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Sketches by Boz > Mr. Minns and His Cousin

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message 1: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5558 comments Mod
Hello all!

I hope you all are having a wonderful weekend. It's a holiday for us and it's a little hectic around here, the unofficial start of the summer type of thing, everyone seems to want to have a picnic, so this will be short. I think so anyway. This week we are reading some of Dickens sketches getting ready for our new read coming next week. We begin with "Mr. Minns and His Cousin". The thing I found the most interesting about this sketch is that it was the first sketch. It was a sketch before even Dickens knew it was going to be one. When first published it was with a different title, "A Dinner at Poplar Walk". I see no reason to have changed the name, but it was changed.

Like I said "A Dinner at Poplar Walk" was the first published work of Charles Dickens, and it appeared in the Monthly Magazine on December 1st, 1833. He was paid nothing for it, but I don't think he cared all that much. It was later included in Sketches by Boz, with the new title that Dickens later gave it: "Mr. Minns and His Cousin". I've read that some editions of Sketches or Complete Works of Dickens begin with "A Dinner at Poplar Walk" being his first work, the one that began his wonderful career, but then print it once again where it is usually found, under "tales" of the Sketches. My copy has it only in "Tales", so I'm not sure which publishers did it differently. Dickens was only 21 when the story was published, here is what Dickens said about his first published work:

"... my first copy of the Magazine in which my first effusion - dropped stealthily one evening at twilight, with fear and trembling, into a dark letter-box, in a dark office, up a dark court in Fleet Street - appeared in all the glory of print; on which memorable occasion - how well I recollect it! - I walked down to Westminster Hall, and turned into it for half-an-hour, because my eyes were so dimmed with joy and pride, that they could not bear the street, and were not fit to be seen there."

As to our story, poor Mr. Augustus Minns! Such a man as he is certainly is in the wrong family. I was slightly concerned to notice that when I read this next quote I felt more sorry for the dogs than the children. I wonder what it says about me.

"There were two classes of created objects which he [Mr. Minns] held in the deepest and most unmingled horror; these were dogs, and children. He was not unamiable, but he could, at any time, have viewed the execution of a dog, or the assassination of an infant, with the liveliest satisfaction."

Thinking more of it, I'm pretty sure Mr. Minns is my great-great grandfather. I don't know how many greats it would take, just add or subtract any you want to. Mr. Minns dreads dining with his family. Me too. Mr. Minns can't wait to leave. Me too. Although I will say, I would welcome anyone who comes to our home, if they keep their kids under control I would even welcome them more, but I have no desire to go to other people's homes. Family or friend. But poor Mr. Minns found himself having dinner with his cousin and his family simply because he can't think of any way to get out of doing it. I found it to be wonderfully comic, although I must say the more Sketches I read the more I realize I much prefer his longer work.


message 2: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5558 comments Mod

"Mr. Minns and his Cousin."

George Cruikshank

1836

"Mr. Minns and his Cousin," Chapter 2 in "Tales," by Charles Dickens in Sketches by Boz, as published in the 1839 single volume by Chapman and Hall.

Text Illustrated:

Initial Description of Mr. Augustus Minns

"Mr. Augustus Minns was a bachelor, of about forty as he said — of about eight-and-forty as his friends said. He was always exceedingly clean, precise, and tidy; perhaps somewhat priggish, and the most retiring man in the world. He usually wore a brown frock-coat without a wrinkle, light inexplicables without a spot, a neat neckerchief with a remarkably neat tie, and boots without a fault; moreover, he always carried a brown silk umbrella with an ivory handle. He was a clerk in Somerset-house, or, as he said himself, he held "a responsible situation under Government." He had a good and increasing salary, in addition to some 10,000l. of his own (invested in the funds), and he occupied a first floor in Tavistock-street, Covent-garden, where he had resided for twenty years, having been in the habit of quarrelling with his landlord the whole time: regularly giving notice of his intention to quit on the first day of every quarter, and as regularly countermanding it on the second. There were two classes of created objects which he held in the deepest and most unmingled horror; these were dogs, and children. — "Tales," Chapter 2, "Mr. Minns and his Cousin," p. 234.

Mr. Octavius Budden, the Cousin, arrives

"Budden!" ejaculated Minns, "what can bring that vulgar man here! — say I’m asleep — say I'm out, and shall never be home again — anything to keep him down-stairs."

"But please, sir, the gentleman's coming up," replied the servant, and the fact was made evident, by an appalling creaking of boots on the staircase accompanied by a pattering noise; the cause of which, Minns could not, for the life of him, divine.

"Hem — show the gentleman in," said the unfortunate bachelor. Exit servant, and enter Octavius preceded by a large white dog, dressed in a suit of fleecy hosiery, with pink eyes, large ears, and no perceptible tail.

The cause of the pattering on the stairs was but too plain. Mr. Augustus Minns staggered beneath the shock of the dog's appearance.

"My dear fellow, how are you?" said Budden, as he entered.

He always spoke at the top of his voice, and always said the same thing half-a-dozen times.

"How are you, my hearty?"

"How do you do, Mr. Budden? — pray take a chair!" politely stammered the discomfited Minns.

"Thank you — thank you — well — how are you, eh?"

"Uncommonly well, thank you," said Minns, casting a diabolical look at the dog, who, with his hind legs on the floor, and his fore paws resting on the table, was dragging a bit of bread and butter out of a plate, preparatory to devouring it, with the buttered side next the carpet.

"Ah, you rogue!" said Budden to his dog; "you see, Minns, he's like me, always at home, eh, my boy! — Egad, I'm precious hot and hungry! I've walked all the way from Stamford-hill this morning."

"Have you breakfasted?" inquired Minns.

"Oh, no! — came to breakfast with you; so ring the bell, my dear fellow, will you? and let's have another cup and saucer, and the cold ham. — Make myself at home, you see!" continued Budden, dusting his boots with a table-napkin. "Ha! — ha! — ha! — 'pon my life, I'm hungry.

Minns rang the bell, and tried to smile. — "Tales," Chapter 2, "Mr. Minns and his Cousin,"


Commentary:

"Dickens's first published work was "Mr. Minns and his Cousin" (Sketches by Boz, No. 46), originally, "A Dinner at Poplar Walk" in The Monthly Magazine, 1 December 1833. The sedate, affluent bachelor Mr. Minns, a civil servant at Somerset House (where John Dickens, the writer's father, began his government career in the Naval Pay Office, and where he worked when posted from Chatham to London) is interrupted in his breakfast by his boisterous suburban cousin, who has determined to ingratiate himself with Minns by inviting him to Sunday dinner, in furtherance of his scheme to have the childless Mr. Minns make Master Alexander Augustus Budden (his awkward son "Alick") his heir. The plan goes awry from the start because Minns detests both dogs and children. Dickens did not merely re-title his original conception; rather, he "substantially revised" (Slater 80) it before re-publishing "A Dinner at Poplar Walk" (focusing on the Sunday dinner rather than the invitation) as "Mr. Minns and his Cousin" in the two-volume Macrone edition of 1836 as the second selection in "Tales."

This is one of the Cruikshank illustrations re-drafted for the larger-format 1839 single-volume anthology, rather than one of those new engravings added to the 1839 Chapman and Hall volume. Cruikshank's comic rendering is both completely in tune with Dickens's intention (to show Minns disconcerted by the presence of the loud-mouthed cousin and the behavior of his dog, center), and a well-conceived visual extension of the text. Perfect accompaniments to Dickens's little story for which the picture serves as an introduction are the Regency drapery, blind, well-appointed little breakfast table, the casual Budden with legs stretched out, and the immaculately dressed Minns's recoiling in horror and dropping his morning paper as he regards Budden's dog snatching a morsel from the plate positioned before the hot-water urn. Large-headed, balding Minns rises from his armchair in alarm, but Budden is blissfully unconcerned about his dog's behaviour."



message 3: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5558 comments Mod

Mr. Minns and his Cousin

Harry Furniss

1910

Dickens's Sketches by Boz, Vol. 1 of the Charles Dickens Library Edition, "Tales," Chapter 1, "Mr. Minns and his Cousin,"

Extended caption adapted from the text: "Ah, you rogue!"​said Budden to his dog; "you see, Minns, he's like me, always at home, eh, my boy!​— Egad, I'm precious hot and hungry! I've walked all the way from Stamford-hill this morning."

Text Illustrated:

"How do you do, Mr. Budden? — pray take a chair!" politely stammered the discomfited Minns.

"Thank you​— thank you​— well​— how are you, eh?"

"Uncommonly well, thank you," said Minns, casting a diabolical look at the dog, who, with his hind legs on the floor, and his fore paws resting on the table, was dragging a bit of bread and butter out of a plate, preparatory to devouring it, with the buttered side next the carpet.

"Ah, you rogue!"​said Budden to his dog; "you see, Minns, he's like me, always at home, eh, my boy!​— Egad, I'm precious hot and hungry! I've walked all the way from Stamford-hill this morning."

"Have you breakfasted?"​inquired Minns.

"Oh, no!​— came to breakfast with you; so ring the bell, my dear fellow, will you? and let's have another cup and saucer, and the cold ham. — Make myself at home, you see!"​continued Budden, dusting his boots with a table-napkin. "Ha! — ha! — ha! — 'pon my life, I’m hungry."

Minns rang the bell, and tried to smile. — "Tales," Chapter 2, "Mr. Minns and his Cousin,"


Commentary

"Although both Mr. Minns and his cousin, Mr. Budden, are middle-class and middle-aged, Furniss conceives of them in very different terms. Mr. Augustus Minns, a senior civil servant at Somerset House, is fashionably dressed in tailcoat and pumps; his country cousin, Mr. Octavius Budden has the look of a country squire, with light-colored waistcoat and boots. But the obvious difference, manifested in their facial expressions, is in their attitude towards the marauding dog who is trampling on Mr. Minns' morning paper as he lunges for a piece of bread-and-butter on the table; whereas Budden is quite unconcerned about the behavior of his canine companion, who he regards as an extension of himself, Minns casts a look of disdain upon the vexatious creature who has invaded the tranquility of his amply-laid breakfast table. The dog-owner waves his neckerchief at the ill-mannered pet, and is not much engaged in the desultory conversation with his city cousin. Whereas George Cruikshank in his original 1839 illustration Mr. Minns and his Cousin describes the dog of nameless breed as black and not wearing a coat, Harry Furniss in his 1910 lithograph clearly depicts the white, tail-less dog's "suit of fleecy hosiery."

Although this is Dickens's first published work, originally entitled "A Dinner at Poplar Walk" in The Monthly Magazine, 1 December 1833, it is still highly amusing as a study in contrasts. The sedate, affluent bachelor Mr. Minns, a career civil servant at Somerset House (where John Dickens, the writer's father, began his government career in the Naval Pay Office, and where he worked when posted from Chatham to London), is worlds apart from his boisterous suburban cousin. Whereas Mr. Minns is a wealthy bachelor, Budden, a family man of more modest means, has determined to ingratiate himself with Minns by inviting him to Sunday dinner, in furtherance of his scheme to have the childless Mr. Minns make Master Alexander Augustus Budden (his awkward son "Alick") his heir. The plan goes awry from the start because Minns detests both dogs and children, both of whom Budden seems to dote upon, as Furniss's illustration suggests at least with respect to the unruly pet he has brought with him. How obtuse of Budden never to have detected his cousin's biases!"



message 4: by Linda (new)

Linda | 362 comments Gosh, I feel like I already read this particular Sketch as the title and illustrations look so familiar. I wonder if I accidentally read this one after finishing the sketch we read from the last round? I need to go find my book and refresh my memory, hopefully the book I bought containing the sketches has this one in it as I had used a library book last time.


message 5: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2263 comments That was interesting, Kim. I had no idea that the two titles were the same story, or that it was his first published. I must say, "A Dinner at Poplar Walk" sounds much more inviting than "Mr. Minns and His Cousin" does. I'm sorry he changed it.

I enjoyed the writing and the characters, but was left wondering, when all was said and done, what the point of the whole thing was. It was a nice little vignette and, as it was his first published work, showed tremendous talent and promise - he's already showing a keen observation of human quirks and a knack for finding the humor in them - but like all of the Sketches I've read so far, it just didn't really seem to go anywhere.

Like you, Kim, I was taken aback by Mr. Minns' dislike of children and dogs! We all know that most badly behaved children and dogs are the unwitting victims of their parents/owners. But I think we've all known dog owners who have no control over their beasts, and who don't seem to notice the negative reactions of others. (My family would probably count me and my dogs in that group.) Always good for a comic scene, I'm not a bit surprised that the illustrators chose that scene.


message 6: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2263 comments This seems appropriate. :-)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoFt5...


message 7: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4381 comments Mod
Like Mary Lou, I liked the sketch while I was reading it but when I had finished it, I was asking myself what the point of it all was. There were some funny moments in it, but on the whole, the Sketch seems more like a kind of finger exercise than like a work in its own right. It reminded me, however, a bit of the Kenwigs family in Nicholas Nickleby and their well-to-do but fastidious uncle. All in all, I was not very prepossessed in favour of Mr. Minns when I learned that he would not have considered the violent death of a child a very serious crime. At the same time, however, Mr. Minns's cousin did not strike me as a particularly nice and respectful person, either.


message 8: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) | 149 comments Haha, Mary Lou, this 'Airplane' scene is wonderful! Our dogs are just like this dog (well one is) just wanting to lick visitors to 'death'. Understandably, not all guests quite see the humour! :D


message 9: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) | 149 comments I don't have the sketch here but I remember enjoying it more than I had expected. I love how Dickens builds up the anticipation of a non-meeting of minds. The breakfast goes quite as badly as we would have expected. Not surprisingly Mr Minns will not have the honour of 'godfathering' his cousin's son!


message 10: by Peter (last edited May 29, 2017 04:04PM) (new)

Peter | 2976 comments Mod
Reading any of the "Sketches" is a treat in that you get to see a young Dickens working out his approach to character, setting and theme.

To me the centre of this story was the clash of family expectations. Minns just wants to be left alone while his cousin, represented admirably by the dog, bowls their way into his privacy, his life and, hopefully, his money. Good stage humour, but little more. I found the actual dinner party weak.

Still, this is the first Dickens story and we do know where it all lead, so a tip of the hat to Mr. Minns.


message 11: by LindaH (new)

LindaH | 124 comments What I take away from this sketch is Dickens' ability at such a young age to make the reader identify with a not particularly sympathetic main character. In the beginning Mr Minns sounds stuffy and self-righteous, NOT me. And yet, I wind up seeing the other characters through his eyes.

Who doesn't dislike being interrupted when intently reading? Dickens gets me right here, when Mr Budden shows up:

“On the following morning, as Mr. Minns was sitting at his breakfast-table, alternately biting his dry toast and casting a look upon the columns of his morning paper, which he always read from the title to the printer’s name, he heard a loud knock at the street-door..."

Who wouldn't cringe at being the last to arrive to a party only to find out he's to be the center of attention:

“The usual ceremony of introduction, and so forth, over, Mr. Minns took his seat: not a little agitated at finding that he was the last comer, and, somehow or other, the Lion of about a dozen people, sitting together in a small drawing-room..."

Who hasn't hoped that he is not the subject of a long, messy introduction:

“say, gentlemen, there is an individual present,’ resumed the host, ‘in whose society, I am sure we must take great delight—and—and—the conversation of that individual must have afforded to every one present, the utmost pleasure.’  [‘Thank Heaven, he does not mean me!’ thought Minns, conscious that his diffidence and exclusiveness had prevented his saying above a dozen words since he entered the house.]"


message 12: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5558 comments Mod
His very first published work, and it still just sounds so like our older Dickens to me.


message 13: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4381 comments Mod
Linda,

It's indeed very clever how Dickens makes us, to a certain extent, identify with Mr. Minns although we might not exactly like him. I think this also works because Mr. Minns's cousin is even worse than the protagonist, barging into his room, sitting down to breakfast and taking for granted that he is invited, and later imposing on his cousin in any imaginable way. Even the inconveniences of public transport, which I know only too well, helped to make Mr. Minns less off-putting to me.


message 14: by LindaH (new)

LindaH | 124 comments Tristram, I am laughing again at the "barging in" scene. Budden didn't have a chance from the get-go.

The auto-speller just changed "Budden" to "Burden". It obviously doesn't hang in literary circles, but still...maybe Dickens was thinking of this word.


message 15: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2263 comments LindaH wrote: "The auto-speller just changed "Budden" to "Burden". "

Ha! Perfect!


message 16: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4381 comments Mod
Well, Linda, I always have trouble with the auto-speller, and that's why I usually avoid posting comments via smartphone. Yesterday, I wrote a comment to a highly-esteemed co-reader here, and it contained a reference to Hitchcock, whom I abbreviated as Hitch. I counted myself very lucky to have checked the message before posting it because the auto-speller "corrected" Hitch to another word, which, of course, I speedily re-corrected.


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