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The Dodd Family Abroad, Vol. I   By: (1806-1872)

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By Charles James Lever

With Illustrations By Phiz And W. Cubitt Cooke.

In Two Volumes: Vol. I.

Boston: Little, Brown, And Company



My Dear Sir Edward, While asking you to accept the dedication of this volume, I feel it would be something very nigh akin to the Bathos were I to say one word of Eulogy of those powers which the world has recognised in you .

Let me, however, be permitted, in common with thousands, to welcome the higher development which your Genius is hourly attaining, to say God speed to the Author of "The Caxtons" and "My Novel," and cry "Hear!" to the Eloquent Orator whose words have awakened an enthusiasm that shows Chivalry still lives amongst us.

Believe me, in all admiration and esteem,

Your faithful friend,


Casa Capponi, Florence, March, 1854.


Although the faulty judgment of authors on their own productions has assumed something like the force of a proverb, I am ready to incur the hazard of avowing that the present volume is, to my own thinking, better than anything else I have done. I am not about to defend its numerous shortcomings and great faults. I will not say one word in extenuation of a plan which, to many readers, forms an insuperable objection, that of a story in letters. I wish simply to record the fact that the book afforded me much pleasure in the writing, and that I felt an amount of interest in the character of Kenny Dodd such as I have never before nor since experienced for any personage of my own creation.

The reader who is at all acquainted with the incidents of foreign travel, and the strange individuals to be met with on every European highway, will readily acquit me of exaggeration either in describing the mistaken impressions conceived of Continental life, or the difficulties of forming anything like a correct estimate of national habits by those whose own sphere of observation was so limited in their own country. In Kenny Dodd, I attempted to portray a man naturally acute and intelligent, sensible and well judging where his prejudices did not pervert his reason, and singularly quick to appreciate the ridicule of any absurd situation in which he did not figure himself. To all the pretentious ambitions of his family, to their exaggerated sense of themselves and their station, to their inordinate desire to figure in a rank above their own, and appear to be something they had never hitherto attempted, I have made him keenly and sensitively alive. He sees Mrs. Dodd's perils, there is not a sunk rock nor a shoal before her that he has not noted, and yet for the life of him he can't help booking himself for the voyage. There is an Irishman's love of drollery, that passion for what gives him a hearty laugh, even though he come in for his share of the ridicule, which repays him for every misadventure. If he is momentarily elated by the high and distinguished company in which he finds himself, so far from being shocked when he discovers them to be swindlers and blacklegs, he chuckles over the blunders of Mrs. D. and Mary Anne, and writes off to his friend Purcell a letter over which he laughs till his eyes run.

Of those broad matters to which a man of good common sense can apply his faculties fairly, his opinions are usually just and true; he likes truth, he wants to see things as they are. Of everything conventional he is almost invariably in error; and it is this struggle that in a manner reflects the light and shade of his nature, showing him at one moment clear headed and observant, and at the next absurdly mistaken and ignorant.

It was in no spirit of sarcasm on my countrymen that I took an Irishman to represent these incongruities; nay, more, I will say that in the very liability to be so strongly impressed from without, lies much of that unselfishness which forms that staple of the national character which so greatly recommends them to strangers.

If I do not speak of the other characters of the book, it is because I feel that whatever humble merit the volume may possess is ascribable to the truthfulness of this principal personage... Continue reading book >>

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