Obrázky stránek




A link between the age of Keats and Lamb and that of Browning and Dickens

the amiable Bryan Waller Procter (1787–1874), better known as Barry Cornwall. He was a student of the Jacobean dramatists, and he published, with success, scenes in blank

which read like extracts from some pensive contemporary of Shirley. He was also a writer of very graceful songs. Procter was

a barrister, and for thirty years a Commissioner in Lunacy His wife, who long survived him, was a most brilliant and caustic talker, “Our Lady of Bitterness," as one styled her.

A still more prominent figure in the social and literary life of the age was Richard Monckton Milnes, first Lord Houghton (1809-1885), the early associate of Tennyson, Thackeray, and Spedding.

R. Monckton Milnes He published in the 'forties four

From a Drawing by George Richmond volumes of reflective lyric verse which enjoyed considerable popularity, and some of his songs, such as “Strangers

Yet” and “The Brookside,” are favourites still. Lord Houghton was indefatigable in the pursuit of intellectual pleasure, and his sympathies were liberal and enlightened. Perhaps his most signal contribution to literature was the Life of Keats, which he published from materials hitherto unexplored, in 1848. The principal author of religious verse in this period was, unquestionably, the Rev. John Keble (1792–1866), whose lyrics were accepted as closely representative of the aspirations of English churchmen at the moment of the High Church revival. Keble, a country clergyman, was professor of poetry at Oxford, and he contributed to current Oxford

theology. But he is really remembered John Keble

for his two collections of sacred verse, From a Drawing by George Richmond

The Christian Year, 1827, a series of poems in two volumes, commemorating the festivals of the Church, and Lyra Innocentium, 1846, a children's garland of lyric thoughts. Each of these, but particularly the former, has enjoyed a great and a scarcely flagging popularity; of The Christian Year it is said that 200,000 copies were sold during Keble's lifetime. With all his sincerity and appositeness, Keble has scarcely secured a place among


In the first heyday of its triumph, Wordsworth said of The Christian Year, “It is so good that, if it were mine, I would write it all over again," and this phrase indicates Keble's fatal want of intensity as a poet.

the poets.


The one prose-writer who in years was the exact contemporary of these poets, but who was enjoying a universal popularity while the best

of them were still obscure, the greatest novelist since Scott, the earliest, and in some ways still the most typical of Victorian writers, CHARLES DICKENS. English fiction had been straying further and further from the peculiarly national type of Ben Jonson and Smollett - the study, that is, of “humours," oddities, extravagant peculiarities of incident and character—when the publication of the Pickwick Papers at

once revealed a Charles Dickens

writer of

colossal Engraved by ). C. Armytage from a Photograph taken in 1868

genius, and resuscitated that obsolete order of fiction. Here was evident not merely an extraordinary power of invention and bustle of movement, but a spirit of such boundless merriment as the literature of the world had never seen before. For more than thirty years, from the book-publication of Pickwick until his death, Dickens enjoyed a popularity greater than that of any other living writer. The world early made up its mind to laugh as soon as he spoke, and he therefore chose that his second novel, Oliver Twist, should be a study in melodramatic sentiment almost entirely



without humour. Nicholas Nickleby combined the comic and the sensational elements for the first time, and is still the type of Dickens's longer books, in which the strain of violent pathos or sinister mystery is incessantly relieved by farce, either of incident or description. In this novel, too, the easy-going, old-fashioned air of Pickwick is abandoned in favour of a humanitarian attitude more in keeping with the access of puritanism which the new reign had brought with it, and from this time forth a certain sqeamishness in dealing with moral problems and a certain "gush" of unreal sentiment obscured the finer qualities of the novelist's genius. The rose-coloured innocence of the Pinches, the pathetic deaths, to slow music, of Little Nell and Little Dombey, these are examples of a weakness which endeared Dickens to his enormous public, but which add nothing to his posthumous glory.

The peculiarity of the manner of Dickens is its excessive and minute consistency within certain arbitrary limits of belief. Realistic he usually is, real he is scarcely ever.

George Cruikshank out of the storehouse of his

From a Drawing by D. Maclise memory, artificial conditions of life, macrocosms swarming with human vitality, but not actuated by truly human instincts. Into one of these vivaria we gaze, at Dickens's bidding, and see it teeming with movement; he puts a microscope into our hands, and we watch, with excited attention, the perfectly consistent, if often strangely violent and grotesque adventures of the beings comprised in the world of his fancy. His vivacity, his versatility, his comic vigour are so extraordinary that our interest in the show never flags. We do not

4 Oryanis del

restorant het

He builds up,


inquire whether Mr. Toots and Joe Gargery are “possible" characters,

whether we and they more and breathe in a common atmosphere;

are perfectly satisfied with the evolutions through which their fascinating showman puts them. But real imitative vitality, such as the characters of Fielding and Jane Austen possess, the enchanting marionettes of Dickens never display: in all but their oddities, they are strangely incorporeal. Dickens leads us rapidly through the thronged mazes of a fairyland, now comic, now sentimental, now horrific, of which know him all the time to be the creator, and it is merely

part of his originality and Charles Dickens

cleverness that he manages From a Lithograph by Weld Taylor, after a Drawing to clothe these radically by Samuel Laurence

phantasmal figures with the richest motley robes of actual, humdrum, “realistic” observation.



Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was the second of the eight children of John and Elizabeth Dickens. His father was a clerk in the Navy Pay Office, employed in Portsmouth Dockyard, and Dickens was born at Landport, a suburb of Portsea, on the 7th of February 1812. From the age of four to that of nine he lived with his family at Chatham, a town and neighbourhood much identified with the novelist's writings. He became, as he afterwards said, “a writer when a mere baby, an actor always.” In 1821 John Dickens, in reduced circumstances, removed with his family to London, and settled in Camden Town ; a year later he was consigned to the debtors' prison, the Marshalsea. The eldest son, after some vague and picturesque years of distress—he was a packer for some time in a blacking warehouse—found employment as a solicitor's clerk in Gray's Inn. He taught himself shorthand, and in the last months of 1828 he became a reporter in Doctors' Commons, and later still for a newspaper. It was not until 1834 that he was at length appointed to the reporting staff of the Morning Chronicle. About the same time he began to adventure in literature with the papers afterwards reprinted in

[graphic][subsumed][merged small]



« PředchozíPokračovat »