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The community certainly had a right to entertain "great expectations” of this book — written by a man of so great a fame, written after a season of repose, and written at the age when a man reaches the highest maturity of his powers, and should be capable of doing his very best things ; heralded, moreover, by a title, which seemed to imply that he was fully aware of his responsibility, and conscious of being fully competent to meet it. If Mr. Dickens were capable of perpetrating a cruel satire upon himself, we should say the title was most happily chosen, inasmuch as the usual upshot of great expectations is great disappointment.
To pronounce “Great Expectations” a running caricature on human weaknesses would only be to put it in the same class with most of his other writings. It is far more than that, - it is caricature gone mad
particularly disagreeable impossibilities. Minerva, we are told, sprung, full-armed, from the head of Jupiter, and we can easily enough believe that Oliver Twist, and Nicholas Nickleby, and Little Nell, and Fagin, and Dick Swiveller came from the brain of Charles Dickens much in the same way. But it is utterly impossible to believe that such hard monstrosities as Miss Havisham, Mrs. Gargery, Jaggers, and Pumblechook, could ever have leaped from Mr. Dickens's brain, or any other that was not muddled. They are evidently painful parturitions, out of all proper shape and proportion. Nature produces monsters enough and hideous enough, if any man wants to paint them ; but these are against nature. Think of a young and beautiful and passionate woman, because she is jilted and abandoned on the morning of her wedding-day, immuring herself, for all the rest of her life, amid the splendid preparations for the marriageshe clad in her gay bridal robes and ornaments, the cake untouched on the table, and everything remaining precisely as arranged for the ceremony, for long years, till she and the rich tapestries and the wedding cake should decay all together, — yet not crazy, but, on the contrary, capable of managing shrewdly her affairs ; and capable of finding a charming young girl, and lavishing on her every accomplishment, and training ber for the particular purpose of breaking men's hearts, and all to be avenged on the sex, because one man has, as she says, broken her heart! And think of Estella, that young girl, simple, affectionate, tender, beautiful not a born Elsie Venner — surrendering herself to the plot, yielding her woman's soul to be thus blasted and cursed, while still retaining the warmth and susceptibilities and charms of her youth! It is utterly repulsive, and forever impossible. Ex uno disce omnes. There is scarcely the shadow of relief, from beginning to end. The good-natured Joe - husband of the awful Mrs. Gargery
- and simple-hearted, faithful Biddy, the servant-maid, are, perhaps, more in the vein of the Mr. Dickens of twenty years ago than any. thing else in the book. In “Trabb's boy,” we have the best portraiture we have ever seen of English impudence. If there is anything anywhere on this terrestrial ball to be compared to English impudence, we have never met with it - whether on the part of a servant-maid to her mistress, a London bricklayer, or coal-porter, if a well-dressed individual has the ill-luck to offend him, the general rabblement on an election-day, when suborned by one of the contending parties to hoot and insult the other party's candidate, or the Times. newspaper. There is a grinding intenseness, a ferocious pertinacity, a deadly bull-dog grip in it, by which it stands clearly distinguished as a national characteristic. Mr. Dickens has admirably described it in " Trabb's boy,” together with the feelings it awakens, in pp. 275, 276.
In Trabb himself, the village tailor, and Pumblechook, Mr. Dickens satirizes severely the English habit of fawning on anybody who is getting up in the world. Pip - the object of the fawning, the subject of the “great expectations," and hero of the tale — is one of Mr. Dickens's peculiar pagans, combining a ruinous weakness and selfishness with a most disinterested benevolence a sort of creation very common with our author, but very hard to be found in our actual world.
A desperate English convict (Provis) working like a galley-slave in the place of his exile to hoard up gold, and sending it to a boy who had once brought him something to eat when he was starying, and, at last, running the risk of being hanged in order that he might see that boy (Pip) a gentleman, is just about as probable as Miss Havisham or Estella.
The way in which the many queer characters are, at last, brought into positions of near relationship
of near relationship - making the convict Provis to be Estella's father, and Mr. Jaggers's strange housekeeper her mother, and, above all, Estella — first a widow – Pip's wife, is simply a clumsy piece of construction. It lacks probability; but is not absolutely impossible, since Mr. Dickens has compelled it to be possible.
There is here and there a description in Mr. Dickens's best style. Among these is a storm of rain and wind in London, (pp. 345, 346,) which brings vividly to remembrance days in the Great Metropolis when we found it utterly impossible to keep a fire at all, because the smoke, laden with those black, greasy flakes, would insist on coming all out into the room, instead of going up the chimney, like honest smoke.
There is one peculiar excellence in the book, of which we must speak in terms of high commendation. Not a single Christian is introduced at all, either lay or clerical. Is this accidental, or has Mr. Dickens learned at last that the very best thing in the power of his hand to do in regard to Christianity is, to let it alone altogether?
** In a notice of Du Chaillu's book on Africa, Vol. I., p. 604, we expressed a considerable degree of scepticism concerning its reliableness as a narrative of various novelties which the author claims to have discovered and professes to describe; at the same time we intimated a possible return to the subject for further investigation of its credibility. This would seem, however, to be superfluous, if the following, which we find in the Boston Journal for January 22d, is to be depended upon, as we presume it may be:
“ Capt. Yates, of the Ocean Eagle, and Rev. William Walker, an American missionary, have published certificates showing that M. Du Chaillu was living at the Gaboon at the time his Explorations' represent him as making his great discoveries in Equatorial Africa. The Atheneum says, that • all the published testimony from the Gaboon goes to prove that a main part of M. Du Chaillu's narrative cannot possibly be true.'”
THE ROUND TABLE.
THE USE OF Texts. — Our old friend, the Rev. James Gallaher, used to tell the story of a preacher who took for his text the words, “ Then the disciples looked on one another doubting ;" from which he went on to draw and enforce this doctrine — that “when people don't know what they ought to do, they had better look out lest they do they don't know what.” Good advice; and not so far-fetched as the New Hampshire preacher's onslaught upon some peculiarly incorrigible sinners in his neighborhood, from the mention somewhere in the New Testament of a certain man “who lived hard — by the synagogue.”
Doubtless there are many such ; as also of another class of offenders, whom a friend of ours out West once severely lectured from the text, “ Thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God.”
Rather a twist of the apostle; but not quite so violent as still another “accommodation" which has come to our ears, wherein a sharpshooter fired away at the too rapid progressives among his young people, from this clause, “ That thou appear not unto men to fast.” We band over these cunning “masters of sentences” to the Professor of Sermonizing in the New Theological Seminary.
But a little more seriously — there is a liberty or a negligence in the use of texts which is hardly excusable, where it would be unjust to suspect an ambition of eccentricity. A learned divine and a professor in one of our theological schools has a sermon upon the words, “ Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world ; in which the whole stress is laid on the first word of the sentence, and the plan of the preacher is to show how Christ should be beheld ; when the word in the Greek is merely the exclamative as en, ecce: “lo ! the Lamb of God.” We heard another distinguished city pastor once advocate a series of morning prayer-meetings from the promise, “They that seek me early shall find me;" a use of the passage which was ingenious, but certainly unthought of by the inspired writer. Equally so, we judge, was the application given awhile ago, in one of our associations, to the Psalmist's verse, in an outline submitted for criticism: —“A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees;” where the author made “the thick trees” to signify impenitent sinners; and the "axes," the gospel doctrines ; and the "famous man” the preacher who did execution most masterly upon the tall timber. Who that might be, was left to be inferred by the appreciative audience. Accommodating Scripture is a delicate operation. It is best to err, if at all, on the side of a strict construction. If any variation from the first meaning of the text is taken, it should be so natural and unforced as, at its mention, to show its own propriety to the
ers, though they may never have thought of it before.
THE MEMORABILIA of Theological Lecture-rooms would furnish material for a rare volume of mental peculiarities and spicy jeux d'esprit. “Spare Hours" give some lively notices of their author's father, who was an Edinburgh pastor and teacher of divinity. “Though authoritative in his class without any effort, he was indulgent to everything but conceit, slovenliness of mind and body, irreverence, and, above all, handling the Word of God deceitfully. On one occasion a student having delivered in the Hall a discourse tinged with Arminianism, he said, “That may be the gospel according to Dr. Macknight, or the gospel according to Dr. Taylor, of Norwich, but it not the gospel according to the apostle Paul ; and if I thought the sentiments
expressed were his own, if I had not thought he has taken his thoughts from commentators without carefully considering them, I would think it my duty to him and to the church, to make him no longer a student of divinity here.
He was often unconsciously severe, from his saying exactly what he felt. On a student's ending his discourse, his only criticism was, “The strongest characteristic of this discourse is weakness ;' and feeling that this was really all he had to say, he ended. A young gentleman, on very good terms with himself, stood up to pray with his hands in his pockets, and, among other things, he put up a petition that he might be delivered from the fear of man, which bringeth a snare;' my father's only remark was, that there was part of his prayer which seemed to be granted before it was asked :'" a fulfilling of prophecy which (we fancy) the prophet never thought of.
Sue sits and sings in the room below,
And who would dream that her heart is gay,
Why not? She doeth her heart no wrong;
So keep her, Heaven! nor let her know
Pet Books. — Distinguished persons have had some very curious tastes ; and, among other things, in selecting favorite authors. It was natural enough, perhaps, for Bossuet to keep a copy of Homer upon the table on which he composed his great sermons; though one would think that he might bave found in some other source a more Christian inspiration. Under Alexander's pillow seems a rather more fitting place for the epic Grecian as a book of the heart. Napoleon and Dr. Parr were not much alike, but both were enamored of Ossian. Would any one think that the grave and proper" Dr. Blair the sermonizer