Evidences of quaint drollery, subtle humor, and even boisterous merriment in some of the most austere Victorians are aptly shown in this week's Widener room display of original and unpublished manuscripts. A number of rare pieces by famous nineteenth century authors are on exhibition which give an insight into an unexpected facetiousness.
There is a parody, for instance by Charles Dickens who is usually connected with the high romanticism of David Copperfield of the serious vein of The Tale of Two Cities. He has taken the lines of Gray's immortal elegy and transformed them in very mediocre doggerel, into the tale of a eat and dog. Here, for example are the opening lines of his version of the church yard verses:
"The small dog Spitz has given a shrill bark.
And has gone off with her tail upraised in the air.
I don't know where she has gone it is so dark.
And (what is more) I don't think that I care."
Even Thackeray, most generally known by the grave morality of Vanity Fair, did not seem to disdain a coarser style in his personal correspondence. There is a letter in the collection addressed to one Carmichael Smyth, giving the news of Thackeray's return to England. The author has illustrated it with a most unusual cartoon depicting a family lying in various stages of unconciousness about a parlor. He explained in the letter, that the scene is his idea of the reaction of Mr. Smyth's family to the unexpected news, and represents mother having hysterics, sister falling off the piano, and father falling into the urn.
Then, there is Lawrence Sterns who re...lls the almost medieval past. He is remembered for the days when a five volume novel was considered a short story and when whole chapters were filled with declamation on a single object. That all this voluble writing was not taken too seriously, however, is shown by a letter addressed by Mr. Sterne to his publisher. He refers to his somewhat sordid volumes of Tristram Shandy as his "seven or eighth graceless children" but promises the publisher that he will make up for it by "begetting a couple of ecclesiastick ones" to atone for their sins.