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“The door of the cell opened, and the attendants returned.
66. Press on, press on!' cried the Jew. "Softly, but not so slow. Faster, faster!'
“ The men laid hands upon him, and, disengaging Oliver from his grasp, held him back. He struggled with the power of desperation for an instant, and then sent up cry upon cry that penetrated even those massive walls, and rang in their ears until they reached the open yard.
“ It was some time before they left the prison. Oliver nearly swooned after this frightful scene, and was so weak that for an hour or more he had not the strength to walk.
Day was dawning when they again emerged. A great multitude had already assembled: the windows were filled with people, smoking, and playing cards, to beguile the time. The crowd were pushing, quarrelling, and joking. Every thing told of life and animation, but one dark cluster of objects, in the very centre of all, - the black stage, the cross-beam, and the rope, and all the hideous apparatus of death.”
ONE OF HIS BEST.
Nicholas Nickleby. – Opinion of “The Methodist." - Thackeray's. – The Squeers
School. – Henry Ward Beecher's Testimony.
“Have pity on them, for their life
Is full of grief and care.
The very poor must bear;
By many a mother shed,
MRS. JANE F. WORTHINGTON.
“Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the king. dom which he hath promised to them that love him.” — Jas. ii. 5.
BOUT the year 1839 was published, in shilling numbers, uniform with “ Pickwick," another characteristic novel from the pen of Charles Dickens. This was
entitled Nicholas Nickleby. It became very popular abroad, as well as in England, and was dramatized in France, as were also several other of his works. Thackeray once wrote a laughable account of a performance of“ Neekolass Neeklbee” which he attended in Paris. At present, a French edition of Dickens's novels is announced ; and the news of his death was unwelcome
in foreign lands as well as in “ merrie ” England. Those, in all lands, most familiar with the creations of Mr. Dickens's genius, and most capable of appreciating such creations, render him a verdict of praise and thanks.
- The Methodist,” with wise discrimination, says,
- His volumes have reformed some of the most profound vices of English life, — the Yorkshire schools, the Debtors' Prison, the intolerable grievances of Chancery. What defects of British society has he not attempted to ameliorate? But, aside from his sarcasm, his humorous caricature, the genial method by which he would correct grievous evils, he has infused a moral vitality into all the veins and arteries of English common life by his genial teachings, his boundless illustration of character, the habitual humanity and benevolence of his sentiments, and the general high tone of his morality. His pages are unsullied with any of that grossness which had, down to his day, seemed inseparable from English humor.
“ The greatest of the British humorists, — for we do not hesitate to accord him this pre-eminence, — he is also the purest of them all. Not to speak of Swift and Sterne and Fielding and Smollett, he is even less blemished than Goldsmith or Addison. He does, indeed, too often draw humor from drinking scenes ; but in this he represents the standard sentiment of his countrymen. No other taint can be detected by the acutest moral analysis of his pages.
“ His works can be unreservedly placed in any virtuous household. They cannot be read by the young without neutralizing a taste for lower literature; without imparting freshness, healthfulness, geniality, and moral tone to the susceptibilities of youth.”
“Nicholas Nickleby” dealt with the abuses in cheap Yorkshire schools, at which body and mind were both kept on starvation diet, and broke up a system which was disgraceful to a civilized country. It showed, as did “ Oliver Twist,” that the author was still working for the emancipation of boyhood. He drew from real life his pictures of Dotheboys Hall and the miserable Squeers who domineered therein. It was only a humorous exaggeration, if it was an exaggeration at all, of evils really existing which he desired to expose in order to correct. And he did correct them. After-years showed that he labored not in vain; so that, in his preface to a later edition, he could say of the cheap Yorkshire schools he depicted, “ There are very few now.” The righteous indignation and Christian disgust he felt in regard to such miserable substitutes for good schools led him to characterize the masters in this forcible language.
“Of the monstrous neglect of education in England, and the disregard of it by the State as the means of forming good or bad citizens and miserable or happy men, private schools long afforded a notable example.
Although any man, who had proved his unfitness for any other occupation in life, was free, without examination or qualification, to open a school anywhere ; although preparation for the functions he undertook was required in the surgeon who assisted to bring a boy into the world, or might one day assist, perhaps, to send him out of it; in the chemist, the attorney, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker, the whole round of crafts and trades, the schoolmaster excepted; and although schoolmasters, as a race, were the blockheads and impostors who might naturally be expected to spring from such a state of things, and to flourish in it, - these Yorkshire schoolmasters were the lowest and most rotten round in the whole ladder. Traders in the avarice, indifference, imbecility, of parents, and the helplessness of children ; ignorant, sordid, brutal men, to whom few considerate persons would have intrusted the board and lodging of a horse or a dog, – they formed the worthy corner-stone of a structure, which, for absurdity and a magnificent, high-minded, laissez-aller neglect, has rarely been exceeded in the world.”
And solemnly in the preface, Mr. Dickens affirmed that his picture of the Squeers school was a truthfui one, saying,
“ The author's object in calling public attention to the system would be very imperfectly fulfilled, if he did