Page:Works of Charles Dickens, ed. Lang - Volume 1.djvu/567

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"Bill Stumps His Mark."

Modern archæologists are not always wiser than Mr. Pickwick or Monkbarns with his A.D.L.L. The Bath inscription on a leaden plate has been read in ways infinitely funny. The Brough Stone was de ciphered as Runic, before it was discovered to be Greek; and, even after that discovery, part of it was interpreted, "Oh, Boy, none regretted thee more than they who prematurely buried thee!" as if a natural mistake had been made in the case of the Fat Boy.


The Election.

The Corrupt Practice Bill has taken a good deal of fun out of elections. Bribery is now collective: constituencies are "nursed;" and candidates, in place of standing drinks at their own expense, promise to enrich the voters at the expense of other people. "Progress," in this direction, is very gratifying.


The Ghost.

Dickens's attitude towards what are generally known as "ghosts" was much like Sir Walter Scott's, as described by Lockhart. He was interested, and, like Scott, he probably did not care to lay down any hard-and-fast line, beyond which he would not go. There are curious anecdotes in Mr. Forster's Life of Dickens (vol. ii. 286; the Charles Dickens Edition). Thus, in All the Year Round, No. 125, Dickens published Mr. Heaphy's ghost story, as related by Lord Lytton. Mr. Heaphy then sent in his own version (compare No. 125 and No. 127). Dickens had inserted a date at random in the first version, namely, September 13th, and though Mr. Heaphy had never told the date of his adventure, Dickens had hit on it. By a similar coincidence, he "spotted" on the card the winners of the first three races at a Doncaster meeting (Op. cit. ii. 138), knowing nothing of the merits of the horses. He also records a pre-cognitive dream of a lady in a red shawl, who called herself " Miss Napier." Next day he was introduced to her, red shawl and all. "But for the strong restraining power of his common sense, he might have fallen into the follies of spiritualism," says Mr. Forster. Dickens, of course, was contemporary with the enigmatic David Dunglas Home, whose spiritualistic theory is difficile à croire, but whose performances are not easy to explain. In its proper place, a curious unpublished anecdote of a Dickensian ghost will be given.


"The Marquis of Granby."

The most interesting account of this hero's prowess is in Mr. Carlyle's Frederick the Great, in the description of the Battle of Minden. As Lord George Sackville, the marquis's superior in command, declined to order and lead a cavalry charge, the marquis's conduct shone by comparison. In Scotland, after Culloden, the name of Sackville was reckoned only too appropriate.