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work; his school-fellows relate in the end, and how far does fiction einbroide, Aewspapers his boyish pranks ; ari- truth? All that is known, or rather other man recalls exactly, and word for all that is told, is that Dickens was word, the conversations he had with born in 1812, that he is the son of a nim more than a score of years ago. shorthand-writer, that he was himself at The lawyer, who manages the affairs of first a shorthand-writer, that he was the deceased, draws up a list of the poor and unfortunate in his youth, tha different offices he has filled, his titles, his novels, published in parts, have dates and figures, and reveals to the gained for him a great fortune and an matter-of-fact readers how the money immense reputation. The reader may left has been invested, and how the conjecture the rest ; Dickens will tell it fortune has been made ; the grand- him one day, when he writes his me nephews and second cousins publish moirs. Meanwhile he closes the door an account of his acts of humanity, and and leaves outside the too inquisitive the catalogue of his domestic virtues. J folk who go on knocking. He has a If there is no literary genius in the right to do so. Though a man may be family, they select an Oxford man, con- illustrious, he is not on that account scientious, learned, who treats the de- public property; he is not compelled ceased like a Greek author, collects end to be confidential; he still belongs to less documents, overloads them with end himself; he may reserve of himself less comments, crowns the whole with what he thinks proper. If we give ou endless discussions, and comes ten years works to our readers, we do not give later, some fine Christmas morning, our lives. Let us be satisfied with with his white tie and placid smile, to what Dickens has given us. Forty present to the assembled family three volumes suffice, and more than suffice, quartos of eight hundred pages each, to enable us to know a man well; he easy style of which would send a moreover, they show of him all that it German from Berlin to sleep. He is is important to know. It is not through embraced by them with tears in their the accidental circumstances of his life eyes ; they make him sit down; he is that he belongs to history, but by his the chief ornament at their feasts; and talent; and his talent is in his books. his work is sent to the Edinburgh Re- A man's genius is like a clock; it has view. The latter groans at the sight its mechanism, and amongst its parts a of the enormous present, and tells off mainspring. Find out this spring, show a young and intrepid member of the how it communicates movement to the staff to concoct some kind of a biogra- others, pursue this movement from phy from the table of contents. An- part to part down to the hands in which other advantage of posthumous biogra- it ends. This inner history of genius phies is, that the dead man is no longer does not depend upon the outer history there to refute either biographer or of the man; and it is worth more. man of learning. Unfortunately Dickens is still alive,
$ 1.—THE AUTHOR. and refutes the biographies made of him. What is worse, he claims to be
I. his own biographer. His translator in The first question which should be French once asked him for a few partic- asked in connection with an artist is alars of his life; Dickens replied that this: How does he regard objects i he kept them for himself. Without With what clearness, what energy, what doubt, David Copperfield, his best novel, force? The reply defines his whole has niuch the appearance of a confes work beforehand; for in a writer of sion ; * but where does the confession novels the imagination is the master
* M. Taine was not wrong in thinking so. said of Dickens, in more especial relation to In the Life of Charles Dickens by J. Forster David Copperfield. Many guesses have been we find (vol. i. p. 8) the following words :- made since his death, connecting David's auto“And here I may at once expressly mention, biography with his own. . There is not what already has been hinted, that even as only truth in all this, but it will very shortly be Fielding described himself and his belongings seen that the identity went deeper than any in Captain Booth and Amelia, and protested had supposed, and covered experiences not always that he had writ in his books nothing less startling in the reality than they appear to more than he had seen in life, so it may be be in the fiction.”-TR.
faculty; the art of composition, good There is, amongst others, a descrip taste, the feeling of what is true, de- tion of the night wind, quaint and pend upon it; one degree more of powerful, which recalls certain pages of vehemence destroys the style which ex- Notre-Dame de Paris. The source of presses it, changes the characters which this description, as of all those of Dick it produces, breaks the plot in which it ens, is pure imagination. He does nct, is enclosed. Consider the imaginative like Walter Scott, describe in crder power of Dickens, and you will perceive to give his reader a map, and to lay cherein the cause of his faults and his down the locality of his drama. He merits, his power and his excess. does not, like Lord Byron, describe II.
from love of magnificent nature, and in
order to display a splendid succession There is a painter in him, and an of grand pictures. "He dreams neither English painter. Never surely did a of attaining exactness nor of selecting mind figure to itself with more exact beauty. Struck with a certain spectadetail or greater force all the parts and cle, he is transported, and breaks out tints of a picture. Read this descrip-into unforeseen figures. Now it is the tion of a storm ; the images seem yellow leaves, pursued by the wind, photographed by dazzling flashes of Aeeing and jostling, shivering, scared, lightning:
in a giddy chase, clinging to the furrows, “The eye, partaking of the quickness of the drowned in the ditches, perching on flashing light, saw it in its every gleam a mul. the trees.* Here it is the night wind, titude of objects which it could not see at steady noon in fifty times that period. Bells in sweeping round a church, moaning as steeples, with the rope and wheel that moved it tries with its unseen hand the winthem ; ragged nests of birds in cornices and dows and the doors, and seeking out nooks: faces full of consternation in the tilted waggons that came tearing past: their fright- | some crevices by which to enter : ened teams ringing out a warning which the “And when it has got in; as one not finding thunder drowned ; harrows and ploughs left what he seeks, whatever that may be ; it wails out in fields; miles upon miles of hedge-di- and howls to issue forth again: and, not convided country, with the distant fringe of trees tent with stalking through the aisles, and glidas obvious as the scarecrow in the beanfield ing round and round the pillars, and tempting close at hand ; in a trembling, vivid, flickering the deep organ, soars up to the roof, and instant, everything was clear and plain : then strives to rend the rafters : then flings itselt came a flush of red into the yellow light; a despairingly upon the stones below, and passes, change to blue ; a brightness so intense that muttering, into the vaults. Anon, it comes up there was nothing else but light; and then the Jeepest and profoundest darkness."' *
*“It was small tyranny for a respectable An imagination so lucid and energet creatures as the fållen leaves; but this wind
wind to go wreaking its vengeance on such poor ic cannot but animate inanimate objects happening to come up with a great heap of them without an effort. It provokes in the just after venting its humour on the insulted mind in which it works extraordinary Dragon, did so disperse and scatter them that emotions, and the author pours over the rolling over each other, whirling round and
they fled away, pell-mell, some here, some there, objects which he figures to himself,some- round upon their thin edges, taking frantic thing of the ever-welling passion which fights into the air, and playing all manner of overflows in him. Stones for him take extraordinary gambols in the extremity «f their i voice, white walls swell out into big fury: for, not content with driving hem
distress. Nor was this enough for its mi. cious phantoms, black wells yawn hideously abroad, it charged small parties of them aud and mysteriously in the darkness ; le hunted them into the wheelwright's saw.pit gions of strange creatures whirl shud and below the planks and timbers in the yard
and, scattering the saw-dust in the air, it dering over the fantastic landscape ; looked for them underneath, and when it did blank nature is peopled, inert matter meet with any, whew! how it drove them or But the images remain clear ;
and followed at their heels! in this madness there is nothing vague all this, and a giddy chase it was: for thev got
“ The scared leaves only flew the faster for or disorderly; imaginary objects are into unfrequented places, where there was no designed with outlines as precise and outlet, and where their pursuer kept them eddetails as numerous as real objects, and dying round and round at his pleasure ; and the dream is equal to the reality.
they crept under the eaves of houses, and clung,
tightly to the sides of hay-ricks, like bats; and * Martin Chusslewit, ch. xlii. The trans- tore in at open chamber windows, and cowered lator has used the “Charles Dickens” edi- close to hedges; and, in short, went anywhere tion, 1866, 18 vols.
for safety.” -(Martin Chuislewit, ch. ii.)
stealthily and cn: :ps along the walls: seeming | metallic voice of the chimes which to read, in whispers, the Inscriptions sacred to inhabit this trembling castle. the Dead. At some of these, it breaks out shrilly, as with laughter ; and at others, moans
He writes a story about them, and it and cries as if it were lamenting." *
is not the first. Dickens is a poet ; hc Hitherto you have only recognized the
is as much at home in the imaginative sombre imagination of a man of the world as in the actual. Here the chimes pyth. A little further
you perceive the are talking to the old messenger and impassioned religion of a revolutionary Cricket on the Hearth singing of all
consoling him. Elsewhere it is the Protestant, when he speaks to you of domestic joys, and bringing before the
a ghostly sound too, lingering within the altar; waere it seems to chaunt, in eyes of the lonely master the happy its wild way, of Wrong and Murder evenings, the intimate conversations, done, and false Gods worshipped ; in the comfort
, the quiet cheerfulness desance of the Tables of the Law, which which he has enjoyed, and which he has look so fair and smooth, but are so
no longer. In another tale it is the flawed and broken. Ugh! Heaven who feels itself dying, and who, sleeping
history of a sick and precocious child preserve us, sitting snugly round the fire! It has an awful voice, that wind in the arms of its sister, hears the dis.
tant song of the murmuring waves at Midnight, singing in a church ! ”
which rocked him to sleep. Objects, But an instant after, the artist speaks with Dickens, take their hue from the again; he leads you to the belfry, and in the jingle of the accumulated words, thoughts of his characters. His im
agination is so lively, that carries communicates to your nerves the sensa. tion of an aerial tempest. The wind every thing with it in the path which it whistles, blows, and gambols in the chooses. If the character is happy, the
stones, flowers, and clouds must be arches : “ High up in the steeple, happy' too; if he is sad, nature must where it is free to come and go through weep with him. Even to the ugly. many an airy arch and loophole, and houses in the street, all speak. The to twist and twine itself about the giddy style runs through a swarm of visions ; stair, and twirl the groaning weather- it breaks out into the strangest odditics. cock, and make the very tower shake Here is a young girl, pretty and good, and shiver |” Dickens has seen it all
who crosses Fountain Court and the in the old belfry; his thought is a mir; law purlieus in search of her brother. ror ; not the smallest or ugliest detail What can be more simple ? what even escapes him. He has counted “ the
more trivial ? Dickens is carried away iron rails ragged with rust; sheets of lead," wrinkled and shriveiled, by it. To entertain her, he summons which crackle and heave beneath the the offices, law papers, and much be:
up birds, trees, houses, the fountain, unaccustomed tread ; the shabby sides. It is a folly, and it is all but an nests” which “ the birds stuff into
enchantment : of the old oaken joists and beams; the gray dust heaped up; “Whether there was life enough left in the speckled spiders, indolent and fat with slow vegetation of Fountain Court for the long security,” which, hanging by a smoky shrubs to have any consciousness of the thread," swing idly to and fro in the brightest and purest-hearted little woman in vibration of the bells,” and which those who are leamed in the loves of plants.
the world, is a question for gardeners, and • climb up sailor-like in quick-alarm, But that it was a good thing for that same or drop upon the ground and ply a score paved yard to have such a delicate little figure of nimble legs to save one life.” This ditting through it; that it passed like a smile
from the grimy old houses, and the worn flag. picture captivates us. Kept up at such stones, and left them duller, darker, sterner a height, amongst the fleeting clouds than before, there is no sort of doubt. The which cast their
shadows over the town Temple fountain might have leaped up twenty and the feeble lights scarce distinguish. hood, that in her person stole on, sparkling,
feet to greet the spring of hopeful maiden ed in the mist, we feel a sort of dizzi- through the dry and dusty channels of the ness; and we nearly discover, with Law; the chirping sparrows, bred in Temple Dickens, thought and a soul in the chinks and crannies, might have held their
peace to listen to imaginary sky-larks, as se • The Chimes, first quarter.
1 lbid. fresh a little creatr e passed; the dingy bougha
19 « the
anused to droop, otherwise than in their puny | is like that of monomaniacs. To prunge growth, might have bent down in a kindred oneself into an idea, to be absorbed by gracefulness, to shed their benedictions on her graceful head; old love-letters, shut up in iron it, to see nothing else, to repeat it under boxes in the neighbouring offices, and made of a hundred forms, to enlarge it, to carry po account among the heaps of family papers it, thus enlarged, to the eye of the spec. into which they had strayed, and of which, in tator, to dazzle and overwhelm him their degeneracy, they formed a part, might with it, to stamp it upon him so firmly have stirred and futtered with a moment's recollection of their ancient tenderness, as she and deeply that he can never again tear went lightly, by. Anything might have hap it from his memory,--these are the pened that did not happen, and never will, for great features of this imagination and The love of Ruth." . This is far-fetched, without doubt. style. In this, David Copperfield is a French taste, always measured, revolts masterpiece. Never did objects remain
more visible and present to the memory against these affected strokes, these of a reader than those which he de sickly prettinesses. And yet this af. Scribes. The old house, the parlor, fectation is natural ; Dickens does not the kitchen, Peggotty's boat, and above hunt after quaintnesses; they come all the school play-ground, are interiors to bim. His excessive imagination is whose relief, energy, and precision are like a string too tightly stretched; it unequalled.' Dickens has the passion produces of itself, without
and patience of the painters of his nashock, sounds not heard elsewhere.
he reckons his details one by one, We shall see how it is excited. Im- notes the various hues of the old treeagine a shop, no matter what shop, trunks ; sees the dilapidated cask, the the most repulsive ; that of a mathe- greenish and broken flagstones, the matical-instrument maker. Dickens
chinks of the damp walls; he distin. sees the barometers, chronometers, guishes the strange smells which rise telescopes, compasses, charts, maps, from them; marks the size of the mil sextants, speaking trumpets, and so dewed spots, reads the names of the forth. He sees so many, sees them so scholars carved on the door, and dwells clearly, they are crowded and crammed, his brain, which they fill and obstruct; about it: if it is thus detailed, it is bethey replace each other so forcibly in on the form of the letters. And this
minute description has nothing cold there are so many geographical and nautical ideas exposed under the glass it proves its passion by its exactness.
cause the contemplation was intense ; cases hung from the ceiling, nailed to we felt this passion without accountthe wall, they swamp him from so many sides, and in such abundance, end of a page ; the boldness of the
ing for it; suddenly we find it at the that'he loses his judgment. “The style renders it visible, and the violence shop itself, partaking of the general of the phrase attests the violence of the infection, seemed almost to become a
impression. Excessive metaphors bring snug, sea-going, ship-shape concern, before the mind grotesque fancies. We wanting only good sea-room, in the feel ourselves beset by extravagant visevent of an unexpected launch, to work ions. Mr. Mells take his Aute, and blows its way securely to any desert island in
on it, says Copperfield, “ until I almost the world." The difference between a madman whole being into the large hole at the
thought he would gradually blow hia and a man of genius is not very great. top, and ooze away at the keys."* Napoleon, who knew men, said so to Tom Pinch, disabused at last, discov. Esquirol. I The same faculty leads us
ers that his master Pecksniff is a hyp to glory or throws us into a cell in a
He “had so long lunatic asylum. It is visionary imagi: been used to steep the Pecksniff of his nation which forges the phantoms of fancy in his tea, and spread him out the madman and creates the personages of an artist, and the classifications upon his toast, and take him as a relish serving for the first may serve for the breakfast on the first morning after his
with his beer, that he made but a poor second. The imagination of Dickens
expulsion.” + We think of Hoffmann'ı • Martin Chusslowit, ch. xlv. 1 Domboy and Son, ch. iv.
• David Copperfield, ch. v.
* See antc note, page 133.
fantastic tales; we are arrested by a | tumbles into bed, burnt up with ferer fixed idea, and our head begins to ache. “He buried himself beneath the blan: These eccentricities are in the style kets,” so as to try not to see “ that in of sickness rather than of health.
fernal room ;
” he sees it more clearly Therefore Dickens is admirable in still. The rustling of the clothes, the depicting hallucinations. We see that buzz of an insect, the beatings of his he feels himself those of his characters, heart, all cry to him Murderer! His that he is engrossed by their ideas, that mind fixed with an agony of listen. he enters into their madness. As an ing” on the door, he ends by thinking Englishman and a moralist, he has de- that people open it; he hears it creak. scribed remorse frequently. Perhaps His senses are distorted; he daies no! it may be said that he makes a scare. mistrust them, he dares no longer be CTOw of it, and that an artist is wrong lieve in them; and in this nightmare to transform' himself into an assistant in which drowned reason leaves noth of the policeman and the preacher. ing but a chaos of hideous forms, he What of that? The portrait of Jonas finds no reality but the incessant bur. Chuzzlewit is su terrible, that we may den of his convulsive despair. Thence. pardon it for being useful. Jonas, forth all his thoughts, dangers. the leaving his chamber secretly, has whole world disappears for him in treacherously murdered his enemy, and "the one dread question only,” “When thinks henceforth to breathe in peace; would they find the body in the wood ?.” but the recollection of the murder grad. He forces himself to distract his ually disorganizes his mind, like poison. thoughts from this; they remain stampHe is no longer able to control his ed and glued to it; they hold him to it ideas ; they bear him on with the fury as by a chain of iron. He continually of a terrified horse. He is forever figures himself going into the wood, thinking, and shuddering as he thinks, 'going softly about it and about it of the room where people believed he among the leaves, approaching it nearslept. He sees this room, counts the er and nearer through a gap in the tiles of the floor, pictures the long folds boughs, and startling the very flies, that of the dark curtains, the tumbled bed, were thickly sprinkled all over it, like the door at which some one might have heaps of dried currants." His mind knocked. The more he wants to escape was fixed and fastened on the discovery, from this vision, the more he is im- for intelligence of which he listened mersed in it; it is a burning abyss in intently to every cry and shout; listen. which he rolls, struggling, with cries ed when any one came in, or went out; ard sweats of agony. He fancies him- watched from the window the people self lying in his bed, as he ought to be, who passed up and down the street. and an instant after he sees himself At the same time, he has ever before there. He fears this other self. The his eyes that corpse" lying alone in the dream is so vivid, that he is not sure wood; “ he was for ever showing that he is not in London. “He became and presenting it, as it were, to every in a manner his own ghost and phan- creature whom he saw. 'Look here ! toin.” And this imaginary being, like do you know of this ? Is it found? a inirror, only redoubles before his con- Do you suspect me?' If he had beer science the incage of assassination and condemned to bear the body in his punishment. He returns, and shuffles, arms, and lay it down for recognition with pa.e face, to the door of his cham at the feet of every one he met, it could ber. He, a man of business, a man of not have been more constantly with figures, a coarse machine of positive him, or a cause of more monotonous reasoning, has become as fanciful as a and dismal occupation than it was in
“ He stole on, to the this state of his mind.” * door, on tiptoe, as if he dreaded to dis- Jonas is on the verge of madness. turb his own imaginary rest.” At the There are other characters quite mad moment when he turns the key in the Dickens has drawn three or four por ock, " a monstrous fear beset his mind. traits of madmen, very funny at first What if the murdered man were there sight, but so true that they are in re before him.” At last he enters, and
* Martin Chusslawit, ch. li.