Cornhill Magazine,  6 (1862), 282–88.

Roundabout Papers.—No. XXIII. De Finibus

[William M Thackeray]


Regular Feature, Editorial, Drollery


Imagination, Mental Illness, Spiritualism

    In a discussion of the novelist's art, the narrator asserts, 'Madmen, you know, see visions, hold conversations with, even draw the likeness of, people invisible to you and me. Is this making of people out of fancy madness? and are novel-writers at all entitled to strait-waistcoats?' (283). Observes that often when writing, it 'seems as if an occult Power was moving the pen'; a character 'does or says something, and I ask, how the Dickens did he come to think of that'. Also claims that 'the imagination foretells things'. (287) In the 'novel of Pendennis, written ten years ago, there is an account of a certain Costigan, whom I had invented (as I suppose authors invent their personages out of scraps, heel-taps, odds and ends of characters). I was smoking in a tavern parlour one night—and this Costigan came into the room alive—the very man:—the most remarkable resemblance of the printed sketches of the man, of the rude drawings in which I had depicted him. [...] How had I come to know him, to divine him? Nothing shall convince me that I have not seen that man in the world of spirits. In the world of spirits and water I know I did: but that is a mere quibble of words. [...] I had had cognizance of him before somehow' (287–88). Considers as well that they 'used to call the good Sir Walter the "wizard of the North". What if some writer should appear who can write so enchantingly that he shall be able to call into actual life the people whom he invents? What if Mignon, and Margaret, and Goetz von Berlichingen are alive now (though I don't say they are visible), and Dugald Dalgetty and Ivanhoe were to step in at the open window by the little garden yonder?' (288).


Thackeray 1863

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