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it, a little pool of ice, just partially tinged with red. Two or three idle street boys were dancing and stamping about this pool; and when the Englishmen asked one of them whether the execution had taken place, he began dancing more madly than ever, and shrieked out with a loud fantastical theatrical voice, "Venez tous Messieurs et Dames, voyez ici le sang du monstre Lacénaire, et de son campagnon, le traitre Avril;" and straightway all the other gamins screamed out the words in chorus, and took hands and danced round the little puddle. "Oh, august justice !" exclaimed the young art-student, "your meal was followed by an appropriate grace! Was any man who saw the show deterred, or frightened, or moralized in any way? He had gratified his appetite for blood, and this was all. Remark what a good breakfast you eat after an execution; how pleasant it is to cut jokes after it, and upon it. This merry, pleasant mood, is brought on by the blood-tonic.”
THE DIGNITY OF LITERATURE.
It was during the publication of "Pendennis" that a criticism in the "Morning Chronicle" and in the “ "Examiner " newspapers drew from Thackeray the following remarkable letter on the "Dignity of Literature," addressed to the Editor of the former journal :
"REFORM CLUB, Jan. 8th, 1850.
"To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle.
“ SIR, In a leading article of your journal of Thursday the 3d instant you commented upon literary pensions and the status of literary men in this country, and illustrated your argument by extracts from the story of 'Pendennis,' at present in course of publication. You have received my writings with so much kindness that, if you have occasion to disapprove of them or the author, I can't question your right to blame me, or doubt for a moment the friendliness and honesty of my critic; and however I might dispute the justice of your verdict in my case, I had proposed to submit to it in silence, being indeed very quiet in my conscience with regard to the charge
made against me. But another newspaper of high character and repute takes occasion to question the principles advocated in your article of Thursday; arguing in favor of pensions for literary persons, as you argued against them; and the only point upon which the 'Examiner' and the 'Chronicle' appear to agree unluckily regards myself, who am offered up to general reprehension in two leading articles by the two writers by the latter, for 'fostering a baneful prejudice against literary men; by the former, for 'stooping to flatter' this prejudice in the public mind, and condescending to caricature (as is too often my habit) my literary fellow-laborers, in order to pay court to 'the non-literary class.' The charges of the 'Examiner' against a man who has never, to his knowledge, been ashamed of his profession, or (except for its dullness) of any single line from his pen grave as they are, are, I hope, not proven. To stoop to flatter' any class is a novel accusation brought against my writings; and as for my scheme to pay court to the non-literary class by disparaging my literary fellow-laborers,' it is a design which would exhibit a degree not only of baseness but of folly upon my part, of which I trust I am not capable. The editor of the 'Examiner may, perhaps, occasionally write, like other authors, in a hurry, and not be aware of the conclusions to which some of his sentences may lead. If I stoop to flatter anybody's prejudice for some interested motives of my own, I am no more nor less than a rogue and a cheat: which deductions from the 'Examiner's' premises I will not stoop to contradict, because the premises themselves are simply absurd. I deny that the considerable body of our countrymen described by the 'Examiner' as the 'non-literary class' has the least gratification in witnessing the degradation or disparagement of literary men. Why accuse 'the non-literary class' of being so ungrateful? If the writings of an author give a reader pleasure or profit, surely the latter will have a favorable opinion of the person who so benefits him. What intelligent man, of what political views, would not receive with respect and welcome that writer of the 'Examiner' of whom your paper once said, that he
made all England laugh and think?' Who would deny to that brilliant wit, that polished satirist, his just tribute of respect and admiration? Does any man who has written a book worth reading any poet, historian, novelist, man of science lose reputation by his character for genius or for learning? Does he not, on the contrary, get friends, sympathy, applause — money, perhaps? money, perhaps? — all good and pleasant things in themselves, and not ungenerously awarded as they are honestly won. That generous faith in men of letters, that kindly regard in which the whole reading nation holds them, appear to me to be so clearly shown in our country every day, that to question them would be as absurd as, permit me to say for my part, it would be ungrateful. What is it that fills mechanics' institutes in the great provincial towns when literary men are invited to attend their festivals? Has not every literary man of mark his friends and his circle, his hundreds or his tens of thousands of readers? And has not every one had from these constant and affecting testimonials of the esteem in which they hold him? It is of course one writer's lot, from the nature of his subject or of his genius, to command the sympathies or awaken the curiosity of many more readers than shall choose to listen to another author; but surely all get their hearing. The literary profession is not held in disrepute; nobody wants to disparage it; no man loses his social rank, whatever it may be, by practicing it. On the contrary, the pen gives a place in the world to men who had none before -a fair place fairly achieved by their genius ; as any other degree of eminence is by any other kind of merit. Literary men need not, as it seems to me, be in the least querulous about their position any more, or want the pity of anybody. The money-prizes which the chief among them get are not so high as those which fall to men of other callings to bishops, or to judges, or to opera-singers and actors; nor have they received stars and garters as yet, or peerages and governorships of islands, such as fall to the lot of military officers. The rewards of the profession are not to be measured by the money standard: for one man spends a life of
learning and labor on a book which does not pay the printer's bill, and another gets a little fortune by a few light volumes. But, putting the money out of the question, I believe that the social estimation of the man of letters is as good as it deserves to be, and as good as that of any other professional man. With respect to the question in debate between you and the 'Examiner' as to the propriety of public rewards and honors for literary men, I don't see why men of letters should not very cheerfully coincide with Mr. 'Examiner' in accepting all the honors, places, and prizes which they can get. The amount of such as will be awarded to them will not, we may be pretty sure, impoverish the country much; and if it is the custom of the State to reward by money, or titles of honor, or stars and garters of any sort, individuals who do the country service, and if individuals are gratified at having 'Sir' or 'My lord' appended to their names, or stars and ribbons hooked on their coats and waistcoats, as men most undoubtedly are, and as their wives, families, and relations are, there can be no reason why men of letters should not have the chance, as well as men of the robe or the sword; or why, if honor and money are good for one profession, they should not be good for another. No man in other callings thinks himself degraded by receiving a reward from his Government; nor, surely, need the literary man be more squeamish about pensions, and ribbons, and titles, than the ambassador, or general, or judge. Every European state but ours rewards its men of letters; the American Government gives them their full share of its small patronage, and if Americans, why not Englishmen? If Pitt Crawley is disappointed at not getting a ribbon on retiring from his diplomatic post at Pumpernickel, if General O'Dowd is pleased to be called Sir Hector O'Dowd, K. C. B., and his wife at being denominated my Lady O'Dowd, are literary men to be the only persons exempt from vanity, and is it to be a sin in them to covet honor? And now, with regard to the charge against myself of fostering baneful prejudices against our calling to which I no more plead guilty than I should think Fielding would have done if he had been accused of a design to bring the Church into contempt by describing
Parson Trulliber permit me to say, that before you deliver sentence it would be as well if you had waited to hear the whole of the argument. Who knows what is coming in the future numbers of the work which has incurred your displeasure and the ‘Examiner's,' and whether you, in accusing me of prejudice, and the 'Examiner' (alas !) of swindling and flattering the public, have not been premature? Time and the hour may solve this mystery, for which the candid reader is referred to our next.' That I have a prejudice against running into debt, and drunkenness, and disorderly life, and against quackery and falsehood in my profession I own, and that I like to have a laugh at those pretenders in it who write confidential news about fashion and politics for provincial gobemouches; but I am not aware of feeling any malice in describing this weakness, or of doing anything wrong in exposing the former vices. Have they never existed amongst literary men? Have their talents never been urged as a plea for improvidence, and their very faults adduced as a consequence of their genius? The only moral that I, as a writer, wished to hint in the descriptions against which you protest, was, that it was the duty of a literary man, as well as any other, to practice regularity and sobriety, to love his family, and to pay his tradesmen. Nor is the picture I have drawn 'a caricature which I condescend to,' any more than it is a willful and insidious design on my part to flatter 'the nonliterary class.' If it be a caricature, it is the result of a natural perversity of vision, not of an artful desire to mislead: but my attempt was to tell the truth, and I meant to tell it not unkindly. I have seen the bookseller whom Bludyer robbed of his books I have carried money, and from a noble brother man-of-letters, to some one not unlike Shandon in prison, and have watched the beautiful devotion of his wife in that dreary place. Why are these things not to be described, if they illustrate, as they appear to me to do, that strange and awfui struggle of good and wrong which takes place in our hearts and in the world? It may be that I worked out my moral ill, or it may be possible that the critic of the 'Examiner' fails in apprehension. My efforts as an artist come perfectly within