Page:Works of Charles Dickens, ed. Lang - Volume 4.djvu/20

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remember his concurrent labours on Oliver Twist and other work, its excellence is hardly short of the marvellous.

The book needs no antiquarian notes. We are still on the further side of that railway cutting which divides the new world from the old. Spencers and boots are worn; old Gride even ties his hair in a ribbon; powder is not unknown; the coal-scuttle bonnet conceals the faces of the fair. People seem to go for health, as in the last century, to Kensington Gravel Pits. But the modern Shakespearian has already arisen, with his essay on the probable character of the Nurse's husband, in Romeo and Juliet. Mr. Mantalini already pronounces "outrageously" as "outrigeously," in the modern cockney manner. Imprisonment for debt is still a favourite text, and the Edinburgh reviewer gives a painful anecdote of this useless barbarism. Nickleby overcame the earlier hesitations of Sydney Smith, who was asked by Mr. William Longman to meet the author, a thing he greatly desired. Dickens, about the same time, made the acquaintance of Lady Holland; but his chief friends were still actors, artists, and men of letters, like Macready, Cattermole, Maclise, and Talfourd. He never specially studied "society," apparently not agreeing with Lockhart that the comedy of society was the best, and the actresses beyond comparison the prettiest. Fortunately, Thackeray was about to undertake the task naturally uncongenial to Dickens.