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CHARLES DICKENS was born at Portsmouth, England, Feb. 7, 1812. His early childhood was oppressed by poverty and continuous toil. At length the bright boy was sent to an academy, where he studied during three or four years. In his seventeenth year he taught himself the art of shorthand reporting. The prosecution of this work took him to various parts of England. While thus engaged he undertook the writing of stories. In the year 1836 the serial publication of the “ Pickwick Papers ” was begun. This work gave the author instant celebrity, and his success was assured. From that time until his death he produced a new book nearly every year. He visited America in 1842 and again in 1868. Here and in England he gave delightful readings from his own works. His books abound in pathos and humor. He had keen eyes and sharp rebukes for public injustice and private wrongs.
He died at his home near Rochester, England, June 6, 1870.
When we came out of the church, we said to the coachman, “Go to the Coliseum.” In a quarter of an hour or so he stopped at the gate, and we went in.
It is no fiction, but plain, sober, honest truth, to say — so suggestive and distinct is it at this hour — that, for a moment, actually in passing in, they who will may have the whole great pile before them, as it used to be, with thousands of eager faces, staring down into the arena, and such a whirl of strife, and blood, and dust, going on there, as no language can describe.
Its solitude, its awful beauty, and its utter desolation strike upon the stranger, the next moment, like a softened sorrow; and never in his life, perhaps, will he be so moved and overcome by any sight not immediately connected with his own affections and afflictions.
To see it crumbling there, an inch a year; its walls and arches overgrown with green; its corridors open to the day; the long grass growing in its porches; young trees of yesterday springing up on its ragged parapets, and bearing fruit, chance produce of the seeds dropped there by the birds who build their nests within its chinks and crannies; to see its Pit of Fight filled up with earth, and the peaceful Cross planted in the center; to climb into its upper halls, and look down on ruin, ruin, ruin, all about it; the triumphal arches of Constantine, Septimius Severus, and Titus ; the Roman Forum ; the palace of the Cæsars; the temples of the old religion fallen down and gone; — is to see the ghost of old Rome, wicked, wonderful old city, haunting the very ground on which its people trod.
It is the most impressive, the most stately, the most solemn, grand, majestic, mournful sight conceivable. Never, in its bloodiest prime, can the sight of the gigantic Coliseum, full and running over with the lustiest life, have moved one heart, as it must move all who look upon it now, a ruin. God be thanked : a ruin.
THE DEATH OF PAUL DOMBEY.
Little Dombey had not risen from his little bed. He lay there, listening to the noises in the street, quite tranquilly ; not caring much how the time went, but watching it and watching everything.
When the sunbeams struck into his room through the rustling blinds, and quivered on the opposite wall, like golden water, he knew that evening was coming on, and that the sky was red and beautiful. As the reflection died away, and a gloom went creeping up the wall, he watched it deepen, deepen, deepen into night.
Then he thought how the long unseen streets were dotted with lamps, and how the peaceful stars were shining overhead. His fancy had a strange tendency to wander to the River, which he knew was flowing through the great city ; and now he thought how black it was, and how deep it would look reflecting the hosts of stars; and, more than all, how steadily it rolled away to meet the sea.
As it grew later in the night, and footsteps in the street became so rare that he could hear them coming, count them as they passed, and lose them in the hollow distance, he would lie and watch the manycolored ring about the candle, and wait patiently for day.
His only trouble was the swift and rapid river. He felt forced, sometimes, to try to stop it, — to stem its tide with his childish hands, or choke its way with sand; and when he saw it coming on resistless, he cried out! But a word from Florence, who was always at his side, restored him to himself; and, leaning his poor head upon her breast, he told Floy of his dream, and smiled.
When th: day began to dawn again, he watched for the sun ; and when its cheerful light began to sparkle in the room, he pictured to himself — pictured! he saw — th high church towers rising up into the morning sky, the town reviving, waking, starting into life once more, the river glistening as it rolled (but rolling as fast as ever), and the country bright with dew.
Familiar sounds and cries came by degrees into the street below; the servants in the house were roused and busy; faces looked in at the door, and voices asked his attendants how he was. Paul always answered for himself, “ I am better.
I am a great deal better, thank you! Tell papa so!”
By little and little he got tired of the bustle of the
day, the noise of carriages and carts and people passing and repassing, and would fall asleep, or be troubled with a restless and uneasy sense again. “ Why, will it never stop, Floy?” he would sometimes ask her. “It is bearing me away, I think !”
But she could always soothe and reassure him; and it was his daily delight to make her lay her head down on his pillow, and take some rest.
“You are always watching me, Floy. watch
They would prop him up with cushions in a corner of his bed, and there he would recline, the while she lay beside him, — bending forward often to kiss her, and whispering to those who were near, that she was tired, and how she had sat up so many nights beside him. — Thus the flush of the day, in its heat and light, would gradually decline; and again the golden water would be dancing on the wall.
The people round him changed unaccountably, and what had been the Doctor would be his father, sitting with his head leaning on his hand. This figure, with its head leaning on its hand, returned so often, and remained so long, and sat so still and solemn, never being spoken to, and rarely lifting up its face, that Paul began to wonder languidly if it were real.
Floy! What is that?” " Where, dearest ?" “ There! At the bottom of the bed." “ There's nothing there, except papa !”