Page:Works of Charles Dickens, ed. Lang - Volume 4.djvu/14

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resemble Hablot Browne's Mr. Squeers. This fact, or myth, then, was current during the progress of Nickleby. Now, in 1891, Mr. Cope's biography tells how that artist met a coach- driver in Yorkshire, who told how Dickens and Cruikshank went to see a schoolmaster named Shaw, and how Cruikshank sketched that pedagogue. "There was bad schools," said the coachman, "but Shaw's was not bad; Dickens ruined him," having been misinformed by a dismissed under-teacher, and cavalierly treated by Mr. Shaw himself.

There is, of course, no reason to suppose that Mr. Squeers was meant as a likeness of any one person, but the original story of the caricature, retailed to Mr. Cope, who mixed up Cruikshank and Browne, is obviously contemporary. Dickens described his Yorkshire adventures to Mr. Forster, and his letter was adapted into the preface of 1848. He thought that he had injured the Squeerses and their nefarious business, and no doubt he did, to a great extent, paralyze their industry. But human wickedness and folly are pertinacious, and the present editor has recently heard of an existing establishment only too much on the lines of Dotheboys Hall. Indeed, as long as masters, even at public schools, keep a kind of hotel, and make a profit out of the boys' food and accommodation, boys will not, always and everywhere, have decent and wholesome dinners and breakfasts. While parents and friends have to give boys money merely that they may buy food fit for human consumption, there is obviously something extremely wrong, and dangerously wrong, in the system. On this head I could bring very disagreeable evidence on unimpeachable authority not that of the boys, who have been heard to say that, bad as the food is, "the company makes up for it."

Dickens began Nickleby on the eve of his birthday, in February, 1838. We find him once complaining in his second