Page images

that it is altogether unnatural. This der different texts, and in differ. perfect character, so serious, consis. ent covers. tent, and virtuous, this idealized We are by no means insensible representation of all that is admira. to the many tokens which these ble in human nature, is surrounded later works exhibit, of a better and continually by the most grotesque higher kind of genius than that figures conceivable—by mere dis. which wrote the Papers of the Picktortions and caricatures of humani. wick Club. However improbable ty, extravagant in their virtues, or or unnatural may be the struc. hideous in their deformity-and yet ture of the story and the grouping passes through life without being in of the characters, each character is the least affected by their influence. generally life-like and well sustainThus in the "Old Curiosity Shop," ed. Some characters have a highlittle Nell, whose character is al- ly tragical effect. That of Fagin, most too lovely for earth, was train- for example, would hardly suffer by ed up under the influence of a poor a comparison with Shylock. a

Of old man-her grandfather-shatter- little Nell we have already intimaed in intellect, addicted to gambling ted an opinion. Perhaps she might and theft, the, bosom friend and be ranked with such creations of then the victim of a hideous dwarf, genius as Desdemona. Her devo. whose character is even more de- tion to her aged grandfather, when formed than his person. The group- the poor insane old man was driven ing of such figures together, though from his home by the rapacious it may serve to heighten the con- Quilp; her clinging to him in all his trast between them, renders the wanderings, as, haunted by the fear whole picture unnatural, and even that some one was pursuing him, he painful. One character-the cen- hurried from one village to another; ter of the picture—is drawn and her self-denial, to procure for him colored with ideal and even super. the means of subsistence; her anxnatural beauty, while every thing iety to keep him from the gaming else upon the canvass is laughably table, when the sight of cards at a or hideously grotesque.

village inn had rekindled his old There is a remarkable similarity passion so fiercely that, to partake among the late productions of Mr. in the game, he even stole from her Dickens, which indicates a lack of little purse the few pence which invention. Oliver Twist, Nicholas she had hoarded to buy him bread; Nickleby, and even little Nell, in the quietness with which she entheir origin, education, adventures, dures privation, hunger, cold, and and varied fortunes, in the class of the neglect of the proud; all these, society to which they belong, the with a thousand other evidences of characters by which they are sur- a soul ennobled and mature, in the rounded, the scenes of vice and most delicate, flower-like frame, entemptation into which they are dear her to the heart, and engrave thrown, in their fortitude under her image there in lines which cantrials, their scrupulous adherence to not be effaced. And when, weary those moral principles which are and worn with her wanderings, she discarded by all around them, and comes to die in that quiet village, in all the essential features of their where she had just found sympathy history, have many striking points and friends, and is buried in that of resemblance. In the two former old church-yard, where she had particularly, Mr. Dickens seems to loved to wander, we cannot refrain have done like those preachers from mingling our tears with those who sometimes give us the same of the village children, who weep sermon on different occasions, un- over the fresh sod that covers her. Vol. I.



Occasionally we find a sentence conscience of the reader, or leading that is an almost perfect gem of him to recognize his moral nature poetic tenderness and beauty. For and his relations to his Maker. Cerexample, when the author brings tainly, very little of this can be exhis weary wanderers to a manufac- pected from the writings of a man turing town, where they obtain so ignorant of that tree of life, the lodgings for the night in an iron leaves of which are for the healing foundry, and sleep by the side of of the nations, as is the author now one of its ceaseless fires, and where before us. We have heard the inthe workman shares with them his ference drawn from his writings, and scanty meal, makes a bed for them especially from some passages in from his own rough apparel, and in these American Notes, that he is the morning dismisses them with a a Unitarian. Unitarian! Did he at. pittance and his benediction. “He tend any Unitarian church in Bosgave her two old, battered, smoke. ton? Is there any evidence, at encrusted penny pieces. Who he attended any church any where knows but that they shone as bright in the United States, save in that ly in the eyes of angels, as golden one instance in which he visited gifts that have been chronicled on “Father Taylor's”, sailors' chapel, tombs ?” Their loneliness, as they with a single eye to his own prostood one evening in a crowded fession as a dealer in caricatures ? thoroughfare, entire strangers, with A Unitarian ! Why, Miss Sedg. no prospect of a meal or bed, is wick is a Unitarian, yet how much thus depicted. “ Feeling amidst loftier is the moral tone of some of the crowd a solitude which has no her works within a few years past, parallel but in the thirst of the than that of any thing from the pen shipwrecked mariner, who, tost to of this author. He compliments and fro upon the billows of a mighty the Unitarians indeed, as we have ocean, his red eyes blinded by seen, but not on account of their looking on the water which hems having a more accurate exposition him in on every side, has not one of Christianity than other men. He drop to cool his burning tongue.” speaks admiringly of the Boston

Mr. Dickens probably values him- Transcendentalists, and says, that self, as certainly he has been com- 'if he were a Bostonian, he would plimented by some critics, on the be a Transcendentalist;' but the moral tendency of his writings. It great glory of Transcendentalism is often said that they tend to good, in his view, is its “hearty disgust by exciting sympathy with human of cant;' and he names its professuffering, and by increasing the sors, not as expounders of Chrisreader's detestation of vice and his tianity, but as "a sect of philoso

, admiration of goodness. But after phers.” In brief, then, our underall that may be said and conceded standing of Mr. Dickens is, not that on this point, it remains a serious he embraces this or that system of question, whether any human be- latitudinarian doctrine, but that all ing was ever made better by read- forms and schemes of religion, Uniing such books as Oliver Twist or tarian or evangelical, Popish or Barnaby Rudge. Books of mere Protestant, Christian, Mohammedan, amusement-books written to be or Pagan, are alike to him. Is he sold, and the sale of which depends not one of the many whom Eng. exclusively on their power to amuse land trains, under the shadow of thoughtless minds, and to while her old cathedrals, in a deplorable away the tedious hours of the indo- ignorance of God and of Christ ? lent and the frivolous, are not likely Disgust of cant” is the profession to do much towards quickening the of his faith. And what do such



men mean by - cant?” To them, Objections have sometimes been all fear of God all the manifes, made to this literature of alms. tations of a devout and serious tem- houses and prisons, of pauperism per-all talk of sin and repentance and roguery, as necessarily tending and forgiveness for Christ's sake, to corruption of taste and of morals. and inward renovation by the grace We do not admit the force of such of God-all endeavors to live so- objections. On the contrary, we berly, righteously, and godly in this think that philanthropy may be evil world, are

As is the grateful for any fair exhibition of man, such will be, on the whole, the vices and the better qualities, the influence of his writings. What the miseries and the whole existsort of influence then may be ex. ence, of the neglected and degraded pected from the writings of this au- portions of society; and especially, thor, of whose character the Amer. when the exhibition is so managed ican Notes give us so distinct a by the hand of genius, as to make revelation ? He is a good-natured all feel that natural bond of brothman, loving to laugh and to see erhood which connects the most others merry, and cherishing a good- privileged with the most degraded. natured sympathy for those neglect. It is so, for the most part, with the ed and wretched classes of the pop- writings of this author. He often ulation of London, with whom his displays a generous sympathy with early life and his professional em- lowly wretchedness, which is not ployments have made him well ace only creditable to his heart, but quainted. His writings, accordingly, touches the heart of the reader. present to us the most attractive Take, for example, a passage in representations of that kind of vir which he contrasts the lives of tue, which consists of good-natured gipsy children with those of childispositions, and the most pictur- dren who are compelled to toil in esque descriptions of the vices and English manufactories. “ Even the the miseries of those who groan, sun-burnt faces of gipsy children, and die a lingering death, under the half naked though they be, suggest crushing structure of the English a drop of comfort. It is a pleasant constitution of society. Of any other thing to see that the sun has been virtue than that which is made up there ; to know that the air and of kind and generous natural im- light are on them every day ; to pulses--of any other virtue than feel that they are children and lead that phrenological goodness, which children's lives; that if their pilis analyzed into large benevolence,' lows be damp, it is with the dews • well developed conscientiousness,' of heaven, and not with tears ; that • large adhesiveness, moderate the limbs of their girls are free, and veneration,' small acquisitiveness,' that they are not crippled with dis

small destructiveness,” and such tortions, imposing an unnatural and like elements of moral character horrible penance upon their sex ; his writings give no lesson. Of vir- that their lives are spent from day tue, springing from godliness as its to day, at least among the waving root-of virtue, strengthened by the trees, and not in the midst of dreadfear of God and by the knowledge ful engines, which make young chilof God's holiness of virtue, seek- dren old before they know what ing to please God, and praying, childhood is, and give them the ex• lead us not into temptation, but haustion and infirmity of age, withdeliver us from evil' --no reader out, like age, the privilege to die.” would ever receive any image or But as often as we indulge the conception, from such books as hope, that the writings of Mr. Dickthose of Dickens.

ens may be productive of good in


awakening an interest for the needy, pulsive in themselves, are exagger. the defenseless, and the oppressed, ated by the distorting manner in and by making the more fortunate which they are held up to view. and privileged feel, that even the Mr. Dickens has written much that most degraded partake in the better is worthy of praise ; yet, we can. sensibilities and generous impulses not but lament the extensive circu. of our common nature ; we are lation of his works, and their evi. constrained to fear, that these wri- dent influence on society. At least tings will have, on the whole, no one benefit of the international copyother influence on the public mind, right law which he is so anxious to than to excite merriment at the ex- secure, would be, that it would prepense of those who are deserving vent the republication of many of of sympathy, and disgust at those, his productions, or limit their circu. whose deformities, sufficiently re- lation to the judicious few.


The moon now pours her full and noontide beams,

O’er the still mountain, and the quiet lawn ;
Earth's thronging multitudes lie hushed in dreams,

Weaving their plots to vanish with the dawn.

The men, who yesterday were tossed with groans,

Now travel some bright region far away ;
Where golden palaces, and crystal thrones,

Rise noiselessly, and noiselessly decay.
The lonely captive held in dread suspense,

The sailor musing o'er the “ rushing helm,"
Are lingering yet upon the shores of sense,

Like sentinels to guard this dreamy realm.
I'll muse awhile, ere yet the clarion's 'larm,
Shall rouse the slumbering world, and break the silent charm.

[ocr errors]


She comes to weep alone ; a mother's tears
Are falling fast upon the grave where sleeps
Her infant boy. No monument yet marks
The spot where he was laid; it is too fresh
In memory to need the sculptured stone
To guide the steps of her who weeps alone.
Yet even as she weeps, she smiles; for lo !
A voice of heavenly music thrills her soul,
“ Suffer this little one to come to me,
Forbid it not ;-these op'ning flowers I need
To beautify the Paradise above."


A civil war in New England is state would so soon be called out to almost too strange an event to be put down insurrection against law? believed ; and, we are persuaded the Who was willing to believe that body of the people are not aware of where the people rule supreme, any the very great dangers which we considerable body of them could be have recently encountered, and from led to attempt the usurpation of pow. which, perhaps, we have not yet es. er by force? caped. The universal confidence But we confess we do not regard in our institutions, by preventing the even this, as the greatest evil. There occasion of suspicion, produces an is a wide difference between rushing unconsciousness of danger, which into civil war, and justifying it as a even its near approach can with dif- proper mode of changing free con. ficulty disturb. But to the inhabi- stitutions; and a still wider between tants of Rhode Island, the war was this being done by those engaged in a reality. It was felt in every fam. the strife, and its being done by men ily. The march of troops in the sol- of learning and statesmen of influemn earnestness of war to the sound ence, who far from the scene of con. of fife and drum, brought it home to test, and not excited by the passions every one's consciousness, that the which civil war always produces, state was in the midst of revolution. can coolly defend rebellion, not on And although the blood of citizens the ground that the last necessity has not been shed in battle, yet apart had arrived, and the law of nature from this, the people, in the aliena- must put down by force the law of tion of families, in the interruption government, but on the principle of social intercourse and in the hos that insurrection is a legal right. tile feelings created, have suffered We might endure a civil war for the horrors of civil war.

once, but how can we endure a prinBut it is not the immediate evils, ciple which will make civil war one which most alarm us. It is not of the American principles of gov. merely that money has been lost and ernment, one of the ordinary modes business disturbed, that private feuds of changing constitutions. have been engendered which may We think, therefore, the princinever be quelled, and distrust and ples brought forward to justify the suspicion excited throughout the war, more dangerous than the war whole community; nor even that itself. For these are not the prinschools of learning have been shut ciples of the declaration of indepenand the solemnities of the sanctuary dence nor of the constitutions of the broken in upon ; nor, still farther, several states, however strenuously that the contest has passed beyond they have been confounded with the bounds of the state, and becom- them. That the people have a nating a topic of party politics, threat- ural right to overthrow the governens to embroil the whole country; ment under which they live, and but it is, that civil war should exist substitute another in its place, is a at all. Who could have foreseen grave truth never to be questioned that it would thus early start forth among us, but involving in its appli. in a country, whose just praise is its cation the highest moral responsiconstitutional governments ? Who bilities. It is not pretended that the could have predicted, that in a re- people of Rhode Island were so public, which boasts the supremacy oppressed as to make it, in the lanof law, the whole armed force of a guage of the declaration of indepen

« PreviousContinue »