Page:Works of Charles Dickens, ed. Lang - Volume 4.djvu/17

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inevitably have conducted herself as she does. Mr. Forster thought Miss Nickleby based on Miss Austen's Miss Bates, but this only proves Dickens's verisimilitude. He was no bookworm, and had not yet read Miss Austen. It may seem absurd to call Mrs. Nickleby the chief creation of the book, but, with John Browdie, she is the least remote from ordinary experience. The heroic Browdie is always exhilarating; so is his bride, who certainly cannot be called a nonentity. Miss Fanny Squeers is beyond criticism; as Leigh Hunt said, her celebrated letter is entirely worthy of Smollett's hand in the epistles in Humphrey Clinker. The whole of the Crummles family and company are, probably, the most delicious and good-humoured pictures of cabotins, and of cabotinage, that have ever been painted. "Crummles is not a Prussian;" how often one thinks of the line in reading the puffs and paragraphs about actors and novelists! Mr. Crummles's walk down the street in the character of a gloomy despot; his farewell to Nicholas; his description of his pony (whose vulgarity proved fatal); his real pump; his "infant phenomenon;" everything about the manager is essentially true to the nature of the cabotin, yet genial and kind. His company, gentlemen and ladies; his accomplished consort; his conduct when the London manager appears in his theatre; everything is simply exquisite. No doubt Thackeray remembered this visit of the London manager, in Pendennis, when The Fotheringay makes her effect. The two scenes are well worth comparing, though Thackeray's strollers are as original as those of Dickens, and Dickens would have made a different hand of Mr. Bowes.

The school and Mr. Squeers are, of course, unique. Squeers is alone in his combination of the grotesque and the terrible. He "has given me medicines to make me love him." I confess to a tenderness for Mr. Squeers, especially when he is a little