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well entitled to remembrance, and I think will, in a degree, hold its place in literature. “Richelieu,” “Arabella Stuart,” “Arrah Neil,” “Philip Augustus,” “Russell,” “Agnes Sorel,” “The Smuggler,” and “Darnley,” are all good novels, and are a hundred times better than the trash that is spawned from the press of to-day. One will find infinite amusement and pastime in these old-fashioned novels, and that they are not out of date is evidenced by the fact that they are still published.
He was not a Scott, a Bulwer-Lytton, a Thackeray or a Dickens. He drew no character that any reader of his novels cares to remember, and we cannot find among them a Bailie Nicol Jarvie, a Baron Bradwardine, a Pelham, a Guy Darrel, a Becky Sharp, a Colonel Newcome, a Sam Weller, or a Uriah Heap. One may read fifty of James' novels with the utmost satisfaction, and even pleasure, and come away from them with a mind perfectly blank as to the characters.
They are mere puppets, and have made no impression on him whatever. Nevertheless, he has had a pleasant time. And this, after all, as I take it, is the ultimate expectation of the inveterate novel reader.
WILLIAM M. THACKERAY. (1811–1863.)
AND now they are talking of a “Thackeray revival,” just as a little while ago they were talking of a “Dickens revival.” There are no “revivals'’ with these great writers, because they are always being read, and new editions of their works are published every year just like school books. It is the same with Scott. No library is complete without Scott, Dickens, and Thackeray, and in these days when the passion for reading is universal, no boy's or girl's education is finished till they have read them.
But it so happens that whenever some one writes an essay, a criticism, or an appreciation of one or the other of them, the shout is raised at once, we are to have a “revival.” A little while ago Mr. Swinburne wrote some extravagant things about Dickens—or rather wrote about Dickens in his most extravagant manner. This led to other articles, and as a consequence much was said about In like manner two or three articles on Thackeray have lately appeared, and we are hearing of a “Thackeray revival.” G. K. Chesterton, the new and forceful young English critic, has been having his say about Thackeray, and as everything he writes is thoughtful, fresh, and pungent, his article in the London Bookman has attracted much attention. His appreciation of the great writer, it is needless to say, is of the highest, and he protests most earnestly against the fashion of calling Thackeray a cynic.
the “Dickens revival.”
So far as Thackeray's cynicism is concerned, it may be said that Shirley Brooks settled that question in his poem written at the time of Thackeray's death, from which I will quote three stanzas:
He was a cynic | By his life all wrought
His heart wide open to all kindly thought,
He was a cynic | You might read it writ
In those blue eyes, with childlike candor lit,
He was a cynic | By the love that clung
It is the merest cant to talk of Thackeray's cynicism. It requires a large element of hatred of mankind in one's nature to be a cynic. Pope was a cynic; Dean Swift was a cynic, and they both despised their fellow-men, and could say no good thing of them. Sterne was cynical, and so were Byron and Carlyle, but Thackeray, never. He was a wise humorist, who laughed at or ridiculed the follies and weaknesses of men, feeling that he, too, shared in the common heritage of folly—“knowing also that he, himself, must die.”
Since the publication of Mrs. Ritchie's biographical edition of her father's works, and the introductions that accompany each volume, there has been no excuse for misunderstanding the character of Thackeray. His letters abound in love and devotion for those near and dear to him, and in his appreciation of the general goodness of humanity. All the geniality and tenderness of his nature, his humor and pathos, are to be found in these friendly confidences dashed off to his mother, his stepfather, his daughters and his familiar friends. They show what his nature was, and that, notwithstanding his ironical and satirical views of life, he possessed a great, throbbing and tender heart, not hating, but loving, mankind.
The late Mrs. Lynn Linton knew both Dickens and Thackeray intimately. As to Dickens there was “a strain of hardness in his nature.” Thackeray she liked better. To her he was generous, indolent, loving, tender-hearted, and very flexible. She seems to have known the secret history of both these great writers, but never told it, whatever it was. It is well known that Thackeray enjoined upon his daughters and intimate friends that no biography of him was to be written. He had seen enough of the world to know that rarely can one man be described truly by another, and he preferred that his works should speak for him. And what matchless works they are and what well-springs of delight ! Never was Buffon's aphorism that “ the style is the man himself” truer of any writer than of Thackeray. It was the fitting and appropriate garment of his thought, no matter under what circumstances he was expressing it, whether for the private eye of a friend or for the general public, whether in a letter or a Roundabout Paper. There are passages in his correspondence that sound like passages in the novels or essays, and vice versa. He is “familiar, but by no means vulgar.” There is nothing coarse in his manner—no horse play or boisterous guffaws. His English is purity itself, and his style answers