Genre Essay. Page - 1
now the Inns as Dickens knew them, let us accompany Mr. Pickwick to the Magpie and Stump in search of Mr. Lowten, Mr. Perker's clerk.
"Is Mr. Lowten here, ma'am?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.
"Yes, he is, sir," replied the landlady. "Here, Charley, show the gentleman in to Mr. Lowten."
"The gen'lm'n can't go in just now," said a shambling pot-boy, with a red head, "'cos Mr. Lowten's singin' a comic song, and he'll put him out. He'll be done d'rectly, sir."
Well, you know, respectable solicitors (clerks) don't sing comic songs at public houses nowadays, but that is how Mr. Pickwick found Mr. Lowten.
"Would you like to join us?" said Mr. Lowten, when at length he had finished his comic song and been introduced to Mr. Pickwick. And I am very glad that Mr. Pickwick did join them, as he heard something of the old Inns from old Jack Bamber.
"I have been to-night, gentlemen," said Mr. Pickwick, hoping to start a subject which all the company could take a part in discussing--"I hav
rs to do the work cheaper, I do not know, but shesuddenly withdrew her custom, and I have never heard from her since.
My next venture was tale writing. Who has not tried this mostunsatisfactory method? It is a tremendously anxious time when yourfirst effort is sent out. What a lot of money you expect to obtain forit! You do not intend to be unprepared, so you spend every penny inyour mind beforehand. Then there is the honor and glory of it! Youwill hear everyone talking of the cleverly written tale and wonderingwho is the gifted author!
What made me more hopeful was the possession of a cousin, who was verysuccessful in this line. Indeed, she has reached the three-volumestage by now, and is beginning to be quite well known. I have lost myinterest in her, however, since she took me and my family off in oneof her books. It is such an easy thing to do. You only have to findout a person's peculiarities--and everyone has a peculiarity!--andoverdraw them a little. My sisters and I, I remember, fig
m nothingbut horrors, he may well ask--"Where's the entertainment for the manwho wants an evening's amusement?" The humor of a farce may not seemover-refined to a particular class of intelligence; but there arethousands of people who take an honest pleasure in it. And who, afterseeing my old friend J.L. Toole in some of his famous parts, andhaving laughed till their sides ached, have not left the theatre morebuoyant and light-hearted than they came? Well, if the stage hasbeen thus useful and successful all these centuries, and still isproductive; if the noble fascination of the theatre draws to it, as weknow that it does, an immortal poet such as our Tennyson, whom, I cantestify from my own experience, nothing delights more than the successof one of the plays which, in the mellow autumn of his genius, he hascontributed to the acting theatre; if a great artist like Tadema isproud to design scenes for stage plays; if in all departments of stageproduction we see great talent, and in nearly every i
hunt for them, that the following pages are totreat. It is a subject more closely connected with the taste forcuriosities than with art, strictly so called. We are to beoccupied, not so much with literature as with books, not so muchwith criticism as with bibliography, the quaint duenna ofliterature, a study apparently dry, but not without its humours.And here an apology must be made for the frequent allusions andanecdotes derived from French writers. These are as unavoidable,almost, as the use of French terms of the sport in tennis and infencing. In bibliography, in the care for books AS books, theFrench are still the teachers of Europe, as they were in tennis andare in fencing. Thus, Richard de Bury, Chancellor of Edward III.,writes in his "Philobiblon:" "Oh God of Gods in Zion! what a rushingriver of joy gladdens my heart as often as I have a chance of goingto Paris! There the days seem always short; there are the goodlycollections on the delicate fragrant book-shelves." Since Dantew
re crossing the way of each other.The gentleman's name that met him was Mr. Worldly-wiseman; hedwelt in the town of Carnal Policy, a very great town, and alsohard by from whence Christian came. This man, then, meeting withChristian, and having some inkling of him, for Christian'ssetting forth from the City of Destruction was much noised abroad,not only in the town where he dwelt, but, also, it began to be thetown-talk in some other places. Master Worldly-wiseman, therefore,having some guess of him, by beholding his laborious going, byobserving his sighs and groans, and the like, began thus to enterinto some talk with Christian.
WORLD. How now, good fellow, whither away after this burdenedmanner?
CHR. A burdened manner, indeed, as ever, I think, poor creaturehad! And whereas you ask me, Whither away? I tell you, Sir, I amgoing to yonder wicket-gate before me; for there, as I am informed,I shall be put into a way to be rid of my heavy burden.
WORLD. Hast thou a wife and children?
To understand allmysteries, to have all knowledge, to be able to comprehend with allsaints, is a great work; enough to crush the spirit, and to stretch thestrings of the most capacious, widened soul that breatheth on this sideglory, be they notwithstanding exceedingly enlarged by revelation.Paul, when he was caught up to heaven, saw that which was unlawful,because impossible, for man to utter. And saith Christ to thereasoning Pharisee, "If I have told you earthly things, and ye believenot, how shall you believe if I tell you of heavenly things?" It isgreat lewdness, and also insufferable arrogancy, to come to the Word ofGod, as conceiting already that whatever thou readest must either bythee be understood, or of itself fall to the ground as a senselesserror. But God is wiser than man, wherefore fear thou him, and trembleat his word, saying still, with godly suspicion of thine own infirmity,What I see not, teach thou me; and, Thou art God only wise; but as forme, I am as a beast before thee.
nclusions beforehand into the acceptable and the inacceptable, the edifying and the shocking, the noble and the base. Wonder has no longer been the root of philosophy, but sometimes impatience at having been cheated and sometimes fear of being undeceived. The marvel of existence, in which the luminous and the opaque are so romantically mingled, no longer lay like a sea open to intellectual adventure, tempting the mind to conceive some bold and curious system of the universe on the analogy of what had been so far discovered. Instead, people were confronted with an orthodoxy--though not always the same orthodoxy--whispering mysteries and brandishing anathemas. Their wits were absorbed in solving traditional problems, many of them artificial and such as the ruling orthodoxy had created by its gratuitous assumptions. Difficulties were therefore found in some perfectly obvious truths; and obvious fables, if they were hallowed by association, were seriously weighed in the balance against one another or against the
o which many of my critics have fallen.Whenever my view strikes them as being at all outside the rangeof, say, an ordinary suburban churchwarden, they conclude that Iam echoing Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Ibsen, Strindberg, Tolstoy,or some other heresiarch in northern or eastern Europe.
I confess there is something flattering in this simple faith inmy accomplishment as a linguist and my erudition as aphilosopher. But I cannot tolerate the assumption that life andliterature is so poor in these islands that we must go abroad forall dramatic material that is not common and all ideas that arenot superficial. I therefore venture to put my critics inpossession of certain facts concerning my contact with modernideas.
About half a century ago, an Irish novelist, Charles Lever, wrotea story entitled A Day's Ride: A Life's Romance. It was publishedby Charles Dickens in Household Words, and proved so strange tothe public taste that Dickens pressed Lever to make short work ofit. I read scraps of this novel when I was a child; and it madean enduring impression on me. The hero was a very romantic hero,trying to live bravely, chivalrously, and powerfully by dintof mere romance-fed imagination, without courage, without means,without knowledge, without skill, without anything real excepthis bodily appetites. Even in my childhood I found in this poordevil's unsuccessful encounters with the facts of life, apoignant quality that romantic fiction lacked. The book, in spiteof its first failure, is not dead: I saw its title the other dayin the catalogue of Tauchnitz.
Now why is it that when I also deal in the tragi-comic irony ofthe conflict between real life and the romantic imagination, nocritic ever affiliates me to my countryman and immediateforerunner, Charles Lever, whilst they confidently derive me froma Norwegian author of whose language I do not know three words,and of whom I knew nothing until years after the ShavianAnschauung was already unequivocally declared in books full ofwhat came, t
nationwide portrayal of "the important" as composed primarily of the doings and undoings of entertainers, athletes, politicians, and criminals.
He would not, I think, have been unduly dismayed by all that. Of course, he would have been dismayed , but not unduly. Such things are implicit in the freedom of the press, and if enough people want them, they'll have them. (Jefferson would surely have wondered why so many people wanted such things, but that's not to the point just now.) Jefferson did, naturally, see "the press" giving news and information, but, more than that, he also saw in it the very practice of informed discretion. In his time, after all, Common Sense and The Federalist Papers were simply parts of "the press." And "every man able to read" would have been, for Jefferson, every man able to read, weigh, and consider things like Common Sense and The Federalist Papers. He would have recognized at once our editorial pages and our journals of enquiry and opini
one about some very frightening and mysterious happenings in a modest suburban house on Long Island, and the other about excellence. I now have reason to hope that she has been reading Emerson, and she probably has. She is not a shirker, but, at least usually, as much a person of serious intent as one should be at her age and in her condition. Her understanding of Emerson is not perfect, but neither is mine. The essay she has been reading, I have read many times, and every time with the realization that my understanding of it, up to now, of course, has not been perfect.
I know this as surely as I know that Socrates was once exasperated by a yapping dog: Someday, perhaps this day, when I have explained some difficult proposition's exploration by Emerson, that young woman, or somebody else very much like her, will raise her hand and ask the question, and ask it just as Socrates asked, out of what she knows to be her ignorance, and her desire not to be ignorant. And her question will remind me that I am