Page:Works of Charles Dickens, ed. Lang - Volume 4.djvu/16

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


humanity is plain, practical, and manly. It is quite untainted with sentimentality; "perhaps too sweeping a phrase. "We find no monsters of unmitigated and unredeemable villany;" perhaps Arthur Gride and Ralph Nickleby had not blossomed fully. Monks was admitted to border on the villain of melodrama. The young ladies were confessed nonentities. Still, the criticism of the two great Reviews accepted Dickens, and proved that he had already established himself as a classic, so far as a contemporary writer under thirty can be classical.

Nickleby was amazingly popular; was translated in Germany and France (not with success in France); was pirated, and "Terryfied," as Scott used to say—made into an acting play before it was finished. Dickens expressed his indignation in the scene between Nicholas and the hack adapter; but he had detachment of mind enough to be amused by the piece acted at the Adelphi, Mrs. Keeley, as Smike, being, obviously, a lady in perfect health. But these outrages of adapters, with the wonted American piracies, stimulated Dickens's interest in the question of copyright. Of his Transatlantic efforts in a good, but then forlorn, cause, we shall hear more.

Nickleby deserved all its good fortune. It is a pleasure merely to enumerate the names of the new friends, or enemies, to whom we were introduced. Since Scott no man has created so many fictitious people, as real, to the right readers, as persons of flesh and blood. Mrs. Nickleby at once became a proverb for her delightful maundering inconsequences, and syllogisms based on the least essential of analogies. These are scarcely exaggerated, and Mr. Forster hints that Mrs. Nickleby was the real wife of the immortal Micawber. Her love adventure is, of course, burlesque; but, granting the existence of the mad old admirer, Mrs. Nickleby would