Alicia Sands's Reviews > Our Mutual Friend

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
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Jun 29, 09

Read in June, 2009

Dickens' most extreme novel?

Mr. Venus, taxidermist and "articulator of bones," is easily his most extreme character.

Also, lots of reflections on language in this one, some funnier than others:

'Too dry for you, eh? Well, I suppose it wants some years of sticking to, before you master it. But there's nothing like work. Look at the bees.'

'I beg your pardon,' returned Eugene, with a reluctant smile, 'but will you excuse my mentioning that I always protest against being referred to the bees?'

'Do you!' said Mr Boffin.

'I object on principle,' said Eugene, 'as a biped--'

'As a what?' asked Mr Boffin.

'As a two-footed creature;--I object on principle, as a two-footed creature, to being constantly referred to insects and four-footed creatures. I object to being required to model my proceedings according to the proceedings of the bee, or the dog, or the spider, or the camel. I fully admit that the camel, for instance, is an excessively temperate person; but he has several stomachs to entertain himself with, and I have only one. Besides, I am not fitted up with a convenient cool cellar to keep my drink in.'

'But I said, you know,' urged Mr Boffin, rather at a loss for an answer, 'the bee.'

'Exactly. And may I represent to you that it's injudicious to say the bee? For the whole case is assumed. Conceding for a moment that there is any analogy between a bee, and a man in a shirt and pantaloons (which I deny), and that it is settled that the man is to learn from the bee (which I also deny), the question still remains, what is he to learn? To imitate? Or to avoid? When your friends the bees worry themselves to that highly fluttered extent about their sovereign, and become perfectly distracted touching the slightest monarchical movement, are we men to learn the greatness of Tuft- hunting, or the littleness of the Court Circular? I am not clear, Mr Boffin, but that the hive may be satirical.'

'At all events, they work,' said Mr Boffin.

'Ye-es,' returned Eugene, disparagingly, 'they work; but don't you think they overdo it? They work so much more than they need-- they make so much more than they can eat--they are so incessantly boring and buzzing at their one idea till Death comes upon them-- that don't you think they overdo it? And are human labourers to have no holidays, because of the bees? And am I never to have change of air, because the bees don't? Mr Boffin, I think honey excellent at breakfast; but, regarded in the light of my conventional schoolmaster and moralist, I protest against the tyrannical humbug of your friend the bee. With the highest respect for you.'

'Thankee,' said Mr Boffin. 'Morning, morning!'
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