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genius, though, of course, they may occur to persons who have no conspicuous genius for literature or action.
Related to these primeval faculties was Dickens' intense power of imaginative vision and audition. He saw his characters, and heard them speak. In Mr. Galton's phrase, he was a powerful "visualizer;" he thought in pictures, not in words. These essential differences in mental processes are not confined to men of genius; an author must not only have "vision," but must have the power of transferring his visions to his readers, by something else than the primitive method traditional in the Highlands. Again, he must not only "see," but see things worth seeing and reporting. It is probably the case that all writers of genius have thought in this, which seems to be the earlier human way, now much effaced by various causes. Certainly this was the way of Dickens. His fancy acted with the freshness of the morning of the world, though the materials on which it played were those of the slum, the law-court, the prison, the alehouse, or whatever is most remote from the visionary golden age. "Our Parish" is not in Utopia.
Such, roughly speaking, was the genius of Dickens, in itself, in the true sense, "given," underived, and akin to all true creative temperaments. Sympathy, insight, vision, observation, peculiarity of mental angle or point of view, were all combined with humor, and, in youth, with high spirits so vehement as to constitute a kind of genius of themselves. To all this circumstances added, what might otherwise have been absent, the knowledge of a vast field of life almost unexplored by any other great English writer, excepting Fielding and Crabbe. As a magistrate, Fielding knew the poor, on whose side, in whose cause, in praise of whose generous virtues, his great, kind voice is always uplifted. Prisons he knew about in more ways than one, and Captain Booth's jail is a companion picture to Dickens' Fleet and Marshalsea. His own experience guided Dickens in his first sketches, while his brief period as a lawyer's clerk enabled him to paint the profession, from the Lord Chancellor to Mr. Solomon Pell, with the breadth and accuracy displayed by Scott in the same field.
Practice as a newspaper reporter, in or out of Parliament, added to his knowledge of life, and ruined enthusiasm for our representative institutions; while Dickens' inclination for the stage prompted him to a living study of every kind of cabotin and public amuser, from the man with performing dogs, to the Crummleses and Mr. Wopsle. By the time he was twenty-three, Dickens had learned the world which he was to illustrate, and was, in potentiality, all that he ever became except the unrivalled humorist.
Humor, I must confess, is much less apparent to me in his early "Sketches" than observation, sympathy, knowledge, and that peculiar vein of benevolent bitterness which usually marks his social satire. Already he was, as he remained, a reformer, a moralist, a writer with a purpose. One does not find in him, at this period, the splendid spirits, the inexhaustible gaiety, which dawned on the world in "Pickwick." In the "Sketches" he is still under the depression of struggle, poverty, neglect, and, possibly, of disappointed love; for his early love affair, with its Dora, later Flora, was passionate and real, if far from chivalrous in the long run. But Dickens began "Pickwick" as a young man who saw his path now clear before him, and as a happy and accepted lover. The shadows fell away, and Mr. Pickwick stepped beaming on the stage, surrounded by his immortal company. The sunlight grew clear. Mr. Pickwick ceased to be the amateur suburban savant, and bloomed into the delight of mankind-the cockney Quixote, the soul of gaitered chivalry; the cockney Socrates with his disciples; the obscure Johnson of a newer Fleet Street. This great man, in his benevolence, chivalry, childlike wisdom, and geniality, reminds us alternately of all the three characters mentioned; and surely Mr. Pickwick himself refutes the slander that "Dickens could not draw a gentleman." If Mr. Pickwick is not a gentleman (of course, not in the heraldic sense), who is? Who was ever more courteous and considerate, and (despite Mrs. Bardell and the lady in yellow curl-papers) more blameless in his relations with women? Who more gaily put himself in peril to rescue virtue in distress? Who was more fiery on the point of honor, even if his attitude of self-defense was unscientific? In whom do we mark a hand more open, a heart more tender, or more eager to forgive? Indeed, Mr. Pickwick seems "scarce other than my own ideal knight," though "a knight sin amor," like the good Earl Marischal. His toibles are amiable; his scutcheon is white as the pennon of Brian Tunstal. He did not shun the bowl; nor did Socrates, who, to be sure, like Dr. Johnson, had the stronger head. These excesses of the Pickwickians are to be taken in a Pickwickian sense; they are as symbolical as Maeterlinck, and infinitely more entertaining. As to method or plot, "Pickwick" has none, and needs. none. It is not a novel, but something far better; it is "Pickwick," the breviary of kindly men. "Delightful book!" as Thackeray cries, when Dugald Dalgetty's name comes into his mind. "To think of it is to want to jump up and take it down from the shelf." It opens to us a world literally crowded with human beings, of whom the least important even are permanent creations,
friends whom we do not forget. Nothing is lost, in such a work, by the optimism which converts Mr. Jingle and Job Trotter and leaves us practically on good terms with all the world. This is not Realism; we are far from being on good terms with all of our acquaintance. This is the optimism of Shakespeare's comedies, in which the author cannot be unrelentingly angry with his naughty puppets. They have served his purpose, and our purpose; let them go away, sin no more, and marry ladies of whom they are quite unworthy. So even Thackeray spares Colonel Altamont, for whom he had intended a very bad end. The modern novelist and critic, who cannot forgive Dickens' tolerance, and protests in the sacred name of insulted Art and injured Nature, may go wage his war with Shakespeare for like offenses. The world will decide in favor of Shakespeare's artistic instinct, as against the critic's artistic theory.
coincidences. Again, in "Nicholas Nickleby," the plot becomes a dreary entanglement, and we might say, as Johnson did about Richardson, "Why, sir, if you were to read it for the story, your impatience would be so much fretted that you would hang yourself." We must not read these works for "the story." We cannot believe in Arthur Gride, and all the intrigues connected with the parentage of Smike, and the iniquities of Ralph. The villains are too villanous, or not villanous in the right way. But, like "Pickwick," the book is populated by friends whom we never forget. Their name is Legion the Crummleses and all their company, Mr. Lilyvick, Newman Noggs, the Squeerses, Mrs. Nickleby, Tilda--the list is all but endless. Dickens' love of the stage, occasionally harmful to his talent, enabled him to know and create these splendid strollers--types of the eternal cabotin, but more genial than the theatrical people of any other author. With them, Dickens was at home. He was not at home-how could he be?-with Sir Mulberry and Lord Frederick Verisopht.
Dickens was not always so kind. He condemns Mr. Pecksniff and Mr. Squeers to pains and penalties. Now, we can readily pardon a poor devil who has made us laugh so much as Mr. Pecksniff; and as to Mr. Squeers, Dickens leaves us in a quandary. He deserves the knout, the boots, the "extreme torture of the Pilnicwinks;' but, then, so entertaining. What is to be done with the caitiff, with the whole deathless family, whose sun can never "go down behind the western wave?" In fact, there were not any such people. Dickens could not bear their sheer, unvarnished cruelty, so he made them too humorous for possibility. This may have been very wrong, in view of canons of art, but it is entirely successful. There are the Squeerses-nobody can wish them otherwise; the artistic problem solvitur ambulando, like the puzzles of the Eleatic philosophers. "Achilles cannot catch the tortoise"-but he does; the Squeerses could not exist-but they do. Art, like Nature, is justified by the fact.
The magical success of "Pickwick" was so far unfortunate that it presently brought Dickens acquaintance with overwork, with the pressure and haste from which he never wholly emancipated himself. He began "Oliver Twist" when about half through "Pickwick," while "Nicholas Nickleby" and "Barnaby Rudge" collided, in the making, with "Oliver Twist." These unhappy engagements, this working double tides, or treble tides-toils that would have been too laborious for Scott -cannot but have impaired the quality of the productions. In "Oliver Twist," Dickens became didactic as to the Poor Law; he had his social purpose clear before him. He also displayed his congenital incapacity for composition, hardly overcome in "Bleak House" and "Great Expectations." His heroine was a nobody, his chief villian, apart from Mr. Sikes, a creature of melodrama. He abused
In "Oliver Twist" and in "Nicholas Nickleby" occur the earliest examples of Dickens' pathos. Now, pathos is not very easy to define, though we know what we mean by it, and what Mr. Stevenson meant when he spoke of "wallowing naked in the pathetic." The pathos of Dickens is chiefly displayed in scenes where some very young and weak person is overwhelmed by misfortune, hunger, and ill-treatment, or succumbs to death. If a beast, say Dora's dog, is the victim, then, especially when poor, silly, little Dora is a sufferer at the same time, we have very deep pathos. It seems to appeal to our pity for helpless things, hopelessly overborne by sorrows and sufferings, and, so far, varies from the tragic. Thus Aristotle would confine the scope of tragedy to persons by no means weak, as men go- to kings, queens, and heroes. What humanity can do by way of resistance to the pressure of circumstances, they can do. Now, if we examine the best imaginative literature of the world, we shall find that the Aristotelian principle has, consciously or unconsciously, been pretty faithfully followed. The two things most approaching to pathos in ancient letters are, perhaps, the death of Socrates, in Plato, and the last hours of the Sicilian Expedition, in Thucy. dides. But men here, and strong men, are enduring such fates as mortals are born to, and the expression is of the simplest and the least forced. Medea, before the murder of her children, in Euripides, is in a pathetic posture; but she is defying God and man, herself a being of divine crigin. Where Homer touches on the ways of children-on the fate of Astyanax, for example-he is pathetic; but how briefly he dwells on such things! In Shakespeare we have pathos in the lament of
Macduff over his little ones, the prayer of Arthur to Hubert, the exclamations of Constance; but such passages are scarce, and are not prolonged. In Scott we have scarcely a death scene, except where men die under arms. In Thackeray we have Colonel Newcome's death, and the parting of Amelia from George Osborne, with the rest of her helpless sorrows. But to force tears by such forlorn situations is not Thackeray's way, nor Fielding's. Dickens, on the other hand, habitually insists on death bed scenes, and on the sufferings of the very young and very weak. Surely he did not feel much more for such tribulations than the men of genius who, as rule, a passed them by, as "too deep for tears," or as too facile sources of the reader's emotion. But on such tribulations Dickens dwells long and fondly; he insists on and elaborates them with every pathetic artifice. My own taste-not, I hope, from hardness of heartis averse to much in Smike, Little Nell, Little Dombey, Dora, and other small sufferers exposed to the crushing weight of destiny in various forms. Apparently, the taste of the greatest writers has been in agreement with this, for they do not use the pathetic nearly so much, or so often, or so resolutely as Dickens. That he overdoes it is plain from the contrast between the restraint he shows in describing, for example, the death of Mrs. Dombey, and the elaborate effusion on the death of her son. But whether this view is right or wrong -whether his passages of pathos are too frequent, and too strenuously tearful, or not-certainly they pleased the public, and were a great element in his popularity. He was naturally "strong upon the weaker side;" his own emotions were powerfully stirred, and he always knew his public fairly well, and endeavored to satisfy its demands.
a later public is not precisely of the same taste, and discerns something theatrical in several of Dickens passages.
In "Pickwick," "Oliver Twist," and "Nickleby," Dickens has given fair samples of his quality. Time and reflection might make him take elaborate thought, not usually well-rewarded, about construction, but he was seldom likely to approve himself an accomplished story-teller, well worth reading for the story's sake. Emphasis was likely to be a sunken and dangerous reef in his progress. His high spirits could not remain at their level in “Pickwick.” His social satire might vary in its objects, but would not always be well informed and telling. In "Chuzzlewit" and "Dombey" he set himself abstract moral tasks; the illustration of a passion, selfishness, or pride; and the passion, in his hands, was apt to become what used to be called a "humor." Possibly the public disliked this method, for "Chuzzlewit was relatively unpopular, even after Dickens, anxious to oblige, removed Martin and Mark to America, an after
thought in a tale not begun on any definite plan. "Chuzzlewit" possessed, what "Dombey" all but lacks, the delightful vein of intellectual high spirits. Dickens simply revel.ed in Mr. Pecksniff, and in what is, perhaps, his greatest creation, Mrs. Gamp. That admirable lady is worthy of the creator of Dame Quickly, so masterly, so large, is the handling, so flowing is her contour; for Sairey, in her way, has "an outline," which Mr. Mantalini desiderated in a person of quality. Near her, but not actually on her level, is the friendly Mr. Swiveller, whose Marchioness exhibits right pathos, which does not harrow, being bathed in huMr. Swiveller, no doubt, is a raff, and would have been "proud of the title," but a raff of delicacy, with the kindest heart, and, in the matter of poetry, he finds in it all the consolation and counsel which, in Mr. Matthew Arnold's opinion, makes poetry an eligible substitute for religion. One thinks of those enchanted characters, down to Miss Wackles and Quilp's boy, with an inexpressible affection. Our hearts are simply peopled with those creations, which gathered round Dickens, when he wrote, like amiable spirits, summoned by one sweep of a magician's wand. Could there be weariness in the brain which bubbled up, as it were, with these creatures of delight-with Mrs. Todgers, and Bailey junior, the Mantalinis, and Betsy Prig, and Hannibal Chollop, and the Literary Ladies, and Jefferson Brick? Weariness there was, we know-it shows itself in overwrought eloquence, in the meaningless forced humor of the opening chapter of "Chuzzlewit;" but it did not prevent the rising of whole clans of imperishable friends "at a wave of the bonnet" of Mrs. Gamp. "Dombey" was not so rich, by any means, in these indispensable supernumeraries. Mrs. Pipchin and Dr. Blimber are not the author's very best. Mr. Toots is more on that level. Captain Cuttle (I blush to confess) never at any time exhilarated me, Joey Bagstock is no Major Pendennis; and the serious business with Carker, the confused part of Edith, leave me frigid much more so than does Jonas Chuzzlewit, whose "business," after the murder, seems to myself to be realized with great power.
Elsewhere I have ventured to point out that, in my opinion, Edith had already thrown her bonnet over the windmills, with Mr. Carker, before her elopement. But Dickens later invented the scene of Mr. Carker's disappointment, while leaving in the passage to which I refer. In a letter to Mr. Forster, he says, "Note from Jeffrey this morning, who won't believe (positively refused) that Edith is Carker's mistress. What do you think of a kind of inverted Maid's Tragedy, and a tremendous scene of her undeceiving Carker, and giving him to know that she never meant that." Then what did Dickens mean when, after a stolen midnight
interview with Carker, Edith bids Florence not to come near her, in accents of hysterical guiltiness. Jeffrey clearly thought that he was expected to regard Mrs. Dombey as a fallen angel, and if a mystification was deliberately intended, it was a mistake in art. If there was a change of plan, and an oversight in leaving what ought to have been removed, we must blame the unhappy system of publishing in numbers, and beginning with only the most shadowy notion of what was to follow. Dickens never thought of condensing and re-casting, when once his tale of numbers was told; hence, the constructive imperfections, and languid longueurs which lend a handle to hostile criticism. We have no Dickens, but we have hundreds of writers who, with conscious rectitude, avoid his technical errors, and glory in the motto that fiction is now a finer art. It is better charpente, but where is the essential thing, the creative power?
That power, blowing where it listeth, came back in fullest measure with "David Copperfield," which, no doubt, is Dickens' masterpiece as a novel, "Pickwick," as has been said, being no novel, but simply an isolated phenomenon. I have elsewhere observed that, narrating as Copperfield or. as Pip, Dickens could not keep on moralizing and satirizing, as when he is himself the narrator. This was to him a great advantage; his unessential reflections on all things were subordinated. They never won an excuse by a style like that of Thackeray or Fielding. Again, plot was not much needed in the early part of an autobiography. Pathos was subdued and restrained, clarified and strengthened, in the sorrows of Copperfield's mother. The hero, in childhood, was so much Dickens himself, that he was absolutely acquainted with his matter; and the "oddities" of a boy of genius, like the strange nascent ideas of Pip, were memories rather than inventions. Mr. Micawber, One does not too, was a glorified reminiscence. know where Dickens got Mr. Creakle and his school; his own school-days seemed to have yielded no materials. Nor do we know anything in his boyhood to suggest that admirable passage of David's love for Steerforth, which every one who has had a Steerforth of his own--tall, handsome, strong, clever, lazy-recognizes with tenderness for the truth. Dickens was never the big, learned, pugilistic schoolboy who fought the butcher's lad,
and made love to Miss Larkins. He must have divined all that part of life; while the warehouse and the reporter's existence, and the legal part. were given by experience. The flight to Dover is one of the most masterly pieces of narrative to which Dickens ever set his hand. He only stoops his wing when he comes to the intrigue, when
the inevitable roles of Little Em'ly and the seductive Steerforth are developed; when Uriah takes to plotting, and Mr. Micawber to detective work. The love affair with Dora, as we know, is a reminiscence of a passion to whose memory, and inspiration, Dickens might later have been more chivalrous. If everybody, almost, is made happy (in ways not very plausible) at the close, we have again to plead the example of Shakespeare. Dickens desires to please, not to show (what we know without being told) how the nature of things would have disposed of Mr. Micawber.
"Copperfield," in brief, deserves the enthusiastic praises of Thackeray, a man who took a buoyant. delight in praising. Witness his letter to Tennyson on the "Idylls of the King." He had ever been the eager advocate of Dickens, and not many even of Thackeray's minor papers are more amusing than his account of "Nicholas Nickleby" as dramatized in Paris, and his reply, on Dickens' side, to the egregious criticism of Jules Janin. Every one knows that Dickens and Thackeray were severed by an unworthy cause, and it is probably not less well known that Thackeray made the first advances to reconciliation, and "could not bear not to be friends."
I have elsewhere alluded to Pip's vision of Miss Havisham's wraith hanging up in the brewery. This must probably have been meant to lead up to something; if so, the purpose was forgotten.
The entire charm of "Copperfield" was never recaptured by Dickens. In "Bleak House" he fell back into didacticism-an attack on the Court of Chancery. The attack may have been "richly deserved," but a novel is not a place in which severe argument and exact collection of facts are possible. Chancery lent a grubby atmosphere, a gloom. The supposed unconscious Esther was hardly reckoned artificial; spontaneous combustion was hardly a theme for romance (though handled with undeniable vigor and lurid effect); while Skimpole caused a natural strife with Leigh Hunt. Dickens assuredly intended no harm; he thought that his original was gaze, veiled, indiscoverable; but, unluckily, he hit not only "Hunt's "evaporated" geniality of manner, but a blot in his character. The scorpion, in old days, had not bitten Hunt more poignantly than Dickens inadvertently did. He thought that he had removed all ground of quarrel, and it is prob able that he suffered more than Hunt did from the occurrence. It is a warning to novelists against a constant temptation, and one rather pities than blames Dickens for an isolated mistake of this kind. It was not of a nature to militate against the unpopularity of the book, which was great. The plot, at least, was a plot, and held well together. Jo, and the Snagbys, Chadband, the lawyers' clerks, the mysterious old Krook, Skimpole himself, Tulkinghorn, Sergeant Sergeant Bucket (who had so large a progeny in later fiction), were all felt to be pathetic or comic, and in their own way, Dickens' way, to be natural. Sir Lei
cester and Lady Dedlock were well meant, rather than successful. The artificial atmosphere of a not too well informed irony surrounds their society; and, in the lady's death, melodrama has its full swing. The Turveydrops and the far-sighted lady who was already "grabbing" Borrioboola, with her neglected house-hold, make up, in a great degree, for the blemishes. In fact, only stern duty compels a critic at any time to note blemishes in a book so full of the richest and most varied entertainment. The drawback, the defects of knowledge, the artificiality of tone, the longueurs, the melodrama, are so conspicuous, that it is all but superfluous to remark on them. The wise, who "read for human pleasure," will be a little blind to the faults, and concentrate their attention on the merits. Moreover, the days are past when the faults (as usually happers in imitations) were sedulously copied by scores of writers. Dickens is anything but impeccable; not infrequently he is left for a long time uninspired, or ill inspired. We cannot all be Miss Austens, and Dickens, as a novelist by profession, had no more Miss Austen's leisure, than he had her delicate instinct of perfection, and her consciousness of her limitations. He felt bound to work in his calling, like any other professional man, and as his profession was an art, he often worked invita Minerva, with the inevitable results. For a man can labor at a brief, or among his patients, when he does not feel any "sublimal up-rush" of a legal or medical kind. But something of that mystic nature is required for writing of genius; and the something will not always come to call. There must be barren deserts in the work of the greatest novelist by profession.
Such a Sahara is "Little Dorrit." Mr. Gissing can praise it, in a commendable spirit of loyalty, just as another authority has praised "Count Robert of Paris." But the conduct of "Little Dorrit" is so bad, the interests so many, and often so weak, and so apt to interfere with and obscure each other, that the oases on which Mr. Gissing broods fondly cannot reconcile me to the book. I must be honest as well as loyal, and must admit that I never could read "Little Dorrit" "for human pleasure," while, read as a matter of duty, it wearies me as much as any book that I ever perused. Blackwood, in the old manner, called the story "twaddle;" it is not all twaddle, by any means. Merdle is good, old Dorrit deserves Mr. Gissing's enthusiasm, Flora almost makes us pardon her origin, the Patriarch is excellent; but the book fatigues.
"The Tale of Two Cities" is the best thing that could be expected of Dickens when his humor was veiled and he was working at serious historical melodrama. It is hardly "the true Dickens," and is best liked by many who like the true
Dickens least. In "Great Expectations" he was his best self again, reminiscent, autobiographic, humorous, and furnished with perhaps the best of his plots, while his canvas was limited. In "Our Mutual Friend" he relapsed into his outworn satire, the stage diction out of place, the needless and voulu phantastic. Then came the full and unendurable stress of public readings, a collapse in health, and the incomplete "Mystery of Edwin Drood." Fatigue declared itself in the very choice of a murder and a mystery, in some terrible puns, in the unprecedented colloquial style of too many of the characters. Rosa, beginning in the Dolly Varden manner, was improving. The opium-scenes were carefully worked up (compare Mr. Kipling's similar study, "The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows"), but one could not care much for Edwin Drood or the dusky twins, and his Mystery was impenetrable. If his body was annihilated in a lime-heap by Jasper, while his ring bore witness to the crime, why is Edwin standing in the full light of a dark lantern on the river? Who is Datchery? Edwin in a gray wig? If Jasper, beguiled by a "dwawm" of opium, did not kill Edwin, but somebody else, how did Edwin's ring get into the quicklime ? "The person murdered was to be identified," says Mr. Forster. But, again, what is Edwin doing in the light of the dark lantern on the cover? He is clearly not a ghost, but an incarnate Edwin. The pen dropped from a dying hand, and the whole of the English-speaking race was startled and saddened by the news of the death of their friend and benefactor. No man, for forty years, had diffused so much delight, had given so much sterling happiness. How glorious is the record, how far beyond envy is the achievement, how frivolous do our deductions and carpings appear, when set beside the undeniable fact! Shakespeare, Fielding, Dr. Johnson, Burns, Scott and Dickens-these, when we think of authors who have made men glad, who have made life joyful in England, are the names. They are with Homer and Aristophanes, Moliere Rabelais and Cervantes; they are heroes and benefactors.
We bave spoken of Dickens as a writer most imperfectly, for the bewildering multitude of his creations of character cannot be reduced to a summary. His view and knowledge of life included a most intimate acquaintance with childhood -- from the young of the Trotty Veck to the diabolical "Deputy;" from that truly sympathetic young victim of Borrioboola Gha, who whacked his rescuers, to Trabb's boy, "a serpent" and Traddles, and the heroes of "Holiday Romance," with, of course, the "innerly bairns," as the Scots say, Copperfield and Pip. In fact, no boy so much as proves himself "an enemy to joy" by a piercing whoop but he is an individual recogniz