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than the law allowed); and, Dickens partly in my lap partly in Macrone's, we drove on to Newgate. In his works, if you remember, there is a description of the prison, drawn from this day's observation. We were there an hour or two, and were shown some of the celebrated murderers, confined for life, and one young soldier waiting for execution; and, in one of the passages, we chanced to meet Mrs. Fry on her usual errand of benevolence. Though interested in Dickens's face, I forgot him, naturally enough, after we entered the prison; and I do not think I heard him speak during the two hours. I parted from him at the door of the prison, and continued my stroll into the city. Not long after this, Macrone sent me the sheets of Sketches by Boz,' with a note saying that they were by the gentleman who went with us to Newgate. I read the book with amazement at the genius displayed in it, and, in my note of reply, assured Macrone that I thought his fortune was made as a publisher if he could monopolize the author.
“ Two or three years afterwards, I was in London, and was present at the complimentary dinner given to Macready. Samuel Lover, who sat next me, pointed out Dickens. I looked up and down the table, but was wholly unable to single him out, without getting my friend to number the people who sat above him. He was no more like the same man I had seen than a tree in June is like the same tree in February. He sat leaning his head on his hand while Bulwer was speaking; and, with his very
long hair, his very flashy waistcoat, his chains and rings, and withal a paler face than of old, he was totally unrecognizable. The comparison was very interesting to me, and I looked at him a long time. He was then in the culmination of popularity, and seemed jaded to stupefaction.
Remembering the glorious works he had written since I had seen him, I longed to pay him my homage, but had no opportunity; and I did not see him again till he came over to reap his harvest and upset his hay-cart in America. When all the ephemera of his imprudences and improvidences shall have passed away, say twenty years hence, -I should like to see him again, renowned as he will be for the most original and remarkable works of his time.” Willis referred to his first visit to America, which Dickens signalized by the publication of those “ Notes” which were so unacceptable. When the great novelist again trod the American shore, the poet who thus wrote of him had
to the spirit-land.
It has been difficult sometimes to decide in regard to the humor of Dickens, whether it was the chief characteristic of his writings, or whether it was exceeded by his pathos: most readers seem to consider them about equal
Ralph Waldo Emerson speaks of Dickens as a writer “ with preternatural apprehension of the language of manners and the varieties of street-life, with pathos
and laughter, with patriotic and still enlarging generosity.” He calls him “ a painter of English details, like Hogarth ; local and temporary in his tints and style, and local in his aims.” But, notwithstanding this criticism, Emerson enjoyed Dickens, and the reading world accepted him as a novelist.
Hugh Miller classed Dickens with great writers, but at the lower end of a descending scale. The great geologist went to view the place where Shakspeare was born, and there found a set of albums, in which visitors placed their names. Among those presented to his notice were, first that of Walter Scott, and then that of Charles Dickens. Mr. Miller wrote of the matter: “ It is a curious coincidence, - Shakspeare, Scott, Dickens ! The scale is a descending one; so is the scale from the lion to the leopard, and from the leopard to the tiger-cat: but cat, leopard, and lion belong to one great family ; and these three poets belong unequivocally to one great family also. They are generically one; masters, each in his own sphere, not simply of the art of exhibiting character in the truth of nature, - for that a Hume or a Tacitus may possess, — but of the rarer and more difficult dramatic art of making characters exhibit themselves. It is not uninstructive to remark how the peculiar ability of portraying character in this form.is so exactly proportioned to the general intellectual power of the writer who possesses it. •
Viewed with ref. erence to this simple rule, the higher characters of
Scott, Dickens, and Shakspeare curiously indicate the intellectual status of the men who produced them. ... The higher characters of Dickens do not stand by any means so high [as Scott's] ; the fluid in the original tul e rests at a lower level; and no one seems better aware of the fact than Dickens himself. He knows his proper walk; and, content with expatiating in a comparatively humble province of human life and character, rarely stands on tiptoe, in the vain attempt to portray an intellect taller than his own. ... Dickens, ere he became the most popular of living English authors, must have been a first-class reporter; and the faculty that made him so is the same which now leads us to speak of him in the same breath with Shakspeare. ... In this age of books, I marvel no bookseller has ever thought of presenting the public with the Bowstreet reports of Dickens. They would form, assuredly, a curious work, — not less so, though on a different principle, than the Parliamentary reports of Dr. Samuel Johnson."
Undoubtedly Dickens wrought into his next book some of his experiences and observations while a reporter ; and he gave the delighted public another volume, called “The Pickwick Papers.” It is said that the freshness and humor of the “Sketches by Boz,” and the dramatic power indicated by the “ Village Coquettes," a comic opera which Mr. Dickens wrote about the same time, attracted the attention of Messrs.
Chapman and Hall, the publishers, who applied to “ Boz” for a serial story to be issued in monthly parts. The result was the “ Posthumous Memoirs of the Pickwick Club," with illustrations at first from the pencil of Seymour, and, after he committed suicide, illustrations from Hablot K. Browne, — " Phiz."
“ The success of the · Pickwick Papers’ was immediate and great. Its wit, pathos, and shrewd picturing of English character, high and low, touched the heart and fancy of all classes. The sayings of Sam Weller were quoted by speakers in the House of Parliament and the ragged gamins in the slums of London.”
“ The London Quarterly Review,” in October, 1837, said of Mr. Dickens, “ The popularity of this writer is one of the most remarkable literary phenomena of recent times; for it has been fairly earned, without resorting to any of the means by which most other writers have succeeded in attracting the attention of their contemporaries. He has flattered no popular prejudice, and profited by no passing folly ; he has attempted no caricature of the manners or conversation of the aristocracy; and there are very few political or personal allusions in his works. Moreover, his class of subjects is such as to expose him, at the outset, to the fatal objection of vulgarity; and, with the exception of occasional extracts in the newspapers, he received little or no assistance from the press. And yet, in less than six months from the appearance of the first number of the Pickwick