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The Old Curiosity Shop > TOCS, Chp. 66-69

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message 1: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4465 comments Mod
Dear Curiosities,

We may receive this dawning awareness with mixed feelings – as, indeed, some of us did receive the novel as such –, but the writing of it is on the wall: Our narrator is preparing the ground for our departure from the premises of The Old Curiosity Shop, and we may soon see each other again, maybe in 18th century London.

Chapter 66 goes a long way in helping our narrator to pack up his baggage, basically concluding the story of Kit’s ordeal, which has dominated the last few chapters. We find ourselves in the presence of Mr. Swiveller, who slowly recovers from his illness and finds that not only the Marchioness is sitting by his bedside, tending him with the utmost zeal and care, but that there is a bunch of other visitors, to wit Mr. Garland and his son, Mr. Witherden and the single gentleman. Interestingly, the Marchioness seems to display some “jealousy of their interference”, which might tell us something of the feelings with which the little servant regards Mr. Swiveller. Another sign might be the fact that whenever Mr. Swiveller shows her some recognition for anything she does for him, she begins to sob. Why do they all cry so much in this book? Giving it some second thought, I’d rather ask: Why do they so often cry in Dickens’s books in general? Were Victorians really such a sentimental lot, or is it something typically Dickens? I don’t remember lots of crying going on in Trollope, or in Thackeray, and neither in George Eliot’s novels …

Although Mr. Swiveller is not wholly without inclinations to dive into poetry, his disease has made him, for the time being at least, slightly more serious, and he immediately wants to know if the little servant’s testimony was still in time to benefit Kit. The visitors put his mind at rest on this account. When they ask him what they can do for him in order to reward him for his help, his answer indicates that we may have a different Dick in front of us now, though whether this is a consequence of his illness, or the things he witnessed at the Brasses’, or his new acquaintance with the Marchioness, this is difficult to tell. He says,

”’If you could make the Marchioness yonder, a Marchioness, in real, sober earnest, […] I’d thank you to get it done off-hand. But as you can’t, and as the question is not what you will do for me, but what you will do for somebody else who has a better claim upon you, pray sir let me know what you intend doing.’”


They then hold counsel as to how to proceed further: Their main intention being to hold Quilp accountable as the one whose malice is the origin of this evil plot (and many others), they find that they cannot help securing themselves the cooperation of one of the Brasses in order to incriminate the dwarf. They don’t take long in agreeing that they would try their luck with Sally, offering her the chance to get off the hook in exchange for testifying against Quilp and her brother – although Dick warns them that they’ll find “the old buck” a tough customer, maybe even more than Quilp in a comparable situation. – I wonder whether Dick’s opinion of Sally has suffered a lot when he saw her treatment of the Marchioness, or whether it was not too good from the very start. If so, isn’t it strange to see how chummy he was with the lawyer’s sister all the same?

We then see the gentlemen take their leave, and Mr. Abel oversee the arrival of a large hamper full of victuals with the help of which Mr. Swiveller is supposed to be brought round again. With all these victuals, there arrives a “nice old lady, who appeared so suddenly that she might have come out of the hamper, too (it was quite large enough)”, and who, as we later learn, is Mrs. Garland. This worthy lady immediately prepares some of the treasures the hamper contained for Mr. Swiveller and the Marchioness.

Meanwhile, Mr. Garland, the single gentleman and Mr. Witherden have effected their meeting with Sally Brass. However, it is not too promising a meeting, the gentle Miss Brass proving a duck’s back with regard to all the gentlemen’s efforts to cajole or to browbeat her into cooperation. Only when she is addressed to on the subject of her runaway servant does she betray any sign of inner concern and interest, but as soon as she realizes that her interviewers are ignorant of something she knows, she settles herself abruptly. – Hmmmm, is this not strange?

Unfortunately for her, her brother arrives on the scene, quite sensitive to the fact that the edifice of his lies and plots is crumbling and coming to grief. Not heeding his sister’s strict admonitions to keep his mouth shut, the fawning lawyer confesses to the whole plot, incriminating Quilp but also his sister:

”’[…] You will be tender with me, I am sure. I am quite confident you will be tender with me. You are men of honour, and have feeling hearts. I yielded from necessity to Quilp, for though necessity had no law, she has her lawyers. I yield to you from necessity too; from policy besides; and because of feelings that have been a pretty long time working within me. Punish Quilp, gentlemen. Weigh heavily upon him. Grind him down. Tread him under foot. He has done as much by me, for many and many a day.’”


What do you see as Brass’s motives from this passage? And, who do you think is the most despicable of the two villains – Mr. Brass, who has a clear tendency to give in to authorities (be they official ones, like here, but also based on pure violence, as in the case of Quilp, whose whims he bowed to because he was sheer afraid of him but also knew that his business depended to a certain degree on Quilp’s patronizing him)? Or Miss Sally, who is not less greedy and unscrupulous than her brother, but lacks his fawning spinelessness?

Then there was another question I kept asking myself while reading the chapter: Would the mere words of a little girl suffice as testimony to undo the statements made by Brass and the other witnesses? After all, this is just one party’s word against another party’s word, and the Marchioness can give no substantial proof to what she says. Apart from that, one might even say that she is bound to feel hostile towards the Brasses for the treatment she received at their hands, and might therefore feel inclined to slander them. I wonder if the Marchioness would have stood any chance in front of a real court of justice, and whether the Brasses did not give in too readily – all because Dickens wanted to finish his novel?

In my Penguin edition there is a passage deleted from the final version of the novel by Dickens himself, and in this passage we see Sally Brass finally losing her temper and imprecating the little servant for her turning witness against them. In this context, Sally owns that the little servant is nobody else but her very daughter, a statement that Mr. Brass wants the gentlemen listeners to ignore. – Why might Dickens have decided to strike this passage out of his novel on second thoughts?

Their mission accomplished, the gentlemen return to Dick Swiveller, who has also recovered some more in the meantime, where Mr. Witherden tells him that his aunt (you might remember her being made mention of) has passed on and that, had he been a different sort of nephew, he might have found himself residuary legatee. Still, as matters stand, he has been bequeathed an annuity of £150, which will go a long way for the Marchioness and himself.


message 2: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4465 comments Mod
Chapter 67 sees an ugly matter disposed of. While the events described in the last chapter are unfolding, Quilp is, in fact, coiling up in his hammock, quite unaware that the two other conspirators have been brought too justice already and that his game is up. He is, therefore, quite cheerful in his own way and enjoying his Robinson’s island by the riverside. His seclusion, however, is invaded by the arrival of his submissive wife, who says that she has some news for him. Gleefully anticipating his mother-in-law’s death, but being immediately disappointed on that issue, he makes his wife tell everything she knows about how the note was got to her and about the difficulty she had finding her way across the premises in the bad weather.

What do you make of Quilp’s language? Just look at exclamations like these:

”’And what brings you here, you jade? How dare you approach the ogre’s castle, eh?’”


… or …
”’I’m glad you’re wet, […] I’m glad you’re cold. I’m glad you lost your way. I’m glad your eyes are red with crying. It does my heart good to see your little nose so pinched and frosty.’”


Is all this not just a little bit too nasty and blackguard-like to be true? Are we in fairy-tale land again? And, by the way, we also see from Quilp’s words that he still has not forgiven his wife her assumption that he had drowned, and he also imputes a desire to marry someone else and enjoy his money to her, probably proving the saying that he who is inclined to act mean is also inclined to suspect meanness in others. At least, we have such a saying in German: Was ich selber denk und tu, das trau ich jedem andern zu.

Quilp eventually opens the note, which turns out to be a note of warning written by Sally Brass and telling the addressee that Sampson has ratted on them and that he had better follow her example and go into hiding. Quilp’s first reaction is not to prepare his flight but to spend time cussing the lawyer and wishing he had him by his side right now. Ironically, in the light of how the chapter is to finish, Quilp repeatedly enlarges on how satisfactory it would be to throw Sampson into the river and watch him drown there:

”’[…] Drowning men come to the surface three times they say. Ah! To see him those three times, and mock him as his face came bobbing up, – oh, what a rich treat that would be!’”


Soon, however, he summons his common sense and concentrates it on making certain preparations after sending Mrs. Quilp away with Tom Scott. Interestingly, Mrs. Quilp once more brings up the subject of how she once betrayed Little Nell’s confidence, but this is not the best of times to ask any questions about the girl and her grandfather from Quilp, and the lady is duly reminded of this fact by her husband. While he is making his diverse preparations, Quilp thinks of Sally, whom he praises to himself for her determination and her courage, and he also reverts to cursing her brother and wishing he could wreak his revenge upon him. While he is at it, he also thinks about Kit as well as Nell and her Grandfather, of whom latter two he thinks that he will prove to be “their evil genius” yet.

He spends so much time thinking about all these things that he is suddenly torn from out of his musings by a knocking at the gate. This finally determines him to leave his shovel, but in the dark he loses his way and cannot find any orientation through the barking of the dogs, and so he falls into the river … something he has repeatedly wished unto other people’s heads so that there is quite a lot of poetic justice in it. He does not have to struggle as long in the water as his wish for Sampson had been because a passing ship does the trick for him, and we get these final words:

”It toyed and sported with its ghastly freight, now bruising it against the slimy piles, now hiding it in mud or long rank grass, now dragging it heavily over rough stones and gravel, now feigning to yield it to its own element, and in the same action luring it away, until, tired of the ugly plaything, it flung it on a swamp – a dismal place where pirates had swung in chains through many a wintry night – and left it there to bleach.

And there it lay alone. The sky was red with flame, and the water that bore it there had been tinged with the sullen light as it flowed along. The place the deserted carcass had left so recently, a living man, was now a blazing ruin. There was something of the glare upon its face. The hair, stirred by the damp breeze, played in a kind of mockery of death – such a mockery as the dead man himself would have delighted in when alive – about its head, and its dress fluttered idly in the night wind.”


Do you think this a befitting end for a character like Quilp? Was he really the “evil genius” of the story when you consider the real influence he had over the plot? Can we call him Little Nell’s antagonist, or is the structure of the novel too slipshod to connect those two characters really?


message 3: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4465 comments Mod
Chapter 68 proves one thing to me: That it needs a resourceful antagonist like Quilp or like Sally Brass to keep a good novel going. We are now at a stage of the plot when the good characters reap the rewards of their good actions or the recompenses of their suffering, and while Dickens is very good at depicting cheerful, everyday situations in a lively and original way, there are so many pages before us that we might feel some doubt as to whether we might not lose interest before long.

For the time being, we can still enjoy witnessing Kit’s relief and happiness on finding himself a free young man again, and how even here Dickens inserts little vignettes – for example the turnkey whom we first met when he was reading the newspaper and who now thinks that Kit has no real business to be in prison, for he is innocent after all, and comes to regard him as some kind of impostor. We also see Kit’s honest and generous character reflected in some of his actions, as for example when he puts the money he is given into the box for poor prisoners without even counting it.

He then is taken to his home, where he is reunited not only with his mother and his siblings but also with the pony … and, of course, of course, with Barbara. It is by now clear, I think, that Barbara has quite a crush on Kit. How do you think she must have felt when Kit was regarded as a criminal? Would she have found it necessary to defend her belief in Kit – let’s believe she did believe in him, as I think she did indeed – against her own mother’s suspicions, or can we assume that even that worthy woman, who takes so much responsibility for Kit’s baby brother, has always stood firmly by Kit? Would the novel have gained in depth if not all of Kit’s friends had remained staunch believers in his innocence?

At the end of the Chapter, Kit is apprised of the fact that Little Nell and her Grandfather have been found and that they are soon going to meet her again. Mr. Garland’s brother, in fact – now who would have thought this not to be the case? –, is the Bachelor, whom we have met in one of the rather stagnant Little Nell chapters before, and he made the connection …


message 4: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4465 comments Mod
I can be rather brief about Chapter 69 because it is just a little overture to what is going to happen in the remainder of the novel. Apart from that, I must confess that I did not read it as carefully as the rest of the chapters that it was my turn to recap. I tried to keep up my standard of care and diligence at first, but the more I got into the chapter, the harder I found it to follow because it is one of those filler chapters … or rather, it means to lead us to a climax, which is not too climactic to me.

I was even considering summarizing the chapter in the form of a haiku but finally I discarded this as too saucy an idea. So here is the length and breadth of this in-between chapter: On the morning of his preparations for the journey, Kit suddenly notices that Barbara is in love with him and that his continual praise of Little Nell does not necessarily contribute to her cheerfulness, and he explains to her that she need not be jealous of Nell …

Then Mr. Chuckster makes an appearance, impressing himself rather than all the bystanders, especially Barbara, as he has actually counted upon doing. He also is put down a peg or two by Mr. Abel’s withering reaction to his kind of language when he is talking about such a venerable and meritorious old gentleman as Little Nell’s Grandfather.

Kit, Mr. Garland and the single gentleman then start their journey, which starts on “a bitter day”, with a “keen wind […] blowing”, which may be seen as a kind of foreshadowing … While they are proceeding, the single gentleman tells Kit the story of Little Nell and her Grandfather, actually disclosing the fact that he himself is the younger brother of Little Nell’s Grandfather and that both were in love with the same woman. Nell’s Grandfather being favoured by that woman, the single gentleman instantly left England, at first determined never to care about life again but to seek comfort in solitude – as anybody would do who is thwarted in his first love, with only few people (at least inside novels) taking a few steps back, calming down and coming to terms with the situation in order to carry on with their lives in a normal manner). The single gentleman goes on and tells a very sad family story, in the course of which he stresses the Grandfather’s anxiety about setting up Little Nell comfortably in life and his extreme fear of poverty and need, which is a consequence of the disappointments he had to experience: “’[…] it was then that there began to beset him, and to be ever in his mind, a gloomy dread of poverty and want. He had no thought for himself in this. His fear was for the child. It was a spectre in his house, and haunted him night and day. […]’” – The only thing that I could not help wondering about was how the single gentleman could have got so much in-depth information about his brother’s state of mind and about his motives for running into the financial disaster in which we meet him at the outset of the novel. We learn that from time to time they had exchanged letters, but can it really be assumed that Nell’s Grandfather would lay his innermost soul bare without any reservation at all?

Over this tale, their journey goes on and on, but there are ill-boding words at the end of our chapter:

”’I have believed and hoped so,’ returned the other. ‘I try to believe and hope so still. But a heavy weight has fallen on my spirits, my good friend, and the sadness that gathers over me, will yield to neither hope nor reason.’

‘That does not surprise me,’ said Mr Garland; ‘it is a natural consequence of the events you have recalled; of this dreary time and place; and above all, of this wild and dismal night. A dismal night, indeed! Hark! how the wind is howling!’”



message 5: by Ami (last edited Apr 20, 2019 06:41PM) (new)

Ami | 372 comments Tristram wrote: "Dear Curiosities,

Chapter 66We may receive this dawning awareness with mixed feelings – as, indeed, some of us did receive the novel as such –, but the writing of it is on the wall: Our narrator is preparin..."


Interestingly, the Marchioness seems to display some “jealousy of their interference”, which might tell us something of the feelings with which the little servant regards Mr. Swiveller.
This is a great point, and one I had hoped to make myself...I've had such a hard time with these two, gauging their affections for one another-their persuasions; and, mostly it's because I had not been able to wrap around my head around the little girl's-who was she? The Marchioness having feelings of jealousy cements the fact that she is probably mature enough, like Nell; and any interest on Dick's part, of the amorous persuasion, would be understandable.

Another sign might be the fact that whenever Mr. Swiveller shows her some recognition for anything she does for him, she begins to sob.
This was a little much, no? I rolled my eyes at Dickens! :P

Why do they all cry so much in this book?
Thank you!

Why do they so often cry in Dickens’s books in general?
By "they," I speculate you mean women...Correct? If so...it's because we're emotional and hysterical, everything bringing us to tears.

(sarcasm)

I think Dickens writes some of his female characters in this light because it was the standard by society to box women in as being tender, quickly brought to tears, over wrought with emotion. It was either this, or like some of the men, to be cruel and inhumane. I don't recall Dickens writing any of his male characters to be weak hearted; melodramatic, yes; but, perpetually dissolved to tears, no. Do you think this assessment is off base? Honestly, I believe it might be Dickens too; his ability to wax poetic about the more nostalgic moments (both good and bad) from his life is incomparable to the author's of his time.

Victorian Era medicine was known for it's vast studies on women's mental health; blaming anything and everything they thought made us different to our male counterparts relegated to having a uterus. I think it was Paul Berquet's influential study, that stated otherwise. He was a really interesting man; if you get a chance, read about him.

but as soon as she realizes that her interviewers are ignorant of something she knows, she settles herself abruptly. – Hmmmm, is this not strange?
I didn't think this strange, at all, for Sally Brass. It was another moment that gave her a leg up on her accusers, it led her to think that she would still be safe from any incrimination. It did, however, I can see Dickens attempting to conjure more intrigue surrounding the Marchioness. I for one, at this point, didn't really care. I was just so happy knowing that something good was going to come out of her relationship with Dick; meaning, it was understood they held one another in high esteem.

What do you see as Brass’s motives from this passage?
Yeah, and this spaghetti noodle for a backbone shows up, just in time to deflate any confidence Sally may have had for their scheme. I loved this scene! HA! SMH! Boy, he folded like cheap suit, didn't he? I don't think there was a motivation, and perhaps I misunderstood him. But, I equated his confession as a Hail Mary...deflecting the blame away from himself and directing it to Quilp. Mr. Brass is slippery, I'll give him that.

Would the mere words of a little girl suffice as testimony to undo the statements made by Brass and the other witnesses?
Another great catch! While it was too light an act to carry such a heavy result, I did think the Marchioness's time spent behind the keyhole of the door served her well...she was the eyes and ears of the Brass household, knowing all the ins and outs. So, her one bit of information exonerating Kit was just a small piece to a larger puzzle she would be able to build.

whether the Brasses did not give in too readily – all because Dickens wanted to finish his novel?
I thought this too, and it's one of my greatest complaints in Victorian Literature...those coincidental moments that bring loose ends together for the sake of time. While it always irks me, I am beginning to see it more as a motif than something to be taken as personally as I do. It's all an affront to the reader, Tristram! LOL! So, I may have taken a deep breath here, the Marchioness's confession being readily accepted; but, there's a moment up head where I did fall off my rocker and yelled, "No, no, no, no, no!" Dickens did cheat me there!


message 6: by Ami (new)

Ami | 372 comments Tristram wrote: "Chapter 67 sees an ugly matter disposed of. While the events described in the last chapter are unfolding, Quilp is, in fact, coiling up in his hammock, quite unaware that the two other conspirators..."

Is all this not just a little bit too nasty and blackguard-like to be true?
Nope, he's the antithesis of Nell, from beginning to end...neither character straying from their good and evil nature (respectively).

Do you think this a befitting end for a character like Quilp?
Dickens cheated both his evil character and this reader. This was another motif commonly used in Victorian Literature, to have characters drowning to write them out of the narrative without much decoration. I don't mean to sound harsh here at all, because as I type this I find myself sounding like a sociopath; but, I think Dickens should have ended Quilp's life with the inclusion of a hangman. A public hanging of Quilp written by Dickens would have been perfect

He spends so much time thinking about all these things that he is suddenly torn from out of his musings by a knocking at the gate.
A deeply wounded character from his birth, and to his death. He blames most everybody for the evil's in his life, maybe even rightfully so to an extent.

Was he really the “evil genius” of the story when you consider the real influence he had over the plot? Can we call him Little Nell’s antagonist, or is the structure of the novel too slipshod to connect those two characters really?
No, not an "evil genius," just evil. You're right, his influence over the narrative was comparable to a balloon full of hot air sitting around the house, losing it's buoyancy and luster over time. What was he in retrospect, just the presence of darkness in Nell's light?

Slipshod. I don't think he was a proper antagonist, but he did serve the purpose when they were associated with one another.


message 7: by Ami (last edited Apr 20, 2019 06:28PM) (new)

Ami | 372 comments Tristram wrote: "I can be rather brief about Chapter 69 because it is just a little overture to what is going to happen in the remainder of the novel. Apart from that, I must confess that I did not read it as caref..."

We learn that from time to time they had exchanged letters, but can it really be assumed that Nell’s Grandfather would lay his innermost soul bare without any reservation at all?
This scene would have read to me so much more poignant and heartfelt had the tone and pacing in these latter pages not taken a course for the quick and simple. The Single man's tale felt out of place in these chapters where things are ending, and his just now beginning.


message 8: by Peter (last edited Apr 21, 2019 05:20AM) (new)

Peter | 3039 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "Dear Curiosities,

We may receive this dawning awareness with mixed feelings – as, indeed, some of us did receive the novel as such –, but the writing of it is on the wall: Our narrator is preparin..."


Chapter 66 is a busy one. Who cannot help but like Dick Swiveller more and more, and as for the Marchioness, three cheers. I found it interesting that Dickens would have deleted the section that clearly reveals her relationship to Sally. Was it for the sake of making the length shorter? I think the Marchioness's parentage is key to the novel. Surely, editing could have occurred elsewhere in the chapter.

Was it because it would have been too “sensitive” for the Victorian reader? Again, I would argue no. Surely the Quilp-Nell sections walk the line of Victorian sensibilities just as precariously. Also, Dickens has been salting the possible links between the Marchioness and Sally for many chapters. Why drop and eliminate the final reveal? Dickens enjoys the unveiling of coincidences. I just don’t know why.

Sampson is slimy; his sister is the Brass of the pair. I dislike her much more. Again, her being revealed as the mother of the Marchioness would make her even worse, and Dickens generally likes binary characters.

Lots of little characters in the novel. Little Nell, the Marchioness is called little, and then we have Quilp. To come we have Little Dorrit. Dickens enjoys shrinking his characters to compress their intensity of goodness or evil.


message 9: by Peter (last edited Apr 21, 2019 05:42AM) (new)

Peter | 3039 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "Chapter 67 sees an ugly matter disposed of. While the events described in the last chapter are unfolding, Quilp is, in fact, coiling up in his hammock, quite unaware that the two other conspirators..."

The ogre is dead. The much extended and stretched out fairy tale is nearing its conclusion. What to make of Quilp?

First, Tristram, I am happy to see that a German expression can be make up of words that are short. :-). Quilp’s death by drowning was disappointing. That there should be the sound of dogs acting as a chorus for his demise was, however, a nice symbolic touch by Dickens.

Quilp’s death was anti-climatic. I wished it was more prolonged, more painful, more dramatic. To me, after so much build up of his nasty, evil nature, his death was too simple, too easy, too painless. When I reflect on Nancy’s death in OT, surely Dickens could have conjured up something more suitable to a self-confessed and proud ogre.


message 10: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2315 comments Tristram wrote: "In this context, Sally owns that the little servant is nobody else but her very daughter, a statement that Mr. Brass wants the gentlemen listeners to ignore. – Why might Dickens have decided to strike this passage out of his novel on second thoughts?..."

Really?? Wow. From Peter's remarks, it sounds as if her parentage doesn't come up again before the end of the book. Can we conclude that Quilp is, indeed, the father then? Certainly his comments would point to an affair, and the Marchioness's size would also be circumstantial evidence. But what is the point of it all?

Tristram wrote: "I wonder whether Dick’s opinion of Sally has suffered a lot when he saw her treatment of the Marchioness, or whether it was not too good from the very start. If so, isn’t it strange to see how chummy he was with the lawyer’s sister all the same?..."

For me, it was always just Dick's natural "go-along-to-get-along" personality. He knew on which side his bread was buttered, and if he had to be working for slimy Sally and Sampson, he might as do what he could to enjoy it and endear himself to them.

Tristram wrote: "Why do they so often cry in Dickens’s books in general? Were Victorians really such a sentimental lot, or is it something typically Dickens? I don’t remember lots of crying going on in Trollope, or in Thackeray, and neither in George Eliot’s novels ..."

I wonder if the women in Dickens' life were criers. He, himself obviously leaned towards the sentimental (just look at all his death scenes!), and if his mother (or, dare I say, Mary Hogarth?) cried a lot, it would explain why he resorted to it so much in his stories. Though you'd think a good editor would have him dial it back some. But who knows? Maybe they did and it was originally even worse! I've resigned myself that it's just Dickens being Dickens, right up there with all the heroins being so damned little! I still gripe about it, but I don't question it the way I used to. Maybe the time will come when I'll fondly say, "Oh, there Mr. Dickens goes again!" and smile indulgently. But I doubt it.


message 11: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2315 comments Tristram wrote: "Tom Scott..."

Have I missed something, or is this the first time we actually hear the name of Quilp's acrobatic boy? If so, why now? And ... Tom Scott? What kind of a boring name is that for someone with such memorable characteristics? Shouldn't he have been named Tom Adjell (agile), or Tom Spry, or Tom Limber? Even if he's doing his handstands in a kilt, Tom Scott is just a big yawn (unless he's 15 years older and well-built... but I digress....).

Drowning for Quilp? Eh. As gruesome as it would have been, I would have preferred the karma of having a pack of dogs tear him from limb to limb. Golly - that's brutal! Dickens could have managed it, though, I think. Too much drama on the water for me in the whole of Dickens collection. I suppose it comes from being an island nation with a river running through the heart of the capital. But I've grown tired of it over the course of the last several books. A good mauling might have been fun for a change. :-)


message 12: by Mary Lou (last edited Apr 21, 2019 07:10AM) (new)

Mary Lou | 2315 comments Tristram wrote: "Chapter 69 ...the more I got into the chapter, the harder I found it to follow because it is one of those filler chapters ..."

This was a rather boring chapter. Lots of travel and descriptions of the weather. But it provided the opportunity for the single gentleman to tell his story. It surprises me that he hadn't revealed this to Mr. Garland earlier, as they seem to have become close friends since his arrival in Bevis Marks.

It does explain why we weren't privy to the names of the bachelor (a third Mr. Garland) and the single gentleman (a second Mr. Trent). Had we been given their names, obviously there would have been no mystery. Duh. I feel stupid. Clumsy handling by Dickens, though, in my mind. Lots of that in this book. :-(

The story itself... if I read it correctly, Nell is the third generation of angels, identical in looks, purity, and poor health? Come on.

As for Kit and Barbara.... nope. I don't buy Kit's explanations, and I don't think Barbara would either. There's no way her jealously is going to evaporate with this interchange alone. But maybe she's fooled herself into thinking she can live with it.

I'm anxiously awaiting our final chapters, but regret to conclude at this late stage of the game that TOCS will be among my least favorite Dickens novels. Too bad. Had he taken some extra time and care with it - charting out the plot before beginning it, filling in some blanks as far as back-stories, taking out some of the melodrama, etc., I think it could have been excellent.


message 13: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1149 comments Tristram wrote: "I was even considering summarizing the chapter in the form of a haiku but finally I discarded this as too saucy an idea."

Oh, if you made any drafts, please please share them. We should have an OCS haiku session.


message 14: by Julie (last edited Apr 21, 2019 04:06PM) (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1149 comments Mary Lou wrote: "It does explain why we weren't privy to the names of the bachelor (a third Mr. Garland) and the single gentleman (a second Mr. Trent). Had we been given their names, obviously there would have been no mystery. Duh. I feel stupid. Clumsy handling by Dickens, though, in my mind. Lots of that in this book. :-(

Wait, but he's grandfather's brother, right, and we have established that Grandfather is not a Trent, so no, not a giveaway, and I am going to go on assuming that the single gentleman is so named because it's a spectacular name, and now I'm hoping he gets to keep it.

But I did mention in the last set of chapters that I expected the single gentleman would disappoint me, and I have to say this feels like a pretty cliche-ridden story (two brothers love the same woman! angelic young girls! sweet innocent ruined by ne'er do well!) and I do feel a little disappointed. So I am glad he remains (for the moment) the single gentleman, at least.

The story itself... if I read it correctly, Nell is the third generation of angels, identical in looks, purity, and poor health? Come on. ..."

Agreed. Even Dickens knows this is pushing it. "If you have seen the picture-gallery of any one old family, you will remember how the same face and figure—often the fairest and slightest of them all—come upon you in different generations; and how you trace the same sweet girl through a long line of portraits—never growing old or changing—the Good Angel of the race..."[emphasis mine]--no, we do not remember this, Mr. Dickens, and that is why you are stopping to try and persuade us it makes sense.


message 15: by Ami (new)

Ami | 372 comments Peter wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Dear Curiosities,

We may receive this dawning awareness with mixed feelings – as, indeed, some of us did receive the novel as such –, but the writing of it is on the wall: Our nar..."


Dickens enjoys shrinking his characters to compress their intensity of goodness or evil
What a brilliant observation! I like it... Dickens concentrates his characters.


message 16: by Ami (new)

Ami | 372 comments Mary Lou wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Tom Scott..."

Have I missed something, or is this the first time we actually hear the name of Quilp's acrobatic boy? If so, why now? And ... Tom Scott? What kind of a boring name ..."


And ... Tom Scott? What kind of a boring name is that for someone with such memorable characteristics?
So funny, Mary Lou! And, you’re absolutely correct...Bo-ring!!


message 17: by Mary Lou (last edited Apr 21, 2019 04:06PM) (new)

Mary Lou | 2315 comments Julie wrote: "we have established that Grandfather is not a Trent..."

Wait... have we established that? When? How? I'm so confused....

EDIT -- Never mind... I get it now. Granddad was the father of Nell's angelic mother. I actually wrote out a family tree for Chuzzlewit; apparently I need to do that for every Dickens novel.

But that being the case, why did we need both a bachelor AND a single gentleman? I don't think we're ever given another name for Granddad, so what was Dickens point in hiding the brother's name from us?


message 18: by Julie (last edited Apr 21, 2019 04:07PM) (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1149 comments Mary Lou wrote: "Julie wrote: "we have established that Grandfather is not a Trent..."

Wait... have we established that? When? How? I'm so confused...."


Sorry, it's back somewhere in one of the discussions on this book. He can't be a Trent because Nell is a Trent and he's her maternal grandfather; she would have her father's family name, not her mother's. Grandfather isn't actually ever referred to as Trent in the book: only Nell and her brother Fred are.


message 19: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2315 comments Julie wrote: "Sorry, it's back somewhere in one of the d..."

You're right, of course. It dawned on me and I was updating as you were typing your response. Thanks for pointing it out, though -- I've been thinking of Grandfather as a Trent for so long that it's a hard habit to break.


message 20: by Alissa (last edited Apr 21, 2019 09:33PM) (new)

Alissa | 317 comments Tristram wrote: "Do you think this a befitting end for a character like Quilp?"

Quilp died too easily and conveniently (falling into a river?), but he needed to go somehow. Recall that "Trent" is the name of a river. So, symbolically, Nell Trent killed Quilp, and good triumphed over evil. His death was befitting in that respect, but the way it was written was anti-climatic. It didn't stand out in my mind like Nancy's death, or even Bill Sikes.


message 21: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5710 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "Sorry, it's back somewhere in one of the d..."

I have never until now considered good old grandfather's name being anything other than Trent, but you're right it must be! I wonder if it could be Quilp. :-)


message 22: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5710 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "Why do they cry so often in this book?"

Just reading that brought tears to my eyes.


message 23: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2315 comments Alissa wrote: "Recall that "Trent" is the name of a river. So, symbolically, Nell Trent killed Quilp, and good triumphed over evil. ..."

Nice, Alissa! If I ever realized that Trent was the name of a river, I'd certainly forgotten. Great connection!


message 24: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4465 comments Mod
Ami wrote: "Why do they so often cry in Dickens’s books in general?
By "they," I speculate you mean women...Correct? If so...it's because we're emotional and hysterical, everything bringing us to tears. "


No, I don't necessarily mean women exclusively. I have often voiced my feelings of boredom and impatience with Dickens's idealized heroines who are full of sentiment, self-denial, compassion, charity and who also make good pudding if needs be, and I find Wilkie Collins and Anthony Trollope, for instance, much more capable of creating interesting female characters for their novels. But I also seem to remember that men cry a lot in Dickens novels, at least the good men. I am sure Mr. Jarndyce and Mr. Woodcourt cry in the right moments, Mr. Jingle did after he was morally renovated and all done up, the Schoolmaster in TOCS cries (or when out of tears, mopes) and there is a lot of crying by representatives of both sexes in the Christmas stories. I have the impression that Dickens particularly enjoyed a good cry, because I never come across something like that in Trollope or in Thackeray, to name but two.

To corroborate my inkling here, I am going to keep tabs on men and women crying in our next two major novels. Let's wait and see!


message 25: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4465 comments Mod
Ami wrote: "While it was too light an act to carry such a heavy result, I did think the Marchioness's time spent behind the keyhole of the door served her well...she was the eyes and ears of the Brass household, knowing all the ins and outs. So, her one bit of information exonerating Kit was just a small piece to a larger puzzle she would be able to build."

Ami,
That is a very good and convincing point: The Marchioness might prove that she did not just made that conversation up by adding further information she had gleaned on Brass business affairs. She might simply talk Brass tacks, then. I did not see this on the horizon, but it convinces me.


message 26: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4465 comments Mod
Ami wrote: "his influence over the narrative was comparable to a balloon full of hot air sitting around the house, losing it's buoyancy and luster over time."

This is exactly what I was thinking, but you are much better at putting it into words. We might keep this in mind for the final discussion!


message 27: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4465 comments Mod
Peter wrote: "First, Tristram, I am happy to see that a German expression can be make up of words that are short. :-)"

Yes, Peter, but we need a lot of them then.


message 28: by Tristram (last edited Apr 22, 2019 10:58AM) (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4465 comments Mod
Peter wrote: "To me, after so much build up of his nasty, evil nature, his death was too simple, too easy, too painless. "

Yes, drowning was to good for 'im :-) How about tying him to a comfy armchair and reading all the chapters of Little Nell and her Grandfather to him over and over again?

Oh dear, this really reads sociopathic ;-)


message 29: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4465 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Tom Scott..."

Have I missed something, or is this the first time we actually hear the name of Quilp's acrobatic boy? If so, why now? And ... Tom Scott? What kind of a boring name ..."


Yes, Mary Lou, Tom Scott is quite a let-down as a name, but then Tom is special in that he is probably the only prominent secondary character in Dickens who has a name real people might have. He would be standing on his head if he knew!

As to your scepticism about Dickens doling out watery graves to his characters with a generosity that Oliver would have wished to possess the porridge-man in the workhouse, I must say that I actually like the twang of the sea (or the cleansing effects of freshwater), but I also love Melville and Conrad.


message 30: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4465 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "The story itself... if I read it correctly, Nell is the third generation of angels, identical in looks, purity, and poor health? Come on. "

Yep, that's about it. Perfect summary of the book. Now you'd want to get it into haiku form ;-)


message 31: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4465 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "Tristram wrote: "I was even considering summarizing the chapter in the form of a haiku but finally I discarded this as too saucy an idea."

Oh, if you made any drafts, please please share them. We ..."


I haven't made any drafts, but we might use this as a challenge in our final thread on TOCS as a novel? Summarize the plot and / or comment on it in the form of a haiku.


message 32: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4465 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "Mary Lou wrote: "It does explain why we weren't privy to the names of the bachelor (a third Mr. Garland) and the single gentleman (a second Mr. Trent). Had we been given their names, obviously ther..."

I think it's normally the ugliest features you see spread down the generations, but that's just me and my usual grumpiness.


message 33: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4465 comments Mod
Alissa wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Do you think this a befitting end for a character like Quilp?"

Quilp died too easily and conveniently (falling into a river?), but he needed to go somehow. Recall that "Trent" is ..."


Oh, I thought it was the river Thames where Quilp drowned.


message 34: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4465 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Why do they cry so often in this book?"

Just reading that brought tears to my eyes."


Tears of ... clairvoyance?


message 35: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5710 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "I have often voiced my feelings of boredom and impatience with Dickens's idealized heroines"

No kidding.


message 36: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5710 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "Yes, drowning was to good for 'im :-) How about tying him to a comfy armc..."

Aren't you glad we don't have to read this book again with each other for at least five years?


message 37: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5710 comments Mod


The small servant stood rooted to the spot.

Chapter 66

Phiz

Text Illustrated:

Mr Abel remained behind, very often looking at his watch and at the room door, until Mr Swiveller was roused from a short nap, by the setting-down on the landing-place outside, as from the shoulders of a porter, of some giant load, which seemed to shake the house, and made the little physic bottles on the mantel-shelf ring again. Directly this sound reached his ears, Mr Abel started up, and hobbled to the door, and opened it; and behold! there stood a strong man, with a mighty hamper, which, being hauled into the room and presently unpacked, disgorged such treasures as tea, and coffee, and wine, and rusks, and oranges, and grapes, and fowls ready trussed for boiling, and calves’-foot jelly, and arrow-root, and sago, and other delicate restoratives, that the small servant, who had never thought it possible that such things could be, except in shops, stood rooted to the spot in her one shoe, with her mouth and eyes watering in unison, and her power of speech quite gone. But, not so Mr Abel; or the strong man who emptied the hamper, big as it was, in a twinkling; and not so the nice old lady, who appeared so suddenly that she might have come out of the hamper too (it was quite large enough), and who, bustling about on tiptoe and without noise—now here, now there, now everywhere at once—began to fill out the jelly in tea-cups, and to make chicken broth in small saucepans, and to peel oranges for the sick man and to cut them up in little pieces, and to ply the small servant with glasses of wine and choice bits of everything until more substantial meat could be prepared for her refreshment. The whole of which appearances were so unexpected and bewildering, that Mr Swiveller, when he had taken two oranges and a little jelly, and had seen the strong man walk off with the empty basket, plainly leaving all that abundance for his use and benefit, was fain to lie down and fall asleep again, from sheer inability to entertain such wonders in his mind.

Commentary:

One of the great strengths of The Old Curiosity Shop is the illustrations. From two main contributors, George Cattermole and Hablot Browne (Phiz) with a single illustration each from Samuel Williams and Daniel Maclise, they reflect the strange world of the grotesques and Nell’s contrasting purity. Dickens’ editing skills are at the heart of their power. When formulating ideas for Master Humphrey’s Clock, he insisted on controlling the publication at every level and in reviving woodcut illustrations, he was looking back to the eighteenth century publications of the The Tatler, The Spectator and even the chapbooks - crude productions that were almost synonymous with popular culture. Nostalgia for childhood favorites and a desire to share them with his readers underpins his decisions. As Michael Slater observes in his recent biography, ‘Dickens does not just want to be popular; he wants to be the beloved friend, pleasant and comforting…his weekly visit eagerly anticipated by all degrees of readers.’ Dickens, then, chose woodcuts rather than separate steel engravings. In a letter to Cattermole, he asked him to ‘name his own terms’, and explained that woodcuts would be cheaper and that, more significantly, he would be able create another dimension by having the cuts embedded in the text in a way that would enrich the story. This juxtaposition of letterpress with illustration was inspired and sets up what Forster called ‘the main idea and figure of the book.’

The Old Curiosity Shop teems with life and death. Graveyards, gravestones and a preoccupation with dying permeate the novel but it is richly populated and as Elizabeth Brennan points out ‘unique among Dickens’s novels in having a large proportion not only of unnamed characters, but of characters who are not named when they are first encountered.’ Never again was Dickens forced to expand a short tale into a novel but, with its looser narrative structure and sketchy scenes, it has all the youthful vitality of the picaresque structure that characterized Pickwick and Nickleby and in Little Nell it looks forward to the more fortunate Little Dorrit. When writing The Old Curiosity Shop, Dickens was keen to popularize his work and reach an ever widening audience and this is reflected thematically in his foregrounding of several itinerant popular entertainers. He is in good company. In Schlicke’s view this novel has ‘the most important presentation of popular entertainment in all of Dickens’ fiction.’ Whether we appreciate this potent amalgamation of comedy and pathos or condemn its sentimentality and savage humor, it deserves to be read more widely than it has been in recent times.


message 38: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5710 comments Mod


A piece of news for Dick Swiveller

Chapter 66

Roland Wheelwright

Text Illustrated:

Their business ended, the three gentlemen hastened back to the lodgings of Mr Swiveller, whom they found progressing so favourably in his recovery as to have been able to sit up for half an hour, and to have conversed with cheerfulness. Mrs Garland had gone home some time since, but Mr Abel was still sitting with him. After telling him all they had done, the two Mr Garlands and the single gentleman, as if by some previous understanding, took their leaves for the night, leaving the invalid alone with the Notary and the small servant.

‘As you are so much better,’ said Mr Witherden, sitting down at the bedside, ‘I may venture to communicate to you a piece of news which has come to me professionally.’

The idea of any professional intelligence from a gentleman connected with legal matters, appeared to afford Richard any-thing but a pleasing anticipation. Perhaps he connected it in his own mind with one or two outstanding accounts, in reference to which he had already received divers threatening letters. His countenance fell as he replied,

‘Certainly, sir. I hope it’s not anything of a very disagreeable nature, though?’

‘If I thought it so, I should choose some better time for communicating it,’ replied the Notary. ‘Let me tell you, first, that my friends who have been here to-day, know nothing of it, and that their kindness to you has been quite spontaneous and with no hope of return. It may do a thoughtless, careless man, good, to know that.’

Dick thanked him, and said he hoped it would.

‘I have been making some inquiries about you,’ said Mr Witherden, ‘little thinking that I should find you under such circumstances as those which have brought us together. You are the nephew of Rebecca Swiveller, spinster, deceased, of Cheselbourne in Dorsetshire.’

‘Deceased!’ cried Dick.

‘Deceased. If you had been another sort of nephew, you would have come into possession (so says the will, and I see no reason to doubt it) of five-and-twenty thousand pounds. As it is, you have fallen into an annuity of one hundred and fifty pounds a year; but I think I may congratulate you even upon that.’

‘Sir,’ said Dick, sobbing and laughing together, ‘you may. For, please God, we’ll make a scholar of the poor Marchioness yet! And she shall walk in silk attire, and siller have to spare, or may I never rise from this bed again!’



message 39: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5710 comments Mod


Mr. Brass unexpectedly appears

Chapter 67

Phiz

Text Illustrated:

With a smile upon her face, and looking at each of the three by turns, Miss Brass took two or three more pinches of snuff, and having by this time very little left, travelled round and round the box with her forefinger and thumb, scraping up another. Having disposed of this likewise and put the box carefully in her pocket, she said,—

‘I am to accept or reject at once, am I?’

‘Yes,’ said Mr Witherden.

The charming creature was opening her lips to speak in reply, when the door was hastily opened too, and the head of Sampson Brass was thrust into the room.

‘Excuse me,’ said the gentleman hastily. ‘Wait a bit!’

So saying, and quite indifferent to the astonishment his presence occasioned, he crept in, shut the door, kissed his greasy glove as servilely as if it were the dust, and made a most abject bow.

‘Sarah,’ said Brass, ‘hold your tongue if you please, and let me speak. Gentlemen, if I could express the pleasure it gives me to see three such men in a happy unity of feeling and concord of sentiment, I think you would hardly believe me. But though I am unfortunate—nay, gentlemen, criminal, if we are to use harsh expressions in a company like this—still, I have my feelings like other men. I have heard of a poet, who remarked that feelings were the common lot of all. If he could have been a pig, gentlemen, and have uttered that sentiment, he would still have been immortal.’

‘If you’re not an idiot,’ said Miss Brass harshly, ‘hold your peace.’

‘Sarah, my dear,’ returned her brother, ‘thank you. But I know what I am about, my love, and will take the liberty of expressing myself accordingly. Mr Witherden, Sir, your handkerchief is hanging out of your pocket—would you allow me to—,

As Mr Brass advanced to remedy this accident, the Notary shrunk from him with an air of disgust. Brass, who over and above his usual prepossessing qualities, had a scratched face, a green shade over one eye, and a hat grievously crushed, stopped short, and looked round with a pitiful smile.

‘He shuns me,’ said Sampson, ‘even when I would, as I may say, heap coals of fire upon his head. Well! Ah! But I am a falling house, and the rats (if I may be allowed the expression in reference to a gentleman I respect and love beyond everything) fly from me! Gentlemen—regarding your conversation just now, I happened to see my sister on her way here, and, wondering where she could be going to, and being—may I venture to say?—naturally of a suspicious turn, followed her. Since then, I have been listening.’



message 40: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5710 comments Mod



Tom immediately walked upon his hands to the window

Chapter 67

Charles Green

Text Illustrated:

Her amiable husband hesitated for a few moments; but, bethinking himself that the letter might require some answer, of which she could be the bearer, closed the window, opened the door, and bade her enter. Mrs Quilp obeyed right willingly, and, kneeling down before the fire to warm her hands, delivered into his a little packet.

‘I’m glad you’re wet,’ said Quilp, snatching it, and squinting at her. ‘I’m glad you’re cold. I’m glad you lost your way. I’m glad your eyes are red with crying. It does my heart good to see your little nose so pinched and frosty.’

‘Oh Quilp!’ sobbed his wife. ‘How cruel it is of you!’

‘Did she think I was dead?’ said Quilp, wrinkling his face into a most extraordinary series of grimaces. ‘Did she think she was going to have all the money, and to marry somebody she liked? Ha ha ha! Did she?’

These taunts elicited no reply from the poor little woman, who remained on her knees, warming her hands, and sobbing, to Mr Quilp’s great delight. But, just as he was contemplating her, and chuckling excessively, he happened to observe that Tom Scott was delighted too; wherefore, that he might have no presumptuous partner in his glee, the dwarf instantly collared him, dragged him to the door, and after a short scuffle, kicked him into the yard. In return for this mark of attention, Tom immediately walked upon his hands to the window, and—if the expression be allowable—looked in with his shoes: besides rattling his feet upon the glass like a Banshee upside down. As a matter of course, Mr Quilp lost no time in resorting to the infallible poker, with which, after some dodging and lying in ambush, he paid his young friend one or two such unequivocal compliments that he vanished precipitately, and left him in quiet possession of the field.



message 41: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5710 comments Mod


The end of Quilp

Chapter 67

Phiz

Text Illustrated:

‘If I could find a wall or fence,’ said the dwarf, stretching out his arms, and walking slowly on, ‘I should know which way to turn. A good, black, devil’s night this, to have my dear friend here! If I had but that wish, it might, for anything I cared, never be day again.’

As the word passed his lips, he staggered and fell—and next moment was fighting with the cold dark water!

For all its bubbling up and rushing in his ears, he could hear the knocking at the gate again—could hear a shout that followed it—could recognise the voice. For all his struggling and plashing, he could understand that they had lost their way, and had wandered back to the point from which they started; that they were all but looking on, while he was drowned; that they were close at hand, but could not make an effort to save him; that he himself had shut and barred them out. He answered the shout—with a yell, which seemed to make the hundred fires that danced before his eyes tremble and flicker, as if a gust of wind had stirred them. It was of no avail. The strong tide filled his throat, and bore him on, upon its rapid current.

Another mortal struggle, and he was up again, beating the water with his hands, and looking out, with wild and glaring eyes that showed him some black object he was drifting close upon. The hull of a ship! He could touch its smooth and slippery surface with his hand. One loud cry, now—but the resistless water bore him down before he could give it utterance, and, driving him under it, carried away a corpse.

It toyed and sported with its ghastly freight, now bruising it against the slimy piles, now hiding it in mud or long rank grass, now dragging it heavily over rough stones and gravel, now feigning to yield it to its own element, and in the same action luring it away, until, tired of the ugly plaything, it flung it on a swamp—a dismal place where pirates had swung in chains through many a wintry night—and left it there to bleach.

And there it lay alone. The sky was red with flame, and the water that bore it there had been tinged with the sullen light as it flowed along. The place the deserted carcass had left so recently, a living man, was now a blazing ruin. There was something of the glare upon its face. The hair, stirred by the damp breeze, played in a kind of mockery of death—such a mockery as the dead man himself would have delighted in when alive—about its head, and its dress fluttered idly in the night wind.


Commentary:

Browne's last two depictions of Quilp mark an important break in the tone with which he is presented in the novel. The portrait of the dwarf (ch. 60), in large scale, stresses much more the malevolent, demonic side of Quilp than his subversive comic grotesqueness. This plate also includes one of the novel's few emblematic inscriptions, "[Accommodations for] Man and Beast." The insinuation about Quilp's evil and ambiguous nature is clear enough. If Dickens gave specific directions for this portrait, one might say it is as though he needed to have Quilp's evil qualities stressed at this point when he was preparing for the comic villain's downfall. With Phiz's design for Quilp's death scene (ch. 67), any trace of Punchinello fun has been eliminated.

When we realize that the number of illustrations featuring Quilp is close to half the total number of drawings for the considerably longer novels in monthly parts, we get some statistical sense of the impact of Quilp's visual presence. Surely, illustrations make it impossible to conceal from oneself the dominant role of this delightful villain.

But the visual immediacy of violence and low life in the novel is not limited to the appearances of Quilp. There are the slovenliness and drinking of Dick Swiveller; the monstrousness of Sally and Sampson Brass; the caricaturistic excesses of Mrs. Jarley, Codlin and Short, the gamblers, and even Kit and his mother; the weird vigor of the Marchioness; and the boisterous drinking of Nell's and her grandfather's companions on the raft. What I am arguing is that in The Old Curiosity Shop more than in any of the other novels, Phiz's illustrations — and the more noticeably so in their contrast with Cattermole's — emphasize the unruliness of the energies unleashed by Dickens' imagination. Thanks to Phiz to some extent the illustrated novel is dominated by those energies rather than by the idealizing and religious sentiments which Dickens himself evidently wished to consider the main thrust of the work.

The Old Curiosity Shop evolved as a serial in Dickens’s own threepenny weekly miscellany, Master Humphrey’s Clock, the pages of which it entirely took over from its ninth chapter until its completion. From the outset, a crucial element in Dickens’s vision for his periodical was that it should be enhanced by ‘woodcuts dropped into the text’, an idea to which he remained committed when the Clock became solely a vehicle first for the Shop, and then for Barnaby Rudge, with which it ended its run. Accordingly, 75 wood engravings (as they in fact were) were integrated with the text of the first story, and 76 with the second. George Cattermole produced 14 illustrations for the Shop, and 17 for Rudge, while Daniel Maclise and Samuel Williams provided just one apiece for the Shop, each featuring Nell, but Phiz designed no fewer than 59 for each novel. He also drew every one of the periodical’s illuminated capital letters. Although it was over Cattermole’s essentially still, architectural scenes that Dickens tended to rhapsodize, he routinely left it to Browne to create a visual correlative for the more energized or bizarre emanations of his fancy. As the story outgrew the frame of the miscellany, Browne responded with a series of drawings that increasingly reveal his extraordinary ability both to penetrate, and to conspire with, Dickens’s imagination. Furthermore, he developed ways of using the exigencies of installment publication to complement Dickens’s narrative. This collaboration of artist with author is exemplified in Browne’s acclaimed representations of Quilp; but it is also demonstrated in his depictions of Jerry, who, though less prominent and certainly less fantastic, is the dwarf’s moral counterpart. One is conceived by Dickens as a kind of dog, the other is a master of dogs.


message 42: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5710 comments Mod




The strong tide filled his throat, and bore him on its rapid current.

Chapter 67

Charles Green

Text Illustrated:

As the word passed his lips, he staggered and fell—and next moment was fighting with the cold dark water!

For all its bubbling up and rushing in his ears, he could hear the knocking at the gate again—could hear a shout that followed it—could recognise the voice. For all his struggling and plashing, he could understand that they had lost their way, and had wandered back to the point from which they started; that they were all but looking on, while he was drowned; that they were close at hand, but could not make an effort to save him; that he himself had shut and barred them out. He answered the shout—with a yell, which seemed to make the hundred fires that danced before his eyes tremble and flicker, as if a gust of wind had stirred them. It was of no avail. The strong tide filled his throat, and bore him on, upon its rapid current.

Another mortal struggle, and he was up again, beating the water with his hands, and looking out, with wild and glaring eyes that showed him some black object he was drifting close upon. The hull of a ship! He could touch its smooth and slippery surface with his hand. One loud cry, now—but the resistless water bore him down before he could give it utterance, and, driving him under it, carried away a corpse.

It toyed and sported with its ghastly freight, now bruising it against the slimy piles, now hiding it in mud or long rank grass, now dragging it heavily over rough stones and gravel, now feigning to yield it to its own element, and in the same action luring it away, until, tired of the ugly plaything, it flung it on a swamp—a dismal place where pirates had swung in chains through many a wintry night—and left it there to bleach.

And there it lay alone. The sky was red with flame, and the water that bore it there had been tinged with the sullen light as it flowed along. The place the deserted carcass had left so recently, a living man, was now a blazing ruin. There was something of the glare upon its face. The hair, stirred by the damp breeze, played in a kind of mockery of death—such a mockery as the dead man himself would have delighted in when alive—about its head, and its dress fluttered idly in the night wind.



message 43: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5710 comments Mod


The end of Quilp

Chapter 67

Harry Furniss

For The Testimonial Edition published in 1910.

Commentary:

In The Friendly Dickens Norrie Epstein writes something that can help us all understand and digest this novel:

The trick to enjoying this remarkable work is to view it not as a syrupy period piece or a realistic novel but as a fairy tale for adults, filled with unsettling elements, startling, inexplicable symbols, and dark meanings just below the surface. Like all tales of enchantment, it transforms unspeakable and primal anxieties and taboos—such as incest, freaks, sadism, separation anxiety, and death—into something manageable and strangely compelling.


message 44: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5710 comments Mod


Kit's visit to the stable

Chapter 68

Phiz

Text Illustrated:

There is one friend he has not seen yet, and as he cannot be conveniently introduced into the family circle, by reason of his being an iron-shod quadruped, Kit takes the first opportunity of slipping away and hurrying to the stable. The moment he lays his hand upon the latch, the pony neighs the loudest pony’s greeting; before he has crossed the threshold, the pony is capering about his loose box (for he brooks not the indignity of a halter), mad to give him welcome; and when Kit goes up to caress and pat him, the pony rubs his nose against his coat, and fondles him more lovingly than ever pony fondled man. It is the crowning circumstance of his earnest, heartfelt reception; and Kit fairly puts his arm round Whisker’s neck and hugs him.

But how comes Barbara to trip in there? and how smart she is again! she has been at her glass since she recovered. How comes Barbara in the stable, of all places in the world? Why, since Kit has been away, the pony would take his food from nobody but her, and Barbara, you see, not dreaming that Christopher was there, and just looking in, to see that everything was right, has come upon him unawares. Blushing little Barbara!

It may be that Kit has caressed the pony enough; it may be that there are even better things to caress than ponies. He leaves him for Barbara at any rate, and hopes she is better. Yes. Barbara is a great deal better. She is afraid—and here Barbara looks down and blushes more—that he must have thought her very foolish. ‘Not at all,’ says Kit. Barbara is glad of that, and coughs—Hem!—just the slightest cough possible—not more than that.

What a discreet pony when he chooses! He is as quiet now as if he were of marble. He has a very knowing look, but that he always has. ‘We have hardly had time to shake hands, Barbara,’ says Kit. Barbara gives him hers. Why, she is trembling now! Foolish, fluttering Barbara!



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Farewell to the Travellers

Chapter 69

Phiz

Text Illustrated:

Barbara was the subject of Mr Chuckster’s commendations; and as she was lingering near the carriage (all being now ready for its departure), that gentleman was suddenly seized with a strong interest in the proceedings, which impelled him to swagger down the garden, and take up his position at a convenient ogling distance. Having had great experience of the sex, and being perfectly acquainted with all those little artifices which find the readiest road to their hearts, Mr Chuckster, on taking his ground, planted one hand on his hip, and with the other adjusted his flowing hair. This is a favourite attitude in the polite circles, and, accompanied with a graceful whistling, has been known to do immense execution.

Such, however, is the difference between town and country, that nobody took the smallest notice of this insinuating figure; the wretches being wholly engaged in bidding the travellers farewell, in kissing hands to each other, waving handkerchiefs, and the like tame and vulgar practices. For now the single gentleman and Mr Garland were in the carriage, and the post-boy was in the saddle, and Kit, well wrapped and muffled up, was in the rumble behind; and Mrs Garland was there, and Mr Abel was there, and Kit’s mother was there, and little Jacob was there, and Barbara’s mother was visible in remote perspective, nursing the ever-wakeful baby; and all were nodding, beckoning, curtseying, or crying out, ‘Good bye!’ with all the energy they could express. In another minute, the carriage was out of sight; and Mr Chuckster remained alone on the spot where it had lately been, with a vision of Kit standing up in the rumble waving his hand to Barbara, and of Barbara in the full light and lustre of his eyes—his eyes—Chuckster’s—Chuckster the successful—on whom ladies of quality had looked with favour from phaetons in the parks on Sundays—waving hers to Kit!

How Mr Chuckster, entranced by this monstrous fact, stood for some time rooted to the earth, protesting within himself that Kit was the Prince of felonious characters, and very Emperor or Great Mogul of Snobs, and how he clearly traced this revolting circumstance back to that old villany of the shilling, are matters foreign to our purpose; which is to track the rolling wheels, and bear the travellers company on their cold, bleak journey.


Commentary:

The Old Curiosity Shop can be read as a study in contrasts:

Youthful Little Nell versus the old curios and her elderly grandfather at the Old Curiosity Shop

The goodness and virtue of Little Nell as compared to the evil Quilp

Little Nell acting like an adult when her grandfather can’t cope

The masculine qualities of Sally Brass as well as the feminine qualities of Sampson Brass

The passivity of Nell versus the energy of Quilp


message 46: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5710 comments Mod


The body was washed ashore, some miles down river, a swollen disfigured mass.

Fred Barnard

Household Edition 1907 compilation

You will be surprised to know that the line below the illustration isn't found in The Old Curiosity Shop. That's because I made a mistake (almost) and posted this as an illustration of Quilp's death. I was only a second or so from posting, but was so confused I stopped and spent some time looking "for" and not just "at" the illustration. I was confused because it is by Fred Barnard I could tell that, and yet he didn't illustrate TOCS. So the search began. It is an illustration from Dicken's, but not from TOCS, it is from the Sketches by Boz "The Drunkard's Death". I'm posting the commentary that goes with the illustration, Curiosity does get a mention in it.

Text Illustrated:

He crept softly down the steep stone stairs that lead from the commencement of Waterloo Bridge, down to the water’s level. He crouched into a corner, and held his breath, as the patrol passed. Never did prisoner's heart throb with the hope of liberty and life half so eagerly as did that of the wretched man at the prospect of death. The watch passed close to him, but he remained unobserved; and after waiting till the sound of footsteps had died away in the distance, he cautiously descended, and stood beneath the gloomy arch that forms the landing-place from the river.

The tide was in, and the water flowed at his feet. The rain had ceased, the wind was lulled, and all was, for the moment, still and quiet—so quiet, that the slightest sound on the opposite bank, even the rippling of the water against the barges that were moored there, was distinctly audible to his ear. The stream stole languidly and sluggishly on. Strange and fantastic forms rose to the surface, and beckoned him to approach; dark gleaming eyes peered from the water, and seemed to mock his hesitation, while hollow murmurs from behind, urged him onwards. He retreated a few paces, took a short run, desperate leap, and plunged into the river.

Not five seconds had passed when he rose to the water’s surface—but what a change had taken place in that short time, in all his thoughts and feelings! Life— life in any form, poverty, misery, starvation—anything but death. He fought and struggled with the water that closed over his head, and screamed in agonies of terror. The curse of his own son rang in his ears. The shore—but one foot of dry ground—he could almost touch the step. One hand’s breadth nearer, and he was saved—but the tide bore him onward, under the dark arches of the bridge, and he sank to the bottom.

Again he rose, and struggled for life. For one instant—for one brief instant—the buildings on the river’s banks, the lights on the bridge through which the current had borne him, the black water, and the fast-flying clouds, were distinctly visible—once more he sunk, and once again he rose. Bright flames of fire shot up from earth to heaven, and reeled before his eyes, while the water thundered in his ears, and stunned him with its furious roar.

A week afterwards the body was washed ashore, some miles down the river, a swollen and disfigured mass. Unrecognised and unpitied, it was borne to the grave; and there it has long since mouldered away!
— "Tales," chap. xii, p. 240.

Commentary:

Once again, as the narrator of "The Drunkard's Death" declares, the events of the plot that lead to the climax at the end of the story are familiar ones, "of too frequent occurrence to be rare items in any man's experience" (p. 484). In this case, an alcoholic father neglects his saintly wife who eventually dies of a broken heart, drives his sons away from home, and exploits his daughter. The latter, in turn, eventually leaves him when one of her brothers, now a murderer who has returned to their slum apartment for refuge, is drunkenly betrayed by the father "into the hangman's hands". Once again, the primary purpose of this piece appears to be not its deliberately conventional account of the road to run — in this instance along the route later depicted in Cruikshank's The Bottle [eight illustrations, 1847] — but rather its presentation of an irrational state of mind. In particular, this irrational mental state is that of the reprobate father whose drunkenness is equated with madness. — Deborah A. Thomas.

Having actively sought his own death in the waters of the Thames at Waterloo Bridge, the drunkard ironically realizes that he wishes to live. But his resolution comes too late for him to save himself from drowning.

The protagonist has determined that he should die, alone and friendless, like Betty Higden in Our Mutual Friend, but he does not have the dignified death of the self-reliant old woman who has supported herself all her life and is not about to stoop to taking charity in her final days. In fact, by Providence (or sheer coincidence), Betty does not die alone as Lizzie Hexam finds her; no such providential piece of luck attends the death of the drunkard, Warden. Whereas the reader easily extends sympathy to the fiercely independent Betty as she is determined not to be a burden to the parish and die in a workhouse, Dickens and Barnard have to manipulate the reader through a sympathetic and sentimental portrayal of an incorrigible alcoholic whose addiction has led inevitably towards his suicide — as if he were one of the unfortunates in George Cruikshank's cautionary visual sequence The Drunkard's Children (1848). Dickens's including such a degenerate among his views of "Every-day People" implies that the author felt the problems caused by poverty and addiction were far more prevalent than his upper-middle-class readers would like to believe. The scene of the shore is a melancholy conclusion to a volume that began with social satire and acute observation of the London scene.

What exactly did the term "middle class" signify in London of the 1830s when Dickens wrote a series of "sketches" to describe "Every-day Life and Every-day People"? Dickens's own anxieties about his own place in this somewhat nebulous but growing constituent of English society are reflected in the range of young men who somehow exemplify le bourgeoisie Anglais. Hence, he begins with the local authority, the Beadle, and the parish council who traditionally elected this parochial figure. He includes in his description of middle-class types a small property owner, as in "Our Neighbour Next-door," and even a prosperous stock-brocker, the acme of the commercial class, Mr. Sempronius Gattleton of suburban Clapham Rise in "Mr. Joseph Porter," and even aspiring shop-people such as Jemima Evans and her beau ("Miss Evans and The Eagle"). Members of this class indulge in music, amateur theatricals, excursions, and even vacations. They seem much closer to modern, middle-class readers than, for example, the mixed bag of bourgeoisie who comprise Chaucer's pilgrims in The General Prologue to 'The Canterbury Tales'. They yearn for comfort, affluence, and family life, like the wealthy spinster Miss Lillerton, the timid bachelor Watkins Tottle, and the Kitterbells. But in "The Drunkard's Death" Dickens confronts what lies below the middle class, the under-class that his profligate father John very nearly joined once incarcerated in the Marshalsea Debtors' Prison. Although to modern readers the final vision of the lower echelons of English society is depressing and thought-provoking, to young Charles Dickens just breaking into print and making his way up the class structure, the prospect of alcoholism, degeneracy, and an ignominious death in the waters of the Thames must have been terrifying. Certainly, in his later novels Dickens revisited such deaths in such scenes as "Yet the cold was merciful, for it was the cold night air and the rain that restored me from a swoon on the stones of the causeway" in Our Mutual Friend (Book Two, Chapter 13), "It's summut run down in the fog" in Our Mutual Friend (Book Three, Chapter 2), and The Bird of Prey brought down in Our Mutual Friend (Book One, Chapter 4). The composition, however, most closely resembles Phiz's Death of Quilp in the 16 January 1841 installment of The Old Curiosity Shop, with the corpse lying washed up on the mudflats among some rotting pylons. However, whereas Phiz has an ominous sky on the horizon, Barnard here places London with its many church spires right, rear, giving both a context and a sense of alienation — the life of the metropolis goes on, despite society's failure in this particular, now lifeless figure who, unlike the corpse of Quilp, still looks very much human.


message 47: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5710 comments Mod
And here we have - which Marchioness is the real one?














message 48: by Ami (new)

Ami | 372 comments Kim wrote: "And here we have - which Marchioness is the real one?

"


Third one from the top, Kim. That's the one that gets my vote. The others have a likeness to Amelia Badelia, don't they?


message 49: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4465 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "Tristram wrote: "I have often voiced my feelings of boredom and impatience with Dickens's idealized heroines"

No kidding."


So you remember?


message 50: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4465 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Yes, drowning was to good for 'im :-) How about tying him to a comfy armc..."

Aren't you glad we don't have to read this book again with each other for at least five years?"


I sure am, but then there are some of the Christmas stories which are like a toothache to me.


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