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feels in his pocket for his lancet.
And thus we are gradually led into an intimate acquaintance with the Major, just as our knowledge of a real person begins with his outward man, grows deeper as we get a closer view of his peculiarities of conduct and opinion, until at last we know him more thoroughly than he himself imagines, and can tell how he acted and what he thought on occasions when we were not present. We obtain the same knowledge of Thackeray's characters as we do of the persons whom we see most nearly and most frequently, and not a whit more. We think of them afterwards as we do of absent acquaintances; — we recall distinct images of bodily forms. In this respect, we know them better than we know the fictitious personages of any other writer. The depths of Hamlet's soul are revealed to us; but who ever imagines a Hamlet that is “fat, and scant of breath?” The simple nature, the honest, kindly hearts of Parson Adams and of My Uncle Toby are as clear and transparent as the waters of a summer's brook; but although we have some description of their personal appearance to assist us, we should doubtless have much difficulty in recognizing either of them if he were to enter the room. But Major Pendennis and Captain Costigan - how could we mistake their lineaments, when a faithful daguerreotype of each lies before us on the table ? Nor is it only the principal actors who are thus carefully costumed. Where there is no opportunity to bring out individual peculiarities, the stamp of caste and profession is at least made plainly visible. If “ Jeames" does but enter the room to announce that the carriage is at the door, our attention is forced away from the most interesting dialogue, and fixed upon the plush and the calves, the mincing tones and the dislocated aspirates. The characteristics of a particular class are always depicted with minute fidelity. Many of the characters are admirable specimens of the genus to which they belong. Morgan, for instance, is the very type of the English valet, - the most serviceable animal of the whole race, but with an extraordinary mass of vulgar insolence underneath the intensely servile exterior. The Irishmen in Thackeray's books, both as regards brogue and all the well-known propensities of the Hibernian nature, are certainly
the best to be found in either comedy or novel. The military portraits are not less faithful; and the British army - or the representative portion of it - entertains, for the delineator of its “heavy young dragoons," its dashing light-guardsmen, and its veteran brares, those sentiments of grateful esteem which it might be expected to feel. With what truthful and delicate touches does Thackeray portray childhood! No Vellys or Evas, but veritable children, are those that he sketches. The selfish indifference with which Master George Osborne repays the lavish affection of his mother, is painfully true to nature; and the boy's resemblance to his father in this particular is wonderfully maintained. Little Rawdon Crawley, among the fox-hounds at Queens Crawley, should have been painted by Landseer; and how like an infant Jove does he launch that innocent thunderbolt at the redoubtable Becky, when, following the example of her sister-in-law and the other ladies in the drawing-room, she calls the child to her, and caresses him, and he, looking up in her face, his large eyes filled with a grave surprise, says, “ you never kiss me at home, mamma!” The little housekeepers, in the “ Curate's Walk," are in our author's happiest style; and the following sketch, from the same paper, of a group of ragged children in one of the streets of St. Giles, is worthy of Murillo.
" There was one small person occupied in emptying one of these rivulets with an oyster-shell, for the purpose, apparently, of making an artificial lake in a hole hard by, whose solitary gravity and business struck me much, while the Curate was very deep in conversation with a small coalman. A half dozen of her comrades were congregated round a scraper and on a grating hard by, playing with a mangy little puppy, the property of the Curate's friend. I know it is wrong to give large sums of money away promiscuously, but I could not help dropping a penny into the child's oyster-shell, as she came forward, holding it before her like a tray. At first, her expression was one rather of wonder than of pleasure at this influx of capital, and was certainly quite worth the small charge of one penny, at which it was purchased. For a moment she did not seem to know what steps to take ; but having communed in her own mind, she presently resolved to turn them towards a neighboring apple-stall, in the direction of which she went without a single word of compliment passing between us. Now, the children round the scraper were witnesses to the transaction.
give her a penny,” one remarked to another, with hopes miserably disappointed that they might come in for a similar present. She walked on to the apple-stall, meanwhile, holding her penny behind her. And what did the other little ones do? They put down the puppy as if it had been so much dross; and one after another, they followed the penny-piece to the apple-stall.”
Nor will it be disputed that Thackeray's heroines, whatever objections there may be to them as specimens of that class, have such virtues and such foibles as are peculiarly feminine. No portraiture of the female mind that shall be complete, and altogether satisfactory, is to be expected from one of the other sex. It is hardly possible that any being should see deeper into the mind of a being of another race, than the point where those qualities lie from which arises the interrelation of the two races. If a mortal should undertake to write the life of an angel, it would be only that of a guardian angel, weeping, praying, and rejoicing for the sinner over whom it watched. If a human being should write the memoirs of a dog, they would be merely those of humble Tray, trotting at his master's heels, and pining away at his grave. What dramatist ever puts a soliloquy into the mouth of a woman, of which the subject is not love or a lover? Thackeray himself acknowledges this difficulty, or rather impossibility for a man, of fully comprehending the female character, in a remarkable passage in Mr. Brown's Letters to his Nephew.
“When I say I know women, I mean I know that I don't know them. Every woman I ever knew is a puzzle to me, as I have no doubt she is to herself. Say they are not clever? Their hypocrisy is a perpetual marvel to me, and a constant exercise of cleverness of the finest sort. You see a demure-looking woman, perfect in all her duties, constant in house-bills and shirt-buttons, obedient to her lord, and anxious to please him in all things ; silent, when you and he talk politics, or literature, or balderdash together, and, if referred to, saying with a smile of perfect humility, 'O, women are not judges upon such and such matters; we leave learning and politics to men.' Yes, poor Polly,' says Jones, patting the back of Mrs. J's. head goodnaturedly; 6 attend to the house, my dear, that's the best thing you can do, and leave the rest to us. Benighted idiot! She has long ago taken your measure and your friends’; she knows your weaknesses, and ministers
to them in a thousand artful ways. She knows your obstinate points, and marches round them, with the most curious art and patience, as you will see an ant on a journey turn round an obstacle. Every woman manages her husband; every person who manages another is a hypocrite. Her smiles, her submission, her good humor, for all which we value her, — what are they but admirable duplicity. We expect falseness from her, and order and educate her to be dishonest. Should hie upbraid, I'll own that he prevail; say that he frown, I'll answer with a smile; what are these but lies, that we expect from our slaves? Lies, the dexterous performance of which we announce to be the female virtues — brutal Turks that we are! I do not say that Mrs. Brown ever obeyed me — on the contrary; but I should have liked it, for I am a Turk like my neighbor. I will instance your mother now. When my brother comes in to dinner, after a bad day's sport, or after looking over the bills of some of you boys, he naturally begins to be surly with your poor dear mother, and to growl at the mutton. What does she do? She may be hurt, but she doesn't show it. She proceeds to coax, to smile, to turn the conversation, to stroke down Bruin, and get him in a good humor. She sets him on his old stories, and she and all the girls — poor dear little Saphiras - set off laughing; there is that story about the goose walking into church, which your father tells, and your mother and sisters laugh at, until I protest I am so ashamed that I hardly know where to look. On he goes with that story time after time; and your poor mother sits there, and knows that I know she is a humbug, and laughs on, and teaches all the girls to laugh too. Had that dear creature been born to wear a nose-ring and bangles instead of a muff and bonnet, and a brown skin in the place of that fair one with which nature has endowed her, she would have done Suttee, after your brown Brahmin father had died, and thought women very irreligious too, who refused to roast themselves for their masters and lords. I do not mean to say, that the late Mrs. Brown would have gone through the process of incremation for me — far from it; by a timely removal she was spared the grief which her widowhood would have doubtless caused her, and I acquiesce in the decrees of Fate, in this instance, and have not the least desire to have preceded her. .. My dear Nephew, as I grow old, and consider these things, I know which are the stronger, men or women ; but which are the cleverer, I doubt.”
If men are unable to penetrate the important secrets of the sex, women are no less unwilling to reveal them. It is only one who has herself overleaped the bounds of tyrannical custom, who ever ventures to depict that struggle which, at some
period of life, a proud and ardent woman can hardly fail to pass through. And when such a picture is presented by a Dudevant or a Hahn-Hahn, the sex itself is always foremost to cry out against it, as unfeminine and monstrous. It is in fact a betrayal — a revelation of internal weakness to the common foe. To suffer with a smiling face, is the supreme duty of womanhood. The femme incomprise, who whimpers and complains, is an object of scorn to her sisters; just as the Indians repudiate one of their own tribe, who, captured and tormented by the enemy, is unable to repress his groans. Ambition, - aspirations for self — by which the angels fell, is also the deadliest sin of our terrestrial angels; while in man, it is a virtue that leads to honor and reward. Hence women are divided by a strong barrier into two classes; women who submit, and women who rebel; women who are tender, loving, devoted, who sacrifice self, and think only of their husbands and their children; and women who are ambitious, independent, indignant at their trammels, who seek for a career, who cannot sink their own aspirations in those of another, and who think and strive only for themselves; women whom society smiles upon and approves, and women whom society suspects, and in extreme cases disowns. Whether all the restrictions from which this great breach originates, are necessary and natural, or whether the victims only are to blame, it is not our province to inquire. Thackeray, who paints the world as he finds it, reproduces again and again these two contrasted classes of women. His Becky and Amelia, his Beatrix and Lady Castlewood, are the magnetic poles of repulsion and attraction. If the former class display intellect superior to that of the latter, this we think is entirely natural. It is the active and original mind that is most likely to stray beyond the limits which a law, not altogether free from an arbitrary character, has assigned to it; and the experience that it thus gains, sharpens powers which might have rusted from want of exercise. After all, the qualities of Becky Sharp are just those by which men commonly attain success in life, especially in political life; her maxim was the same as that which every obscure man adopts who looks forward to fame; " she had her own way to make in the world; there was no