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these classes of people “ Stanley Thorn” is a favorite. It not only demands no reflection, but repels it, or dissipates it--much as a silver rattle the wrath of a child. It is not in the least degree suggestive. Its readers arise from its perusal with the identical idea in possession at sitting down. Yet, during perusal, there has been a tingling physico-mental exhilaration, somewhat like that induced by a cold bath, or a flesh-brush, or a gallop on horseback—a very delightful and very healthful matter in its way. But these things are not letters. “ Valentine Vox," and "Charles O'Malley” are no more “ literature” than cat-gut is music. The visible and tangible tricks of a baboon belong not less to the belleslettres than does “Harry Lorrequer.” When this gentleman adorns his countenance with lamp-black, knocks over an apple woman, or brings about a rent in his pantaloons, we laugh at him when bound up in a volume, just as we would laugh at his adventures if happening before our eyes in the street. But mere incidents whether serious or comic, whether occurring or describedmere incidents are not books. Neither are they the basis of books -of which the idiosyncrasy is thought in contradistinction from deed. A book without action cannot be ; but a book is only such, to the extent of its thought, independently of its deed. Thus of Algebra; which is, or should be, defined as a mode of computing with symbols by means of signs." With numbers, as Algebra, it has nothing to do; and although no algebraic computation can proceed without numbers, yet Algebra is only such to the extent of its analysis, independently of its Arithmetic.
We do not mean to find fault with the class of performances of which “Stanley Thorn" is one. Whatever tends to the amusement of man tends to his benefit. Aristotle, with singular assurance, has declared poetry the most philosophical of all writing, (spoudiotaton kai philosophikotaton genos) defending it principally upon that score. He seems to think—and many following him have thought—that the end of all literature should be instruction-a favorite dogma of the school of Wordsworth. But it is a truism that the end of our existence is happiness. If so, the end of every separate aim of our existence—of everything connected with our existence, should be still—happiness. Therefore, the end of instruction should be happiness—and happiness,
what is it but the extent or duration of pleasure ?- therefore, the end of instruction should be pleasure. But the cant of the Lakists would establish the exact converse, and make the end of all pleasure instruction. In fact, ceteris paribus, he who pleases is of more importance to his fellow man than he who instructs, since the dulce is alone the utile, and pleasure is the end already atiained, which instruction is merely the means of attaining. It will be said that Wordsworth, with Aristotle, has reference to instruction with eternity in view ; but either such cannot be the tendency of his argument, or he is laboring at a sad disadvantage ; for his works--or at least those of his school—are professedly to be understood by the few, and it is the many who stand in need of salvation. Thus the moralist's parade of measures would be as completely thrown away as are those of the devil in " Melmoth," who plots and counterplots through three octavo volumes for the entrapment of one or two souls, while any common devil would have demolished one or two thousand.
When, therefore, we assert that these practical-joke publications are not "literature," because not " thoughtful” in any degree, we must not be understood as objecting to the thing in itself, but to its claims upon our attention as critic. Dr. — what is his name!-strings together a number of facts or fancies which, when printed, answer the laudable purpose of amusing a very large, if not a very respectable number of people. To this proceeding upon the part of the Doctor-or on the part of his imitator, Mr. Jeremy Stockton, the author of “ Valentine Vox,” we can have no objection whatever. His books do not please us. We will not read them. Still less shall we speak of them seriously as books. Being in no respect works of art, they neither deserve, nor are amenable to criticism.
“Stanley Thorn" may be described, in brief, as a collection, rather than as a series, of practical haps and mishaps, befalling a young man very badly brought up by his mother. He flogs his father with a codfish, and does other similar things. We have no fault to find with him whatever, except that, in the end, he does not come to the gallows.
We have no great fault to find with him, but with Mr. Bockton, his father, much. He is a consummate plagiarist; and, in our
opinion, nothing more despicable exists. There is not a good incident in his book () of which we cannot point out the paternity with at least a sufficient precision. The opening adventures are all in the style of “ Cyril Thornton.” Bob, following Amelia in disguise, is borrowed from one of the Smollet or Fielding novels —there are many of our readers who will be able to say which. The cab driven over the Crescent trottoir, is from Pierce Egan. The swindling tricks of Colonel Somebody, at the commencement of the novel, and of Captain Filcher afterwards, are from “ Pickwick Abroad.” The doings at Madame Pompour's (or some such name) with the description of Isabelle, are from “ Ecarté,
Ecarté, or the Salons of Paris"--a rich book. The Sons-of-Glory scene (or its wraith) we have seen--somewhere ; while (not to be tedious) the whole account of Stanley's election, from his first conception of the design, through the entire canvass, the purchasing of the “Independents,” the row at the hustings, the chairing, the feast, and the petition, is so obviously stolen from "Ten Thousand a Year," as to be disgusting. Bob and the “old venerable"—what are they but feeble reflections of young and old Weller? The tone of the narration throughout is an absurd echo of Boz. For example—". We've come agin about them there little accounts of ourn-question is do you mean to settle 'em or don't you ? His colleagues, by whom he was backed, highly approved of this question, and winked and nodded with the view of intimating to each other that in their judgment that was the point.” Who so dull as to give Mr. Bogton any more credit for these things than we give the buffoon for the rôle which he has committed to memory? CHARLES DICKENS.*
We often hear it said, of this or of that proposition, that it may be good in theory, but will not answer in practice; and in such assertions we find the substance of all the sneers at critical art which so gracefully curl the upper lips of a tribe which is beneath it. We mean the small geniuses—the literary Titmiceanimalculæ which judge of merit solely by result, and boast of the solidity, tangibility, and infallibility of the test which they employ. The worth of a work is most accurately estimated, they assure us, by the number of those who peruse it; and “does a book sell ?" is a query embodying, in their opinion, all that need be said or sung on the topic of its fitness for sale. We should as soon think of maintaining, in the presence of these creatures, the dictum of Anaxagoras, that snow is black, as of disputing, for example, the profundity of that genius which, in a run of five hundred nights, has rendered itself evident in “London Assurance." “ What,” cry they, “are critical precepts to us, or to anybody ? Were we to observe all the critical rules in creation we should still be unable to write a good book”-a point, by the way, which we shall not now pause to deny. “Give us results,” they vociferate, “ for we are plain men of common sense.
We contend for fact instead of fancy-for practice in opposition to theory."
The mistake into which the Titmice, have been innocently led, however, is precisely that of dividing the practice which they would uphold, from the theory to which they would object. They should have been told in infancy, and thus prevented from exposing themselves in old age, that theory and practice are in so much one, that the former implies or includes the latter. A theory is only good as such, in proportion to its reducibility to practice. If the practice fail, it is because the theory is imperfect. To say
* Barnaby Rudge. By Charles Dickens, (Boz.) Author of "The Old Curiosity-Shop," " Pickwick," “ Oliver Twist,” etc., etc. With numerous Illustrations, by Cattermole, Browne & Sibson. Lea & Blanchard : Philadel. phia
what they are in the daily habit of saying—that such or such a matter may be good in theory but is false in practice,—is to perpetrate a bull—to commit a paradox--to state a contradiction in terms—in plain words, to tell a lie which is a lie at sight to the understanding of anything bigger than a Titmouse.
But we have no idea, just now, of persecuting the Tittlebats by too close a scrutiny into their little opinions. It is not our purpose, for example, to press them with so grave a weapon as the argumentum ad absurdum, or to ask them why, if the popularity of a book be in fact the measure of its worth, we should not be at once in condition to admit the inferiority of “Newton's Principia" to "Hoyle's Games ;" of "Earnest Maltravers" to " Jack-theGiant-Killer," or "Jack Sheppard," or "Jack Brag;" and of “ Dick's Christian Philosopher” to “Charlotte Temple," or the “ Memoirs of de Grammont,” or to one or two dozen other works which must be nameless. Our present design is but to speak, at some length, of a book which in so much concerns the Titmice, that it affords them the very kind of demonstration which they chiefly affect-practical demonstration-of the fallacy of one of their favorite dogmas; we mean the dogma that no work of fiction can fully suit, at the same time, the critical and the popular taste; in fact, that the disregarding or contravening of critical rule is absolutely essential to success, beyond a certain and very limited extent, with the public at large. And if, in the course of our random observations—for we have no space for systematic review-it should appear, incidentally, that the vast popularity of “ Barnaby Rudge” must be regarded less as the measure of its value, than as the legitimate and inevitable result of certain wellunderstood critical propositions reduced by genius into practice, there will appear nothing more than what has before become apparent in the “Vicar of Wakefield" of Goldsmith, or in the "Robinson Crusoe" of De Foe--nothing more, in fact, than what is a truism to all but the Titmice.
Those who know us will not, from what is here premised, suppose it our intention, to enter into any wholesale laudation of
Barnaby Rudge.” In truth, our design may appear, at a cursory glance, to be very different indeed. Boccalini, in his “ Advertisements from Parnassus," tells us that a critic once presented