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with which we began. Marryatt is a singular instance
of its truth. He has always been a very popular
writer in the most rigorous sense of the word. His
books are essentially "mediocre." His ideas are
the common property of the mob, and have been
their common property time out of mind. We
look throughout his writings in vain for the slightest
indication of originality for the faintest incentive



FRANCIS MARRYATT 15

to thought. His plots, his language, his opinions
are neither adapted nor intended for scrutiny. We
must be contented with them as sentiments, rather
than as ideas; and properly to estimate them, even
in this view, we must bring ourselves into a sort
of identification wifh the sentiment of the mass.
Works composed in this spirit are sometimes pur
posely so composed by men of superior intelligence,
and here we call to mind the Chansons of B Gran
ger. But usually they are the natural exponent
of the vulgar thought in the person of a vulgar
thinker. In either case they claim for themselves that
which, for want of a more definite expression, has
been called by critics nationality. Whether this
nationality in letters is a fit object for high-minded
ambition, we cannot here pause to inquire. If it is,
then Captain Marryatt occupies a more desirable
position than, in our heart, we are willing to award
him.

" oseph Rushbrook"* is not a book with which
the critic should occupy many paragraphs. It is
not very dissimiliar to "Poor Jack, " which latter is,
perhaps, the best specimen of its author s cast of
thought, and national manner, although inferior in
interest to "Peter Simple."

The plot can only please those who swallow the
probabilities of "Sinbad the Sailor," or "Jack and
the Bean-Stalk" or we should have said, more
strictly, the incidents; for of plot, properly speaking,
there is none at all.

Joseph Rushbrook is an English soldier who,
having long served his country and received a wound
in the head, is pensioned and discharged. He be-

* Joseph Rushbrook, or the Poacher. By Captain Marryatt,
author of Peter Simple, Jacob Faithful, etc., etc. Two Volumes.
Philadelphia: Carey and Hart.



16 EDGAR ALLAN POE

comes a poacher, and educates his son (the hero of
the tale, and also named Joseph) to the same pro
fession. A peddler, called Byres, is about to betray
the father, who avenges himself by shooting him.
The son takes the burden of the crime upon himself,
and flees the country. A reward is offered for his
apprehension a reward which one Furness, a school
master, is very anxious to obtain. This Furness
dogs the footsteps of our hero, much as Fagin, the
Jew, dogs those of Oliver Twist, forcing him to quit
place after place, just as he begins to get comfortably
settled. In thus roaming about, little Joseph meets
with all kinds of outrageously improbable adven
tures; and not only this, but the reader is bored
to death with the outrageously improbable adven
tures of every one with vvhom little Joseph comes in
contact. Good fortune absolutely besets him. Money
falls at his feet wherever he goes, and he has only
to stoop and pick it up. At length he arrives at
the height of prosperity, and thinks he is entirely
rid of Furness, when Furness re-appears. That
Joseph should, in the end, be brought to trial for
the peddler s murder is so clearly the author s design,
that he who runs may read it, and we naturally
suppose that his persecutor, Furness, is to be the in
strument of this evil. We suppose also, of course,
that in bringing this misfortune upon our hero, the
schoolmaster will involve himself in ruin, in accord
ance with the common ideas of poetical justice.
But no; Furness, being found in the way, is killed
off, accidentally, having lived and plotted to no osten
sible purpose, through the better half of the book.
Circumstances that have nothing to do with the
story involve Joseph in his trial. He refuses to
divulge the real secret of the murder, and is sen
tenced to transportation. The elder Rushbrook, in



FRANCIS MARRYATT 17

the meantime, has avoided suspicion and fallen
heir to a great property. Just as his son is about to
be sent across the water, some of Joe s friends dis
cover the true state of affairs, and obtain from the
father, who is now conveniently upon his death-bed,
a confession of his guilt. Thus all ends well if
the word well can be applied in any sense to trash so
ineffable the father dies, the son is released, in
herits the estate, marries his lady-love, and pros
pers in every possible and impossible way.

We have mentioned the imitation of Fagin. A
second plagiarism is feebly attempted in the charac
ter of one Nancy, a trull, who is based upon the
Nancy of Oliver Twist for Marryatt is not often
at the crouble of diversifying his thefts. This
Nancy changes her name three or four times, and so
in fact do each and all of the dramatis persona.
This changing of name is one of the bright ideas
with which the author of "Peter Simple" is most
pertinaciously afflicted. We would not be bound
to say how many aliases are borne by the hero in this
instance some dozen perhaps.

The novels of Marryatt his later ones at least
are evidently written to order, for certain consider
ations, and have to be delivered within certain
periods. He thus finds it his interest to push on,
Now, for this mode of progress, incident is the sole
thing which answers. One incident begets another,
and so on ad infinitum. There is never the slightest
necessity for pausing; especially where no plot is to
be cared for. Comment, in the author s own person,
upon what is transacting, is left entirely out of ques
tion. There is thus none of that binding power
perceptible, which often gives a species of unity
(the unity of the writer s individual thought) to the
most random narrations. All works composed as

VOL VII 2



i8 EDGAR ALLAN POE

we have stated Marryatt s to be composed, will be
run on, incidentally, in the manner described; and,
notwithstanding that it would seem at first sight
to be otherwise, yet it is true that no works are so
insufferably tedious. These are the novels which
we read with a hurry exactly consonant and propor
tionate with that in which they were indited. We
seldom leave them unfinished, yet we labor through
to the end, and reach it with unalloyed pleasure.

The commenting force can never be safely disre
garded. It is far better to have a dearth of incident,
with skilful observations upon it, than the utmost
variety of event, without. In some previous re
view we have observed (and our observation is
borne out by analysis) that it was the deep sense of
the want of this binding ai.d commenting power, in
the old Greek drama, which gave rise to the chorus.
The chorus came at length to supply, in some meas
ure, a deficiency which is inseparable from dramatic
action, and represented the expression of the public
interest or sympathy in the matters transacted.
The successful novelist must, in the same manr ,
be careful to bring into view his private interest,
sympathy, and opinion, in regard to his own
creations.

We have spoken of "The Poacher" at greater
length than we intended; for it deserves little more
than an announcement. It has the merit of a homely
and not unnatural simplicity of style, and is not des
titute of pathos : but this is .11. Its English is ex
cessively slovenly. Its events are monstrously
improbable. There is no adaptation of parts about
it. The truth is, it is a pitiable production. There
are twenty young men of our acquaintance who
make no pretension to literary ability, yet- wtuo could
produce a better book in a week.



HENRY COCKTON 19



HENRY COCKTON*




O MALLEY," "Harry Lorre-
Valentine Vox," "Stanley Thorn,"
and some other effusions, are novels de
pending for effect upon what gave popularity to
"Peregrine Pickle" we mean practical joke. To
men whose animal spirits are high, whatever may
be their mental ability, such works are always accep
table. To the uneducated, to those who read little,
to the obtuse in intellect (and these three classes con
stitute the mass) these books are not only acceptable,
but are the only ones which can be called so. We
here make two divisions that of the men who can
think but who dislike thinking; and that of the men
who either have not been presented with the mate
rials for thought, or who have no brains with which
to "work-up" the material. With these classes
of people "Stanley Thorn" is a favorite. It not
only demands no reflection, but repels it, or dissi
pates it much as a silver rattle the wrath of a child.
It is not in the least degree suggestive. Its readers
arise from its perusal with the identical idea in posses
sion at sitting down. Yet, during perusal, there has
been a tingling physico-mental exhilaration, some
what like that induced by a cold bath, or a flesh-
brush, or a gallop on horseback a very delightful
and very healthful matter in its way. But these
things are not letters. "Valentine Vox," and

* Stanley Thorn. By Henry Cockton, Esq., Author of
"Valentine Vox, the Ventriloquist," etc., with Numerous
Illustrations, designed by Cruikshank, Leech, etc., and en
graved by Yeager. Lea & Blanchard : Philadelphia.



20 EDGAR ALLAN POE

"Charles O Malley" are no more "literature" than
cat -gut is music. The visible and tangible tricks of
a baboon belong not less to the belles-lettres than does
"Harry Lorrequer." When this gentleman adorns
his countenance with lamp-black, knocks over an
apple woman, or brings about a rent in his pantaloons,
we laugh at him when bound up in a volume, just
as we would laugh at his adventures if happening
before our eyes in the street. But mere incidents
whether serious or comic, whether occurring or de
scribed mere incidents are not books. Neither are
they the basis of books of which the idiosyncrasy
is thought in contradistinction from deed. A book
without action cannot be; but a book is only such,
to the extent of its thought, independently of its
deed. Thus of Algebra; which is, or should be,
defined as "a mode of computing with symbols
by means of signs." With numbers, as AJgebra,
it has nothing to do; and although no algebraic
computation can proceed without numbers, yet Al
gebra is only such to the extent of its analysis, in
dependently of its Arithmetic.

We do not mean to find fault with the class of per
formances of which Stanley Thorn " is one. What
ever tends to the amusement of man tends to his
benefit. Aristotle, with singular assurance, has de
clared poetry the most philosophical of all writing,
(spoudiotaton kai philosophikotaton genos) defending
it principally upon that score. He seems to think
and many following him have thought that the
end of all literature should be instruction a favorite
dogma of the school of Wordsworth. But it is a
truism that the end of our existence is happiness.
If so, the end of every separate aim of our existence
* fvervthins; connected with our existence, should
2>e still happiness. Thereiore, the end of ingtruc-



HENRY COCKTON 21

tion should be happiness and happiness, what is it
but the extent or duration of pleasure ? therefore, the
end of instruction should be pleasure. But the
cant of the Lakists would establish the exact con
verse, and make the end of all pleasure instruction.
In fact, ceieris paribus, he who pleases is of more
importance to his fellow man than he who instructs,
since the duke is alone the utile, and pleasure is the
end already attained, which instruction is merely
the means of attaining. It will be said that Words
worth, with Aristotle, has reference to instruction
with eternity in view; but either such cannot be the
tendency of his argument, or he is laboring at a sad
disadvantage ; for his works or at least those of his
school are professedly to be understood by the
few, and it is the many who stand in need of salva
tion. Thus the moralist s parade of measures would
be as completely thrown away as are those of the
devil in "Melmoth," who plots and counterplots
through three octavo volumes for the entrapment
of one or two souls, while any common devil would
have demolished one or two thousand.

When, therefore, we assert that these practical-
joke publications are not "literature," because not
"thoughtful" in any degree, we must not be under
stood as objecting to the thing in itself, but to its

claims upon our attention as critic. Dr. what

is his name? strings together a number of facts or
fancies which, when printed, answer the laudable
purpose of amusing a very large, if not a very re
spectable number of people. To this proceeding
upon the part of the Doctor or on the part of his imi
tator, Mr. Jeremy Stockton, the author of "Valen
tine Vox," we caw have no objection whatever. His
books do not please us. We will not read them.
Still less shall we speak of them seriously as books.



22 EDGAR ALLAN POE

Being in no respect works of art, they neither de
serve, nor are amenable to criticism.

"Stanley Thorn" may be described, in brief, as a
collection, rather than as a series, of practical haps
and mishaps, befa .ig a young man very badly
brought up by his mother. He flogs his father with
a codfish, and does other similar things. We have
no fault to find with him whatever, except that, in
the end, he does not come to the gallows.

We have no great fault to find with him, but with
Mr. Bockton, his father, much. He is a consummate
plagiarist; and, in our opinion, nothing more despi
cable exsts. There is not a good incident in his
book (?) of which we cannot point out the paternity
with at least a sufficient precision. The opening
adventures are all in the style of "Cyril Thornton."
Bob, following Amelia in iisguise, is borrowed from
one of the Smollet or Fielding novels there are
many of our readers who will be able to say which.
The cab driven over the Crescent trottoir, is from
Pierce Egan. The swindling tricks of Colonel Some
body, at the commencement of the novel, and of
Captain Filcher afterwards, are from "Pickwick
Abroad." The doings at Madame Pompour s (or
some such name) with the description of Isabelle, are
from "Ecart6, or the Salons of Paris" a rich book.
The Sons-of-Glory scene (or its wraith) we have
seen somewhere; while (not to be tedious) the
whole account of Stanley s election, from his first
conception of the design, through the entire canvass,
the purchasing of the "independents," the row
at the hustings, the chairing, the feast, and the
petition, is so obviously stolen from "Ten Thousand
a Year," as to be disgusting. Bob and the "old
venerable" what are they but feeble reflections
of young and old Weller? The tone of the narration



HENRY COCKTON 23

throughout is an absurd echo of Boz. For ex
ample " We ve come agin about them there little
accounts of oum question is do you mean to settle
em or don t you? His colleagues, by whom he
was backed, highly approved of this question, and
winked and nodded with the view of intimating to
each other that in their judgment that was the
point." Who so dull as to give Mr. Bogton any
more -^dit for these things than we give the buffoon
for the -, dle which he has committed to memory?



24 EDGAR ALLAN POE



CHARLES DICKENS*



WE often hear it said, of this or of that
proposition, that it may be good in
theory, but will not answer in practice;
and in such assertions we find the substance of all
the sneers at critical art which so gracefully curl
the upper lips of a tribe which is beneath it. We
mean the small geniuses the literary Titmice
animalcules which judge of merit solely by result,
and boast of the solidity, tangibility, and infallibility
of the test which they employ. The worth of a
work is most accurately estimated, they assure us, by
the number of those who peruse it; and "does a
book sell?" is a query embodying, in their opinion,
all that need be said or sung on the topic of its fitness
for sale. We should as soon think of maintaining,
in the presence of these creatures, the dictum of
Anaxagoras, that snow is black, as of disputing, for
example, the profundity of that genius which, in a
run of five hundred nights, has rendered itself evi
dent in "London Assurance." "What," cry they,
"are critical precepts to us, or to anybody? Were
we to observe all the critical rules in creation we
should still be unable to write a good book" a
point, by the way, which we shall not now pause to
deny. "Give us results" they vociferate, "for we
are plain men of common sense. We contend for
fact instead of fancy for practice in opposition to
theory."

* Barnaby Rudge. By Charles Dickens, (Boz.) Author
of "The Old Curiosity-Shop," "Pickwick," "Oliver Twist,"
etc., etc. With numerous Illustrations, by Cattermole,
Browne & Sibson. Lea & Blanchard: Philadelphia.



CHARLES DICKENS 25

The mistake into which the Titmice have been
innocently led, however, is precisely that of dividing
the practice which they would uphold, from the
theory to which they would object. They should
have been told in infancy, and thus prevented from
exposing themselves in old age, that theory and
practice are in so much one, that the former implies
or includes the latter. A theory is only good as
such, in proportion to its reducibility to practice.
If the practice fail, it is because the theory is im
perfect. To say what they are in the daily habit of
saying that such or such a matter may be good
in theory but is false in practice, is to perpetrate
a bull to commit a paradox to state a contradic
tion in terms in plain words, to tell a lie which is
a lie at sight to the understanding of anything bigger
than a Titmouse.

But we have no idea, just now, of persecuting
the Tittlebats by too close a scrutiny into their little
opinions. It is not our purpose, for example, to
press them with so grave a weapon as the argumen-
tum ad absurdum, or to ask them why, if the popular
ity of a book be in fact the measure of its worth,
we should not be at once in condition to admit the
inferiority of "Newton s Principia" to "Hoyle s
Games"; of "Earnest Maltravers" to "Jack-the-
Giant-Killer," or "Jack Sheppard," or "Jack Brag";
and of "Dick s Christian Philosopher" to "Char
lotte Temple," or the "Memoirs of de Grammont,"
or to one or two dozen other works which must be
nameless. Our present design is but to speak, at
some length, of a book which in so much concerns
the Titmice, that it affords them the very kind of
demonstration which they chiefly affect practical
demonstration of the fallacy of one of their favorite
dogmas ; we mean the dogma that no work of fiction



26 EDGAR ALLAN POE

can fully suit, at the same time, the critical and the
popular taste; in fact, that the disregarding or con
travening of critical rule is absolutely essential to
success, beyond a certain and very limited extent,
with the public at large. And if, in the course of
our random observations for we have no space for
systematic review it should appear, incidentally,
that the vast popularity of "Barnaby Rudge"
must be regarded less as the measure of its value,
than as the legitimate and inevitable result of cer
tain well-understood critical propositions reduced by
genius into practice, there will appear nothing more
than what has before become apparent in the "Vicar
of Wakefield" of Goldsmith, or in the "Robinson
Crusoe" of De Foe nothing more, in fact, than
what is a truism to all but the Titmice.

Those who know us will not, from what is here
premised, suppose it our intention, to enter into any
wholesale laudation of Barnaby Rudge." In truth,
our design may appear, at a cursory glance, to be
very different indeed. Boccalini, in his "Advertise
ments from Parnassus," tells us that a critic once
presented Apollo with a severe censure upon an
excellent poem. The god asked him for the beau
ties of the work. He replied that he only troubled
himself about the errors. Apollo presented him
with a sack of unwinnowed wheat, and bade him
pick out all the chaff for his pains. Now we have
not fully made up our minds that the god was in the
right. We are not sure that the limit of critical
duty is not very generally misapprehended. Ex
cellence may be considered an axiom, or a proposition
which becomes self-evident just in proportion to the
clearness or precision with which it is put. If it
fairly exists, in this sense, it requires no farther elu
cidation. It is not excellence if it need to be



CHARLES DICKENS 27

demonstrated as such. To point out too particularly
the beauties of a work, is to admit, tacitly, that these
beauties are not wholly admirable. Regarding,
then, excellence as that which is capable of self-
manifestation, it but remains for the critic to show
when, where, and how it fails in becoming manifest;
and, in this showing, it will be the fault of the book
itself if what of beauty it contains be not, at least,
placed in the fairest light. In a word, we may assume,
notwithstanding a vast deal of pitiable cant upon this
topic, that in pointing out frankly the errors of a
work, we do nearly all that is critically necessary
in displaying its merits. In teaching what per
fection is, how, in fact, shall we more rationally
proceed than in specifying what it is not?

The plot of "Barnaby Rudge" runs thus: About
a hundred years ago, Geoffrey Haredale and John
Chester were schoolmates in England the former
being the scape-goat and drudge of the latter.
Leaving school, the boys become friends, with much
of the old understanding. Haredale loves; Chester
deprives him of his mistress. The one cherishes
the most deadly hatred; the other merely contemns
and avoids. By routes widely different both attain
mature age. Haredale, remembering his old love,
and still cherishing his old hatred, remains a bache
lor and is poor. Chester, among other crimes, is
guilty of the seduction and heartless abandonment
of a gipsy-girl, who, after the desertion of her lover,
gives birth to a son, and, falling into evil courses,
is finally hung at Tyburn. The son is received and
taken charge of, at an inn called the Maypole, upon
the borders of Epping forest, and about twelve miles
from London. This inn is kept by one John Willet,
a burley-headed and very obtuse little man, who has
a son, Joe, and who employs his protege, under the



28 EDGAR ALLAN POE

single name of Hugh, as perpetual hostler at the inn.
Hugh s father marries, in the meantime, a rich
parvenue, who soon dies, but not before having
presented Mr. Chester with a boy, Edward. The
father, (a thoroughly selfish man-of-the-world, whose
model is Chesterfield,) educates this son at a dis
tance, seeing him rarely, and calling him to the
paternal residence, at London, only when he has
attained the age of twenty-four or five. He, the
father, has, long ere this time, spent the fortune
brought him by his wife, having been living upon
his wits and a small annuity for some eighteen
years. The son is recalled chiefly that by marrying
an heiress, on the strength of his own personal merit
and the reputed wealth of old Chester, he may enable
the latter to continue his gayeties in old age. But of
this design, as well as of his poverty, Edward is kept
in ignorance for some three or four years after his
recall; when the father s discovery of what he con
siders an inexpedient love-entanglement on the part
of the son, induces him to disclose the true state of
his affairs, as well as the real tenor of his intentions.

Now the love-entanglement of which we speak, is
considered inexpedient by Mr. Chester for two
reasons the first of which is, that the lady beloved
is the orphan niece of his old enemy, Haredale, and
the second is, that Haredale (although in circum
stances which have been much and very unexpect
edly improved during the preceding twenty-two
years) is still insufficiently wealthy to meet the
views of Mr. Chester.

We say that, about twenty- two years before the
period in question, there came an unlooked-for
change in the worldly circumstances of Haredale.
This gentleman has an elder brother, Reuben, who
has long possessed the family inheritence of the



CHARLES DICKENS 29

Haredales, residing at a mansion called "The
Warren," not far from the Maypole Inn, which is it
self a portion of the estate. Reuben is a widower,
with one child, a daughter, Emma. Besides this
daughter, there are living with him a gardener, a
steward (whose name is Rudge) and two women
servants, one of whom is the wife of Rudge. On
the night of the nineteenth of March, 1733, Rudge
murders his master for the sake of a large sum of
money which he is known to have in possession.


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