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its defects: I have not named one which is prominent the absence of anecdotes. Mr. Forster's ideal of Biography is graver than suits most readers. He does not unbend, nor let his hero unbend enough. The gossip concerning Dickens which was called forth by his death, the recollections of those who were acquainted with him at the beginning of his literary career, these are naught to ́ Mr. Foster. They possess they could not but possess—interest, springing as they did spontaneously from the memories of their writers, to whom the sudden taking off Dickens was like the loss of a personal friend. They possess, at any rate, a freshness which is not imparted by Mr. Forster to any of the facts, or incidents, to which they refer, or which they embody.
The greater portion of the anecdotes about Dickens in this volume are derived from "Charles Dickens, the Story of his Life." It was published in London not long after his death, and is the work of Mr. Theodore Taylor, whom I have already mentioned, and who was a diligent collector of Dickens ana. I have not a very high idea of the class of writers to which he belongs, but they are not without their uses, as Mr. John Timbs, the head of the class, has shown. They preserve many things which would perish but for them; occasionally a jewel may be found among their paste. Mr. Blanchard Jerrold's paper is taken from his "Best of all Good Company;" the paper by Sir Arthur Helps from "Macmillan's Magazine," and " Reminiscences of Dickens" from the "Englishwoman's Magazine." The first of the obituary poems, "Charles Dickens," appeared in "Punch." "Dickens at Gad's Hill" was written by Mr. Charles Kent, and published, I believe, in the “Athenæum." "Dickens in Camp" was written by Mr. Bret Harte ; "At Gad's Hill" was written by myself.
The anecdote in relation to "Oliver Twist," on page 211, has been the subject of a controversy, which was begun with bitterness by Mr. Foster, and continued with pertinacity by Mr. Cruikshank. Mr. Forster reprints it in his "Life of Dickens" (vol i. page 155), and stigmatizes it as "a wonderful story originally promulgated in America with a minute conscientiousness and particularity of detail that might have raised the reputation of Sir Benjamin Backbite himself. Whether all Sir Benjamin's laurels, however, should fall to the original teller of the tale, or whether any part of them is the property of the alleged authority from which he says that he received it, is unfortunately not quite clear. There would hardly have. been a doubt, if the fable had been confined to the other side of the Atlantic; but it has been reproduced and widely circulated on this side also; and the distinguished artist whom it calumniates by fathering its invention upon him, either not conscious of it or not caring to defend himself, has been left undefended from the slander." That the distinguished artist did care to defend himself, and could do so, Mr. Forster discovered when he read the following letter in the column, of the "London Times."
"To the Editor of The Times.'
66 SIR, As my name is mentioned in the second notice of Mr. John Forster's 'Life of Charles Dickens,' in your paper of the 26th inst., in connection with a statement made by an American gentleman (Dr. Sheldon Mackenzie) respecting the origin of 'Oliver Twist,' I shall be obliged if you will allow me to give some explanation upon this subject. For some time past I have been preparing a work for publication, in which I intend to give an account of the origin of 'Oliver Twist,' and I now not only deeply regret the sudden and unexpected decease of Mr. Charles Dickens, but regret also that
my proposed work was not published during his life-time. I should not now have brought this matter forward, but as Dr. Mackenzie states that he got the information from me, and as Mr. Forster declares his statement to be a falsehood, to which, in fact, he could apply a word of three letters, I feel called upon, not only to defend the doctor, but myself also from such a gross imputation. Dr. Mackenzie has confused some circumstances with respect to Mr. Dickens looking over some drawings and sketches in my studio, but there is no doubt whatever that I did tell this gentleman that I was the originator of the story of 'Oliver Twist,' as I have told very many others who may have spoken to me on the subject, and which facts I now beg permission to repeat in the columns of 'The Times' for the information of Mr. Forster and the public generally.
"When 'Bentley's Miscellany' was first started, it was arranged that Mr. Charles Dickens should write a serial in it, and which was to be illustrated by me; and in a conversation with him as to what the subject should be for the first serial, 1 suggested to Mr. Dickens that he should write the life of a London boy, and strongly advised him to do this, assuring him that I would furnish him with the subject and supply him with all the characters, which my large experience of London life would enable me to do. My idea was to raise a boy from a most humble position up to a high and respectable one — in fact, to illustrate one of those cases of common occurrence, where men of humble origin by natural ability, industry, honest and honorable conduct, raise themselves to first-class positions in society. And as I wished particularly to bring the habits and manners of the thieves of London before the public (and this for a most important purpose, which I shall explain one of these days), I suggested that the poor boy should fall among thieves, but that his honesty and natural good disposition should enable him to pass through this ordeal without contamination, and after I had fully described the full-grown thieves (the 'Bill Sykes') and their female companions, also the young thieves (the 'Artful Dodgers ') and the receivers of
stolen goods, Mr. Dickens agreed to act upon my suggestion, and the work was commenced, but we differed as to what sort of boy the hero should be. Mr. Dickens wanted rather a queer kind of chap, and although this was contrary to my original idea, I complied with his request, feeling that it would not be right to dictate too much to the writer of the story, and then appeared ‘Oliver asking for more;' but it so happened, just about this time, that an inquiry was being made in the parish of St. James, Westminster, as to the cause of the death of some of the work-house children who had been 'farmed out,' and in which inquiry my late friend Joseph Pettigrew (surgeon to the Dukes of Kent and Sussex) came forward on the part of the poor children, and by his interference was mainly the cause of saving the lives of many of these poor little creatures. I called the attention of Mr. Dickens to this inquiry, and said if he took up this matter his doing so might help to save many a poor child from injury and death, and I earnestly begged of him to let me make Oliver a nice pretty little boy, and if we so represented him, the public and particularly the ladies would be sure to take a greater interest in him, and the work would then be a certain success. Mr. Dickens agreed to that request, and I need not add here that my prophecy was fulfilled; and if any one will take the trouble to look at my representations of 'Oliver' they will see that the appearance of the boy is altered after the two first illustrations, and by a reference to the records of St. James's parish, and to the date of the publication of the 'Miscellany,' they will see that both the dates tally, and therefore support my statement. I had a long time previously to this directed Mr. Dickens's attention to 'Field Lane,' Holborn Hill, wherein resided many thieves and receivers of stolen goods, and it was suggested that one of these receivers, a Jew, should be introduced into the story; and upon one occasion Mr. Dickens and Mr. Harrison Ainsworth called upon me åt my house in Myddleton Terrace, Pentonville, and in course of conversation I then and there described and performed the character of one of these Jew receivers, who I had long had my eye upon; and
this was the origin of 'Fagan.' Some time after this Mr. Ainsworth said to me one day, 'I was so much struck with your description of that Jew to Mr. Dickens, that I think you and I could do something together,' which notion of Mr. Ainsworth's, as most people are aware, was afterwards carried out in various works. Long before 'Oliver Twist' was ever thought of, I had, by permission of the city authorities, made a sketch of one of the condemned cells in Newgate prison ; and as I had a great object in letting the public see what sort of places these cells were, and how they were furnished, and also to show a wretched condemned criminal therein, I thought it desirable to introduce such a subject into this work; but I had the greatest difficulty to get Mr. Dickens to allow me to carry out my wishes in this respect, but I said I must have either what is called a Christian, or what is called a Jew in a condemned cell, and therefore it must be 'Bill Sykes' or 'Fagan ;' at length he allowed me to exhibit the latter.
"Without going further into particulars, I think it will be allowed from what I have stated that I am the originator of 'Oliver Twist,' and that all the principal characters are mine; but I was much disappointed by Mr. Dickens not fully carrying out my first suggestion.
"I must here mention that nearly all the designs were made from conversation and mutual suggestion upon each subject, and that I never saw any manuscript of Mr. Dickens until the work was nearly finished, and the letter of Mr. Dickens, which Mr. Forster mentions, only refers to the last etching-done in great haste no proper time being allowed, and of a subject without any interest; in fact, there was not anything in the latter part of the manuscript that would suggest an illustration; but to oblige Mr. Dickens I did my best to produce another etching, working hard day and night, but when done, what is it? Why, merely a lady and a boy standing inside of a church looking at a stone wall !
"Mr. Dickens named all the characters in this work himself, but before he had commenced writing the story he told me that he had heard an omnibus conductor mention some one