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A History of the Nineteenth Century, Year by Year

Pickwick and his body servant Sam Weller


[Sidenote: British reforms]

[Sidenote: Charles Dickens]

[Sidenote: "Pickwick Papers"]

[Sidenote: Marryat]

[Sidenote: Landor]

[Sidenote: Death of Mill]

[Sidenote: Wheatstone]

[Sidenote: Balfe]

Reform of all kinds had become popular in England under the dexterous resistance of O'Connell, who held the balance in Parliament. The government was induced to bring in a corporation reform bill for Ireland. An official register of births, deaths, and marriages was conceded to the dissenters. Next came the abolition of one of the most barbarous practices of English and Irish law courts. Up to this time prisoners accused of felony were not allowed to be defended by counsel. At the instance of Lord Lyndhurst this was now changed. Another gain for humanity was made by the abolition of the law which required that persons convicted of murder should be executed on the next day but one. On the other hand a bill for the abolition of imprisonment for debt miscarried. The most potent plea against the abuses of this particular relic of barbarism in England was put forth by Charles Dickens in his "Pickwick Papers." These serial papers relating the humorous adventures of Mr. Pickwick and his body servant Sam Weller, when brought in conflict with the English laws governing breach of marital promise and debt, had an immense success in England and all English-speaking countries. Already Dickens had published a series of "Sketches of London," under the pseudonym of Boz, while working as a Parliamentary reporter for the "Morning Chronicle." The success of the "Pickwick Papers" was such that he felt encouraged to emerge from his pseudonym and to devote himself entirely to literature. Other literary events of the year in England were the publication of the initial volumes of Lockhart's "Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott," of Captain Marryat's "Mr. Midshipman Easy," and "The Pirate and the Three Cutters," and of Landor's "Pericles and Aspasia." The first Shakespeare jubilee was celebrated at Stratford-on-Avon in the spring. A loss to English letters was the death of James Mill, the great political economist, in his sixty-third year. About this time Wheatstone constructed his electro-magnetic apparatus by which he could send signals over nearly four miles of wire. The Irish composer Balfe began his brilliant career as a composer of English operas with the "Siege of Rochelle," produced at Drury Lane in London. About the same time Mendelssohn brought out his "St. Paul" in Duesseldorf.

[Sidenote: Death of La Malibran]

[Sidenote: Her operatic career]

[Sidenote: Alfred de Musset's lines]

Maria Felicita Malibran, the great contralto singer of the early part of the Nineteenth Century, died on September 23, at Manchester, in her twenty-eighth year. Taken from Paris to Naples at the age of three, she made her first appearance as a public singer in her fifth year. Two years later she studied solfeggio with Panseron. At the age of sixteen she made her debut as Rosina in "Barbiere di Seville" at London. The success of her first appearance was so great that she was at once engaged for the season. Next she appeared in New York, where she was a popular favorite for two years, singing in Mozart's "Don Giovanni," in "Tancred," "Romeo and Juliet," and two of her father's operas. Here she married a French merchant, Malibran. After her separation from him she returned to Paris, where she was engaged as prima donna at a salary of 50,000 francs. Thereafter she sang at every season in Paris, London, Milan, Rome and Naples. For one engagement of forty nights in Naples she received 100,000 francs. Both as a singer and woman she exercised an extraordinary fascination over her contemporaries. Only a few months before her death she married the violinist De Beriot. In England she suffered a severe fall from her horse, which shattered her health. After this she literally sang herself to death. Her loss was mourned most of all in France, where her death has been commemorated by Alfred de Musset's beautiful threnody ending with the lines:


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