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drift. Not only is the picture false from beginning to end, but the incidents are hopelessly, ludicrously impossible. No such impostor as Miss Somerville could possibly gain admission into the society of such a man as Launcelot, far less inveigle him into marriage; and no couple of silly schoolboys could possibly overpower two such desperadoes as Wym and Smith. The author is totally ignorant of the subject with which he deals; he knows nothing of the usages of decent life, or even of the habits and speech of Bill Sikes and his companions. The whole thing is unreal. Yet this is the intolerable stuff that finds tens of thousands of juvenile readers, gilds the byways of crime, and helps to fill our reformatories with precocious gaolbirds of the worst class. Of the worst class, as being not only reft of all moral sense, and vitiated in mind, taste, and affection, but possessed of cunning intelligence how to turn their knowledge to the vilest use. Boys once led to believe in the exploits of Timothy Wym' or 'Captain 'Despo,' and to swallow the lying adventures of 'Dick the Dynamiter and The Battersea Brigands;' and girls, who once believe in the existence of such beings in creamy satin' as Miss Somerville, are already halfway on the road to Newgate.

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No less false are the so-called 'Stories of fun, love, adventure, sport, and romance' at sea or in foreign countries;' long-winded tales of piracy; or wanderings at the North 'Pole.' Everywhere there is but the same mixture of slang, sham sentiment, bombast, and lying misrepresentation. 'Piracy,' as here drawn, is one triumphant scene of heroic bloodshed, varied by days of drunken debauchery at sea; or, on land, by still rarer and more costly banquets of luxurious splendour. What can be more preposterous than this?—

'The cave of Captain Devil is one blaze of dazzling light. Tables are groaning under plates of massive silver and gold, holding rich dainties. Decanters of cut crystal, containing different coloured wines, sparkled under the light, and the walls are hung round with the richest stuffs, so that the cave looks like a palace. The pirates are lounging about, smoking, and laughing.'

When not thus peacefully engaged, after the banquet is over, they soar to a height of more exalted revelry, and drink their final toast in this fashion :

"Fill up your glasses," cries the Captain, "and this time we will drink it in flames! All the lights are extinguished, splinters of wood are kindled, the flaming goblets set fire to [sic] and quaffed by the whole band at a single gulp!'

So much for the romantic everyday joys of penny piracy at

sea.

If the rarer element of fun' appears, it is usually in some such fashion of curious humour as the following:

"Peter," says the doctor, "these rocks abound in wonderful specimens of orchids." "Horkids!" replies Peter, "I know it's precious 'horkid' crawling over these here rocks."

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Or the humour of an entire romance may be condensed into a single alliterative title-page, as in Willie Wide-awake, or the Wonderful Wanderings of a Wilful Wight,' the pages that follow being unenlivened by a single spark of fun, unless it lie hidden in the names of the dramatis persona- Long'champs,' 'Golgoro,' 'Bouldersberg,' 'Dusky,' and 'Jabez 'Warstones; or, still more drearily, as in another romance, 'Lijee Landers,' Placer Poll,' 'Salem Sphinx,' 'Protean 'Bob,' and Judee Ketch.' A glance into one of the numbers of the so-called Comic Journal' reveals three chapters of a nautical romance;' a page of intolerable stuff, entitled 'Troubles of Mr. P. Piper,' with a cut of the hero dancing on the supper-table; four chapters of Wandering Willie; three of The Tribunal of Ten, a Tale of Mystery and Love ' on the rolling Prairie, Washington Territory,' wherein the hero introduces himself in such amazing rant as this:

"I want ye to understand that I'm Lion Lije, the vigilant chief o' this burg, and I'm bizness. Thet, corpus-going ter whoop out who war the Capting's tribunal of Ten, only he were shet off, an bein's he couldn't let us know no other way, his spirit helped ter pint ye out." In addition to which, we have five columns of The Sag 'Hollow Mines;' and the final chapter (eighteenth) of 'Sword ' of Freedom; the Boyhood Days of Jack Straw, an historical 'romance;' in the same style as another historic volume, Death-shot and the Panther's Heart,' a single paragraph from which will suffice to show the character of the whole series.

"The "Black Wolf" bounded forward like a flash of lightning, but his antagonist was ready for him. In the very nick of time "Steve" rose in the air with a prodigious leap, and fell with his two feet on the shoulders of the "Mohawk," who staggered back several yards under the violence of the shock. In the same bound our young hero found himself erect, and at a good distance. The Mohawk rushed at him. foaming, roaring, and panting with rage. They now grappled each other. Foot to foot, breast to breast, the two adversaries mingled their hissing respirations,' &c., &c.

until, of course, the desperate conflict ends with the tri

umphant victory of the hero, who then calmly turns to meet four other Indians who suddenly rush upon him—but only to perish as perished the hapless Black Wolf.

It is incredible that such rant as this should find any purchasers, but we are informed on good authority that among all these weekly packets of trash none are more popular than the historical romance, which commands a sale of ten or twelve thousand, each copy finding half a score of readers; a success which Mr. Mudie would rejoice to attain for his choicest 'sensational' at a guinea and a half the set of three volumes.

*

We have yet to touch on another division of our subject, the penny broadsheets, mostly of newspaper size, illustrated with woodcuts of the roughest kind, such as 'The 'Boys' Leader,' containing fact, fiction, history and in'struction,' or The Boys of London and the Boys of 'New York.' All these sheets are pretty much of the same genus, abounding in much the same sort of slang and hopeless exaggeration, and relying for the most part on scenes of villany and worthless adventure as central points of interest; and a glance at No. 356 will suffice to show the character of the whole dreary catalogue. It opens with four chapters of The American Vidocq, or the Life and Adventures of a Famous Thieftaker,' in this style, in true Dumas fashion as to single lines:

""Pass the bottle, Dick."

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"Certainly, Frank; help yourself.”

"It's queer how dry talking will make a fellow." "That's so."

"How does your chink hold out?"

"Well, perhaps you'll not believe me, but out of six dollars I grabbed from the till this morning, only half a dollar's left."

"The devil!""

* One of these woodcuts has been thus described by Mr. Strahan: On page 1, he says, Jack is lying in the "Death Hole" sur'rounded by grinning skeletons. A man of war's man, with a cutlass in his mouth and a torch in one hand, is lowering himself by a rope to 'the rescue. In the next, Jack is coming down the Witch's staircase, 'sword in hand, and horrified, as he may well be, at a glimpse of the Witch in a crimson poncho, and a fashionable green dress, with a 'monstrous toad beside her. A viper writhes round the pitchfork in 'her right hand, another clings to her shoulder, while a third twines 'round the chain of the cauldron over a roaring fire; and a bat as big as a crow hovers in the lilac smoke.'

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Then follows a paragraph on some infallible ointment; one chapter of Old Mystery,' three ofNero the Hunchback,' two of The Blue Jockey;' chapter five of 'Shorty J.R., the 'Son of his Dad;' chapter ten of Old Merciless, the Manhunter;' a column of Young Stubbs, the Detective; more of 'Bang Up, or the Boys' Ranchero,' 'Teddy O'Lynn, the Irish Boy Detective,' and of Lance the Lion, or the 'Desperadoes of Deadwood.'

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Of all these, and a score of other such atrocious sheets, it may be well said

'The trail of the serpent is over them all; '

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and if Fagin the Jew, Baron Munchausen, and Jack Shepperd had set to work as joint editors of a 'Thieves' Library' they might well have been proud of the whole series now before us.*

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One small section, however, yet remains of which the weekly pennyworth is not to be classed with this select category of rubbish; such as 'The London Journal,' The Family Herald,' 'The London Reader,' 'Bow Bells; all of which are harmless enough in their way, being chiefly made up of highly sentimental and romantic novelettes, that in spite of an occasional dash of sensationalism are apt to grow tame and namby-pamby. The heroes for the most part are handsome, majestic, fashionable young men, much given to the seductive arts of flirtation; the heroines, of angelic beauty, accomplishments, and rare fascination. The rogues and naughty people are seldom too naughty, and things generally come right at last. If there is a good deal of padding and twaddle, the twaddle is at least innocuous; or, if injurious, only so far baneful as many cups of hot tea may become to a person of weak digestion. The reader who indulges in frequent doses of ' In those Blue Depths,'' Deeply Wronged,' 'A Soldier's Bride,'' For Justice or Love,' His Own Enemy,' -all to be taken in one weekly gulp-is in grave danger of becoming morally dyspeptic. The very idea of reading five novels, all love stories, at one and the same time, each demanding to have its thread of plot sustained from week to week, seems appalling; and the question is, Who are the readers? Readers, however, there must be, and to be counted by tens of thousands; and these, if report speaks truly, are

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A precocious New York boy was one day scolded by his mother for reading trash of this kind. It's nothing but stories about burglars ' and pirates, and must harm you.' 'No, mother, it won't do me any 'harm; I wrote it myself. I'm a regular contributor.'

chiefly to be found among shopgirls, maidservants, and other such half-educated and weakly inflammable young persons, as are or long to be snared in the fetters of romantic lovemaking; who put bridecake under their pillow and dream of Alonzo, and wake in forlorn misery to find the vision but a dream. One objection, however, to this theory is the two columns of Answers to Correspondents' in all these papers, which are clearly addressed to a wide and mixed circle of both sexes. The information supplied, or pretended to be supplied, to anxious enquirers, presents a curiously odd range of topics, as a single page will show: thus, Advice to 'Daisy' whose lover objects to her going to parties without him; the Peril of Secret Engagements;' who should Bow first;' Musical Taste;' Milton's Lycidas;' Flirtation;''Depilatory Powder;' Turquoises;' 'Soft Hands;' Marrying in Haste;' 'Handwriting;' Let the Young Man "Go;' Consult a Lawyer;' Origin of Coal;' Earnest Courtship; Fire Balloons; Fire Balloons; Anonymous Presents; ' meaning of Alice, Flora;' 'Copal Varnish;' 'Leading Tragedians; Antediluvian Remains;' Two are Company;' 'Love's Big Foot' (sic); 'No' sometimes means Yes; Pinewood Staining; Tweezers for Stray Hairs;' meaning of Xmas,' &c., &c.

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But, in another pennyworth, these Answers to Correspondents' soar to a yet loftier range of topics, such as Conversion and the New Birth;' The Action of Milk of Sulphur; The True Pronunciation of Latin;' 'Audi 'alteram partem;' Deafness compared with Blindness;' Phosphorus and Tin;' Russia and Turkey; Ivorine and Xylonite,' &c., &c. All these are handled with an amount of skill and intelligence still more forcibly shown in the 'leading article,' if we may so call the peculiar feature of The Family Herald' (by far the best of this class of penny fiction), which, in the number before us, deals with The Selfishness of Health and Happiness seeking' in a vein of cynical humour and good sense that must attract some readers even to a dry moral essay. After having held up to ridicule 'our sentimental dread of the least roughness or austerity in life, and the morbid dread of cold, discomfort, and hard living' as fatal to the welfare of the nation, the writer thus finishes his amusing discourse:

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'If only the idealists can have their way and work out the yearnings of their own sweet will, we shall soon be a teetotal, vegetarian, and non-tobacco-smoking people; we shall never stand too long, or sit too long, or work too long, or breathe a bad atmosphere, or drink a pol

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