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the interest it has aroused among of these fifty years in the developreaders of all classes, is one of the ment of Fiction. This age has most striking facts in our half- seen at least three novelists of the century. We are disposed to be highest rank develop and conclude lieve, as we have already said, that their work. Dickens had indeed in a great many cases its effect is begun the publication of Pickone of a purely literary kind, and wick,' which has not yielded in largely dependent upon the re- popularity to any of his books, markable excellence as writers of when her Majesty ascended the the chief expounders of the new throne, and Thackeray was already theories, whole writings are rarely making essays which it is imposdull, often full of epigram and wit, sible to divine why, since his great and graces of the imagination- rival's fortune had at once been gifts and qualities which are new made by the “Sketches by Boz'to the exponents of abstract sci- did not at once open to him the

Never before perhaps has doors of literary triumph. Both philosophy, concerned with such these great writers belong, howfundamental matters, found for ever, by every law to Queen Vicitself so attractive a form, or toria's reign. They were so exactly spoken with a voice so harmoni- contemporary in age, in producous and adapted to charm and tion, and ultimately in fame, that enthral. An age full of mental it is almost impossible not to curiosity, and delighted, as all the place them more or less in compegenerations are, with everything tition with each other; and there that is new, would be stoical in- was in their day a very marked deed if it could shut its ears to division between the partisans of the voice of the charmer when Dickens and those of Thackeray. it charms so wisely. It is less The former had most simple-mindeasy here, as in other regions of ed readers on his side. He had literature, to deal with the work the world of the bourgeoisie-a of living authors than with those word which we cannot attempt to which are rounded into complete- translate—entirely for him. The ness by death; but the names strongly formed impression that which we have already mentioned Thackeray was a cynic, that he of Huxley and Tyndall may stand attributed ignoble motives even to as the greatest representatives of good actions, and laughed, even those contemporary writers who though the laugh might be kind, give unquestionable brilliancy of at humble virtue, and found no style and a fine force of rhetoric, goodness without alloy, sounds often of eloquence, to the sup- strange now when we remember port of the new philosophy of that it is the creator of Colonel Nature.

Newcome, of Mrs Pendennis, and It is with a little relief that we of Esmond, of whom these things escape from the consideration of were said. But it was the general matters which we find too high belief, and one to which perhaps for us, to another more familiar Vanity Fair,' with all its wonderful branch of literature which has had wealth of human character, gave the most wonderful growth and some countenance: and this as development in Queen Victoria's much as anything perhaps made reign. In whatever way we may him somewhat doubted and feared be surpassed by our predecessors, by that gentle public which wept no age that has gone before us is over little Nell, and found pathos likely to challenge the importance in the story of Smike—which was

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never the public of the critic, yet prosperity, and even his gaiters, was that to which Dickens owed and his collars, and his eyeglass, much of his first appearance. Curi- and his jaunty air. Mrs Gamp is ously enough, as has been remarked almost, if possible, a more perfect elsewhere, it is this sentimental creation, though nothing could side of him—his sugary domestici- make her dear to us like Mr Mities, his Tiny Tims, his gushing cawber. The extraordinary power showmen and acrobats which with which Dickens threw himseems to have impressed our neigh- self into the confused brain of bours in France, and originated a woman of this class, following among them what might almost out the queer sequence of thoughts, be called a Dickens school. But the droll little thread of fanciful in his own world of humorous invention in the person of that delineation that to which the familiar spirit Mrs Harris, her groups of Wellers, Gamps, the im- dæmon, and the author of some imitable figures of Micawber and of her best sayings, with all the Dick Swiveller, of Mark Tapley and peculiar lights that fall upon soPeggotty, and a hundred more be- ciety and general human affairs

a long-Dickens_stands above all from her professional lantern, is competition. These are not illus- greater than if the subject had trations of ordinary humanity, per- been more congenial. Pickwick,' sons whom we might encounter "Nicholas Nickleby,' Martin Chuzany day, according to the for- zlewit,' David Copperfield,' are mula by which we applaud other works which, in their way, are not studies of life and

to be surpassed, and which conRarely have any of us the good tain, with a great deal of mannerfortune to meet with Mr Micawber, ism, much stilted writing, and and Sam Weller is as pure fiction many melodramatic incidents of as Figaro; but the delightful ex- a very inferior character, such aggeration and tenderly absurd whimsical creations, and ever hu- . ideality make a being more real morous, ever entertaining embodithan any portrait. The Cockney ments of character, as any age

, clerk is not a personage on the might be proud to have produced. face of him who attracts the ima- The latter works, we think, stand ginative spectator; but over Dick on a lower level, but still contain in his dismal office, gravely re- enough to make the fortune of a spectful of his Marchioness, who dozen writers. And though we has not laughed and cried ? Mr do not allow Dickens's pathetic Micawber, in his gentility, his cer- scenes, though he evidently liked tainty of something turning up, them much himself, any particular his shabbiness, his light-hearted- excellence, yet the narrative of ness, and all the illusions which the childhood of David Copperare so real to him, is worth a field, and his boyish miseries, and thousand respectable literary im- the journey to his aunt's house, personations of better men. There is almost as good in its reflection are very few creations of poetry of childish pain and suffering as or fiction whom we should be less could be ; and the humour of his willing to give up. He is always a boyish courtship, and a great part delight, with his wife, who never of the episode of Dora, is delightwill be separated from Mr Micaw. ful. It is, however, upon such ber, whatever her family may do creations as Micawber that the or say, and all their shifts, and supremacy

of Dickens's genius their fine convictions of ultimate rests.

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Thackeray's humour is far more in his women, perhaps because his pervasive, delicate, and human. imagination did not require so His mind was a much more highly much for the feminine ideal; but cultivated mind, and free from those his work throughout is so perfect, associations and deprivations which his characters so living, with such make Dickens always at his least distinctness of atmosphere about best (to use no stronger words) in them, crowded though every scene the society of ladies and gentlemen. is, that this point of weakness tells Thackeray was perfectly at home the less. It is only the ideal wothere, and required nothing extra- men who are weak. Becky the inordinary, no eccentricity nor ab- imitable, whom amid all her wrongsurdity of circumstance, to open doings we cannot succeed in disup to him all that was humorous liking, the wonderful old Lady and strange in human life. He Kew, Beatrix Esmond in her needed no more than a handful of splendid youth and in her frightthe most ordinary figures, going ful age, are amazing in their force about the most usual occupations, and vivid power. to find comedy and tragedy and These two great humorists, ficall those intricacies of rnotive and tionists, creators, to whom it is feeling which make human crea- scarcely just to give the commoner tures pitiful and laughable, and yet title of novelists, since their art sometimes sublime and great. He was something distinct from the preferred, perhaps, to show them in craft of the raconteur, were perthe former light, to turn them out- haps the most perfect artists of side in, and reveal what they were any who have arisen in this age. thinking at the moment of their The great female writer of the first appearance, and to open out Victorian period is equally rewith the grin of 'a delighted dis- markable, perhaps even more so,

coverer those pretences in which as being the only woman who has , they had

had wrapped themselves yet attained the highest place in about. But when he encountered literature. The position of George among the creations of his genius Eliot is unique. Her books have (for it was Thackeray, we think, been the object of a kind of worwho was the first to say that the ship, as she herself was while she men and women in a book had a lived; but that of its very nature will of their own, and developed is evanescent, and they have now themselves, instead of allowing to stand before a more difficult themselves to be manipulated, as tribunal-a tribunal which has not the world believes, by the hand of yet given forth its last word on their maker) one who was of no- the subject. We, however, who bler mettle, what a perfect tender- are of her generation, have little hearted gentleman, what an ideal doubt that the verdict will reman it was who rose under this main unchanged, at least in recynic's touch! Henry Esmond spect to her earlier works. The and Colonel Newcome are men to very first of these, produced without ennoble a generation. He who any previous indication of power professed to write a novel without in the maturity of her years, a hero because the being was im- affected the world at once to enpracticable, produced these two at thusiasm, and she never struck least, to prove how completely and a stronger or a deeper note than with what supreme

naturalness in the simple story of Amos, or and truth the thing was to be rather of Milly Barton, the poor done. He has not been so happy curate's mild and lovely wife, the

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mother of many children, the there is somewhat too much of smiling domestic martyr, whose the dry bones of archæological relittle tragedy has taken a place search, but where the character of among our most cherished recollec- the handsome, poetic, crafty and tions as completely as if we had self-seeking Greek is extraordinary been members of the little rural in its relentless power. parliament which discussed her Another woman who has been set simple story. The power and the up by some writers on a pedestal pathos of this most remarkable almost as high_Charlotte Brontë, beginning, and its heart-breaking the author of Jane Eyre'-lived catastrophe, does not prevent it and died before George Eliot was from being at the same time full heard of. Any comparison between of all the humours of a fresh and the two would be a mistake. The unexplored country, delightful in three books upon which Charlotte indications of rustic character, and Brontë's fame is founded were pasin those wise sayings of village sionate narratives of a woman's sages which afterwards rose in mind and heart, pent up without Mrs Poyser to the climax of pro- outlet or companionship—reflecverbial wisdom. The books which tions of an individual being, exfollowed this in succession—' Adam tremely vivid and forcible, but in Bede,' “The Mill on the Floss,' and no way, we think, to be compared

Silas Marner'-raised George with the far stronger, higher, and Eliot's name to the very highest broader work which we have just level of English writers. It is need- discussed. There is but one strain less to dwell upon books which of intense sentiment in these books everybody knows so well. They are the desire of a lonely creature full of power and insight, of un- longing for its mate, an all-engrossfailing humour, and at the same ing thought which does not prevent time of the deepest pathos, some- the heroine from seeing everything times rising to the height of tra- around with wonderfully vivid pergedy. In this vein, we know of ceptions, the eyes of genius, but nothing more powerful than the which intensifies the sensations of journey of Hetty Sorrel in quest of solitude, and the vagrancy of the her lover and betrayer, and the re- heart, into a force of passion with turn home of the miserable girl, which perhaps no woman, either dazed with suffering and shame before or since, has expressed that and weariness, and the dull despair yearning of the woman towards of absolute helplessness and ignor- the man which formed part of the ance. There is nothing more im- primeval curse, and which indeed pressive or more tragic in the has produced the greater part of language. The latter works of all distinctively feminine distresses. this great writer are, to our mind, The inevitable failure in dignity injured by too much philosophy involved in this impassioned reveand the consciousness of being lation has been forgiven to her on considered a public instructor ; but account of the force which it gives there are very fine and original to her very remarkable bookscreations of character in them all. which, it is only just to say, made Rosamond in Middlemarch,' and an epoch among English works of Gwendoline in • Daniel Deronda,' fiction, more than did the works are exceedingly powerful concep- of George Eliot, though the latter tions, as is, perhaps the greatest of were in every way greater. Emily all, the wonderful Tito of the great and Anne Brontë have to some Italian romance • Romola,' where considerable extent shared their

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Thackeray's humour is far more in his women, perhaps because his pervasive, delicate, and human. imagination did not require so His mind was a much more highly much for the feminine ideal; but cultivated mind, and free from those his work throughout is so perfect, associations and deprivations which his characters so living, with such make Dickens always at his least distinctness of atmosphere about best (to use no stronger words) in them, crowded though every scene the society of ladies and gentlemen. is, that this point of weakness tells Thackeray was perfectly at home the less. It is only the ideal wothere, and required nothing extra- men who are weak. Becky the inordinary, no eccentricity nor ab- imitable, whom amid all her wrongsurdity of circumstance, to open doings we cannot succeed in disup to him all that was humorous liking, the wonderful old Lady and strange in human life. He Kew, Beatrix Esmond in her needed no more than a handful of splendid youth and in her frightthe most ordinary figures, going ful age, are amazing in their force about the most usual occupations, and vivid power. to find comedy and tragedy and These two great humorists, ficall those intricacies of rnotive and tionists, creators, to whom it is feeling which make human crea- scarcely just to give the commoner tures pitiful and laughable, and yet title of novelists, since their art sometimes sublime and great. He was something distinct from the preferred, perhaps, to show them in craft of the raconteur, were perthe former light, to turn them out- haps the most perfect artists of side in, and reveal what they were any who have arisen in this age. thinking at the moment of their The great female writer of the first appearance, and to open out Victorian period is equally rewith the grin of a delighted dis- markable, perhaps even more so, coverer those pretences in which as being the only woman who has they had

had wrapped themselves yet attained the highest place in about. But when he encountered literature. The position of George among the creations of his genius Eliot is unique. Her books have (for it was Thackeray, we think, been the object of a kind of worwho was the first to say that the ship, as she herself was while she men and women in a book had a lived; but that of its very nature will of their own, and developed is evanescent, and they have now themselves, instead of allowing to stand before a more difficult themselves to be manipulated, as tribunal-a tribunal which has not the world believes, by the hand of yet given forth its last word on their maker) one who was of no- the subject. We, however, who bler mettle, what a perfect tender- are of her generation, have little hearted gentleman, what an ideal doubt that the verdict will reman it was who rose under this main unchanged, at least in recynic's touch! Henry Esmond spect to her earlier works. The and Colonel Newcome are men to very first of these, produced without ennoble a generation. He who any previous indication of power professed to write a novel without in the maturity of her years, a hero because the being was im- affected the world at once to enpracticable, produced these two at thusiasm, and she never struck least, to prove how completely and a stronger or a deeper note than with what supreme

naturalness in the simple story of Amos, or and truth the thing was to be rather of Milly Barton, the poor done. He has not been so happy curate's mild and lovely wife, the

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