Charles Dickens

When at length the whole of his late friend's papers passed into the Literary Executor's hands, it was found that Religious Opinions were scattered up and down through a variety of memoranda and note-books, the gradual accumulation of years and years. Many of the following pages were carefully transcribed, numbered, connected, and prepared for the press; but many more were dispersed fragments, originally written in pencil, afterwards inked over, the intended sequence of which in the writer's mind, it was extremely difficult to follow. These again were intermixed with journals of travel, fragments of poems, critical essays, voluminous correspondence, and old school-exercises and college themes, having no kind of connection with them.

To publish such materials "without alteration", was simply impossible. But finding everywhere internal evidence that Mr. Townshend's Religious Opinions had been constantly meditated and reconsidered with great pains and sincerity throughout his life, the Literary Executor carefully compiled them (always in the writer's exact words), and endeavoured in piecing them together to avoid needless repetition. He does not doubt that Mr. Townshend held the clue to a precise plan, which could have greatly simplified the presentation of these views; and he has devoted the first section of this volume to Mr. Townshend's own notes of his comprehensive intentions. Proofs of the devout spirit in which they were conceived, and of the sense of responsibility with which he worked at them, abound through the whole mass of papers. Mr. Townshend's varied attainments, delicate tastes, and amiable and gentle nature, caused him to be beloved through life by the variously distinguished men who were his compeers at Cambridge long ago. To his Literary Executor he was always a warmly-attached and sympathetic friend. To the public, he has been a most generous benefactor, both in his munificent bequest of his collection of precious stones in the South Kensington Museum, and in the devotion of the bulk of his property to the education of poor children.


The distinguished artist whose name is prefixed to these remarks purposes to leave England for a professional tour in the United States. A few words from me, in reference to his merits as an actor, I hope may not be uninteresting to some readers, in advance of his publicly proving them before an American audience, and I know will not be unacceptable to my intimate friend. I state at once that Mr. Fechter holds that relation towards me; not only because it is the fact, but also because our friendship originated in my public appreciation of him. I had studied his acting closely, and had admired it highly, both in Paris and in London, years before we exchanged a word. Consequently my appreciation is not the result of personal regard, but personal regard has sprung out of my appreciation.

The first quality observable in Mr. Fechter's acting is, that it is in the highest degree romantic. However elaborated in minute details, there is always a peculiar dash and vigour in it, like the fresh atmosphere of the story whereof it is a part. When he is on the stage, it seems to me as though the story were transpiring before me for the first and last time. Thus there is a fervour in his love-making--a suffusion of his whole being with the rapture of his passion--that sheds a glory on its object, and raises her, before the eyes of the audience, into the light in which he sees her. It was this remarkable power that took Paris by storm when he became famous in the lover's part in the Dame aux Camelias. It is a short part, really comprised in two scenes, but, as he acted it (he was its original representative), it left its poetic and exalting influence on the heroine throughout the play. A woman who could be so loved--who could be so devotedly and romantically adored--had a hold upon the general sympathy with which nothing less absorbing and complete could have invested her.