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their Parliament, meetings, associa- | Mr. Murdstone and his sister, Boun tions, public ceremonies, have learned derby, Gradgrind: we can find them the oratorical phraseology, the abstract in all his novels. Some are so by terms, the style of political economy, education, others by nature; but all of the newspaper and the prospectus. are odious, for they all rail at and de Pecksniff talks like a prospectus. He stroy kindness, sympathy, compassion, possesses its obscurity, its wordiness, disinterested affections, religious emoand its emphasis. He seems to soar tions, a fanciful enthusiasm, all that is above the earth, in the region of pure lovely in man. They oppress children. ideas, in the bosom of truth. He re- strike women, starve the poor, insult sembles an apostle, brought up in the the wretched. The best are machines Times office. He spouts general ideas of polished steel, methodically per on every occasion. He finds a moral forming their :fficial duties, and not lesson ir. the ham and eggs he has just knowing that they make others suffer. eaten. As he folds his napkin, he These kinds of men are not found in rises to lofty contemplations : France. Their rigidity is not in the French character. They are produced in England by a school which has its philosophy, its great men, its glory, and which has never been established amongst the French. More than once, it is true, French writers have depicted avaricious men, men of business, and shopkeepers: Balzac is full of them; but he explains them by their imbecility, or makes them monsters, like Grandet and Gobseck. Those of Dickens constitute a real class, and represent a national vice. Read this passage of Hard Times, and see if, body and soul, Mr. Gradgrind is not wholly English:
"Even the worldly goods of which we have just disposed, even they have their moral. See how they come and go. Every pleasure is transitory.'
"The process of digestion, as I have been informed by anatomical friends, is one of the most wonderful works of nature. I do not know how it may be with others, but it is a great satisfaction to me to know, when regaling on my humble fare, that I am putting in motion the most beautiful machinery with which we have any acquaintance. I really feel at such times as if I was doing a public service. When I have wound myself up, if I may employ such a term,' said Mr. Pecksniff with exquisite tenderness, and know that I am Going, I feel that in the lesson afforded by the works within me, I am a Benefactor to my Kind!'” †
We recognize a new species of hypocrisy. Vices, like virtues, change in every age.
The practical, as well as the moral spirit, is English; by commerce, labor, and government, this people has ac quired the taste and talent for business; this is why they regard the French as children and madmen. The excess of this disposition is the destruction of imagination and sensibility. Man becomes a speculative machine, in which figures and facts are set in array; he denies the life of the mind, and the joys of the heart; he Bees in the world nothing but loss and gain; he becomes hard, harsh, geedy, and avaricious; he treats men as machinery; on a certain day he finds himself simply a merchant, banker, statistician; he has ceased to be a man. Dickens has multiplied portraits of the positive man Ralph Nickleby, Scrooge, Anthony Chuzzlewit, Jonas Chuzzlewit, Alderman Cute,
* Martin Chuzzlewit, ch. ii.
"Now what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts; nothThis is the principle on which I bring up my ing else will ever be of any service to them. own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!' vault of a schoolroom, and the speaker's square "The scene was a plain, bare, monotonous forefinger emphasised his observations by underscoring every sentence with a line on the schoolmaster's sleeve. The emphasis was head, which had his eyebrows for its base, helped by the speaker's square wall of a forewhile his eyes found commodious cellarag in two dark caves, overshadowed by the wall. mouth, which was wide, thin, and hard set. The The emphasis was helped by the speaker's emphasis was helped by the speaker's voice, which was inflexible, dry and dictatorial. The emphasis was helped by the speaker's hair, plantation of firs to keep the wind from its which bristled on the skirts of his bald head, a shining surface, all covered with knobs, like the crust of a plum-pie, as if the head had scarcely warehouse-room for the hard facts stored inside. The speaker's obstinate carriage, square coat, square legs, square shoulders-nay, his very neckcloth, trained to take him by the throat with an unaccommodating
grasp, like a stubborn fact, as it was-all | is the portrait of London merchant helped emphasis. Mr. Dombey.
In this life we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!'
The speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person present, all backed a little, and swept with their eyes the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim.* "THOMAS GRADGRIND, sir! A man of realties. A man of facts and calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for anything over. Thomas Gadgrind, sir-peremptorily Thomas-Thomas Gradgrind. With a rule and a pair of scales, and the multiplication table always in his pocket, sir, ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you exactly what it comes to. It is a mere question of figures, a case of simple arithmetic. You might hope to get some other nonsensical belief into the head of George Gradgrind, or Augustus Gradgrind, or John Gradgrind, or Joseph Gradgrind (all supposititious, non-existent persons), but into the head of Thomas Gradgrind-no, sir!'
"In such terms Mr. Gradgrind always mentally introduced himself, whether to his private circle of acquaintance, or to the public in general. In such terms, no doubt, substituting the words 'boys and girls' for sir, Thomas Gradgrind now presented Thomas Gradgrind to the little pitchers before him, who were to be filled so full of facts." t
In France people do not look fo. types among the merchants, but they are found among that class in England as forcible as in the proudest châteaux Mr. Dombey loves his house as if he were a nobleman, as much as himself If he neglects his daughter and longs for a son, it is to perpetuate the old name of his bank. He has his ances tors in commerce, and he likes to have his descendants in the same branch of business. He maintains traditicas, and continues a power. At this height of opulence, and with this scope of action, he is a prince, and with a prince's position he has his feelings. We see there a character which could only be produced in a country whose commerce embraces the globe, where merchants are potentates, where a company of merchants has trafficked in continents, maintained wars, destroyed kingdoms, founded an empire of a hun dred million men.. The pride of such a man is not petty, but terrible; it is so calm and high, that to find a parallel we must read again the Mémoires of the Another fault arising from the habit Duke of Saint Simon. Mr. Dombey of commanding and striving is pride. has always commanded, and it does It abounds in an aristocratic country, not enter his mind that he could yield to and no one has more soundly rated any one or any thing. He receives flataristocracy than Dickens; all his por-tery as a tribute to which he has a right, traits are sarcasms. James Harthouse, and sees men beneath him, at a vast a dandy disgusted with every thing, distance, as beings made to beseech chiefly with himself, and rightly so; and obey him. His second wife, proud Lord Frederick Verisopht, a poor Eaith Skewton, resists and scorns him; duped idiot, brutalized with drink, the pride of the merchant is pitted whose wit consists in staring at men against the pride of the high-born and sucking his cane; Lord Feenix, a woman, and the restrained outbursts of sort of mechanism of parliamentary this growing opposition reveal an inphrases, out of order, and hardly able to tensity of passion, which souls_thus finish the ridiculous periods into which born and bred alone can feel. Edith, he always takes care to lapse; Mrs. to avenge herself, flees on the anniver Skewton, a hideous old ruin, a coquette sary of her marriage, and gives her to the last, demanding rose-colored self he appearance of being an adult curtains for her death-bed, and parad-eress. It is then that his inflexible ing her daughter through all the draw- pride asserts itself in all its rigidity. ing-rooms of England in order to sell her to some vain husband; Sir John Chester, a wretch of high society, who, for fear of compromising himself, refuses to save his natural son, and refuses it with all kinds of airs, as he finishes his chocolate. But the most English picture of the aristocratic spirit
• Hard Times, book i. ch. i. † Ibid. ch. ii.
He has driven out of the house his daughter, whom he believes the accomplice of his wife; he forbids the one or the other to be recalled to his memory; he commands his sister and his friends to be silent; he re ceives guests with the same tone and the same coldness. With despair in his heart, and feeling bitterly the in
Let us look at some different personages. In contrast with these bad and factitious characters, produced by national institutions, we find good creatures such as nature made them; and first, children.
sult offered to him by his wife, the con- | have played all day on the lawn. The scientiousness of his failure, and the fire-side by which they will pass the idea of public ridicule, he remains as evening is a sanctuary, and domestic firm, as haughty, as calm as ever. He tenderness is the only poetry they need. launches out more recklessly in specu- A child deprived of these affections lations, and is ruined; he is on the and this happiness seems to be de point of suicide. Hitherto all was prived of the air we breathe, and the well the bronze column continued novelist does not find a volume too whole and unbroken; but the exigen- much to explain its unhappiness. Dickcies of public morality mar the idea of ens has recorded it in ten volumes, and the book. His daughter arrives in the at last he has written the history of nick of time. She entreats him; his David Copperfield. David is loved ty feelings get the better of him, she his mother, and by an honest servant carries him off; he becomes the best girl, Peggotty; he plays with her in of fathers, and spoils a fine novel. the garden; he watches her sew; he reads to her the natural history of crocodiles; he fears the hens and geese, which strut in a menacing and ferocious manner in the yard; he is perfectly happy. His mother marries again, and all changes. The father-in-law Mr. Murdstone, and his sister Jane, are harsh, methodical, cold beings. Poor little David is every moment We have none in French literature. wounded by harsh words. He dare Racine's little Joas could only exist in not speak or move; he is afraid to kiss a piece composed for the ladies' col- his mother; he feels himself weighed lege of Saint Cyr; the little child down, as by a leaden cloak, by the speaks like a prince's son, with noble cold looks of the new master and misand acquired phrases, as if repeating tress. He falls back on himself; his catechism. Nowadays these por- mechanically studies the lessons astraits are only seen in France in New-signed him; cannot learn them so great year's books, written as models for is his dread of not knowing them. He good children. Dickens painted his is whipped, shut up with bread and with special gratification; he did not water in a lonely room. He is terrified think of edifying the public, and he has by night, and fears himself. He asks charmed it. All his children are of himself whether in fact he is not bad extreme sensibility; they love much, or wicked, and weeps. This incessant and they crave to be loved. To under-terror, hopeless and issueless, the specstand this gratification of the painter, and this choice of characters, we must think of their physical type. English children have a color so fresh, a complexion so delicate, a skin so transparent, eyes so blue and pure, that they are like beautiful flowers. No wonder if a novelist loves them, lends to their soul a sensibility and innocence which shine forth from their looks, if he thinks that these frail and charming roses are crushed by the coarse hands which try to bend them. We must also imagine to ourselves the households in which they grow up. When at five o'clock the merchant and the clerk leave their office and their business, they return as quickly as possible to the pretty cottage, where their children
tacle of this wounded sensibility and
The working-classes are like children, dependent, not very cultivated, akin to nature, and liable to opp ession. And so Dickens extols them. That is not new in France; the novels of Eugène Sue have given us more than one ex
ample, and the theme is as old as Rous- | on humble wretchedness; the smallest seau; but in the hands of the English and most despised being may in him. writer it has acquired a singular force. self be worth as much as thousands of His heroes possess feelings so delicate, the powerful and the proud. Take and are so self-sacrificing, that we can- care not to bruise the delicate souls not admire them sufficiently. They have which flourish in all conditions, under nothing vulgar but their pronunciation; all costumes, in all ages. Believe that the rest is but nobility and generosity. humanity, pity, forgiveness, are the We see a mountebank abandon his finest things in man; believe that in daughter, his only joy, for fear of intimacy, expansion, tenderness, tears juring her in any way. A young wom- are the sweetest things in the world an devotes herself to save the unwor- To live is nothing; to be powerful thy wife of a man who loves her, and learned, illustrious, is little; to be use whom she loves; the man dies; she ful is not enough. He alone has lived continues, from pure self-sacrifice, to and is a man who has wept at the care for the degraded creature. A remembrance of a kind action which he poor wagoner, who thinks his wife un- himself has performed or received. faithful, loudly pronounces her innocent, and all his vengeance is to think only of loading her with tenderness and kindness. None, according to Dickens, feel so strongly as they do the happiness of loving and being loved the pure joys of domestic life. None have so much compassion for those poor deformed and infirm creatures whom they so often bring into the world, and who seem only born to die. None have a juster and more inflexible moral sense. I confess even that Dickens' heroes unfortunately resemble the indignant fathers of French melodramas. When old Peggotty learns that his niece is seduced, he sets off, stick in hand, and walks over France, Germany, and Italy, to find her and bring her back to duty. But above all, they have an English sentiment, which fails in Frenchmen: they are Christians. It is not only women, as in France, who take refuge in the idea of another world; men turn also their thoughts towards it. In England, where there are so many sects, and every one chooses his own, each one believes in the religion he has made for himself; ar this noble sentiment raises still higner the throne upon which the uprightness of their resolution and the delicacy of their heart has placed them.
We do not believe that this contrast between the weak and the strong, or this outcry against society in favor of nature, are the caprice of an artist or the chance of the moment. When we penetrate deeply into the history of English genius, we find that its primitive foundation was impassioned sensi bility, and that its natural_expression was lyrical exaltation. Both were brought from Germany, and make up the literature existing before the Conquest. After an interval you find them again in the sixteenth century, when the French literature, introduced from Normandy, had passed away: they are the very soul of the nation. But the education of this soul was opposite to its genius; its history contradicted its nature; and its primitive inclination has clashed with all the great events which it has created or suffered. The chance of a victorious invasion and an imposed aristocracy, whilst establishing the enjoyment of political liberty, has impressed on the character habits of strife and pride. The chance of an insular position, the necessity of commerce, the abundant possession of the first materials for industry, have de veloped the practical faculties and the In reality, the novels of Dickens can positive mind. The acquisition of these all be reduced to one phrase, to wit: habits, faculties, and mind, to which Be good, and love: there is genuine must be added former hostile feelings joy only in the emotions of the heart; to Rome, and an inveterate hatred sensibility is the whole man. Leave against an oppressive church, has given science to the wise, pride to the nobles, birth to a proud and reasoning religion, 'uxury to the rich; have compassion | replacing submission by indeper.dence
In this crowd two men have ap peared of superior talent, original and contrasted, popular on the same grounds, ministers to the same cause moralists in comedy and drama, de fenders of natural sentiments against social institutions; who by the precision of their pictures, the depth of their observations, the succession and bitterness of their attacks, have renewed, with other views and in another style, the old combative spirit of Swift and Fielding.
poetic theology by practical morality, | up a career to the precise and moral and faith by discussion. Politics, mind. The critic thus is, as it were, business, and religion, like three pow- swamped in this copiousness; he must erful machines, have created a new select in order to grasp the whole, and man above the old. Stern dignity, confine himself to a few in order to self-command, the need of authority, embrace all. severity in its exercise, strict morality, without compromise or pity, a taste for figures and dry calculation, a dislike of facts not palpable and ideas not useful, ignorance of the invisible world, scorn of the weaknesses and tendernesses of the heart, such are the dispositions which the stream of facts and the ascendency of institutions tend to confirm in their souls. But poetry and domestic life prove that they have only half succeeded. The old sensibility, oppressed and perverted, still lives and works. The poet subsists under the Puritan, the trader, the statesman. The social man has not destroyed the natural man. This frozen crust, this unsociable pride, this rigid attitude, often cover a good and tender nature. It is the English mask of a German head; and when a talented writer, often a writer of genius, reaches the sensibility which is bruised or buried by education and national institutions, he moves his reader in the most inner depths, and becomes the master of all hearts.
One, more ardent, more expansive, wholly given up to rapture, an impassioned painter of crude and dazzling pictures, a lyric prose-writer, omnipotent in laughter and tears, plunged into fantastic invention, painful sensibility, vehement buffoonery; and by the boldness of his style, the excess of his emotions, the grotesque familiarity of his caricatures, he has displayed all the forces and weaknesses of an artist, all the audacities, all the successes, and all the oddities of the imagination.
The other, more contained, better informed and stronger, a lover of moral dissertations, a counsellor of the public, a sort of lay preacher, less bent on defending the poor, more bent on censuring man, has brought to the aid of satire a sustained common sense, a
The Nobel continued-Thackeray. great knowledge of the heart, consum
THE novel of manners in England multiplies, and for this there are several reasons: first, it is born there, and every plant thrives well in its own soil; secondly, it is a natural outlet: there is no music in England as in Germany, or conversation as in France; and men who must think and feel find in it a means of feeling and thinking. On the other hand, women take part in it with eagerness; amidst the stagnation of gallantry and the coldness of religion, it gives scope for imagination and dreams. Finally, by its minute details and practical counsels, it opens
mate cleverness, powerful reasoning, a treasure of meditated hatred, and has persecuted vice with all the weapons of reflection. By this contrast the one completes the other; and we may form an exact idea of English taste, by plac ing the portrait of William Makepeace Thackeray by the side of that of Charles Dickens.
No wonder if in England a novelist writes satires. A gloomy and redec tive man is impelled to it by his char acter; he is still further impelled by He is not the surrounding mai.ners.