had taken a false step. The duties of a daily political paper were not suitable to him, and before many months he relinquished the editorship, and retired from participation in the Daily News—but not, it is understood, without a considerable loss in money. His place was then filled by Mr. John Forster, the able editor of the Examiner, and friend—and at that time

* Daily News, nth June, 1870.

the champion—of Mr. Macready. For many years previously Dickens had been on the friendliest terms with the author of the delightful " Life of Goldsmith," and this intimacy was maintained to the close of our author's life, and in his will Mr. Forster has been appointed principal executor. After the " Pictures" had appeared in the Daily News, they were collected and printed and published for the author, in May, 1846, by his new publishers, Messrs. Bradbury and Evans. Both this work and "The Cricket on the Hearth" may be regarded as the speculations of Mr. Dickens in attempting publishing on his own account. No further works written by him have been, we believe, "printed and published for the author." The book did not meet with that hearty applause which had been given to his previous works. About this time there are evidences that Dickens was planning another novel, to be issued in the old familiar green covers. Two years had elapsed since the completion of " Martin Chuzzlewit," and we now find him writing to his friend, the Countess of Blessington, about a "new book "—which new work must have been " Dombey and Son," that appeared in the following year:—" Vague thoughts of a new book are rife within me just now; and I go wandering about at night into the strangest places, according to my usual propensity at such a time, seeking rest, and finding none. As an addition to my composure, I ran over a little dog in the Regent's Park, yesterday (killing him on the spot), and gave his little mistress

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