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An American moralist not long ago complained that the American girl, perverted by the reading of fairy tales in her childhood, turned up her pretty nose at the dry-goodsman of her native land and fed her romantic fancy with dreams of English dukes. This, if true, is beyond question deplorable. And yet I imagine that no fair-minded dry-goodsman with a competent knowledge of romantic literature would seriously propose himself, in his character of dry-goodsman, as a fitting hero for a maiden's dreams. Ignorant Briton that I am, I have only the vaguest notion of what the dry-goods business consists in, but I feel pretty confident that the records of authoritative romance might be searched in vain for a precedent. The American moralist must not however run away with the idea that herein this respectable profession labours under an exceptional disability, or that his countrywomen indulge a more fastidious fancy than their sisters in less democratic lands. It is lamentable, indeed, when you come to reflect on it, how large a proportion of useful and respectable callings falls under the ban of romance. What poet or romancer ever made his first lover, for example, a bailiff or a beadle? Yet bailiffs and beadles are men and brothers. They may do their often-times dangerous duty with the dash of a Rupert or the cool courage of a Cromwell, yet they are frankly impossible as heroes of romance. De Quincey makes a remark somewhere to the effect that one would not be inclined to think highly of a man who, in the absence of predisposing circumstances, deliberately and for the love of the business decided to be a butcher. Yet butchers are husbands and fathers, and have blood in their veins as well as on their aprons. As a matter of statistics, I suppose hardly a day passes but some solicitor falls in love; yet no court of love or literature will give him audience as a lover, or take cognisance of his pleadings. The breast of the stockbroker is swayed by the bears and bulls of
passion, no less than by the subtler influences of financial speculation. Yet his name is not honoured in the more than royal exchange of romance. Then, with one stroke of the pen, romance rules out the whole amorous mob of retail traders.
They are not altogether absent from the pages of romance, these worthy citizens. Only they have to forego the heroic parts, and put up with being supernumeraries or villains or comic characters. About the butcher I am doubtful. Not even Dickens, I think, found room for a butcher amid his Babylon of trades. A bailiff he has and eight sheriff's officers, half-a-dozen beadles, and half as many more brokers. The sheriff's officer is of course a familiar enough figure from the days of our literary drama. An ingenious American has compiled a list of Dickens's characters, classified by callings, and it reads like nothing so much as a trades' directory. There are architects, auctioneers, bankers, barbers, boarding-house keepers blacksmiths, carpenters, carriers, chandlers, chemists, clerks (a perfect army of them), coachmen, coal-merchants, constables, corn