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The object of this volume is to present in a compact form-alphabetically arranged for Ready Reference and for Fireside Half-hour readings—a selection of the Best Thoughts of CHARLES DICKENs. It is only a great genius -one which has identified itself with the reading millions—that will bear such a test. But when an author has become a fountain of phrases and characters, and for more than thirty-five years tinged our current literature with his personages and phraseology-when Pickwick and the Wellers ; Pecksniff and Mark Tapley; Dick Swiveller and the Marchioness; Peggotty and Barkis; Susan Nipper and Dot; Captain Cuttle and Walr; Sairey Gamp and Mrs. Harris; Micawber and Mr. Turveydrop; Little Nell, “Jo, and Paul; nay, the entire roll of fourteen hundred and twenty-five creations of his fancy, have become “as household words”—a collection of the “ Best Thoughts" of such an author will be neither unwelcome nor useless to those who admire the existing monuments of his literary labors.
A compilation of this kind, indeed, has long been a want, for Charles Dickens has so forcibly impressed his strong individualities upon all he has written, that there is scarcely a profession, or trade, or stratum of society, or subject, which, touched by his artistic pen, has not received some new light or shadow that makes the picture more vivid than before. Hence, he who reads simply to converse well or quote aptly, or he who would
"Steal a thought and clip it round its edge,
And challenge him whose 'twas, to swear to it," will find within these pages that which concerns every theme in life.
The Lawyer, Minister, Physician, Journalist, Artist, Actor, Author, Orator, Inventor, Musician, Architect, School-master, Philanthropist, Life Insurance Agent, Broker, Auctioneer, Collector, Short-hand Writer, Undertaker, Jailor, Executioner, Stage Driver, House-keeper, Nurse,--all these and more have their place in the intellectual phantasmagoria—all are the objects of unmistakable satire, humor, or pathos-all will find something within these pages which concerns their various callings. Critics may quarrel with the art of Dickens, but the people will always admire his genius. Regarded from any point of view, his works constitute a unique gallery of portraits, wherein one may enjoy sympathy with all that is tender and true in humanity, or, on the other hand, find not extravagant illustrations of that which is false and forbidding.
The author dwells among powerful contrasts. Oliver Wendell Holmes has described him as “a kind of Shakespeare, working in terra cotta instead of marble ;" while M. Taine, in his History of English Literature, alleges that he “contains an English painter," who, with passionate art, gives a voice to matter, and makes imaginary objects equivalent to realities.
Whatever Dickens has described, is impressed upon the imagination with all the detail and truth of a living presence. Is it the massive machinery of a “ Dock Yard"-you hear the "scrunch" of the power-press. Is it the wind-you witness the “small tyranny with which it wreaks its vengeance on the fallen leaves, and then goes whirling among the crazy timbers of a steeple to mingle its moans with the Voices of the Bells.” Is it an English home, at Christmas—you are sitting at the same board with Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit, and there is not a detail of the feast missing, from the aroma of the annual pudding to the brewing of the punch. Does he paint a por. trait-his masterly touches fasten upon memory the hypocrisy of Pecksniff,