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pieces without end. Not to speak with They supply thousands of readers with statistical exactness, we may say that in a philosophy of life, and are at this moEngland these works have been read by ment almost the only form of poetry everybody without distinction of age or which is really popular. Time was, when rank. In America he is fully as popular seriously disposed people would have as he is here; his career has been followed nothing to do with them. The model in Germany with the patient insight governess of that period always locked which distinguishes the Teutonic mind; them up: the wicked pupil always read and he is read (whether understood or them. The current of opinion now sets not) in France. If, like Mr. Putnam in an exactly opposite direction. The Sinif, he “ aspirates for fame," bis aspi- novelist has taken rank as a recognized rations must have been realized to their public instructor. Important questions utmost extent.
of social policy, law reform, the latest Nor is Mr. Dickens unworthy of this invention, the most recent heresy, are great popularity. His genius is entirely formally discussed in his pages, in the original. It is scarcely an exaggeration most attractive manner too, with a maxto say that the light literature of the pres- imum of argument and a minimum of ent generation has been created and facts. monked under the influence of his style. This change is in a great measure owPickwick has been to us very much what ing to Mr. Dickens himself. In order to the Rape of the Lock was to the poets understand how it was brought about it of the last century. It has revolution is necessary to glance slightly at the litized comic writing, and introduced a new erary history of the generation precedstandard of humor.
ing his first appearance as an author.. Nor is it only or chiefly in the field of The century opened with but poor prosletters that the power of Mr. Dickens is pects for novel readers. It was a night felt. He has entered into our every-day between two days. Fielding and Smollife in a manner which no other living lett had ceased to write; Sir Walter author has done. Much of his phraseol- Scott had not yet written. The interogy has become common property. Al- val was feebly bridged over by writers lusions to his works and quotations from of little note, and the public (who were them are made by everybody, and in all determined to read novels) read novels places. If Sir Edward Bulwer had never of a degree of badness, more pretentious written a line there would be a blank on and more absurd than any that we shall our shelves, and perhaps in some of our find now-unless we expressly look for thoughts; but assuredly there would be them. The Minerva Press was in full no perceptible difference in our conversa- activity. We know what it means to tion. But take away Pickwick or Mar- say of a book that it reminds one of the tin Chuzzlerit, and the change would be productions of the Minerva Press. It is noticed any day in Cheapside.
a short way of saying that the imaginaA writer of whom this can be said is tion runs riot; that scenes and characworth reading critically. We according ters are described without the faintest ly propose--not indeed, to review Mr. reference to probability: that it is steepDickens's novels in detail—but to exam- ed in a sickly sentimentalism and defacine some of the leading qualities of his ed by a miserable execution. But in mind and style, so far as these qualities 1814 Waverley appeared, and with it a find their expression in the twenty two completely new era. During the sucvolumes before us. And we shall do ceeding ten years, national and histori. this with the object of leading our read- cal peculiarities took the place of gloomy ers to infer whether, on the whole, the over-wrought passion. To Miss Edgevast power he has wielded bas been ex-worth belongs the credit of having inauercised for good or not.
gurated this wholesome change. It was It may seem not quite fair to apply so the fame of her Irish characters—we grave a standard to works which profess have it on the authority of Sir Walter to be written for our amusement. But Scott himself-which rescued the manuauthors must be perfectly well aware script of Waverley from the drawer in that novels are now something more than which it had laid so long forgotten the means of passing away an idle hour. among salmon-flies and night-lines, and
enriched the English language with a lodging - house keepers, the hospitalseries of fictions unequalled for humor, nurses and waiters, with whom we are plot, and dramatic skill. It is not sur now so familiar, passed away unhonored prising that descriptions of Scotch and and unmourned for want of a poet. Here Irish character should have proved at was a mine of life and character which tractive at a time when comparatively might have been profitably worked by a little was known either of Scotland or less skilful hand than dr. Dickens. Ile Ireland. Presently, however, the mania entered into undisputed possession of it, passed away, and a taste for Highland and made it his own. This happy choice interiors yielded to a preference for the of subject has had much to do with his pictures of English homes. Miss Austen success. In his later works he has alundertook to construct a novel out of ways mixed
up with his unrivalled dethe ordinary occurrences of every-day scriptions a serious element, or, to speak life. To write a book on the peculiari- more strictly, he has made the descrip: ties of one's friends was not a bad idea, tions themselves subservient to a moral and, in her hands, it was certainly very or political purpose. It is but fair to say pleasant reading. But even dinner-par- that this habit seems to have been gradties and country rectories become tedious ually forced upon him by the character after a while. It so happened, however, of his genius. There is no trace of it in that an increasing number of rather idle his earliest work, the Sketches by Boz. people began, about this time, to feel an There is only a faint trace of it in Pickinterest in social and political questions. wick. It appears more decidedly in OliThe dreams of romance had been ex ver Twist and Martin Chuzalowit, and it changed for the realities of the drawing. arrives at maturity in Bleak Ilouse and room; the realities of the drawing-room Little Dorrit. In attempting to write were about to give way to some of the with an object, Mr. Dickens has comsterner facts of out-door life. The stir mitted the very common error of mistakof the Reform movement was at its ing the nature of his own powers. He height. Everywhere questions were be- possesses in high perfection many rare. ing asked, changes advocated, abuses and valuable gifts. But he is in no swept away. Even the novel-reading sense, either as a writer or a thinker, qualpublic caught the enthusiasm, for they | ified to cope with complicated interests. saw an opening to a new kind of excite What, then, are the qualities in which ment. The diffusion of common knowl. the secret of his influence truly lies ? edge had brought social questions within The first, the most important, and most the ken of a large class who, fifteen distinctive is, without doubt, his humor. years before, were, and were contented It is often said that Mr. Dickens is a to be, perfectly ignorant of them. Clear-great humorist, but no wit. From this ly, all the conditions requisite for a high- opinion we altogether dissent. His wit ly popular treatment of politics were is not like that of Shakspeare or of there--an interested public and unlim- Cowley or of Pope; it is not even that ited means of communicating with them. of Sydney Smith or of Hood; but it is Still, we doubt whether any one less wit nevertheless. It would be pedantic gifted than Mr. Dickens, or with qualifi- to attempt to define so volatile and cations different to his, would have suc-changing a quality. By far the best deceeded in inducing half England to read scription of it with which we are acbooks which had anything to do with quainted is contained in Barrow's Serthe Poor Laws or Chancery reform. He mons.* “Its ways,” says the learned has certainly effected thus much, and we Doctor, "are unaccountable and inexbelieve him to have been the main in- plicable; being answerable to the numstrument in the change which has per- berless rovings of fancy and windings of verted the novel from a work of art io a language. It is, in short, a manner of platform for discussion and argument. speaking out of the simple and plain
But this is only part of his originality. way (such as reason teacheth and showWhen he began to write, the life of the eth things by) which by a pretiy surmiddle and lower classes had found no prising uncouthness or conceit of expreschronicler. The vagabonds of our London streets, the cabmen, the thieves, the
* Sermon xiv,
sion doth affect and amuse the fancy, But Mrs. Gamp's picture of the imagistirring in it some wonder and breeding nary Tommy Harris, " with his small red some delight thereto.” Barrow must be worsted shoe a-gurglin' in his throat, allowed to be an excellent judge of wit; where he had put it in his play, a chick, if there is any one on whose opinion we while they was leavin' of him on the should rely with greater confidence, it is floor a lookin' for it through the 'ouse, Addison. Addison quotes somewhere and him a choakin' sweetly in the parthe poet's saying, that his mistress' bosom lor”--is essentially witty. At least we is as white as suow: he maintains that can detect no difference in kind between there is no wit in this; but when, he re- the quality that delights us in Mrs. Gamp marks, the poet adds, with a sigh, it is and the quality that delights us in Falas cold too, then the comparison grows staff. We believe it to be a great error into wit. The reason of the distinction to press the distinction between wit and is perfectly plain. The first simile is so humor to the extent that is usually done. obvious that any one can make it for They belong to the same family and are himself; it lies in the connection of two related, having some characteristic difideas related by so superficial an analogy férences. Such differences may be exthat it cannot possibly either affect or pressed in various ways. We may say amuse the fancy ; but the second is more that wit resides chiefly in the expresremote, and coming upon us unexpect- sion : humor in the thought; that we edly, “ stirs some wonder and breeds admire the former, and are amused by some delight.” It would appear from the latter; that one depends on the asthe definition of Barrow, as well as from semblage of ideas which are congrnions, the example of Addison, that whenever the other on the connection of ideas ideas are so put together that a feeling which are incongruous. But they agree of pleasurable surprise is aroused, we in flowing from a particular turn of have all that is necessary to constitute thought which enables a writer at once wit. It would be difficult to give many to surprise his hearers and to affect their examples of humor which did not include fancy; and if Mr. Dickens does not possuch a connection. It is true that in hu- sess that quality of mind, we do not mor there is something more: we are know who does. amused as well as surprised and delight It must be admitted that he someed; but humor does not cease to be wit- times spoils both his wit and humor by ty because it makes us laugh. When putting them in the mouth of the wrong VÍr. Pecksniff cannot remember the person. This arises from the fact that name of the fabulous animals who used he often begins a book without having to sing in the water, and one person sug- formed a clear notion of it as a whole. He gests “swans," and another * oysters,
," introduces a character with no defined inthis is humor with as little admixture of tention as to the use that is to be made of wit as may be ; there is nothing in the him. Hence in the progress of the story a expression, the whole point lies in the man acts and talks in a manner for which
juxtaposition of things so incongruous our former experience of him bas not preas a mermaid and an oyster. So with pared us. Dick Swiveller is an instance Mr. Weller's observation, that there is in point. We must assume that the hisno use in calling a young woman a Venus tory and conversational peculiarities of or an angel-that you might as well call this young gentleman are known to our her a griffin, or a unicorn, or a king's readers. His reflections on Miss Sally arms at once: in this there is certainly Brass are in themselves very good, but
shat Barrow would describe as a pretty they are curiously out of place coming xnirprising uncouthness of expression; from the Perpetual Grand Master of the there is also a propriety in the thought Glorious Apollos. “It is no use asking as occurring to that particular speaker; the dragon,” thought Dick one day, as but what strikes one most is the oddness he sat contemplating the features of in the relation of the ideas of a young Miss Sally Brass. “I suspect if I asked lady and a king's arms. To borrow Ad- any questions on that head our alliance dison's well - chosen expression, this would be at an end. I wonder whether
grows into wit," but the passage is of she is a dragon, by the-by, or somecourse chiefly remarkable for its humor. I thing in te mermaid line. She has
rather a scaly appearance. But mer aware of the circumstance; nor did he seem maids are fond of looking at themselves to know that there was muífin on his knee. in the glass, which she can't be. And
" And how have they used you down. they have a habit of combing their hair, stairs, sir?' asked the hostess.
Their conduct has been such, my dear which she hasn't." * Next to his wit and humor, the lead think of without emotion, or remember with
madam,' said Mr. Pecksniff, as I can never ing quality of Mr. Dickens's mind is un out a tear. Oh! Mrs. Todgers ! doubtedly' bis imagination. We should “My goodness !' exclaimed that lady. expect it to be so in a successful writer | How low you are in your spirits, sir.' of fiction. But it is one thing to possess
“ 'I am a man, my dear madam,' said Mr. this power, and it is quite another thing Pecksniff, shedding tears, and speaking with to be possessed by it. And, with much father. My feelings will not consent to be
an imperfect articulation, but I am also a submission to Mr. Ruskin, imagination smothered" like the young children in the is not exactly the most truth-telling fac- Tower. They are grown up, and the more I ulty of the human mind even for the pur- press the bolster on them, the more they look poses of art. It sometimes misleads. It round the corner of it.' sometimes overpowers by its own bril “He suddenly became conscious of the bit liancy. Oftenest it destroys the effect of a of muslin, and stared at it intently, shaking whole by the prominence which it gives his head the while in a forlorn and imbecile to subsidiary parts. Those in whose and mildly reproached it." *
manner, as if he regarded it as his evil genius, hands it produces the most striking effects use it as Prospero used Ariel. This
The humor of this illustration is not is not at all the practice of Mr. Dickens. marred by any feeling of incongruity, He abandons himself unreservedly to the for Mr. Pecksniff has been sitting over guidance of fancy, and makes a point of his wine, and it is natural that his ideas giving complete liberty to his Spirit at should not flow with severely logical the very commencement of its task. precision. So, in the case of the gentleThat this is owing in part to the great man who remarks that “there is a poerelative strength of his imagination we try in wildness, and every alligator bask do not at all doubt; but it is chiefly due ing in the slime is himself an epic selfto the absence of controlling power. contained”. are not offended by Throughout his writings there is no that, because it is said by an American. sense of government or of restraint. We But when the thing illustrated is not miss altogether that nice sense of rela- separated or separable from other things, tion and fitness, artistic judgment, tact, but stands to them in the relation of taste, the faculty, by whatever name it part to whole, its description must be may be called, which should sit, like kept strictly within the limits of likeli- . Æolus, to temper and calm the spirits hood, or the exaggeration will become who are wildly struggling for expression evident by comparison with that which in him, and by the aid of which
lies around and about it. In a series of
disconnected sketches we can bear with “ Et premere, ct laxas sciret dare jussus much improbability. Perhaps it was habenas."
some feeling of this which led Mr. The freaks of an imagination run wild Dickens to start the idea of publishing are generally amusing, and when the his novels in monthly parts. It certainsubject illustrated by it stands alone or ly suits his style. Pickwick is not even apart our amusement is not interfered in structure a story, and many of its with, because there are no surrounding most admired scenes would scarcely be circumstances to remind us of its extrav- supported were they not seen to be agance. Take for example, that little fragments. But when he writes for the scene in the drawing-room at Mrs. Todg. purpose of carrying out an idea, we ers'
have a right to expect some harmony "Mr. Pecksniff had followed his younger
and proportion. There are two parallel friends upstairs, and taken a chair at the side passages in Mr. Dickens's works which of Mrs. Todgers. He had also spilt a cup of are very much in point, and which we coffee over his legs without appearing to be shall quote, quite as much for the sake
* Old Curiosity Shop, vol. i. p. 283.
Chuzzlewit, vol. i. pp. 15, 78.
of the passages themselves, which are / which I bring up these children. Stick to admirable, as of the example. The first Facts, sir.' The speaker and the schoolmasoccurs in the Old Curiosity Shop. Nell, ter and the third grown person present all in the course of her wandering, has the inclined plane of little vessels then and
backed a little, and swept with their eyes taken office under Mrs. Jarley, the there arranged in order, ready to have impeowner of a travelling show of wax. rial gallons of facts poured into them until work, and she is sent by that lady to, they were full to the brim. solicit the patronage of Miss Non Girl number twenty,' said Mr. Gradflathers, who keeps a school for young grind, squarely pointing with his square finladies :
ger. I don't know that girl. Who is that "You're the wax-work child, are you “Sissy Jupe, sir,' exclaimed No. 20, blushnot?' said Viss Monflathers.
ing, standing up, and curtseying: “Yes, ma'am,' replied Nell, coloring deep Sissy is not a name,' said Mr. Gradly, for the young ladies had collected about grind. “Don't call yourself Sissy. Call yourber, and she was the centre on which all eyes self Cecilia.' were fixed.
*** It's father as calls me Sissy, sir,' re** And don't you think you must be a
turned the young girl in a trembling voice. very icked little child,' said Miss Mon " Then he has no business to do it,' said, Mathers, who was of rather uncertain tem- Mr. Gradgrind. “Tell him he mustn't, Ceper, and lost no opportunity of impressing cilia Jupe.
What is your moral truths upon the tender minds of the father ?' young ladies, to be a wax-work child at
“ * He belongs to the horse-riding, if you all ?
please, sir. Mr: Gradgrind frowned and ** Poor Nell had never viewed her position waved off the objectionable calling with his in this light, and not knowing what to say, hand. remained silent, blushing more deeply than "We don't want to know anything before.
about that here. You mustn't tell us about "Don't you know,' said Miss Monflathers, that here. Your father breaks horses, don't that it's very naughty and unfeminine, and a he?' perversion of the properties wisely and be "When they can get any to break they do nignantly transmitted to us, with expansive break horses in the ring, sir.' powers to be roused from their dormant state
66. Very well then. Describe your father through the medium of cultivation ?'
as a horse-breaker. He doctors sick horses, “ The two teachers murmured their respect. I dare say?' ful approval of this home thrust, and looked "Oh yes, sir.' at Nell as though they would have said that
“Very well then. IIe is a veterinary surthere indeed Miss Monflathers had hit hier geon, a farrier and horsebreaker. Give me very hard.
your detinition of a horse.' * Don't you feel how naughty it is of you,' "(Sissy Jupe thrown into the greatest resumed Miss Monflathers, 'to be a wax: alarm by this demand.) work child, when you might have the proud Girl No. 20 unable to define a horse!' consciousness of assisting, to the extent of said Mr. Gradgrind for the general behoof of your infant powers, the manufactures of your all the little pitchers. “Girl No. 20 possessed country; of improving your mind by the of no facts in reference to one of the commonconstant contemplation of the steam-engine, est of animals. Some boy's definition of a and of earning a comfortable and independent horse. Bitzer, yours.' subsistence of from two - and - ninepence to • Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty three shillings a week? Don't you know teeth, namely, twenty-four grinders, four eye that the harder you work the happier you | teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in
spring; in marshy countries sheds hoofs The second is from the first two chap- also: Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod
with iron. ters of Hard Times :
Age known by marks in mouth.'
Thus (and much more) Bitzer. *Now what I want is, Facts. Teach "Now girl No. 20,' said Jr. Gradgrind, these children nothing but facts. Facts alone 'you know what a horse is.' are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and “The third gentleman now stepped forth. ront out everything else. You can only form A mighty man at cutting and drying, he was; the minds of reasoning animals upon facts; a government officer ; in his way (and in nothing else will be of any service to them. most other people's too) a professed pugilist; This is the principle on which I bring up my always in training; always with a system to own children, and this is the principle on force down the general throat, like a bolus;
always to be heard of at the bar of his little * OW Curiosity Shop, vol. i. pp. 245, 6. public office, ready to tight all England. Ile