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signing people standing round, and what is Nature to the willing captive who has never risen up upon the wings of a free mind-drooping and useless soon-to see her in her comprehensive truth!
Alas! are there so few things in the world about us most unnatural, and yet most natural in being so! Hear the magistrate or judge admonish the unnatural outcast of society; unnatural in brutal habits, unnatural in want of decency, unnatural in losing and confounding all distinctions between good and evil; unnatural in ignorance, in vice, in recklessness, in contumacy, in mind, in looks, in everything. But follow the good clergyman or doctor, who, with his life imperilled at every breath he draws, goes down into their dens, lying within the echoes of our carriage wheels and daily tread upon the pavement stones. Look round upon the world of odious sights-millions of immortal creatures have no other world on earth-at the lightest mention of which humanity revolts, and dainty delicacy living in the next street, stops her ears, and lisps, “I don't believe it! " Breathe the polluted air, foul with every impurity that is poisonous to health and life; and have every sense conferred upon our race for its delight and happiness, offended, sickened, and disgusted, and made a channel by which misery and death alone can enter. Vainly attempt to think of any simple plant, or flower, or wholesome weed that, set in this fetid bed, could have its natural growth or put its little leaves off to the sun as God designed it. And then, calling up some ghastly child, with stunted form and wicked face, hold forth on its unnatural sinfulness, and lament its being so early far away from heaven-but think a little of its having been conceived, and born and bred, in hell!
Those who study the physical sciences, and bring them to bear upon the health of man, tell us that if the noxious particles that rise from vitiated air were palpable to the sight, we should see them lowering in a dense black cloud above such haunts, and rolling slowly on to corrupt the better portions of a town. But if the moral pestilence that rises with them, and in the eternal laws of outraged nature, is inseparable from them, could be made discernible too, how terrible the revelation! Then should we see depravity, impiety, drunkenness, theft, murder, and a long train of nameless sins against the natural affections and repulsions of mankind, overhanging the devoted spots,
and creeping on, to blight the innocent and spread contagion among the pure. Then should we see how the same poisoned fountains that flow into our hospitals and lazar houses, inundate the jails, and make the convict ships swim deep, and roll across the seas, and overrun vast continents with crime. Then should we stand appalled to know that where we generate disease to strike our children down and entail itself on unborn generations, there also we breed, by the same certain process, infancy that knows no innocence, youth without modesty or shame, maturity that is mature in nothing but in suffering and guilt, blasted old age that is a scandal on the form we bear. Unnatural humanity! When shall gather grapes from thorns, and figs from thistles; when fields of grain shall spring up from the offal in the byways of our wicked cities, and roses bloom in the fat churchyards that they cherish; then we may look for natural humanity and find it growing from such seed.
Oh, for a good spirit who would take the housetops off, with a more potent and benignant hand than the lame demon in the tale, and show a Christian people what dark shapes issue from amidst their homes, to swell the retinue of the destroying angel as he moves forth among them! For only one night's view of the pale phantoms rising from the scenes of our too long neglect; and from the thick and sullen air where vice and fever propagate together, raining the tremendous and social retributions which are ever pouring down, and ever coming thicker! Bright and blessed the morning that should rise on such a night; for men, delayed no more by stumbling-blocks of their own making, which are but specks of dust upon the path between them and eternity, would then apply themselves, like creatures of one common origin, owing one duty to the father of one family, and tending to one common end to make the world a better place!
Not the less bright and blessed would that day be for rousing some who never have looked out upon the world of human life around them to a knowledge of their own relation to it, and for making them acquainted with a perversion of Nature in their own contracted sympathies and estimates; as great and yet as natural in its development when once begun as the lowest degradation known.
This selection is worth rereading. The most advanced thinkers will understand it best.
Dickens showed that he understood clearly that a man becomes marred and degraded by shutting the world out of his heart, even though the reason for the exclusion may in itself be good. Love is the highest of all sentiments, and Dickens used it in the case of Mr. Wickfield to show that even the tender love he had for his dead wife became a source of evil to him, when it made him cease to think of the sorrows of his fellows, and only of his own affliction. Either in joy or sorrow the benefit to the individual results from a deepening of his consciousness of unity with the whole of humanity. Mr. Wickfield said to David:
“ Weak indulgence has ruined me. Indulgence in remembrance and indulgence in forgetfulness. My natural grief for my child's mother turned to disease; my natural love for my child turned to disease. I have infected everything I touched. I have brought misery on what I dearly love, I know-You know! I thought it possible that I could truly love one creature in the world, and not love the rest; I thought it possible that I could truly mourn for one creature gone out of the world, and not have some part in the grief of all who mourned. Thus the lessons of my life have been perverted! I have preyed on my own morbid coward heart, and it has preyed on me. Sordid in my grief, sordid in my love, sordid in my miserable escape from the darker side of both, oh, see the ruin I am, and hate me, shun me!”
In Tom Tiddler's Ground Dickens attacks the ideal that there may be merit in seclusion. Mr. Traveller visits the hermit who had become famous, and who was so vain on account of his dirt and simplicity of living, and he tells him some plain truths regarding himself and the duty of man to his fellow-men.
“Now," said he, that a man-even behind bars, in a blanket and a skewer-should tell me that he can see from day to day any orders or conditions of men, women, or children, who can by any possibility teach him that it is anything but the miserablist drivelling for a human creature to quarrel with his social nature-not to go so far as to say, to renounce his common human decency, for that is an extreme case, or who can teach him that he can in
any wise separate himself from his kind and the habits of his kind, without becoming a deteriorated spectacle calculated to give the Devil (and perhaps the monkeys) pleasure-is something wonderful! ”
“You think yourself profoundly wise,” said the Hermit.
“ Bah," returned Mr. Traveller, “ there is little wisdom in knowing that every man must be up and doing, and that all mankind are made dependent on one another.
“ It is a moral impossibility,” continued Mr. Traveller, " that any son or daughter of Adam can stand on this ground that I put my foot on, or on any ground that mortal treads, and gainsay the healthy tenure on which we hold our existence.”
“ Which is,” sneered the Hermit, according to you
" Which is,” returned the Traveller, ' according to Eternal Providence, that we must arise and wash our faces and do our gregarious work and act and react on each other, leaving only the idiot and the palsied to sit blinking in the corner.”
Dickens saves Little Emily from her great sorrow, and lifts the load of “shame” from her heart by giving her the opportunity of helping to care for others.
But theer was some poor folks aboard as had illness among 'em, and she took care of them; and theer was the children in our company, and she took care of them; and so she got to be busy, and to be doing good, and that helped her.
And in the same great book he ridicules the misuse of the sacred word “society by applying it to the sham and mockery of all that should be truly helpful and ennobling in the social intercourse of mankind.
Or perhaps this is the Desert of Sahara! for, though Julia has a stately house, and mighty company, and sumptuous dinners every day, I see no green growth near her; nothing that can ever come to fruit or flower. What Julia calls “ society," I see among it Mr. Jack Maldon, from his Patent Place, sneering at the hand that gave it to him, and speaking to me of the Doctor, as so charmingly antique.”
But when society is the name of such hollow gentlemen and ladies, Julia, and when its breeding is professed indifference to everything that can advance or can retard mankind, I think we must have lost ourselves in the same Desert of Sahara, and had better find the way out.
When he spoke of Little Dorrit as “inspired” he proceeded to say:
She was inspired to be something which was not what the rest were, and to be that something, different and laborious, for the sake of the rest. Inspired? Yes. Shall we speak of the inspiration of a poet or a priest, and not of the heart impelled by love and self-devotion to the lowliest work in the lowliest way of life!
Dickens had reached the great conception that the duty of every individual is to add something by his life to the general good. That we should not leave the world as we found it; that our work is not done well if we spend our lives in digging among the richest treasures of the past and revealing them unselfishly to our fellow-men, but that each should make some existing thing or condition better, or reveal some new thought or principle, or plan, or process, so that humanity may climb more easily and more certainly from the mists and shadows to the higher glory of the clearer light.
Mr. Doyce had made an invention, but had met with almost insuperable difficulties in getting it before the people.
“ It is much to be regretted,” said Clennam, ever turned your thoughts that way, Mr. Doyce.”
" True, sir, true, to a certain extent. But what is a man to do? If he has the misfortune to strike out something serviceable to the nation, he must follow where it leads him.”
“ Hadn't he better let it go?” asked Clennam.
“He can't do it,” said Doyce, shaking his head, with a thoughtful smile. “It's not put into his head to be buried. It's put into his head to be made useful. You hold your life on the condition that to the last you shall struggle hard for it. Every man holds a discovery on the same terms."
“ That is to say,” said Arthur, with a growing admira
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