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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Charles Lever (1806–1872)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
THE WONDERFUL flow of animal spirits in Lever’s novels is an expression of the warm vital force of the man, who was joyous in his childhood and dowered with good things in his youth. An Irishman,—born August 21st, 1806, in Dublin,—his folk were of English descent. Charles—or Charles James, as his full name ran—was a handsome, merry, and clever lad, who rode his pony to school and gave his schoolmasters some bad quarters of an hour by his escapades. Fencing and love-making too he liked, when the time came. With this temperament and with his personal attraction, it is easy to understand that at Trinity College in his native city, where he took his degree, his life was a gay one. But along with social aptitudes, he early developed diligence in literary work, writing tales and ballads many during undergraduate days. His particular literary idols were the Waverley novels. “I can remember the time,” he wrote to a friend, “when as freshmen we went about talking to each other of ‘Ivanhoe’ and ‘Kenilworth,’ and when the glorious spirit of these novels had so possessed us, that our romance elevated and warmed us to unconscious imitation of the noble thoughts and deeds we had been reading.”  1
  From Trinity College Lever went to Göttingen for further study, took a degree there, and saw society so broadly that, writing as “Cornelius O’Dowd”—his pen-name in Blackwood’s—he could say of himself, with some truth behind the whimsical exaggeration:—
          “I know everybody worth knowing in Europe. I have been everywhere, eaten everything, and seen everything. There’s not a railway guard doesn’t give a recognition to me; not a waiter, from the Trois Frères to the Wilde Mann, doesn’t trail his napkin to earth as he sees me. Ministers speak up when I stroll into the Chamber, and prima donnas soar above the orchestra as I enter the pit.”
  2
  Returning to Dublin, Lever took a medical degree, and practiced with success in the North of Ireland,—his courage during the cholera epidemic of 1832 being widely blazoned. His rating in that profession is indicated by his nomination to the post of physician to the British Embassy at Brussels, where he remained three years, coming back in 1842 to be editor of the Dublin University Magazine, which he brought into prominence. In 1845 he went to live in Florence; leaving that city in 1858 to accept the consulship at Spezia, and going to Triest in 1867 to fill the same position there.  3
  Lever’s best-known and best-loved novels are those of his younger manhood,—‘Harry Lorrequer’ (1837), ‘Charles O’Malley’ (1840), and ‘Tom Burke of Ours’ (1844): they are dashing tales of dare-devil Irish soldier life of the early century. Martial courage, gallantry, song, drink, the salt of fun and the zest of life are in them; and they are told in a straight-away breezy fashion and with an honesty of character that is winning. Lever’s spirit was very sweet and human. He was a natural story-teller, too; neither of the highest nor deepest, but sure to be read and kindly remembered. He was a voluminous and industrious writer; his novels numbering over thirty, and his last, ‘Lord Kilgobbin,’ appearing the year he died. A few of them, the outflow of his prime of vigor, certainly have the marks of a vital product. Lever died at Triest in 1872; like his contemporary and friend Thackeray, he passed away in his sleep.  4
 
 
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