Page:Works of Charles Dickens, ed. Lang - Volume 1.djvu/21

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xi
INTRODUCTION.

Isthmian, or the Sports; Mr. Snodgrass to the Savile, among the other poets. Garraway's itself is gone, Troja fuit, and nobody dines at a tavern except American admirers of Dr. Johnson. Bath has, more or less, come into repute again, but it is not Mr. Pickwick's or Miss Austen's Bath, and Mr. Bantam shares the same repose as Beau Nash; while Mr. Wardle is as dead as Squire Western, and the daughter of a Mr. Wardle would never dream of passing her nuptial night in her father's house, as Mrs. Trundle does. Blazer no longer carries a tall brass-headed stick; "Bails" have vanished with serjeants-at-law; and the Fleet was pulled down ten years after Pickwick appeared. The tortoise-shell lancets of the young surgeons are out of use, and an amazing number of new scientific instruments has usurped their place. Some of the ancient Inns of Court have been improved off the face of the earth, and endless miles of stucco now occupy the ancient green fields. In brief, Mr. Pickwick would be lost in London, and feel himself, among New Women, as forlorn as a revivified mummy of the ancient Empire. The railway has made him and his voyages anachronisms; his liquor he would not be allowed to obtain without reproach; his garb is as antiquated as chain-mail. With Mr. Pickwick we inhabit "another world than ours."

Nevertheless, the world reads and quotes Mr. Pickwick. He and his friends have entered into the national memory; we cannot but quote Pickwick on many an opportune occasion. As Mr. Forster writes, "When faith is lost in that possible combination of eccentricities and benevolences, shrewdness and simplicity, good sense and jollity, all that suggests the ludicrous and nothing that suggests contempt for it, . . . the mistake committed will not be one of merely critical misjudgment."