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Old Friends, Epistolary Parody   By: (1844-1912)

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The studies in this volume originally appeared in the "St. James's Gazette." Two, from a friendly hand, have been omitted here by the author of the rest, as non sua poma. One was by Mr. RICHARD SWIVELLER to a boon companion and brother in the lyric Apollo; the other, though purporting to have been addressed by Messrs. DOMBEY & SON to Mr. TOOTS, is believed, on internal evidence, to have been composed by the patron of the CHICKEN himself. A few prefatory notes, an introductory essay, and two letters have been added.

The portrait in the frontispiece, copied by Mr. T. Hodge from an old painting in the Club at St. Andrews, is believed to represent the Baron Bradwardine addressing himself to his ball.

A. L.


Every fancy which dwells much with the unborn and immortal characters of Fiction must ask itself, Did the persons in contemporary novels never meet? In so little a world their paths must often have crossed, their orbits must have intersected, though we hear nothing about the adventure from the accredited narrators. In historical fiction authors make their people meet real men and women of history Louis XI., Lazarus, Mary Queen of Scots, General Webbe, Moses, the Man in the Iron Mask, Marie Antoinette; the list is endless. But novelists, in spite of Mr. Thackeray's advice to Alexandre Dumas, and of his own example in "Rebecca and Rowena," have not introduced each other's characters. Dumas never pursued the fortunes of the Master of Ravenswood after he was picked up by that coasting vessel in the Kelpie's Flow. Sometimes a meeting between characters in novels by different hands looked all but unavoidable. "Pendennis" and "David Copperfield" came out simultaneously in numbers, yet Pen never encountered Steerforth at the University, nor did Warrington, in his life of journalism, jostle against a reporter named David Copperfield. One fears that the Major would have called Steerforth a tiger, that Pen would have been very loftily condescending to the nephew of Betsy Trotwood. But Captain Costigan would scarcely have refused to take a sip of Mr. Micawber's punch, and I doubt, not that Litimer would have conspired darkly with Morgan, the Major's sinister man. Most of those delightful sets of old friends, the Dickens and Thackeray people, might well have met, though they belonged to very different worlds. In older novels, too, it might easily have chanced that Mr. Edward Waverley of Waverley Honour, came into contact with Lieutenant Booth, or, after the Forty five, with Thomas Jones, or, in Scotland, Balmawhapple might have foregathered with Lieutenant Lismahagow. Might not even Jeanie Deans have crossed the path of Major Lambert of the "Virginians," and been helped on her way by that good man? Assuredly Dugald Dalgetty in his wanderings in search of fights and fortune may have crushed a cup or rattled a dicebox with four gallant gentlemen of the King's Mousquetaires. It is agreeable to wonder what all these very real people would have thought of their companions in the region of Romance, and to guess how their natures would have acted and reacted on each other.

This was the idea which suggested the following little essays in parody. In making them the writer, though an assiduous and veteran novel reader, had to recognise that after all he knew, on really intimate and friendly terms, comparatively few people in the Paradise of Fiction. Setting aside the dramatic poets and their creations, the children of Moliere and Shakspeare, the reader of novels will find, may be, that his airy friends are scarce so many as he deemed. We all know Sancho and the Don, by repute at least; we have all our memories of Gil Blas; Manon Lescaut does not fade from the heart, nor her lover, the Chevalier des Grieux, from the remembrance. Our mental picture of Anna Karenine is fresh enough and fair enough, but how few can most of us recall out of the myriad progeny of George Sand! Indiana, Valentine, Lelia, do you quite believe in them, would you know them if you met them in the Paradise of Fiction? Noun one might recognise, but there is a haziness about La Petite Fadette... Continue reading book >>

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