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The man who led the van of this invading party is sketched under the name of Kenny J. Dodd. Lever describes an accidental meeting with a gentleman of this genus; how he formed an acquaintance with him which gradually ripened into intimacy. That amongst the many topics of conversation between them, the Continent and its habits occupied a very wide space. Dodd had lived little abroad; Lever had passed half of a life there. Their views and judgments were not alike; and if novelty had occasionally misled one, time and habit had not less powerfully blunted the perceptions of the other. The old resident discovered, to his astonishment, that the very opinions which he smiled at from his friend, had been once his own; that he had himself incurred some of the mistakes and fallen into many of the blunders which he now ridiculed, and that, so far from the Dodd family being the exception, they were in reality no very unfair sainples of a large class of our travelling countrymen. They had come abroad with crude and absurd notions of what awaited them on the Continent. They dreamed of economy, refinement, universal politeness, and a profound esteem for England from all foreigners. They fancied that the advantages of foreign travel were to be obtained without cost or labour ; that locomotion could educate, sight-seeing cultivate them; that in the capacity of British subjects every society should be open to them, and that, in fact, it was enough to emerge from home obscurity to become at once recognised in the fashionable circles of any continental city.
THE “ DODD FAMILY."
“They not only entertained all these notions, but they held them in defiance of most contradictory elements. They practised the most rigid economy when professing immense wealth ; they affected to despise the foreigner while shunning their own countrymen; they assumed to be votaries of art when merely running over galleries ; frequently outraged all the proprieties of foreign life by an open and shameless profligacy. It is very hard to believe that a few parallels of latitude can affect the moral thermometer, but so it is, and so Mr. Dodd honestly confessed he found it. He not only avowed that he could do abroad what he dare not do at home, but that, worse still, the infraction cost no sacrifice of self-esteem, nor self-reproach. It was not that these derelictions were part of the habits of foreign life, or at least of such of it as met the eye; it was in reality, because he had come abroad with his own preconceived ideas of a certain latitude in morals, and was resolved to have the benefit of it. Such inconsistency in theory led, naturally, to absurdity in action; and John Bull became in consequence a mark for every trait of eccentricity that satirists could describe, or caricaturists paint.
“The gradations of rank so rigidly defined in England, are less accurately marked out abroad. Society, like the face of the soil, is not enclosed by boundaries and fenced by hedgerows; but stretches away in boundless undulations of unlimited extent. The Englishman fancies there are no boundaries, because he does not see the landmarks. Since all seems open, he imagines there can be no tres
pass. This is a serious mistake! Not less a one is to connect title with rank. He fancies that nobility represents abroad the same pretensions which it maintains in England, and indignantly revenges his own blunder by calumniating in common every foreigner of rank.”
Pithy and pointed dialogue make up the strength of this book. It was well remarked of Lever's novels that, “No laborious building of a story, no seeing to the hinges, no oiling of the cranks, made the mechanism of his books intrusive in days when public taste would have condemned the artifices which pass for art in ours.” Lever told his friend the Major in 1869, that he had never done anything to equal the Dodds. To another friend he said, during his last visit to Dublin that Kate Dodd was the favourite girl of his creation ; he considered her the type of a true Irishwoman. She is called after his wife; and it cannot be doubted, that engrafted on the character are features and qualities which had served to endear to him the woman who had made the happiness of a long life.
This book written on the plan of “Humphrey Clinker” is perhaps, one of his best. There is a great similarity between Smollett and Lever. It rarely happens that the men who write prescriptions also write novels ; but Smollett like Lever had combined the parts of physician and comic novelist. The tone of both is tinged by Tory tendencies. Smollett and Lever put their own adventures in books. Smollett introduced Dr. Akenside into “Peregrine Pickle” as Dr. Smellfungus. Lever puts
Dr. Cusack into “O'Malley,” and Dr. Finucane in “Lorrequer.” Both started Tory journals in support of the Government; and both papers survived not many weeks; both wrote with ease and eschewed revision; both had a military bias; and martial scenes and rollicking adventure, with a relish of practical jokes, equally constitute their characteristics. *
In defence of this habit of non-revision, Lever told in a suppressed preface to the edition of “Lorrequer” issued in 1861, the story of “a painter who, having failed in many efforts to give the precise effect to the blood-stained foam on the mouth of a war-horse, in a moment of passionate fury hurled his sponge, stained and dyed with many a hue, at the canvas, and, to his delight, discovered that he had hit upon the very blended tints he wanted. The application of this tale to myself, restrains me now in the revision, and I am not without the strong suspicion that in the correction of its faults, I might be not improbably impairing the very character which first attracted favour towards it.”
In May, 1854, he communicated his fears that he should not be able to carry out his Yankee trip for want of money, but would, at all events, “ do Dublin.” Lord Eliot, the Irish secretary of his former eulogy, and who
* That Lever shrank from revision we have ample proof. In “ Jack Hinton," 1st Ed. p. 256, and repeated in all later ones, we read that “the priest in the corner was tumbling over some books to conceal his sense of defeat.” “Thumbing," we are sure, was the word originally written. Several slight errors pointed out by Maginn and other critics remain in the reprints, unaltered. Some of them are trivial enough-such as speaking of Cork whiskey as “ Beamish.” Beamish brews only.
expressed himself sensible of it, had now succeeded to the high post of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; and Lever's object in leaving Florence for Dublin at this time, was to see if Lord St. Germans had aught to offer—from a Mastership of the Horse to the office of Court Jester. On Lord Aberdeen's Government, however, Lever had not much claim; and he received nothing better than a dinner or two at the Viceregal Lodge.
At 8 o'clock A.M., August 2, 1854, Lever sends McGlashan word that he will join him at breakfast that day. A week later, he is found at Tanderagee, sketching the heads of "a coorse ” of work suggested by his publishers. Messrs. Chapman and Hall urged the reissue of his novels in the form adopted by Dickens. This, with new introductions, Lectures for America, and papers for a magazine, led him to say that he was working with the zeal of an apostle, and the sweat of a galley slave. He presented the skeleton, but had not the vaguest idea where the flesh was to come from. The habit of procrastination, he said, was “a bloody thief.” He sketched a long list of work to do, including the cutting of his throat, if he could manage five minutes spare time to do it. Printers' proofs plagued him throughout his progress, and he pleasantly complained that his eyes were not so good for print as for the pretty girls of Dublin. One man he met whom he declared it was good for sore eyes to see. Michael Joseph Barry, author of the “Kishoge Papers,” and one of Lever's editorial staff when at Templeogue, found his hand