The Genius of Dickens
NOTWITHSTANDING the prominence given to the idea and sentiment of humanity in the works of the leading English poets and romancers of the time, it is doubtful if a genuine flesh-and-blood sympathy with human beings is a characteristic of contemporary literature. Liberality of opinion, and a democratic disdain of class distinctions, are in the fashion; but that cosmopolitan acceptance and genial delineation of the varieties of human nature, which we find in the Tory Sir Walter, are not specially observable in the works of literary liberals. Their liberalism is didactic rather than dramatic. Tennyson is a man of ideas and ideals, and introduces us only to the “first society ” of the intellect and imagination. Browning has the dramatic power without the dramatic feeling ; and what sympathies he has are directed to persons and themes which excite the antipathies of average readers. In both we are conscious of a certain intellectual superciliousness, a dainty withdrawal from the common and vulgar in human life, an implied appeal to the higher class of cultivated minds alone. They seem to think the human race so fine a thing in itself, that most of the individuals who compose it ought to be ashamed of themselves for not being capable of loftier virtues or more impressive depravities. They love, in fact, their notions of the possibilities of humanity, rather than humanity itself. Like nature, as complained of by the painter, real human beings are apt to “put them out.” Among novelists, Thackeray is tolerant, but then his toleration is essentially contemptuous of its objects ; Kingsley, with all his vehement pretences to comprehension, only succeeds in individualizing his pet theories of men and women, and makes coxcombs even of his bullies ; and George Eliot, who in general compass of intellect excels all contemporary romancers, and whose nicety and force of characterization are, in her own walk, so admirable, still appears to consider humanity with profound pity rather than confident hope, and leaves on the minds of her readers an impression of sadness which her large charity is powerless to overcome. It is curious that Carlyle, the most illiberal of modern writers, a man who loses no occasion to vent his scorn on whole races and nations, and who considers all the philanthropic opinions, enterprises, and tendencies of the age to be but signs of a prevailing infectious cant, should still possess more dramatic sympathy and insight, more appreciation of humble, homely worth, and more solid power of characterization, than the great body of the liberal thinkers who look upon his misanthropic generalities with disgust or horror.
Alone among his contemporaries, Charles Dickens seems to possess that instinctive sympathy with whatever is human and humane which is the fundamental condition of genial and varied characterization. In impersonated abstractions of humanity which satisfy our ideal of human nature, he may be exceeded ; in individualities which make us in love with our kind, he is unapproached. Tennyson has written one poem, “Enoch Arden,” in which his beautiful genius has dealt with humble life ; but though the sentiment is fine, and the diction austerely simple, the characters and the scenes are as remote from actual existence as any of those in the “Idyls of the King.” If Enoch Arden be compared with Peggotty, in “ David Copperfield,” the difference between the two methods of characterization becomes at once evident. So intense and real is Dickens’s conception, so strong his hold on the noble elements in Peggotty’s being, that he can venture to represent him in all the uncouthness of his person, his language, and his surroundings. Through his strange, confused, ungrammatical, “ vulgar ” speech shines the soul of the man; and this makes his jargon as dignified as the periods of Burke. If Tennyson had attempted a similar feat in “ Enoch Arden,” the result would have been an ignominious failure.
The nature of a writer determines the character of his creations. Though the terms “subjective” and “objective ” now play a prominent part in criticism, and are good to indicate loose distinctions between classes of minds, it is important to remember that all creative minds are subjective, — that the subjective includes everything in nature and human life, which such minds vitally perceive, absorb into their own being, and literally make their own. In the case of Dickens, gifted though he be with wonderfully acute powers of external observation, this is obviously the fact, for no writer stamps the character of his genius on everything he writes more plainly than he. It is impossible to mistake his style, his method, his sentiment, his humor, his characters. His observing power, when extended beyond the range of his sympathies, becomes “objective,” it is true, but ceases to be creative. In his genuine productions he not only embodies all that he knows, but communicates all that he is. The reality of his personages comes from the vividness of his conceptions, and not from any photographic quality in his method of representation. Observation affords him materials ; but he always modifies these materials, and often works them up into the most fantastic shapes. Individuals, incidents, scenery, the very pavement of his streets, the very bricks of his houses, the very furniture of his apartments, are all haunted by Dickens’s spirit. To read one of his romances is to see everything through the author’s eyes ; the most familiar objects lake an air of strangeness when surveyed through such a medium ; and the interest excited by the view has always in it a kind of fascination. We may dissent, criticise, protest, but still his clutch on our attention is never relaxed.
The weird imagination which thus penetrates his books is, however, but a single element of his nature, and indeed would not exercise so great a charm over so many classes of readers, were it not connected with such warmth of heart, keenness of observation, richness of humor, and controlling common-sense. In the foundation of his character, Dickens agrees with the majority of well-meaning mankind. He has no paradoxes in morality to push, no scientific view of human nature to sustain, no philosophy of society to illustrate, no mission to accomplish. His general opinions are those of a man of sound sense and wholesome sensibility ; his general attitude towards the world is that of one who sympathizes and enjoys ; his test of worth is amiability ; his cure for every form of mental and moral disease is the old one of work. Nobody ever thinks of going to his writings for light on such moral problems as are opened in Hamlet and Faust. Intellectually, he seems incapable of generalization. Judged by his feelings and perceptions, no writer of his time seems so broad; judged by his philosophical comprehension of laws, few seem so narrow. The whole system of English jurisprudence, the whole machinery of civil administration, the most clearly demonstrated principles of political economy, appear worthless or mischievous to his eyes, when his attention is concentrated on cases where they bear hard on individuals. He looks on such matters as humane men of ungeneralizing minds ordinarily do, though he gives to their complaints a voice which is heard wherever the English language penetrates. It would be in vain to search his writings for a single example in which he views a subject affecting the welfare of society in all its relations. The moment his sense is shocked and his sensibilities stirred, his reflective reason almost ceases to act, but his humor, his imagination, his conscience are all in motion. The systematic study of anything appears abhorrent to his feelings; and even in such a matter as the training of youth in the grammar of languages he has some of Susan Nipper’s own indignation at “ them Blimbers.” So entirely is he absorbed by the perception of the moment, that often in the same book we have characters exhibiting exactly opposite traits, who are equally satirized. Thus in “ Bleak House,” Mrs. Jellaby is a philanthropist who subordinates the care of her family to the welfare of Borrioboola-Gha ; but in that romance we also have Mr. Vholes, who is not less ridiculed and contemned for subordinating the welfare of the public to the support of “his three daughters at home, and his venerable father in the Vale of Taunton ” ; and there is just as much reason why reformers should laugh at Mr. Vholes, as that conservatives should shake their sides over Mrs. Jellaby. The truth is, that no organizations and no persons can stand this method of judging of them by their weak points, and the detection of weak points is of the very life of humorous perception.
And this limitation of Dickens’s intellect is also a limitation of his power of characterization. Because his genius personifies everything it touches, we must not, on that account, accept all its products as persons. There are scores of people in his novels who are “ hit off,” rather than delineated, and are discriminated from the mere names of persons in didactic satire only by that strong individualizing tendency in his mind which makes him give consciousness even to inanimate things, and which one critic goes so far as to call “ literary Fetichism.” The professional guests at Mr. Merdle’s dinner-parties, in “ Little Dorrit,” the Veneerings and their associates, in “ Our Mutual Friend,” the company that gathers in Sir Leicester Dedlock’s country-seat, in “ Bleak House,” are three among twenty instances which must readily occur to every reader. In these lie individualizes the tone of the society he satirizes, rather than attempts to portray its individual members. This habit of sketchy characterization, in which the character is only shown by some external peculiarity or vice of opinion, and his interior life is entirely overlooked, is the ordinary mode in which Dickens’s satirical talent is displayed, and it overloads his books with impersonated sarcasms. All these, however, may be deducted from his stories, and still leave him richer in solid characterizations than any halfdozen of his contemporaries combined.
Indeed, when Dickens resolutely sets to work to embody an imagined nature, he ever makes it self-subsistent and inwardly as well as outwardly known. His joy in some of these creations is so great, he floods them with such an abounding wealth of life, he makes them so intensely real to his own mind, and treats them so much like companions of his heart’s hilarious hours, that the very excess of his characterizing power has led some critics to deny to him its possession. He so surcharges his characters with vitality that they seem like persons who have taken something to drink ; and, as they burst into the more decorous society delineated by other English novelists, there is a cry raised for the critical police. This exaggeration, however, is not caricature, for caricature never gives the impression of reality; and even in our age of historic doubts we have yet to learn of the sceptical Betsey Prig who had the audacity to doubt the existence and reality of Tony Weller, of John Willet, of Mr. Squeers. of Richard Swiveller, of Edward Cuttle, of Sarah Gamp, of Wilkins Micawber, of Mr. Boffin, or any other of Dickens’s quaint specimens of human nature which he has overcharged with humorous vitality. Dickens caricatures only when his special object is to satirize ; and the characters which illustrate his satirical genius we have already admitted to have no real natures. In his true province of characterization, he is certainly peculiar, for his personages are not only original but originals. As a general thing, he does not develop his characters, but conceives them in their entirety at once, and the situations and incidents in which they successively appear simply furnish occasions for their expression. Their appearance, opinions, manners, and even their phrases, he makes identical with their natures. He gives a queer application to the transcendental principle that “the soul does the body make,” and supplies an external peculiarity for every inward trait. Beings which have no existence out of his own mind, he yet sees them in their bodily shape and motions as clearly as he sees his familiar acquaintances. Their unconscious actions are recorded with the accuracy of a witness who testifies under oath. He was evidently near Miss Brass when that grim spinster was questioned as to the plot in which she and her brother had been engaged, and noticed that, before she answered, she “ took two or three pinches of snuff, and, having by this time very little left, travelled round and round the box with her forefinger and thumb, scraping up another.” Most observers of Mr. Squeers’s habits when drunk would have been satisfied with stating that he went to bed with his boots on ; but Dickens adds, — “ and with his umbrella under his arm.” When Uriah Heep is present, we are not only constantly reminded that he is “ ’umble,” but we are forced to note “ the snaky undulation pervading his frame from his chin to his boots,” “ his shadowless red eyes, which look as if they had scorched their lashes off,” and the frequency with which he grinds “ the palms of his hands against each other, as if to squeeze them warm and dry, besides often wiping them, in a stealthy way, with a pocket-handkerchief.” Indeed, so close and minute, as well as vivid, is Dickens’s method of delineation, that it is impossible not to perceive and realize his creations. The critic who decries them as caricatures must be conscious, all the time, that they are more real to him than the carefully drawn characters he praises in other novelists of the time. Besides, they have a strange attraction to the mind, and are objects of love or hatred, like actual men and women. A large number of excellently drawn persons in modern fiction are uninteresting or commonplace in themselves, and hardly reward the labor expended on their delineation. In reading Anthony Trollope, for instance, one feels that here is an author who will never fail for subjects as long as the kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland contains thirty millions of people, “ mostly bores,” and as long as he has his mental daguerreotype machine in order. But the poetical, the humorous, the tragic, or the pathetic element is never absent in Dickens’s characterization, to make his delineations captivating to the heart and imagination, and give the reader a sense of having escaped from whatever in the actual world is dull and wearisome. A free abounding life also animates his pages ; and the subtle scepticism as to the worth of existence itself, which infects Thackeray’s narratives, and makes us close his most entertaining novels with a jaded feeling, is entirely absent from those of Dickens.
The plots of his romances, though frequently improbable in themselves, always seem probable in relation to the characters they are devised to bring vividly out. In the Pickwick Papers, the work which excels all its successors in riotous animal spirits, and in the power to communicate the sense of enjoyment, there is no plot, properly speaking, but only a succession of incidents. In “ Oliver Twist ” and “ Barnaby Rudge ” there is a strong infusion of the melodramatic element, which also appears less prominently in “ The Old Curiosity Shop,” “ Nicholas Nickleby,” and “ Martin Chuzzlewit.” The height of his power as story-teller was reached in “ David Copperfield,” which is perhaps the best of his works in all respects, though “ Dombey and Son ” is written with more sustained verve. The plot of “ Great Expectations ” is the most cunningly devised of all, to stimulate and to baffle curiosity; while that of “A Tale of Two Cities ” Is the most tragically impressive ; but neither equals “ David Copperfield ” in both interest and charm. “ Hard Times ” is essentially a satire, and the stories of “Bleak House,” “Little Dorrit,” and “ Our Mutual Friend,” though they give occasion for the display of brilliant powers of narrative, description, and characterization, are somewhat lumberingly constructed. In all these successive books we observe a constantly increasing disposition to combine seriousness, both of moral and artistic purpose, with his whimsical, or comical, or pathetic incidents ; his style grows more and more elaborate, more and more strewn with curious felicities of phrase, without losing much of its elasticity and ease ; and if we miss something of the intoxicating animal spirits which gladden us in the Pickwick Papers, the loss is more than made up by the superior solidity and depth which thought and experience have given even to his humorous vein. The impression left by all his books is not only humane but humanizing. He is a philanthropist, both positively and negatively. He makes us interested in the most ignorant, credulous, foolish, or grotesque personages, simply by the goodness of heart he puts into them ; and he makes us dislike the proudest, highest, most cultivated, and most beautiful, provided they are tainted with selfish indifference to their kind. His imagination so delights in lovely embodiments of disinterestedness, that we are sometimes tempted to class him with philanthropic sentimentalists, idly fondling images of excellence impossible of realization ; but we read a few pages on, and find him the intrepid practical assailant of everything in life which he considers mean, base, exclusive, illiberal, unjust, and inhuman. The humor, the pathos, the power of weird description, the power of tragic representation, in Dickens, seem but the efforts of one faculty of imagination, as it is directed by different sentiments, and acts on different materials. His superabundant humor, though quotable in sentences, depends for its full appreciation on a knowledge of the personages whence it comes and the incidents which call it forth. But it also has something odd, droll, unexpected, and incalculable in itself, which always marks it as the product of one peculiar and creative mind. When Mrs. Crupp, David Coppcrfield’s laundress, is asked by that young gentleman how she knows that love is the cause of his restlessness and bad spirits, she, slightly boozy with David’s brandy, solemnly replies, “ Mr. Copperfull, I ’m a mother myself.” Venus, the artist in bones and amateur in skeletons, who lends such ghastly drollery to so many scenes in “Our Mutual Friend,” says to the impertinent boy who chaffs him: “ Don’t sauce me in the wicious pride of your youth; don’t hit me, because you see I'm down. You’ve no idea how small you ’d come out, if I had the articulating of you.” When Jerry Cruncher, suspected by Mr. Lorry of having passed his nights in digging up bodies for the doctors, is asked by his employer what he has been besides a messenger, he conceives the luminous idea of replying, “ Agricultooral character.” Mr. Swiveller, informed by the Marchioness that Miss Brass calls him a funny fellow, does not consider the description derogatory to his dignity, because, he says, “ Old King Cole was himself a merry old soul, if we may put any faith in the pages of history.” Mr. Vincent Crummles, wishing to do justice to the dramatic powers of Miss Henrietta Petowker, of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, closes his eulogy with the climax, “ She’s the only sylph / ever saw who could stand upon one leg, and play the tambourine on her knee, like a sylph.” Mr. Wemmick, when he invites Pip to dine with him, remarks : “ You don’t object to an aged parent, I hope. Because I have got an aged parent at my place.” Mr. Wegg charges Mr. Boffin more for reading poetry to him than he does prose, for “when a person comes to grind off poetry, night after night, it is but right he should expect to be paid for its weakening effect on his mind.” The “ young man of the name of Guppy,” in his memorable proposal of marriage to Esther Summerson, mentions as one of the advantages she would receive from the alliance, that his mother “ is eminently calculated to be a motherin-law.” Mr. Dennis, the hangman, when desirous of propitiating the sentimental and scraggy Miss Miggs, addresses her by the endearing appellation of “ My sugar stick.” The Augustus of Miss Pecksniff runs off on the morning of his intended marriage with that meek maiden, and, as soon as he is safe on board ship, writes to her : “ Ere this reaches you, the undersigned will be — if not a corpse — on the way to Van Diemen’s Land. Send not in pursuit! I never will be taken alive ! ” And the immense humor of bringing a man of Mr. Boffin’s mind and experience into contact with such a book as Gibbon’s “ Decline and Fall ” could only have occurred to Dickens. The blank wonder of such a guileless soul in listening to the recital of the crimes of the Roman Emperors is delicious“ Wegg takes it easy,” he says, contemplatively, “ but, upon my soul, to an old bird like myself, these are scarers!”
Among Dickens’s characters there are few which he seems to delight in more than those in which goodness of heart is combined with imperfection of intellect or expression. His books swarm with persons representing every degree of mental defect and obstruction, from craziness like Miss Flite’s to inexpressibility like Captain Cuttle’s. Among these “ that innocentest creeter Toots ” is one of the most richly ludicrous. From the time we first meet him at Dr. Blimber’s, “keeping a ring in his waistcoat-pocket to put on his little finger by stealth when the pupils went out walking,” and devoting his energies in school hours to writing “long letters to himself from persons of distinction, addressed ‘ P. Toots, Esquire, Brighton, Sussex,’ and preserving them in his desk with great care,” he is the most lovable of all specimens of arrested development. There is something infantile even in his attempts to be “fast,” such as his high times with Feeder. B. A., when, in the latter’s room, with the doors locked, they crammed their noses with snuff, endured surprising torments of sneezing with the constancy of martyrs, and, drinking table beer at intervals, "felt all the glories of dissipation.” Nothing could better show Dickens’s perception of the humor which lies in the incongruous, than his giving this innocent. whose brain stutters as well as his tongue, a prize-fighter like “ the Chicken ” for a companion, and a champion of Isis rival, like Captain Cuttle, for a confidant. His confessions to the Captain of his love for Florence Dombey are delicious specimens of the combination of intellectual impotence with the tender passion. “ The hollow crowd,” he says, “ when they see me with the Chicken, and characters of distinction like that, suppose me to be happy ; but I’m wretched.” “ If you could see my legs when I take my boots off, you d form some idea of what unrequited affection is.” If, by the sacrifice of all my property, I could get transmigrated into Miss Dombey’s dog — I — I really think I should never leave off wagging my tail.” The struggle between his jealousy and his good-will, when he sees Walter after the latter’s shipwreck, at last ends in the fear that he “ must have got very wet,” and the hope that he “ did n’t take any cold.” The marriage of this affectionate weakling to such a tart, swift, and efficient personage as Susan Nipper is itself a stroke of humorous genius.
Charles Townshend said of the Due de Nivernais, who came over from France as a sort of envoy, that he was “ the preliminaries of a man sent over to arrange the preliminaries of a peace.” Dickens has great skill in drawing such persons. His Cousin Pheenix is “the preliminaries of a man”; and so are Mr. Sparkler, Air. Guppy, Mr. Snagsby, and a score of others that might be named. He is equally felicitous in representing the preliminaries of a woman, and of varying the character while he preserves the type. Indeed, his sharpness of mental sight enables him to fix and embody almost every variety of average mind, from the rapid, quick-witted, ever-alert Inspector Bucket of the Detective, whose brain is in perpetual motion, all the way down to old John Willet, who has but a flicker of intelligence, who lives on one notion for nearly as long a period as it takes him to acquire it, and who, after seven years of cogitation on the fact that his son Joe has “lost his arm among the Salwanners where the war is,” dies at last with the edifying announcement that he is himself “going to the Sahvanners.” It is hopeless to attempt to give instances, on account of the very abundance of the illustrations, though we may say that, low down in the mental scale,
“ Mr. F.’s Aunt,” who has such a desire to have Arthur Clenman brought “for’ard” in order that she may “ chuck him out o’ winder,” is a specimen of inscrutable imbecility calculated to awaken the profoundest reflections.
In regard to Dickens’s serious characterization, and his dealings with the deeper passions, a distinguished French critic, M. Taine, has sneered at his respect for the proprieties, and contrasted his timidity with the boldness of Balzac and George Sand, especially in the analysis and representation of the passion of love. It is true that Dickens is excluded, like other English novelists, from the full exhibition of the allurements which lead to the aberrations of this passion ; but what critic but a French one could have emphasized this deference for decorum, as if it shut him out altogether from the field of strong emotions ? It does not exclude him from the minutest internal scrutiny and complete representation of the great body of the generous and the malignant passions. No Frenchman, even, could say that he was not sufficiently frank, exact, particular, and thorough in his exhibitions of pride, envy, fear, vanity, malice, hatred, duplicity, jealousy, avarice, revenge, wrath, and remorse. He has threaded the intricacies of these, with the penetration of a psychologist, while he has combined their action and varied their expression according to the modifications they receive from individual character. He has not won the reputation of being the most genial, pathetic, and humane of contemporary novelists by declining to describe some of the most tragic scenes that romancer ever imagined, and to represent some of the most hateful forms of humanity which romancer ever drew. Fagin, Noah Claypole, Ralph Nickleby, Arthur Gride, Quilp, Dombey, Carker, Pecksniff, Jonas Chuzzlewit, Uriah Heep, Grandfather Smallweed, Rigaud, Rogue Riderhood, Bradley Headstone, the ghastly and gushing Mrs. Skewton, the weird and relentless Miss Havisham, could never have been shaped by a man who had not closely studied the fiercest, harshest, meanest, and basest passions of human nature, or who hesitated to follow intrepidly out their full logical effects on character and conduct. Often grotesque in his tragedy, he is never wanting in intensity and vividness. The chapter in “ Oliver Twist ” entitled “The Jew’s last Night alive,” the description of Jonas Chuzzlewit’s flight and arrest after his murder of Tigg, and the account of Bradley Headstone’s feelings and reflections after his murderous assault on Eugene, are a few among many specimens of that minute and exact inspection of criminal spirits with which he so frequently both appalls and fascinates his reader. His antipathy to malignant natures contrasts strangely with the air of scientific indifference with which Balzac regards them ; but it seems to give him even more power to penetrate into their souls. He is there as a biassed observer, detesting what he depicts; but his insight seems to be sharpened by his abhorrence. They are altogether out of the pale of his instinctive sympathies, but yet he is drawn to them by a kind of attraction like that which sustains the detective on the track of the felon. If he errs at all, he errs in making them sometimes too repuisive for the purposes ot art.
In the representation of love, Dickens is masterly only in exhibiting its affectionate side, and in this no contemporary, English or French, approaches him. His favorite heroines, Agnes Wickfield, Lucie Manette, Florence Dombey, Esther Summerson, Little Dorrit, Lizzie Hexam, are models of self-devoted, all-enduring, all-sacrificing affection, in respect both to sentiment and principle. Illustrating as they do the heroism of tenderness, the most beautiful and pathetic scenes in his works draw from them their inspiration. It may be that they are too perfect to be altogether real; it may be that, as specimens of genuine characterization, they are inferior to Dora Spenlow, or little Miss Wren, or Bella Wilfer, in whom affection is connected with some kind of infirmity ; but still, so intensely are they concel ed, so unbounded is their wealth of love, that their reality, if questioned by the head, is accepted undoubtingly by the heart. Every home they enter is made the better for such ideal visitants, and the fact that they are domesticated by so many thousands of firesides shows that they are not the mere airy nothings of sentimentalizing benevolence, but have in them the substance of humanity, and the attractive force of individual life. The love of such beings, if not the grand passion of the heroines of George Sand, is purifying as well as pure, and places their delineator among benefactors. Filial love, in its tenderest idealization, is what they primarily represent, but from this flow all gentle, kindly, generous, compassionate, and grateful emotions. Their pathetic beauty melts the insensibility of the most hardened cynic. Florence at the deathbed of little Paul Dombey, or flying from her father to the shelter of the Little Midshipman, or returning to him in his day of ruin and despair ; — Esther Summerson, when for the first time she is enfolded in a mother’s embrace, or when, at the end of her long pursuit in the track of Lady Dedlock’s flight, she passes to the gate of the burial ground, stoops down, lifts the heavy head, “puts the long, dank hair aside,”and sees her mother cold and dead ; — Lucie Manette in that wonderful scene in Dufarge’s garret, where she recalls her father to conscious life ; — Little Dorrit in all the touching incidents which bring out the delicacy and depth of her sheltering affection for the broken prisoner of the Marshalsea ; — these are but a few among many instances of that searching pathos of Dickens which irresistibly affects the great body of his readers, and even forces unwilling tears from hostile critics.
Why, then, it may be asked, is Dickens not to be ranked with the greatest masters of characterization ? The objection as to his exaggerated manner in representing, we have found to be superficial, as his exaggeration rather increases than diminishes our sense of the reality of his personages ; the real objection is to his matter. Great characterization consists in the creation and representation of great natures ; and the natures which Dickens creates may be original, strange, wild, criminal, humorous, lovable, pathetic, or good, but they are never great. The material of which they are composed is the common stuff of humanity, even when it is worked up into uncommon forms. His individualizing imagination can give personality to everything coming within the range of his thoughts, sentiments, and perceptions; but that range does not include the realm of ideas, or the conflict and complication of passions in persons of large intellects as well as strong sensibility. The element of thought is comparatively lacking in his creations. Captain Cuttle is as vividly depicted as Falstaff, but the Captain would be a bore as a constant companion, while we can conceive of Falstaff as everlastingly fertile in new mental combinations, and as never losing his power to stimulate and amuse. Esther Summerson is, like Imogen, an individualized ideal of womanhood ; but Esther’s mind never passes beyond a certain homely sense, while Imogen is the perfection of imagination and intelligence as well as of tenderness, and we feel that, though she should live a thousand years, she would never exhaust her capacity of thinking, any more than her capacity of loving. But if Dickens’s genius never goes beyond a certain limit of observation, nor rises above a certain level of thought, it has still peopled the imagination, and touched and gladdened the hearts, of so many thousands of readers, that it seems ungenerous to subject him to tests he does not court, and ungrateful to note the shortcomings of a power which in itself is so joyous, humane, and beneficent.