The Works of Charles Dickens/Volume 29
The Works of Charles Dickens
In Thirty-two Volumes.
With Introductions, General Essay, and Notes
by Andrew Lang.
Printed from the Edition that was carefully corrected by the Author in 1867 and 1868.
By CHARLES DICKENS
WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES
In One Volume
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY HARRY FURNISS
LONDON: CHAPMAN & HALL, LD.
NEW YORK : CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
The Uncommercial Traveller, a set of essays, on occasion autobiographical, was begun by Dickens in 1860, for his serial, All the Year Round, and was continued, on occasion, "till the last autumn of his life." The first paper, on the wreck of the Royal Charter, records a visit to the scene of the wreck, made on the day before Old Year's Day, in 1859. His constant interest in the condition of the poor caused his visit to Wapping Workhouse; on this pilgrimage the view of "Mr. Baker's trap" may have supplied hints for the gloomier river-scenes in Our Mutual Friend. "The Cheap Theatre" was useful in the matter of the stage-struck Mr. Wopsle of Great Expectations. The "witches" are a ghastly replica, modem and urban, of the rural hags in The Bride of Lammermoor.
There are many touches which combine in Dickens's other works. "Refreshments for Travellers," a social satire as necessary as any, repeats itself partially in Mugby Junction. But no wit can "laugh away" the stale sponge-cakes, shining brown patties of unascertained contents, and sandwiches that have long been pining under an exhausted receiver. We "cannot dine on barley-sugar," or on toffee, but such are our casual "refreshments." When satire cannot touch these ills, how vain appear the loftier aspirations of the satirist! Dickens had slight faith in "the Hotel Millennium."
In "Travelling Abroad," the small boy, with his dream of owning a certain house, is, of course, Dickens himself. He had fixed on Gadshill House, as a paradise, when his father lived at Chatham, and when he himself was about eight years old. He knew all about the Fat Knight's adventure even then, and he purchased the place in 1856.
The essay on "City of London Churches" revives a question which often puzzles the reader of Dickens. In the Shepherd, in Stiggins, in Chadband, in the passage about the hero's youth in Little Dorrit, and in many other places, he displays his hatred of certain sides of Calvinism, and of Dissent. When did Dickens, as a boy, suffer so much from greasy tedious preachers, and from "tidings o' damnation"? Neither of his parents, neither Mr. Micawber nor Mrs. Nickleby, is recorded to have been of a gloomy piety. We do not know when or how Dickens was brought so much into unwilling contact with degenerate descendants of the Puritans. He detested them and ridiculed them: clearly he had endured much from them, but we do not know when, where, or wherefore. Was it at Wellington House Academy, under the rule of the Celtic Mr. Jones? As a child, in earlier days, he was carried "to platform assemblages," and slept under Boanerges. Who carried him to such scenes? Was it his teacher in childhood, "a young Baptist minister," Mr. Giles, whom he does not appear to have disliked? Probably the blame lies between Jones and Giles: Mr. Micawber was certainly no fanatic. Thus frightened away from some forms of Christianity, and only sentimentally attracted, at one moment, by the Church, Dickens worked out a creed of his own, sincere but informal. The arithmetical devotee, in this chapter on churches, with his "Thirteen thousand pounds," to which the child added in a weak human voice, "Seventeen and fourpence," may have lent a trait to Mr. Pumblechook.
"Shy Neighbourhoods" illustrate Dickens's very original remedy for insomnia, of which the Faculty, we may presume, does not approve. Going to bed tired, and failing to sleep, he did not, like Wordsworth, count the visionary flocks, nor adopt any such devices. He merely got up, and walked endlessly through the night. It was a remedy apt to kill most men of weary brains. He tells how, walking half asleep, he composed thousands of verses, and spoke with fluency a language almost lost to him in his waking condition. His intellect was as remarkable in its abnormal as in its normal condition, and psychologists might have worse themes than the less normal psychical states of Dickens, as of Shelley, Tennyson, George Sand, Alfred de Musset, Scott, Goethe, and many others. Dickens has left some very curious notes on experiences of his own, in the subconscious region out of which genius appears to rise. But these notes are scattered, as mere curiosities, among the less curious things which he observed in his nocturnal rambles. Among "Tramps" he is out again in the sunlit world, and his remarks prove that the tramp has forgotten nothing.
"Dullborough Town" is Rochester: "all my early readings and early recollections dated from this place," he said; and from Chatham, where the field and hawthorns of his infancy were devoured, as is usual, by a railway station. "I suppose it is all built over now," said the English child wistfully, when first informed about the amenities of Heaven.
Returning to dreams, in " Night Walks," Dickens asks, un consciously repeating Swift, "whether the sane and insane are not equal at night, as the sane lie a-dreaming?" In dreams we are usually insane, but, once in a way, we are persons of genius, and the sleeping outruns, in creative power, the waking mind, or, as in the experience of Dickens's own, slips the limits of space and time.
In "Nurse's Stories," Dickens proves that he had a useful, though at the time uncomfortable, attendant for an imaginative child. Probably the young woman, with her variants of popular tales (so interesting to the FolkLorist), could not guess that she was narrating to a babe whose fancy made her legends into pictures hardly to be discerned from reality. "Captain Murderer" occurs in Grimm, and in other collections; but he is much more appalling here, whether because the nurse had a good version, or because Dickens had a marvellous imagination. Terque quaterque beati must the boys have been, the Steerforths and Traddleses, to whom the young Dickens told stories at Wellington House Academy. The legend of Chips is worthy of Poe, and, indeed, Miss Mercy, the nurse, had obviously a true genius as a narrator. Her habit of localising all the romances in her own family was like the method of De Foe. A man who, like Dickens, confesses to a hankering after the Morgue, has no locus standi when he complains of the ingenious Mercy.
Dickens wanders through his memories, as he wandered through country and town; he revisits his past, as he revisited Dullborough; and, in "Medicine Men of Civilisation," the Italian anecdote concerns his dead friend, Angus Fletcher, who appears as the benevolent Englishman in "The Italian Prisoner." Dickens hits at his old enemies, his old abuses— the House of Commons, the neglect of children (and, indeed, the universal neglect of everybody); he denounces street ruffians, and tells how, as a dutiful citizen, he brought a blasphemous young woman to justice. The essays set forth the actual Dickens as clearly as Montaigne appears in his own pages. The author's observation, kindness, humour; his pleasure in the good deeds of others (as in the first paper); his indignation against public indifference and Pangloss; his reminiscences of the childhood which dwelt so vividly in his brain; his delight in the kind of nature which most attracted—him human nature—are all conspicuous in The Uncommercial Traveller. It is an epitome of Dickens; none of his greater qualities, scarcely one of his blemishes, is absent. He is still the man who began by "Sketches by Boz," the lover of the open air, the un-bookish naturalist of human life, the student of tramps, cheap-jacks, sailors on shore, and plyers of odd trades in shy neighbourhoods. His art, as a writer, has greatly improved; the mechanical humour of 1830-35 has been worked off; but he remains what he was, what he showed himself to be, before Mr. Pickwick first beamed upon mankind, before his creator's name was the most widely known in modern English literature. There is development in Dickens, but there is no essential modification.
Poor Mercantile Jack
Refreshments for Travellers
The Great Tasmania's Cargo
City of London Churches
The Italian Prisoner
The Calais Night Mail
Some Recollections of Mortality
Bound for the Great Salt Lake
The City of the Absent
An Old Stage-coaching House
The Boiled Beef of New England
In the French-Flemish Country
Medicine Men of Civilisation
A Small Star in the East
A Little Dinner in an Hour
On an Amateur Beat
A Fly-leaf in a Life
A Plea for Total Abstinence
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
The Cheap Theatre
The City Personage
NOTES ON THE UNCOMMERCIAL
The Royal Charter, homeward bound from Australia, struck and was wrecked in the darkness before the dawn, on October 26, 1859, near Llanallgo, Moelfra, Anglesea.
"This marking custom."
Learned works have been written, in French and English, on tattooing. Dickens's guess at its origin, in a "desire to be identified," is so far correct, that, among some very low races, as the Australians, tribal marks are tattooed. These, in a rude way, give a man's totem name and address, and to do this may have been the original purpose of the art. It soon becomes mainly decorative in intention, as among Maoris, Burmese, and Polynesians. Seamen have adopted it, from their acquaintance with tattooing races, but it is quite as common in the French army, and the idea of identification cannot recommend it to the much-tattooed criminal classes.
POOR MERCANTILE JACK.
"Hogarth drew her exact likeness."
Dickens probably refers to the procuress, in The Harlot's Progress.
"The very queer small boy."
See the first chapter of Mr. Forster's Life of Dickens for the author's early desire to acquire Gadshill.
CITY OF LONDON CHURCHES.
"Angelica."No doubt this lady is the Flora of Little Dorrit, and, in a more chivalrous light, the Dora of David Copperfield. See Forster, chap. iii.
"The chopped-up murdered man."
Remains of a corpse were found deposited on a pier of one of the bridges. No discovery as to their provenance was ever made; and as, if a murder had been done, it would have been easy to sink the fragments in the river, another theory was popular. The affair was supposed to be a practical joke, by some successors of Messrs. Sawyer and Allen.
"Sir, I can frequently fly."
This subjective impression, in dreams and lunacy, might be the origin of the world-wide tales of "levitation." Witnesses, however, have deposed on oath (chiefly at trials for witchcraft, and in processes of canonisation) to having observed the phenomenon. The Acta Sanctorum are full of cases. See, too, "Recueil de Documents relatifs à la Lévitation du Corps Humain," by M. Albert de Rochas, Leymarie. Paris, 1897.
" Entering my friend's rooms."
The sentence is destitute of an apodosis. By deleting "and " in the last line, a semblance of construction may be restored to the text.
"Never involved any ghostly fancies."
This omission, on the part of De Foe, may seem singular to others, as it did to Dickens, for no author ever dealt more freely in ghosts than De Foe. But his always were, or were thought to be, "evidential," and it has lately been proved that Mrs. Yeal's was a real "case," not an ingenious fiction. De Foe seems only to have handled ghosts as matters of recorded observation, not as materials of romance.
This appears to be a decorated variant of "The Robber Bridegroom" (Grimm, xl.). For an English version alluded to by Shakespeare, see Mr. Hunt's Grimm, vol. i. p. 389. Dickens, or his nurse, greatly improved upon the original donnée, as it exists in printed collections.
THE CALAIS NIGHT MAIL.
"Rich and rare were the gems she wore."
Perhaps no author but Dickens has observed how a refrain of a song is apt to haunt the sufferer from sea-sickness.
"It is unnecessary to name Her."Here is Dora or Flora again. This passion flourished when Dickens was about twenty-one.
MEDICINE MEN OF CIVILISATION.
This was Dickens's name for his friend Angus Fletcher. He died in 1862. See Forster, book iii. chap, vii., and the essay on "The Italian Prisoner."
A LITTLE DINNER IN AN HOUR.
Namelesston, where this awful dinner was served up, seems to be Brighton, if we may judge from allusions to George IV.
"Every schoolboy knows."
Probably Dickens does not mean Lord Macaulay by Mr. Barlow, though he cites Macaulay's favourite phrase.
PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, LONDON AND BECCLES
- The anecdote is in Mr. Forster's chapter of "Personal Characteristics; it is the story "Miss Napier," and might with a struggle, be explained as retrospective hallucination of memory