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Little Dorr It. Little Vorrie. By Charle...
is the portrayal of human nature and human action . Mr . Dickens is the most dramatic of the novelists . He reflects the whole round of life , from the richest and most refined circles to the humblest and roughest ; and looks with a penetrating eye , and with the intuition of intense sympathy , into all the depths of the human heart , all the secret hooks of the affections , all the crooked subtleties of villany , all the tangled combinations of good and bad , which make us what we are . We do not exaggerate when we say that his § en ius possesses some points of resemblance to that of Shakspeare—spmeling of the very thing which , more than anything else , makes Shakspeare the greatest of dramatic poets . It is not merely that Dickens is himself a poet , and in nothing so much as in his exquisite sensitiveness to those fine threads of analogy which connect the animate with the inanimate world , so that the still life of his scenes is constantly made to reflect the dominant emotion of the characters , in a manner which may appear extravagant to
matter-of-fact minds , but which is wonderfully true to all who have ever felt emotion—it is not merely that many of his characters have in them such a strong and self-existent vitality that they have already become part of our actual experience , and remain there like remembrances of our own life—it is not merely that Dickens has added phrases to the language , which are to be found in almost any column of a newspaper you may take up to read haphazard—it is not simply on these accounts that Dickens shows some affinity with Shakspeare , but much more on account of that feeling of universal sympathy with human nature which breathes through his pages like the ' broad and general' atmosphere . He soars above all considerations
of sect , above all narrow isolations of creed ; and , though a more deeply religious writer is not to be found , in all those elements of religion which rise eternally from the natural emotions of love and reverence , he is never disputatiously theological or academically dogmatic . Certain Universitybred reviewers , whose shrivelled souls cannot understand the fresh , spontaneous efflorescence of genius , and who will accept no gold that does not come to them impressed with the college stamp , majr affect to despise the large regard of Dickens ; but the world will recognise its great ones whether or not they wear the uniform of cap and gown . As with his other works , so is it with Little Borrit . The whole picture is
quick and warm with life . Passing from the hot southern flush and glare of Marseilles , in the opening chapter , to the grim old twilight house in London , with its haunting mysteries and uneasy secrets , in which Mrs . Clennam and . Mr . Flintwinch plot and counterplot— -changing from the dull prison rooms and yard , with their attendant poverty , made glorious by the divine light and love of Little Dorrit , to the stately palaces of Rome and Venice , glowing with the pomp of wealth—everywhere and under all circumstances , the vitality of the conceptions asserts itself with all the supremacy of genius . A complete character will start before you within the compass of a few lines ; as in the case of the little Frenchwoman of whom Mr . Dorrit purchases the gifts for Mrs . General , or in that of the Swiss host whom Mr . Dorrit almost annihilates for a fancied slight , or in that of the landlady of the Break of Day at Chalons . But these are the mere overflowings of the cup . The main characters are those to which we must chiefly
look . And first of Mr . Dorrit . What awful truth and solemn voice of warning is there in that weak , selfish , pompous , insanely proud man 1—proud and vain in his poverty ^ while descending to depths of meanness ; flaunting his shabby family scutcheon in the face of the visitors of whom he begs , and pretending to a gentlemanly independence while his daughter toUs for him , almost starves for him ; equally , but not more , proud and vain when he suddenly becomes wealthy , and fancies himself compelled to resort to miserable shifts to conceal his former state , which his daughter ' s devotion should have made noble in his eyes ; proud and vain to the last , though , when the over-excitement of his changed life topples over his reason and his health , he divulges in his mental wanderings the fact of his previous povertyand dies with the shadow of the Marshalsea upon him . Mr .
, Dorrit is the very type of flunkey ism ; and our time stands m need of a lesson against that sordid vice . But a manly detestation of servility is one of the most prominent elements in this tale . We see it again in the charac ter of Mr . Merdle , the swindling speculator . Mr . Merdle , it is well known , is a portrait from life ; but it maybe as well to recollect that he is not merely a reflex of one individual . He is true to a very large , and it is to be feared , an increasing , class ; a class of individuals not merely corrupt in themselves , but the cause of corruption in others . What matter that the Merdles of real life , like the Merdle of Mr . Dickens ' s fiction , are poor in heart and brain—mere rattling husks of men , with nothing inside but a few dead conventional ideas and phrases ; what matter that they are dull in thoughtembarrassed in manner , constantly taking themsel ves into custody
, under their coat-cuffs with that intuition of their own villany noted by Mr . Dickens ; what matter that they tremble before their butlers , and move about their drawing-rooms like icebergs that have preserved all their coldness and lost all their sparkle ? They are rich , though by the ruin of others ; and Bar and Biahop , Horse-Guards and Treasury , Nobility and Commerce , bow down before them , ti ll , as in the typical instanco here portrayed , * the shining wonder , the new constellation , to be followed by the wise men bringing gifts , stops over certain carrion at the bottom of a bath , and disappears . ' Another form of worldly-minded ness and false pretence is exhibited in this romance in the character of Mr . Casby , the Last of the Patriarchs . How
often is the world imposed upon by the smooth head , the silky grey locks , the broad-brimmed hat and sober gaiters , the benevolent smile and sleek , revolving phrases , of the Christopher Casbys ! while , nil the time , tho knowing Casbys , intent only on self , are in fact so many ogres grinding tho bones of their follow-croaturca to make them bread , uiul something inoro . Subtly conceived and executed is this character of a fraudulent patriurol ) , who feeds himself ' like a good aoul feeding some one else ; ' who smiles at tho lire ' as if he were benevolently -wishing it to burn him , that he might forgive it j' who , when he sits in tho hot summer evening ( ripping a tumbler of golden sherry , lime-juice , and water , presents ? a radiant appearance of having , in his extensive benevolence , made tho drink for t > he humnn species , while ho himself wanted nothinor but his own milk of human kindness ;'
whose beamy and bumpy head , combined with his suave manners , suggests the idea of his having ' baptismal water on the brain ;* and who utters his blundering platitudes with so much calm sweetness that he seems to be giving vent to the choicest specimens of benign wisdom . These are touches , minute in themselves , but showing the finest wit and the deepest knowledge
of character . ' We find the same courageous independence of thought once more exhibited jn the scorching satire directed against our Circumlocution Offices ' and 'Tite Barnacle' legislators . How much truth there is in that satire is shown by the fact of its being at once adopted by the popular mind . Against these shadows in the general picture—rendered still more lowering by the blackness of the assassin Rigaud or Blandois—the good characters of the book come out like sunshine . There is little Dorrit herself—one of Mr . Dickens ' s most beautiful creations ; and Clennam , the true gentleman and high-souled hero ; and the noble-hearted , chivalric , half-witted John Chivery , most pathetic in his hopeless love for Little Dorrit ; and the goodnatured , though noisy and flippant , Flora Finching ( old Casby ' s daughter ) , not at all pathetic in her hopeless love for Clennam , though coming home to our sympathies in the thoroughly kind way in which she gives up Clennam
to Little Dorrit , as John Chivery has given up Little Dorrit to Clennam ; and Mr . Pancks , the seemingly hard instrument of Mr . Casby in collecting the patriarchal rents , but the final executor of poetical justice on that chief of impostors , and the purely disinterested agent in recovering their fortune for the Dorrit family . These are the golden rays that lighten the story ; the chief , of course , being Clennam and Little Dorrit . From those two characters , a soft , mild , grave , sad radiance streams from the beginning to the end of the book . And , by a beautiful sense of poetical fitness , Little Dorrit is brought back again to Clennam , after her long absence abroad , in the very prison and the very room where he had often been so great a friend to her , and where she is now to be so priceless a boon and angelical a comforter to him . And in the neighbouring church they are married , in the calm autumn weather which seems to typify their lives . We must confess to some disappointment at the explanation , towards the
close of the book , of the mystery connected with Mrs . Clennam and the old house with its strange noises . It is deficient in clearness , and does not fulfil the expectations of the reader , which have been wound up to a high pitch . Indeed * the woof of the entire story does not hold together with sufficient closeness—a fault perhaps inseparable from the mode of publication . The writing , however , shows all Mr . Dickens ' s singular union of close observation and rich fancy . A few instances suggest themselves as we write . Of Jeremiah Flinfwihcb , whose head is always on one side , so that the knotted ends of his cravat dangle under one ear , and who has * a swollen and suffused look , ' we are told that ' he had a weird appearance of having hanged himself at one time or other , and of having gone about ever since halter and all , exactly as some timely hand had cut him down . ' The watch worn by the same old man was deposited in a deep pocket , ' and had
a tarnished copper key moored above it , to show where it -wassunk . ' ^ The garret bedroom of the old house contains ' a lean set of fire irons like the skeleton of a set deceased , ' and ' a bedstead with four bare atomies of posts , each terminating in a spike , as if for the dismal accommodation of lodgers who might prefer to impale themselves ? Very poetical , also , is the identification of the pent-up fire in Mrs . Clennam ' s sick-room with the invalid herself . ' The fire shone sullenly all day and sullenly all night . On rare occasions , it flashed up pasionately as she did ; but for the most part it was suppressed , like her , and preyed upon itself , evenly and slowly . ' The light of this fire throws the shadows of Mrs . Clennam , old Flintwinch , and his wife , Mistress
Affery , on a gateway opposite , like figures from a magic lantern . As the room-ridden invalid settled for the . night , these would gradually disappear : Mistress Affery ' s magnified shadow always flitting about , last , until it finally glided away into the air , as though , she were off upon a witch-excursion . Then the solitary light would burn unchangingly , until it burned pale before the dawn , and at last died under the breath of Mistress Affery , as her shadow descended on it from the witch region of sleep . ' This is true poetry ; but there are a thousand such touches in the book , as iii all Mr . Dickens ' s books , which every reader of cultivated perceptions will perceive for himself . In Little Dorrit , Mr . Dickena has made another imperishable addition to the-literature of his country .
Juke 27,1857.] The Leader. 61?_
Juke 27 , 1857 . ] THE LEADER . 61 ?_
Herschell's Essays. Essays From The Edin...
HERSCHELL'S ESSAYS . Essays from the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews , with Addresses and other Pieces , By Sir John F . W . Herachell , Bart . Longman , and Co . The great name of Herschel l will be certain to attract many readers to this volume ; yet unless those readers come prepared with a knowledge of what Herechell has achieved in science , and of his vast attainments , they will bo seriously disappointed , and ask with some scorn , Is this your eminent man ? We regret the republication of these essays , addresses , and poems , because , being for the most part altogether unworthy of republication , they will certainly lessen the reputation or their author . It is pleasant to think _ . mT - _ I ** - a A * ¦ m * m m . m ¦ - A *& his mind the
. of tho laborious student of science relaxing by composition of verses ; be these verses never so feeble they serve to keep his soul young and his sympathies active . But however wo may be pleased to see HeracheU writing verses , it pains us to sec him publishing them—it pains us to see a man of his eminence falling into tlie error of boys and blockheads , and mistaking the difference between a private amusement and a public act . What would he think of Faraday ' s appearance as a concert-singer , because Faniday may huppen to pleusc himself and his family by occasionally singing to thorn P What would he think of an Arago ' s appearance as an artist at the Exhibition of pictures , because Arago might possess a certain knack of drawing , not good enough for art , but good enough for Albums P Yet his own cuse is precisely analogous . His verses are altogether commonplace ; fit for-Albums but unfit for print . Take those two short poems as specimens i— XIIH PA . RTINQ . DOVB . ' Impatient of constraint , around my Ark , In short and lowly flight my strength I tried ,
Leader (1850-1860), June 27, 1857, page 17, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse2.kdl.kcl.ac.uk/periodicals/l/issues/cld_27061857/page/17/