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Nicholas Nickleby > Nickleby, Chapters 46-51

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message 1: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
This week we are supposed to be starting to discuss this section, after having read it. I am about 4-5 days behind and I think most others are too. We will be continuing this discussion at least a week or two past the deadline.

As always, Fellow Pickwickians, place your observations here:


message 2: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy There are two questions uppermost I would really like your opinion about:

#1: What do you think of Chapter 50?

#2: What do you think of this whole Gride business? After all, Gride is another character that just pops into the plot out of nowhere ...


message 3: by Kim (new)

Kim I found it interesting that in Chapter 46 when the brothers are telling Nicholas the story of Madeline, the story of how her mother was mistreated by her father, now her mother has died and she is left with her father who treats her cruelly, she braves everything "most terrible to such a young and delicate creature's heart, for the purpose of supporting him."

And the girl in Chapter 40 by the name of Bobster, who Nicholas and Newman mistakenly thought was Madeline, lived alone with her father, her mother had died and she was left with a father who treats her cruelly and brutally.

It could almost be the same girl to me, except for the name Bobster of course.


message 4: by Kim (new)

Kim In Chapter 50 there are two quotes that I just sit and think about.

The first is on the way to the duel:

"Fields, trees, gardens, hedges, everything looked very beautiful; the young man scarcely seemed to have noticed them before, though he had passed the same objects a thousand times."

I always look out the front window at the corn field, and the mountain behind it for a few minutes when I read that.

And:

"So died Lord Frederick Verisopht, by the hand which he had loaded with gifts and clasped a thousand times; by the act of him but for whom and others like him he might have lived a happy man, and died with children's faces round his bed."

I never hated Lord Verisopht the way I did some others in this novel. Why did he have to be so weak? Why did he let these awful people run his life? And do we do the same? I hope somebody punches Sir Mulberry Hawk. Hard. :}


message 5: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy The way Dickens describes Verisopht's musings on his way to the duel and the duel itself is really another good example of the superiority of his style.

What I do not really like about Chapter 50 is the way Dickens disposes of Verisopht and Mulberry Hawk. The whole duel business, though there may be some foreshadowing of it, comes too abruptly - if you ask me - and just at the time as Dickens no longer seems to have any need of Mulberry's leering over Kate because instead he will have Gride leer over Madeline.


message 6: by Kim (new)

Kim Arthur Gride, who shows up for the first time in Chapter 47 (I think) is just totally creepy. Dickens describes him as:

"a little old man, of about seventy or seventy-five years of age, of a very lean figure, much bent and slightly twisted. He wore a grey coat with a very narrow collar, an old-fashioned waistcoat of ribbed black silk, and such scanty trousers as displayed his shrunken spindle-shanks in their full ugliness. The only articles of display or ornament in his dress were a steel watch-chain to which were attached some large gold seals; and a black ribbon into which, in compliance with an old fashion scarcely ever observed in these days, his grey hair was gathered behind. His nose and chin were sharp and prominent, his jaws had fallen inwards from loss of teeth, his face was shrivelled and yellow, save where the cheeks were streaked with the colour of a dry winter apple; and where his beard had been, there lingered yet a few grey tufts which seemed, like the ragged eyebrows, to denote the badness of the soil from which they sprung. The whole air and attitude of the form was one of stealthy cat-like obsequiousness; the whole expression of the face was concentrated in a wrinkled leer, compounded of cunning, lecherousness, slyness, and avarice."

and this is the man who wants to marry Madeline? And in Chapter 51 his house is described as:

"an old house, dismal dark and dusty, which seemed to have withered, like himself, and to have grown yellow and shrivelled in hoarding him from the light of day, as he had in hoarding his money, lived Arthur Gride. Meagre old chairs and tables, of spare and bony make, and hard and cold as misers' hearts, were ranged, in grim array, against the gloomy walls; attenuated presses, grown lank and lantern-jawed in guarding the treasures they enclosed, and tottering, as though from constant fear and dread of thieves, shrunk up in dark corners, whence they cast no shadows on the ground, and seemed to hide and cower from observation."

In the same chapter Gride tells his housekeeper:

"It would be very easy to ruin me; we must be very careful; more saving than ever, with another mouth to feed. Only we—we mustn't let her lose her good looks, Peg, because I like to see 'em.'

'Take care you don't find good looks come expensive,' returned Peg, shaking her forefinger.

'But she can earn money herself, Peg,' said Arthur Gride, eagerly watching what effect his communication produced upon the old woman's countenance: 'she can draw, paint, work all manner of pretty things for ornamenting stools and chairs: slippers, Peg, watch-guards, hair-chains, and a thousand little dainty trifles that I couldn't give you half the names of. Then she can play the piano, (and, what's more, she's got one), and sing like a little bird. She'll be very cheap to dress and keep, Peg; don't you think she will?'"

Ugh, it makes me shutter to think of being married to this guy.


message 7: by Kim (new)

Kim In Chapter 48 we have the return briefly, of the Crummles. I always enjoyed the Crummles but them popping back into the story like that got me to thinking. This is the fifth time (I think) that I've read this book, but reading it only a chapter a day is different for me. A lot of these people I almost "forget" about reading this way and then, all of a sudden they're back. This happened with the Crummles, the Kenwigs, the Mantalinis, I think if this was my first reading, I'd be backtracking all the time just to remember who all these people are.


message 8: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "Arthur Gride, who shows up for the first time in Chapter 47 (I think) is just totally creepy. Dickens describes him as:

"a little old man, of about seventy or seventy-five years of age, of a very..."


It is exactly these passages that in my eyes are indicative of Dickens's craft as a writer. The way he personifies Gride's house, as though the character of its inhabitant had oozed into the very fibres of the house and its furniture themselves ... One might say this was exaggerated and hardly conducive to realistic descriptions of real-life characters, but it is extremely original and brilliantly written.


message 9: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "In Chapter 48 we have the return briefly, of the Crummles. I always enjoyed the Crummles but them popping back into the story like that got me to thinking. This is the fifth time (I think) that I..."

I am a fervent fan of the Crummleses and think a) the Portsmouth passages are among the best ones of the novel, and b) Nicholas - yes, I'm bashing again - was quite thankless and snobbish to think these estimable people below his dignity.

However, the re-appearance of the Crummles company in Chapter 48(?) is but a shadow of their first appearance on that illustrous stage. I cannot get rid of the suspicion that Dickens's only motivation to have the Crummleses re-appear was to allow Nicholas some harangues and rants against the plagiarist-writers Dickens as an author suffered from so much at that time. The whole dinner scene is thrown out of balance because of Nicholas's verdict against these kinds of scavengers.

When reading this I was asking myself all the time, "Why should Nick care at all about plagiarists since he is no writer at all? And yet he seemed to have given this problem a lot of thought." Here we have clearly the author speaking through his characters, even at the expense of the character's and the whole scene's credibility.


message 10: by Kim (new)

Kim Tristram wrote: "Kim wrote: "In Chapter 48 we have the return briefly, of the Crummles. I always enjoyed the Crummles but them popping back into the story like that got me to thinking. This is the fifth time (I t..."

I so agree with you, when I was reading this chapter I kept thinking that it wasn't Nicholas talking it was Dickens talking. Nicholas would know nothing about plagiarists, although he was a writer of plays when he was with the Crummles, quite good plays I'm sure. :-} But it is clearly Dickens talking not Nick, most of Dickens works were plagiarized. There was:

PREST, Thomas Peckett]. The Post-humourous Notes of the Pickwickian Club, Edited by “Bos.”

Nickelas Nickelbery. Containing the Adventures ... of the Family of Nickelbery. By "Bos." Embellished with ... Engravings.

The Life and Adventures of Oliver Twiss, the Workhouse Boy:
With Numerous Illustrations. [Edited by Bos. In Imitation of “The Adventures of Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens. PREST, Thomas Peckett

Also The Nickleby Papers, Nickleby Married, and David Copperful. Those are just some that I know of, I wonder if they're any good. :-}


message 11: by Kellie (new)

Kellie The plot with Arthur Gride made me so angry. It was nice because it was the fist time I actually felt something while reading this book since NN beat up Squeers and left with Smike.

Well I did get a little worked up when Smike was captured, but that resolved so quickly I forgot it.

I can not imagine being married to a man like that, nor imagine a parent willingly allowing their daughter to marry him either. That poor girl had only the Ch. brothers to look after her and she would not let them help her enough. She was alone and very vulnerable, probably a little naive about the consequences of marrying Gride. The fifth commandment only extends so far and her father had forfeited his right for her honor and respect. I was so relieved when he died.


message 12: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Kim wrote: "In Chapter 48 we have the return briefly, of the Crummles. I always enjoyed the Crummles but them popping back into the story like that got me to thinking. This is th..."

Hmmm, copying Dickens seems like a venture doomed to fail from the very outset. And "Nickleby Married" ... what could there be of interest happening after the hero and the heroine's marriage?


message 13: by Tristram (last edited Sep 14, 2013 12:43AM) (new)

Tristram Shandy Kellie wrote: "The plot with Arthur Gride made me so angry. It was nice because it was the fist time I actually felt something while reading this book since NN beat up Squeers and left with Smike.

Well I did ge..."


Yes, Gride is a truly revolting creature ... even more so than Ralph, I'd say. He's like a writhing praying mantis in my mind's eye.

However, the way Dickens solved this plot (view spoiler) is another example of how little he makes of the story itself - you already mentioned that the Smike episode, too, was resolved quite quickly. The whole action is of episodic character and Dickens is clearly more interested in the characters, their whims and linguistic mannerisms than in the plot.


message 14: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
Tristram and Kim both remarked on Dickens speaking through Nickleby at the Crummles' farewell dinner on the evils of plagiarism. I think we are finding that Dickens was quite an activist early in his career when he had only a voice to help the helpless. I actually made a similar note on my Kindle, "This is the author speaking through his character." That is a proof that great minds think alike.


message 15: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
I am currently taking English 201 at Purdue University. We are studying Hamlet and I will be using Nickleby's comments on Shakespeare in the paper we have to do. Nick refers Shakespeare getting his plays from other writers or even from folklore. It appears he took the idea for Hamlet from a now extinct English play called Ur-Hamlet by a playwright named Kyd. So I will be using fiction to critique fiction. What a "novel" idea!


message 16: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Jonathan wrote: "That is a proof that great minds think alike. "

This is a brilliant way of reasoning, Jonathan because it also allows you to gauge the greatness or the lack thereof of any other mind but your own! The more similarities between your own thoughts and those of another person the higher the probability that this person must be a very clever and ingenious thinker!


message 17: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Jonathan wrote: "I am currently taking English 201 at Purdue University. We are studying Hamlet and I will be using Nickleby's comments on Shakespeare in the paper we have to do. Nick refers Shakespeare getting hi..."

No one, however, would call Shakespeare a plagiarist; for the simple reason that he was a master of language and that it is not so much the story that counts as an author's way of narrating it and putting it into words.

I mean, strictly speaking, there are probably no more than a dozen different stories around, are there?!


message 18: by Kim (new)

Kim Are we ever going to finish Nicholas Nickleby?? Or more importantly do I win a prize for finishing first? Because if I do I would either like the Byers Choice Charles Dickens caroler or the Department 56 Dickens Village Church at Cornhill. :}

Jonathan I was as close to Purdue University as I'll probably get yesterday, we were at the Indiana Dunes which I think is about an hour away. That was my first time in Indiana.

Now we're at Frankenmuth Michigan which is supposed to look like a German town but I'll need Tristam to verify that. It has the largest Christmas store in the world, that's why we're here. :}

Back to Sketches.


message 19: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Finishing NN is no problem at all because all in all it's well-written and already shows many of Dickens's strong points as a writer. I'm at the moment struggling with Collins's Armadale, which, as soon as it arouses my interest, suffers from extensive elaborations of characters' thoughts that either go without saying or have been dwelled on more than once already by the author.

As far as NN is concerned, I'm waiting for the group to catch up and am ready to throw in one or two observations.

As to Frankenmuth, I'm going to have a look at it on the Net, but there are picture-book German towns like Nuremberg, Heidelberg or Monschau, and there are towns like Dortmund or Bielefeld - the latter ones probably not too nice to look at, but splendid to live in. Then there are also ugly towns which suck like ... no, I'm too diplomatic to give an example here.


message 20: by Kim (new)

Kim Tristram wrote: "Finishing NN is no problem at all because all in all it's well-written and already shows many of Dickens's strong points as a writer. I'm at the moment struggling with Collins's Armadale, which, as..."

We just left Frankenmuth this morning, and it is a very pretty town (the main street anyway). If all Germany is white houses and towers and glockenspiels than it is a very pretty place. But people in Germany sure must eat a lot of sausage, cheese, and fudge. :}

As to NN, I'm ready to discuss the last chapters anytime. And looking forward to The Old Curiosity Shop. :}


message 21: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
Oliver Asks for More

Nicholas makes his first visit to Mr. Bray


message 22: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
Oliver Asks for More

The consultation


message 23: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
Oliver Asks for More

Mysterious appearance of the Gentleman in the small-clothes


message 24: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
Oliver Asks for More

The last brawl between Sir Mulberry and his pupil


message 25: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2034 comments Kim wrote: "I never hated Lord Verisopht the way I did some others in this novel. Why did he have to be so weak? Why did he let these awful people run his life? And do we do the same? I hope somebody punches Sir Mulberry Hawk. Hard. :} "

I never hated him, though I felt sorry for him. But I have no idea why Dickens chose to dispatch him in such a brutal way. There doesn't seem to be any reason or necessity in the plot for it, unless it is to emphasize how evil Hawk is. But dueling was illegal by the time Dickens wrote this, I believe, so there was no social benefit to including this episode, and if he had wanted to make us exorcised about the cruelty of dueling, he should have chosen to kill off a character we cared more about than Verisopht.


message 26: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2034 comments Kim wrote: "In Chapter 48 we have the return briefly, of the Crummles. I always enjoyed the Crummles but them popping back into the story like that got me to thinking. This is the fifth time (I think) that I..."

I agree. Why on earth did they resurface -- doesn't seem to be any particular reason for it.

And if you have trouble remembering who they are, think of the poor original readers who were reading this over a period of two years, one issue a month instead of one a week as we are (at least those who are keeping up with the schedule). The original readers might not have come across the Crummles for almost a year. They would have been forgiven for asking "Who are these people, anyhow???"


message 27: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2034 comments Tristram wrote: "I cannot get rid of the suspicion that Dickens's only motivation to have the Crummleses re-appear was to allow Nicholas some harangues and rants against the plagiarist-writers Dickens as an author suffered from so much at that time. "

I noticed that, too. It was clumsily done, and I think shows the immaturity of Dickens as an author at this stage of his career. The later Dickens would never have been this crude.


message 28: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2034 comments Kellie wrote: "The plot with Arthur Gride made me so angry. It was nice because it was the fist time I actually felt something while reading this book since NN beat up Squeers and left with Smike. "

LOL!! But yes, I agree with you and others that Gride is truly awful. I have to admire Dickens's ability to create a character so loathsome in so few paragraphs.

But what is it about Dickens being so enthusiastic about putting beautiful, virginal young women -- girls almost -- in such danger of being preyed on by horrid old men? There is nothing subtle in either of these cases, Ralph and Gride. Both seem to be devoted to the ruination, for their pleasure, of these young women who I suspect we all like a lot.

Dickens seems not to have a well thought-out plot or development, but seems to me to be helter-skelter-ing his way through. It's more reminiscent of the loosely connected sequence of separate events that were successful in Pickwick Papers than it is of a well structured and developed novel.


message 29: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Everyman wrote: "Kim wrote: "I never hated Lord Verisopht the way I did some others in this novel. Why did he have to be so weak? Why did he let these awful people run his life? And do we do the same? I hope somebo..."

I think that Dickens's reasons for including the duel between Verisopht and his personal scrounger is more prosaic than what you are surmising: Now that there was the Madeline-Bray-strand the exclusively Kate-related villains had done their parts, there was no longer any use for them and Dickens decided to get rid of them in the most sensational way possible.


message 30: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Everyman wrote: "Tristram wrote: "I cannot get rid of the suspicion that Dickens's only motivation to have the Crummleses re-appear was to allow Nicholas some harangues and rants against the plagiarist-writers Dick..."

Yes, I re-agree with you ;-) However, I was so impressed by Vincent Crummles and his magnificent wife that I'd find it difficult to imagine anyone could have forgotten about them. To me, they are among the most likable characters in the novel.


message 31: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Everyman wrote: "But what is it about Dickens being so enthusiastic about putting beautiful, virginal young women -- girls almost -- in such danger of being preyed on by horrid old men? There is nothing subtle in either of these cases, Ralph and Gride. Both seem to be devoted to the ruination, for their pleasure, of these young women who I suspect we all like a lot. "

We might keep that in mind - all the more so as this constellation will also turn up in The Old Curiosity Shop, where the dwarfish, grotesque Quilp is bent on ruining the angelic Little Nell, while - if I may allow myself a mean aside - the author ruins his book with a lack of structure and an overdose of sentimentalism.


message 32: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2034 comments Tristram wrote: I think that Dickens's reasons for including the duel between Verisopht and his personal scrounger is more prosaic than what you are surmising: Now that there was the Madeline-Bray-strand the exclusively Kate-related villains had done their parts, there was no longer any use for them and Dickens decided to get rid of them in the most sensational way possible. "

Interesting. That would suggest that he had a particular focus on not just letting characters drift away, but in disposing of them. That would explain the strange (to me) brief reappearance of the Crummles. If that theory is correct, then will Squeers make a final disposative appearance?


message 33: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
This seems to be Dickens goal, here, in the latter chapters. He is going through the entourage of characters one by one or set by set and getting rid of them as far as their contact with the Nicklebys is concerned. This explains the going away party for the Crummles and the duel. Who's next?


message 34: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy I don't remember about Pickwick Papers, but in Nicholas Nickleby the final chapter gives information on what is to befall the most important characters after the action of the novel itself has come to a close. The same kind of reckoning will be found in Barnaby Rudge and in The Old Curiosity Shop.

So Dickens seemed to be very concerned about not having his characters simply drift away but giving them a decent farewell.


message 35: by Kim (new)

Kim Tristram wrote: "I don't remember about Pickwick Papers, but in Nicholas Nickleby the final chapter gives information on what is to befall the most important characters after the action of the novel itself has come..."

I think he usually does that. His characters don't just disappear, they get a farewell, a final chapter kind of thing. I'd probably go crazy if they didn't, which would make me sane I think. :)


message 36: by Kim (new)

Kim Everyman wrote: "Kim wrote: "In Chapter 48 we have the return briefly, of the Crummles. I always enjoyed the Crummles but them popping back into the story like that got me to thinking. This is the fifth time (I t..."

I never could have been one of the original readers reading a few chapters a month. I would have had to collect them and read it all at once. I'm having enough trouble remembering NN waiting for the group to catch up! :)


message 37: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "I never could have been one of the original readers reading a few chapters a month. I would have had to collect them and read it all at once. I'm having enough trouble remembering NN waiting for the group to catch up! :) "

I know what you mean, Kim, because I, too, have trouble remembering things from books for a longer while. This is quite good, though, because I can always re-read good books - and by this I chiefly mean Dickens (but also Mr. Conrad and others) and still enjoy them again and again. Here's to bad memory!!!


message 38: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "Tristram wrote: "I don't remember about Pickwick Papers, but in Nicholas Nickleby the final chapter gives information on what is to befall the most important characters after the action of the nove..."

Yes, Dickens nearly always does this, but in his later works he does it more skilfully instead of sitting down like a bookkeeper and ticking off character after character.


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