Page:Works of Charles Dickens, ed. Lang - Volume 1.djvu/19

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INTRODUCTION.

Dickens never meant her to be other than she is. Above all, Dickens is now antiquated, as Homer also is. His youth is separated from us by a gulf greater than that which separates him from Smollett. He is not disilluded, like all of us wise moderns. He is practically prior to steam, electricity, the labour movement, popular education. "Naturalism," and the shadow of Darwinism, have not fallen upon him. Science is to him a joke. He is not literary; he does not sedulously beat the bush for "the right word," and pathetically fail to start the hare. In fact, Pickwick is not a book of a man of to-day, and culture has reached such a pitch of knowingness, as to be wholly out of sympathy with everything that is not contemporary.

Not only in things intellectual, but in social customs and material affairs, the breach between us and Mr. Pickwick's world is enormous. We, for example, are, at least, permitted to rest undisturbed in our graves. But it is only too probable that the "subject" in whom Mr. Allen and Mr. Robert Sawyer subscribed for shares, was supplied by a professional body-snatcher, such as Dickens drew in A Tale of Two Cities. In 1832 legislation contrived a measure which ruined those "honest tradesmen," the Resurrectionists, but Bob Sawyer and Ben Allen lived in the palmy days of Burke and Hare, when mortsafes were invented, and iron coffins were in use, and the villagers of Darnick guarded Lady Scott's tomb in Dryburgh. These facts throw rather a lurid light on the medical student of the period.

Quite as remote from modern practice are Grummer and his posse comitatus, and the elegant crown on his mace at Ipswich. The old-fashioned watchman guarded nocturnal London in Mr. Dickens's day, as in Shakespeare's. Almost the earliest of the present Editor's recollections is the hearing

VOL. I
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