"Christmas stories" by Charles Dickens (стр. 5 из 9)

… It is not certainly by these lighter efforts that Charles Dickens ought to be judged. The two characteristics to which he owes his reputation are beyond all doubt his sentiment, and his share of that humor which really forms a part of sentiment, though it is often considered as independent of it. As a sentimentalist, Charles Dickens in his best moments has not often been surpassed in English literature. His bizarre and grotesque literary taste, and the curious light under which he sees almost all the common things and the common events of life, drag him down, in his intervals of weakness into the mere. But, with all his failings and vulgarities, Charles Dickens at his best is a very great author, and a consummate sentimentalist. His attempts to portray or to caricature or to satirize the upper classes of society has always been ludicrous failures. When Charles Dickens enters the drawing-room his genius deserts him, and hurries down the kitchen stairs into more congenial company. One is in danger, accordingly, of forgetting the astonishing poem with which he draws life in its less polished but equally healthy and vigorous forms. His sympathy for poor people is real and unaffected, and helps to make him the great writer he is; and when we look through all the romantic literature of the day, and see how little genuine feeling there is that comes up in power and pathos to Mr. Dickens `s feeling for the poor, we can not but acknowledge the charm that this trait lends to most of Christmas. There is warmth and a cheering in his stories that reminds one of the mistletoe and the holly. Nor is Charles Dickens satisfied with being himself full of warm-heartedness and sentiment. Whatever he is describing, whether it is animate or inanimate nature must fall in with and follow in his train. Orpheus, as the legend goes, made the trees come dancing after him, and Charles Dickens is not above performing the same feat with the chairs and tables, and the rest of the furniture of the room upon which his fancy descends. He has only to strike the night key-note, and immediately a concert begins about him, in which the kettles on the hearth begin to sing, the fire to talk, and the fire-irons and the fender to smile, and all together to chime in with the lyrical poem which forms the chief subject – matter of the chapter. Nobody expects to find in his Christmas stories the sentiment and the humor which might be looked for in larger works, but it is not difficult to discover something to the same tare. Doctor Marigold `s description of little Sophy `s death, for example, is not meant to compete with twenty similar pictures that Charles Dickens has drawn already; but there are little pathetic touches in it which no one in our day, except Mr. Thackeray and Mr. Dickens, is in the habit of producing. Little Nell is a far more finished portrait than little Sophy, but little Sophy bears quite the same relation to little Nell that a Christmas members of “All the Year Round” does to a two-volume novel. …

The pity is that he doesn’t turn his attention annually to something a little better, and on a larger scale. A Christmas books by Charles Dickens used to be one of the entertainments of the season. It has been succeeded by a witty and pleasing chapter in which Charles Dickens attempts to carry off the absurdity and the dead weight of the chapters which he joint-stock company have added to his. The Irish legend which comes second in “Doctor Marigold `s Prescription”, and which is “not to be taken bedtime”, might we believe, be taken with perfect impunity at that or any other hour, even in the most haunted house. The narrative of the composer of popular conundrums, like popular conundrums in general, is very deadly; it is possible the gentlemen who has devoted so much of his valuable time to composing Chapter III in “Doctor Marigold `s Prescription”. Stories a Quakeress, of a detective policeman, and a murderer man `s ghost follow. They are very poor and very stupid, and are only fit for perusal in a railway train at the critical period when all the daily papers have been exhausted, and no book or periodical of any kind is to be had within a hundred miles. “Doctor Marigold `s Prescription is to be had for moderate sum. Charles Dickens is doubtless worth it all; but we very much doubt whether his assistants are worth the paper on which their efforts of genius have been printed.[23]

This was the extra Christmas Number of “All the Year Round,” 1863. Mrs. Lirriper was vastly popular, and Charles Dickens revived her the following year, in “Mrs. Lirriper `s Legacy”. Noticing this the “Saturday Review” wrote: “the twelve page in which, last Christmas, Mr. Dickens made her a familiar friend to so many thousands of people are perhaps the most inimitable of his performances”, but regrettably Charles Dickens had now sentimentalized her – “The last half of Charles Dickens `s contribution to the present number might almost have been written by the authors of the stories which make up the rest, and anything less flattering could scarcely be said” – probably by James Fidzjames Stephen.

Mr. Charles Dickens to the delights of hundreds of thousands is himself again in “Mrs. Lirriper `s Lodgings. The public can have the satisfaction of renewing its old pleasure, and reading something new which Charles Dickens has scarcely, if ever, surpassed. Mr. Lirriper is entitled to rank with Mrs. Nickleby and Mrs. Gamp. And when Charles Dickens writes at his best, it is surprising how very unlike him are all his imitators, and how subtle and numerous are the touches by which he maintains his superiority. There are one or two faults in Mrs. Lirriper, as it seems to us especially her turn for verbal epigrams and little smartnesses of language, which appears inconsistent with the simple ungrammatical shrewdness and volubility of her utterances. The general impression she produces is not that of a woman who would say of the opposition lodgings in her street that the bedrooms advertised night-porter is “stuff”. Nor would she be likely, we should have thought, to say to teeth, “that they are nuisances from the tune we cut them to the tune they cut us.” But if even this criticism is right – and we must acknowledge that the enormous observations of lodgings could alone have revealed to Mr. Dickens so many secrets of the life led in them may have introduced him to epigamic landladies – this is very small blot in a great performance. There are only twelve pages of Mrs. Lirriper, and yet she is so drawn in that show space that we can scarcely believe that there really no such person, and that a fortnight ago no one had ever heard of her. She is one of those creations which show how genius is separated from mere clever analysis. She stands by us like living character, and not, as ever in the works of Charles Dickens is so common, as a peg on which funny drolleries and references to some physical peculiarities is hung. She is quite the lodging-keeper; fills her house as well as she can; hates Mrs. Wozenham, her rival, with a true professional hatred; and yet she has a goodness, and overflow of humor and sense, and benevolence quite her own. The abundance of by-remarks that proceed from her is inexhaustible and although, by the characteristic oddity of expression they are tolerably well connected with her, they are often instances of the drollest and happiest fancies that have come from Charles Dickens. What, for example, can be more far-fetched and yet more true that Mrs. Lirriper `s view of photographs, as “wanting in mellowness as a general rule and making you look like a new-ploughed field”; or the description a boy with a parcel, as “a most impartment young sparrow of a monkey whistling with dirty shoes on the clean steps and playing the harp on the airy railings with a hoop stick”, or her confession, as to Norfolk Street, strand, that “of a summer evening when the dust and waste paper lie in it, and stray children play in it, and a kind of gritty calm and bake in it, and a peal of church bell practicing in the neighborhood, it is truffle dull”. At the same time, it must be owned that any single detached oddity, however happy can not give any idea of successful whole. For in those of Charles Dickens `s works which, in comparison with “Martin Chuzzlewit” or “DavidCopperfield”, are utter failures, there were never wanting some scattered happiness of this sot, and it might be possible to pick a sparkling sentence or two even out the vast waste of “Little Dorrit”. Things become amusing, when said by Mrs. Lirriper or Mrs. Gamp, which would scarcely raise a smile if they came from one of the sharm funny people who in themselves are mere blanks. …

How true to nature, even to their most trivial details, almost every character and every incident in the works of the great novelist whose dust has just been laid to rest, really were, is best known those whose tastes or whose duties led them to frequent the paths of life from which Charles Dickens delighted to draw. But none, except medical men can judge of the rare fidelity with which he followed the great Mother through the devious paths of disease and death. In reading “Oliver Twist”, “Dombey and Son”, or “Chimes”, or even “No Thoroughfare” the physician often felt temped to say, “What a gain it would have been devoted his powers to the medical art!” It must be forgotten that his description of hectic (in Oliver Twist) has found its way into more than one standard work, in both medium and surgery; that he anticipated the clinical researches of Mr. Dax, Broca, and Hughlings Jackson, on the connection of right hemiplegia with aphasia: and that his descriptions of epilepsy in Walter Wilding and of moral and mental insanity in characters too memorous, to mention, show the hand of a master. It is feeble praise to add that he was always just, and generally generous, to our profession. Even his descriptions of our Bob Sawyers and their less reputable friends always wanted the quarseness, and, let us add, the unreality, of Albert Smiths; so that we ourselves could well afford to laugh with the man who sometimes laughed at us, but laughed only as one who loved us. One of the later efforts of his pen was to advance the interests of the East London Hospital for children; and his sympathies were never absent from the sick and suffering of every age. [24]

As usual as Christmas the extra member of Household of Words contains a story, the greater part of which is writing by Charles Dickens, but which on this occasions less a festive tribute to the season that a celebration of the great qualities displayed by our race in recent emergences, Crimean and Indian. The reader may, indeed, object to this description that there is no mention of India or the Crimea in its pages, that its scenery belongs to fable land, and that its characters and incidents are purely imaginary. But the moral elements are the same in either case, in his events and the ideal narrative, and there is so far and identity in both series of transcriptions that the novelist may be charged with a public function and convicted of a patriotic interest in political crisis. In the prevalent spent of criticism we have little doubt that Charles Dickens will be sat on his trill for this great irregularity. It may be argued that “The Perils of Certain English Prisoners and the treasure in women, children, silver and jewels” are a sort of professional or preoccupied ground, and that the novelist has no title to seek in public transactions which are passing under his eyes materials for his idealization, or to furnish romantic types of the actual achievements which his well ascribe to the heroism of the countryman and contemporaries. His readers on the other hand, may reply to this objection that it’s clearly symptomatic of a growing tendency to extend patterned rights over the residue of creation, and so may evince their sympathy with the trespasser. At all events, his offence has its phrase of utility, and is not insignificant as a part of the dispensation by which national virtues are kept alight, and their splendor lives in familiar observation. From the “Iliad” downwards men of imagination have been foremost to display the qualities of their respective races when raced to heroic hates of emotion and action; they have labored to bring these into high relief and to range them monumentally for recognition and honor; and in gathering fame themselves out of such endeavors, they have rendered no pity service to their compatriots, in these days, when the men of imagination for the most part write novels, or, in other words, when the novelists for the most part do the work of men of imagination, there is no reason that we know about why they should neglect this portion of it. Originally the chief minis trance in the behalf was poets, but the poets of this day have hung their harps upon the welowes and taken to celebrate their “soul agonies” and personal inconveniences. The writer who would touch a national theme at all must at least have some claim to be considered national himself – national in his fame or national in his sympathies, and we question if anyone of his harshest critics will deny that this qualification is possessed by Charles Dickens.

… Short and slight as this story is, it enables Charles Dickens to bring out the salient traits so recently displayed by his countrymen and country – women amid hardships and dangerous which have never been existed. Their intrepidity and self-confidence, their habit of grumbling at each other without occasion and of helping each other when occasion arises, the promptitude with which they accommodate themselves to any emergency and the practical ability with which they surmount every embarrassment the latent sympathy between gentle and simple, the rude and refined which common hazards stimulate and common sufferings sanctify; in short, the sprit of mutual reliance of receptoral service and sacrifice, which they have exhibited in fact Charles Dickens hast striven to reproduce in fiction. It was impossible that he should touch this or any theme whatever without infusing into it some of his humor or of the force of his genius. But he has evidently to content with the very fullness of his subject, which leaves little margin for imaginative decoration. These awful horrors of which we know the literal particulars have been mingled with such spectacles of moral grandeur and heroism that invention can hardly elevate or ingenuity enhances them. … Where the reported reality is so astounding it is only the talent of Charles Dickens, employed for a legitimate purpose, which could induce us for a moment to listen to the echo.

“Christmas is good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of other people below them as if they really feel fellow – passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

Charles Dickens

Last thirty years he was always on a trip – he left England and came back, ran from London and returned over again, he departed from public work and again immersed in it. At times, among these throwing, romantic dreams of a young maiden took him away. But as a whole, he was of a great geniality and communicated with his friends, whom he attracted due to his charm and vigorous energy. Besides, he, in all possible ways, searched new means to strengthen the communicable relations with the reader – contrary to varying forms of the creativity, counter to changes in public taste, to spite of attacks of creative powerlessness that enthusiastic appreciation of public was switched from his novel to him, but in any other field of activity; that in this sphere passing improvisations have found a place that appeared in his novels in connection with necessity to issue novel publications. And he has found – all over again in Christmas stories and amateur performance, then editorial work, and soon – in public readings of his compositions. The listed art impulses were not always realized by Charles Dickens, more often he was urged on with material reasons and crave of public work, he was never given to one thing, especially to the detriment of his novels. And only one sphere of his creative activity had the direct connection with his artistic world – “Christmas Stories”.[25]

The idea about first of them, “Christmas Songs”, came to his mind in grandiose meeting in Manchester where, acting together with Disraeli and others, he stated his conviction that the education is capable to serve the sanction of all social problems in England. He has created “Song” during the night walks across London streets, when he still was writing “Martin Chuzzlewit”. This thing has been conceived to return the arrangement of the reader depressed with the failure of his novels. In Christmas days, 1843, “Song” published in excellent edition, with the illustrations of the well-known artist, a good friend of Charles Dickens., John Leach. The successes of the enterprise, direct reaction of readers have convicted him of necessity to continue the started business. The next year, he printed “The Chimes” illustrated by his friends-artists. And then, excluding 1847, extremely intense because of work on the novel “Dombey and Son”, he annually published one Christmas story: “The Cricket on the Heart”, “Battle of Life”, etc – the last one published in 1848. Becoming the editor of “Household Words” and till his death, Dickens Charles frequently included in “Christmas Number” specially written story even if it is not on a Christmas theme at all.