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“Pen Photographs of Dickens's Readings." By KATE FIELD.
NE glance at the platform is sufficient to convince
the audience that Dickens thoroughly appreciates "stage effect.” A large screen of maroon cloth occupies the background; before it stands a light table of peculiar design, on the inner left-hand corner of which there peers forth a miniature desk, large enough to accommodate the reader's book. On the right hand of the table, and somewhat below its level, is a shelf, where repose a carafe of water and a tumbler. 'Tis "a combination and a form indeed," covered with velvet somewhat lighter in color than the screen. No drapery conceals the table, whereby it is plain that Dickens believes in expression of figure as well as of face, and does not throw away everything but his head and arms, according to the ordinary habit of ordinary speakers. About twelve feet above the platform, and somewhat in advance of the table, is a horizontal row of gas-jets with a tin reflector; and midway in both perpendicular gas-pipes there is one powerful jet with glass chimney. By this admirable arrangement, Dickens stands against a dark background in a frame of gaslight, which throws out his face and figure to the best advantage. With the book "Dickens" stranded on the little desk, the comedian Dickens can transform a table into a stage; and had the great novelist concluded, at the last moment, not to appear before us, this ingenious apparatus would have taught us a lesson in the art of reading.
He comes! A lithe, energetic man, of medium stature, crosses the platform at the brisk gait of five miles an hour, and takes his position behind the table. This is Charles Dickens, whose name has been a household word in England and America for thirty years; whose books have been the joy and solace of many a weary heart and head. A first glance disappointed me. I thought I should prefer to have him entirely unlike himself; but when I began to speculate on how Charles Dickens ought to look, I gave the matter up, and wisely concluded that Nature knew her own intentions better than any one else.
Dickens has a broad, full brow, a fine head—which, for a man of such power and energy, is singularly small at the base of the brain—and a cleanly cut profile. There is a slight resemblance between him and Louis Napoleon in the latter respect, owing mainly to the nose; but it is unnecessary to add that the faces of the two men are totally different. Dickens's eyes are light-blue, and his mouth and jaw, without having any claim to beauty, possess a strength that is not concealed by the veil of iron-gray mustache and generous imperial. His head is but slightly graced with iron-gray hair, and his complexion is florid.
If any one thinks to obtain an accurate idea of Dickens from the photographs that flood the country, he is mistaken. He will see Dickens's clothes, Dickens's features, as they appear when Nicholas Nickleby is in the act of knocking down Mr. Wackford Squeers; but he will not see what makes Dickens's face attractive, the geniality and expression that his heart and brain put into it. In his photographs Dickens looks as if, previous to posing, he had been put under an exhausted receiver and had had his soul pumped out of him. This process is no beautifier. Therefore, let
those who have not been able to judge for themselves believe that Dickens's face is capable of wonderfully varied expression. Hence it is the best sort of face. His eye is at times so keen as to cause whoever is within its range to feel morally certain that it has penetrated to his boots; at others it brims over with kindliness. “It is like looking forward to spring to think of seeing your beaming eye again," wrote Lord Jeffrey to Charles Dickens years ago, and truly, for there is a twinkle in it that, like a promissory note, pledges itself to any amount of fun-within sixty minutes. After seeing this twinkle I was satisfied with Dickens's appearance, and became resigned to the fact of his not resembling Apollo Belvedere. One thing is certain,-if he did resemble this classical young gentleman, he never could have written his novels. Laying this flattering unction to my soul, I listen.
inary Conversations. By WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR.
FRANKLIN--The conduct of England toward us
resembles that of Ebenezer Bullock toward his eldest son, Jonas.
Washington—I remember old Ebenezer; and I believe it was Jonas who, when another youth, after giving him much offence and seeing him unresisting would fain fight him, replied: "Nay, I will not fight thee, friend; but if thou dost with that fist what thou threatenest, by the Lord's help I will smite thee sore, marking thee for one of an ill, unprofitable flock; and thou shalt walk home in heaviness, like a wether the first morning he was made one." Whereat he took off his coat, folded it up, and laid it on the ground, saying, "This at least hath done no harm, and deserveth good, treatment.” The adversary, not admiring such an object of contemplation, went away muttering more reasonable threats, conditional and subjunctive. Ebenezer, I guess, aggravated and wore out his son's patience; for the old man was rich and testy, and would have his comforts neither encroached upon nor much partaken.
Franklin-My story is this. Jonas had been hunting in the woods, and had contracted a rheumatism in the face which drew it awry, and, either from the pain it occasioned or from the medicines he took to cure it, rotted one of his grinders. Old Ebenezer was wealthy, had little to do or to care about, made few observations on his family, sick or sound, and saw nothing particular in his son's countenance. However, one day after dinner when he had eaten heartily, he said, "Son Jonas, methinks thy appetite is not over-keen; pick (and welcome) the other half of that hog's foot."
"Father," answered he, “I have had a pain in my tooth the last fortnight; the northerly wind does it no good to-day. I would rather, if so be that you approve of it, eat a slice of yon fair cheesecake in the closet."
“Why, what ails the tooth?" said Ebenezer. "Nothing more," replied Jonas, "than that I cannot chew with it what I used to chew." “Drive a nail in the wall," quoth stoutly and courageously Ebenezer,“tie a string to one end, and lace the other round thy tooth."
The son performed a part of the injunction, but could not very dexterously twist the string around the grinder, for his teeth were close and the cord not overfine. Then said the father kindly, “Open thy mouth, lad! give me the twine: back thy head, -back it, I tell thee, over the chair."
“Not that, father! not that; the next," cried Jonas. “What dost mean?" proudly and impatiently said Ebenezer. “Is not the string about it? Dost hold my hand too, scapegrace? Dost give me this trouble for nought?" “Patience, now, father!" meekly said Jonas, with the cord across his tongue; “let me draw my tooth my own way.”
“Follow thine own courses, serpent!'' indignantly exclaimed Ebenezer. “As God's in Boston, thou art a most wilful and undutiful child." "I hope not, father.” “Hope not! rebel! Did I not beget thee and thy teeth, one and all? Have not I lodged thee, clothed thee, and fed thee, these forty years; and now, I warrant ye, all this bustle and backwardness about a rotten tooth! Should I be a groat the richer for it, out or in?"