Page:Works of Charles Dickens, ed. Lang - Volume 4.djvu/18

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in liquor. He has furnished our language with many admirable sayings, and is a kind of Pecksniff, plus brutality. When he catches Smike in London at the very first cast of the umbrella, how the reader trembled, if he was a small boy when he read! Mr. Squeers, however, is a good husband and father; in fact, a model of courtesy in the domestic circle. This may be attributed to the powerful character of Mrs. Squeers, and to the engaging filial qualities of Wackford. Again, the Kenwigses have their admirers, especially Morleena; and who but loves the philological excursions of Mr. Lillyvick? Enfin, it seems impossible that these scenes and characters, so rich, so new, so humorous, so genial or so terrible, should ever lose the salt with which they are savoured. And Mr. Mantalini is immortal! The story, the plot, is, as usual at this period, the weak point. Consciously or unconsciously, Dickens has criticised himself. He makes the landlord say to Nicholas, about Mr. Crummles, "He'll like your way of talking, I know." Indeed, the precocious eloquence of Nicholas is precisely what Mr. Crummles was born to like. The hero is the inevitable hero, the jeune premier, Henry Morton or Frank Osbaldistone, in the early nineteenth century. What Scott said of his own heroes, Dickens might have repeated. But there is vigour and excellence in the scene with Sir Mulberry Hawk. The Hawk and Verisopht group may be abandoned to criticism. It is not even certain whether the young lord is a peer or not—"Lord Verisopht," or "Lord Frederick Verisopht." Sir Mulberry should have been more of an adept than to conduct his love-affairs on his principles. Pyke and Pluck do not stand well beside Wagg and Wenham. Dickens was describing people whom he did not know; he always rather shrank from the advances of persons of conventional rank. The age was still somewhat "rowdy," but even