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AS AN EDITOR.
Household Words. - All the Year Round. - Great Expectations. – Tale of Two
“Nor need we power or splendor,
Wide hall or lordly dome:
“ Let your speech be always with grace.” — COL. iv. 6.
EARTH and home has need of pleasant
words, and words of wisdom. These Mr. Dickens sought to give in the periodicals of which he was editor. In 1850, he took
charge of a weekly literary paper called “Household Words;" and it became exceedingly popular. He showed that he was “ abundantly competent to superintend a periodical with regularity and efficiency; to write, select, and edit with practical and workmanlike skill; and to select judiciously, and conduct with kindness and decision, the necessary staff of subordinates.” In 1857, owing to a disagreement with his publishers, Mr. Dickens discontinued “ Household Words," and
established “ All the Year Round” instead; having his old publishers,— Messrs. Chapman & Hall. His eldest son became chief assistant on this periodical shortly before his death. Mr. Dickens was, in some sense, his own publisher. Mr. Smalley, in “ The New-York Tribune," thus notices the fact:
“Messrs. Chapman & Hall's names appear on the titlepages of his books; but they have been only Mr. Dickens's agents. He owned the copyright of every one of his novels. In early days, it is true, before his fame had increased, and before the property in any one of his novels had become a fortune, he had sold his rights as author in a considerable number of his books. All these he repurchased; often by dint of great trouble, and by difficult negotiations, always at a price far beyond that which they had brought in the beginning. It was not only a matter of calculation with Mr. Dickens, it was a matter of pride. His books are his children : he did not want them in a stranger's hand, nor subject to the authority of anybody but their author. The copyrights were much dispersed; and, when it became known that Mr. Dickens was bent on buying them up, the price, which was already high, advanced very considerably. The British book-publisher is just as capable of driving a hard bargain as his American rival; and Mr. Dickens had to pay dearly for his discovery of that interesting fact. At last he carried his point, and
held in his own grasp, by a good legal title, all his earlier writings. With the latter he had never parted ; with none, I suppose, during the last twenty years. Every six months, Messrs. Chapman & Hall handed in their accounts. It was Mr. Dickens who settled the terms of publication, the form in which each successive edition should appear, and all other details. What is called the
Charles Dickens Edition’ was his idea, and his favorite,not on account of its beauty or readableness, for it is printed compactly, in small type, but on account of its cheapness. What pleased him was, that everybody should be able to buy a complete set of his writings ; and so he had them all condensed into, I think, seventeen volumes, separately published, and sold at three shillings and sixpence each. He understood the market, studied it, and adapted the supply of his books to the demand. He told me, four years ago, that the copyright of each one of his books became every year more valuable ; that is, brought in more actual money.”
Of Mr. Dickens as an editor, “ The London Daily
- We believe we are correct in stating, that every
article in Household Words' and · All the Year Round' passed under the conductor's eye, and that every proof was read and corrected by him. It was at one time the fashion to assume that conducted by Charles Dickens' meant little more than a sleeping partnership,- as if Dickens could have been a sleeping
partner in any undertaking under the sun. But those behind the scenes knew better; and the readers of “All the Year Round' may assure themselves that every word in it was, up to this date, read before publication by the great master whose name it bears. At this moment, the · Particulars for next number,' in the neat yet bold handwriting which it is impossible to mistake hang by the side of the empty office-desk.”
“ His editorial position,” Mr. Perkins says, “afforded him many opportunities of aiding authors of all kinds ; and very gladly and generously he used them. The rule of contributing anonymously had its disagreeable side; and it prevented (for instance) Douglas Jerrold from writing for the weekly. But the periodical is anonymous throughout,' remonstrated Dickens, one day, when he had been suggesting to Mr. Jerrold to write for it. • Yes,' replied the caustic wit, opening a number, and reading the title, ““ Conducted by Charles Dickens.” I see it is — mononymous throughout.' There was some reason for this; for Jerrold's name was worth money. ... To young writers, the great novelist was accessible, and as kind as his exacting employments rendered it possible for him to be ; and very many are the papers to which he gave many a grace by the judicious touches of his magical pen.”
Mr. Dickens wrote a “Child's History of England,” which is a well-prepared compendium for the young stu
dent, and may be read with advantage by older persons. The miscellaneous sketches prepared for these papers were published together by the name of “ The Uncommercial Traveller,” and met with a warm reception.
“ Great Expectations,” and “ A Tale of Two Cities," also appeared first as serials; and the latter is counted the most intellectual of any of the works of Dickens. From the “ Tale of Two Cities,” there is only space here to present a slight sketch, which conveys a sweet and holy picture of childhood, and refutes the idea that Mr. Dickens thought irreverently of the Saviour :
“ A wonderful corner for echoes, it has been remarked, - that corner where the doctor lived. Ever busily winding the golden thread which bound her husband and her father and herself, and her old directress and companion, in a life of quiet bliss, Lucie sat in the still house, in the tranquilly resounding corner, listening to the echoing footsteps of years.
“At first there were times, though she was a perfectly happy young wife, when her work would slowly fall from her hands, and her eyes would be dimmed; for there was something coming in the echoes, something light, afar off, and scarcely audible yet, that stirred her heart too much. Fluttering hopes and doubts — hopes of a love as yet unknown to her, doubts of her remain