Page:Works of Charles Dickens, ed. Lang - Volume 8.djvu/16

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had doubtless evolved out of his physical aspect. Browne's sheet of sketches for Mr. Dombey looks like a collecton of criminal butlers. Indeed, Mr. Dombey's character, as a merchant prince with a morgue exceeding what is fabled of French marquises before the Revolution, is not an easy character to believe in or realise.

Beginning hopefully, Dickens found "Christmas in his way," or rather his Christmas book, The Battle of Life. It is far from the most successful of these volumes. He was harassed, while he worked at it and Dombey alternately, or at both together, by the want of his " magic lantern," the spectacle of London or Paris streets by night. The little bronze fetishes of his writing-table he could, and did, cause to be sent over from England, but he missed the crowds of figures moving under the lamps of London. To this, at least, he attributed an unfamiliar lack of rapid spontaneity and fertile invention which was perhaps due to some physical cause. His hand was out, as in all arts, crafts, and even pastimes, the expertest hand occasionally must be. He vacillated; he now tried Dombey, now the other story; he despaired of his Christmas book; in brief, he was nervous, worried, and overworked. He slept ill, and thought of being cupped to relieve a sense of giddiness and malaise. Of such symptoms we find Scott complaining, in his days of toil after his ruin. But Dickens was young, his constitution was vigorous, if greatly overtaxed; he still had Copperfield, perhaps his best work, in front of him.

But a critic who must confess that he finds Dombey unsympathetic, may attribute what he must regard as comparative failure to Dickens's terribly overwrought condition in 1846. He suffered from nightmares, in which The Battle of Life appeared as a suite of rooms whence he could not