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in fiction. And if these works, by reason of their brevity or suggestiveness, were a means of popularizing literature and of stirring the public mind to new activity, the novel did even more in extending the spirit of humanity and in bringing literature to thousands of readers whose forebears in the eighteenth century were either entirely innocent of letters or had but little appreciation of literary art. The novel has become in modern times the characteristic medium for the portrayal of life, as the drama was in Shakespeare's time, or as the epic was in Homer's.
The poetry of the nineteenth century was largely subjective or lyrical. Narrative and dramatic verse were slighted; poets were absorbed chiefly in the expression of their own emotions; or, like Shelley, were attempting to solve the problems that confronted them by a reference to the inner promptings of the soul rather than by a study of the actual life about them. The poet's eye was for the most part turned within, and it was left to the novelist to portray the world without. It is in the pages of the novel that the living, moving world of the nineteenth century, in all its absorbing detail, is portrayed and perpetuated. By the power of his sympathy and imagination, the novelist has been able to put himself in the place of others, to identify himself with his characters, to think their thoughts, and therefore to do for our modern life, in large measure, what the dramatist did for the stirring times of Queen Elizabeth.
We have seen that in the novels of the eighteenth century, especially in those of Henry Fielding, the growing spirit of humanity was shown in the portrayal of the life of the lower and middle classes. In the nineteenth century, likewise, this spirit of democracy,
this interest in all conditions of men, intensified and broadened by the events that followed the French Revolution, found its most concrete and vivid expression in the work of the novelists. Sir Walter Scott, as we have seen, while writing historical romances, pictured also the life of his native Scotland, the shrewdness, the humor, and the daily toil of the Scotch peasant. Shortly before the appearance of Waverley, JANE AUSTEN (1775–1817) had published Sense and Sensibility (1811), the first of her finished and exquisite pictures of the daily domestic life of the middle class. CHARLES KINGSLEY (1819–1875) wrote in 1849 Alton Locke, Tailor and Poet, the story of a London apprentice who becomes involved in the Chartist agitations. CHARLES DICKENS, drawing upon his own experience in the great metropolis, gives us pictures of the low life of London. THACKERAY, who understood the life of fashionable London as no one has since understood it, paints the society of drawing-room and club, and bares to us the shams of Vanity Fair. GEORGE ELIOT, with her subtle knowledge of the workings of conscience, chooses to write of scenes and characters in the country, where life moves more slowly and where the interests of men are narrower.
THOMAS HARDY makes real the village and farm life of old Wessex; and RUDYARD KIPLING, poet and story-teller, interests us in the career of the soldier and sailor, builders of empire, who have carried the British flag to the corners of the world. The works of most of these writers, while holding the reader's interest by their charm of narrative, and by the rich and crowded life they depict, are at bottom concerned with the problems of our time. Some aimed to correct the abuses that existed in the schools or in the courts of law; some
discussed in this indirect way questions of religion and theology, or treated of various social institutions such as marriage; others sought to improve the relations between employer and employed. Indeed the novel of the Victorian period, like nearly all nineteenthcentury literature, was strongly imbued with the spirit of reform. Even this most distinctively objective literary form in modern times was burdened to a large extent with purpose.
Not even in the novel do we find that abundant and spontaneous joy in life, or in the contemplation of life, which was so rich a possession of Elizabethan literature.
Among the novelists of this epoch, Charles Dickens is the most famous, if not the most truthful, chronicler of the life of the outcast and the poor. The circumstances of his birth and training were such as to peculiarly fit him for his future work. His father, John Dickens, was a clerk in the Navy Pay-office, who was confronted with the problem of keeping a large family on a small salary. Evidently he was a man of some literary ability, for at one time he reported for the Morning Chronicle. That he was fond of novels is shown by his possessing a small library of some of the most famous. These, the boy Dickens read eagerly, - mastering, among others, Fielding's Tom Jones, Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield, the novels of Tobias Smollett, and the famous history of Don Quixote. For days, he tells us, he would live in imagination the life of the characters in his favorite
stories. Dickens' mother, moreover, was noted for her ability as a teller of stories. So that by early reading and perhaps by inherited tastes the great novelist was unwittingly led into his life-work.
Dickens' experiences outside of the home were from the first an additional preparation. When John Dickens,
unable to meet his obligations, was imprisoned for debt, the boy went to work in a blacking factory. Through his father's misfortunes, Dickens became familiar with prison-life, which he afterward portrayed in Little Dorrit. In his daily work he came to know the life of men and women in shop and factory, and in his leisure hours he wandered among the streets
and alleys of the great city, impressed by the curious and dramatic aspects of London life. At twelve years of age, when his father's circumstances improved, Dickens was sent to school, but there he remained only three years.
He then became a clerk in a barrister's office in Gray's Inn. While there he added to his brief schooling by reading in the British Museum, and, with the idea of becoming a reporter, undertook the study of shorthand. In 1829 he became a law reporter, and two years later, at the age of nineteen, a reporter in the House of Commons. His experience in newspaper work was perhaps the most valuable of his training. Through it he grew familiar with the life of the tenements, police-courts, and taverns. In his travels to and fro, he learned the ways of the road, at a time when the stage-coach and the roadside inn were the glory of England. Thousands of incidents of everyday life were fixed in his memory which later he used in his work, and he was brought into close touch with people of many classes. This, together with his experience in preparing copy with despatch, gave him facility, and, with his natural ingenuity, made possible the marvelous circumstantial development of the scenes of his novels.
In 1836 Dickens began his literary career by publishing Sketches by Boz, and by beginning the immortal Pickwick Papers. From then until his death he was engaged principally in the writing of sketches, short stories, and novels. In 1842 he visited America, and returned to write his impressions of the new country in American Notes (1842) and Martin Chuzzlewit (1843). After 1858 he appeared frequently before crowded audiences in England and America as a reader of selections from his own works. On these occasions