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The other is Bret Harte's picture of the story of Little Nell in the miner's camp, his own offering to the tomb of Dickens :
“ And then, while round them shadows gathered faster,
And as the firelight fell,
Had writ of · Little Nell.'
Perhaps 'twas boyish fancy; for the reader
Was youngest of them all:
A silence seemed to fall.
The fir-trees, gathering closer in the shadows,
Listened in every spray;
Wandered and lost their way.
And he who wrought that spell.
Ye have one tale to tell.
Lost is that camp; but let its fragrant story
Blend with the breath that thrills
That fills the Kentish hills.
And, on that grave where English oak and holly
And laurel wreaths intwine,
of Western pine.” That coarse, homespun civilization that Dickens held up to ridicule, true to the inborn gentlemanliness of its nature, made him the honored guest of the camp-fire, and paid to his genius the tribute of honest manly feeling, with more than critics' praise. Indeed, the United States in re Dickens is a faithful picture of American character and life. No doubt we made fools of ourselves in the first reception of Dickens; and he avenged himself of our gushing, boisterous, hand-shaking welcome, by caricaturing our foibles, ridiculing our manners, ignoring our finer tastes, and suppressing our virtues. But the folly was not all on one side. It is an offence against truth for a traveller, in describing a foreign people, to take a lot of incidents, each
of which may be true in itself, and put these together so as to make a false story, and give that out as the whole story. It is an offence against delicacy to caricature certain peculiarities of manners in a people so as to disparage their true refinement in the arts and amenities of life. Suppose my sense of good-breeding is offended by the free use of pocket-combs and pocket-handkerchiefs, the loud clamor of voices, and the uncouth handling of knives and toothpicks, at a German table d'hôte: it would mark illbreeding in me to deride the culture of a people because they do not meet my notions of table etiquette. Worst of all, it is an offence against honor to accept one's hospitality, and then publish derisive comments upon the host. All these offences Mr. Dickens was guilty of in his "American Notes” and in “Martin Chuzzlewit.”] Since his partial revelation of himself in “ David Copperfield," and the full unveiling of his life by Mr. Forster, we know better how to apologize for offences in 1842 that we so heartily condoned by the second reception in 1867. In early life, Dickens had no opportunity of mingling with gentlemen, or of observing and acquiring what belongs to the proprieties of social intercourse. And how seldom, indeed, in all his writings, does one find the true lady or the perfect gentleman! Suddenly his genius dazzled the world, and its reflection dazed his own brain. Lifted into genteel society before he was ripe for it, his head was turned with vanity; and in this mood, at thirty, he went to the United States, the guest of a nation already made wild over the “ Pickwick Papers,” “ Oliver Twist," * Nicholas Nickleby,” the “Boz Sketches,” “Old Curiosity Shop," and "Barnaby Rudge.” Dickens was even more widely read and more intensely popular in America than in England. His name was a household word. In iny college set, every fellow was dubbed with some title out of
1 Macaulay did not disguise his contempt for the American Notes. He wrote to Napier, declining to review the book in the Edinburgh. “I cannot praise it, though it contains a few lively dialogues and descriptions; for it seems to me to be, on the whole, a failure. It is written like the worst parts of Humphrey's Clock. What is meant to be easy and sprightly is vulgar and flippant, as in the first two pages. What is meant to be fine is a great deal too fine for me, as the description of the Fall of Niagara. In short, I pronounce the book, in spite of some gleams of genius, at once frivolous and dull."
" Pickwick : we even had our Mr. Winkle, who showell himself a “ humbug” on the skating-pond. I received early copies of the Papers" from England; and my room was crowded for readings and extemporized actings, that shcok the college-halls with mirth. Not a student but would have run miles to see and cheer the author. Just such boyish enthusiasm seized upon the nation when it was known that Dickens was coming. Well, he came, expecting to be received like the Great Mogul; and we took him for a hale fellow,- a sort of cross between Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller, — and showed very little respect for his privacy. We ran after him in the streets; we blocked the entrance to his hotel; we gave him balls, which, in the promiscuous jamming of all sorts of people and of toilets that one would not care to come so near to again, were like subscription-balls at the Opera House in Berlin; and, worst of all, we inflicted upon him a huge quantity of American after-dinner eloquence. All this was very naughty of us, and very silly; yet it was an honest enthusiasm for genius. But Mr. Dickens, alas! had come to America, not to enhance his praise, but to enrich his pocket. Well, we owed him much; and it was shabby of us not to have paid it. But we were not altogether guilty. There was no international copyright (which is a monstrous wrong to authors); and some American publishers had pirated Dickens's books, just as English publishers since have re-issued American books, by wholesale, without following the improved method of respectable American houses in giving a handsome honorarium in lieu of legal copyright. Had Mr. Dickens trusted to our sense of honor, we should have sent him home with such a national testimonial as never author had received ; or, better still, our leading men would have used his popularity for urging
1 Three books of mine were reprinted in England by different publishers, neither of whom had the grace to send me even a presentation-copy. Once, in London, I went to a house that had reprinted one of my books; and, after buying half a dozen copies of this pirated edition, I introduced myself as the author to the publisher, who was standing by. With some confusion, he offered to present me with the copies I had just paid for; but I declined that sort of recognition of an author's rights, and never received any other. Still the English law of copyright is more just and liberal than the American; and some English publishers follow the example of the more honorable American publishers, in paying a royalty to a foreign author who has not secured a copyright.
a law of international copyright. But Dickens abused the hospitality of his public and private entertainers by lecturing us on our shortcomings in this matter; by babbling of his claims, even to the extent of using his welcome at Washington in urging that Congress should pass a copyright law for the protection of foreign authors.
On returning to London, Mr. Dickens denied that he “had gone to America as a kind of missionary in the cause of international copyright.” Of course, he did not go as a missionary for others, or for a cause. His philanthropy, public spirit, or sense of justice, did not take on the “missionary" type: but he did look out for number one; he did talk copyright everywhere, and make everybody understand that he wanted to be paid for his books, – as most assuredly he ought to have been. Now, though the American people have a weakness for money and the possessors of money, they thoroughly despise a man who avows that he is after money in all that he says and does. Their regard for Mammon may be coarse and vulgar, but is not apt to be mean and mercenary: so, when we found what Mr. Dickens was after, we were vexed and disgusted, and we dropped him. He went home mortified and mad, and abused us,
Some things he said of us were true as well as funny, and we laughed at ourselves; some were sharp, but merited, and in Chinese fashion we thanked the corrector, while we felt the rod : but a great part of his caricature was so ludicrously libellous, that the author stood impaled in his own pillory, and there we pelted him. It had not occurred to Mr. Dickens how he depreciated himself as an author in sneering at a people who showed their literary taste by buying his books by the million; but, when he saw himself served up in his own characters, he rather wished he had let them alone. Moreover, American publishers had made him voluntary proposals of a percentage on sales; but, alas! both sales and fame had collapsed together. Mr. Forster fills his twenty-seventh chapter with “Chuzzlewit Disappointments," which he tries to explain away ; but he says of the Americans, “ Though an angry, they are a good-humored and a very placable people." It was not long before we began to feel, that, in
1 Forster's Life, chap. xxvi.
pouting at Dickens, we were punishing ourselves. We wanted to laugh with him once more, and so began to laugh even at his exaggerated pictures of American society. A quarter of a century passed by: Mr. Dickens had grown more to the manners of a gentleman, and had ripened and mellowed under his experiences of life. The American people, too, had improved in manners and culture, not, however, because of Mr. Dickens's castigations, but through the upward working of those moral and spiritual forces that underlie our civilization, and which Mr. Dickens had neither the training to discover, nor the aptitude to appreciate. Ruskin has put forth an ideal society
. in his “Company of St. George,” in which the best cuiture in manners, art, and nobleness, shall not only be associated with, but grow out of, the tilling of the soil and other homely manual labor ; and he has even sought to induce his art-students at Oxford to take their physical exercise in trundling the barrow, and handling the spade. If, now, one should come upon a squad of such art-laborers in their working-dress, and rate their culture by the compost they were using as a fertilizer, he would be as wise as Dickens was, when, in 1842, he estimated the capacity of Americans for culture by seeing them yet in the sweat and toil of their material fight with, yes, and their most " material ” conquest over, Nature. Well, in 1867 the two parties met again. Mr. Dickens had come to repair his fortunes by public readings.
The American people went to greet him as a benefactor, and to enjoy the intellectual treat of hearing the master interpret his works. At first, he was a little nervous as to the reception he might meet. But the tone of the American people was faithfully expressed by a New-York journal, which said, - Even in England, Dickens is less known than here ; and, of the millions here who treasure every word he has written, there are tens of thousands who would make a large sacrifice to see and hear the man who has made happy so many hours. Whatever sensitiveness there once was to adverse or sneering criticism, the lapse of a quarter of a century, and the profound significance of a great war, have modified or removed.”
The tickets to his readings were at a high figure; but