Page:Works of Charles Dickens, ed. Lang - Volume 1.djvu/18

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kindly intellect of Dickens, Mr. Pickwick mellowed and matured. Where had Dickens seen any one like this genial sage? No answer is suggested, but possibly Don Quixote, and Dr. Johnson when bound for a frolic with Beauclerk and Langton, may have lent suggestions. Sam Weller, too, is a kind of Sancho, with his proverbs and his anecdotes; also a kind of Greatheart, leading the Pilgrims through a world by them not very distinctly realised. The introduction of Sam gave the book its first bound into popularity. The disciples had their characters marked for them by the original conception; they were the Poet, the Sportsman, and the Lover. Sam was absolutely original and beguiling.

For the rest, the book already shows all Dickens's characteristics. Humour, high spirit, pronounced middle-class Liberalism, hatred of abuses (as of the Factory system), contempt for the "Talking Shop," knowledge of life in walks untrodden by romance, fantastic supernaturalism, pathos, and the black gloom of Dismal Jemmy, are all present in Pickwick. Here is even the love of locomotion, and of walking twenty-five miles after a wedding breakfast.

England was enraptured. Pickwick was in every hand, in every mouth. Men called for it on their death-beds. This was all before culture came and the thin film of sham refine ment now spread over abysses of literary ignorance and critical imbecility. Pickwick is now distasteful to readers who would find Smollett and Fielding at least as little to their minds, but who have never lived with Dickens's masters, Fielding and Smollett. His temperament is unintelligible to young scribes who gloomily peruse Tolstoï in French. He is disdainfully called a caricaturist, as if there were no room in life and art for broad, yet genial, caricature. The young lady in fur-topped boots is now dismissed as "second-rate;"