[E1] "The 'Boz' Fever in Philadelphia," Spirit of the Times, Feb. 7, 1842

The "Boz" Fever in Philadelphia.

            Sober, quiet, steady Philadelphia has waked up at last!  Boston has gone mad—New York crazy—and we suspect Philadelphia is about to become one vast hospital of Boz-Bedlamites.

            For several days past there have been private meetings in our city of the exclusive literati in relation to Mr. Dickens.  From these meetings we believe, all persons were carefully excluded, who belonged to the "penny press."  Following the example of the "small potatoes" clique of Boston, every effort was made to confine the movement to the "respectable sixpennies," and such individuals particularly as belong to the "Tickle-me-and-I'll-tickle-you" Club, of this extraordinary city.

            On Saturday a letter was forwarded to Mr. Dickens, inviting him to our city.  By accident our Flib got his eye on it, and furnished us with a copy of it, which we give below.  We beg our readers to peruse it with attention.

            PHILADELPHIA, February 5, 1842.

Charles Dickens, Esq.

Dear and distinguished individual:—The undersigned, selected from the literati of Philadelphia, may say without any remarkable rarity, that they are preeminently united to represent that body, in making the advances of respectful courtesy to one so renowned, so beloved, so distinguished as yourself.

We hope that these lines will not be regarded by you, as coming from a galaxy of intellect insufficient as regards brilliancy and genius.  We flatter ourselves that the fact, that the name of no editor who superintends a paper sold for the insignificant price of one-hundredth part of a dollar, being admitted on our list, will entitle this communication to some claims upon your respectful attention and consideration!  It may be well, on the contrary, to observe that the names of the undersigned may be found in the editorial department of these solid, substantial, and respectable sheets, disposed to sedate persons, called carriers, instead of heedless and uncleanly youth, denominated—excuse the vulgar phrase—news-boys.  The exception to the rule, may be found in the fact that certain gentlemen of our body are proprietors and editors of various Philadelphia monthlies, and those who have not the facility of remarkable fluency in writing, have at least the credit of respectable readiness in paying for what is written!

With these preliminary remarks, and deeply imbued with a proper and profound veneration for that genius, which has shed a light as striking as it is brilliant, over the cottages of the East, and the prairies of the West, we respectfully tender for your acceptance the hospitalities of our city, whatever form they may assume—whether they may take the shape of the festive ball, the social banquet, or the variegated soiree.

            With profound submission and respect,

                        We remain, distinguished sir,

                                    Your humble servants, and

                                                Profound admirers.

                                                            (Sixteen signatures.)

We are both glad and sorry to see this manifestation of public feeling—glad that such a movement has been made—sorry that it has been made with so little ceremony and respect.  Charles Dickens is, we are told, the man of the age!  Bulwer has written some exceedingly creditable tales.  James has been frequently mentioned as an author of talent.  Cooper has had quite a number of admirers.  But Dickens, the sublime Dickens! o'ershadows them all!  Fielding had his day, and so had Smollet.  Scott handled a very able pen, and wrote some readable things, but the public have displayed a power and a holier taste, the literati say, and Sir Walter, Fielding, Smollet all must yield to Boz!!  The "small potatoe" literati of our country insist upon it, and who shall gainsay their judgement?

Dickens is an Englishman.—Here are further grounds upon which to build the Temple of American worship.  He comes from a foreign land, and that which is foreign must be good.  He comes with his fame going before him like a "pillar of fire," and it is right that due veneration should be observed on the occasion.  It is right that our knees should be properly instructed in their genuflections.  It is proper that our tongues should be lubricated, and our language embellished with adjectives of profound veneration, unfeigned admiration, and innocent surprise.  It is right—it is proper—it is creditable—and all well-disposed persons should raise the hymn of admiration, and those little dogs who are not fitted to take a leading part in the grand bow-wow may at least insinuate a respectful bark in the chorus.

But, jesting apart, we are sick of all this humbug.  The farce has gone far enough—let us cut it short before the regular five acts of folly have been enacted.  Let us make considerable fools of ourselves, but let us keep a little this side of stark march-hare madness.  Let us dine Boz—let us feed Boz—but do not let us lick his dish after he has eaten out of it.

And who is Boz?  He is the author of the Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, and Master Humphrey's Clock.  These all declare him to be a man of original mind, but we do not find a single passage in all his works to warrant us in setting him up as a thing of worship, a creature of show, a "regular built" demigod.  Let a check be put to this folly, and let those individuals who exclaimed against the Prince de Joinville excitement remember that his claims to public admiration were much greater and much more substantial than those of Mr. Dickens.  De Joinville was a descendant of that same French king whose aid contributed in a great degree to carry out the hard struggle of the Revolution. 

As Americans, as men of common sense and decent self-respect, we take our stand against the "Boz" excitement.  It is discreditable to our city, it is derogatory to our country, and we call upon our citizens to recollect the names of Marryat and Martineau before they make entire and decided judies of themselves.  "Boz" is a great man, and nobody can deny it.  He is all that, but he isn't exactly a demi-god.  Let us admire his genius, and let us also recollect that we are men.  Recollect this, and remember that if Mr. Dickens is a good writer, he is nothing more.  He is entitled to decent respect and regard; not to worship and admiration.  This is the stand we take in the matter, and we are sure the correct opinion of an intelligent public will bear us out in our views of the subject.