Page:Works of Charles Dickens, ed. Lang - Volume 3.djvu/17

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INTRODUCTION.

to Dickens, was "realising immense profits to its publishers," while he obtained only a a paltry, wretched, miserable sum, not equal to what is every day paid for a novel that sells fifteen hundred copies at most." "The slavery and drudgery of another work on the same journeyman terms" oppressed him ; he was "struggling in old toils, and wasting his energies in the very height and freshness of his fame, and the best part of his life, to fill the pockets of others." Early in 1839, Oliver having run his course, Dickens resigned the magazine, and, in June, 1840, the agreement about Barnaby Rudge was rescinded, Dickens paying £2250 for the copyright, and remainder of Oliver.

Sic vos non vobis nidificatis aves!

Dickens made his distressing agreement before Pickwick had attained its full bloom. He mortgaged a noble part of himself and his future: he stands as a warning to successful beginners, and we can never tell how much better even than they are his early works would have been, had he estimated himself and his value with more confidence.

Dickens's own account of his initial idea in Oliver is "to show the principle of Good surviving through every adverse circumstance." His purpose was not to mate his thieves attractive, like Macheath, Dick Turpin, and Jack Sheppard. "What charms," he asks, "has the everyday existence of a thief for the young and ill-disposed, what allurements for he most jolter-headed of juveniles?" Dickens might have known boys better. The present writer, when aged twelve, was within an inch (as he well remembers) of faking the fogle of an elderly gentleman as he walked down Hanover Street in Edinburgh! So much temptation there was to a false following of Mr. Charley Bates. Reflecting that, if I were detected, the worthy Beak might hesitate to accept my