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liamentary purposes only; and these should take place between the elections and the sitting of the Parliament. (We believe something like this was suggested by Sir Robert Inglis and opposed by Mr. Williams Wynne.) As the law now stands, the fate of a ministry, or of the succession, or of the constitution, might be decided by members illegally returned by gross corruption, by intimidation, by barefaced violence. We will not say that any thing like this ever really occurred, but it might; and Parliament should look to it whilst they have the power. The Commissioners in each commission should sit as a Bench of Four. We should see no objections to putting any other competent persons in the parliamentary commissions in addition to the Judges, nor to this being done by a vote of the House in the preceding parliament. In this case, each member should only be entitled to vote for half the number of commissioners required,—an excellent mode of protecting the interests of the minority; and which, by the way, we would apply to all municipal and parochial elections. Possibly, some of the forms of the common law might require to be modified; but such is the wonderful good sense and consistency of its system-once so prized, and now in fast progress towards becoming as obsolete as the Dooms of Ethelbert and Ina that no real difficulty would be found in adapting them to the peculiar cases which arise under election laws. And we may add more - we believe, and we make the assertion most deliberately—that there is hardly a single secular want of our present age, which the common law system, wisely expounded, would not supply. Let only those who are engaged upon the task, endeavour to be enabled to reject all party politics, all conventional language, and, without slavishly adhering to the forms of our ancient jurisprudence, attempt to guide themselves by its reason-and all may yet be well.
NOTE.-A friend, from whom we have received many valuable suggestions and much useful advice, and whom we would most gladly quote by name if etiquette permitted us so to do, is still of opinion that a good tribunal might be formed by a paid Committee of the House of Commons. Four members from each side of the House to sit de die in diem—and in case of equality of votes, each of the four in rotation to have the casting vote; but with an appeal in all cases in which the Committee is not unanimous to another Committee appointed in like manner, members of either Committee to deliver their judgments as judges in open Court, with their reasons—with, on difficult questions of law or evidence, power to state a case, as the Lord Chancellor does, for the opinion and certificate of any of the Superior Courts in the manner before suggested. We give this opinion because it results from one who has had very great practical experience; but we object to the casting-vote; and we cannot help preferring the scheme which we have suggested, of taking the matter wholly out of the walls of the House, and adjudicating on the spot by Parliamentary circuits, as above proposed : besides which the Committee plan does not provide a remedy for what we consider the greatest evil, namely, the opening of the Parliament without a previous verification of the powers of the members.
Art. X. - American Notes, for General Circulation. By
Charles Dickens. 2 vols. post. Svo. London. 1842. WE E heartily wish- and for more reasons than are at first
sight obvious—that the morbid sensibility of our TransAtlantic cousins to the opinion of English visitors could be moderated. We wish it for our own sakes as well as theirs, for it imparts to all their intercourse with us—whether literary or political-a jealous aspect and a captious spirit, painful to themselves, and therefore embarrassing to us. If we were disposed to flatter our own national pride, we might represent it as a kind of involuntary tribute to our superior taste and judgment--but it is a tribute of such dubious value that we would willingly waive all claim to it
it not enricheth us,
And makes them poor indeed.' The truth is, that instead of being the result of any rational deference or good will towards the father-land, it has a very opposite origin, and tends to directly contrary results.
It seems at first sight somewhat unreasonable that Americans of education and good manners should feel so painfully, as they certainly do, criticisms on those other classes which must in all countries be expected to exhibit some coarse peculiarities—why should they be more offended at such observations than French or English gentlemen are at exhibitions of the manners of La Rapée or Wapping? The true explanation is, we believe, that this susceptibility is a natural effect of their political institutions. The principle of universal equality tends not only to make society very miscellaneous, but it creates a feeling of co-partnership, as it were, among all ranks of Americans in the results, whether good or bad, which foreigners may attribute to that fundamental doctrine of democracy. And this, on the other hand, is one of the chief motives of ihe peculiar interest which the English public take in the working of the social machine in the United States. The curiosity on one side, and the soreness on the other, on many topics apparently very trifling, have a deeper root than any
kind of personal jealousy; they are in fact indications of that natural and, we will say, laudable anxiety with which all mankind are now watching every step of the great experimental contest between democratical and monarchical government. therefore, as the Americans are too apt to suppose, any personal animosity, nor any desire to disparage their individual qualities, that sharpens the curiosity and criticism with which Englishmen are disposed to look at their social system; nor can they reasonably
It is not,
expect that we-who, like themselves, admit that the test of a good form of government is the degree of civilization, intelligence, comfort, and general happiness which it may confer on the great mass of the people-should refrain from inquiring pretty closely into the practical effect of their political institutions on national morals and manners. It is only by an appeal to such facts that the relative merits of the adverse theories can ever be decided. American writers have no scruple in observing pretty freely on the aristocratical manners of Europe-how can they wonder that Europeans use the same freedom with the deinocratic habits of America ? All that either party has a right to require is that the facts should be told with truth, and the argument conducted.
It is in this spirit that we are always disposed to deal with American topics, and while we gladly receive every successive addition to the facts - however minute — which may give us a fuller insight into their social life, we have no desire to see such subjects satirically or even lightly treated. What may be wrong we cannot affect to think right, nor can we always repress a smile at what may appear ridiculous; but we are sincerely anxious to avoid on our own parts, and, as far as our influence might go, to discountenance in other writers, any idle or wanton offence to their private feelings, or even their national prejudices.
Both Englishmen and Americans should consider that our common origin and language, which theoretically ought to be a bond of moral connexion, are in practice very liable to produce a hostile and jealous spirit between the two nations. When a French traveller, however cynical, visits America, he is aware that he is visiting a foreign landand feels no surprise that the idiom and manners of New York differ from those of Paris; and if he should happen to make any unfavourable observations, they are buried, as it were, in his own foreign tongue: the busy men of Broadway neither know nor care what the idlers of the Palais Royal may be scribbling or jabbering about them. But with an Englishman the case is altogether different. The identity of language, which promotes commercial intercourse and creates a community—to a certain extent—of literary taste and of moral feeling, has a proportionably bad effect where anything like a personal difference happens to arise. The mutual language then becomes a double weapon-the common fountain overflows on each side with the waters of bitterness. We think that, in discussing this subject on some former occasion, we said that when people write or talk against one another in different languages they are like boxers sparring in stuffed gloves ; but when the English and Americans squabble in their common tongue it is
like hitting home with the naked fist-every blow gives a black eye or a bloody nose.
It was therefore, we confess, with no particular pleasure that we heard we were to have a picture of America from the pen of Mr. Dickens. Mr. Dickens is, as everybody knows, the author of some popular stories published originally in periodical parts remarkable as clever exhibitions of very low life-treated however, generally speaking, with better taste and less vulgarity* than the subjects seem to promise. We must say, en passant, that we have very little taste for the class of novels that take their heroes from Newgate and St. Giles's. Even in the powerful hands of Fielding, Jonathan Wild has always both disgusted and wearied us; but Fielding professed to have a moral object, and practically his revelations may have done good—at least, they never could have operated as an incentive to the same class of crimes, which is more, we fear, than can be said for some of the novels and dramas of the new school, whose Parnassus is a police-office, and whose Helicon the neighbouring tap.
Of Mr. Dickens, however, it is but justice to say that little or nothing of this offensive character can be charged against him-he manages his most ticklish situations with dexterous decency-his scenes, though low, are not immoral-his characters are original without being unnatural—the pleasantry is broad, but never indelicate, and seldom forced—the pathos is frequent and touching, but not maudlin-and in the peculiar walk which it has been his taste or his chance to adopt, he has, we think, fewer faults and more merits than
any of his imitators or competitors. But we must confess that we doubt whether the powers—or perhaps we should say the habits of his mind are equal to any sustained exertion. His best things, to our taste, are some short tales published under the absurd pseudonyme of Boz - in which a single anecdote, lively or serious, is told with humour or tenderness as the subject may require, but always with ease and felicity. His longer works owe, we are afraid, much of their popularity to their having been published in numbers. There is in them, as in the others, considerable truth, but in the long run somewhat of sameness; and the continuous repetition of scenes of low life though, as we have said, seldom vulgarly treated—becomes at last exceedingly tedious. We at least can say for ourselves that we followed the earlier portions of · Nickleby,' as they were
* This, however, must be taken cum grano salis—for Mr. Dickens's works afford a double exemplification of the difference between describing vulgar objects and describing vulgarly. His low-life-bis Weller, Noggs, or Mantellini-is never vulgarit is real; but the vulgarity of his attempts at the aristocracy-his lords and baronetsis woeful.
published, with that degree of interest and amusement which serves to while away what the French so appropriately call · les momens perdus :' but it happened that we did not see the latter half till the whole had been collected in a volume and then, we must confess that we found some difficulty in getting through, in this concentrated shape, a series of chapters, which we have no doubt we should have read, at the usual intervals, with as much zest as we had done their predecessors. In short, we are inclined to predict of works of this style both in England and France (where the manufacture is flourishing on a very extensive and somewhat profligate scale) that an ephemeral popularity will be followed by early oblivion.
But, however this may be, there is, we think, little doubt that it was Mr. Dickens's reputation as a kind of moral caricaturista shrewd observer and powerful delineator of ridiculous peculiarities in diction and in manners, that suggested the idea of his undertaking a voyage to America and this consequent publication. Certain it is that the American public was considerably excited, not to say alarmed, at the supposition that he was coming amongst them with the design of making and preserving in a more lasting form the same kind of satirical sketches of Transatlantic manners which Mr. Mathews had so ludicrously dramatized.
Extravagant as it may seem, we can assure our readers that before the publication of this work we ourselves heard froin a most respectable person, well acquainted with America, a grave and really heartfelt apprehension, whether Mr. Dickens's book might not counterbalance all the good that had been done by Lord Ashburton's mission!'
But with whatever intentions—whether serious or comic-Mr. Dickens
may have undertaken his tour, the result, we think, will equally disappoint those who feared and those who hoped that he would exhibit the interior of American life with the same shrewd perception of the ridiculous, and the same caustic power of describing it, for which he had become so celebrated at home. In fact the work has very little of Mr. Dickens's peculiar merit, and still less, we are sorry to say, of any other. It seems to us an entire failure; and yet, paradoxical as it may appear, the failure is probably more creditable to his personal character than a high degree of literary success might have been. We have no personal acquaintance with Mr. Dickens, and know nothing of the secret history of his publication, but we think we can trace the general insipidity of his work to very honourable
He seems to have been hospitably received into American society, and could hardly fail to see the painful anxiety which was, as we are informed, very generally felt and very