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Martin Chuzzlewit > MC Chapters 39-41

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message 1: by Peter (new)

Peter | 2972 comments Mod
Chapter 39

We have had our share of turmoil, travel, and trauma in the last few chapters so it is a relief to turn to a more pleasant and stable circumstance, if only for a short time. The chapter opens with the sentence “Pleasant little Ruth! Cheerful, tidy bustling, quiet little Ruth!” Here is a bit of domestic bliss, a closer approximation to Eden than we have become accustomed to of late. While Coventry Patmore’s poem “The Angel in the House” was not published until 1854, this chapter gives us an early impression of the ideal Victorian woman, a trope that we have not yet encountered in any great detail in this novel.

Ruth and Tom settle into their “doll’s house.” Ruth has the symbolic keys and Tom is quite happy to enjoy whatever form of meal Ruth may prepare. One meal is to be a beef-steak- pudding which will be Ruth’s first attempt at cooking but their joy of being together overrides any doubt about the meal’s taste. Tom tells Ruth that his friend John Westlock will be able to help them settle into life in London and so John gets an invitation to dinner as well.

We find out that Tom is 35 years old but little else when he attempts to write his resume. As Tom works on his resume and Ruth prepares the dinner, John Westlake appears to be very interested in Ruth. I predict love will be in the air between John and Ruth before dinner is served. John Westlake comes with some remarkable, almost unbelievable news. He tells Tom that a mysterious man was asking after Tom, a man with an offer of employment for Tom as a secretary with a salary of £100 per year. All that is known of this man is that he is familiar with the Blue Dragon. The man’s name who spoke to John Westlake is Mr Fips who resides in Austin Friars, but who the actual employer is remains a mystery. Ruth has some suspicion of Westlake’s story, but Tom is as pleased as punch.

Thoughts

This chapter has a delightfully upbeat tone. It has humour, warmth, and presents us with a setting of domestic happiness and good news for Tom. Why is such a chapter necessary at this point in the novel?

So far in the novel we have seen much disharmony between men and women. Here, it is evident that John Westlake and Ruth Pinch are showing early signs of harmony and mutual attraction. Do you see any future for these two characters? If yes, how might this chapter be seen as pivotal to the novel’s structure?

Tom and John head to Austin Friars to find office of Mr Fips. The building and office are rather dark and dingy, but Tom is delighted at the prospect of securing a job. Tom assures Mr Fips that he will strive to be a perfect employee for the mysterious employer and is eager to see where he will actually work. Tom and John proceed to the Temple where they again meet Mr Fips and Fips hands over a bunch of rusty keys to Tom. Here we have the symbol of keys again. Ruth has the keys to the home and thus her domestic duties and Tom has a set of keys for an office where he will work. Each person in their place; each person with a specific role to fulfill. In a later chapter we will again see keys play a role in identifying the role of a character. More of that later.

The group go into a room which is dusty, musty, and rather dingy. There are piles of books and reams of paper strewn about. Tom’s job, explains Fips, is to catalogue and bring order to the contents of the room. Tom is overjoyed and rubs his hands in anticipation of his job. Fips leaves and Tom and John speculate on what all this means. Tom’s curiosity as to the situation is matched by John’s casual enjoyment of the unfolding events. With Tom’s employment secured, he and John make their way back to Tom’s rooms where we find Ruth has a wonderful meal prepared. As Dickens notes “It is astonishing how much three people may find to talk about.” During their conversation Tom relates the events and fortunes of Pecksniff’s daughters to John who takes a very keen interest in the information of young Martin going to America and Pecksniff beginning to get old Martin under his power. John is one curious man, isn’t he? The chapter ends as we learn that Ruth has received a “present” of a cookery-book with the beef-steak-pudding leaf torn out. Ah, is there romance in the air?


Thoughts

Dickens takes some time in the descriptions of both Fips’ office and Tom’s workplace in the Temple. In these descriptions we get to enjoy Dickens ability to describe a physical place. To what extent do you think each of these places may have a symbolic suggestion or meaning attached to them? In what ways are the offices an extension of the person who inhabits them?

Who might be the mysterious employer of Tom Pinch? Why do you suggest that person?

To what extent do you find Tom Pinch’s character to be evolving?


message 2: by Peter (new)

Peter | 2972 comments Mod
Chapter 40

After the last pleasing and upbeat chapter this chapter presents us with a mystery. The beginning of the chapter tells us that each morning Tom left for work and “turned his face towards an atmosphere of unaccountable fascination.” His place of work at the
Temple begins with “the first planting of his foot upon the staircase of his dusty office [and] these mysteries increased;” Each day Tom speculates on who his mysterious employer is and if and when he or she will appear. Each day Tom makes good progress on his assigned task and each day Tom’s mind creates and considers the mystery of his employment. Fips is of no help. Indeed, he actively discourages Tom’s curiosity.

Thoughts


What could the mystery employer’s motive be for not revealing him/herself to Tom?

Who do you suspect it may be? Why?


We are not done with mysteries and unexplained events in this chapter. One of Tom and Ruth's habits is to go for a pleasant walk in the mornings before the workday begun. No matter how early their stroll began, their landlord had already left the house. In these middle paragraphs of this chapter Dickens takes us with Tom and Ruth and thus gives us a flavour and taste of early London waking up and preparing itself for the day. He presents us with the sights, sounds, and smells of the early day. On this particular day we follow Tom and Ruth to the docks where the steamboats are found. If we recall the steamboats that plied their route past Eden we get a clear contrast between the languor in that part of America and the “incessant roar from every packet’s funnel, which quite expressed and carried out the uppermost emotion of the scene” that is found in London.

Thoughts

We know from earlier chapters that America is a place of much promise and progress. Still, I find the contrast of Eden to London, and the steamboat traffic found in each location, to be very interesting. To what extent do you think Dickens wanted his readers to compare London to America?

As Tom and Ruth watch the bustle of activity aboard one ship Tom finds himself the victim of much prodding from a very large umbrella. Ah, an umbrella. Could it be? Yes it is. It turns out that Tom is being prodded by none other than Mrs Gamp. Tom tries to appease the grumpy Mrs Gamp and ultimately she gets to squeeze in beside Tom. For some reason, Mrs Gamp has a profound interest in the steamship bound for Antwerp. What follows is a section with Mrs Gamp speaking to Mrs Harris. I leave you to figure out the conversation. :) we are left with a question. What is Mrs Gamp doing so early in the morning looking at steamships? It seems she has her eye on the steps leading down to the gangway to the ships. Ruth asks Mrs Gamp who she is so interested in, to which Gamp replies it is a lady who is with a man all wrapped up “from head to foot in a large cloak, so that most of his head is hidden. This man, whoever he may be is jerking the lady’s wrist and seems “to be hasty with her.”

Mrs Gamp is very distressed by the treatment the lady is receiving from the gentleman. Then Tom and Ruth’s landlord appears beside them and asks if they have seen a man all covered up and hidden by clothes. When Tom says he does see the man his landlord asks him to deliver a letter to the mystery man. Tom agrees and discovers the man all wrapped up in cloaks to be none other than Jonas Chuzzlewit. When Jonas reads the note its one line “struck upon him like a stone from a sling. He reeled back as he read.” Jonas then “dragged rather than led [Merry] forth. She was pale and frightened, and amazed to see her old acquaintance ; but had no time to speak.” When Merry asks where they are going Jonas tells her “We are going back ... . Don’t question me, or I shall be the death of you, or someone else.” Once on shore, Jonas “shook his clinched hand at [Tom].” With that, Jonas “dragged [Merry] fiercely. Next, the amazed Tom observes a gentleman approach Jonas and call him by name. It turns out that this man is none other than Mountague Tigg. These latest paragraphs have been an avalanche of coincidence and plot intrigue. Let’s see if we can unravel some of them. We learn that Tom and Ruth are the tenants of Nadgett who operates as a confident and detective/spy for Mountague. We learn that Jonas was attempting to leave the country with Merry and he was in disguise. We learn that Mrs Gamp, who knows both Jonas and Merry as she tended to Chuffey, has followed them to the wharf. We learn that Jonas fears Montague for some reason and casts sinister looks at both Montague and Tom.

What is your initial reaction to Jonas in disguise as he attempts to flee the country?

What do we learn about the relationship between Montague and Jonas? Who is the most powerful? Why?

How might Mrs Gamp fit into this matrix of characters in the future?

How cleverly has Dickens used Tom and Ruth as characters in this scene?

This is the second time that Jonas has threatened violence against Tom. How much danger might Tom really be in?

Once again, we witness the physicality of Jonas towards Merry. What might this foreshadow?

Merry has no idea what is going on and begs Tom for insight as to what just occurred. Tom has no idea. What would you tell Merry?

Did you enjoy watching Jonas be outsmarted and trapped despite his attempt to hid from others? Why do you think Jonas felt it necessary to disguise himself and flee the country? Were you surprised that he brought Merry with him? Why might he have brought Merry with him?

The chapter ends with Nadgett looking over the parapet, and down into the steam-boat wharf. Dickens tells us that “he never took pleasure.” What is the business that Nadgett has?


message 3: by Peter (last edited Jan 12, 2020 05:46AM) (new)

Peter | 2972 comments Mod
Chapter 41

For those of us who have developed a dislike of Jonas Chuzzlewit because of his treatment of his father Anthony Chuzzlewit, Tom Pinch, Merry Pecksniff, Chuffey, Mrs Gamp or anyone else this chapter should make us feel a bit better. It seems that the disreputable nature of Jonas has met his match with Montague. Montague is very smooth in his conversation with Jonas. He speaks with a cruel casualness. You can almost hear the sweetened bitterness and irony in his comment to Jonas: “This is not handsome, Chuzzlewit! ... Not handsome upon my soul!” Jonas attempts to claim that he was not in the process of fleeing the county but Montague counters with the obvious facts that Jonas was on a foreign ship at an early hour and wrapped up in a disguise. Jonas would be wise, I think, not to protest too much. Montague taunts Jonas and reminds him that he has recently discovered some secret. This revelation unsettles Jonas. Tigg furthers his taunts by feigning weakness and doubt, which serves to further weaken Jonas. Then Montague calls Jonas “weak.” There is little question about Montague’s intent. Montague has some news or information about Jonas that makes Jonas a target for blackmail. Whatever this secret is Montague would benefit if he made the information public. Montague freely admits that his motive in life is profit, not morality, and warns Jonas that he must come to “a friendly agreement, or an unfriendly crash.” In reply, Jonas can only offer a vague and incomprehensible threat that he will settle an account with someone, but Montague does not know who.

Thoughts

In this chapter Jonas is a different person than the one we have met before. What possible information could Tigg’s have that would change Jonas’s character, aggression and bravado so much?

Do you think Merry is at all aware of what is going on between Montague and Jonas? To what extent do you think Merry might well be relieved that Jonas has met his match with someone else?

How would you characterize the manner in which the conversation between Momtague and Jonas unfolded?


Jonas wants to know if anyone besides Montague knows the secret. The answer is no. Hmmm ... would you trust Montague? Do you think Montague has the time to play spy on his employees? There is a plan afoot for Jonas to visit Pecksniff because “he cannot be enticed too soon.” Such news excites Jonas as there will be “some fun in catching the old hypocrite. I hate him. Shall I go tonight?” Jonas’s comment is pleasure to Montague’s ears and he responds “we understand each other now! To-night, my good fellow, by all means.” Well, it seems that the two have partially made up. I doubt whether either will ever trust the other, but the lure of money and gain seem to calm their recent disagreement. Montague hesitates to go with Jonas to see Pecksniff but Jonas assures him that with his new appearance of black hair he will not be recognized. The two devils strike an agreement and prepare to go together. The two men wait for night to begin their travel. In the intervening time Jonas sees Nadgett but is unaware that he is the Pinch’s landlord. Montague then questions Nadgett about who gave the letter to Jonas and finds out it was Tom Pinch.

Thoughts

What might Jonas and Montague be up to when they go to see Pecksniff?

What could be a future plot purpose of Montague knowing that Tom Pinch lives in Nadgett’s home?


The remainder of the chapter contains both transparent plot possibilities and yet more mystery. Over a bottle of Madeira and some sandwiches Jonas engages the doctor with questions about lancets. Jonas learns that the doctor has opened many a vein with a lancet and confirms that one could easily cut a man’s throat. Jonas then gets the doctor to demonstrate the location of a person’s jugular vein. No doubt a bit tipsy from the Madeira, the doctor then recalls stories of people being skillfully killed by acting out the scenes. Dinner and more drinking follow and the time finally comes to leave London and head for Wiltshire and Pecksniff. It appears that Montague plans to take Bailey with them to which Jonas First shakes the boy and then “threw him roughly aside.” Next, Jonas makes a thrust at the doctor as if he were going to kill him. Jonas then settles into the carriage for the trip. Well now, Jonas is into his bullying pattern again. He then lunges at the doctor in imitation of killing him. Finally Jonas is ready. Ready for what? The doctor has the final words of the chapter. He states “it will be a stormy night! “

Thoughts

Dickens is keeping many secrets from his readers. As well, he is also creating an enormous amount of foreshadowing and suspense. Jonas has learned how and where to plunge a lancet into a person’s body in order to kill. He is back to roughly handling another individual, in this case Bailey, just as he physically abuses his wife. Boys and wives seem to be his preferred victims. Who do you think might be the intended victim(s) of Jonas as we move forward in the novel?


Reflections

I am relieved that the novel’s pace has picked up. Jonas is a very nasty person and he is certainly one of the featured characters in the novel. There is something he did which Montague is aware of and Jonas fears coming to light. I have a suspicion, but what do you think? Who are the intended victims of Jonas? I also realized how much disguises are playing a part in this novel. Montague has changed his appearance, Jonas was in a disguise when he attempted to board the ship, Nadgett is both a known and unknown person to those around him, and we have two Martin Chuzzlewit’s which may not be a disguise but is curious don’t you think. Also, Mrs Gamp has a fictional person she talks to and we have a mystery man who is Tom’s employer. I believe it is someone we have already met, but is choosing to remain in disguise for now.

Much yet to be revealed.


message 4: by Bobbie (new)

Bobbie | 280 comments These later chapters are holding my interest much better as we progress. I do wonder who Tom's employer is and why he is being so secretive. I also believe it will be someone we know but I can't really guess who it may be. I hope that Tom's fortunes have changed for the good now.
I am wondering now about Martin and Mark, anxious to find out how they are faring back in London.


message 5: by Jantine (last edited Jan 12, 2020 03:24AM) (new)

Jantine (eccentriclady) | 559 comments Me too, Bobbie!

I did like the happy chapter about Tom and Ruth in between. Somehow I'm a sucker for domestic happiness in Dickens' novels, as long as they don't take up the whole of it. That said, the chapter was a bit long again, but that could also have been because I was very busy in the last week, which surely makes it a bit harder to read on in a happy portrayal like that.

I wondered about who the employer might be. There's Westlock again, who really wants Tom to succeed in London, and who is really happy to have him out of Pecksniff's grasp. Then, there's old Martin C, who didn't say a lot when Tom was sent away, but who has done a lot of observing I guess. I still do not believe he just sucks up everything Pecksniff says, so he might want to provide for Tom too, and have his library sorted out in the process. He does have a history of giving people with some kind of disadvantage employment, like he did with Mary.

As for the symbols, Tom is actively cheering a dusty and dark place up and sorting it out. He might have done or do the same with someone's life in the past, and that person likes him for it. Furthermore, the giving of money to him now is secretive and in the dark, someone doesn't want to pull attention to it, like Pecksniff did - making a great deal out of paying Tom, I mean. I think Dickens wants to emphasize on the contrast between this job where Tom really is given a good and useful job, and the job he had where his employer mostly wanted to make a good charity case out of him and win more than he showed of paying him, I'm sure.


message 6: by Jantine (last edited Jan 12, 2020 03:34AM) (new)

Jantine (eccentriclady) | 559 comments So, chapter 40. Of course it was Gamp! It was clear from the start it was her. And so we see, now first handed, how she makes up the conversation with Mrs. Harris, who apparently was with her in her mind. I do want to believe even Gamp kept an eye out for Merry, out of being worried for her wellbeing. She might also do so because she does not want to lose her business prospect though. It is clear she has been interested in Merry's wellbeing for either reason. As I said before, I somehow still do not see Sairey as a really bad person. She needs the money, sure, but she also shows concern in her own strange way. And she knows how it is to have a violent husband. Now I come to think of it, might it have been her who whispered Jonas' secret into Nadgett's ear? They were there coïncidentally at the same time again, and Sairey might have noticed some bad things and whispers from Jonas too, plus she has an experienced (if flawed) eye if it comes to medical things like, well, poisoned parents and old dependants and such. It might have been her way to repay him for his violence and meanness. But then, my mind might make too much of it.

Btw, off course it's not only Tiggs who knows about Jonas' secret. There's Nadgett who knows, and the person who whispered it into Nadgett's ear, so there are at least two more people who know.

As I found chapter 39 a slight bit long, chapter 41 was short and sweet. Very short, and very sweet to see Jonas being punished like this.


message 7: by Peter (new)

Peter | 2972 comments Mod
Jantine wrote: "Me too, Bobbie!

I did like the happy chapter about Tom and Ruth in between. Somehow I'm a sucker for domestic happiness in Dickens' novels, as long as they don't take up the whole of it. That sai..."


Hi Jantine

I found your development of the possible avenues of meaning for the symbols in this section very insightful and packed with possibilities. I am a constant fan of how Dickens develops physical settings around his characters’ homes, rooms, and offices as they too become alive and either reflect or conflict with their inhabitants.

In fact, I can often recall a physical setting more clearly than the person who dwells in it.

There will be at least one more wonderful physical setting of a room that is coming. No spoilers, but Jonas will be involved. ;-)


message 8: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4376 comments Mod
I know I am probably the only one here but Chapter 39 was, on the whole, quite boring to me: What's the use of spending several pages on describing how Ruth Pinch makes a pudding, and how joyful all this is for Ruth and her brother? You could have done that in one or two paragraphs, but it is all too obvious that Dickens has a crush on Ruth and therefore loves picturing her running upstairs and downstairs, laughing about her own forgetfulness and enjoying her housework. However, something that amuses Dickens need not always amuse the reader - it's the same with Trollope's obligatory hunting scenes, only worse.

Coming to think of Ruth, I hardly see any real justification for her being in the novel at all - with one exception: She is a kind of catalysator that brings to light a more plucky, manful Tom Pinch. Apart from that - and even that could have been done by Mary Graham - I do not think that Ruth fulfils any purpose in the tale. At least, I don't see any real subplot connected with her.


message 9: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4376 comments Mod
Jantine, I like the parallel you draw between Tom's putting back order into that dusty library and his sorting out and lighting somebody's life in the past. It could really be Westlook, who knows - remember how he restored Tom's loan to Tigg - that he must use some white lie in order to make Tom accept a favour.

Secret benefactors seem to be a constant motif in this novel, by the way. How likely do you think it for Tom's mysterious employer to be the same person that sent that money - I forgot how much - to Martin before the young man went to America?


message 10: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4376 comments Mod
Mrs. Gamp's curiosity with regard to seeing Merry and Jonas leave for Antwerp may partly be kindled by pity and empathy. Partly, however - as in most instances when people show empathy and bemoan the fate of others -, it might be due to a feeling of sensationalism and of self-gratification in the voicing of good sentiments.

We do hear some strange particulars about Mrs Gamp's life in this chapter, namely,

"'[...] “Oh Sairey, Sairey, little do we know wot lays afore us!” “Mrs Harris, ma’am,” I says, “not much, it’s true, but more than you suppoge. Our calcilations, ma’am,” I says, “respectin’ wot the number of a family will be, comes most times within one, and oftener than you would suppoge, exact.” “Sairey,” says Mrs Harris, in a awful way, “Tell me wot is my indiwidgle number.” “No, Mrs Harris,” I says to her, “ex–cuge me, if you please. My own,” I says, “has fallen out of three–pair backs, and had damp doorsteps settled on their lungs, and one was turned up smilin’ in a bedstead unbeknown. Therefore, ma’am,” I says, “seek not to proticipate, but take ’em as they come and as they go.” Mine,’ says Mrs Gamp, ‘mine is all gone, my dear young chick. And as to husbands, there’s a wooden leg gone likeways home to its account, which in its constancy of walkin’ into wine vaults, and never comin’ out again ‘till fetched by force, was quite as weak as flesh, if not weaker.’"


I am not sure whether I understood it all correctly but it seems that Mrs. Gamp had several children who all died in their early years, mostly from illness. Her husband was a heavy drinker and probably not much of support for her. All in all, Mrs. Gamp is quite a tragic character in her own way - and her pity for Merry may be the result of her own memories.


message 11: by Peter (new)

Peter | 2972 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "I know I am probably the only one here but Chapter 39 was, on the whole, quite boring to me: What's the use of spending several pages on describing how Ruth Pinch makes a pudding, and how joyful al..."

Ah Tristram

How could you not have some enjoyment of Ruth? There is a rumour that Dickens was originally going to call her Nelly. :-)


message 12: by Jantine (new)

Jantine (eccentriclady) | 559 comments Tristram, I think it might very well be the same person, 'cause how many secret benefactors can there be in one novel? Westlock still is my main suspect, although I do hope for some kind of surprise about the whole secret benefactor thing.

I read the part of Mrs. Gamp in the same way too. As I said, she is quite the tragic character, and although life has taught her to fight hard and mean for her own self-interest - she has to, no one does it for her, and no one did, and she has no one else than herself - she still feels some kind of connection to Merry. Who might as well turn into another Gamp, if she's lucky enough to find some merriness and bounce back after decades of Jonas. There probably is some sensationalism and 'Well, see, I'm not the only one!' too,

And yes, you are the one and only Grump. Thank you for keeping us down to earth ;-)


message 13: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2261 comments My predictions (not spoilers, unless, of course, I surprise us all by being correct):

~ Martin, Sr. is Tom's employer. His feeble reliance on Pecksniff doesn't ring true to me (especially after his sage - and private - advice to Merry), and I think he's got some plot in the works. I'm not sure just where it's all going, though. Who else do we know who has the money for a separate space, an attorney/business manager on retainer, funds to pay Tom, etc. Perhaps Mary was Tom's advocate. And if Martin, Sr. IS up to something, will he protect Mary from Pecksniff?

~ Jonas killed Anthony, somehow Nadgett got proof, and Tigg is blackmailing Jonas. Why else would Jonas have been so concerned about appearances following Anthony's death? And what else could make him so worried and compliant now?

~Jonas, thinking that Tigg is the only one who knows his secret (but as Jantine astutely noted, the secret is not as well kept as he believes it to be), will try to use the doctor's scalpel to do Tigg in. Whether or not he succeeds, he won't get away with it. For heaven's sake - if nothing else, Jobling would surely suspect him after that morbid dinner they shared. Jonas really isn't very bright, is he? Just look at that "disguise" he wore onto the boat. Might as well have been wearing a big neon sign.

We'll see if I'm guessing right, or if I'm way off base.

Tristram, you aren't alone; I guess I'm a grump, too. As much as I love Dickens' domestic harmony (and I do, truly!), the beginning of chapter 39 made me nauseous. I like Ruth and Tom, but I hate the way Dickens fawns over her. What he never seemed to get is that his heroines would be even more lovable if they were just a tad more human and less angelic. I think that must have been why Dolly Varden was so popular. She had little, dainty feet, but she also had a backbone and some spunk. I was proud to be a stay-at-home mom, but Ruth even makes ME want her to put shoes on those little feet of hers and get the heck out of the kitchen!

I'll also iterate my wish that Dickens hadn't written some of the dialogue quite so phonetically. As with Sam Weller, I think I'd be much more fond of Mrs. Gamp if I didn't have to slog through her speech. Quite often I just give up. Which is too bad, as I'm sure there are some real gems in there. As Jantine said, Mrs. Gamp is not a bad person -- she's just had a hard life. The scene with the umbrella was a hoot, by the way. I could see it playing out in my mind. Great physical comedy!

FYI - Dewey didn't come up with his library classification system until 1876, so I don't know how Tom went about sorting that mess of a library. It's the kind of thing that would have made my head explode. My own home library is sorted by a system that probably makes sense only to me, involving a combination of factors such as subject, author, book height, spine color, read vs. unread, etc. Is Dewey even used in England? This is the kind of tangent that could keep me sidetracked for weeks.


message 14: by Jantine (new)

Jantine (eccentriclady) | 559 comments He might sort the books by writer and then title on alphabetical order? That's a system I think of first, without knowledge of the Dewey-system. But the subject of the books clearly plays a part too, since he takes some books to read, and he could say it was to find out what they were about for his work if asked about it. Anyway, the way the library was described, I think simply putting the books on shelves would be an improvement.


message 15: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4376 comments Mod
Peter wrote: "There is a rumour that Dickens was originally going to call her Nelly. :-) "

I'm sure he'd have had good reason for doing so. There is a Nelly in most of his books.


message 16: by Tristram (last edited Jan 15, 2020 08:39AM) (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4376 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "I have to break down and tell you that yes, you are the only one grump."

I can't believe that there aren't any other people who would like to take the enjoyment of being grumpy. It actually requires only little skill, otherwise I couldn't do it.


message 17: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4376 comments Mod
Jantine wrote: "And yes, you are the one and only Grump. Thank you for keeping us down to earth ;-) "

Just noticed that Grump and Gamp share a lot of letters. Another fine reason for being grumpy.


message 18: by Tristram (last edited Jan 15, 2020 08:47AM) (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4376 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "I'll also iterate my wish that Dickens hadn't written some of the dialogue quite so phonetically. As with Sam Weller, I think I'd be much more fond of Mrs. Gamp if I didn't have to slog through her speech. Quite often I just give up. Which is too bad, as I'm sure there are some real gems in there. As Jantine said, Mrs. Gamp is not a bad person -- she's just had a hard life. The scene with the umbrella was a hoot, by the way. I could see it playing out in my mind. Great physical comedy!"

One of my first term papers at university was on the ideolect of Mrs. Gamp. I collected all the longer passages of her speaking in the novel and then examined the particular features of her manner of speaking, as an example of Dickens's craftmanship. The paper must be somewhere in my father's basement, hopefully. I also have it on one of those small computer disks that have become useless by now.

"FYI - Dewey didn't come up with his library classification system until 1876, so I don't know how Tom went about sorting that mess of a library. It's the kind of thing that would have made my head explode. My own home library is sorted by a system that probably makes sense only to me, involving a combination of factors such as subject, author, book height, spine color, read vs. unread, etc. Is Dewey even used in England? This is the kind of tangent that could keep me sidetracked for weeks."

I have a very simple cataloguing system for my library: I put every new book wherever some space is left. It works! As long as I don't have to find a particular book.


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 867 comments Chapters 40 & 41

Well, everyone is falling over everyone in London again. And things are getting complicated.

But there is the Temple. I want to explore it.


message 20: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5552 comments Mod


Mr. Pinch and Ruth unconscious of a visitor

Chapter 39

Phiz


Passage Illustrated: The Return of John Westlock; The Pinches' Housekeeping

"That a pudding!" said Tom.
"It will be, you stupid fellow, when it's covered in," returned his sister. Tom still pretending to look incredulous, she gave him a tap on the head with the rolling-pin, and still laughing merrily, had returned to the composition of the top crust, when she started and turned very red. Tom started, too, for following her eyes, he saw John Westlock in the room.
"Why, my goodness, John! How did you come in?"
"I beg pardon," said John —" your sister's pardon especially — but I met an old lady at the street door, who requested me to enter here; and as you didn't hear me knock, and the door was open, I made bold to do so. I hardly know," said John, with a smile, "why any of us should be disconcerted at my having accidentally intruded upon such an agreeable domestic occupation, so very agreeably and skillfully pursued; but I must confess that I am. Tom, will you kindly come to my relief?"


Commentary: Tom and Ruth, both discharged, set up housekeeping together

The reader has not seen the handsome John Westlock since his abrupt departure from Pecksniff's in the second chapter, when the devious architect's meanness and duplicity so disgusted him that he felt compelled to leave. In London, meanwhile, he has apparently met with some financial success, as Phiz intimates by his fashionable clothing and self-confident air. Phiz and Dickens re-introduce Westlock into the action at this point for a variety of reasons, including his connection with Lewsome and setting up his marriage proposal to Ruth. Other characters connected to the Pinches through their lodgings are fellow renter Sairey Gamp and their mysterious landlord, Mr. Nadgett, who is also the confidential detective of Tigg's insurance firm.
In the illustration Phiz also effectively introduces the character of Tom's sister, who has lately been the governess in the family of a wealthy but callous brass-founder. Those odious, ill-mannered noveau riche borgeoisie have constantly belittled and humiliated her. Having left Pecksniff's, Tom comes to Ruth's rescue, and together they set up housekeeping, which includes preparing meals cooperatively. The kitchen scene involving the joint preparation of the pudding has been a source of delight for sentimental readers and illustrators. Through the delightful interchange between brother and sister, Dickens and Phiz illustrate the theme of the fortunate fall as Tom and Ruth, both having quitted their positions for an uncertain future, transform adversity into paradise. Through the harmonious relationship of brother and sister the novelist and illustrator foil less successful relationships: Merry's fraught marriage with Jonas, Cherry's problematic engagement with Augustus Moddle, and Pecksniff's leering pursuit of Mary Graham.
In the illustration, we encounter once again the figure of Tom Pinch, whose moral, intellectual, and material progress constitute one of the novel's chief threads. Here, Tom writes out a curriculum vitae that John, expected later, may show to prospective employers. The many scraps of paper in the wastebasket beside Tom suggest that he has been struggling with how best to present himself for the London job-market. Phiz emphasizes the cramped quarters of the recently reunited brother and sister through the diminutive table on which food preparation vies for space with Tom's producing appropriate documents for his job-search. Books, suggestive of their intellectual and aesthetic natures, figure prominently behind the brother and sister, and Phiz offers the now-familiar symbol of a small flower in a vase (right) to imply the modest flourishing of their domestic relationship. The church and precincts in the painting above Tom's head may reflect his former avocation as a church organist in Wiltshire.
To the right, hat in hand, Westlock gently touches Tom on the back to gain his attention. Although he has already appeared in the text, this is John's first full appearance in the narrative-pictorial sequence, although Phiz had introduced him sketchily in Meekness of Mr. Pecksniff and his charming daughters, in Chapter 2 (Instalment I: January 1843) after he has quarrelled with Pecksniff. John will reappear in two subsequent illustrations that connect Tom Pinch's fortunes with those of the Chuzzlewit clan: Mysterious Installation of Mr. Pinch, in Chapter 39, and the climactic Warm Reception of Mr. Pecksniff by His Venerable Friend, in Chapter 52.


message 21: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5552 comments Mod


Mysterious installation of Mr. Pinch

Chapter 39

Phiz

Passage Illustrated: Setting the Chaotic Library to Rights

"Oh!" cried Mr. Fips, pulling on his glove, "didn’t I? No, by-the-bye, I don’t think I did. Ah! I dare say he’ll be here soon. You will get on very well together, I have no doubt. I wish you success I am sure. You won’t forget to shut the door? It’ll lock of itself if you slam it. Half-past nine, you know. Let us say from half-past nine to four, or half-past four, or thereabouts; one day, perhaps, a little earlier, another day, perhaps, a little later, according as you feel disposed, and as you arrange your work. Mr. Fips, Austin Friars of course you’ll remember? And you won’t forget to slam the door, if you please!"
He said all this in such a comfortable, easy manner, that Tom could only rub his hands, and nod his head, and smile in acquiescence which he was still doing, when Mr. Fips walked coolly out.
"Why, he’s gone!" cried Tom.
"And what’s more, Tom," said John Westlock, seating himself upon a pile of books, and looking up at his astonished friend, "he is evidently not coming back again; so here you are, installed. Under rather singular circumstances, Tom!"


Tom Pinch, The Chaotic Library, and Pecksniff's Comeuppance

Dickens and Phiz imply through this topsy-turvey room full of awkwardly balanced piles of books that Tom's project of setting the ruinous library to rights may be analogous to the challenge that author and illustrator have set serial readers, who must constantly assess the motives and movements of the large cast of characters, and try to see coherence in the apparently divergent plot-lines in the lengthy part-publication. Since this plot development occurs in the fifteenth instalment, Dickens now has only a quarter of the novel remaining in which to resolve the multiple plots, including the fates of Tom and Ruth Pinch. Just as Tom Pinch must tame and organize the jumbled mass of texts, so the reader must discipline the loose, baggy monster (to borrow Henry James's description) of the Victorian picaresque novel into a meaningful shape. Tom Pinch, who as an organist in the frontispiece (upon which Phiz would shortly begin working) signifies any artist, receives this commission from a mysterious benefactor through an elderly City attorney, Mr. Fips (whom we glimpse passing out of the door in Mysterious Installation of Mr. Pinch). The Herculean task of disciplining the private collection and transforming it into a library will involve the imposition of order; the task will require Tom to produce a catalogue so that others — in particular, his anonymous benefactor — may access the knowledge contained in the ramshackle collection.
In the frontispiece, which he completed several months later, Phiz describes the visionary function of the artist; however, in the present illustration he focuses upon the role of the artist as organizer and selector. In a series of plates with details providing visual continuity Phiz graphs Tom's progress as a librarian. The job comes fortuitously to the unemployed Tom since the unknown employer provides Tom with the remuneration that he requires to set up housekeeping with his sister Ruth, a discharged governess. We first see the room in total chaos in which the books form a precarious, Babel-tower on the table just left of centre in the March 1844 illustration. Phiz will repeat the key elements of the room — the portrait of a lady (left), the bookshelf (centre), the padded chairs (left and right), and the vase on the small table (extreme right) — so that the reader can assess Tom's progress in imposing order on the dusty rooms, and filling their barren shelves over a period of six months. Phiz employs several significant emblems in this initial plate, including the cobweb (indicative of neglect and disuse over time, and seen previously in Phiz's series), the candlestick and snuffer (signifying an absence of light, and therefore of reason), and the stopped clock, suggesting that time has arrested in this room. Behind the lively figure of John Westlock we notice a desiccated stem, which implies an absence of vitality. If we are tempted to speculate about Old Martin's reasons for staging the chaos, including having some mysterious agent cause the books to be piled upon the table and strewn across the floor, we must regard Old Martin as the tester of Tom's moral fibre.

The enigmatic Mr. Fips, an attorney from Austin Friars (acting on behalf of an anonymous benefactor — in fact, Martin Chuzzlewit, Senior) delivers the offer of a "dream job" to Tom: a generous weekly salary with modest hours for reorganizing a private library, presently in utter chaos. The resolution of the library coincides with the closure of the novel, in particular, the comeuppance of Pecksniff, the multiple marriages, and the suicide of Jonas Chuzzlewit.


message 22: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2261 comments Kim wrote: "Mysterious installation of Mr. Pinch..."

Fips is looking very relaxed here. I imagined him to be a bit more fussy and, well... upright.


message 23: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5552 comments Mod


"I can't say; it's impossible to tell. I really have no idea. But," said Fips, taking off a very deep impression of the wafer-stamp upon the calf of his left leg, and looking steadily at Tom, "I don't know that it's a matter of much consequence." 

(1872). Forty-fourth illustration by Fred Barnard for Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit.

[In this chapter, "Containing Some Further Particulars of the Domestic Economy of the Pinches; with Strange News from The City, Narrowly Concerning Tom," attorney Fips of Austin Friars (acting on behalf of an anonymous benefactor — in fact, Martin Chuzzlewit, Senior) delivers the offer a "dream job" to Tom: a generous weekly salary with modest hours for reorganizing a private library, presently in utter chaos.]

Text illustrated:

"And you think it worth your while, sir, do you?" Mr. Fips inquired of Tom.
"I think it a piece of great good fortune, sir," said Tom. "I am exceedingly obliged to you for the offer."
"Not to me," said Mr. Fips. "I act upon instructions."
"To your friend, sir, then," said Tom. "To the gentleman with whom I am to engage, and whose confidence I shall endeavour to deserve. When he knows me better, sir, I hope he will not lose his good opinion of me. He will find me punctual and vigilant, and anxious to do what is right. That I think I can answer for, and so,’ looking towards him, "can Mr Westlock."
"Most assuredly," said John.
Mr. Fips appeared to have some little difficulty in resuming the conversation. To relieve himself, he took up the wafer–stamp, and began stamping capital F's all over his legs.
"The fact is," said Mr. Fips, "that my friend is not, at this present moment, in town."
Tom's countenance fell; for he thought this equivalent to telling him that his appearance did not answer; and that Fips must look out for somebody else.
"When do you think he will be in town, sir?" he asked.
"I can't say; it's impossible to tell. I really have no idea. But," said Fips, taking off a very deep impression of the wafer–stamp upon the calf of his left leg, and looking steadily at Tom, "I don’t know that it's a matter of much consequence."
Poor Tom inclined his head deferentially, but appeared to doubt that.
"I say," repeated Mr. Fips, "that I don’t know it's a matter of much consequence. The business lies entirely between yourself and me, Mr Pinch. With reference to your duties, I can set you going; and with reference to your salary, I can pay it. Weekly," said Mr. Fips, putting down the wafer–stamp, and looking at John Westlock and Tom Pinch by turns, "weekly; in this office; at any time between the hours of four and five o'clock in the afternoon." As Mr. Fips said this, he made up his face as if he were going to whistle. But he didn't.
"You are very good," said Tom, whose countenance was now suffused with pleasure; "and nothing can be more satisfactory or straightforward. My attendance will be required —"
"From half–past nine to four o’clock or so, I should say," interrupted Mr. Fips. "About that."
"I did not mean the hours of attendance," retorted Tom, "which are light and easy, I am sure; but the place."
"Oh, the place! The place is in the Temple."



message 24: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5552 comments Mod


Ruth makes a pudding

Chapter 39

Harry Furniss

Text illustrated:

"Where's the pudding?" said Tom. For he was cutting his jokes, Tom was.
"Where!" she answered, holding it up with both hands. "Look at it!"
"That a pudding!" said Tom.
"It will be, you stupid fellow, when it's covered in," returned his sister. Tom still pretending to look incredulous, she gave him a tap on the head with the rolling-pin, and still laughing merrily, had returned to the composition of the top crust, when she started and turned very red. Tom started, too, for following her eyes, he saw John Westlock in the room.
"Why, my goodness, John! How did you come in?"


Commentary

Having brought the reader up to date on the growing rift between Montague Tigg and Jonas Chuzzlewit, Dickens now shifts to the fortunes of Tom and Ruth Pinch after they have lost their "situations" and have to re-invent themselves. Ruth, a little younger than her brother, has been working as a governess for the family of an industrialist in Camberwell. Treated with disrespect by her demanding employers, Ruth is delighted when her brother gives the brass-and-copper founder a piece of his mind — and her notice. But now the brother and sister find themselves thrown on their own meagre resources as they set up housekeeping in an Islington flat.
​While Martin and Mark complete their American adventure by returning from the malarial swamps of Eden, Tom Pinch sets out from the Wiltshire village where he has served as Pecksniff's architectural apprentice. His destination is the Camberwell district of Southwark, south of the Thames, where his sister, Ruth, is a governess to the daughters of a wealthy industrialist, although Furniss depicts but one child. Discovering that her sister's employers are verbally abusive, demeaning in their attitude towards her, and unreasonable in their demands upon his sister, this new, assertive Tom dares to give the captain of industry a piece of his mind, and then to serve notice on his sister's behalf. Together they leave the upper-middle-class mansion and take rooms in Islington, where Ruth becomes a model housekeeper, and Tom finds unexpected employment as the organizer and cataloguer of a private library. In the Barnard illustration for this chapter, "I can't say; it's impossible to tell. I really have no idea. But," said Fips, taking off a very deep impression of the wafer-stamp upon the calf of his left leg, and looking steadily at Tom, "I don't know that it's a matter of much consequence" (see below), Tom is pleasantly surprised by a job-offer he cannot refuse: one hundred pounds per annum, to be paid in regular instalments in the law offices of Mr. Fips, Austin Friars, for organizing and cataloguing a private library — whose owner precisely Tom cannot ascertain.

Here at last is a Tom who is thirty-five years of age, prematurely balding, and of an unprepossessing appearance, not the young Tom of the Phiz illustrations or the inconsistent Tom of the Barnard Household Edition who ranges between twenty-five and forty-something. Granted, this Tom like Bernard's is a bit too realistic, and not particularly naieve, which Phiz realised he must appear to be if he is to be effectively taken in by that old humbug Pecksniff for so much of the story. In the Furniss illustration, he is trying to write a promotional piece about himself to give to John Westlock to circulate so that the Pinches' Islington idyll will not come crashing down when their money runs out. But his sister's charmingly attempting to produce a beef-steak pudding totally disarms Tom, so that his biographical and professional sketch for the job market — "A respectable young man, aged thirty-five" — is as far as he gets, although Ruth's suggestion that he endeavour to market himself as "a civil engineer and land-surveyor" (a vocation certainly allied to his architectural studies) seems reasonable. Behind Tom is a case containing a modest library, suitable to Tom's being a poorly paid apprentice architect and bibliophile. But Tom's focus is not his self-advertisement or his few precious books. He is obviously enjoying his comic bantering with Ruth, who is, as the text suggests, holding aloft a pudding bowl as Tom, sitting at the kitchen table, gives up on resumé writing. She is not the demure beauty of the Phiz series whose Ruth rsembles most of Phiz's petite, dark-haired young women, but one of Furniss's angular young women with a slender waist, and not the sultry beauty of Barnard's Chapter 51 illustration Brother and Sister.

The excessively sweet sentimentality of the domestic scene — of the asexual and thoroughly amiable household of brother and sister — is hardly to the taste of modern readers, but struck a cord with the early Victorians. If Vladimir Lenin detested the maudlin sentimentality of The Cricket on the Hearth, one can well imagine his scathing analysis of the sexual politics of "Ruth Pinch makes a Beaf-steak Pudding" since, despite their poverty, Tom as a good bourgeois insists that his respectable sister should not try to find work. As a young middle-class female, Ruth had but limited choices in the 1840s anyway, one of the few respectable jobs being that of a governess; by the time that Barnard was illustrating the in the early 1870s, with the founding of women's colleges and the General Education Acts of 1852 and 1870, and the Crimean War behind her, Ruth might have become a teacher or a nurse, or, if extremely poor, a seamstress.


message 25: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5552 comments Mod


Mrs. Gamp at the docks

Chapter 40

Harry Furniss

Text illustrated:

By this time, Mrs. Gamp (for it was no other than that experienced practitioner) had, with Tom's assistance, squeezed and worked herself into a small corner between Ruth and the rail; where, after breathing very hard for some little time, and performing a short series of dangerous evolutions with her umbrella, she managed to establish herself pretty comfortably.
"And which of all them smoking monsters is the Ankworks boat, I wonder. Goodness me!" cried Mrs. Gamp.
"What boat did you want?" asked Ruth.
"The Ankw-orks package," Mrs. Gamp replied. "I will not deceive you, my sweet. Why should I?"
"That is the Antwerp packet in the middle," said Ruth.
"And I wish it was in Jonadge's belly, I do," cried Mrs. Gamp; appearing to confound the prophet with the whale in this miraculous aspiration. — Chapter 40


Commentary

As he moves towards the resolution of the various plots, Dickens interweaves these, so that, for example, Mrs. Gamp and Mr. Nadgett, the Pinches' landlord in Islington, bump into Tom and Ruth out for a stroll on the London docks, where Jonas (disguised as an invalid) and his wife are attempting to escape from England on the Antwerp steamer. Amidst the smoke and confusion of the wharf, with passengers hurriedly boarding, Mrs. Gamp with her signature umbrella directs Tom's (and our) attention to the husband and wife on the gangway. Shortly, his landlord will ask Tom to give the muffled man the letter, the contents of which so startle Jonas (for he is the disguised traveller) that he suddenly cancels their trip.

Together Ruth and Tom have left her demeaning employer, the brass-and-copper founder of Camberwell, and have rented a flat in Islington, where Ruth has become a model housekeeper, and Tom finds unexpected employment as the organizer and cataloguer of a private library in the law offices known as the Temple. In the Barnard illustration for Chapter 39, "I can't say; it's impossible to tell. I really have no idea. But," said Fips, taking off a very deep impression of the wafer-stamp upon the calf of his left leg, and looking steadily at Tom, "I don't know that it's a matter of much consequence", Tom is puzzled by the reticence of Mr. Fips, attorney from Austin Friars, about revealing the name of the library's owner. In the present scene, Furniss could have chosen the route taken by Barnard by exploiting the scene's comic possibilities. He could, for example, have realised the comic moment that precedes Mrs. Gamp's noting the arrival of Jonas and Mercy, but, instead of exploiting the physical comedy of having Tom entangled in the umbrella, he focuses on the moment that contributes to the plot surrounding Jonas's murder of financier Montague Tigg.
It is unusual for Barnard, but his 1872 realisation of this same moment is full of distortions and inaccuracies, whereas Furniss's is a precise realisation of the scene that Dickens narrates through the medium of a "straight" narrator (essentially a limited omniscient, following evcents from Tom's perspective) and the boozy malapropisms of Sairey Gamp. Whereas Hablot Knight Browne in the original serial illustration for this chapter focussed on Tom's staring in confusion at the books surrounding him in the library in the Temple, Fred Barnard provided realisations of both scenes in Chapters 39-40, with Tom's inquiring of Fips about the owner of the library (Chapter 39), and Sairey Gamp's fortuitously bumping into Tom on the upper wharf when hoping to prevent Jonas from taking Mercy aboard the Antwerp packet-steamer, Mrs. Gamp creates a sensation with her umbrella (see below).

However, Furniss's treatment of the wharfside scene is panoramic and suspenseful whereas Barnard's is focussed on Sairey and the Pinches — and is therefore essentially comic. Furthermore, to establish the quayside setting Barnard has brought the trio down onto the dock, whereas the text clearly indicates that they are above the scene. Moreover, Furniss brilliantly synthesizes all the elements of the Antwerp steamer's berth, with longshoremen, sailors, bales being loaded by a crane — and both Nadgett and the Chuzzlewits in the very centre of the composition, the reader's attention to the couple boarding the packet-boat being guided by a Baroque pointer, Mrs. Gamp. In the Barnard illustration, in contradiction of the text, Sairey has become caught up in a length of hempen rope at the gangway, and grabs onto Tom for support as she jabs the handle of her umbrella into Tom's face, so that Dickens's character comedy, particularly Sairey's malapropisms, is transformed into the pratfalls of farce. Furniss restores the seriousness of the scene and yet allows Sairey's distinctive voice to inform the action by providing an illustration that is consistent with Dickens's narrative. Amidst the chaos one instinctively looks for the mysterious detective Nagett, who has the ability to blend into a crowd; shortly, after Montague has cautioned Jonas about abandoning the "beehive" while "honey" is to be made, the Pinches' landlord will vanish. However, in the Furniss illustration he is probably the man in the top-hat just behind Tom, who has finally freed himself from Mrs. Gamp's umbrella. In the Barnard illustration, he is almost certainly the bespectacled, middle-aged man holding a letter, upper right.


message 26: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5552 comments Mod


Mrs. Gamp makes a sensation with her umbrella

Chapter 40

Fred Barnard

Commentary:

Although Dickens and Phiz did not avail themselves of this opportunity to inject Mrs. Gamp's spewcial brand of verbal humour and physical comedy at this point, both Fred Barnard and Harry Furniss exploited the comic moment, although, whereas Barnard places the androgynous nurse in the midst of the action, Furniss places her to one side as the incident's chief interest is the failure of Jonas Chuzzlewit (heavily muffled as a disguise which the cunning detective, Mr. Nadgett, nevertheless penetrates) to escape to the Continent at this point. The voice and form of the boozy nurse are as instantly recognizable as her trademark umbrella.
Whereas Hablot Knight Browne in the original serial illustration for this chapter focussed on Tom's staring in confusion at the books surrounding him in the library in the Temple, Fred Barnard has provided realisations of both scenes in Chapters 39-40, with Tom's inquiring of Fips about the owner of the library (Chapter 39), and Sairey Gamp's fortuitously bumping into Tom on the upper wharf when hoping to prevent Jonas from taking Mercy aboard the Antwerp packet-steamer (Chapter 39).

However, Furniss's treatment of the wharfside scene is panoramic and suspenseful whereas Barnard's is focussed on Sairey and the Pinches — and is essentially comic. Furthermore, to establish the quayside setting Barnard has brought the trio down onto the dock, whereas the text clearly indicates that they are above the scene. Moreover, Furniss brilliantly synthesizes all the elements of the Antwerp steamer's berth, with longshoremen, sailors, bales being loaded by a crane — and both Nadgett and the Pecksniffs in the very centre of the composition, the reader's attention to the couple boarding the packet-boat being guided by a Baroque pointer, Sairey Gamp. In the Barnard illustration, in contradiction of the text, she has become caught up in a length of hempen rope at the gangway and grabs onto Tom for support as she jabs the handle of her umbrella into Tom's face, so that Dickens's character comedy, particularly Sairey's malapropisms, is transformed into the pratfalls of stage farce.


message 27: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5552 comments Mod


Now, could you cut a man's throat with such a thing as this?" demanded Jonas. 

Chapter 41

Forty-sixth illustration by Fred Barnard for Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit.

[Mr. Jobling, the Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Insurance Company's examining physician, looks askance over his wine at company shareholder Jonas Chuzzlewit, who is already contemplating murdering his business associate, Mr. Montague, to free himself from the difficult position in which Montague's possessing some "secret" about Jonas has placed him.]

Text illustrated:

Mr. Jobling pulled out his shirt-frill of fine linen, as though he would have said, 'This is what I call nature in a medical man, sir;' and looked at Jonas for an observation.
Jonas not being in a condition to pursue the subject, took up a case of lancets that was lying on the table, and opened it.
"Ah!" said the doctor, leaning back in his chair, "I always take 'em out of my pocket before I eat. My pockets are rather tight. Ha, ha, ha!"
Jonas had opened one of the shining little instruments; and was scrutinizing it with a look as sharp and eager as its own bright edge.
"Good steel, doctor. Good steel! Eh!"
"Ye-es," replied the doctor, with the faltering modesty of ownership. "One might open a vein pretty dexterously with that, Mr Chuzzlewit."
"It has opened a good many in its time, I suppose?" said Jonas looking at it with a growing interest.
"Not a few, my dear sir, not a few. It has been engaged in a —in a pretty good practice, I believe I may say," replied the doctor, coughing as if the matter-of-fact were so very dry and literal that he couldn't help it. "In a pretty good practice," repeated the doctor, putting another glass of wine to his lips.
"Now, could you cut a man's throat with such a thing as this?" demanded Jonas.
"Oh certainly, certainly, if you took him in the right place," returned the doctor. "It all depends upon that.
Chapter 41


message 28: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4376 comments Mod
What a fascinating thought to see the ordering and getting into shape of a library as a parallel to the novelist's work of taming his plot and tying up loose ends! - I wonder how clearly Dickens saw the ending of Martin Chuzzlewit after the American adventure of Martin junior, which was certainly inserted into the novel as something not planned from the very beginning. I have never come across any information as to the "original" plot of Martin Chuzzlewit.

Another interesting thing: Ruth's (or any other young woman's) narrow range of possibilities in the pre-Crimean-War Victorian society.


message 29: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5552 comments Mod


Ruth Pinch makes a pudding

Harold Copping

1905

Character sketches from Dickens


message 30: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5552 comments Mod


Ruth makes a pudding

Fred Barnard


message 31: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5552 comments Mod
Just in case there's a Ruth Pinch out there:

https://www.pressreader.com/uk/period...


message 32: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) I like both Harold Copping and Fred Barnard, but do miss Phiz :(


message 33: by Peter (new)

Peter | 2972 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "What a fascinating thought to see the ordering and getting into shape of a library as a parallel to the novelist's work of taming his plot and tying up loose ends! - I wonder how clearly Dickens sa..."

Candidly, I think Dickens got himself in a jam and wrote his way out of it as best he could. The American Eden chapters were tenuous, the title of the book does not reflect either of the Martin's effectively and poor Tom Pinch ends up as the odd man out living with his sister and John.

Could it be that one of the only things that was well done was dear Ruth’s baking? :-)


message 34: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 13, 2020 03:44AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) You don't really like this book do you Peter? ;) I think you said it's your least favourite Dickens.

But I think the title is very clever. It is both a composite, and perhaps deliberately ambiguous. Many of his titles are not what they at first appear. The use of a character's name bamboozles us into thinking it will be a Bildungsroman - a coming of age story - or the sort of 18th century picaresque tale he himself so loved. This is often misleading; the most obvious example being Barnaby Rudge. Does anyone really think that the novel is about this minor character?

But a novel with a person's name was useful to draw his audience in - and we are especially likely in this day and age to assume in the case of Martin Chuzzlewit that it is the younger one - when he is clearly the lesser of the two likely, (though I actually do not think it is specific to either), as otherwise the title does not make sense at all. It's more of an overview. We also tend to shorten things nowadays, which means we lose all the extra hints, elusive as their meanings are.

The titles are almost always a puzzle for us to delight over. Bleak House simple cannot be the house Jarndyce introduces his wards to - it is such a happy place! That would be a supreme irony (as in the final chapter) but there are quite a few other contenders - and I believe it is a metaphor. However, we do not begin a novel assuming the title to be metaphorical - we have to puzzle over it first!

At the moment I'm reading The World of Charles Dickens: Rediscovering the Places & Characters Portrayed in His Books, and although the author Stephen Browning is clearly a Dickens enthusiast, he makes some simplistic assumptions and mistakes such as these.

I suppose dramatisations don't help either, but often focus on the character of the title, and by cutting out great swathes of text, make it into their story! As I remember the BBC dramatisation of Martin Chuzzlewit (much as I enjoyed it!) did precisely this, as well as cutting great swathes out of the American sections.

"Tenuous" is an odd word to use, though there was one part where I thought Dickens's irritation got the better of him and he was simply sour rather than witty - but he was back on track by the next episode, and I don't think it should cast a cloud over the whole work. To my mind he's writing a lot better here than he did in the very early Oliver Twist, for instance, which so often is uncontrolled hectoring (however much we may agree with it!)

But Dickens's titles are always going to be an enigma, I think. Are we completely sure whose are the Great Expectations? One name pops into our minds - but there are at least 3 others it could apply to. And who is Our Mutual Friend? I know we haven't got there this time through our reads, but don't you think most readers would expect this to be a person? Whereas it is much more likely to be a metaphor (again, I won't say what of).

One final thought, as I'm going on a bit ... what makes us assume we would have known the answer to The Mystery of Edwin Drood, had Dickens lived long enough to finish it? It seems far more likely to me that he chose his title well.

Dickens's titles are not sloppy; I think they are quite deliberately chosen. But it's good to hear your opinion Peter :)


message 35: by Peter (new)

Peter | 2972 comments Mod
Bionic Jean wrote: "You don't really like this book do you Peter? ;) I think you said it's your least favourite Dickens.

But I think the title is very clever. It is both a composite, and perhaps deliberately ambiguo..."


Hi Bionic Jean

Ah, but for our distance I would love to go for a cup of tea or a pub lunch and discuss Dickens’s choice of titles with you at length.

You are so right that Dickens loved the earlier picaresque novels of Richardson, Fielding, Defoe and Sterne. These earlier novelists most frequently used a person’s name as a title of their book which reflected the main character within the book. As you note, Dickens also frequently uses a main character’s name as the title of the novel. Like the earlier novelists Dickens enjoyed his sub-titles which were often long and frequently revealed his intended focus and thematic intent within the novel.

For me, I found both the title Barnaby Rudge and Martin Chuzzlewit to be suspect. We know that Dickens earlier had considered naming the novel Barnaby Rudge after the locksmith. With Martin Chuzzlewit I am completely bamboozled.

Here’s a thought. We know that Dickens wrote his novels in either a weekly, or, more frequently, monthly format. That means that the novel has been christened before it is finally complete. Dickens earlier novels were loose, episodic, and often tinged with the picaresque. We know that Dickens was somewhat sensitive to his readers’ interests. Hence, in Pickwick Papers Sam Weller developed quickly from a minor character into a major one due to the reading public’s love of Sam’s character. The format and earlier conception of how Master Humphrey’s Clock was to unfold through the narrator was stopped early on in the novel and The Old Curiosity Shop emerged in an altered narrative format.

I think it possible that Dickens having christened his novel Martin Chuzzlewit before the novel was completed found himself in a bit of a tight spot. To me, the Eden and America parts of the novel just don’t fit in any coherent manner with the remainder of the novel. Whether these parts of the novel are, in part, a reflection to the response to his American Notes is another question for another time, but the concurrently and hastily written A Christmas Carol suggest to me that Dickens's theme of greed and the consequences of such human traits was central to his thinking at the time.

We know that Dickens’s novels starting with Dombey and Son were much more carefully planned, organized, and written. There is a clear centrality in his later novels.

I absolutely agree with you that there is an enigma to his novel’s titles. I love your pointing out the puzzle and the delight of the title Bleak House. Indeed, we end up with two Bleak Houses, neither one of which will ever be Bleak.

I will always wonder what the title of Dickens’s novels would be if they were given their title at the end of the writing process rather than the beginning. How I would love to meet you in person. We would have wonderful discussions. What larks, Jean!

As to Martin Chuzzlewit, it is now in my bookcase ready to collect dust. :-)


message 36: by Xan Shadowflutter (last edited Feb 13, 2020 09:02AM) (new)

Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 867 comments Bionic Jean wrote: "You don't really like this book do you Peter? ;) I think you said it's your least favourite Dickens.

But I think the title is very clever. It is both a composite, and perhaps deliberately ambiguo..."


This made me think of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. She wanted to name it Margaret Holt after her heroine, but Dickens, the publisher, wouldn't hear of it. He insisted on North and South. I think he was right and Gaskell wrong. As fascinating a heroine as Margaret is, the story is about more than her, and Dickens captures the differences in the two Englands in his title -- and by indirection the differences in the peoples -- an important element in the story.

Edit: Do we also see these differences in Bleak House?


message 37: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 13, 2020 10:25AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "This made me think of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. She wanted to name it Margaret Holt after her heroine,"

Yes, I read North and South and went into this last year when I was writing my review, and agree with you (except that it's "Margaret Hale"). Though those sort of titles worked for some 19th century novelists who had a greater purview than a solitary character's name suggests (eg. George Eliot, who had an astonishing breadth of scope) but I still think Dickens was right, as we then expect - and get - a far wider focus on society. He was very heavy-handed in his editorship with her in this novel though, and I don't think they were ever really friends afterwards.


message 38: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 13, 2020 11:42AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Peter wrote: " ...sub-titles which were often long and frequently revealed his intended focus and thematic intent within the novel. ..."

I'm always interested too, in which of his novels also have these little "explanations" either at the beginning of his chapters, or even at the top of each page! It seems such a throwback to the 18th century.

"That means that the novel has been christened before it is finally complete."

Yes, but don't lose sight of the fact that this was normal for him! As you say, he always wrote to a weekly/monthly deadline. So he was well used to choosing a title which he would have to stick with. Equally he had to stick with his characters' names. It's well documented how often he changed those in his mind before settling on one!

It may seem tricky for us, but was just another delicious opportunity for him to mislead or hoodwink his readers :) He chose titles he knew he would still be able to apply to whatever he wrote.

In a way, it's only like writers of novels in series now. The one who springs to mind is Agatha Christie, who famously invented her Hercule Poirot as a retired detective in the first novel. Actually this probably was a mistake, as he went on to feature in 42 books ... But good writers manage to rise above it, and not write themselves into a corner :)

"Dickens’s novels starting with Dombey and Son were much more carefully planned, organized, and written."

Yes, it's all there in his letters to John Forster. But how does this affect your objection to the title Martin Chuzzlewit? Do you mean to imply that in general his earlier novels are badly titled and his later ones more direct and apt? Because I don't think this is so. I gave examples across the board, of how he teases us with his titles :) All the later ones - and I specifically mentioned the final three - are just as ambiguous, or have puzzling double/triple/multiple meanings as any of the earlier ones! "Enigma" is a great description. He's just good at titles :)

"I will always wonder what the title of Dickens’s novels would be if they were given their title at the end of the writing process rather than the beginning."

Yeees ... but then we could have a similar thought, and wonder what it would be like if he had the opportunity to edit his earlier chapters. But don't you think something spontaneous would be lost along the way? Jane Austen edited heavily, and yes we have some little masterpieces to read - but only half as many.

We might lose more than we gain!

As you say, "wot larks" Peter :)


message 39: by Peter (new)

Peter | 2972 comments Mod
Bionic Jean wrote: "Peter wrote: " ...sub-titles which were often long and frequently revealed his intended focus and thematic intent within the novel. ..."

I'm always interested too, in which of his novels also have..."


Hi Bionic Jean

With the exception of BR and MC I think his earlier titles are just fine. All Dickens’s later titles work just fine in my mind. Of the two I have trouble with I really stumble over MC. That title just doesn’t work for me. If we only had one character named Martin Chuzzlewit I would be less confused.

We have lots of Chuzzlewit’s in the novel all of whom are both different and somewhat interesting in their own way. If the novel was titled The Chuzzlewit Family it would paint the novel with a wider brush. :-)


message 40: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4376 comments Mod
Peter wrote: "Could it be that one of the only things that was well done was dear Ruth’s baking? :-)"

You mean in this case Ruth's baking is better than Dickens's half-baking with regard to the plot? ;-)


message 41: by Bionic Jean (last edited Feb 15, 2020 08:24AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Peter wrote: "I really stumble over MC. That title just doesn’t work for me ...

We'll have to agree to differ here :) I like his double thinking. It fits in so well with his doppelgängers and deceptive writing.

"If the novel was titled The Chuzzlewit Family it would paint the novel with a wider brush. :-) ..."

True, you could make a case for that, but what a boring cosy title! Not worthy of Dickens :)

Tristam, I shall pretend I didn't hear that! Didn't anyone enjoy this novel? I seem to remember we had a fair old time last time through. I'd expected to find the American sections boring, but some parts were hilarious!


message 42: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4376 comments Mod
Well, Jean, when I say "half-baked", I do imply that half of the novel is well-baked. In my opinion, the American chapters do not really add a lot to the story, and Martin's development from an egocentric and spoilt young man to a more responsible person could have been achieved in England as well, e.g. by having Martin apply himself to some hard work and see how his fellow-workers and their families suffer but do not completely lose their regard for other people and their willingness to make sacrifices for other people.

In fact, I enjoyed MC and still count it amongst my favourite Dickens novels, but more so for characters like Mrs. Gamp and Old Bailey, or even Mrs. Todgers, who is more ambivalent than the other two I have just mentioned, and also because of the chapters having to do with Jonas and his decline into crime. When dealing with Jonas, we already get glimpses of the darker Dickens and of his excellent skills at writing psychologically believable characters.


message 43: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4376 comments Mod
Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Bionic Jean wrote: "You don't really like this book do you Peter? ;) I think you said it's your least favourite Dickens.

But I think the title is very clever. It is both a composite, and perhaps ..."


Xan,

That's very interesting: I remember that Dickens, as the editor, also interfered, successfully, of course, with Mrs. Gaskell when he insisted on the word "dark" being put into the title of her story "A Dark Night's Work". In this instance, however, his motives were purely those of a businessman because he thought that a more mysterious-sounding title would attract more readers.


message 44: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Tristram wrote: "Well, Jean, when I say "half-baked", I do imply that half of the novel is well-baked ..."

True! Somehow that's not the first impression when hearing the idiom, though. And I agree about the unforgettable characters :)


message 45: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4376 comments Mod
Bionic Jean wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Well, Jean, when I say "half-baked", I do imply that half of the novel is well-baked ..."

True! Somehow that's not the first impression when hearing the idiom, though. And I agree..."


I always try to find a loophole, even with idioms ;-)


message 46: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Tristram wrote: "I always try to find a loophole, even with idioms ;-) ..."

Isn't that itself an idiom? I'm tying myself in knots here, Tristram :/


message 47: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4376 comments Mod
You mean there is an idiom in that loophole? Or are there loopholes in my idioms? :-)


message 48: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5552 comments Mod
I could go look up the word idiom to see what it means, but I don't want to.


message 49: by Tristram (last edited Feb 22, 2020 03:39AM) (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4376 comments Mod
It would be worth the trouble looking it up, though. Otherwise, you might buy a pig in a poke ;-)


message 50: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5552 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "It would be worth the trouble looking it up, though. Otherwise, you might buy a pig in a poke ;-)"

I could take your advise and look it up I suppose. When pigs fly.


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