The Old Curiosity Club discussion

Nicholas Nickleby
This topic is about Nicholas Nickleby
28 views
Nicholas Nickleby > NN, Chp. 01-05

Comments Showing 1-50 of 94 (94 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1

Tristram Shandy | 4911 comments Mod
Hello Fellow Curiosities,

I have the pleasure to welcome you all to our next Charles Dickens novel, whose full title is The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, and which was published in serial form from March 1838 to October 1839. Unlike my recaps for Oliver Twist, Pickwick Papers and other Dickens novels, this time I will not go into too much detail in my summaries but concentrate more on ideas and questions that have to do with our weekly reading assignments. To be honest, I had the impression that my introductions were growing a trifle out of hand, and what with new job challenges waiting for me and my son attending a new school, this is another reason why I am trying not to anticipate too many things in my introductions. – I hope this is okay for you …

The first instalment of Nicholas Nickleby comprises Chapters 1 to 4 of the book, and in it, our narrator deftly introduces the main characters as well as the conflict, and what is more – and extremely clever with regard to sales figures – he also creates quite a lot of suspense.

Chapter 1 introduces us to the family history of the Nicklebys, telling us about our eponymous hero’s grandfather and his two sons Ralph and Nicholas, who grow up to be very different persons: Whereas Ralph, the elder becomes a man to whom the possession and acquisition of money means a lot, Nicholas, resembling his poor father, is less hard-nosed than his brother. He marries, has two children – Nicholas and Kate – and does his best to make ends meet. One day, his wife encourages him to speculate with their modest capital (the remainders of her dowry) in order to increase their means for the sake of their children, and he promptly ruins himself. Not long afterwards, the broken-hearted man puts his head to rest forever.

Questions
Why might the author give us this insight into the family history? He even includes a short account of Mr. Godfrey Nickleby’s (i.e. Ralph and Nicholas’s father) uncle Ralph, who also was a tight-fisted and mean-spirited man leaving his money to Godfrey only out of spite for the original heir. Is this information on the family going to be important in some way? Are we supposed to draw conclusions from it with regard to the family members?

Chapter 2 lets us in on Ralph Nickleby’s business transactions and personal life. When we first meet him, we see him engaged in a transaction concerning a joint stock company, where his main concern is to increase the price of shares with the help of a Member of Parliament, definitely in order to induce people into buying shares from him, thus making it possible for him to turn his own withdrawal from that particular enterprise into a profit. We also get to know Ralph’s factotum Newman Noggs, a man of a very strange outward appearance, whose face makes it impossible to read his thoughts. To one of his business friends Ralph remarks that Newman used to be a prosperous enough gentleman once, even keeping his own horse and hounds, but that reckless spending and unwise speculations had turned him into an alcoholic first and then into a beggar. Now, he is working as a clerk for Ralph, who is quite satisfied with the low wages he demands and with Newman’s tendency to keep his mouth shut about the business towards strangers.

Questions and Thoughts
One might argue that Chapter 2 seems more like a filler, or rather an exuberant parody of the parliamentary style, because we get a lot of mock-heroic speeches on the subject of the so-called United Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual Delivery Company, in which the speakers, for example, claim that muffins should be made available to everyone, especially working class people, and that the provision of muffins is actually a political and social question. The three MPs working for that purpose probably also profit from Nickleby’s plan, which – according to the annotations in my book – consist in petitioning Parliament for a monopoly, although this petition is very unlikely to stand any chance of being granted. The point is to attract and impress naïve speculators.

Dickens not only manages to give an indirect characterization of Ralph Nickleby here, showing him as a man who is both ruthless and artful, but he also uses his experience about the style of parliamentary debates, evidently making fun of them by applying the grandiloquent and overblown language of these debates to one of the tritest topics conceivable. The chapter is redolent of the Sketches in a way, but one might add that Dickens’s purpose was probably not only that of giving free rein to his fancy but also to show us how certain MPs did not find it above themselves to use their connections and influence in order to further their personal gain. Is Dickens carrying on his cause of criticizing social ills in this novel, like he did in Oliver Twist?

Chapter 3 starts with Newman Noggs bringing his employer a note bearing the news of Ralph’s brother’s death and of his widow and children having come to London for a meeting with their only relative. Ralph reacts calmly enough to the news, and shows no surprise at all, which, in turn, does not surprise Newman, who says, “’You are never surprised’”. I wonder whether this is meant as a compliment – if so, it would certainly surprise me. Ralph is anything but pleased with the prospect of having his late brother’s family cast upon him, but nevertheless, he goes to pay them a visit. First of all, he makes the acquaintance of Miss La Creevy, a miniature painter, who has let the upper rooms to Mrs. Nickleby and her children. Ralph makes use of this opportunity to arouse the landlady’s doubts as to whether Mrs. Nickleby, a practically destitute widow, will be able to pay her rent for a longer time, and assuring Miss La Creevy that there will be no financial support as to the rent from him, he advises her to get rid of the new lodgers as soon as possible. When he is finally led into the presence of his relatives, we at once sense the animosity between Nicholas and his uncle. The following is but one example of how the two men grate on each other:

”‘Mine was no common loss!’ said Mrs. Nickleby, applying her handkerchief to her eyes.

‘It was no uncommon loss, ma’am,’ returned Ralph, as he coolly unbuttoned his spencer. ‘Husbands die every day, ma’am, and wives too.’

‘And brothers also, sir,’ said Nicholas, with a glance of indignation.

‘Yes, sir, and puppies, and pug-dogs likewise,’ replied his uncle, taking a chair. ‘You didn’t mention in your letter what my brother’s complaint was, ma’am.’”


The narrator does not merely leave it to the dialogues to express the antagonism between Nicholas and Ralph, but he also gives us this memorable and significant scene:

”[T]he uncle and nephew looked at each other for some seconds without speaking. The face of the old man was stern, hard-featured, and forbidding; that of the young one, open, handsome, and ingenuous. The old man’s eye was keen with the twinklings of avarice and cunning; the young man’s bright with the light of intelligence and spirit. His figure was somewhat slight, but manly and well formed; and, apart from all the grace of youth and comeliness, there was an emanation from the warm young heart in his look and bearing which kept the old man down.

However striking such a contrast as this may be to lookers-on, none ever feel it with half the keenness or acuteness of perfection with which it strikes to the very soul of him whose inferiority it marks. It galled Ralph to the heart’s core, and he hated Nicholas from that hour.”


Ralph grudgingly declares that he will see to it that Nicholas and his sister Kate will find some employment enabling them to pay their and their mother’s way. For Kate, Ralph considers something like dressmaking or tambour-work, which – as my Oxford Classics edition tells me – is another word for “embroidery”, whereas for Nicholas, he has something else in mind: a position as a tutor at a school in Yorkshire – an ad of which he has happened to find in the newspaper.

Let’s stop for some questions here: Is this ad another of Dickens’s magnificent and often quite unbelievable coincidences, a means of making the plot run the way Dickens intended, or is there another, more consistent reason why Ralph should have an ad for Mr. Squeers’s school ready at hand? Another question I asked myself was whether Ralph chose this exact advertisement with a view of getting Nicholas out of the way. As shall be seen in the next chapter but one, the distance from London to Yorkshire was quite a challenge in those days, and once Nicholas had left London, there would be no one to look after Mrs. Nickleby and her daughter but Ralph. Is there danger afoot?

What do you think of Ralph and his way of dealing with people? We see how he tries to set up Miss La Creevy against her lodgers, and also how he manages to arouse in the widow’s heart a feeling of having been ill-treated by her husband with regard to money-matters. He seems to know his way quite well around the darker paths in the human heart and to know how to press people’s buttons. Will he be successful with Miss La Creevy and with Mrs. Nickleby? He also encourages Nicholas in his high hopes in regard to his new post at Dotheboys Hall – a splendid and trust-inspiring name for a school! – but he does so with a sneer of derision.

What is your impression of Mrs. Nickleby and of Kate? – It seems that Ralph is struck for a moment by the latter’s beauty. Will this be for her advantage or disadvantage – or will it produce no long-term effect in Ralph?

What do you think of Ralph’s philosophy, which expresses itself in sentences like

”’[… W]henever a man dies without any property of his own, he always seems to think he has a right to dispose of other people’s. […]’” (in connection with Mr. Nickleby’s referring his family to his brother in the hour of his death)


or

”’ […] My brother never did anything for me, and I never expected it; the breath is no sooner out of his body than I am to be looked to, as the support of a great hearty woman, and a grown boy and girl. What are they to me! I never saw them.’”


In a way, I think he is quite right: He has never seen his nephew and niece and he cannot know what kind of people they are. For all he knows, they might be spoiled and idle, expecting him to use his connections to make their start in London easier for them. In this context, I’d like to ask you what your first impression of Nicholas is. Do you like him or do you think he is a little bit too impertinent with his uncle?


Tristram Shandy | 4911 comments Mod
In Chapter 4 we get to know Mr. Squeers, the Yorkshire schoolmaster, who is described in very remarkable words:

”Mr. Squeers’s appearance was not prepossessing. He had but one eye, and the popular prejudice runs in favour of two. The eye he had, was unquestionably useful, but decidedly not ornamental: being of a greenish grey, and in shape resembling the fan-light of a street door. The blank side of his face was much wrinkled and puckered up, which gave him a very sinister appearance, especially when he smiled, at which times his expression bordered closely on the villainous. His hair was very flat and shiny, save at the ends, where it was brushed stiffly up from a low protruding forehead, which assorted well with his harsh voice and coarse manner. He was about two or three and fifty, and a trifle below the middle size; he wore a white neckerchief with long ends, and a suit of scholastic black; but his coat sleeves being a great deal too long, and his trousers a great deal too short, he appeared ill at ease in his clothes, and as if he were in a perpetual state of astonishment at finding himself so respectable.”


Especially the last sentence made me think of a book I read recently, The Island of Doctor Moreau. Mr. Squeers quickly reveals himself as a mean hypocrite on the one hand, and a ruthless, probably cowardly, bully on the other: He tries to create an impression of scholarly refinement when Mr. Snawley and his sons arrive, but as soon as he notices how the land is lying, i.e. that this sneaking Mr. Snawley wants to get his step-sons out of the way, fearing that his wife might spend too much money on her two children, he drops his mask without saying too much. A meaningful smile is all that passes between Squeers and Snawley, and then our schoolmaster also grasps the chance of obliging Mr. Snawley to serve him as a reference for prospective clients. When Nicholas and his uncle arrive, we notice that, indeed, Ralph Nickleby has already done some business with Squeers before – on behalf of another man.

In fact, Ralph and Mr. Squeers strike up a deal concerning Nicholas, who seems a little bewildered by his first impression of Mr. Squeers and his pupils but who has not become overly suspicious as yet. Squeers’ words according to which Nicholas’s uncle’s recommendation had tipped the scales in his favour are apt to arouse suspicion, in my eyes, but Nicholas is more inclined to wonder at Newman Noggs, whose acquaintance he makes on obliging his uncle by taking some papers to that gentleman’s business rooms. Newman takes his time looking at Nicholas for a very good while, and he also learns that Nicholas now is going to go to Dotheboys Hall, but he does not comment on this, leaving Nicholas with the impression that his uncle’s secretary must be drunk.

This is the first original instalment so far, and one can say that it sends the story on its way very cleverly, giving us the main characters, a particularly nasty side character who seems to be in league with the antagonist – and also stressing the antagonism between the young Nickleby and the old one.

What do you think of the tone of writing in general? Of Dickens’s way of providing us with a certain outline of the story and of things to come? Which is your favourite character so far, and which character do you like least?

There are some very nice examples of light humour, such as expressions like “He was a tall man of middle age, with two goggle eyes whereof one was a fixture, a rubicund nose, a cadaverous face, and a suit of clothes (if the term be allowable when they suited him not at all) much the worse for wear […]” in the description of Mr. Noggs, but there are also passages I had some difficulty finding funny, e.g. when Mr. Squeers slaps the young pupil’s face, thus beating him off the trunk he is sitting on, and then getting him back onto it by slapping the other side of his face. Maybe Victorians had another attitude towards violence against children.

Let’s now take a look at Chapter 5, with which the second instalment began.


Tristram Shandy | 4911 comments Mod
Chapter 5 tells us how Nicholas spends a last evening with his mother and his sister, and how he leaves early in the morning – in order not to cause another heart-rending parting scene. On leaving, he drops in at Miss La Creevy’s, who is already awake and at work, and who has heard about the latest developments in her lodgers’ family. Before he steps out of the house, his charm and his youth have made a warm friend of Miss La Creevy, who – we saw signs of this before – has a good heart, anyway. He recommends his sister Kate to miss La Creevy as one to whom she could do a favour one day, and then he goes to the Saracen’s Head, where Mr. Squeers administers a relatively skimpy breakfast to his five new pupils while enjoying a rather sumptuous meal himself. Of course, the schoolmaster tries to pass his stinginess off as a particular method of education, enabling his students to vanquish their baser instincts – but the contrast this moral lecture creates in comparison with his own example makes it clear that Squeers is a hypocrite.

What do you think of the narrative voice and how it deals with Squeers? Do you think it too intrusive?

Nicholas, in his new function, has to see to it that all the luggage of the pupils and the master are loaded onto the coach, and later, he also has to make sure that none of the children falls off the coach’s roof because, as Squeers puts it, this would mean a loss of 20 guineas p.a. On parting, we not only see Ralph but also Mrs. Nickleby and Kate, who, of course, would not let Nicholas go to Yorkshire with them being asleep. Ralph finds it very remarkable that they have gone to the expense of hiring a hackney coach, a thing that he, notwithstanding all his money, has never done in thirty years, and cannot imagine ever doing in the future. Kate gets a glimpse of Mr. Squeers and is dismayed at finding him such a vulgar and course man; this does certainly not bode well for her brother.

Shortly before the coach leaves, there is Newman Noggs arrives and clandestinely – so as not to be seen by his own employer – hands in a dirty letter to Nicholas, entreating him to read it as soon as he has the time, and then disappearing. – What kind of mystery may be about to unfold here? We should remember that according to Ralph, Newman Noggs used to be a well-to-do man who came down in the world. Does Noggs know one or two things about Ralph that it behoves Nicholas to be aware of? Is there going to be a warning?

When the journey begins, it soon becomes clear how far the distance is and how strenuous it must have been for the passengers, especially for the children, who did not even have a proper breakfast, to cover it. The winter, the cold and the wind in particular, make this gruelling experience even worse, and the journey, as well as the chapter, comes to an abrupt ending when the coach suddenly turns over and Nicholas is hurled into the road.


John (jdourg) | 1121 comments I must admit, I got an immediate chuckle in the first paragraph:

"Thus two people who cannot afford to play cards for money, sometimes sit down to a quiet game for love."


Tristram Shandy | 4911 comments Mod
Yes, John, there is definitely a more light-hearted and playful tone in NN, compared with OT. I call myself laughing out loud every other page, something that did not happen when I was reading about little Oliver's adventures.


message 6: by Alissa (new) - added it

Alissa | 317 comments I liked the description of Noggs with his mismatched eyes, cadaverous face, and habit of cracking his fingers in every direction. A unique and creepy character.

I also liked the description of the city square in Chapter 2 with the "rheumatic sparrows," withered trees, "everbrowns" instead of evergreens, and the narrator's comment, "some people call this a garden."


John (jdourg) | 1121 comments Tristram wrote: "Yes, John, there is definitely a more light-hearted and playful tone in NN, compared with OT. I call myself laughing out loud every other page, something that did not happen when I was reading abou..."

Tristram, I daresay that my time with the Curiosities has seemed to alternate perfectly light to dark: OMF, Drood, Pickwick, OT, NN....

Unless, of course, the entire canon works this way. ;)


Peter | 3474 comments Mod
Dickens does seem to dwell on the Nickleby family tree a great deal in the opening chapters. I’m sure we will get to know them much better in the novel and that their initial personal characteristics will intensify as the novel progresses. I dislike Ralph Nickleby already.

Is there another novelist who portrays disfunctional characters better than Dickens?

And what a great early supporting cast. Miss La Creevy, Newman Noggs and Mr. Squeers. While it’s early to pick a favourite character I can say it will not be Mr. Squeers. For now, my vote goes to Newman Noggs. Let’s face it, with a name like that how can you not like him, regardless of his initial physical appearance?


message 9: by Julie (new) - added it

Julie Kelleher | 1362 comments Peter wrote: "Dickens does seem to dwell on the Nickleby family tree a great deal in the opening chapters. I’m sure we will get to know them much better in the novel and that their initial personal characteristi..."

I liked Newman Noggs too, and I didn't find him creepy. But that's probably because I immediately filed him in the Bob Cratchit slot in my head, even though they're clearly not the same person.

Miss La Creevy also shows great promise. The part about noses!


message 10: by Xan (last edited Sep 03, 2018 12:09PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 994 comments Ah, the United Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual Delivery Company. Now there's a company to invest in. The private sector's response to the Circumlocution Office?

That's what Oliver should have demanded more of -- muffins. More muffins, sir!

That meeting of, for, and by the company reminds me of an evangelical revival meeting in its furvor.


message 11: by Alissa (new) - added it

Alissa | 317 comments Dickens made parliament look very silly. The poor turn to drinking because they don't have muffins! We need to give them muffins!

"The resolution was, of course, carried with loud acclamations, every man holding up both hands in favour of it, as he would in his enthusiasm have held up both legs also, if he could have conveniently accomplished it."


message 12: by Alissa (new) - added it

Alissa | 317 comments Mr. Squeers is mean. I felt bad for the little boys getting bullied by him.

"Mr. Squeers looked at the little boy to see whether he was doing anything he could beat him for. As he happened not to be doing anything at all, he merely boxed his ears, and told him not to do it again."

"...Mr Squeers knocked him off the trunk with a blow on one side of the face, and knocked him on again with a blow on the other."

This article discusses possible real-life schoolmasters that inspired Mr. Squeers. Dickens also wrote in a letter that he watered down the abuse and added comedy, so the readers wouldn't get too disgusted by the realities of the school.

"A later published letter from Dickens, this time to the Irish novelist Anna Maria Hall – who published under the name Mrs S C Hall – also supports the idea that Shaw was the model for one-eyed Wackford. In it Dickens explains he has deliberately diluted the horror of the story of the school in his new novel “and thrown as much comicality on it as I could, rather than disgust and weary the reader with its fouler aspects”.


Tristram Shandy | 4911 comments Mod
I really enjoyed the Muffin Monologues, because they show how politics often works, or rather what happens when politicians make themselves the tools of lobbyists. It is interesting that Dickens, as early as 1838, has the guts of exposing these mechanisms.

Like you, Alissa, I could not but feel very bad for the boy maltreated by Mr. Squeers, and I just hope that the old scoundrel will me a ghastly ending sooner or later. It is interesting that dickens said he toned down the cruelty of the schoolmaster in order not to shock his readers too much. I can understand this - all the more so as the whole novel seems to be much more exuberant and light-hearted than Oliver Twist, which not only was very sombre at times, but also quite melodramatic - but then might one not argue that by toning down the cruelty that existed in Yorkshire schools at the time, by blending it with a sense of humour, Dickens failed to cause the amount of indignation with his readers necessary to stop those injustices? Treating these things in a slightly humourous vein might also have caused readers to think that they are a figment of Dickens's imagination.

From this, I'd derive a general question: Should a novel, every now and then, make its readers rise against social injustices, or should it regard itself as a work of art or a form of entertainment merely?

As to the adequacy of Dickens's treatment of the subject of Yorkshire schools, I think we'll have to see how the story goes on.


message 14: by John (last edited Sep 04, 2018 04:39AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

John (jdourg) | 1121 comments Tristram wrote: "I really enjoyed the Muffin Monologues, because they show how politics often works, or rather what happens when politicians make themselves the tools of lobbyists. It is interesting that Dickens, a..."

That is a great question, Tristram. My belief on that is that it should "inform" readers. What the reader decides to do with that information would be up to the reader.

A vivid example I recall is reading Upton Sinclair's The Jungle about the meat packing industry of Chicago, where rat dung was mixed with ground beef. And then Theodore Roosevelt reading the book over a ground beef platter and heaving it out the window at The White House. And then eventually setting in motion food safeguards.

What sets Dickens apart from most writers who wish to inform readers is that he was also able to achieve high art and entertainment at the same time. Of few, if any, this can be said.


message 15: by Xan (last edited Sep 04, 2018 07:00AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 994 comments Never mind lobbying -- that's too indirect and inexpensive and costly. It would appear to this day that we have members of congress sitting on corporate boards. Chris Collins, rep. from NY, who was recently indicted for insider trading, was a member of the board of that corporation. I suspect he has taken his unfair share of guineas too. No middleman group of lawyers are needed to influence him and others who are board members.

Pass the muffins!!!

What's a crumpet?


Tristram Shandy | 4911 comments Mod
When I was in England, I heard the word "crumpet" used in two ways: One was a rather respectless word for an attractive woman, the other - probably the original term - refers to a kind of little cake, which is not sweet but which is eaten with butter. It looks, and probably tastes, like a little sponge.

Here is a wikipedia link:


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crumpet


Tristram Shandy | 4911 comments Mod
Yes, John, there is a lot of literature that is too obviously trying to teach and inform its readers, or to arouse them against social ills. The last book of that ilk I read was Charles Reade's It Is Never too Late to Mend. That novel is like a semi-documentary, always digressing and digressing and sermonizing, too. Luckily, Dickens avoided that kind of writing most of the time and succeeded better at conveying his messages.


message 18: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 6333 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "Yes, John, there is definitely a more light-hearted and playful tone in NN, compared with OT. I call myself laughing out loud every other page, something that did not happen when I was reading abou..."

Thinking of the lightheartedness of NN, the publishers found OT so serious that their agreement with Dicken's signed in November of 1837, stipulated that the work be 'of a similar character and of the same extent and contents in point of quantity' as Pickwick itself.' I wonder if they were disappointed with what they got.


message 19: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 6333 comments Mod
John wrote: "A vivid example I recall is reading Upton Sinclair's The Jungle about the meat packing industry of Chicago ."

Oh, that book was so creepy! I'm not sure how anyone ever ate meat again. Anyone in Chicago anyway.


message 20: by Kim (last edited Sep 04, 2018 03:39PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 6333 comments Mod
From The Life of Charles Dickens by John Forster:

On his birthday he wrote to me, "I have begun! I wrote four slips last night, so you see the beginning is made. And what is more, I can go on: so I hope the book is in training at last." "The first chapter of Nicholas is done," he wrote two days later. "It took time, but I think answers the purpose as well as it could." Then, after a dozen days more, "I wrote twenty slips of Nicholas yesterday, left only four to do this morning (up at 8 o'clock too!), and have ordered my horse at one." I joined him as he expected, and we read together at dinner that day the first number of Nicholas Nickleby.


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

Kim | 6333 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "this time I will not go into too much detail in my summaries but concentrate more on ideas and questions that have to do with our weekly reading assignments. To be honest, I had the impression that my introductions were growing a trifle out of hand,"

I like your long summaries, they always remind me where the illustrations go. And speaking of the illustrations;


Cover of Monthly Parts of Serial Edition

Phiz (Hablot K. Browne)

Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby

1838

Commentary:

While in The Pickwick Papers Browne seemed to be under the stylistic influence of Seymour, his use of iconographic methods for the purpose of genuine interpretation and expression go beyond anything Seymour displayed as an illustrator. But Browne's illustrations for Nicholas Nickleby, which followed fairly closely in time, are a curious mixture. Much of the same kind of Seymourean awkwardness appears in some plates, while expressive iconography in the form of emblematic details or visual parallelism among plates is less prominent. Indeed, the general level of quality seem's lower, both in technique and invention. The difficulties with the Nickleby plates may stem in part from the same cause as Dickens' difficulties with the text, namely that the novelist is attempting something — which is new for him, a comic novel with a single adult protagonist, yet which contains both the picaresque and panoramic features of Pickwick and the more organized thematic qualities of Oliver Twist; the artist is thus perforce engaged on a new kind of venture, very different from either the earlier Pickwick or the contemporaneous Harry Lorrequer — a novel by Charles Lever both less serious and less unified than Pickwick.

Of the seven such covers Browne designed for Dickens, two are wholly allegorical, containing no reference to the novel's characters or plot, while the other four combine allegory with material directly related to the text. Since the wrapper had to be ready by the time the first part was published, any details from the novel would have had to originate in either specific authorial instructions, a reading of some of the text of the first number, or both. The overall design for Nickleby is based on traditional motifs and is conceived in a general form that Browne was to use several times. it is in the mode of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century engraved title pages which surround the words of the title with allegorical devices (Cf. the examples reproduced in Chew), a form carried into the nineteenth century by George Cruikshank among others, who adapted it for comic purposes in the frontispieces or titles to such works as Egan's Life in London (1821) and David Carey's Life in Paris (1822). The idea of dividing the design into images of good fortune on the left side and ill fortune on the right, with the figure of Fortuna, blindfolded, at the top center, may have been prompted by the novel's subtitle, "Containing a Faithful Account of the Fortunes, Misfortunes, Uprisings, Downfallings, and Complete Career of the Nickleby Family"; such left-right division is later used for the wrappers to Chuzzlewit, Dombey and Son, and David Copperfield.

Although the images across the top seem conventional, Phiz's comic imagination is evident in the two fat men on stilts and in the figures at the bottom of the design, and his emblematic imagination in the middle-aged man, a kerchief tied over his hat, who is seen making his way through a swamp, surrounded by mocking imps holding lanterns, with a church in the distance. These imps are will-o'-the-wisps or "Jack-o'-Lanterns" (an alternative term which George Cruikshank was to use for an etching in his Omnibus, 1842), which became a favorite emblem of Browne's, and his use of it in the frontispiece to Albert Smith's The Pottleton Legacy (1849) and the cover for Bleak House indicates that it had for him the specific meaning of the temptation of riches leading one astray into a swamp of materialism.


message 22: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 6333 comments Mod


Ralph Nickleby and Newman Noggs

Chapter 2

Fred Barnard

Chapman and Hall Household Edition

Text Illustrated:

It was into a place of this kind that Mr. Ralph Nickleby gazed, as he sat with his hands in his pockets looking out of the window. He had fixed his eyes upon a distorted fir tree, planted by some former tenant in a tub that had once been green, and left there, years before, to rot away piecemeal. There was nothing very inviting in the object, but Mr. Nickleby was wrapt in a brown study, and sat contemplating it with far greater attention than, in a more conscious mood, he would have deigned to bestow upon the rarest exotic. At length, his eyes wandered to a little dirty window on the left, through which the face of the clerk was dimly visible; that worthy chancing to look up, he beckoned him to attend.

In obedience to this summons the clerk got off the high stool (to which he had communicated a high polish by countless gettings off and on), and presented himself in Mr. Nickleby’s room. He was a tall man of middle age, with two goggle eyes whereof one was a fixture, a rubicund nose, a cadaverous face, and a suit of clothes (if the term be allowable when they suited him not at all) much the worse for wear, very much too small, and placed upon such a short allowance of buttons that it was marvellous how he contrived to keep them on.

‘Was that half-past twelve, Noggs?’ said Mr. Nickleby, in a sharp and grating voice.

‘Not more than five-and-twenty minutes by the—’ Noggs was going to add public-house clock, but recollecting himself, substituted ‘regular time.’

‘My watch has stopped,’ said Mr. Nickleby; ‘I don’t know from what cause.’

‘Not wound up,’ said Noggs.

‘Yes it is,’ said Mr. Nickleby.

‘Over-wound then,’ rejoined Noggs.

‘That can’t very well be,’ observed Mr. Nickleby.

‘Must be,’ said Noggs.

‘Well!’ said Mr. Nickleby, putting the repeater back in his pocket; ‘perhaps it is.’

Noggs gave a peculiar grunt, as was his custom at the end of all disputes with his master, to imply that he (Noggs) triumphed; and (as he rarely spoke to anybody unless somebody spoke to him) fell into a grim silence, and rubbed his hands slowly over each other: cracking the joints of his fingers, and squeezing them into all possible distortions. The incessant performance of this routine on every occasion, and the communication of a fixed and rigid look to his unaffected eye, so as to make it uniform with the other, and to render it impossible for anybody to determine where or at what he was looking, were two among the numerous peculiarities of Mr Noggs, which struck an inexperienced observer at first sight.

‘I am going to the London Tavern this morning,’ said Mr. Nickleby.

‘Public meeting?’ inquired Noggs.

Mr. Nickleby nodded. ‘I expect a letter from the solicitor respecting that mortgage of Ruddle’s. If it comes at all, it will be here by the two o’clock delivery. I shall leave the city about that time and walk to Charing Cross on the left-hand side of the way; if there are any letters, come and meet me, and bring them with you.’

Noggs nodded; and as he nodded, there came a ring at the office bell. The master looked up from his papers, and the clerk calmly remained in a stationary position.



message 23: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 6333 comments Mod


Mr. Ralph Nickby's First Visit to His Poor Relations

Chapter 3

Phiz

Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby

1838

Text Ilustrated:

‘What name?’ said the girl.

‘Nickleby,’ replied Ralph.

‘Oh! Mrs. Nickleby,’ said the girl, throwing open the door, ‘here’s Mr Nickleby.’

A lady in deep mourning rose as Mr. Ralph Nickleby entered, but appeared incapable of advancing to meet him, and leant upon the arm of a slight but very beautiful girl of about seventeen, who had been sitting by her. A youth, who appeared a year or two older, stepped forward and saluted Ralph as his uncle.

‘Oh,’ growled Ralph, with an ill-favoured frown, ‘you are Nicholas, I suppose?’

‘That is my name, sir,’ replied the youth.

‘Put my hat down,’ said Ralph, imperiously. ‘Well, ma’am, how do you do? You must bear up against sorrow, ma’am; I always do.’

‘Mine was no common loss!’ said Mrs. Nickleby, applying her handkerchief to her eyes.

‘It was no uncommon loss, ma’am,’ returned Ralph, as he coolly unbuttoned his spencer. ‘Husbands die every day, ma’am, and wives too.’

‘And brothers also, sir,’ said Nicholas, with a glance of indignation.

‘Yes, sir, and puppies, and pug-dogs likewise,’ replied his uncle, taking a chair. ‘You didn’t mention in your letter what my brother’s complaint was, ma’am.’

‘The doctors could attribute it to no particular disease,’ said Mrs Nickleby; shedding tears. ‘We have too much reason to fear that he died of a broken heart.’

‘Pooh!’ said Ralph, ‘there’s no such thing. I can understand a man’s dying of a broken neck, or suffering from a broken arm, or a broken head, or a broken leg, or a broken nose; but a broken heart!—nonsense, it’s the cant of the day. If a man can’t pay his debts, he dies of a broken heart, and his widow’s a martyr.’

‘Some people, I believe, have no hearts to break,’ observed Nicholas, quietly.

‘How old is this boy, for God’s sake?’ inquired Ralph, wheeling back his chair, and surveying his nephew from head to foot with intense scorn.

‘Nicholas is very nearly nineteen,’ replied the widow.

‘Nineteen, eh!’ said Ralph; ‘and what do you mean to do for your bread, sir?’

‘Not to live upon my mother,’ replied Nicholas, his heart swelling as he spoke.

‘You’d have little enough to live upon, if you did,’ retorted the uncle, eyeing him contemptuously.

‘Whatever it be,’ said Nicholas, flushed with anger, ‘I shall not look to you to make it more.’

‘Nicholas, my dear, recollect yourself,’ remonstrated Mrs. Nickleby.

‘Dear Nicholas, pray,’ urged the young lady.

‘Hold your tongue, sir,’ said Ralph. ‘Upon my word! Fine beginnings, Mrs Nickleby—fine beginnings!’


Commentary:

Certainly with Nicholas Nickleby Phiz worked harder than with any other assignment, for the plates were not merely etched in duplicate: according to Joharmsen's investigations, 14 were etched in quadruplicate, 18 in triplicate — a total of 117 steels. Such extra labor may in part account for the unevenness of the results. Whatever the case, the very first plate to Nicholas Nickleby, "Mr. Ralph Nickleby's first visit to his poor relations" (ch. 3), is a palpably theatrical scene which Browne had trouble handling. The characters are caught at a crucial moment, Ralph gruffly asserting his opinion of Nicholas' prospects, Nicholas making a gesture of protest, and Kate comforting their flustered and self-pitying mother. But except for Ralph, the figures have no life — Nicholas' face has little expression and his body is puppet like, while the faces of his mother and sister are at best ambiguous. There is more to be said for the cramped, claustrophobic effect of the room, which reflects the family's barely shabby-genteel status and its dim future. Nicholas' figure seems to be an attempt at the style of George Cruikshank which is lacking in that artist's symmetry and grace, while Kate's face here and elsewhere recalls the sentimental and idealized mode of the Keepsake or Friendship's Offering although Phiz's virtuous women remain somewhat idealized throughout his career, they soon lose both the vapidity of expression and the raven tresses etched so that they look like hairpieces.

The peacock feathers displayed prominently over the mirror resemble those which appear so often in Phiz's work that it is tempting to dismiss them as mere space fillers. They may have been a common Victorian household ornament, but an artist with Phiz's evident knowledge of graphic traditions could hardly have been unaware of the symbolic meanings of such feathers. In addition to pride, peacock feathers in a home are commonly associated with bad luck, perhaps because of the feathers' "spying eyes." In the Nickleby plate they reflect the bad fortune that has hit the Nickleby family and foretell the worse fortune that is coming(view spoiler)

There is also an important technical aspect to this plate. At some point between the completion of Pickwick (October 1837) and the commencement of Nickleby (March 1838), Browne added to the crosshatch and other kinds of line and dot shading the use of a device known as the roulette, a small wheel at the end of a handle which, when rolled across the etching ground, produces a continuous series of dots, dashes, and the like, depending on the type of roulette. In the first plate of Nicholas Nickleby, its use can be seen in the carpet and on the lighter part of the ceiling; virtually every plate following has similar areas, although it is primarily a time-saver and Browne often uses it mechanically, this technique introduces a new smoothness of tone into his shading and is often employed in careful combination with other, less mechanical techniques.


message 24: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 6333 comments Mod


The uncle and nephew looked at each other for some seconds without speaking

Chapter 3

Fred Barnard

Chapman and Hall Household Edition

Text Illustrated:

‘The doctors could attribute it to no particular disease,’ said Mrs Nickleby; shedding tears. ‘We have too much reason to fear that he died of a broken heart.’

‘Pooh!’ said Ralph, ‘there’s no such thing. I can understand a man’s dying of a broken neck, or suffering from a broken arm, or a broken head, or a broken leg, or a broken nose; but a broken heart!—nonsense, it’s the cant of the day. If a man can’t pay his debts, he dies of a broken heart, and his widow’s a martyr.’

‘Some people, I believe, have no hearts to break,’ observed Nicholas, quietly.

‘How old is this boy, for God’s sake?’ inquired Ralph, wheeling back his chair, and surveying his nephew from head to foot with intense scorn.

‘Nicholas is very nearly nineteen,’ replied the widow.

‘Nineteen, eh!’ said Ralph; ‘and what do you mean to do for your bread, sir?’

‘Not to live upon my mother,’ replied Nicholas, his heart swelling as he spoke.

‘You’d have little enough to live upon, if you did,’ retorted the uncle, eyeing him contemptuously.

‘Whatever it be,’ said Nicholas, flushed with anger, ‘I shall not look to you to make it more.’

‘Nicholas, my dear, recollect yourself,’ remonstrated Mrs. Nickleby.

‘Dear Nicholas, pray,’ urged the young lady.

‘Hold your tongue, sir,’ said Ralph. ‘Upon my word! Fine beginnings, Mrs Nickleby—fine beginnings!’

Mrs. Nickleby made no other reply than entreating Nicholas by a gesture to keep silent; and the uncle and nephew looked at each other for some seconds without speaking. The face of the old man was stern, hard-featured, and forbidding; that of the young one, open, handsome, and ingenuous. The old man’s eye was keen with the twinklings of avarice and cunning; the young man’s bright with the light of intelligence and spirit. His figure was somewhat slight, but manly and well formed; and, apart from all the grace of youth and comeliness, there was an emanation from the warm young heart in his look and bearing which kept the old man down.

However striking such a contrast as this may be to lookers-on, none ever feel it with half the keenness or acuteness of perfection with which it strikes to the very soul of him whose inferiority it marks. It galled Ralph to the heart’s core, and he hated Nicholas from that hour.



message 25: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 6333 comments Mod


The Yorkshire Schoolmaster at The Saracen's Head

Chapter 4

Phiz

Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby

1838

Text Illustrated:

‘Wait till I get you down into Yorkshire, my young gentleman,’ said Mr Squeers, ‘and then I’ll give you the rest. Will you hold that noise, sir?’

‘Ye—ye—yes,’ sobbed the little boy, rubbing his face very hard with the Beggar’s Petition in printed calico.

‘Then do so at once, sir,’ said Squeers. ‘Do you hear?’

As this admonition was accompanied with a threatening gesture, and uttered with a savage aspect, the little boy rubbed his face harder, as if to keep the tears back; and, beyond alternately sniffing and choking, gave no further vent to his emotions.

‘Mr. Squeers,’ said the waiter, looking in at this juncture; ‘here’s a gentleman asking for you at the bar.’

‘Show the gentleman in, Richard,’ replied Mr. Squeers, in a soft voice. ‘Put your handkerchief in your pocket, you little scoundrel, or I’ll murder you when the gentleman goes.’

The schoolmaster had scarcely uttered these words in a fierce whisper, when the stranger entered. Affecting not to see him, Mr. Squeers feigned to be intent upon mending a pen, and offering benevolent advice to his youthful pupil.

‘My dear child,’ said Mr. Squeers, ‘all people have their trials. This early trial of yours that is fit to make your little heart burst, and your very eyes come out of your head with crying, what is it? Nothing; less than nothing. You are leaving your friends, but you will have a father in me, my dear, and a mother in Mrs. Squeers. At the delightful village of Dotheboys, near Greta Bridge in Yorkshire, where youth are boarded, clothed, booked, washed, furnished with pocket-money, provided with all necessaries—’

‘It is the gentleman,’ observed the stranger, stopping the schoolmaster in the rehearsal of his advertisement. ‘Mr. Squeers, I believe, sir?’

‘The same, sir,’ said Mr. Squeers, with an assumption of extreme surprise.

‘The gentleman,’ said the stranger, ‘that advertised in the Times newspaper?’

‘—Morning Post, Chronicle, Herald, and Advertiser, regarding the Academy called Dotheboys Hall at the delightful village of Dotheboys, near Greta Bridge in Yorkshire,’ added Mr. Squeers. ‘You come on business, sir. I see by my young friends. How do you do, my little gentleman? and how do you do, sir?’ With this salutation Mr. Squeers patted the heads of two hollow-eyed, small-boned little boys, whom the applicant had brought with him, and waited for further communications.



message 26: by Kim (last edited Sep 04, 2018 04:51PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 6333 comments Mod


The schoolmaster and his companion looked steadily at each other for a few seconds, and then exchanged a very meaning smile.

Chapter 4

Fred Barnard

Chapman and Hall Household Edition

Text Illustrated:

‘I have the satisfaction to know you are, sir,’ said Mr. Snawley. ‘I asked one of your references, and he said you were pious.’

‘Well, sir, I hope I am a little in that line,’ replied Squeers.

‘I hope I am also,’ rejoined the other. ‘Could I say a few words with you in the next box?’

‘By all means,’ rejoined Squeers with a grin. ‘My dears, will you speak to your new playfellow a minute or two? That is one of my boys, sir. Belling his name is,—a Taunton boy that, sir.’

‘Is he, indeed?’ rejoined Mr. Snawley, looking at the poor little urchin as if he were some extraordinary natural curiosity.

‘He goes down with me tomorrow, sir,’ said Squeers. ‘That’s his luggage that he is a sitting upon now. Each boy is required to bring, sir, two suits of clothes, six shirts, six pair of stockings, two nightcaps, two pocket-handkerchiefs, two pair of shoes, two hats, and a razor.’

‘A razor!’ exclaimed Mr. Snawley, as they walked into the next box. ‘What for?’

‘To shave with,’ replied Squeers, in a slow and measured tone.

There was not much in these three words, but there must have been something in the manner in which they were said, to attract attention; for the schoolmaster and his companion looked steadily at each other for a few seconds, and then exchanged a very meaning smile. Snawley was a sleek, flat-nosed man, clad in sombre garments, and long black gaiters, and bearing in his countenance an expression of much mortification and sanctity; so, his smiling without any obvious reason was the more remarkable.

‘Up to what age do you keep boys at your school then?’ he asked at length.

‘Just as long as their friends make the quarterly payments to my agent in town, or until such time as they run away,’ replied Squeers. ‘Let us understand each other; I see we may safely do so. What are these boys;—natural children?’

‘No,’ rejoined Snawley, meeting the gaze of the schoolmaster’s one eye. ‘They ain’t.’

‘I thought they might be,’ said Squeers, coolly. ‘We have a good many of them; that boy’s one.’

‘Him in the next box?’ said Snawley.

Squeers nodded in the affirmative; his companion took another peep at the little boy on the trunk, and, turning round again, looked as if he were quite disappointed to see him so much like other boys, and said he should hardly have thought it.

‘He is,’ cried Squeers. ‘But about these boys of yours; you wanted to speak to me?’

‘Yes,’ replied Snawley. ‘The fact is, I am not their father, Mr. Squeers. I’m only their father-in-law.’

‘Oh! Is that it?’ said the schoolmaster. ‘That explains it at once. I was wondering what the devil you were going to send them to Yorkshire for. Ha! ha! Oh, I understand now.’





message 27: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 6333 comments Mod


Wackford Squeers and the New Pupil

Chapter 4

Harold Copping

1924 Character Sketches from Dickens

Commentary:

In contrast to Copping's highly realistic and three-dimensional study of the notorious Yorkshire schoolmaster Wackford Squeers in the coffee-room of the Saracen's Head Inn at Snow Hill, near Newgate Prison, London, Phiz's study for the initial instalment of the serialised novel Nicholas Nickleby (April 1838) seems cartoonish. The passage that both illustrators have chosen occurs early in chapter 4, shortly before Nicholas first lays eyes on the villainous pedagogue:

Mr. Squeers was standing in a box by one of the coffee-room fireplaces. . . . In a corner of the seat was a very small deal trunk, tied round with a scanty piece of cord; and on the trunk was perched—his lace-up half-boots and corduroy trousers dangling in the air—a diminutive boy, with his shoulders drawn up to his ears, and his hands planted on his knees, who glanced timidly at the schoolmaster from time to time, with evident dread and apprehension.

Shortly, as in Phiz's original illustration, Mr. Snawley arrives, and Squeers breaks off berating the boy, destined for the Yorkshire school that Dickens and Browne had actually visited. As Snawley and his two stepsons enter, Squeers pretends to be sharpening the tip of a pen with a pen-knife. As in the text, in Copping's watercolour transformed into a lithograph and mounted on a separate page the schoolmaster feigns "to be intent upon mending a pen, and offering benevolent advice to his youthful pupil." Although Copping has eliminated Snawley and his two stepsons, he has retained the background elements of the "box" of the coffee-room (including the seat and table), the pupil on the deal trunk, and as many of the details of Dickens's description of Squeers as possible: the one functional eye, the wrinkled face of sinister cast, the low forehead, the white neckerchief, the short trousers and over-sized jacket of the scholastic suit. The picture's flooring and Squeers's stance imply a cinematic "zooming in" from the more distant perspective that Phiz adopted in describing the scene. Copping's child, who is both too well-fed and well-dressed and not nearly frightened enough, somewhat spoils the effect of the character study. However, as in Phiz's much more theatrical, "tableau vivant" realization of the scene, Copping's focus is very much the troglodyte schoolmaster.


message 28: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 6333 comments Mod


Nicholas Starts for Yorkshire

Chapter 5

Phiz

1838

Text Illustrated:

‘Now, Nickleby,’ said Squeers, coming up at the moment buttoning his greatcoat; ‘I think you’d better get up behind. I’m afraid of one of them boys falling off and then there’s twenty pound a year gone.’

‘Dear Nicholas,’ whispered Kate, touching her brother’s arm, ‘who is that vulgar man?’

‘Eh!’ growled Ralph, whose quick ears had caught the inquiry. ‘Do you wish to be introduced to Mr. Squeers, my dear?’

‘That the schoolmaster! No, uncle. Oh no!’ replied Kate, shrinking back.

‘I’m sure I heard you say as much, my dear,’ retorted Ralph in his cold sarcastic manner. ‘Mr. Squeers, here’s my niece: Nicholas’s sister!’

‘Very glad to make your acquaintance, miss,’ said Squeers, raising his hat an inch or two. ‘I wish Mrs. Squeers took gals, and we had you for a teacher. I don’t know, though, whether she mightn’t grow jealous if we had. Ha! ha! ha!’

If the proprietor of Dotheboys Hall could have known what was passing in his assistant’s breast at that moment, he would have discovered, with some surprise, that he was as near being soundly pummelled as he had ever been in his life. Kate Nickleby, having a quicker perception of her brother’s emotions, led him gently aside, and thus prevented Mr. Squeers from being impressed with the fact in a peculiarly disagreeable manner.

‘My dear Nicholas,’ said the young lady, ‘who is this man? What kind of place can it be that you are going to?’

‘I hardly know, Kate,’ replied Nicholas, pressing his sister’s hand. ‘I suppose the Yorkshire folks are rather rough and uncultivated; that’s all.’

‘But this person,’ urged Kate.

‘Is my employer, or master, or whatever the proper name may be,’ replied Nicholas quickly; ‘and I was an ass to take his coarseness ill. They are looking this way, and it is time I was in my place. Bless you, love, and goodbye! Mother, look forward to our meeting again someday! Uncle, farewell! Thank you heartily for all you have done and all you mean to do. Quite ready, sir!’

With these hasty adieux, Nicholas mounted nimbly to his seat, and waved his hand as gallantly as if his heart went with it.

At this moment, when the coachman and guard were comparing notes for the last time before starting, on the subject of the way-bill; when porters were screwing out the last reluctant sixpences, itinerant newsmen making the last offer of a morning paper, and the horses giving the last impatient rattle to their harness; Nicholas felt somebody pulling softly at his leg. He looked down, and there stood Newman Noggs, who pushed up into his hand a dirty letter.

‘What’s this?’ inquired Nicholas.

‘Hush!’ rejoined Noggs, pointing to Mr. Ralph Nickleby, who was saying a few earnest words to Squeers, a short distance off: ‘Take it. Read it. Nobody knows. That’s all.’

‘Stop!’ cried Nicholas.



message 29: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 6333 comments Mod


Snubs and Romans are plentiful enough, and there are flats of all sorts and sizes when there's a meeting at Exeter Hall

Chapter 5

Fred Barnard

Chapman and Hall Household Edition

Text Illustrated:

‘It is I, Miss La Creevy,’ said Nicholas, putting down the box and looking in.

‘Bless us!’ exclaimed Miss La Creevy, starting and putting her hand to her curl-papers. ‘You’re up very early, Mr. Nickleby.’

‘So are you,’ replied Nicholas.

‘It’s the fine arts that bring me out of bed, Mr. Nickleby,’ returned the lady. ‘I’m waiting for the light to carry out an idea.’

Miss La Creevy had got up early to put a fancy nose into a miniature of an ugly little boy, destined for his grandmother in the country, who was expected to bequeath him property if he was like the family.

‘To carry out an idea,’ repeated Miss La Creevy; ‘and that’s the great convenience of living in a thoroughfare like the Strand. When I want a nose or an eye for any particular sitter, I have only to look out of window and wait till I get one.’

‘Does it take long to get a nose, now?’ inquired Nicholas, smiling.

‘Why, that depends in a great measure on the pattern,’ replied Miss La Creevy. ‘Snubs and Romans are plentiful enough, and there are flats of all sorts and sizes when there’s a meeting at Exeter Hall; but perfect aquilines, I am sorry to say, are scarce, and we generally use them for uniforms or public characters.’

‘Indeed!’ said Nicholas. ‘If I should meet with any in my travels, I’ll endeavour to sketch them for you.’



message 30: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 6333 comments Mod


"Very glad to make your acquaintance, Miss," said Squeers, raising his hat an inch or two.

Chapter 5

Fred Barnard

Chapman and Hall Household Edition

Text Illustrated:

‘Oh! here you are, sir!’ said Ralph. ‘Here are your mother and sister, sir.’

‘Where?’ cried Nicholas, looking hastily round.

‘Here!’ replied his uncle. ‘Having too much money and nothing at all to do with it, they were paying a hackney coach as I came up, sir.’

‘We were afraid of being too late to see him before he went away from us,’ said Mrs. Nickleby, embracing her son, heedless of the unconcerned lookers-on in the coach-yard.

‘Very good, ma’am,’ returned Ralph, ‘you’re the best judge of course. I merely said that you were paying a hackney coach. I never pay a hackney coach, ma’am; I never hire one. I haven’t been in a hackney coach of my own hiring, for thirty years, and I hope I shan’t be for thirty more, if I live as long.’

‘I should never have forgiven myself if I had not seen him,’ said Mrs Nickleby. ‘Poor dear boy—going away without his breakfast too, because he feared to distress us!’

‘Mighty fine certainly,’ said Ralph, with great testiness. ‘When I first went to business, ma’am, I took a penny loaf and a ha’porth of milk for my breakfast as I walked to the city every morning; what do you say to that, ma’am? Breakfast! Bah!’

‘Now, Nickleby,’ said Squeers, coming up at the moment buttoning his greatcoat; ‘I think you’d better get up behind. I’m afraid of one of them boys falling off and then there’s twenty pound a year gone.’

‘Dear Nicholas,’ whispered Kate, touching her brother’s arm, ‘who is that vulgar man?’

‘Eh!’ growled Ralph, whose quick ears had caught the inquiry. ‘Do you wish to be introduced to Mr. Squeers, my dear?’

‘That the schoolmaster! No, uncle. Oh no!’ replied Kate, shrinking back.

‘I’m sure I heard you say as much, my dear,’ retorted Ralph in his cold sarcastic manner. ‘Mr. Squeers, here’s my niece: Nicholas’s sister!’

‘Very glad to make your acquaintance, miss,’ said Squeers, raising his hat an inch or two. ‘I wish Mrs. Squeers took gals, and we had you for a teacher. I don’t know, though, whether she mightn’t grow jealous if we had. Ha! ha! ha!’



message 31: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 6333 comments Mod


Newman Noggs

Harry Furniss

Chapter 5

Testimonial Edition 1910

Text Illustrated:

At this moment, when the coachman and guard were comparing notes for the last time before starting, on the subject of the way-bill; when porters were screwing out the last reluctant sixpences, itinerant newsmen making the last offer of a morning paper, and the horses giving the last impatient rattle to their harness; Nicholas felt somebody pulling softly at his leg. He looked down, and there stood Newman Noggs, who pushed up into his hand a dirty letter.

‘What’s this?’ inquired Nicholas.

‘Hush!’ rejoined Noggs, pointing to Mr. Ralph Nickleby, who was saying a few earnest words to Squeers, a short distance off: ‘Take it. Read it. Nobody knows. That’s all.’

‘Stop!’ cried Nicholas.

‘No,’ replied Noggs.



message 32: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 6333 comments Mod


Mr. Whackford Squeers

Kyd


message 33: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 6333 comments Mod


Chapter 3

Phiz colorized


message 34: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 6333 comments Mod


I can't find who the artist is.


message 35: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 6333 comments Mod


I don't know the artist or the poet.


message 36: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim | 6333 comments Mod



Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 994 comments I rather like Barnard's standalone illustration of Squeers.


message 38: by Julie (new) - added it

Julie Kelleher | 1362 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "I rather like Barnard's standalone illustration of Squeers."

I like his Nicholas and La Creevy. Very low-key flirtatious.


Tristram Shandy | 4911 comments Mod
Kim, thanks for giving the information in message 18! It's interesting that even his publishers asked Dickens to write Nicholas Nickleby, striking a more light-hearted tone, like in PP. Like you, I wonder whether NN is, all things considered, not quite as much of a feel-good book as PP. We did not really have an inveterate scoundrel in PP, did we? Mr. Jingle is more of a roguish swindler, and so it is not unbelievable that he will reform and mend his ways with the help of Mr. Pickwick. There are Dodson and Fogg, but they have hardly any screen-time, and as to the hypocritical preacher, he gets his come-uppance from Mr. Weller, senior, and that's that.

NN, however, has not really started, and we already have two very sinister characters of quite a different calibre than the antagonists in PP. Ralph Nickleby might fit into the Dodson and Foog category, but I am not sure whether he has not even more skeleton in his closet than the two lawyers. - Then there is Mr. Squeers, who is absolutely vile, and who can definitely not be included in a happy ending ... All in all, NN is bound to be more serious than PP, I'd say.


Tristram Shandy | 4911 comments Mod
As usual, I really like looking at Phiz's illustrations, and the frontispiece aptly shows us how the artist tried to come to terms with the task that has been set for him. One must admit that it does remind one of the Pickwick style a lot. It's interesting that the comment mentions Charles Lever, who must have been very well-known in his day and age and must even have been a name, and maybe some kind of model, to Dickens. Last year or so, I downloaded a Delphi collection of Lever's works on my e-reader but so far, I have not read any of them yet. If the novel referred to in the comment is labelled as even less serious and less unified than Pickwick, however, I don't know if I'd really enjoy it.


message 41: by John (last edited Sep 05, 2018 04:15AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

John (jdourg) | 1121 comments Whackford Squeers in that illustration reminds me of my second grade teacher.

I am doing everything I can to repress that memory.


Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 994 comments Descriptions. Descriptions!

That description of Newgate (Snow Hill?) is more repulsive and thuggery than anything I recall reading in OT. The bodies are stacking up.

Love that description of Squeers. Add that reptilian eye to Barnard's illustration and we have the makings of a fine character who is without any redeeming character.


Peter | 3474 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "From The Life of Charles Dickens by John Forster:

On his birthday he wrote to me, "I have begun! I wrote four slips last night, so you see the beginning is made. And what is more, I can go on: so ..."


Now just imagine being a third person at that dinner. Thanks Kim for keeping us in the loop as to how Dickens and Forster interacted during the writing of the novel.


Peter | 3474 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "Nicholas Starts for Yorkshire

Chapter 5

Phiz

1838

Text Illustrated:

‘Now, Nickleby,’ said Squeers, coming up at the moment buttoning his greatcoat; ‘I think you’d better get up behind. I’m af..."


I thoroughly enjoyed this Phiz illustration. There is good control and variance of the assorted characters and the plate’s many figures are clearly and individually portrayed.

There is movement in the plate. Compared to the plate where Ralph Nickleby meets his relatives that were stiff in their interpretation, this one shows Phiz in fine form.


Peter | 3474 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "

Newman Noggs

Harry Furniss

Chapter 5

Testimonial Edition 1910

Text Illustrated:

At this moment, when the coachman and guard were comparing notes for the last time before starting, on the sub..."


Yes. I think Furniss has captured Newman Noggs very well.


Peter | 3474 comments Mod
John wrote: "Whackford Squeers in that illustration reminds me of my second grade teacher.

I am doing everything I can to repress that memory."


John

I had a Whackford Squeers - like teacher as well. I imagine most of us did. Here’s hoping it was only one experience in our school careers.


message 47: by John (last edited Sep 06, 2018 08:48AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

John (jdourg) | 1121 comments I have a question that is a general one, but related to NN.

Were the chapters/installments of his later books longer than the chapters/installments of his earlier books?

It does seem that way when I think of OMF and Drood, as compared to Pickwick or NN, but I may be wrong. My curiosity precedes me on this one.


message 48: by Xan (last edited Sep 07, 2018 06:00AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 994 comments Something I've noticed about Dickens and other Victorian era writers (James is another, I think), and that is how often the good guys, no matter how poor, have just enough change in their pocket or purse to pay the porter or a driver of a carriage. Nicholas pays a porter to carry his box? Carry your own box. My goodness, you're 19 years old!

This is true too when it comes to good people of modest income. They can't afford to travel or go to the opera, but somehow they can afford a maid or other household help. I've lost count of the number of times my reaction has been, "You have a maid? How?" Now that's magical realism.


Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 994 comments Excuse me, but did I just hear Squeers say, "My dears." Yes, yes, I'm sure he said it. Can't be anything else. Oh, Lordy, let's pray we're not going down that hole again.


Peter | 3474 comments Mod
John wrote: "I have a question that is a general one, but related to NN.

Were the chapters/installments of his later books longer than the chapters/installments of his earlier books?

It does seem that way wh..."


Hi John

The serialization of his novels did follow a formula, but one that varied from novel to novel. For example, GE, HT and TTC are shorter novels so the chapters were shorter in terms of word count per chapter. The novels were published in 20 parts, the final part being a double. Thus it was about twice as long as the first 18 parts.

There is much more detailed information on the serialization of Dickens novels found on line and I’m not sure how much detail or depth you are interested in. If you want more detail have a look.

I hope this helps answer your question. If not, post again and I’ll do some more hunting.


« previous 1
back to top