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little, crouching figure, with an old broom, to the miserable grave-yard. The iron-barred gate, constantly closed, shut the child out from the wretched enclosure; yet he softly swept the step to it and made the archway clean, soliloquizing with the muttered reason, "He was very good to me.'
Then Poor Jo himself fell grievously ill. Some kindly care came to him at the last.
"Jo, did you ever know a prayer?" he was asked. "Never knowed nothink, sir."
"Not so much as one short prayer?"
"No sir. Nothink at all. Mr. Chadband, he was aprayin' wunst at Mr. Sangsby's, and I heerd him; but he sounded as if he was a speakin' to hisself, and not to me. Different times there was other gentlemen come down to Tom-all Alone's a-praying', but they all mostly said as t'other ones prayed wrong, and all mostly sounded to be a-talkin' to theirselves. We never knowed nothink. never knowed what it was all about."
Jo took a long time to say this. Then a relapse into stupor befell him. Suddenly he roused and tried to leave his bed.
"Stay, Jo! What now?"
"It's time for me to go down to that there berrying ground, sir," he returns with a wild look.
"Lie down and tell me.
Where they laid him as good to me indeed he was.
What burying ground, Jo?
was very good to me; very It's time fur me to go down.
to that there berryin' ground, sir, and ask to be put along with him. I wants to tell him that I'm as poor as him, now, and have come to be laid along with him."
"By and by, Jo. By and by."
"Ah! P'raps they wouldn't do it, if I was to go myself. But, will you promise to have me took there, sir, and laid along with him?
"I will, indeed.”
"Thank 'ee, sir. Thank 'ee sir. They'll have to get the key of the gate, afore they can take me in, for it's allus locked. And ther's a step there, as I used to clean with
my broom.-It's turned very, very dark, sir. Is there any light a' comin'?"
The light came fast upon the dark, benighted way.
Then, added the writer, "Dead, your Majesty.-Dead, my lords and gentlemen.-Dead, Right Reverends and Wrong Reverends of every order. Dead, men and women, born with heavenly compassion in your hearts. And dying thus around us every day."
Indeed, Dickens could hardly be anything other than dramatic. Personally, his life throughout, he was impelled by the actor's instincts and used any available means for their expression. Early in his career he was eager to achieve the visible triumphs of the stage. "The fever of the footlights was always with him," wrote his son, Fielding Dickens. At twenty years of age, only illness prevented him from trying for an engagement at the Covent Garden Theatre. Ten years later he confided to Forster, an intimate friend, "I have often thought that I should certainly have been as successful on the boards as between them," At that time, except for the protestations of friends he would have taken to the public platform and become a dramatic impersonator of characters in his own writings in whom he found particular artistic satisfaction.
As it turned out, fourteen years later he did become a public reader, and you know how extraordinarily successful he was. His reading of the murder scene in Oliver Twist, it is said, was so "dramatic in its intensity that his audience was thrilled with the horror of it, and he worked himself up to a pitch of excitement which rendered him utterly prostrate" for some time.
Then, the themes to which Dickens gave his impassioned style and dramatic methods,-these were almost always under the sway of sentiments that are fundamental and universal. They were illustrated by events and situations, moods and actions, ranging all the way from the most absurd comedy to the profoundest pathos and tragedy. Throughout the score or more of our author's separate writings, we are constantly under the pressure of one form
or another of emotion; at times serene, but generally restless, passing with frequent transitions from laughter to tears, and back again; now evoking boisterous merriment over the utter ridiculousness of person or event, and then, perforce, carrying one into the midst of scenes filled with sadness, suffering or, as may easily be, with repulsive horror. A critic goes so far as to declare that Dickens "never rests in a natural style or in simple narrative;" that "he writes but satires or elegies; that he only rails or weeps; "-and that "this sensibility can hardly have more than two issues-laughter and tears." “There is no writer who knows better how to touch and melt;" and at the same time he is "the most railing, the most comic, the most jocose of English authors."
We can not now go over the pages of Dickens's books, and select from their munificent material, adequate illustrations of the judgment just given. It may be said, however, that if we were confined to a shelf of Dickens's book from which the "Pickwick Papers" were excluded, we would find it oftener true than we may think, that, while we should meet with much fun, we should discover it to be not just fun, but comedy somehow more or less akin to sadness, and often, indeed, in close association with grief or tragedy.
In "Pickwick " we have almost pure comedy, if we pass by the stories which are mechanically inserted among the "Papers." Edwin Pugh in a suggestive, yet, as a whole I think, mistaken critique of Dickens, excellently describes "Pickwick Papers as being irradiated by "unexampled high spirits"; as having "inexhaustible vivacity, comic force and inevitable drollery." He also distinguishes the book as being "the best mirror of an age, or an era, in any language; whose value to history alone is incalculable." Chesterton, in his introduction to "Pickwick," reflects that, "It is pleasant to think that in this supreme masterpiece, done in the dawn of his career, Dickens did not try to make pathos, as he did afterwards, a thing quite obvious, infectious and public." "Pickwick," he adds, will always be remembered as the great example of everything that made Dickens great; of
the solemn conviviality of great friendships, of the erratic adventures of old English roads, of the hospitality of old English inns, of the great fundamental kindliness of old English manners."
"Pickwick" having been written, Dickens seems to have decided that fun-making, however much he might indulge in it thereafter, should not either engross or lead his work. He soon became an aggressive reformer, or at least the dramatic portrayer, of the abounding wrongs he found in Society. With but few exceptions, not setting aside even the Christmas Stories, or his semi-autobiography, "David Copperfield," or the quiet recital of "Great Expectations" his books held rather grave and serious themes, to which his ridicule, his irony and satire, his pathos, his emotional intensity were given. He went directly to those social problems which he knew would arouse the most earnest attention. He applied his great powers especially to the help of the poor and the oppressed, the misunderstood and the disregarded members of society. Ruskin who was freely critical concerning Dickens's writings because of the sensationalism and emotional extravagance he found in them, and who wished that Dickens "could limit his brilliant exaggeration to works written only for public amusement," yet added this judgment when writing of "Hard Times,"-" But let us not lose the use of Dickens's wit and insight because he chooses to speak in a circle of stage fire. He is entirely right in his main drift and purpose in every book he has written, but especially Hard Times.' This book should be studied with close and earnest care by persons interested in social questions. If they examine all the evidence, it will appear that his view was the finally right one grossly and sharply told."
During the latter part of Dickens's life, aside from what he did in his writings, we are told that he "was always tilting at some public abuse." Wherever there seemed an outlet for his altruistic zeal" it was freely used.
SPECIAL BOOKS OF GOOD CHEER.
Much more should be added here, if we would make an adequate memorial of Charles Dickens. But we can not
go much farther now. I should like to turn over with you the pages of those volumes which I have just signalized with special mention. This would be a particularly agreeable close to what I have made, I fear, rather a serious, if not sombre, lecture.-I specialized "Pickwick," the "Christmas Stories," "David Copperfield" and "Great Expectations." These books have made Dickens that writer of the last century to whom, more than to any other, multitudes have turned as the friend who has brought cheer to them. Lord Rosebery has distinguished Dickens as the man who taught a generation which was not skilled in this pleasure, how to laugh. Any one who feels depressed," he said " has only got to take down his Pickwick and read a few pages possibly that he knows by heart already," and he will find himself laughing. Thackeray called the "Christmas Carol," a national benefit, and, to every man who reads it, a personal kindness." Forster spoke of "the cheery voice of faith and hope in the "Carol," ringing from one end of the island to the other." "The Cricket on the Hearth" has become "a household word," and "a fireside inspiration." fact, it has been humorously said, "Dickens invented Christmas." In "David Copperfield," named the ablest and clearest of Dickens's books, we find, more than any where else, a frank and generally agreeable revelation of Dickens himself. Then, there is the serene yet ironic and would-be cynical "Great Expectations" of the elder years, characterized as "always sweet and sane in humor," "the most humanly moving of his novels. "Great Expectations" is the book which, Chesterton declares, put Dickens into spiritual association with Thackeray.
But, inadequate as what I have been saying is, enough has been said, to recall Dickens as the writer in the near past who, richly endowed with a gift for intimacy with. common humankind, disclosed men to themselves and to one another in the plenitude of their complex life, and, therewith, did much not only to brighten their days, but, also, to inspire many to seek better lives for themselves, and to help their fellow-men onward and upward.