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LATER NOVELS OF DICKENS.
instant, with an intense abstraction, the odd feature or whimsical bent in any man or woman, he creates a character from that single quality, making his creation stand out in bright and startling relief as the type of a whole class. Among the English characters of Chuzzlewit, the scoundrel Pecksniff and the immortal Sairey Gamp are undoubtedly the most artistic and original.
After a twelvemonth in Italy, Dickens came home to establish and edit a morning paper, The Daily News, to which he contributed sketches entitled Pictures from Italy. But from this beavy, and to some extent thankless task, he soon returned to the more congenial field of fiction. Dombey and Son, the tale of a starched and purse-proud merchant, whose every thought is centred in the House (not of Commons, but of business); David Copperfield, the story of a young literary man struggling up to fame, as the author himself had done, through the thorny toils of short-hard notes; and Bleak House, founded on the miseries of a suit in Chancery, came out in brilliant succession, to delight a million readere. "Copperfield" especially is prized as the finest of his later novels.
Upon the conclusion of “David Copperfield,” Dickens undertook to conduct a weekly serial, called Housekold Words, which is now his own property, under the title of All the 1850 Year Round. To this he contributed A Child's History of England, giving a picturesque view of the national growth and fortunes. And soon after the conclusion of “Bleak House,” he wrote for the same serial · his tale of a Strike, called Hard Times.
Little Dorrit, depicting the touching devotion of a young girl to her selfish father, who is a prisoner for debt; A Tale of Two Cities (London and Paris), filled with the horrors of the French Revolution; Great Expectations—hinging upon the return of a convict; and Our Mutual Friend, are his recent works.
We should not forget, in reviewing the fruits of Dickens' busy pen, the charming series of Christmas tales which commenced in 1843 with A Christmas Carol. The Chimes and The Cricket on the Hearth are deservedly the most popular of these minor works, all of which, to be thoroughly enjoyed, should be read by the
DICKENS' PET CHARACTER.
cheery light of a Christmas fire, while the polished green and vivid scarlet of the fresh holly boughs wink upon the parlour wall, and the crisp snow sparkles out of doors in the frosty starlight. No finished portrait is Trotty Veck, but a slightly-filled sketch,—what artists call a study,- yet who can forget or fail to love the good old fellow ?
On such a portrait Dickens loves to lavish his highest skill. Choosing some character of the most unpromising outward appearance-Smike, the starved, half-witted drudge of a Yorkshire school; Pinch, the awkward, shambling assistant of a rascally country architect; Ham, a rough, tar-splashed, weather-beaten fisherman of Yarmouth ; Joe, the huge, stout blacksmith, whose dull brain can scarcely shape a thought clearly into words—he makes us love them all, for the truth, the honesty, the sweet, guileless, forgiving spirit that lives within the ungainly frame. If Dickens had done no more than create the Tom Pinch of “ Chuzzlewit," and the blacksmith Joe of “Great Expectations,” he deserves lasting gratitude and fame. As the commonest weed, the meanest reptile has its own beauty and its own use in the grand scheme of Creation-as some delicate blossom or tender leaf nestles in the nooks of every ruin, no matter how wildly or how long the storm may have beaten on its walls, or how entirely defaced by war or time the tracery of its stonework may have become—so man or woman never falls so low, never grows so ugly or repulsive, never is so thoroughly ridiculous or stupid, as utterly to lose the outlines of that Divine image in which the ancient parents of the race were created. And although we, with clay-dimmed eyes, cannot clearly see why a man is ugly or a tree distorted, we must not forget that the plainest face and the homeliest manner may cover a noble intellect and a heart beating with tenderest pity and love for humankind. Such we take to be the great moral of Dickens' "sweet, unsullied page.”
In some of his later works a slightly morbid desire for violent effects has disfigured his plots and his style. He has become less natural in colours and in grouping, -too violent in the former, too theatrical in the latter. The rage for sensation-dramas,
SPECIMEN OF DICKENS' PROSE.
for something more peppery and stimulating than a simple picture of human life, which has infected the modern stage, seems somewhat to have touched his pen. But that pen, in its own best vein, has lost none of its early power, as his latest tale has shown.
TIN LINKIN WATER'S WINDOW.
(PROM "NICHOLAS NICKLEBY.") • There is a double wall-Aower at No. 6 in the court, is there?" said Nicholas.
“ Yes, there is, replied Tim, “and planted in a cracked jug without a spout. There were hyacinths there this last spring, blossoming in--but you'll laugh at that, of course."
Tim looked wistfully at him for a moment, as if he were encouraged by the tone of this reply to be more communicative on the subject; and sticking behind his ear a pen that he had been making, and shutting up his knife with a sharp click, said, “They belong to a sickly, bed-ridden, hump-backed boy, and seem to be the only pleasures, Mr. Nickleby, of his sad existence. How many years is it," said Tim, pondering, "since I first noticed him, quite a little child, drag. ging himself about on a pair of tiny crutches? Well! well! not many; but though they would appear nothing if I thought of other things, they seem a long, long time, when I think of him. It is a sad thing," said Tim, breaking off, “ to see a little deformed child sitting apart from other children, who are active and merry, watching the games he is denied the power to share in. He made my heart ache very often.”
“It is a good heart," said Nicholas," that disentangles itself from thię close avocations of every day, to heed such things. You were saying—"
“ That the flowers belonged to this poor boy,” said Tim, " that's all. When it is fine weather, and he can crawl out of bed, he draws a chair close to the window, and sits there looking at them, and arranging them all day long. Wo used to nod at first, and then we came to speak. Formerly, when I called to him of a morning, and asked him how he was, he would smile and say, 'Better:' but now he shakes his head, and only bends more closely over his old plants. It must be dull to watch the dark house-tops and the flying clouds for so many months; but he is very patient.”
“Is there nobody in the house to cheer or help him ?" asked Nicholas.
“Llis father lives there, I believe," replied Tim, “and other people too; but no one seems to care much for the poor sickly cripple. I have asked him very often if I can do nothing for him; his answer is always the same_Nothing.' His voice has grown weak of late, but I can see that he makes the old reply. IIe can't leave his bed now, so they have moved it close beside the window ; and there he lies all day, now looking at the sky, and now at his flowers, which he
SPECIMEN OF DICKENS' PROSE.
still makes shift to trim and water with his own thin hands. At night, when he sees my candle, he draws back his curtain, and leaves it so till I am in bed. It seems such company to him to know that I am there, that I often sit at my window for an hour or more, that he may see I am still awake ; and sometimes I get up in the night to look at the dull, melancholy light in his little room, and wonder whether he is awake or sleeping.
“The night will not be long coming," said Tim, "when he will sleep and never wake again on earth. We have never so much as shaken hands in all our lives, and yet I shall miss him like an old friend. Are there any country flowers that could interest me like these, do you think? Or do you suppose that the withering of a hundred kinds of the choicest flowers that blow, called by the hardest Latin names that were ever invented, would give me one fraction of the pain that I shall feel when these old jugs and bottles are swept away as lumber. Country !" cried Tim, with a contemptuous emphasis ; “ don't you know that I couldn't have such a court under my bed-room window anywhere but in London ?"
With which inquiry Tim turned his back, and pretending to be absorbed in his accounts, took an opportunity of hastily wiping his eyes, when he supposed Nicholas was looking another way.
THE author of Vanity Fair and The Snobs of England was born in 1811, at Calcutta. His father, descended from a good old Yorkshire family, held office the Civil Service of the East India Company. The novelist was yet a very little child when that separation from his parents, which is the bitterest penalty attached to Indian life, took place. His own words give us a glimpse of the voyage to England. “Our ship touched at an island on the way home, where my black servant took me a walk over rocks arid hills-till we passed a garden where we saw a man walking. That is Bonaparte,' said the black: 'he eats three sheep every day and all the children he can lay his hands on.'' We can well imagine little fingers tightening round the dark hard that held them, as the pair hurried back to the ship and looks of terror glancing from the little white face back to the trees where this
lived. The old Charter-house school, lovingly painted in more than one of his works, was the place of his education; and his name is the latest of those household words which that quiet cloister has given to the literature of England. After some time at Cambridge, where he did not stay to take a degree, he entered life, the heir to a fortune of many thousand pounds, resolved to devote himself to the easel and the brush. His studies in the art-galleries of Rome and some of the German cities, particularly Weimar, prepared him, unconsciously to himself, for that other painting-in pen and ink—to which his life was afterwards devoted.