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WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY.
debt and disgrace at the University; becomes a student of the law; tires of that; takes to novel writing and poetry, in which he is successful; and wins his way into fashionable society at last.
Esmond is in the form of an autobiography, supposed to be written in the time of Queen Anne. The hero, Colonel Henry Esmond, is a Jacobite, who, after serving his country as a soldier, joins those who desire the restoration of the Chevalier to the throne of the Stuarts. He woos Beatrice, the lovely daughter of Lady Castlewood, and, failing to gain her affections, marries her mother, and settles down in Virginia. Among the personages introduced into this novel, we have the Chevalier St. George, Dean Swift, Congreve, Addison, and Steele; and it remains to be added that Esmond, though by no means the most popular, is considered the most perfect of Thackeray's novels.
The Newcomes relates the history of the simple, kindhearted Colonel Newcome, who is ruined through the knavery of wicked men, and dies poor within the precincts of the old Charter House. Ethel Newcome, the heroine of the story, is the best of Thackeray's female characters, and was so esteemed by the author himself.
The Virginians, a tale of the times of Garrick and Johnson, gives the history of the grandsons of Esmond. The American war forms part of the plot.
The Lectures of Thackeray have been published. Those on the English Humorists form one of the most pleasant books in the language; while the others, on the Four Georges, contain some frightful pictures of court life during the reigns of these sovereigns. The character of the second George is described with bitter irony, while that of the fourth is held up to special ridicule and contempt.
Thackeray's writings deal mostly with the upper classes of society. They are lively, biting, humorous. His characters are portraits of real men and real women; and, through them, he shows how thoroughly noble the true man always is, and how gentle and excellent the true
But he more frequently shows, also, how many wicked and false-hearted persons belong to the one sex, and how many thoughtless and unprincipled characters may be found among the other. He is very satirical - maliciously so, as some think. There is reason to believe, however, that his satire was not the result of evil intent, as in Swift's case, but was like the punishment given by the parent, who chastises his child that he may thereby be taught to tread the path of virtue and of honour.
BATH IN THE DAYS OF GEORGE II. “As for Bath, all history went and bathed and drank there. George II. and his queen, Prince Frederick and his court, scarce a character one can mention of the early last century, but was seen in that famous pump-room where Beau Nash presided, and his picture hung between the busts of Newton and Pope:
This picture, placed these busts between,
Gives Satire all its strength;
But Folly at full length.' I should like to have seen the Folly. It was a splendid, embroidered, beruffled, snuffboxed, red-heeled, innpetuous Folly, and knew how to make itself respected. I should like to have seen that noble old madcap Peterborough in his boots (he actually had the audacity to walk about Bath in boots!), with his blue ribbon and stars, and a cabbage under each arm, and a chicken in his hand, which he had been cheapening for his dinner. Chesterfield came there many a time and gambled for hundreds, and grinned through his gout. Mary Wortley was there, young and beautiful; and Mary Wortley, old, hideous, and snuffy. Walpole passed many a day there; sickly, supercilious, absurdiy dandified, and affected; with a brilliant wit, a delightful sensibility; and, for his friends, a most tender, generous, and faithful heart. And, if you and I had been alive then, and strolling down Milsom Street-hush! we should have taken our hats off, as an awful, long, lean, gaunt figure, swathed in flannels, passed by in its chair, and a livid face looked out from the windowgreat fierce eyes staring from under a bushy, powdered wig, a terrible frown, a terrible Roman nose—and we whisper to one another, “There he is! There's the great commoner! There is Mr. Pitt!' As we walk away, the abbey bells are set a ringing; and we meet our testy friend, Toby Smollet, on the arm of James Quin, the actor, who tells us that the bells ring for Mr. Bullock,
an eminent cowkeeper from Tottenham, who has just arrived to drink the waters; and Toby shakes his cane at the door of Colonel Ringworm—the Creole gentleman's lodgings next his own—where the colonel's two negroes are practising on the French horn."The Four Georges.
CHARLES DICKENS (b. 1812, d. 1870) was born at Landport, Portsmouth. His father, at that time, held a situation in the Navy Pay Department, but afterwards became a parliamentary reporter. Dickens' early life was a very hard one. At one time he was employed in pasting labels on blacking bottles; and had often to attend upon his father, who was in prison for debt. In this way he met with the lowest classes of society even in his very childhood, and gained experiences which he afterwards turned to good account in his novels. He never had much schooling; and, for what education he got, he was mostly indebted to his own industry. At length he was placed by his father in a London attorney's office, but he disliked the work, and took to reporting instead. In this occupation he proved himself to be shrewd and clever; for reporting does not simply mean writing down the words of others. Some public men speak a great deal without saying much that is really worth writing down, and hence it is a reporter's duty to select just so much of a speech as people will care to read; and this Charles Dickens was able to do in an admirable
During his leisure hours he was accustomed to ramble about the streets of the great city, remarking whatever was odd or humorous about the people, or peculiar about the places he saw. Under the name of “Boz," first used by his little sister in attempting to say Moses, by which name Dickens called his younger brother, he wrote several Sketches, which were published in the Morning Chronicle. Shortly afterwards, he was engaged to write The Pickwick Papers—a work intended to illustrate the adventures of a Cockney sportsman. The engravings were to be the principal attraction, and Dickens was to write the explanatory chapters. Scarcely, however, had the first parts made their appearance, when
it was discovered that the chapters were far more attractive than the illustrations. People were convulsed with laughter at the droll characters, the comical dialogues, and the ludicrous incidents introduced into the narrative. The soft-hearted Mr. Pickwick, old Mr. Weller the sapient coachman, and Sam his son, the wittiest of wags, became the intimate friends and acquaintances of every household.
This first great work of Dickens, then, was “a hit,” and the author's fame was established. Novel after novel now proceeded from his ready pen, everything he wrote being eagerly welcomed
by an enthusiastic and admiring public. In 1843, Dickens paid a visit to America, where he received a very hearty welcome; and, by-and-bye, he wrote descriptions exaggerated descriptions, the Americans thought of what he had seen in that continent. He next established a morning paper called the Daily News, and attempted to conduct it himself; but, after contributing a series of Pictures from Italy, where he had for some time resided, he gave up the task as uncongenial, and continued his novel-writing. His novels were usually published in monthly parts, and, after 1843, he produced, periodically, those Christmas books which are still so much admired. For many years he conducted a weekly periodical, called at first Household Words, and afterwards Au the Year Round, contributing novels and occasional papers to its pages. In his later years, Dickens gave public readings from his own works. Splendid readings they were, and people flocked in thousands to see and hear the generous and warm-hearted author who had so long and so cleverly entertained them through his books. Suddenly, in the summer of 1870, he died. He was busily engaged at the time on his last novel, Edwin Drood, which he left uncompleted. His loss was lamented over the whole civilized world.
His principal works are The Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby, Oliver Twist, oid Curiosity Shop, Barnaby Rudge, Martin Chuzzlewit, Dombey and Son, David Copperfield, Bleak House, Hard Times, Little Dorrit, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Our Mutual
Friend, and Edwin Drood. The subject of the first has been already indicated.
Nicholas Nickleby exhibits the horrors of Dotheboys Hall, and the brutal greed of Squeers, the cheap schoolmaster.
Oliver Twist tells the story of a poor orphan boy brought up in the workhouse of an English village. He is starved, beaten, ill-used by everybody. In London he falls among the vilest people—thieves and others—but, wonderful to relate, preserves his angelic disposition through all his temptations and trials.
The Old Curiosity Shop is the tale of a helpless gamester who, even in his old age, cannot resist the temptation to gamble; and of Little Nell, his grandchild, an innocent and pure-minded girl, the record of whose death is one of the most touching in the whole range of literature.
Barnaby Rudge is a story of 1780, and commemorates the Lord George Gordon riots, during the prevalence of which so much mischief was done in London.
Martin Chuzzlewit contains many pictures of life in America, and is notable as having amongst its characters the renowned Mrs. Sairey Gamp, and her friend Mrs. Harris (“ which there never was no sich person"), who is made the authority for all the wonderful stories that Sairey has to tell.
Dombey and Son illustrates the life of a cold, proud, and haughty man, who has amassed great wealth as a merchant. A series of disasters overtakes him, and he is thus humbled, and made a better man in every way.
David Copperfield—the best of all these novels—is in the form of an autobiography, and contains many of Dickens' own personal experiences of the days when he was struggling through the many hardships of his childhood and the earlier years of his manhood.
Bleak House describes the miseries of a law-suit; Hard Times, the tale of a strike; Little Dorrit gives pictures of life in a debtor's prison; and The Tale of Two Cities is a story of the French Revolution. Dickens' other and later works are scarcely so important as to demand special