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Martin Chuzzlewit

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While writing Martin Chuzzlewit - his sixth novel - Dickens declared it 'immeasurably the best of my stories.' He was already famous as the author of The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist.

Set partly in America, which Dickens had visited in 1842, the novel includes a searing satire on the United States. Martin Chuzzlewit is the story of two Chuzzlewits, Martin and Jonas, who have inherited the characteristic Chuzzlewit selfishness. It contrasts their diverse fates of moral redemption and worldly success for one, with increasingly desperate crime for the other. This powerful black comedy involves hypocrisy, greed and blackmail, as well as the most famous of Dickens's grotesques, Mrs Gamp.

829 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1844

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About the author

Charles Dickens

13.1k books27.6k followers
Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812-1870) was a writer and social critic who created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the twentieth century critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories enjoy lasting popularity.

Dickens left school to work in a factory when his father was incarcerated in a debtors' prison. Despite his lack of formal education, he edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles, lectured and performed extensively, was an indefatigable letter writer, and campaigned vigorously for children's rights, education, and other social reforms.

Dickens was regarded as the literary colossus of his age. His 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol, remains popular and continues to inspire adaptations in every artistic genre. Oliver Twist and Great Expectations are also frequently adapted, and, like many of his novels, evoke images of early Victorian London. His 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities, set in London and Paris, is his best-known work of historical fiction. Dickens's creative genius has been praised by fellow writers—from Leo Tolstoy to George Orwell and G. K. Chesterton—for its realism, comedy, prose style, unique characterisations, and social criticism. On the other hand, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, and Virginia Woolf complained of a lack of psychological depth, loose writing, and a vein of saccharine sentimentalism. The term Dickensian is used to describe something that is reminiscent of Dickens and his writings, such as poor social conditions or comically repulsive characters.

On 8 June 1870, Dickens suffered another stroke at his home after a full day's work on Edwin Drood. He never regained consciousness, and the next day he died at Gad's Hill Place. Contrary to his wish to be buried at Rochester Cathedral "in an inexpensive, unostentatious, and strictly private manner," he was laid to rest in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey. A printed epitaph circulated at the time of the funeral reads: "To the Memory of Charles Dickens (England's most popular author) who died at his residence, Higham, near Rochester, Kent, 9 June 1870, aged 58 years. He was a sympathiser with the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed; and by his death, one of England's greatest writers is lost to the world." His last words were: "On the ground", in response to his sister-in-law Georgina's request that he lie down.

(from Wikipedia)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 809 reviews
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,462 reviews3,611 followers
May 7, 2022
Martin Chuzzlewit is written in the enjoyable language and in the most acrid manner.
First of all, there is a fiendish antagonist – a slick and nefarious charlatan…
Perhaps there never was a more moral man than Mr Pecksniff, especially in his conversation and correspondence. It was once said of him by a homely admirer, that he had a Fortunatus’s purse of good sentiments in his inside. In this particular he was like the girl in the fairy tale, except that if they were not actual diamonds which fell from his lips, they were the very brightest paste, and shone prodigiously. He was a most exemplary man; fuller of virtuous precept than a copy book. Some people likened him to a direction-post, which is always telling the way to a place, and never goes there; but these were his enemies, the shadows cast by his brightness; that was all.

And there is a young romantic dreamer hopelessly in love…
‘I say I am in love. I am in love with one of the most beautiful girls the sun ever shone upon. But she is wholly and entirely dependent upon the pleasure of my grandfather; and if he were to know that she favoured my passion, she would lose her home and everything she possesses in the world. There is nothing very selfish in that love, I think?’

And the present times are mush worse than the long gone days of the past… As usual…
These gentry were much opposed to steam and all new-fangled ways, and held ballooning to be sinful, and deplored the degeneracy of the times…

Forsaken by his distrustful grandfather and expelled by his villainous teacher Martin finds himself without any means for living… Full of hopes for the bright future he departs for the promised land of plenty… He goes to America… There, instead of finding bonanza, he is instantly taken in and sent to a nightmarish deathtrap, which he manages to escape only by the skin of his teeth…
‘Why, I was a-thinking, sir,’ returned Mark, ‘that if I was a painter and was called upon to paint the American Eagle, how should I do it?’
‘Paint it as like an Eagle as you could, I suppose.’
‘No,’ said Mark. ‘That wouldn’t do for me, sir. I should want to draw it like a Bat, for its short-sightedness; like a Bantam, for its bragging; like a Magpie, for its honesty; like a Peacock, for its vanity; like a ostrich, for its putting its head in the mud, and thinking nobody sees it…’

Good personages are few and they are surrounded on all sides with the multitudes of rogues, rascals, scoundrels and swindlers who try to use guileless innocents in all possible ways… But the good thing is that those crooks start finally strangling each other…
Did no dog howl, and strive to break its rattling chain, that it might tear him; no burrowing rat, scenting the work he had in hand, essay to gnaw a passage after him, that it might hold a greedy revel at the feast of his providing? When he looked back, across his shoulder, was it to see if his quick footsteps still fell dry upon the dusty pavement, or were already moist and clogged with the red mire that stained the naked feet of Cain!

Let dog eat dog so the kindly ones could live in peace.
Profile Image for Lisa.
991 reviews3,321 followers
December 12, 2018
Letter from the ‘umble Reader to the ‘onourable Master Dickens!

Part One, - which expresses slight confusion regarding the title of this chef d’oeuvre, Martin Chuzzlewit!

My dear Dickens! Despite the fact that there is not just one, but two important main characters called Martin Chuzzlewit, it seems to me that they are not deserving of the title, all things considered. The editors obviously knew that when they printed the Wordsworth Classics edition, as they put a portrait of the infamous Mr Pecksniff on the front cover instead. A very Pecksniffian thing to do, indeed! Stealing the honour, the show, and the centre stage from the true main characters, who are far too kind and shy to claim their rights to title and portrait. If there is any justice to be had in the city of London, the title should undoubtedly be: “Tom Pinch and Mark Tapley”, for they are the heroes of the rollercoaster story on greed, misunderstanding, family conflicts, culture clash and murder!

After long considerations however, the Reader does not advise Pinch and Tapley to go to court, as that would only lead to their participation in Bleak House rather than Martin Chuzzlewit. And while being crucial to the dénouement of their own novel, they would probably just add to the confusion of the overpopulated Chancery.

Part Two, - which expresses deeply felt gratitude to the Author for offering yet another masterpiece of world class, adding the charm of a cultural exchange between America and England and a highly entertaining crime story to the well-known Dickensian mix of character study and societal peculiarities.

Deeply in love with the whole Dickensian universe, I will give this one a clear lead when it comes to witty, nuanced characters and funny situations. I spent lovely days in a reading frenzy, laughing out loud many, many times at the beautifully described absurdity of human life. Little did I know that the habit of blaming teachers for children’s lack of respect and learning was so old. I used to think it a recent phenomenon to hear parents spit fire in rude, anti-eloquent language, cursing teachers’ inability to teach their children proper manners and vocabulary. Then I witnessed poor Ruth Pinch’s governess adventure in 19th century London, and reconsidered. It was exactly the same back then: the dumber the parents, the more a child’s failure is the fault of the teacher.

Another aspect of modern life that turns out to be as old as Dickens is the dichotomy between American and European values, and its effect on intercontinental relations. This novel being Dickens’ hommage to ex-pat experience made me love it all the more. And he is so right when attributing Martin Chuzzlewit the Younger’s change of character to his widened perspective and global experience. Comparative social studies develop human characters for the better! But Eden, America is only for very, very tough travellers! A paradise in a swamp. In a few chapters, Dickens outlines the funniest contradictions in the American Dream - spot on!

Part Three, - which bows to the literary precursor of Four Weddings And A Funeral, and expresses huge pleasure at the fact that a Not-Wedding can be the perfect happy end in some cases - depending on the character you ask!

The “Never Yours” letter of emancipation will stay with me forever, - what a conclusion, Mr Moddle. Good luck on the Seven Seas!

Conclusion, in which the devoted Reader expresses happiness, satisfaction and also a tiny bit of sadness at leaving yet another 800-page adventure in the company of Dickens behind!

Magnificent! And there is nothing Pecksniffian in this praise. It comes from the bottom of my heart, and is as honest as Tapley and Pinch!

Please accept my ‘umble Gratitude,

Forever Yours,

The Respectful Reader
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,256 reviews1,133 followers
May 28, 2023
Martin Chuzzlewit, or “the American one”, as fans of Dickens often refer to it, is “The Inimitable”’s sixth novel, written and published in twenty monthly parts between January 1843 to July 1844, when its author was between 30 and 32. It is a typical Dickensian romp of a ride, with thrills, passion, savage mockery, suspense - and flashes of absurd humour amidst the despair. The novel lunges between hyperbole and whimsy, switching at a moment’s notice, and it contains some of Dickens’s most memorable characters. There is the seedy but charming schemer Montague Tigg (Tigg Montague), and his associate Chevy Slyme, the eccentrically fey and colourfully attired barber and bird-fancier Poll Sweedlepipe, the staunch ally Mark Tapley, the undertaker Mr Mould, the buxom good-hearted pub landlady Mrs Lupin, the poor addled old clerk Chuffey ... or is he really so confused?

Who could ever forget Mrs Sairey Gamp, the booze-addicted midwife-cum-nurse who has her own mode of speech or idiolect? Who could forget the reported gushing flattery and compliments of her “employer” Mrs Harris, or her devious plots and hilarious squabbles with her associate Betsy Prig? Or who could not fall in love with the noble but naïve Tom Pinch, solid and unswerving in his loyalty, despite suffering gross insults and deprivations, or Mary Graham, of whom the same could be said, or his sister Ruth, a creation with whom it seems crystal clear the author himself fell in love.

Oh, the characters! The names alone are enough to make the reader chuckle, and they were carefully designed by Dickens to do precisely that. He even fiddled about with the main character’s name, trying out Sweezleden, Sweezleback, Sweezlewag, Chuzzletoe, Chuzzleboy, Chubblewig, and Chuzzlewig, before settling on “Chuzzlewit”. The fully fleshed out versions pop into the reader's mind long after the novel has been finished, remaining long after the story itself, fascinating and devious though that is. For mention has still not been made of any characters in the American section, whose whimsical names include Jefferson Brick, General Fladdock, Major Pawkins, Hannibal Chollop, Captain Kedgick, Elijah Pogrom and General Cyrus Choke. (These bogus titles comprise part of Dickens poking fun at the American habit of bestowing honorary military titles, as is his observation that everyone Martin meets in America is “remarkable man”).

Nor has mention been made of members of the large Chuzzlewit family itself: Anthony and Martin, the two feuding elderly brothers who drive the plot, or Jonas, Anthony's bully of a son, or the myriad of minor relatives who bookend the novel - and incidentally provide some of its most amusing moments. Nor of Jonas’s cousin, the young Martin, the namesake of his father, whose adventures we are to follow. And surely it would be a crime against literature to forget the character who arguably makes Martin Chuzzlewit the great novel it undoubtedly is ... the unforgettable ... Mr Pecksniff.

It would be difficult to say who is the most memorable character, Sairey Gamp or Seth Pecksniff, (father of two priggish daughters, Charity and Mercy, cast from the same mould) - a smooth-talking hypocrite with his pious sanctimoniousness, so self-deluded that he seems to be unable to cast off his mask of virtue throughout. The novel is worth reading for these two alone. Any scene with either of them in makes the reader settle down with a smile on their face. The story may continue in its tragedy, the hairs on your neck may stand up at the horror or brutality - but then turn the next page and you may be splitting your sides at some absurd turn of phrase by Mrs Gamp, or the sanctimonious twaddle of Mr Pecksniff. Such is the skill of the author that not only can he write scathingly ironic satire, but he can provide sparks of humour; shafts of light within the powerful and evocative descriptions of the darkest and most dire situations.

So what is the novel about? Put in a nutshell, it is about greed and selfishness. This theme raises its ugly head throughout the novel, being reflected and present in many of the minor characters and episodes, crossing all social classes, occupations and cultures. The primary focus however is on greed in regard to inheritance. John Forster, Dickens’s closest friend, mentor and biographer says,

“The notion of taking Pecksniff for a type of character was really the origin of the book; the design being to show, more or less by every person introduced, the number and variety of humours and vices that have their root in selfishness.”

So in a sense it could be said that Pecksniff is the hero - or anti-hero - of the book, although he is only one of many character strands to this complex story. Seth Pecksniff had his origin in an actual person, Samuel Carter Hall. Carter Hall was an Irish-born Victorian journalist who edited “The Art Journal” and was widely satirised at the time. He made Old Masters (such as Raphael or Titian's paintings) virtually unsaleable, by exposing the profits that custom-houses were earning by importing them. By doing this, he hoped to support modern British art by promoting young artists and attacking the market for unreliable Old Masters. However, he was deeply unsympathetic to the Pre-Raphaelites, and published several attacks upon the movement. Julian Hawthorne says,

“such oily and voluble sanctimoniousness needed no modification to be fitted to appear before the footlights in satirical drama. He might be called an ingenuous hypocrite, an artless humbug, a veracious liar, so obviously were the traits indicated innate and organic in him rather than acquired ... His indecency and falsehood were in his soul, but not in his consciousness; so that he paraded them at the very moment that he was claiming for himself all that was their opposite.”

It is a very short jump indeed from this description of Samuel Carter Hall to one of Seth Pecksniff!

The other arguably strongest character, Mrs Gamp, was also an early inspiration, which came via Dickens’s rich philanthropic friend, Angela Burdett-Coutts. Later Burdett-Coutts was to co-found “Urania Cottage” with the author. “Urania Cottage” was a home for young women who had “turned to a life of immorality”, such as theft and prostitution. Additionally, this novel is dedicated to her. Angela Burdett-Coutts had told Dickens about a nurse who took care of her companion (and former governess) Hannah Meredith. The nurse was an eccentric character, and details such as her yellow nightcap, her fondness for snuff and for spirits, and her strange habit of rubbing her nose along the top of the tall fender were immediately seized on by Dickens, who then immortalised her in the unforgettable character of Mrs. Gamp.

We easily become diverted by the characters, for Dickens is adept at discursiveness. But Dickens always has a huge persuasive element to his novels too, despite their apparent primary desire to entertain. Martin Chuzzlewit was written shortly after Dickens had taken a year off in 1842. During this time Dickens was in financial difficulty. He had borrowed money from his publishers in order to visit the United States of America, and his wife Kate was expecting their fifth child. John Forster notes,

“Title and even story had been undetermined while we travelled” and

“Beginning so hurriedly as at last he did, altering his course at the opening and seeing little as yet of the main track of his design,”

The story which frames Dickens’s message was additionally altered considerably as Dickens wrote, in an attempt to revitalise flagging sales. In the sixth part, desperately hoping to win back his fans, Dickens has our young hero, Martin Chuzzlewit, go off to America, hoping that this would stimulate renewed interest in the book. From now on, he actually planned the events in the story beforehand. His previous novels had just grown and developed as he wrote them, shortly before each serial part was published, but Martin Chuzzlewit represented a difference in approach, and one which he was to continue.

This has a dramatic impact on the novel itself. From a deceptively humorous start, containing some of Dickens’s sharpest satirical observations and wit, the novel switches to passages in America where the humour - at least for this reader - seems to lose its masterly touch. There are a couple of chapters which seem more to be Dickens venting some of his ill feelings for his dislike of the United States. It had been a colony up to less than a hundred years previously - almost within living memory - so he may well have suspected that some of his readers may have shared his feelings. His personal wrath was due mostly to what he saw as an invidious practice there of disregarding copyright.

Dickens’s observation of American habits which he personally disliked, such as incessant tobacco-chewing and spitting, what he saw as greedy and uncouth table manners, plus a tendency to talk things up, which appeared to an outsider as disagreeable boasting - all these were savagely parodied, and the introduction to America afforded by this novel is single-mindedly bad. No character has any redeeming qualities, and an entire family, the Norrisses, is introduced (disappearing from the narrative for ever shortly afterwards) apparently solely to demonstrate the hypocrisy of the nation as a whole, across all strata. Others are characterised as buffoons, and to a man (or woman) they are acquisitive, placing gain and accolades above true worth and honour.

This approach backfired. Not surprisingly it alienated all Dickens’s many American readers, who were outraged. Dickens took note, and the later American episodes, in the ironically named “Eden”, contain both good and bad characters, well portrayed rather than mere grotesque parodies. In addition, for every subsequent edition of the novel in perpetuity, Dickens left instructions to be printed, which offer an apology to the US citizens. This resulted from his second visit there.

It is interesting to wonder, from a modern point of view, whether he would have liked to edit this part. Very possibly, given his Postscript, and it would seem unfair to downgrade an assessment of the book as a whole because of what after all is merely a couple of chapters. The scenes on board ship are graphic, and powerfully described, as well as providing an important indicator to the character development of the two travellers. The descriptions of Eden too, immediately afterwards, are haunting, and expressive. It is clear from a letter he wrote to his mentor and biographer, John Forster, about the mountains near Pittsburgh which he saw from a train when travelling through the area, that they are drawn from life. Forster himself called that area “The Original of Eden”. In addition, the scams to do with selling property - or selling shares in railways - or insurance fiddles - were all very common at the time.

The novel's full name is,

Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit
His relatives, friends, and enemies.
Comprising all
His Wills and His Ways,
With an Historical record of what he did
and what he didn't;
Shewing moreover who inherited the Family Plate,
who came in for the Silver spoons,
and who for the Wooden Ladles.
The whole forming a complete key
to the House of Chuzzlewit.”

- a typically lengthy Victorian title - and in fact each of the 54 chapters has an equally long and informative preamble of a title. One would assume this made it easier to identify the protagonist, but this is not so.

A modern interpretation of this novel would probably focus on the coming-of-age journey of a young man. Young Martin Chuzzlewit starts out as an unlikeable, selfish, arrogant young cad, who thinks the world owes him a living. The novel details all the experiences he goes through as he matures; life-threatening experiences which teach him a lesson and make him a far better person. So it is about a young man’s personal and moral development, just as the earlier novel “Nicholas Nickleby” had been. It also conforms to the ancient traditional story of the hero's journey. When we think of Martin Chuzzlewit, the novel, it is this particular young man whom we naturally think of.

Yet the plural use of “Wills” in the title does not then make sense, for young Martin did not have a will in the legal sense of the word, and as we have learned, there is another, older Martin, his father. Thus it can be said to have developed a double meaning, reflecting the changing perspective of the author as the writing proceeded. It is partly about the transformation of the self-concern of the younger Martin into something more noble, and also about the selfishness of the older Martin, receiving help from an unexpected quarter, so that he too transforms into a worthy individual. Dickens loved to write about moral improvements; about people who genuinely strive to be better.

So who is the hero? It is difficult to say. Possibly one of these two, or possibly Dickens’s original thought, Seth Pecksniff. It could even possibly be a character who is ever-present, and prominent in the frontispiece, playing his beloved church organ, with scenes and characters floating around him as thoughts in his mind as he plays, the noble but naïve Tom Pinch.

It is a true masterpiece. Reading earlier novels, one can trace the origins of this one. The humour of “The Pickwick Papers” is tweaked to perfection. The brutality and bloody murder - and the subsequent horror felt by the murderer - are all there in prototype in “Oliver Twist”. Dickens had cautiously explored some romantic elements in “Nicholas Nickleby”, but here we have an abundance of three romances, amongst the young characters, plus a fourth very poignant romantic strand which runs through the entire novel. All are destined for happiness; Dickens loves to “reward” his good characters with a happy ending and his bad ones with their comeuppance and an appropriate punishment. We are anticipating both good and bad endings, even though we cannot predict them, throughout the book.

And the bad endings? Oh my goodness. There are foul deeds and a murder described so powerfully that it may well cause shivers of revulsion and terror. Some of Dickens’s finest writing to date accompanies this event, with an evocative vivid description of a storm, lightning and dashing rain accompanying the episode. If you thrilled to in “Oliver Twist”, you will be swept up in the horror of this. The perpetrator is very reminiscent of .

There are disguises, there are doubles, subterfuges and bluffs. There is mystery, confusion and duplicity, as in both “Nicholas Nickleby” and "Barnaby Rudge”. Things, and characters, are not always what they seem. Dickens is an adept at this, carefully referring to “The Man” or “The Stranger” so as not to give the game away. Dramatisations always miss this aspect, of course, as they do the evocative imagery. Read the book!

Yet even now Dickens had not yet written his truly great novels; they were yet to come. But in my view this represents a growth on the part of the author. Dickens was planning a small book for the Christmas season of 1843 - one which would continue the theme of greed he was writing about in Martin Chuzzlewit.

The result was a great classic, a favourite story loved by millions worldwide. It was published in December 1843, before the concluding episodes of Martin Chuzzlewit had even been published.

And its name? It was “A Christmas Carol”.

From then on, there was no stopping Mr. Charles Dickens.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,616 reviews985 followers
March 7, 2022
Dicken's 6th novel, one that he liked and was peeved when the original serial didn't sell as well as his previous works. The life, times and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit is a bit of a strange read, set in, and heavily satirising America and dabbling with a rather insipid romance - on the other hand Dickens goes all out with his comedic scene setting and dialogue which reaches it peak with the Pecksniff's London adventure. Considered one of his seminal works by some critics and definitely a must-read for lovers of classics. 8 out of 12.

2009 read
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
468 reviews3,254 followers
September 23, 2022
The book tells the world how selfish people are in the author's opinion and by consequence society is dominated by greed in the novel. All else is of no importance to anyone of prominence there. Martin Chuzzlewit has a problem with his kind grandfather of the same name who raised the orphan now strangely despises him, why? Lost, the poor grandson is without hope and needs to get out of England and seeks his fortune in America with a former servant now friend Mark Tapley. So after an endless voyage at sea in steerage mostly seasick they are landlubbers for sure, the filth you will not want to imagine. Surprisingly the lowly Mark Tapley becomes the instigator by aiding the suffering passengers during the frightening storms, inside the hole he becomes much loved. I will skip the floating details , arriving in New York during the 1840s and immediately dislikes Americans and their gross behavior, spittoons everywhere. Gentlemen not gentlemen though the saliva mostly hits their mark, proud of the skill, money talk dominates the conversations, nevertheless time to travel, the frontier is the land of opportunity though uncivilized, primitive, lawless...Eden maybe a misnomer, its a small settlement full of disease, uncouth pioneers with rough edges, the swamp water unhealthy , the crude citizens fall like flies but the swindlers are happy selling worthless land, well some underwater, mistakes happen. Leaving quickly borrowing money from a new friend , a need to get home Mr. Chuzzlewit has a sweetheart, Mary, in a sophisticated country with only a few murders, little Martin will discover many more crooks and shady business practices, still young Martin always thinks of relatives not quite friendly undoubtedly a fact in hostile Britain , Jonas Chuzzlewit a cousin and crook, Tom Pecksniff distant relation and a totally sleazy human, the father of two daughters Cherry and Merry likewise seemingly, yet Tom Pinch a servant in the house, a good person though, the survivors whom young Martin finds in his native land , they're for themselves too. We are but shadows on the wall twinkling a bit until night falls and are no more. A novel admittedly not Dickens best however always entertains the reader. While this isn't Charles Dickens most popular or greatest novel this constantly entertains and for those his loyal fans will of course be enchanted. Long piece of literature not for first time readers of the writer's produce.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews41 followers
December 5, 2021
Martin Chuzzlewit, Charles Dickens

Martin Chuzzlewit has been raised by his grandfather and namesake.

Years before Martin senior took the precaution of raising an orphaned girl, Mary Graham, to be his companion and nursemaid, with the understanding that she will receive income from him only as long as Martin senior lives.

Old Martin considers that this gives her a motive to keep him alive, in contrast to his relatives, who want to inherit his money.

His grandson Martin falls in love with Mary and wishes to marry her, conflicting with Old Martin's plans. Martin and his grandfather argue, each too proud to yield to a resolution.

Martin leaves home to live on his own and old Martin disinherits him.

Martin becomes an apprentice, at the late age of 21, to Seth Pecksniff, a relative and greedy architect.

Instead of teaching his students he lives off their tuition fees and has them do draughting work that he passes off as his own.

He has two spoiled daughters, Charity and Mercy, nicknamed Cherry and Merry.

Pecksniff takes Martin on to establish closer ties with his wealthy grandfather.

Young Martin befriends Tom Pinch, a kind-hearted soul whose late grandmother gave Pecksniff all she had in the belief that Pecksniff would make an architect and a gentleman of him.

Pinch is incapable of believing any of the bad things others tell him of Pecksniff, and always defends him vociferously. Pinch works for exploitatively low wages while believing that he is the unworthy recipient of Pecksniff's charity, rather than a man of many talents. ...

تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز یازدهم ماه نوامبر سال2015میلادی

موضوع: زندگی و ماجراجویی‌های مارتین چوزلویت؛ نویسنده: چارلز دیکنز؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده19م

چارلز دیکنز با نام «چارلز جان هوفام دیکنز» در روز هفتم ماه فوریه سال1812میلادی در «لندپورت» به دنیا آمدند، ایشان دومین پسر «جان دیکنز»، کارمند اداري نیروی دریایی بودند؛ پدر «چارلز» اهل خوش‌گذرانی، و قمار بود، و پايش به زندان نیز باز شد؛ به همین دلیل مادرش، «دیکنزِ» دوزاده ساله را، برای تامین خرج خانه، به کارخانه‌ي واکس‌سازی فرستادند، «ديکنز» تا آزادی پدرش از زندان، مجبور به کار در آن کارخانه بودند، تا اينکه سرانجام پس از بازگشت پدرش به خانه، ایشان توانستند دوباره به مدرسه برگردند، و تحصيلات خویش را ادامه دهند؛ «چارلز ديکنز» پس از پايان دوره‌ ی مدرسه، در دفتر یک وکيل مشغول به کار شدند؛ در همين سال‌ها بود که به نویسندگی علاقمند شدند و برای اينکه بتوانند در این راه کار انجام دهند، به دفتر روزنامه‌ ی شهر رفتند و تقاضای کار دادند؛ پی از مدتی ایشان در دفتر روزنامه دلمشغول به کار نویسندگی شدند

در این داستان «دیکنز»، «مارتین چوزلویت» را، پدربزرگ و همنام خود ایشان، بزرگوار کرده، سال‌ها پیش نیز «مارتین بزرگ» دختری یتیم، به نام «مری گراهام» را به عنوان همراه و پرستار خویش میپذیرد، با این شرط که تنها تا زمانی که «مارتین بز��گ» زنده هستند، از او درآمدی دریافت کند، «مارتین پیر» میاندیشید که این شرط به پرستارش انگیزه میدهد، تا او را هماره زنده نگاه دارد، برخلاف بستگانش که همگی میخواهند پولهای او را به ارث ببرند؛ نوه ی او «مارتین» عاشق «مری» میشود، و آرزوی ازدواج با او را دارد، که با نقشه های «مارتین پیر» در تضاد است؛ «مارتین» و پدربزرگش با هم گفتگو و مشاجره می‌کنند؛ «مارتین» خانه را ترک میکند، تا تنها زندگی کند، و «مارتین پیر» هم او را از ارث خویش محروم میکند؛ و «مارتین» در پایان سن بیست و یک سالگی خویش، شاگرد «ست پکسنیف»، معمار خویشاوند و حریص میشود، و ...؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 13/09/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,118 reviews44.8k followers
June 29, 2018
Martin Chuzzlewit is an extremely long book even by the standards of Charles Dickens.

And that’s the problem: there is simply too much story. When Dickens tries to wrap everything in a neat little parcel at the end (as he always would) it really suffers as a result. It all gets forced into this tight conclusion that felt like a huge stretch of writing and imagination.

I’ve been doing some research on this book, and it turns out that Dickens was getting paid by the word rather than for the quality of his stories. So he stretched the story out and shipped the protagonist off to America for no other reason than it would sell. America, the so called new world, was a very hot topic around this time. And, as ever, he addresses all the social issues that came with such a move. Books make money, and Dickens needed the money at this point in his life.

I’m not being critical of this fact: we all need to make a living, though the writing here suffered tremendously as a result. I really don’t think he knew what to do once Martin was in America. The plot suffered, and trying to relate the move back to the events that came before must have been a very difficult thing to establish. So it all gets rather messy and a little random, turning into an awkward labyrinth of writing that displays none of the finer qualities of the author.

I consider Great Expectations to be a fantastic exemplifier of what the author can do and this here is so far removed from the absolute mastery the author displayed in that book. Every chapter constitutes to the greater whole, every encounter and conversation adds something to the story and the overall growth of the work. It’s all important. He wrote with precision and skill. Here, though, he gives us endless drivel. This is a book that goes nowhere and rambles on for no apparent reason at all.

I’m yet to read everything Dickens has written. This will be my fifth novel of his that I’ve gotten through and I do hope that none of the others are quite so poor.

This is not Charles Dickens’ finest hour
Profile Image for Luffy (Oda's Version).
765 reviews757 followers
November 24, 2021
In my life I've read the book 2 times. And there have been 2 more times when I had to refrain from completely reading it due to not being prepared for it. Although I give the book 4 stars, it remains one of the best books I've ever read.

Consider two albums by Radiohead. The Bends and say, Hail to the Thief. The Bends has fewer radio friendly songs, but when the songs hit a high note, boy do they hit it. Conversely, Hail to the Thief was nice, not great. The band is more consistent, but they never threaten to achieve the level of superlative form as in The Bends. Martin Chuzzlewit is like the Bends. Phew.

When Dickens plots, he plots like nobody else. He excels at creating characters that move on the board as set pieces. Some characters bide their time. Others burn bright then sober up. It's a vast canvas here and I retained a powerful extolment during the American episode. But Dickens never knows the term writing block.

Dickens turns on the faucet of words at will and can go on, sometimes being unfunny, other times being even less funny. His sense of humor has aged like a Chaplin film. But he can write at will, like I said. Martin Chuzzlewit's villains and victims were memorable, and their tragedies and rewards were what I take away from this latest read.
Profile Image for Teresa.
Author 8 books815 followers
April 22, 2021
Last night I finished three books I had going, one of which was this one. An obvious connection exists between the two others I'd read and I wondered how I could link Dickens with those two contemporary novels*. It quickly hit me that, like the other two, this novel is also (at least partially) about emigration.

Dickens sends the young Martin (his estranged grandfather is also named Martin) and his sidekick, the wonderfully quirky Mark Tapley, to the United States to seek his fortune. This is a reread for me and the only section I truly remembered is the one with these men in the shyster-named Eden. Of course Dickens is a vivid writer, but this locale is particularly so. Martin going to the United States gives Dickens the opportunity to use the material he accumulated on his first trip to America when he was horrified—and rightly so—at the pre-Civil War state of affairs. He felt the same about Americans' manners, or rather their lack of them. Defensive American readers were predictably defensive about his accounts, which are still timely (see my review of American Notes For General Circulation), though not necessarily sounding as if the opinions belong to the character, as opposed to their author:

`What an extraordinary people you are!' cried Martin. `Are Mr. Chollop and the class he represents, an Institution here? Are pistols with revolving barrels, sword-sticks, bowie-knives, and such things, Institutions on which you pride yourselves? Are bloody duels, brutal combats, savage assaults, shooting down and stabbing in the streets, your Institutions! Why, I shall hear next that Dishonour and Fraud are among the Institutions of the great republic!'

The sections set in the States are a small part of the book and when Dickens gets his characters back to England, he continues satirizing his own countrymen—if only the Americans would’ve realized they’re nothing special.

I read this book with the local chapter of the Dickens Fellowship (we met virtually) and the question of who is its main character arose; the belief that, despite the title, it’s neither of the Martins and, as stated by Norrie Epstein in her The Friendly Dickens, it's Tom Pinch, a character who grows to a big realization.

From this rereading I think I'll mostly remember the later scenes with the dreadful Jonas Chuzzlewit as he enacts his final horror. The description of the workings of the mind of a vile man who becomes haunted by himself (an image Dickens will employ in later works) is masterful.

And then there’s this description of Jonas found halfway through the book: …conscious that there was nothing in his person, conduct, character, or accomplishments, to command respect, he was greedy of power, and was, in his heart, as much a tyrant as any laurelled conqueror on record. Remind you of anyone?


*The other novels I finished last night are Infinite Country and Helon Habila's Travelers. Reviews will follow.
Profile Image for Barry Pierce.
575 reviews7,742 followers
October 24, 2014
This may be Dickens' most underrated book. It's right in the middle of what I like to call his forgotten period which is made up of three books, written consecutively, which I think are commonly ignored; Barnaby Rudge, Martin Chuzzlewit, and Dombey and Son.

This novel is interesting because a lot of it actually takes place in America, as opposed to England. It's written from Dickens' personal voyage to the States in the months prior to writing this novel. And guys, oh my god, Dickens rips the shit out of America. He says he gave a "satirical" view of the US but guys, Dickens basically mocks America and Americans and it's honestly the best thing. There's also a great perspective on slavery and the deep South in this novel (spoilers: Dickens' doesn't tolerate either).

Why the average rating then Barry? Well, because the second-half of this novel exists. They come back from America and then it turns into a murder mystery. It's honestly as if Dickens' just stitched on a completely different novel to the end of this book. Eh, it's kinda disappointing but this is what you get with serialised novels.

Overall, I liked this novel though. The America bits and the scathing social commentary make up for the saggy second half. I still think this is criminally overlooked in his canon though.
Profile Image for Tristram Shandy.
728 reviews203 followers
January 26, 2020
The Best of Boz and the Worst of Boz

Martin Chuzzlewit, which was published between 1843 and 1844 in monthly instalments and can be regarded as Dickens’s last excursion into the genre of picaresque writing – his next major novel, Dombey and Son would not see its first instalment before October 1846 and was much more carefully planned –, witnessed a further waning of the star of Dickens’s popularity as a writer, a development that had already started with its forerunner Barnaby Rudge. Dickens reacted to the decline in monthly sales figures by sending the eponymous hero to America, where Martin tries to make a fortune but soon finds himself the dupe of ruthless self-promoters. Nevertheless, even though the British reading public entertained a strong interest in anything that had to do with the United States, sales figures did not really pick up remarkably, and what was even worse: The American public was not at all amused at what it regarded as an unfair and scurrilous attack upon a whole nation, and it took Dickens quite some time to live down his literary transgressions against God’s own country.

To be sure, the American chapters, though they contain some unforgettable characters, like the Janus-faced impostor Scadder, or the pompous editor Mr. Jefferson Brick, do not integrate well with the rest of the novel, and they all too obviously miss any credible link with the rest of the book. Like Martin himself, one is relieved when the hero and his indefatigable sidekick Mark Tapley finally leave the American shores behind them and return to Merry Old England since it cannot be denied that Dickens’s possible anger at the U.S.’s copyright infringements had got the better of him, enticing him to excoriate anything American in a way that turned satire into mere calumny.

And yet, I would rank Martin Chuzzlewit among Dickens’s finest achievements as a writer. How come? The answer is simple enough. Because I like the book for all its faults, seeing that, to slightly quote from Dickens himself, this novel contains the best of Boz and the worst of Boz. The flaws of the novel are easily discernible. Apart from the monotonous America-bashing passages, the novel’s plot-construction is, at best, pathetic. The novel takes no fewer than ten chapters to get going and to give the reader an inkling of what it is all about, and even then the plot is full of holes. Were it not for the title, for instance, we would not know for sure whom we are supposed to root for as the novel’s protagonist – and even with this additional help it is surprisingly difficult to root for Martin. The novel centres on … hmm, I’m at a loss to say on whom or what, actually, because we as readers have to divide our attention between Mr. Pecksniff’s machinations in order to beguile his suspicious and wealthy relative, old Martin Chuzzlewit, on the one hand, and young Martin’s attempts at winning his grandfather’s respect on the other hand. The novel, however, has at least one more hand, in that it also centres on Martin’s cousin Jonas, who is an arch-scoundrel, wishing for his father’s death, and later being entangled in the web of a base impostor who practises fraud on a grand scale. Frankly speaking, since I love books like Tristram Shandy or Moby-Dick, which have no plot to speak of, I did not really give a damn about the plot deficiencies in Martin Chuzzlewit, all the less so as every honest-to-God Pickwickian knows that generally you do not read Dickens for his plots but rather in spite of them. Here, however, it is so obvious that Dickens himself did not always know whither the winds of inspiration were going to take him so that there are some characters who ultimately serve no purpose, or hardly any, at all, characters who might have been introduced into the novel with a certain purpose, but whose purpose somehow failed to outlive the first few instalments. Chevy Slyme is one of these, but we can put up with his presence because of his wonderful name and his propensity to be waiting around the corner. And last, not least his character serves as a means of showing the lack of loyalty and the opportunism in one of the novel’s major blackguards, Montague Tigg. Nevertheless there are at least two characters that are neither amusing nor entertaining in any way and that have absolutely no business in the whole novel. I am talking of John Westlock, , and of Ruth Pinch, who is as needful as a hole in the head, as a goitre or a vermicular appendix. She makes a pudding once, but she needs a whole chapter for it with all that running up and down the stairs for want of some ingredient or other, and it is painfully obvious that Mr. Dickens is indulging himself here at the cost of the reader’s patience. It will not come as a surprise to anyone that these two literary loafers will end up in wedlock, and in this context let me warn you of Chapter 53, where Westlock woos Ruth: Read this chapter only when you are standing, or better even walking around, because it took me half an hour to get the cramp out of my feet afterwards! The Ruth and Westlock scenes, and many of the Pinch scenes are so corny and cheesy – you know, in the quality of “Oh! foolish, panting, frightened little heart!”, which is actually a quotation from the novel itself – that you should actually mind your feet and talk it over with your podiatrist if you really want to read them.

Here we have Dickens at his worst. But as I said, in Martin Chuzzlewit we also have Dickens at his best. Never has his humour been so rambunctious and irreverent as in the scene when the whole set of vultures, commonly known as the Chuzzlewit family, assemble in Mr. Pecksniff’s parlour, as the following little passage might gave a slight idea of:

”'If Mr George Chuzzlewit has anything to say to me,' interposed the strong-minded woman, sternly, 'I beg him to speak out like a man; and not to look at me and my daughters as if he could eat us.'
'As to looking, I have heard it said, Mrs Ned,' returned Mr George, angrily, 'that a cat is free to contemplate a monarch; and therefore I hope I have some right, having been born a member of this family, to look at a person who only came into it by marriage. As to eating, I beg to say, whatever bitterness your jealousies and disappointed expectations may suggest to you, that I am not a cannibal, ma'am.'
'I don't know that!' cried the strong-minded woman.
'At all events, if I was a cannibal,' said Mr George Chuzzlewit, greatly stimulated by this retort, 'I think it would occur to me that a lady who had outlived three husbands, and suffered so very little from their loss, must be most uncommonly tough.'”

Rest assured that there is more where that came from. We also have two of the most hilarious characters that Dickens ever created, namely the glib hypocrite Pecksniff himself, whom we really get to loathe in the course of the novel – what a great scene it is when Pecksniff tries to impose himself on Mary Graham, for instance! – and the inimitable Mrs. Gamp, who is my secret favourite. With Mrs. Gamp, Dickens has clearly surpassed himself, not only because of her linguistic peculiarities,

”'Why, goodness me!' she said, 'Mrs Chuzzlewit! To think as I should see beneath this blessed 'ouse, which well I know it, Miss Pecksniff, my sweet young lady, to be a 'ouse as there is not a many like, worse luck, and wishin' it were not so, which then this tearful walley would be changed into a flowerin' guardian, Mr Chuffey; to think as I should see beneath this indiwidgle roof, identically comin', Mr Pinch (I take the liberty, though almost unbeknown), and do assure you of it, sir, the smilinest and sweetest face as ever, Mrs Chuzzlewit, I see exceptin' yourn, my dear good lady, and your good lady's too, sir, Mr Moddle, if I may make so bold as speak so plain of what is plain enough to them as needn't look through millstones, Mrs Todgers, to find out wot is wrote upon the wall behind. Which no offence is meant, ladies and gentlemen; none bein' took, I hope. To think as I should see that smilinest and sweetest face which me and another friend of mine, took notice of among the packages down London Bridge, in this promiscous place, is a surprige in-deed!’”

but also because with Mrs. Gamp Dickens has created a more complex and lifelike character than he himself probably was aware of. It is quite self-evident, from Mrs. Gamp’s disdainful and dismissive treatment at the hands of the reformed Mr. Chuzzlewit senior, that Dickens intended us to dislike poor old Sairey, whom he clearly categorized as a selfish woman (unlike Mrs. Todgers). Yet by the time the rather cardboardy Mr. Chuzzlewit self-righteously vituperated the merry midwife, she had already earned such a cosy place in my generally uncosy heart that I could only laugh off Mr. Chuzzlewit’s admonitions. In her seemingly endless ramblings, Sairey has displayed so much anarchic imagination and creativity that she outacts every other character in the book, with the possible exception of young Bailey, and at the same time – maybe even unbeknown to Dickens – she has become such a complex character that it is hard to share Mr. Chuzzlewit’s attitude of haughty dismissal. Mrs. Gamp may be selfish and always on the lookout for new clients but this is probably because she is a lonely woman who has to fend for herself, quite like Mrs. Todgers. From her fictitious altercations with the equally fictitious Mrs. Harris (who, by the way, seems more real to me than Ruth Pinch) we can gather that Mrs. Gamp has suffered a lot from an alcoholic and abusive husband, who even beat some of her teeth out, and that she once was a mother herself but that she had to bury all her children in the course of time. So, all in all, her life was surely anything but a happy one, and this probably explains her less redeeming qualities, such as her rough attitude towards her patients and her own alcoholism. What is interesting in this context is that the narrative voice does not moralize on her melancholy lot – as it does in the case of Mrs. Todgers, whom we are clearly expected to take to our hearts – but that we are given the opportunity to find all this out by ourselves. Maybe this makes Mrs. Gamp one of Dickens’s most complex and psychologically challenging characters. At any rate, her imagination and her potential for taking over our imagination make her rise head and shoulders above all the goody-two-shoes-characters Dickens allows to live on happily ever after.

It is Mrs. Gamp who, to me, is one of the finest achievements of Dickens’s art, and it is due to her and Mrs. Harris, and – to a lesser degree – characters like Bailey and Pecksniff (as well as the breathtaking hell-ride we can experience alongside the murderous Jonas Chuzzlewit) that Martin Chuzzlewit, for all its flaws and shortcomings, ranks among my favourite Dickens novels.
Profile Image for MJ Nicholls.
2,049 reviews4,114 followers
July 5, 2012
Clipped Review:

Brill. Dickensian. Not ne plus ultra but close enough. More complex villains and heroes than precedents. Sublimely comic, including one hilarious scene of begging and bitching Chuzzlewits desperate for the old man’s loot. Best name: Sweedlepipe. Messy, sprawling and less structured in parts. Especially the last 40pp. But divine all the same.

A Pecksniffian Digression:

I work part-time at a homeless shelter and I always recommend Dickens as a panacea to ail the suffering hearts of those poor feckless wretches without deeds or property to their names that reside in the scummiest marshlands my dear ancestors that came from the bogs as wouldn’t see fit to wallow in. “My dear wastrels!” I entreat to those broken spirits as would soon pick up a book as embrace their fellow men with tearful laments of their mutual hardship, “Dickens is a noble cure for the wailings and lamentations of such as mendicants as yourselves, and the paltry sum I ask from you in return is as nothing as the soulful nutriments to be derived from the adventures therein. As I often say, what matters more to man, the trifling bread and water that keeps us in temporary sustenance but offers no solace in those dark nights when we prostrate ourselves at God’s heavenly feet, or deep lasting spiritual food to set us on our ways up and to our fortunes?” Sometimes these poor souls have the rascal folly to denounce my generosity as two-faced, but I look beyond such lowness and avail myself with their money to a well-earned slice of lamb cutlet with Ms Tippet’s special sauce, followed by a pint or two of Mr Swaddlecob’s pure English ale. Real food indeed! God bless the wretches!

A Pressing Question:

Another Pressing Question:

Dickens’s infatuation with Tom’s sister Ruth is a little creepy: perhaps she was based on his darling wife or daughter?

Nothing to Do With This Game:


1994 Adaptation
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,630 followers
October 17, 2021
I love Dickens' writing! The story of Martin and the incorrigible Chuzzlewits is full of humour and wit. It even includes a hilarious and sarcastic episode in the United States (modelled on Dicken's own impressions of his 1841 voyage there) which I particularly adored. It is a book about selfishness where David Copperfield was more about integrity and Oliver Twist was about depravity and greed. Each of the characters has a distinct and interesting personality and the plot moves along at a relatively quick clip.
The audiobook was excellent!
Profile Image for Tijana.
763 reviews207 followers
February 25, 2022
Dikens je moja velika ljubav iz detinjstva i tom izjavom prosto mora da počne bilo koje izjašnjavanje o njemu. Da, grozno moralizuje, da, mladi i lepi ženski likovi su kod njega redovno skandalozno loši. Ali toliko je dobar! Takav je majstor retorike! Njegove ekscentrične tetke i zle babe su najbolje na svetu! Uopšte, sporedni likovi kod Dikensa su najbolji sporedni likovi na svetu. Nema diskusije. Ogromna većina njegovih romana mogla bi da se vizuelno prikaže tako što u sredinu stavimo bledu fleku od junaka (Nikolas Niklbi, Oliver Tvist, David Koperfild) a okolo silesiju minijatura u blistavim, jarkim, čak drečavim bojama, koje kipte od života.
Martin Čazlvit je tu poluizuzetak. Mali ali središnji deo romana posvećen je tome kako Martin napreduje kao čovek i komunista. Martin s početka i Martin s kraja - različite su osobe i Dikens ulaže dosta truda da bi nam pokazao kako je do te promene došlo. Jeste da se radi toga popne na propovedaonicu, ali nema veze.
Jer u ovih solidnih 800-900 strana napakovan je grupni portret porodice sebičnjaka i njihove kolektivno-individualne tužne sudbine, potom sudbine velikog broja ljudi koji su s njima na ovaj ili onaj način povezani, onda dvestotinak strana zle, zle i oštrooke satire na temu američke kulture i američkog načina života (Ameri mu to nisu oprostili), jedan virtuozni prikaz oličenja licemerstva (Peksnife, mrzimo te), izuzetno atmosferično i kripi prikazano ubistvo (od prvih priprema preko izvođenja do istrage i jelte nalaženja ubice) sa neočekivano tananim i dobro prikazanim duševnim stanjem i žrtve i ubice u satima neposredno pre zločina - njihovih snova se ne bi postideo ni bilo koji današnji autor - a poslednjih stotinak stranica je jedna čista orgija masivnih ultrakičastih hepiendova na sve strane od kojih bi svakom poštenom ljubitelju umetnosti pripala muka.
I šta još? Pa, Mark Tapli. Mark Tapli je ljubav. Samo zbog njega vredi pročitati ovu knjigu pet puta možda sam neki put malo varala i čitala samo delove sa njim. Doduše, i zbog zle debele babice pijandure, ali nju barem mogu da branim s estetskog stanovišta.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,215 reviews9,882 followers
November 29, 2012
This is the one where Dickens saw that the monthly sales figures were on the slide (it was published in parts, as all his novels were) and so he scrapped the entire plot he was intending to use for the rest of it and packed the hero off to America, because in 1843 America was the sexy hot topic of the day. If CD was around now, and saw the same disappointing sales figures, you'd have seen young Chuzzlewit in a gangnam style youtube video quicker than you could say "But Charles, you're supposed to be writing literature!"

After Martin gets to America Dickens had to improvise like the very Devil because he now had no plot at all. None. So this is well worth reading to see how he copes with the dire situation he got himself into.

Three stars compared with CD's other novels because in truth this is quite an unconvincing mess. But don't let that put you off. You get Seth Pecksniff and Sarah Gamp. Brilliant.
Profile Image for F.R..
Author 31 books199 followers
February 26, 2016
At the time of writing Dickens was convinced that Martin Chuzzlewit was his best book (amongst the lesser works which preceded it were such mediocre tomes as the Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby). Unfortunately the Victorian public did not agree with him, and its reputation as a minor work continues to this day.

Having re-read it now for the first time in fifteen years, I can see both why Dickens esteemed it so and why others regard it less fondly.

This is a novel which really shows the Inimitable’s love of language, it’s a witty book with many clever phrases and passages. Furthermore the author gives himself licence to create a set of fantastic grotesques. Throughout these pages we meet the likes of Pecksniff, Mrs Gamp, Chollop and others – over the top figures all, who embed themselves firmly in the mind.

However, this preponderance of grotesque figures ensures that there are few characters in this book to really care about. The ostensive hero is the young Martin Chuzzlewit (there are two Martin Chuzzlewit’s in the text), but even he – until he is forced to become humble and selfless by circumstance – is a distinctly unlikeable figure until about halfway through. As such there is a lack of empathy which means that the reader takes an interest, but is never fully engaged.

When published the book caused controversy for its portrayal of America. Dickens had not long visited and was scathing in his impressions. Reading from a 21st century viewpoint, the Stateside sections are only notable for being so dull. The young Martin Chuzzlewit and his companion Mark Tapley are marooned in swampland and the book feels stuck there with them. Once back in England the book is far more vigorous, as Dickens relates a world he understands, as opposed to heavy-handed satire. (And when Charles Dickens does heavy-handed satire, it really is heavy-handed).

This is far from a classic but has highly entertaining passages and is – for the most part – wonderfully written. If you’re a fan of Dickens but have never picked it up, then it shouldn’t be ignored; however, regardless of what he thought at the time, Charles was at his best elsewhere.
Profile Image for Xan  Shadowflutter.
165 reviews7 followers
February 20, 2020
I enjoyed this, all the characters tripping over one another in London. It's Dickens being Dickens, creating wonderful characters who go through life entertaining readers. But there is something readers need to know. This is not a novel. Dickens fools us into thinking there is a plot when there isn't one. There are just characters running around London entertaining us until Dickens tires of them or runs out of words. Read it for what it is, and not for what it isn't.
Profile Image for Brian Robbins.
160 reviews58 followers
July 22, 2012
Reading (or in this case listening to) Dickens novels is like admiring one of those delightful handmade, patchwork quilts. They are built of a wide variety of patterns and colours of cloth, some pieces garish some more subdued, some represented by single squares, others provide a repeated pattern that runs across the finished whole. Taken in isolation some pieces are very attractive in themselves, some would be hideous seen on their own; but, when taken as a completed and finished piece, it can be appreciated for its craft and skill, its richness and variety, even for its beauty.

To take a few of Dickens’ patchwork squares, one of the chief of these is Pecksniff. As always with his villains, from first appearance he is being built-up from beginning to end for his fall. He is drawn, as are a number of the characters in this novel, with a degree of more subtle shading than those in earlier novels. Dickens creates with Pecksniff a greater breadth of emotional response, from the comedy of many of his appearances, to the complete revulsion he creates in the reader, as he tries by physical force and emotional blackmail, to force his attentions on Mary Graham. The final appearance of Pecksniff and his shrewish daughter, living in much reduced circumstances, and bemoaning his fate in an ale shop and decrying Tom Pinch, has more impact than many of the more extreme comeuppances handed out to other villains of Dickens’ novels.

Jonas Chuzzlewit is another example of the way his villains have developed from earlier books, say Quilp. Jonas & Quilp have much in common. Both are bullies, both abuse their wives, both have great reserves of malice, both attempt by their manoeuvrings to engineer the downfall of other characters. But Quilp, for all his malice, has more of the qualities of a pantomime or puppet theatre villain - humour and even a bizarre kind of attractiveness. Jonas on the other hand has a character more in keeping with the villains of melodrama. There is more psychological reality about him than Quilp. He is never in any sense of the word, attractive; It is never possible to feel affection of any kind for him.

Sarah Gamp is one of those morally ambivalent characters that Dickens creates. A comic delight in her speech most of the time, (although this does become irritating at times when drawn on too much), she shows considerable compassion, particularly for the ill-used Mercy Pecksniff, but on the other hand little concern or compassion for her patients. In most things she’s self-serving in whatever causes she speaks out for, but not wholly so. There is a satisfaction at the end in both the truth of Old Martin’s judgement of her, and also in the feeling that Mrs Gamp, hopefully a little reformed by Martin’s words, remains essentially the same comic figure.

Some squares are necessary to the completion of the overall plot, they fit in as a square with a formal pattern given a central position within the patchwork of the novel. However, they are given little character interest. Old Martin Chuzzlewit provides the major example. He acts as a judge in the same sense as an old testament God, declaiming far- reaching judgements on the behaviour and moral qualities of the various characters. His verdicts, his rewards and punishments restore order after chaos, in similar way to that seen in the conclusions of Shakespeare’s comedies.

One final pattern of squares from the many others is those provided by the combination of young Martin Chuzzlewit & Mark Tapley. For the greatest part of the novel the two characters provide a series of composite squares. The rather vague & neutral toned squares representing Martin (like his grandfather never develops into a character of great interest in himself), are overlaid with the vivid, simple & well-defined pattern which is Mark Tapley, who brings colour with his efforts to be “jolly” in the most trying of circumstances.

All-in-all I loved the book and have to confess to beginning to listen to it with great enjoyment immediately after finishing it. For any shortcomings in plot or character or style, Dickens always overcomes any reservations with the sheer energy, colour and delights of his writing.

The reading of this by Sean Barrett was excellent. E read it with great animation and drama. His very varied voices which gave very effective individual identity to each of the characters was beautifully done.
Profile Image for aPriL does feral sometimes .
1,929 reviews437 followers
December 18, 2019
'Martin Chuzzlewit' (serialized 1842-1844) by Charles Dickens is considered by some as one of Dicken's finest comic fiction novels that focused on various social portraits of selfishness - generational pride, the suck-ups and kiss-asses, the paranoid and the criminal. I don't agree that this novel is a great one. However, it certainly is fun to read - as long as one does not mind 1,000 pages of 19th-century domestic farce revolving around characters in two London families and their servants. The novel was adapted from a serialization in a London publication. Also, there is an infamous section about a visit of two characters to America which was not at all complementary. Dickens was forced to give an apology of sorts twenty-five years later in an added appendix, but in my humble opinion, he really did not need to do so. He captured the same things about a certain class of Americans that Mark Twain did, only with more satiric bite.

The basic story:

Old Martin Chuzzlewitt is paranoid because he is a very rich man. He suspects everyone around him of being insincere suck-ups. He isn't entirely wrong. But he cannot distinguish the decent relatives and servants from the morally rotten ones. As a result, he falls under the power of various malignant suck-ups like Seth Pecksniff, and he chases out of his house, and his will, those around him who have basic decency. Relatives like his grandson. Young Martin Chuzzlewitt suffers from oblivious selfishness, a much more benign sort than Pecksniff's. It is possible young Martin can yet become more evolved and aware. He is very attracted to a ward of his grandfather, Mary Graham, a moneyless servant, a being who definitely has the soul of a saint.

Pecksniff is a crook who hides under the umbrella of sanctimonious Morality while stealing the architecture designs of the students he tutors. His shallow privileged daughters, Charity and Mercy, act as his approving Greek chorus. Pecksniff hopes to get old Martin's fortune by marrying one of his daughters to young Martin. Meanwhile, he has befriended a somewhat simple man, Tom Pinch, a former architecture student and now assistant, using him shamelessly in unpaid work, a scapegoat for anything which goes wrong.

Old Martin's brother, Anthony Chuzzlewit, a miser and an owner of a business, is physically failing under the weight of many ailments caused by age. He is increasingly under the power of his son, Jonas. Jonas Chuzzlewit is a hardened vicious man. He hopes to help his old father die a little quicker than he seems to be doing in order to inherit his father's money and business. Jonas has his eye on marrying one of the Pecksniff girls.

But bad guys are not immune from other money-making schemes. Pecksniff, and especially Jonas, are lured into investing into an insurance company, the Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance Company. It pays off early policyholders' claims with premiums from more recent policyholders. The company has been set up overnight by a con man, Tigg Montegue. Tigg, in order to gain more power over Jonas, hires a secretive spy, Mr. Nadgett. Many sources say this is the first mention of a private investigator in print!

I think this novel is too sprawling and it does not keep its themes in focus. Even the love affairs are muted. It encompasses the usual Dickens' thematic plot designs about social injustices, crime and class snobberies in an unusually muddy fashion. But as a consolation, Dickens appears to have become enchanted with his powers of description, going long. These are unquestionably wonderful passages, gentle reader!

" A dark and dreary night; people nestling in their beds or circling late about the fire; Want, colder than Charity, shivering at the street corners; church-towers humming with the faint vibration of their own tongues, but newly resting from the ghostly preachment 'One!' The earth covered with a sable pall as for the burial of yesterday; the clumps of dark trees, its giant plumes of funeral feathers, waving to and fro: all hushed, all noiseless, and in deep repose, save the swift clouds that skim across the moon, and the cautious wind, as, creeping after them upon the ground, it stops to listen, and goes rustling on, stops again, and follows, like a savage on the trail.

Whither go the clouds and wind so eagerly? If, like guilty spirits, they repair to some dread conference with powers like themselves, in what wild regions do the elements hold council, or where unbend in terrible disport?

Here! Free from that cramped prison called the earth, and out upon the waste of waters. Here, roaring, raging, shrieking, howling, all night long. Hither come the sounding voices from the caverns on the coast of that small island, sleeping a thousand miles away, so quietly in the midst of angry waves; and hither, to meet them, rush the blasts from unknown desert places of the world. Here, in the fury of their unchecked liberty, they storm and buffet with each other, until the sea, lashed into a passion like their own, leaps up, in ravings mightier than theirs, and the whole scene is madness.

On, on, on, over the countless miles of angry space roll the long heaving billows. Mountains and caves are here, and yet are not; for what is now the one, is now the other; then all is but a boiling heap of rushing water. Pursuit, and flight, and mad return of wave on wave, and savage struggle, ending in a spouting-up of foam that whitens the black night; incessant change of place, and form, and hue; constancy in nothing, but eternal strife; on, on on, they roll, and darker grows the night, and louder howls the wind, and more clamourous and fierce become the million voices in the sea, when a wild cry goes forth upon the storm 'A ship!' "

O _ O

I would have written "it was a stormy night by the beach when a ship was spotted." Dickens just didn't understand the editorial advice commonly given of writing sparely and to the point for his audience, right? Right?

Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 28 books5,675 followers
June 9, 2021
The first time I ever heard of this book was in The Man Who Invented Christmas, when Dan Stevens, playing Dickens, says he knows that Martin Chuzzlewit hadn't been his best.

Which is a blatant lie. In my opinion this was the best of his books so far. And according to the preface, he thought so, too. Full of distinctive characters (Mark Tapley! Mrs Gamp! Mister Pecksniff! Mrs Gamp's imaginary friend Mrs Harris!), this is the story of not just Martin, but everyone around him, their struggles, successes, and failures. And it deeply underscores how selfishness can ruin not only one life, but many.

It's also hilarious AF.

And furthermore, the middle section is set in America, based on Dickens' own experience on a reading tour, and is absolutely SCATHING. It reads like Mark Twain at his most satirical. I was laughing outright, and then had to find out if he ever dared set foot in the US again. (Apparently he did apologize . . .)

Then of course there's the chapter that is not unlike the climactic scene in Knives Out.

You heard me.

PS- I mostly listened to the audiobook narrated by Derek Jacobi. His voice for Mrs Gamp in particular just KILLED me.
Profile Image for Zen Cho.
Author 56 books2,422 followers
December 6, 2007
Reread. Martin Chuzzlewit is one of my favourite Dickenses; I love (and invariably start rereading at) the part where Martin falls ill in an American swamp and becomes a better person. Also I adore Mark Tapley.

Things I noticed about the book that I hadn't noticed before:
1. Gosh, that's a lot of vitriol against America. I am touched by Dickens's postscript, in which he takes pains to emphasise how great Americans were on his second trip there, and which he says "so long as my descendants have any legal right in my books, I shall cause to be republished, as an appendix to every copy of those two books of mine in which I have referred to America", as "an act of plain justice and honour". Go Dickens.
2. The food! The food! Dickens loves describing food. I get so hungry reading him, even though it is vile British food that I am not a big fan of.

I wonder why the sexism in Dickens doesn't bother me as much as it does in Heinlein. More obvious objectification of women in Heinlein? Or is it just that I was younger and more happy to ignore these things when I first started reading Dickens?
Profile Image for Dennis.
830 reviews35 followers
July 7, 2023
I can't say that this was my favorite Dickens but it was really good. I think Dickens is a little higher on his "moral high-horse" than usual as it's an undisguised attack on greed and on the USA of that time but still it had a lot of memorable characters, the usual panoply of good and evil characters with few in-between; nonetheless I still enjoyed it a lot.
Profile Image for Rach.
37 reviews8 followers
November 3, 2008
Ah, Dickens! This isn't up there with his best (A Tale of Two Cities, Our Mutual Friend, etc), but I almost couldn't bear giving it anything less than 5 stars b/c it has one of his loveliest characters in Tom Pinch, and of course who can't love Mark Tapley, one of a noble line of sturdy, jolly man-servants, right up there with Sam Weller and Sam Gamgee. A fun, lighthearted piece that I'll definitely go back to ~ although i'm sure Mark would agree that "there's no credit to being jolly" under any circumstances after you've read it. :-)
Profile Image for Ayesha (Seokjin's Version) ☾.
462 reviews56 followers
October 11, 2022
1- Dickens really won with the chapter titles in this one. like look at this-
- In which some people are precocious, others professional, and others mysterious all in their own way
- In which Miss Pecksniff makes Love, Mr. Jonas makes Wrath, Mrs. Gamp makes Tea, and Mr. Chuffey makes business
and finally,
-Gives the author great concern. For it is the last in the book
2- Mark Tapley, Tom Pinch, Mr. Bailey, and Mrs. Gamp made this book glorious
Profile Image for Ben Dutton.
Author 2 books37 followers
February 6, 2012
Martin Chuzzlewitt, Charles Dickens’ seventh novel, marks the turning point in this great novelist’s career. The last of his picaresque adventures, it slowly transforms itself into a grand narrative, with themes and motifs underscoring and accentuating Dickens’ prose. Dombey and Son, his next novel – like all those that come after it – is intricately plotted: it is the lessons learnt writing this work that pave the way.

Like Barnaby Rudge before it, Martin Chuzzlewitt is not about Martin Chuzzlewitt, despite the longer title reading: The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewitt. Young Martin disappears for much of his narrative and is thousands of miles away from much of the main action for half of the novel. It is no wonder some critics have stated they believe Tom Pinch to be more the central character, a thought made solid by Dickens’ final treatment of Tom: he gets the final swelling song of an ending.

The plot of Martin Chuzzlewitt is actually rather simple, despite the novels length: M. Chuzzlewitt Jnr is an apprentice architect who leaves his misanthropic grandfather (also Martin Chuzzlewitt) and sails to America to seek his fortune. He finds America a harsh, brutal place and sails back to England to marry the woman he loves. Meanwhile, Tom Pinch, also an architect at Pecksniff’s: Pinch is a kind man, unable to see the bad in Pecksniff, nor believe the stories of malice that he hears. He has a sister who works as a governnesss in London and a friend, John Westlock, who leaves Pecksniff’s after suffering at his hands. Finally there is Jonas Chuzzlewitt, a vile creature who preys on the innocent and whom has a dark secret in his past. A dark secret that will not stay secret forever.

Dickens, in the early part of this novel has much trouble maintaining all these threads (and many others beside) and his decision to send young Martin to America reeks of an author desperate to shake up his narrative: though in the end the contrasting of American society with British society at the time is wonderful to read now (it causes much debate and Dickens had to vociferously defend his novel). Eden, the town to which Martin and his companion Mark Tapley travel, is one of the great town creations in Dickens’ oeuvre. It is a dank, dirty place in which both men contract and almost die of malaria. However, once Martin and Mark are on their return journey, the novel suddenly contracts: the excess flab is cut away and what is left is a mean, taut novel that shifts between light and dark, comedic and serious. Dickens builds the momentum and delivers what is, I feel, his finest ending to date. There are positive thrills and chills (the final moments with Jonas Chuzzlewitt place him amongst the greatest of Dickens’s villains) and a resolution that – though somewhat trite, as Victorian novels must be, for all must be settled and good to have won – never really falters and brings a smile to ones face.

Martin Chuzzlewitt was reportedly Dickens favourite of his own work, and I think I see why. It is the novel upon which he learnt the final skills to allow him to become the truly great novelist he is about to become: Bleak House, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, Our Mutual Friend are all to come. With Martin Chuzzlewitt Dickens entered the greatest phase of his writing life, a fact which makes the lack of success of Martin Chuzzlewitt all the more baffling: it sold less well than any of his previous works and was greeted as something of a disappointment. Luckily that initial reaction has been forgotten now, for this is at its outset is a good novel, but by its end it is a great one. If I wasn’t a confirmed Dickensite before this, I certainly am now.
Profile Image for Kailey (Luminous Libro).
3,060 reviews452 followers
December 5, 2018
Old Martin Chuzzlewit is disgusted with his greedy relatives who only want his money, so he disinherits everyone, including his grandson, Young Martin, who is named after him. Young Martin falls in love with an orphaned ward, Mary Graham, who acts as Old Martin's nursemaid. But the two young people are torn apart when the family quarrel causes Young Martin to seek his fortune out in the world.

When he goes to work for a hypocritical architect, Mr. Pecksniff, Young Martin befriends poor Tom Pinch, a lowly clerk with a good and innocent heart. Because of his generosity and humility, Tom is always being taken advantage of and overlooked.

Mr. Pecksniff and his two daughters renew their relationship with their cousin, Jonas Chuzzlewit, a devious man who longs to inherit the family business and be rid of his doddering old father.

This book includes blackmail, murder, hidden identities, and fraud, as well as two sweet romances, hilarious characters, and a compelling redemption story.

I loved so many of these characters! Tom Pinch is definitely a favorite. In the beginning, he appears to be only a minor side character, but as he is thrown into the spotlight, Tom becomes a central figure in each plotline. He is so painfully innocent, but with a strange angelic wisdom of his own. I want to protect and shelter him from the cruel world, and towards the middle and end of the book, I rejoiced to see Tom's friends rallying around him.

Young Martin is a frustrating character at the beginning. He is self-centered and thoughtless, but as his story unfolds, and he goes through terrible disappointments, adversity, and suffering, he learns valuable lessons and gains wisdom. He becomes more humble and begins to be more considerate of others. The outstanding character development and the gradual change in his personality is remarkable writing!

The women characters are incredibly engaging, although I wish the heroines had more complex personalities. Both Mary Graham and Tom Pinch's sister, Ruth, are sweet and innocent and kind. They exist to be adored by all the menfolk. They are the perfect Victorian ladies, all sugar and no spice. They do have some lovely scenes, and some good dialogue, but I wish they had a little bit more depth and flavor. I love them though!

The unpleasant women in the book are much more complex. The Pecksniff sisters have more intensity in their personalities, as they scheme and plot for money, husbands, and social standing. They are always competing for attention, arguing at the same time that they profess their undying sisterly love. They want their own selfish way in everything, but are masters at hypocritically pretending to be humble and good, which they learned from their hypocritical father, Mr. Pecksniff.

I loved the plot! It is full of twists and turns and crazy coincidences. It has plenty of action, interspersed with Dicken's famously lengthy descriptions of everything and everyone. The only parts that I really detested reading were the descriptions of American politicians. Their speeches went on forever and ever, which I suppose was the point; i.e. to poke fun at how long-winded politicians are.
But almost all the scenes set in America bored me to tears, because they didn't really further the plot or accomplish any important points for the story. The American storyline could have been reduced to two chapters, instead of the ten or twelve that it encompassed, without losing any pertinent information.

Overall, I loved this book, and it has become one of my favorite Dickens books!
Profile Image for Jenny.
958 reviews89 followers
December 30, 2016
Well, it took me over seven months, but I'm finally done with you, Martin.
Charles Dickens is one of my favorite authors. I've read and loved many of his novels, most recently A Tale of Two Cities. For me, then, a "bad" Dickens novel is still a good book. My two biggest problems with this one in particular are the length and the abundance of deplorable characters. David Copperfield and Little Dorrit are both 1,000-page novels, yet neither of them felt it to me. This book felt every one of its eight hundred and seventy-four pages. It is way too long for the plot--I kept asking myself what the point was. It came together in the last two hundred or so pages, but by then, I'd already spent seven months reading the book. So, yes, the last couple hundred pages were very interesting, and I read them quickly (partly out of interest, partly out of determination), but that doesn't change the time I spent (I'm tempted to, but won't, say "wasted") on the first six hundred or so pages.
The second problem I had with this book concerns the characters. Some of them are very sympathetic and fairly well-drawn (Victorian sentimentality a given), but so many of them are contemptible and horrible and just annoying. Now, I know that Dickens is making a point with these characters; I get it. But so much of the book centers around people that I don't like or care about. If he had interspersed the narrative a little bit more, as he does at the end, I would have found more pleasure reading it all along because the time spent away from my favorite characters would have been less. And if the book were shorter overall, then it would have been even less.
I think that Dickens tells better stories in other novels. The main point of this book is that you can't be so selfish that you protect yourself worrying about others' selfishness and contradict your very aims. You can't value money more than all else; greed does ugly things to people. You can't be hypocritically deceptive. If you value family and friendship, if you act in truth and from a good heart, you'll get what you wait patiently for. Yes, those are worthwhile lessons, but what's the takeaway for the adult that already knows these things? The American section shows a little more dexterity. Here, you have an upstart country claiming to be the best and criticizing every other country when, really, it's housing millions of hypocrites and people who rave about liberty while enslaving half the population... Yeah, not much has changed since Dickens satirized the United States. Dickens' Americans are always eating (and much too quickly), always introducing some great man who is only great in his propensities for chewing tobacco, criticizing other countries, and bragging about America's progress, they are always writing treatises to the leaders of other countries to lambaste their political choices...in short, they are terribly annoying.
There is value here, and I'm not claiming that I didn't like it or that, because it took me so long to read, I wouldn't recommend it to someone else. I can say that Jonas Chuzzlewit is a good villain, that I didn't mind the ending fitting of a Shakespearean comedy (you know what that means), and that I did get some laughs from some scenes throughout. And that at least part of why it took me so long is that my copy from 18-something literally fell apart as I was reading it. Once I tore out the remaining 200 or so pages, I had a much easier reading time.
Profile Image for Michael Perkins.
Author 6 books375 followers
July 6, 2017
Loved this book! Great story. And, in a way I never experienced with any other Dickens' novel, a lot of LOL humor in the narrator's sharp-witted assessment of the preponderance of selfish, greedy, and hypocritical characters in this book, especially Mr. Pecksniff. But also some classic Dickens tear-jerking redemption in the end in which the repentant characters are truly rewarded with happiness, although not quite fully for one character. And the worst get their comeuppance. Always satisfying. Dickens considered this novel to be his best, although it was far from his most popular.
Profile Image for Laurel Hicks.
1,163 reviews98 followers
May 8, 2021
Dickens's sixth novel gets off to a lumbering start, stalls in the middle, but ends in a flurry of excitement reminiscent of Shakespeare (Macbeth), Poe, and Doyle all tied into one. Tom Pinch and Mark Tapley are keepers.
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