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About Hesperian student / (Lincoln [Neb.]) 1872-1885 | View Entire Issue (June 1, 1887)
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THE HE S PEA' A AT.
The English idea is to narrow, or, as wc may say, degrade
the human character into n mere aggregate of vices and vir
tues, ami the English novelist mut conform to the prevailing
standard. His heroes must lie prodigies of valor, his hero
incs perfections of virtue, and the villains in the plot have
the one quality of vice. In other words, one quality repre
sents the whole character; the pait is taken as the whole. In
this respect the novels of Dickens and Thackeray are like all
Thackeray, however, has one peculiarity. He is eminently
a satirist. Satire is the characteristic most natural to Eng
lish writings. A man of reflection is impelled to it by the
false character of the institutions surrounding him. Thack
eray was a man of deep reflection, and therefore eminently
fitted for the writing of satire. His reflections were of the
' gloomiest kind, and it is the gloom that makes his satire so dc
pressing in its effects. A man of high moral principles and a
lover of nil that is honest and pure, he was fully alive to the
follies and vices of men, and keenly observant of the wrongs
and oppressions around him. His fault is that he is so lost in
the contemplation of vice that he leaves out of sight the
good that is in us. Those who admire him most admit that
lie paints the world blacker than, it is. Through all his nov
els, even those of his characters who arc not actually vicious
have their faults and weaknesses more prominent than their
admirable qualities. In some respects this fault-finding tend
ency is of value. For cxamnlc. his satires of snobs. The snob
is a character peculiar to England, a natural outgrowth of
English institutions. Thackeray had x peculiar detestation
of snobs and of everything snobbish. In the "Hook of
Snobs" he touches upon every type known in society and
shows up their follies with stinging sarcasm. In all his writ
ings Thackeray is the sternest of moralists. From his nov
els wc might glean whole sermons on morality. Wc may read
between the lines complete lessons on love, on vanity, on hy
pocrisy, on all the virtues and all the vices. I o every odioitf
character is attached an obvious moral. This didactic style,
long-continued, becomes tedious. Wc do not like to have
moral conclusions thrust upon us, but prefer sometimes to
draw inferences for ourselves.
The marked contrast between the writings of Thackeray
and Dickens is the natural result of their different natures.
Thackeray is preeminently an assailant of vice; he picks out
flaws and faults in human character and shows us the evil of
wrongdoing. Whatever may have been his character as a
man, as a writer he was the Prince of Cynics.
Dickens has nothing of the cynical in his nature. He was
a lover of mankind, delighting in finding good in every man,
no matter how humble he might be. This principle is evi
dent in all his novels. His heroes arc people to admire. The
difference may be best noted by taking a character from each
author, as Pendcnnis and Nicklcby. Pcndcnnis is rash, vain
and foolish. He meets trouble through his own fault, and
when he is successful wc arc inclined to think his success due
to the force of circumstances rather than to his own wise ex
ertions. His first love is an actress, a dull.stupid woman old
er than himself. When obliged to give her up he thinks his
heart is almost broken. Howocr, he recovers and is soon
lost in admiration of another. Each time his love is entirely
without reason and therefore notgenuinc.
v;..i,r.inc nn hr other hand, is a man of resolution. He
overcomes obstacles readily and shapes his career with a firm
hand. His first and only love is a noble girl who would win
the admiration of any man. We despise Pendcnnis because
he is weak; wc admire Nicholas because he is strong.
The great power of Dickens is his imagination. An idea
takes complete possession of him; nil else is for the moment
forgotten. He presents a picture in nn infinite variety of
forms, gives minutest details with such vividness and distinct
ucss thnt the render must sec it just as the author has it in his
mind. Moreover, n grcnt subject is not required to arouse
his imagination. Critics find fault with him because he gives
too much attention to common things, exalting trivialities, but
the very criticism shows his worth. He seeks for beauty v
crywhere. All beauty about us tends to the refinement of
our moral natures. Hut if wc do not notice beauty, the effect
is lacking. And there arc degrees in beauty as in other
things. Wc cannot always be roused by grand subjects and
soul-inspiring themes. Human nature cannot long endure a
heavy strain. Dickens takes the trivial things, the common
afTairs which make up the sum of our lives, and shows us
beauties in them which .but for him might have remained un
noticed. Thackeray has none of the impulsiveness of Dickens. He
keeps his subject alwnys under control, never allowing him
self to be mastered by it His judgments nrc reached only
after due deliberation and reflection. His sweeping condem
nations arc not the result of excitement or prejudice. Wc
feel that his intense hatred of wrong justified it. In all his
writings the ruling sentiment is hatred hatred of evil, to be
sure, but hatred none the less. The ruling principle of Dick
ens' writings is love love of all things good, pure and beau
tiful. The difference in the effect produced is just the differ
ence between love and hate. Love expands our sensibilities;
hate cramps them. Hntc warps and dwarfs the soul; love
enlarges and develops.
Tainc sums up the teachings and general principles of
Dickon's novels as follows: "He good and love; be virtuous
and you will be happy. Honor virtue wherever found. Genu
ine joy is found only in the emotions of the heart. Sensibil
ity is the whole man."
BASEBALL IN HADES.
The following little article is clipped from one of our ex
changes, and is meant specially for the benefit of the Classi
cals, though of course those of the other students who have
brains enough to appreciate it arc welcome to Jaugh at it if
they so choose.
As the rivalry was intense, the kicking over the choice of
an umpire was proportionately huge; but Socrates was finally
chosen. He took his position and the game began. The two
nines were as follows:
Clcon catcher Brutus.
Cinion .. .pitcher Caesar.
Plato 1st Virgil.
Ariitophaucs 2d Lucretius
Alcibiadcs 3d Cicero.
Aristotle short Horace.
Euripides right Juvenal.
Eschylus left Livy.
Sophocles center Tacitus.
The Romans were at bat. Virgil and Livy were called out
on strikes, but Lucretius smashed the round atom on the
nose for a base hit. On the first ball pitched he stole second
in safety, but to the amazement of all was declared "out" by
Socrates on the ethical ground that stealing was contrary to
every principle derived from a contemplation of the idea of
Virtue. In less time than it takes to tell it, Socrates was
"fired," and Catiline was substituted. He remarked that a
good philosopher might be a d poor umpire, and the game