« AnteriorContinuar »
pig! In his head he was an uncompromising Tory; in his heart he was the most tolerant of democrats.
Lastly, his novels have the great virtue of wholesomeness. They breathe the freshness of the open Scotch heather; like Chaucer and Shakspere, he had too much sanity to view life from the lazar-house or hospital for incurables. He also-and this was perhaps due to the simplicity of his nature — refrained from preaching. He presents his picture of life; there it is, he seems to say, draw your own conclusion. He did at one time say, "I am, I own, no great believer in the moral utility to be derived from fictitious compositions." Yet his method is the most effective of methods for teaching morality. It is the method of the greatest artists; the method, in fact, of life itself. No one can read the fiction of Scott without feeling the wholesome morality that pervades every page. That his philosophy of life was not the ideal of the cheap moralist is seen in his introduction to an edition of Ivanhoe appearing ten years after the first edition. It is a reply to some criticism on his disposal of Rebecca:
"The character of the fair Jewess found so much favor in the eyes of some fair readers, that the writer was censured, because, when arranging the fates of the characters of the drama, he had not assigned the hand of Wilfred to Rebecca, rather than the less interesting Rowena. But, not to mention that the prejudices of the age rendered such a union almost impossible, the author may, in passing, observe that he thinks a character of a highly virtuous and lofty stamp is degraded rather than exalted by an attempt to reward virtue with temporal prosperity, ... and it is a dangerous and fatal doctrine to teach young persons, the most common readers of romance, that rectitude of conduct and of principle are either naturally allied with, or adequately rewarded by, the gratification of our passions, or attainment of our wishes.”
As a Man. - Scott is one of the very few men in the history of English literature whose life and personality are so free from idiosyncrasies and faults that no apology need be written. Where can another man so wholesome and well-balanced be found? He is an irrefutable argument against the doctrine that genius and irregularity must go together. He worked too hard, and he was proud; these are his faults! And his hard work has
given us his Waverley Novels, while his pride led him to the heroic efforts to pay off an enormous debt contracted by the mismanagement of others.
The first and severest test of a man's character is in his relationship to his own family. Scott was an obedient son, a loving husband, and affectionate father. Although when he married he may not have been able to give his wife the first passion of his youth, there is evidence that his affection was more beautiful and enduring than the passionate matrimonial love of many another man of letters. Two years after his wife's death, on visiting at Carlisle, he wrote, “A sad place in my domestic remembrances, since here I married my poor Charlotte. She is gone, and I am following — faster, perhaps, than I wot of. It is something to have lived and loved.”
Generous to a fault in his hospitality, for he kept open-house at Abbotsford, he was equally generous in that more difficult phase of hospitality - his relationship to his brothers in letters. Byron's popularity as a poet eclipsed Scott, but Scott stood the test so well that Byron dedicated his Cain to him. To his weaker competitors Scott was always a ready helper, aiding both by his purse and his influence. The heroic quality in the man has been touched
in another paragraph. To do justice to the character of Scott would require more space than we dare take. We may conclude in the language of Mr. Dawson: “He was simply a large-hearted and humane man of the world; a lover of life and his kind, who took life generously and heartily; a man of instinctive virtue, of genial sanity, of great depth and sweetness of disposition, of quiet but authentic heroism in the hour of trial; one of the truly great men of the world, because he was so much a child, and kept the child-like heart of love and simplicity, of natural piety and joy, to the last. He wrote according to his nature, and being by nature great, in spite of all his faults, he has written in a great way, and has left behind him a beloved and imperishable memory.
“ He makes friends with all men through his books, as he did in his life, by virtue of his geniality, his shrewd good sense, his warm appreciation of all that is best in human nature, his comprehension of its hidden valours, and his sympathy with its frailties."
Life of Scott. LOCKHART.
Sir Walter Scott. CROCKETT and Caw.
Walter Scott's Land. SHARP. Harper, vol. 105, p. 3.
p. 49. The Age of Scott's Heroines. Atl., vol. 69, p. 139. The Later Years of Sir Walter Scott. Cent., vol. 44, p. 566.
O make millions laugh and 'weep, and while making them
laugh and weep to arouse them, by the sincerity of his appeal, to the need of bringing about reforms in the laws and customs of a nation, was the work of Charles Dickens. Neither a deep thinker nor a philosopher, a stylist nor a scholar, by the sheer force of his genial heart and alert mind he has so interested all classes that his name has become a household word from India and Australia to Canada and Louisiana - in fact, wherever the art of reading the English language is practiced. His characters like Pickwick, Sam Weller, and Micawber have taken hold of the English mind so firmly that they are known as familiarly as Hamlet, Falstaff, and Shylock. “He was the Hogarth of literature," writes Herbert Paul, “painting with a broad brush, never ashamed of caricature, but always an artist, and not a dauber.”
Birth and Parents. — Charles John Huffman Dickens was born at Landport, Portsea, February 7, 1812. John Dickens, the father, held a clerkship in the Navy Pay Office, and when Charles was born was employed in the Portsmouth Dockyard. When Charles, the second child and the oldest son in a family which afterwards numbered eight children, was two years old, the father was recalled to London, and two years later the family migrated to Chatham, near the old city of Rochester. In later years the fancy of Dickens loved to revert to this neighborhood “of chalk hills and deep green lanes and woodlands and marshes." In Pickwick Mr. Jingle discourses upon the fame and virtues of Rochester; at Chatham little David Copperfield passed a night in sleep "near a cannon, happy in the society of the sentry's footsteps." Near Rochester is the house of Gadshill where Dickens
spent the last years of his life, and at Rochester is the scene of his last novel, the unfinished Edwin Drood.
Much has been written about the influence of mothers upon men of genius, and many examples can be cited of men who born amid untoward circumstances have owed all to the finer instincts and loving devotion of a mother. Of the mother of Dickens we do not know much; what little Dickens himself has written about her is not especially favorable. He always resented that it was his mother who opposed his quitting his child labor of pasting labels on blacking-pots. John Dickens, the father, as is generally understood, is the original of the immortal Micawber. Charming as is the generous, grandiloquent, impecunious Micawber, one may question the delicacy of taste that prompts a son to give this “bad eminence” to a father. In translating fiction into fact one dare not be too literal, and we must not forget that Micawber is not the father of Dickens. John Dickens was not devoid of those virtues which endear a father to his children. From him Dickens likely caught that happy optimism which permeates even the most wretched scenes of his fiction. The son's own testimony is that the father was industrious, patient, loyal to his friends, "as kind-hearted and generous a man as ever lived in the world.” His one defect was that he belonged to the unfortunate race who cannot, or at least do not, pay their debts. In middle life we find Dickens saying that as he grew older, the more highly he thought of his father; and it is pleasant
; to record that when the celebrated author was prospering he made careful provision for his father's comfort.
Childhood Days. - In the year 1821 the family moved to London, taking residence in Bayham Street, Camden Town. Owing to the inability of the father to pay his debts, the lot of the family was not a happy one. The boy Dickens was obliged to work for six shillings a week in a warehouse among sordid companions, an experience so humiliating to the sensitive boy that in later years he never mentioned it to any one, not even his wife, except to his intimate friend and biographer, Forster. In a fragment of autobiography he writes: