I do not think it is incumbent on me at present to name periodicals in which this work is well done, and to make complaints of others by which it is scamped. I should give offence, and might probably be unjust. But I think I may certainly say that as some of these periodicals are certainly entitled to great praise for the manner in which the work is done generally, so are others open to very severe censure — and that the praise and that the censure are chiefly due on behalf of one virtue and its opposite vice. It is not critical ability that we have a right to demand, or its absence that we are bound to deplore. Critical ability for the price we pay is not attainable. It is a faculty not peculiar to Englishmen, and when displayed is very frequently not appreciated. But that critics should be honest we have a right to demand, and critical dishonesty we are bound to expose. If the writer will tell us what he thinks, though his thoughts be absolutely vague and useless, we can forgive him; but when he tells us what he does not think, actuated either by friendship or by animosity, then there should be no pardon for him. This is the sin in modern English criticism of which there is most reason to complain.
Peccet ad extremum ridendus.”
'My good sir,' returned Mr. Micawber, 'you recall me, I am obliged to you.' They shook hands again. 'My employer, ma'am - Mr. Heep - once did me the favour to observe to me, that if I were not in the receipt of the stipendiary emoluments appertaining to my engagement with him, I should probably be a mountebank about the country, swallowing a sword-blade, and eating the devouring element. For anything that I can perceive to the contrary, it is still probable that my children may be reduced to seek a livelihood by personal contortion, while Mrs. Micawber abets their unnatural feats by playing the barrel-organ.'
The next moment he felt a hand laid, with the fingers spread open, on his shoulder, and passed from thence to his breast, as if to ascertain his exact position. He leaped up, grappled with the invisible intruder, and strove to seize the right arm, which, from its being greatly elevated above the head, he supposed to wield some deadly weapon. In the struggle they pushed through the doorway of the little cabin, into the outer one. Henry felt that, though the figure was tall, and in its proportions athletic, he was himself, he thought, the stronger, certainly the more elastic of the two. Still, no effort he could make, could bend the right arm downwards. If he attempted to use both hands for the purpose, the left arm of his antagonist tightly encircled his waist, to the endangering of his footing; in so much that with his left he was obliged to clasp with equal closeness his invisible assailant. While they thus wrestled, locked in each other’s embrace, Henry, who had not had presence of mind, indeed scarcely time, to do so sooner, called out, “On deck there!” A foot was heard coming below. The vigilance of Henry’s attention was taken off for a second. The uplifted arm descended with the quickness of lightning, and a dagger was plunged, up to the hilt, in his side. He uttered a species of yell, leaped from the ground, fell, and groaned heavily, muttering from between his closing teeth: “Hell and the Devil, I am murdered!”
What is natural in me, is natural in many other men, I infer, and so I am not afraid to write that I never had loved Steerforth better than when the ties that bound me to him were broken. In the keen distress of the discovery of his unworthiness, I thought more of all that was brilliant in him, I softened more towards all that was good in him, I did more justice to the qualities that might have made him a man of a noble nature and a great name, than ever I had done in the height of my devotion to him. Deeply as I felt my own unconscious part in his pollution of an honest home, I believed that if I had been brought face to face with him, I could not have uttered one reproach. I should have loved him so well still - though he fascinated me no longer - I should have held in so much tenderness the memory of my affection for him, that I think I should have been as weak as a spirit-wounded child, in all but the entertainment of a thought that we could ever be re-united. That thought I never had. I felt, as he had felt, that all was at an end between us. What his remembrances of me were, I have never known - they were light enough, perhaps, and easily dismissed - but mine of him were as the remembrances of a cherished friend, who was dead.
'How can you be so aggravating,' said my mother, shedding more tears than before, 'as to talk in such an unjust manner! How can you go on as if it was all settled and arranged, Peggotty, when I tell you over and over again, you cruel thing, that beyond the commonest civilities nothing has passed! You talk of admiration. What am I to do? If people are so silly as to indulge the sentiment, is it my fault? What am I to do, I ask you? Would you wish me to shave my head and black my face, or disfigure myself with a burn, or a scald, or something of that sort? I dare say you would, Peggotty. I dare say you'd quite enjoy it.'
"It's nice of you to tell me that. But why's the place being sold? Trouble with the police?"
'You were speaking about its being a girl,' said Miss Betsey. 'I have no doubt it will be a girl. I have a presentiment that it must be a girl. Now child, from the moment of the birth of this girl -'