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no incident and little character, yet which derived a nameless fascination from the way in which they were told. Tell me truly, my fair reader, did you not shed some tears over Dickens's story of Richard Doubledick ? Could you have read that story aloud without breaking down? And yet, was there ever a story with less in it ? But how beautifully Dickens put what little there was, and how the melody of the closing sentences of the successive paragraphs lingers on the ear! And you have not forgotten the exquisite touches with which Mrs. Stowe put so simple a matter as a mother looking into her dead baby's drawer. I have known an attempt at the pathetic made on a kindred topic provoke yells of laughter; but I could not bear the woman, and hardly the man, who could read Mrs. Stowe's putting of that simple conception without the reverse of smiles. Many readers, too, will not forget how more sharply they have seen many places and things, from railway engine sheds to the Britannia Bridge, when put by the graphic pen of Sir Francis Head. That lively baronet is the master of clear, sharp presentment.
I have not hitherto spoken of such ways of putting things as were practised in King Hudson's railway reports, or in those of the Glasgow Western Bank, cooked to make things pleasant by designed misrepresentation. So far we have been thinking of comparatively innocent variations in the ways of putting things — of putting the best foot foremost in a comparatively honest way. But how much intentional misrepresentation there is in British society! How few people can tell a thing exactly as they saw it! It goes in one colour, and comes out another, like light through tinted glass. It is rather amusing, by the way, when a friend comes and tells you a story which he heard from yourself, but so put that you hardly know it again. Unscrupulous putters of things should have good memories.
There is no reckoning the ways in which, by varying the turn of an expression, by a tone or look, an entirely false view may be given of a conversation, a transaction, or an event. A lady says to her cook, You are by no means overworked. The cook complains in the servants' hall that her mistress said she had nothing to do. Lies, in the sense of pure inventions, are not common, I believe, among people with any claim to respectability ; but it is perfectly awful to think how great a part of ordinary conversation, especially in little country towns, consists in putting things quite differently from the actual fact; in short, of wilful misrepresentation. Many people cannot resist the temptation to deepen the colours, and strengthen the lines, of any narration, in order to make it more telling. Unluckily, things usually occur in life in such a manner as just to miss what would give them a point and make a good story of them; and the temptation is strong to make them, by the deflection of a hair's breadth, what they ought to have been.
It is sad to think, that in ninety-nine out of every hundred cases in which things are thus untruly put, the representation is made worse than the reality. Few old ladies endeavour, by their imaginative putting of things, to exhibit their acquaintances as wiser, better, and more amiable, than the fact. An exception may be made whenever putting her friends and their affairs in a dignified light would reflect credit upon the old lady herself. Then, indeed, their income is vast, their house is magnificent, their horses are Eclipses, their conversation is brilliant, their attention to their friends unwearying and indescribable. Alas for our race: that we lean to evil rather than
to good, and that it is so much more easy and piquant to pitch into a man than to praise him !
Let us rejoice that there is one happy case in which the way of putting things, though often false, is always favourable. I mean the accounts which are given in couptry newspapers of the character and the doings of the great men of the district. I often admire the country editor's skill in putting all things (save the speech of the opposition M. P., as already mentioned) in such a rosy light ; nor do I admire his genial bonhomie less than his art. If a marquis makes a stammering speech, it is sure to be put as most interesting and eloquent. If the rector preaches a dull and stupid charity sermon, it is put as striking and effective. A public meeting, consisting chiefly of empty benches, is put as most respectably attended. A gift of a little flannel and coals at Christmas-time, is put as seasonable munificence. A bald and seedy building, just erected in the High-street, is put as chaste and classical ; an extravagant display of gingerbread decoration is put as gorgeous and magnificent. In brief, what other men heartily wish this world were, the conductors of local prints boldly declare that it is. Whatever they think a great man would like to be called, that they make haste to call him. Happy fellows, if they really believe that they live in such a world and among such beings as they put! Their gushing heart is too much for even their sharp head, and they see all things glorified by the sunshine of their own exceeding amiability.
The subject greatens on me, but the paper dwindles : the five-and-forty fair expanses of foolscap are darkened at last. It would need a volume, not an essay, to do this matter justice. Sir Bulwer Lytton has declared, in pages charming but too many, that the world's great question is, WHAT WILL HE DO WITH IT? I shall not debate the point, but simply add, that only second to that question in comprehensive reach and in practical imporance is the question — How WILL HE PUT IT?
CONCERNING TWO BLISTERS OF HUMANITY :
BEING THOUGHTS ON PETTY MALIGNITY AND
T is highly improbable that any reader of ordinary power of imagination, would guess the particular surface on which the paper
is spread whereon I am at the present moment writing. Such is the reflection which flows naturally from my pencil's point as it begins to darken this page. I am seated on a manger, in a very light and snug stable, and my paper is spread upon a horse's face, occupying the flat part between the eyes. You would not think, unless you tried, what an extensive superficies may there be found. If you put a thin book next the horse's skin, you will write with the greater facility : and you will find, as you sit upon the edge of the manger, that the animal's head occupies a position which, as regards height and slope, is sufficiently convenient. His mouth, it may be remarked, is not far from your knees, so that it would be highly inexpedient to attempt the operation with a vicious, biting brute, or indeed with any horse of whose temper you are not well assured. But you, my good Old Boy (for such is the quadruped's name), you would not bite your master. Too many carrots have you received from his hand; too