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How the News of Mr. Dickens's Death was received. – Henry Ward Beecher's $er.
mon. - The Voice of the Press.
" Man is one;
“And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it.” – 1 Cor. xii. 26.
ITH simple truth “ The Monthly Religious
“ It was a great surprise of grief which
fell upon men of letters, and upon the multitude to whom the name of Mr. Dickens had long been a synonyme for all that is most charming in the literature of fiction, when it was announced that he had suddenly ceased from his labors, and fallen asleep. The press of two continents, of all shades of opinion, political and religious, though almost stunned by the tidings, quickly rallied, as under one universal inspiration, with
only here and there a dismal exception, to utter its grateful memory, and to pour out its mighty sorrow.
“No single quality so much distinguishes the pages of this admired and lamented child of genius as their natural, broad, genial, exquisitely delicate and tender humanity. Indeed, this is not so much a quality as the animating spirit of them, glowing in all their descriptions, in their incomparable humor, their ready, ingenuous wit, their tearful but quiet pathos. Mankind is his debtor, not only for the healthful pleasure which has sprung up under the magic of his pen in thousands of homes and millions of hearts, but for putting into forms so attractive and fascinating so much of the finest essence of Christianity. We say this with careful deliberation. In all the volumes which Mr. Dickens has given to the world, we remember nothing which should make a Christian blush or grieve; whilst we do discover pervading them, as electricity the atmosphere, the humanities, the charities, the noble aspirations, the enriching faiths, the tender and soothing hopes, which are the sweet and beautiful vintage of the True Vine.
Religion, in the restricted sense of the word, is not the only chord in the many-stringed harp of humanity which may lawfully be touched with Christian fingers; but he who brings forth dulcet sounds in due proportion from each, blending them all, is master of the divine harmonies, and the true man of God. He is the real artist, trained for his calling by apprentice
ship to truth, beauty, and love. In the roll of such artists, representatives of the best literature, with the heartfelt assent of their readers, have hastened to place the brilliant and beloved name of Charles Dickens. He is at rest with kings and counsellors of the earth.' All ranks, from the most humble to the most exalted, mourn for him, even as they have rejoiced in him ; but they mourn, not as though he had just begun his splendid career of beneficent ministration to human happiness, but as for one who has finished well the tasks of life ; for he had done enough for his fame, and far more than his part for humanity; and, after all, he has left the most and the best of himself behind. Let his requiem be the thanksgiving-psalms of the vast multitude whose eyes have glistened, and whose hearts have throbbed, under the wondrous spell of his creative fancy. His • funeral anthem,' let it be the glad evangel’ of syinpathy with man in his loneliness, want, struggle, sorrow, and sin, which his silent word shall preach from generation to generation."
“ The Boston Transcript” publishes this extract from a private letter from Jean Ingelow: “You know by this time the loss we have sustained in the death of Charles Dickens. Literature seems to have lost her king, and one to whom almost all were loyal. He was the lord of laughter and of tears. The old dress in which mortals used to be presented to us by authors
had grown shabby; but he dressed human nature anew, showed it to us as we had never seen it before. He made what was homely and lowly draw near to be looked at and loved."
Thus echoes Henry Ward Beecher the cry of mourning from across the sea :
“ His works generally produced a powerful impression upon the many wrongs and vices which they sought to remedy.
“And while the question of Mr. Dickens's spiritual work is perhaps one that we are not authorized to decide, and must not decide, and while, certainly, we cannot reckon him as among the highest natures, we cannot withhold from him our gratitude; and we cannot but be grateful to God for the fact that he was raised up to do in a lower sphere a greatly needed work; which he did well.
“ And, having done his work, he passed from the stage of life as one might wish to die, - one moment in the full enjoyment of his faculties, and the next moment gone, as it were. I will still cling to that old heresy, the Episcopal prayer-book to the contrary notwithstanding. I should never pray to God to keep me from sudden death. Instead of that, my prayer to God is, that he will cut me off suddenly. I do not want to be like an old harness that is always broken, that always has to be tied up
with strings, or that is always being carried to the shop for repairs, and is always good for nothing. At the full of life, while yet his mind was vigorous, he was stricken down. And he has died at the right time, -- at the right time for himself, and at the right time for the world. He had done his work; and, such as it was, he had done it well. I, for one, thank God for the life of Charles Dickens; and I thank God for his work. Though I do not regard it as the highest, I regard it as eminently noble and useful.
" It will always be a pleasant thing for me to remember that he spoke in our church, using it as a readinghall."
A beautiful tribute is that of George William Curtis in “ Harper's Weekly:".
“ The great story-teller is the personal friend of the world; and, when he dies, a shadow falls upon every home in which his works were familiar, and his name tenderly cherished. When the news came that Dickens was dead, it was felt that the one man who was more beloved than any of his contemporaries by the Englishspeaking race of to-day was gone. While he yet lay in his own house, unburied, the thoughts of the whole civilized world turned solemnly to the silent chamber, and gratefully recalled his immense service to mankind. What an amazing fame! What a feeling to inspire !