Early and Late Papers, Hitherto Uncollected

By WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY. Boston: Ticknor and Fields.
IT appears to us that the graceful art of Thackeray was never more happily employed than in the first paper of this series. The “Memorials of Gormandizing” is a record of thrilling interest, and every good dinner described has the effect upon the reader of a felicitous drama. He goes from course to course, as from act to act of the play; he is agonized with suspense concerning the fate of the dishes, as if they were so many heroes and heroines ; if the steak is not justly cooked, it shall give him almost as great heart-break as a disappointment of lovers; when all is fortunately ended, he takes a long breath, as when the curtain falls upon the picture of the united young people, the relenting uncle, and the baffled villain. As good as a novel ? There are mighty few novels that have so much of life and human nature in them as that simple and affecting history, given in this book, of a dinner at the Cafe de Foy, in Paris. But they make one hungry with an inappeasable appetite, these “ Memorials of Gormandizing,” bringing to mind all the beautiful dinners eaten in Latin countries, and filling the heart with longing for the hotels that look out on the Louvre at Paris, the Villa Reale at Naples, the Venetian sunsets, the Arno at Florence, and even for the railway restaurants which so enchantingly diversify the flat, monotonous, and desolate Flemish landscape.
We travel with Mr. Titmarsh to Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerp, through the latter region, and we enjoy every one of those “ Roadside Sketches,” so delicate, so unerring, and so suggestive. Thackeray is a delightful traveller ; for he, who can talk more wisely of old clothes than most preachers of eternity, gets out of the nothings that tourists see the very life and spirit of a country. Here is something also about modern art and pictures in England and France, which comes as near not at all boring as anything of that nature can ; but we find the account of “Dickens in France” so much more attractive, that we shall always read it by preference hereafter.
For this is a book to be read many times by those loving to feel the conscious felicity of a writer who knows that every sentence shall happily express his mind, and succeed in winning the reader to the next. The security is tacit in the earlier papers here reprinted ; in the later ones it is more declared, and becomes somewhat careless, though it can never beget slovenliness. It appears to this great master that what he does so easily can scarcely be worth doing, and he mocks his own facility.
The spirit of the book is the same throughout. It is not different from that of Thackeray’s other books, and it is that of a man too sensible of his own love of the advantages he enjoys from the existing state of things ever to assail, with any great earnestness of purpose, the errors and absurdities of the world, — who trusted, for example, in one of his essays, never to be guilty of speaking harshly either of the South or North of America, since friends in both sections had offered him equally good claret. He is forever first in his art; and if we do not expect too much from him, he gives us so much that we must rejoice over every line of his preserved for our perusal.