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Barnaby Rudge
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Barnaby Rudge > Barnaby, Chapters 21-25

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Tristram Shandy Oh dear, oh dear! The plot is going to quicken as the villains seem to be about to join forces ...

Please place your observations on this and other things right here!


message 2: by Tristram (last edited Feb 02, 2014 01:47AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tristram Shandy Chapters 23 and 24 are very interesting in that Dickens shows us Mr. Chester at work on what he can best, i.e. manipulating people. Just notice how different his behaviour is to the uncouth and sullen Maypole Hugh, whom he browbeats and blackmails into submission. It is noticeable how Dickens describes the way Hugh is intimidated by the genteel appearance of Chester and his whole surroundings before Chester starts to hint at how he has entrapped Hugh.

Chester's behaviour with noble Sim is quite different for he playfully humours the latter's overbearing ways, and Sim is so full of himself that it does not even occur to him that he might be played upon like a flute.

There is just one question I could not answer myself, and maybe this is because I failed to notice some little hint when reading, and therefore I lay it before you, the eminent Fellow-Pickwickians: How did Chester get any knowledge about Hugh's having stolen the bracelet Dolly had been given by Emma? He could not possibly have known this, could he? And yet he did ... Where was I asleep?


message 3: by Tristram (last edited Feb 02, 2014 01:55AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tristram Shandy And wonderful little scene of comic relief there is in Chapter 25 when Dickens shows us John Willet's disgust with those new-fangled coaches:

"'We know nothing of coaches here, sir,' John would say, if any unlucky stranger made inquiry touching the offensive vehicles, 'we don't book for 'em; we'd rather not; they're more trouble than they're worth, with their noise and rattle. If you like to wait for 'em you can; but we don't know anything about 'em; they may call and they may not - there's a carrier - he was looked upon as quite good enough for us, when I was a boy.'" (p.259)


As far as I share his contempt for new stuff, this also shows his lack of intelligence, at least of practical-mindedness, because as an inn-keeper a lot of his business must have depended on coach passengers.


Tristram Shandy By the way, Kim, I've also got something to grump about in Chapter 25: If you look at the language the widow Rudge uses when entreating Mr. Haredale to accept her withdrawal from his financial support, don't you think that for all the beauty of the language and the dramatic effect it creates, it is rather out of character for a countryside-bred, working-class woman as Mrs. Rudge?


Tristram Shandy A nice bit of character detail in Chapter 21:

"Mrs. Varden was seldom very Protestant at meals, unless it happened that they were underdone, or overdone, or indeed that anything occurred to put her out of humour." (p.255)


Dickens seldom misses an opportunity to unmask hypocrisy.


Everyman | 2034 comments I think Mr. Chester, Sim, and Hugh are three of the most odious persons of my acquaintance. I am used to books with one or two odious people, but three all working for the same end is a bit much.

They aren't pure evil, like Quilp, but they are nasty specimens. I am counting on their getting their come-uppance by the end of the book.


message 7: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Everyman wrote: "I think Mr. Chester, Sim, and Hugh are three of the most odious persons of my acquaintance. I am used to books with one or two odious people, but three all working for the same end is a bit much.

..."



I totally agree with you for once, I think I liked Quilp better than these three. At least Quilp knew he was bad and just went with it. :-}


message 8: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Tristram wrote: "How did Chester get any knowledge about Hugh's having stolen the bracelet Dolly had been given by Emma? He could not possibly have known this, could he?"

You didn't miss anything unless I missed it too. I can only assume that the same is true in Dickens books as it is here in my valley. No matter what happens to anyone before long we all know about it whether we want to or not. In my case I'd rather not. However, between neighbors, friends, family, church family, you always know what's going on in everyone's life. I am assuming that Dolly or her mother or father told someone else in town, they told another person, and so on and so on, until it got to that idiot Mr. Chester. :-}


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Kim Tristram wrote: "By the way, Kim, I've also got something to grump about in Chapter 25: If you look at the language the widow Rudge uses when entreating Mr. Haredale to accept her withdrawal from his financial supp..."

I thought that whole thing was kind of strange. She makes this trip to Mr. Haredale specifically to tell him absolutely nothing. Instead of explaining things, she only made it more of a mystery. It would have been better in my opinion to have just sent him a letter saying "we are moving away, please don't send us any more money" or some such thing. Now Mr. Haredale and his niece are left wondering what happened.


message 10: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Poor Joe--Poor Dolly! That's what I thought reading Chapter 21. Poor Dolly is terrorized by Hugh, and when rescued by Joe and brought back to the Maypole this is the sympathy she is shown by her mother:

"Mrs Varden expressed her sympathy for her daughter's distress by scolding her roundly for being so late."


And poor Joe he has just done a brave thing by saving Dolly and his father instead of praising Joe for his deed,

"it occurred to him that if his son and heir had been seriously damaged in a scuffle, the consequences would assuredly have been expensive and inconvenient, and might perhaps have proved detrimental to the Maypole business."

I had no problem or little problem with John Willet until he worried more about the Maypole than about Joe.


message 11: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim My copy of Barnaby Rudge says that the character of Mr. Chester was based on the 4th Earl of Chesterfield. So I had to look this guy up and see if he's as awful as our Mr. Chester. Here are a few of the things I read about him:

According to some authorities, Chesterfield was selfish, calculating and contemptuous; he was not naturally generous, and he practised dissimulation until it became part of his nature. In spite of his brilliant talents and of the admirable training he received, his life, on the whole, cannot be pronounced a success.

Samuel Johnson, according to his biographer, James Boswell, expressed himself pointedly about the nobleman, in the following manner, ‘“This man (said he) I thought had been a Lord among wits; but I find he is only a wit among Lords!” And when his Letters to his natural son were published, he observed, that “they teach the morals of a whore, and the manners of a dancing-master.”

In the Letters to his Son Chesterfield epitomises the restraint of polite 18th-century society:

"I would heartily wish that you may often be seen to smile, but never heard to laugh while you live. Frequent and loud laughter is the characteristic of folly and ill-manners; it is the manner in which the mob express their silly joy at silly things; and they call it being merry. In my mind there is nothing so illiberal, and so ill-bred, as audible laughter. I am neither of a melancholy nor a cynical disposition, and am as willing and as apt to be pleased as anybody; but I am sure that since I have had the full use of my reason nobody has ever heard me laugh."


"Take the tone of the company that you are in, and do not pretend to give it; be serious, gay, or even trifling, as you find the present humor of the company; this is an attention due from every individual to the majority. Do not tell stories in company; there is nothing more tedious and disagreeable; if by chance you know a very short story, and exceedingly applicable to the present subject of conversation, tell it in as few words as possible; and even then, throw out that you do not love to tell stories; but that the shortness of it tempted you."

"Never maintain an argument with heat and clamor, though you think or know yourself to be in the right: but give your opinion modestly and coolly, which is the only way to convince; and, if that does not do, try to change the conversation, by saying, with good humor, “We shall hardly convince one another, nor is it necessary that we should, so let us talk of something else.”


message 12: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim In Chapter 22 we have this:


"Mrs Varden expressed her belief that never was any woman so beset as she; that her life was a continued scene of trial; that whenever she was disposed to be well and cheerful, so sure were the people around her to throw, by some means or other, a damp upon her spirits; and that, as she had enjoyed herself that day, and Heaven knew it was very seldom she did enjoy herself so she was now to pay the penalty."

"She represented to her in lively colours, that if she (Mrs V.) had not, in steering her course through this vale of tears, been supported by a strong principle of duty which alone upheld and prevented her from drooping, she must have been in her grave many years ago; in which case she desired to know what would have become of that errant spirit (meaning the locksmith), of whose eye she was the very apple, and in whose path she was, as it were, a shining light and guiding star? "

"Miss Miggs also put in her word to the same effect. She said that indeed and indeed Miss Dolly might take pattern by her blessed mother, who, she always had said, and always would say, though she were to be hanged, drawn, and quartered for it next minute, was the mildest, amiablest, forgivingest-spirited, longest-sufferingest female as ever she could have believed."

What I am wondering is, did Mrs. Varden really believe all this stuff she and Miggs are saying? Is she really that delusional or is she really that self-centered? Not to mention just plain mean. She seems not to care about her husband or daughter at all.


Everyman | 2034 comments Tristram wrote: "As far as I share his contempt for new stuff, this also shows his lack of intelligence, at least of practical-mindedness, because as an inn-keeper a lot of his business must have depended on coach passengers. "

Well, maybe, but maybe you're just showing your anti-JW prejudice.

First of all, he doesn't seem to be on a major post road, so we don't know much much coach traffic he actually gets -- I can't remember whether Mr. Chester arrived by coach, but if so he's the only one we've seen doing so. His primary clientele are obviously the locals who hang around drinking, and they are probably anti-coach, so he's showing a good political position by validating their views.

He knows that Hugh and Joe can perfectly well take care of the coach passengers, so he won't lose any money by his attitude.

Sly like a fox, I would suggest.


Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "I totally agree with you for once, I think I liked Quilp better than these three. At least Quilp knew he was bad and just went with it. :-} "

On this point, I totally disagree - surprise, surprise ;-) Whereas Quilp's malevolence seems completely unmotivated and blown out of all proportions so that he is more like some fairytale bogeyman, our villains in BR are more realistic in that their villainy serves a certain end.

Mr. Chester wants his son to provide for him and seeks to destroy his love for Emma; Sim feels slighted by society, esp. by Gabriel, and he is also completely jealous of Joe; and Hugh is simply reckless because he has never been treated decently and consequently thinks that he doesn't owe society anything. He feels more indebted the dog that howled on his mother's execution, which is a good way of Dickens's showing what alienates certain people from their community.

So I'd go for the Wild Bunch in BR instead. They are loathsome, but credible as characters. Quilp is just loathsome, esp. if you see him through the eyes of a child.


Tristram Shandy Everyman wrote: "Tristram wrote: "As far as I share his contempt for new stuff, this also shows his lack of intelligence, at least of practical-mindedness, because as an inn-keeper a lot of his business must have d..."

You certainly have a point there, Everyman. We don't know really if John Willet could indeed gain a lot of money by pandering to the coach service. Undoubtedly, the locals would not be too partial to this new means of transportation.

So in this respect I must confess I was a bit rash - but I'll find something to pin on that Willet person yet! ;-)


Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "Tristram wrote: "How did Chester get any knowledge about Hugh's having stolen the bracelet Dolly had been given by Emma? He could not possibly have known this, could he?"

You didn't miss anything ..."


This is about the only explanation that is offered, or rather offers itself - for Dickens is not very explicit here - up to now, isn't it?

Still the question remains if rumour from the Varden family circle would find its way into the allegedly more refined and genteel spheres of Mr. Chester.


Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "My copy of Barnaby Rudge says that the character of Mr. Chester was based on the 4th Earl of Chesterfield. So I had to look this guy up and see if he's as awful as our Mr. Chester. Here are a few..."

Thank you very much for this information. Mr. Chester is apparently modelled on a very ruthless and dissimulating person.

I despise somebody who considers himself too fine to laugh, and to be laughed at from time to time. And I always like it when somebody can tell a good story in an entertaining way.

However, Mr. Chesterfield's last piece of advice - the one about not arguing - is not that bad, or is it?


Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "In Chapter 22 we have this:


"Mrs Varden expressed her belief that never was any woman so beset as she; that her life was a continued scene of trial; that whenever she was disposed to be well and ..."


I think there are also some relieving streaks in Mrs. Varden's character. For instance when she sees that Dolly is really distraught, she starts to care about her. I don't have the book at hand right now, so I can't give you the passage, but I'm going to do that later in the day.

As to John Willet, not only does he seem to care more for the Maypole than for his son - which, though not overly nice can still be understood considering that he has been the Maypole's landlord for a long time -, but in the chapter in which Joe sets out for London on that old grey nag, John Willet is more concerned about the horse than about his son. This seems very hard-hearted in John.

Finally, I've got some really devastating character evidence on John Willet. How are you going to deal with that, Everyman? :-)


Tristram Shandy Okay, about Mrs. Varden then. When she is first introduced into the novel, the narrator says,

"It has been observed in this good lady (who did not want for personal attractions, being plump and buxom to look at, though like her fair daughter, somewhat short in stature) that this uncertainty of disposition strengthened and increased with her temporal prosperity; and divers wise men and matrons, on friendly terms with the locksmith and his family, even went so far as to assert, that a tumble down some half-dozen rounds in the world's ladder - such as the breaking of the bank in which her husband kept his money, or some little fall of that kind - would be the making of her, and could hardly fail to render her one of the most agreeable companions in existence." p.102


So it seems as though Mrs. Varden's moodiness is the result of being spoiled by wealth, and that different circumstances would make a different woman of her.

Then there's this passage, when Mrs. V. and Miggs try to comfort Dolly, and at first Mrs. V. is not very sympathetic, but "seeing that she was really ill, both Mrs. Varden and Miggs were moved to compassion, and tended her in earnest." (p.229)

We therefore see that Mrs. V. is not too bad at heart - even though it goes on like this,

"But even then, their very kindness shaped itself into their usual course of policy, and though Dolly was in a swoon, it was rendered clear to the meanest capacity, that Mrs Varden was the sufferer."



message 20: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Tristram wrote: "Okay, about Mrs. Varden then. When she is first introduced into the novel, the narrator says,

"It has been observed in this good lady (who did not want for personal attractions, being plump and bu..."



Yes, Mrs. V was sympathetic toward Dolly...for about two minutes, I think that's about how long it takes to get to the part you quoted last....

"But even then, their very kindness shaped itself into their usual course of policy, and though Dolly was in a swoon, it was rendered clear to the meanest capacity, that Mrs Varden was the sufferer."

It would be a great help if we could marry Miggs off to either Sims or, since that would be the logical choice, perhaps to Hugh, and get rid of at least two of the annoying characters.


message 21: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Tristram wrote: "Still the question remains if rumour from the Varden family circle would find its way into the allegedly more refined and genteel spheres of Mr. Chester."

Beats me. My guess is they have the same milkman. :-}


Everyman | 2034 comments Tristram wrote: "So in this respect I must confess I was a bit rash - but I'll find something to pin on that Willet person yet! ;-) "

I'm sure you'll try. But I'm ready for you. After all, I didn't spend years as a top defense lawyer for nothing!


Everyman | 2034 comments Tristram wrote: "How did Chester get any knowledge about Hugh's having stolen the bracelet Dolly had been given by Emma?"

Do we know how long it was between the attack on Dolly and the meeting between Hugh and Chester? We know that Dolly told Joe about the loss, and presumably everybody at the Maypole knew about the loss and that it hadn't been found. This is a fairly small group of people; it wouldn't be surprising if that information had gotten to Chester through gossip, maybe his son, maybe Sim, maybe even Mr. Haredale since he and Chester are in some sense allies. Once he knew that Hugh had stolen the letter, it would be obvious that he had stolen the bracelet too, since they went in the same attack and the bracelet wasn't found despite a thorough search. Maybe a slight leap, but a very logical one, I think.


Everyman | 2034 comments Tristram wrote: " in the chapter in which Joe sets out for London on that old grey nag, John Willet is more concerned about the horse than about his son. This seems very hard-hearted in John.

Finally, I've got some really devastating character evidence on John Willet. How are you going to deal with that, Everyman? :-) "


It just shows that he has confidence in his son's strength and intelligence, that he is satisfied that his son is perfectly capable of taking care of himself so he doesn't need to worry about him, but the horse isn't capable of taking care of itself, and horses are more Hugh's concern than Joe's, so he shows a reasonable concern for the safety of a dumb creature that is dependent on Joe for its safety.


Tristram Shandy Everyman wrote: "Tristram wrote: " in the chapter in which Joe sets out for London on that old grey nag, John Willet is more concerned about the horse than about his son. This seems very hard-hearted in John.

Fina..."


If John really holds the view that Joe can take good care of himself, why does he then treat him like a child on other occasions, e.g. denying him the right to speak in the company of the Maypole cronies and not granting him any responsibility around the house at all?

I say, sir, that John Willet, Esq. vilely exploits his son, treating him as a general dogsbody rather than a fully-fledged man, and that his sole concern on this occasion is that his son might ride the horse too hard - even though in this case, riding the horse at all means riding it too hard.

[Although, remembering you used to be an attorney, I should not even try to bandy words with you on a matter like this ;-)]


Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "Beats me. My guess is they have the same milkman. :-} "

Then how about some pints of milk of human kindness for Mr. Chester? ;-)


Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Okay, about Mrs. Varden then. When she is first introduced into the novel, the narrator says,

"It has been observed in this good lady (who did not want for personal attractions, b..."


You are right: Mrs. Varden's kindness quickly wears thin, but she is not completely without that sentiment after all.


Tristram Shandy Talking about Mr. Chester's need for some milk of human kindness, here's what he says about Hugh's dog:

"'Faithful, I dare say? [...] and immensely clever? Virtuous and gifted animals, whether man or beast, always are so very hideous.'" (p.241)

Well, this really shows what kind of man Mr. Chester is.


Tristram Shandy An interesting piece of social psychology can be find here,

"... how honest men, who by instinct knew him better, bowed down before him nevertheless, deferred to his every word, and courted his favourable notice; how people, who really had good in them, went with the stream, and fawned and flattered, and approved, and despised themselves while they did so, and yet hat not the courage to resist; how, in short, he was one of those who are received and cherished in society (as the phrase is) by scores who individually would shrink from and be repelled by the object of their lavish regard; are things of course, which will suggest themselves.'" (pp.243f.)


There is a lot of truth in these words.


Tristram Shandy Or look at this quotation:

"The despisers of mankind - apart from the mere fools and mimics, of that creed - are of two sorts. They who believe their merit neglected and unappreciated, make up one class; they who receive adulation and flattery, knowing of their own worthlessness, compose the other. Be sure that the coldest-hearted misanthropes are ever of this last order." (p.244)


Sim, by the way, would belong into the first group, I think.


Hilary (agapoyesoun) Yes, the main villains appear to be Chester, Sim and Hugh, so far. Hugh, with no surname, has some of my sympathy though, owing to his terrible childhood. (Perhaps he is of an aristocratic line, hence only his first name is necessary; or perhaps he's an undercover bishop; or perhaps not!). Sim increasingly makes my flesh creep. He attempts to implicate Barnaby, Mrs Rudge and John Willet while presenting himself and Miggs as paragons of virtue. Perhaps the aforementioned characters will come to deserve Sim's wrath, but that will not absolve him.

Such an unpleasant individual is Chester. I really don't know who is worse: Chester or Sim. This delightful quotation nicely sums up Dickens's attitude to Mr Chester: ".....him of the world most worldly, who never compromised himself by an ungentlemanly action and was never guilty of a manly one;'.


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