Works of Charles Dickens

Household Edition. Illustrated from Drawings by F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. The Pickwick Papers. New York : W. A. Townsend & Co. 4 vols. 12mo.
WE have long needed a handsome American edition of the works of the most popular English novelist of the time, and here we have the first volumes of one which is superior, in type, paper, illustrations, and general taste of mechanical execution, to the best English editions. It is to be published at the rate of two volumes a month until completed, and in respect both to cheapness and elegance is worthy of the most extensive circulation. Such an enterprise very properly commences with “The Pickwick Papers,” the work in which the hilarity, humor, and tenderness of the author’s humane and beautiful genius first attracted general regard; and it is to he followed by equally fine editions of the romances which succeeded, and, as some think, eclipsed it in merit and popularity. We most cordially wish success to an undertaking which promises to substitute the finest workmanship of the Riverside Press for the bad type and dingy paper of the common editions, and hope that the publishers will sec the propriety of adequately remunerating the author.
It is pleasant to note that years and hard work have not dimmed the brightness or impaired the strength of Dickens’s mind. The freshness, vigor, and affluence of his genius are not more evident in the “ Old Curiosity Shop” than in “Great Expectations,” the novel he is now publishing, in weekly parts, in “All the Year Round.” Common as is the churlish custom of depreciating a new work of a favorite author by petulantly exalting the worth of an old one, no fair reader of “ Great Expectations ” will feel inclined to say that Dickens has written himself out. In this novel he gives us new scenes, new incidents, new characters, and a new purpose; and from his seemingly exhaustless fund of genial creativeness, we may confidently look for continual additions to the works which have already established his fame. The characters in “ Great Expectations " are original, and some of them promise to rank among his best delineations. Pip, the hero, who, as a child, “was brought up by hand,” and who appears so far to be led by it,—thus illustrating the pernicious effect in manhood of that mode of taking nourishment in infancy,— is a delicious creation, quite equal to David Copperfield. Jaggers, the peremptory lawyer, who carries into ordinary conduct and conversation the habits of the criminal bar, and bullies and cross-examines even his dinner and his wine, — Joe, the husband of “the hand” by which Pip was brought up, — Wopsle, Wemmick, Orlick, the family of the Pockets, the mysterious Miss Havishham, and the disdainful Estella, are not repetitions, but personages that the author introduces to his readers for the first time. The story is not sufficiently advanced to enable us to judge of its merit, but it has evidently been carefully meditated, and here and there the reader's curiosity is stung by fine hints of a secret which the weaver of the plot still contrives to keep to himself. The power of observation, satire, humor, passion, description, and style, which the novel exhibits, gives evidence that Dickens is putting forth in its production his whole skill and strength.