On some French Fashionable Novels, with a plea for romances in general


(from The Paris Sketch Book Of Mr. M. A. Titmarsh by William Makepeace Thackeray)

Tea-parties are the same all the world over; with the exception that, with the French, there are more lights and prettier dresses; and with us, a mighty deal more tea in the pot. There is, however, a cheap and delightful way of travelling, that a man may perform in his easy-chair, without expense of passports or post-boys. On the wings of a novel, from the next circulating library, he sends his imagination a-gadding, and gains acquaintance with people and manners whom he could not hope otherwise to know. Twopence a volume bears us whithersoever we will;—back to Ivanhoe and Coeur de Lion, or to Waverley and the Young Pretender, along with Walter Scott; up the heights of fashion with the charming enchanters of the silver-fork school; or, better still, to the snug inn-parlor, or the jovial tap-room, with Mr. Pickwick and his faithful Sancho Weller. I am sure that a man who, a hundred years hence should sit down to write the history of our time, would do wrong to put that great contemporary history of “Pickwick” aside as a frivolous work. It contains true character under false names; and, like “Roderick Random,” an inferior work, and “Tom Jones” (one that is immeasurably superior), gives us a better idea of the state and ways of the people than one could gather from any more pompous or authentic histories.