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such an inexpressible enjoyment of what I see in a droll light, that I dare say I pet it as if it were a spoilt child.” It may be said in plea of Dickens that it was an excess of nature that sometimes overstepped the modesties of art, and it is this exuberance of nature (a boundless wealth and prodigality of mind, and an extravagant license of fancy) which is perhaps more remarkable in Shakespeare than in any other writer; at times his imagination seems to be “lord of misrule," and the wit and humour of his fools are

“Owned, without dispute, Throughout the realms of nonsense absolute." Thus, by the mastery of his uncontrollable genius, he often confounded all rules of art. And here we might add, parenthetically, that there was in Shakespeare's genius an universality which could carry the whole world in his brain, and “clasp the universe to his bosom," and the reason why his heart was strong enough to bear the woes of Hamlet, Othello, and Lear, was because it was large enough to expand to the humours of Falstaff, and to hold the fairy revels of the “ Midsummer Night's Dream.” He was, indeed, “not one but all mankind's epitome.” In these days of ultra-refinement, what prodigies of vanity, self-conceit, and affectation are brought forth now and then. Literary dandies, whom one would never suspect of the infirmity of thinking, and who, by a gratuitous assumption of superiority to everything natural and unaffected, remind us of the coxcomb in Coleman's comedy, when he addresses a blooming country maiden: “Nature is very clever, for she made you ; but Nature never could have made me.”

As the poet sees everything through "a kind of glory," so the humorist sees life in its varied aspects in the sunshine of his warm, genial spirit. Dickens' humour coloured, more or less, the whole of his writings; not only were external objects reflected in his mind, but his mind was reflected in them as well. He held the mirror up to nature, but the mirror was his own soul, which reflected back, “like the flashing of a shield,” its brightness upon everything around him.

It is customary to compare one writer with another, and to show points of resemblance and contrast. In comparing Dickens with the novelists of his own time, the future only will show whether his works will live as long or longer than any of his contemporaries,

" Whose honours with increase of ages grow,

As streams roll down, enlarging as they flow.”

It is the fate of most popular novels to pass away with the hour that brought them forth. Opinions, habits of thought, and manners change, and the continual activity of the human mind is such that there is a constant competition to present something new to replace the old. If novels are written for amusement, and generally this is their paramount purpose, they speak to what is least permanent in human sensibilities. But if the novelist penetrates through the outward varieties of character into the inner life, and, with profound insight into the everlasting principles which govern human conduct, depicts the passions and analyses the secret springs of action, he will paint men not only as they are now, but as they will ever be, as long as the heart remains the same. The

popular writer is often but a shrewd observer: he collects the odd humours and fancies, the fashions and follies, the accidental features of modern life, which are but ephemeral and transient, like his writings. One of the most popular novelists of the last century was Richardson, and his popularity was greater in France than here. Yet how few read Richardson now! If we cannot yet fix Dickens' permanent station in our literature, we may compare him with some of the novelists of the past, although it is difficult to measure him when the standard of taste is so different. In most of the novels of the last century we are repelled by the coarse brutality of the times, and those disgusting scenes which amused our forefathers do not amuse us; if we read them now it is more for critical study, and for the best information we can get as to the general state of society; for in the novel “ we see the very web and texture of society as it really exists,” but the incidents do not live before us, and too often the sparkle of the wit is gone, and the “faded histrionic masqueraders ” pass before us like shadows.

Dickens may not have been so close an observer of manners as Fielding, or have had so profound a knowledge of human nature, or presented with such photographic minuteness pictures of the times he lived in; yet there is a wider range of sympathy, a warmer glow of life, a more intense individuality of character, and a greater refinement of feeling than can be found in that novelist, and which to our thinking will give a longer vitality to his writings. His exaggerations of personal foibles and external peculiarities of appearance, his boisterous fun and good humour, are more like Smollett's, with this advantage, that to find his best things we have not to go to a dunghill and scratch them out. He has none of the laughing, leering merriment, forced conceits, and stage clap-trap of Sterne, that profound master of double entendre, and most impiously impure writer in our language; his pathos is as fine, though not so affected, and in tenderness and true sensibility he is indisputably above him. Well might Thackeray, in reviewing those past writers, speaking of their coarse and free manners, say, "I am grateful for the innocent laughter and the sweet, unsullied

page which the author of David Copperfield gives to my children." .

In taking leave of our subject, and in trying to give a general impression which Dickens' works as a whole have left upon us, we feel as if we had just parted with a friend who has been our constant companion for some timewho has taken us into his confidence, and introduced us to the companions of his soul, and to the merry, laughing, tricksy children of his brain. He has cheered us when we have been dull, and “touched the spring of laughter by the side of the spring of tears.” He has hung beautiful pictures up in our brain, and bottled up sunshine for us and for others, and we hope will continue to do so for many generations to come. We feel that to Dickens we owe many a good and noble thought, many a hearty laugh, many an hour's amusement to charm away despondency and care; and, moreover, he has given us a wider sympathy, a deeper love, a kindlier spirit of charity and toleration for our fellow men, that has helped to make life more beautiful and sweet; and his memory may be embalmed in our hearts by applying to himself the last words he ever uttered in public, on the death of his friend Mr. Maclise: "Incapable of a sordid or ignoble thought, gallantly sustaining the true dignity of his vocation, no artist, of whatsoever denomination, ever went to his rest leaving a golden memory more pure from dross, or having devoted himself with a truer chivalry to the art goddess whom he worshipped.”

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