Page:Works of Charles Dickens, ed. Lang - Volume 8.djvu/17

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

find his way. The Revolutions in Switzerland excited his Protestant enthusiasm, and distracted his attention. In November his need of streets took him to Paris. Here he read part of Dombey aloud to some friends, and "old Mrs. Marcet, who is devilish 'cute, guessed directly that little Paul would die." The conjecture did not require Satanic ingenuity.

In October, 1846, the first part was published, and sold much more freely, by 12,000 copies, than Chuzzlewit had done. A charwoman, who heard the tale read aloud, seems to have belonged to the modern German school of criticism, for she could hardly believe that "one man had put together Dombey" No doubt her reasons were as good as those of the assailants of Homeric unity. The novel was published, as a whole, by Messrs Bradbury and Evans, in April, 1848.

As we have said, Dickens had his germinal idea before leaving England in 1844. We have alluded to his analogy with Hogarth, in this idea it once more presents itself. As in Hogarth's sets of plates, the Apprentices, the Rake, the Harlot, Dickens's idea was moral. He would draw the Proud Man's Progress, as in Chuzzlewit he had designed the Selfish Man's. It may be questioned whether any such didactic scheme is a good foundation for a novel. The idea is almost necessarily exaggerated, as in Hogarth.

"Why, in the name of Glory, was he proud?" we may ask, as Keats, in The Pot of Basil, asks about his "ledgermen." Any one who chooses can find grounds for pride, as good as Mr. Dombey's; but he inevitably tends to become a type of pride, not a human being. We cannot readily believe in his inordinate arrogance, which is almost his only quality. His treatment of his second wife (the second marriage was an afterthought) would seem strained in a French monarch of the ancien régime. Louis XIV. was much more human than