Varied Types eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 139 pages of information about Varied Types.
to his young friend, “Hi, Alphonse! bring me a patty de foy gras, damme.”  These are the things that make us love the eminent Bill.  He is one of those who achieve the noblest and most difficult of all the triumphs of a fictitious character—­the triumph of giving us the impression of having a great deal more in him than appears between the two boards of the story.  Smaller characters give us the impression that the author has told the whole truth about them, greater characters give the impression that the author has given of them, not the truth, but merely a few hints and samples.  In some mysterious way we seem to feel that even if Shakespeare was wrong about Falstaff, Falstaff existed and was real; that even if Dickens was wrong about Micawber, Micawber existed and was real.  So we feel that there is in the great salt-sea of Yuba Bill’s humour as good fish as ever came out of it.  The fleeting jests which Yuba Bill throws to the coach passengers only give us the opportunity of fancying and deducing the vast mass of jests which Yuba Bill shares with his creator.

Bret Harte had to deal with countries and communities of an almost unexampled laxity, a laxity passing the laxity of savages, the laxity of civilised men grown savage.  He dealt with a life which we in a venerable and historic society may find it somewhat difficult to realise.  It was the life of an entirely new people, a people who, having no certain past, could have no certain future.  The strangest of all the sardonic jests that history has ever played may be found in this fact:  that there is a city which is of all cities the most typical of innovation and dissipation, and a certain almost splendid vulgarity, and that this city bears the name in a quaint old European language of the most perfect exponent of the simplicity and holiness of the Christian tradition; the city is called San Francisco.  San Francisco, the capital of the Bret Harte country, is a city typifying novelty in a manner in which it is typified by few modern localities.  San Francisco has in all probability its cathedrals, but it may well be that its cathedrals are less old and less traditional than many of our hotels.  If its inhabitants built a temple to the most primal and forgotten god of whose worship we can find a trace, that temple would still be a modern thing compared with many taverns in Suffolk round which there lingers a faint tradition of Mr. Pickwick.  And everything in that new gold country was new, even to the individual inhabitants.  Good, bad, and indifferent, heroes and dastards, they were all men from nowhere.

Most of us have come across the practical problem of London landladies, the problem of the doubtful foreign gentleman in a street of respectable English people.  Those who have done so can form some idea of what it would be to live in a street full of doubtful foreign gentlemen, in a parish, in a city, in a nation composed entirely of doubtful foreign gentlemen.  Old California, at the time of the first rush after

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Varied Types from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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