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that it is altogether unnatural. This der different texts, and in differ perfect character, so serious, consis. ent covers. tent, and virtuous, this idealized representation of all that is admirable in human nature, is surrounded continually by the most grotesque figures conceivable-by mere distortions and caricatures of humanity, extravagant in their virtues, or hideous in their deformity-and yet passes through life without being in the least affected by their influence. Thus in the "Old Curiosity Shop," little Nell, whose character is almost too lovely for earth, was trained up under the influence of a poor old man-her grandfather-shattered in intellect, addicted to gambling and theft, the bosom friend and then the victim of a hideous dwarf, whose character is even more deformed than his person. The grouping of such figures together, though it may serve to heighten the contrast between them, renders the whole picture unnatural, and even painful. One character-the center of the picture-is drawn and colored with ideal and even supernatural beauty, while every thing else upon the canvass is laughably or hideously grotesque.
There is a remarkable similarity among the late productions of Mr. Dickens, which indicates a lack of invention. Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, and even little Nell, in their origin, education, adventures, and varied fortunes, in the class of society to which they belong, the characters by which they are surrounded, the scenes of vice and temptation into which they are thrown, in their fortitude under trials, their scrupulous adherence to those moral principles which are discarded by all around them, and in all the essential features of their history, have many striking points of resemblance. In the two former particularly, Mr. Dickens seems to have done like those preachers who sometimes give us the same sermon on different occasions, unVol. I.
We are by no means insensible to the many tokens which these later works exhibit, of a better and higher kind of genius than that which wrote the Papers of the Pickwick Club. However improbable or unnatural may be the structure of the story and the grouping of the characters, each character is generally life-like and well sustained. Some characters have a highly tragical effect. That of Fagin, for example, would hardly suffer by a comparison with Shylock. little Nell we have already intimated an opinion. Perhaps she might be ranked with such creations of genius as Desdemona. Her devotion to her aged grandfather, when the poor insane old man was driven from his home by the rapacious Quilp; her clinging to him in all his wanderings, as, haunted by the fear that some one was pursuing him, he hurried from one village to another; her self-denial, to procure for him the means of subsistence; her anxiety to keep him from the gaming table, when the sight of cards at a village inn had rekindled his old passion so fiercely that, to partake in the game, he even stole from her little purse the few pence which she had hoarded to buy him bread; the quietness with which she endures privation, hunger, cold, and the neglect of the proud; all these, with a thousand other evidences of a soul ennobled and mature, in the most delicate, flower-like frame, endear her to the heart, and engrave her image there in lines which cannot be effaced. And when, weary and worn with her wanderings, she comes to die in that quiet village, where she had just found sympathy and friends, and is buried in that old church-yard, where she had loved to wander, we cannot refrain from mingling our tears with those of the village children, who weep over the fresh sod that covers her.
Occasionally we find a sentence that is an almost perfect gem of poetic tenderness and beauty. For example, when the author brings his weary wanderers to a manufacturing town, where they obtain lodgings for the night in an iron foundry, and sleep by the side of one of its ceaseless fires, and where the workman shares with them his scanty meal, makes a bed for them from his own rough apparel, and in the morning dismisses them with a pittance and his benediction. "He gave her two old, battered, smokeencrusted penny pieces. Who knows but that they shone as brightly in the eyes of angels, as golden gifts that have been chronicled on tombs ?" Their loneliness, as they stood one evening in a crowded thoroughfare, entire strangers, with no prospect of a meal or bed, is thus depicted. "Feeling amidst the crowd a solitude which has no parallel but in the thirst of the shipwrecked mariner, who, tost to and fro upon the billows of a mighty ocean, his red eyes blinded by looking on the water which hems him in on every side, has not one drop to cool his burning tongue."
Mr. Dickens probably values himself, as certainly he has been complimented by some critics, on the moral tendency of his writings. It is often said that they tend to good, by exciting sympathy with human suffering, and by increasing the reader's detestation of vice and his admiration of goodness. But after all that may be said and conceded on this point, it remains a serious question, whether any human being was ever made better by reading such books as Oliver Twist or Barnaby Rudge. Books of mere amusement-books written to be sold, and the sale of which depends exclusively on their power to amuse thoughtless minds, and to while away the tedious hours of the indolent and the frivolous, are not likely to do much towards quickening the
conscience of the reader, or leading him to recognize his moral nature and his relations to his Maker. Certainly, very little of this can be expected from the writings of a man so ignorant of that tree of life, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations, as is the author now before us. We have heard the inference drawn from his writings, and especially from some passages in these American Notes, that he is a Unitarian. Unitarian! Did he attend any Unitarian church in Boston? Is there any evidence, that he attended any church any where in the United States, save in that one instance in which he visited "Father Taylor's" sailors' chapel, with a single eye to his own profession as a dealer in caricatures ? A Unitarian! Why, Miss Sedgwick is a Unitarian, yet how much loftier is the moral tone of some of her works within a few years past, than that of any thing from the pen of this author. He compliments the Unitarians indeed, as we have seen, but not on account of their having a more accurate exposition of Christianity than other men. He speaks admiringly of the Boston Transcendentalists, and says, that if he were a Bostonian, he would be a Transcendentalist; but the great glory of Transcendentalism in his view, is its "hearty disgust of cant;' and he names its professors, not as expounders of Christianity, but as a sect of philosophers." In brief, then, our understanding of Mr. Dickens is, not that he embraces this or that system of latitudinarian doctrine, but that all forms and schemes of religion, Unitarian or evangelical, Popish or Protestant, Christian, Mohammedan, or Pagan, are alike to him. Is he not one of the many whom England trains, under the shadow of her old cathedrals, in a deplorable ignorance of God and of Christ?
Disgust of cant" is the profession of his faith. And what do such
men mean by "cant ?" To them, all fear of God-all the manifes tations of a devout and serious temper-all talk of sin and repentance and forgiveness for Christ's sake, and inward renovation by the grace of God-all endeavors to live so berly, righteously, and godly in this evil world, are "cant." As is the man, such will be, on the whole, the influence of his writings. What sort of influence then may be expected from the writings of this author, of whose character the American Notes give us so distinct a revelation? He is a good-natured man, loving to laugh and to see others merry, and cherishing a goodnatured sympathy for those neglect. ed and wretched classes of the population of London, with whom his early life and his professional em ployments have made him well acquainted. His writings, accordingly, present to us the most attractive representations of that kind of virtue, which consists of good-natured dispositions, and the most picturesque descriptions of the vices and the miseries of those who groan, and die a lingering death, under the crushing structure of the English constitution of society. Of any other virtue than that which is made up of kind and generous natural impulses of any other virtue than that phrenological goodness, which is analyzed into 'large benevolence,' 'well developed conscientiousness,' large adhesiveness,' moderate veneration,'' small acquisitiveness,' small destructiveness," and such like elements of moral characterhis writings give no lesson. Of virtue, springing from godliness as its root of virtue, strengthened by the fear of God and by the knowledge of God's holiness of virtue, seeking to please God, and praying, 'lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil' no reader would ever receive any image or conception, from such books as those of Dickens.
Objections have sometimes been made to this literature of almshouses and prisons, of pauperism and roguery, as necessarily tending to corruption of taste and of morals. We do not admit the force of such objections, On the contrary, we think that philanthropy may be grateful for any fair exhibition of the vices and the better qualities, the miseries and the whole existence, of the neglected and degraded portions of society; and especially, when the exhibition is so managed by the hand of genius, as to make all feel that natural bond of brotherhood which connects the most privileged with the most degraded. It is so, for the most part, with the writings of this author. He often displays a generous sympathy with lowly wretchedness, which is not only creditable to his heart, but touches the heart of the reader. Take, for example, a passage in which he contrasts the lives of gipsy children with those of children who are compelled to toil in English manufactories. "Even the sun-burnt faces of gipsy children, half naked though they be, suggest a drop of comfort. It is a pleasant thing to see that the sun has been there; to know that the air and light are on them every day; to feel that they are children and lead children's lives; that if their pillows be damp, it is with the dews of heaven, and not with tears; that the limbs of their girls are free, and that they are not crippled with distortions, imposing an unnatural and horrible penance upon their sex; that their lives are spent from day to day, at least among the waving trees, and not in the midst of dreadful engines, which make young children old before they know what childhood is, and give them the exhaustion and infirmity of age, without, like age, the privilege to die."
But as often as we indulge the hope, that the writings of Mr. Dickens may be productive of good in
awakening an interest for the needy, the defenseless, and the oppressed, and by making the more fortunate and privileged feel, that even the most degraded partake in the better sensibilities and generous impulses of our common nature; we are constrained to fear, that these writings will have, on the whole, no other influence on the public mind, than to excite merriment at the expense of those who are deserving of sympathy, and disgust at those, whose deformities, sufficiently re
pulsive in themselves, are exagger. ated by the distorting manner in which they are held up to view. Mr. Dickens has written much that is worthy of praise; yet, we cannot but lament the extensive circulation of his works, and their evident influence on society. At least one benefit of the international copyright law which he is so anxious to secure, would be, that it would prevent the republication of many of his productions, or limit their circulation to the judicious few.
THE moon now pours her full and noontide beams,
The men, who yesterday were tossed with groans,
The lonely captive held in dread suspense,
Like sentinels to guard this dreamy realm.
A MOTHER AT HER INFANT'S GRAVE.
SHE Comes to weep alone; a mother's tears
THE WAR IN RHODE ISLAND.
A CIVIL war in New England is almost too strange an event to be believed; and, we are persuaded the body of the people are not aware of the very great dangers which we have recently encountered, and from which, perhaps, we have not yet escaped. The universal confidence in our institutions, by preventing the occasion of suspicion, produces an unconsciousness of danger, which even its near approach can with difficulty disturb. But to the inhabitants of Rhode Island, the war was a reality. It was felt in every fam ily. The march of troops in the solemn earnestness of war to the sound of fife and drum, brought it home to every one's consciousness, that the state was in the midst of revolution. And although the blood of citizens has not been shed in battle, yet apart from this, the people, in the alienation of families, in the interruption of social intercourse and in the hostile feelings created, have suffered the horrors of civil war.
But it is not the immediate evils, which most alarm us. It is not merely that money has been lost and business disturbed, that private feuds have been engendered which may never be quelled, and distrust and suspicion excited throughout the whole community; nor even that schools of learning have been shut and the solemnities of the sanctuary broken in upon; nor, still farther, that the contest has passed beyond the bounds of the state, and becoming a topic of party politics, threatens to embroil the whole country; but it is, that civil war should exist at all. Who could have foreseen that it would thus early start forth in a country, whose just praise is its constitutional governments? Who could have predicted, that in a republic, which boasts the supremacy of law, the whole armed force of a
state would so soon be called out to put down insurrection against law? Who was willing to believe that where the people rule supreme, any considerable body of them could be led to attempt the usurpation of power by force?
But we confess we do not regard even this, as the greatest evil. There is a wide difference between rushing into civil war, and justifying it as a proper mode of changing free constitutions; and a still wider between this being done by those engaged in the strife, and its being done by men of learning and statesmen of influence, who far from the scene of contest, and not excited by the passions which civil war always produces, can coolly defend rebellion, not on the ground that the last necessity had arrived, and the law of nature must put down by force the law of government, but on the principle that insurrection is a legal right. We might endure a civil war for once, but how can we endure a principle which will make civil war one of the American principles of gov ernment, one of the ordinary modes of changing constitutions.
We think, therefore, the principles brought forward to justify the war, more dangerous than the war itself. For these are not the principles of the declaration of independence nor of the constitutions of the several states, however strenuously they have been confounded with them. That the people have a natural right to overthrow the government under which they live, and substitute another in its place, is a grave truth never to be questioned among us, but involving in its application the highest moral responsibilities. It is not pretended that the people of Rhode Island were so oppressed as to make it, in the language of the declaration of indepen