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Nicholas Nickleby
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Archived Group Reads 2020 > Nicholas Nickleby: Week 10: Chapters LV - LX

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message 1: by Piyangie, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Piyangie | 828 comments Mod
The trials and anxieties of the past prove too much for Madeline Bray and she falls ill. Kate nurses her and she is slowly recovering. Cheeryble brothers are so happy with this fortunate development that takes place in their absence. All credit is duly given to Nicholas.

Frank Cheeryble’s frequent visits to inquire about Madeline on behalf of the Cheeryble brothers make Mrs. Nickleby seriously suspect of his attachment to Kate. Mrs. Nickleby having entertained many grand ideas and romantic notions finally confide in Nicholas. Nicholas is quite astonished and not pleased as Mrs. Nickleby hopes.

Meanwhile, Ralph is flown into a rage with his double loss – loss with Arthur Gride as a result of the sudden death of Mr. Bray and the loss of ten thousand pounds as was told him by Nicholas. His hatred of Nicholas is multiplied by thousand times with these recent developments that he is determined to revenge Nicholas is a most painful manner.

Ralph is soon presented with a new cause of action to take in which to hurt Nicholas. On returning to Arthur Gride’s home, they soon find that Gride’s housekeeper Mrs. Peg Sliderskew has left. Not only has she left but has taken with her a bundle of documents which were of the utmost importance. Here we are cleared of the mystery behind Madeline’s connection with some sort of property which we vaguely got to know during the previous segment. It seems Madeline is to inherit some property upon coming of age or on her marriage and Gride has somehow got hold of the deed. This is why the old usurer had wanted to marry her. Now Mrs. Sliderskew has vanished with the document among others.
Ralph is determined to intervene in the recovery of the deed. His belief that Nicholas is Madeline’s suitor and that if the deed is not recovered in time it and finds its way to Madeline, Nicholas will financially benefit from it and thus become a formidable enemy to defeat serves as a great stimulant.

To help him Ralph employs Mr. Squeers. Ralph’s role is to find Mrs. Sliderskew and Squeers’s role is to be friendly with her and obtain the deed. The plan works and Squeers meets Mrs. Sliderskew in her room and tricks her and almost obtains the deed when a blow of none other than Noggs renders him senseless. Frank Cheeryble and Newman Noggs have been secretly entered the lodging without the notice of either of them.

Meanwhile what we fear comes true. Smike's illness takes a drastic turn and doctors advise for him to be taken to a place with better air. After consultation with the Cheeryble brothers, it was decided to take Smike to the part Nicholas has previously lived and Nicholas is to stay with him till whatever the end. Smike’s condition doesn’t improve and deteriorate slowly and after many months of struggle, he finally dies, but not before confessing his love for Kate.

That was such a sad ending and a very painful chapter to read.

Ralph’s sins are catching up with him fast. After Squeers and Mrs. Sliderskew were apprehended, Charles Cheeryble visits Ralph to inform of the situation but arrogant Ralph declines to listen to him. But when Newman Noggs didn’t turn up for work, he suspects that something could have gone wrong. He goes to look on for Noggs and then Snawley, Squeers, and finally Gride. He couldn’t find any except Gride who refuses to talk. This compels Ralph to go see the Cheeryble brothers. There he learns all that has happened. The brothers tell him of their knowledge of Ralph’s hand at the proceedings, but the proud man defies all of them.

Worse is yet to come. On meeting Squeers in police custody, Ralph realizes that Squeers intends to give him in if he could not save his skin. All these incidents disconcert Ralph, but he still fights. An urgent summons takes him again to Cheeryble brothers and a fatal surprising blow is finally fallen on him. Smike is the son of Ralph! And he learns he is just dead.

That was a surprising turn. So Ralph has had a family in the bygone days. Perhaps this was why he was envious of his brother because his family was shattered and his brother had a happy one.

Things are slowly coming towards an end. What did you think of this segment?


Frances (francesab) | 354 comments I am finding the portrayal of Mrs Nickleby increasingly annoying! in Ch 55 she appears both foolish and unkind and then self-aggrandizing, all in one go. I'm not sure if Dickens had a particular axe to grind with middle-aged women or mothers but his portrayal of her goes from bad to worse, and is too great a contrast with her children to be at all believable or enjoyable.

I was surprised that Nicholas was so upset to learn that Frank Cheeryble might be a suitor for Kate. He seems to fear the senior Cheerybles would think she was after his money or not a suitable wife for their nephew, but I don't understand why this would be the case.

Quite the coincidence that Ralph's son ended up, unbeknownst to him, at the one Yorkshire school which he had contact with. This would also make Smike and Nicholas and Kate cousins. Smike's death was very sad-I wonder how much of his feebleness and simple-mindedness was due to a lifetime of malnutrition and abuse. There are terrible stories of babies being put out to wet-nurses and being nursed with terrible milk substitutes and neglected so that both their physical and mental development is stunted.

You can certainly see Dickens developing as a great commentator on social ills-the schools, poverty in the community, social isolation, poor child-rearing-all objects of his criticism.


message 3: by Trev (last edited Jul 20, 2020 09:34AM) (new)

Trev | 249 comments I think these chapters showed Dickens at his best, as a brilliant developer of plots and situations, and at his most irritating, when he overelaborates on either description or character.
The Mrs Nickleby contribution to Madeline Bray’s escape from marriage annoyed rather than amused me and went on too long, as did her beating about the bush before telling Nicholas what she thought about Kate and Frank. We have heard enough from Mrs. Nickleby and I would prefer it if she melted into the background permanently. I was also surprised by Nicholas’ reaction to Frank as a suitor. Surely he realises that his employers are nothing like his uncle and would never suppose there was a financial motive coming from either Kate or Nicholas. We haven’t heard too much from Kate yet but I suppose it won’t be too long before we do.
The death of Smike was both sad and shocking even though it seemed inevitable. I wondered why Smike should die after Nicholas had saved him from the hell that was Dotheboys hall. The revelation that Ralph was his father gave me the answer, but it was still such a shame that he couldn’t have overcome his problems and find happiness in some shape or form. Smike’s request to be buried with a lock of Kate’s hair was almost too difficult to read.
Ralph’s chickens are coming home to roost and Noggs has finally exacted revenge, with yet more violence coming the way of Wackford Squeers. Dickens really wants to lay into the Yorkshire schools right until the end. At least Squeers has finally turned against Ralph, but it took the incarceration in a prison cell to do it.
This section has really whetted my appetite for the final chapters.


message 4: by Piyangie, Moderator (last edited Jul 21, 2020 01:01AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Piyangie | 828 comments Mod
I agree with Frances's and Trev's comments on Mrs. Nickleby. She is exhausting and it is time that she steps down from the limelight and gives way to the other important characters.

I too was surprised at Nicholas's response toward Frank's interest in Kate. I can't understand either why Nicholas would worry that Cheeryble brothers will construe the whole thing in a pecuniary light - as if Kate will be interested in Frank because he is rich. The Cheerybles do have a fair knowledge of the characters of Kate and Nicholas.


message 5: by Piyangie, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Piyangie | 828 comments Mod
Trev wrote: "I think these chapters showed Dickens at his best, as a brilliant developer of plots and situations, and at his most irritating, when he overelaborates on either description or character.
The Mrs ..."


I'm glad that you enjoyed the segment, Trev. It is definitely getting interesting and I too am impatient to see the final tying up. :)


Brenda (gd2brivard) | 141 comments So, firstly…I was wholly confused at last weeks ending and thought Gride ran off with Madeleine. It just said “he” and I read it wrong. Oh boy!!! Was I glad to get to this week.

Another section filled with events. We are getting close to the end of the book which saddens me, as I’ve really enjoyed it. Well most of it. I’m quite irritated with Dickens now for poor old Smike’s death AND making him Ralph’s son. UGH! I really wished all that had turned out a different way, but it is done now. It was nice that Nicholas and Kate were able to know their cousin, even though they didn’t know. Although we don’t know what will happen next, I can’t imagine what would have happened if Smike had lived and then it came out about Ralph being his father. After Smawly and that whole affair.

How sad Nicholas and his mother in their not wanting Kate to be involved with Frank. I sort of understand Nicholas’s point, weren’t class systems then much more important? One must abide their station and all? But geeeeeeeeeees. The girl deserves to be happy. And I do agree with everyone else. Also, part of me thought it was just a strange plot line to throw another cog in the wheel. We’re getting paid by the installment, right??? And one thing for sure, I’ll be glad to get to the end of the book and not have to hear the Mrs going on and on and on and on! I agree with you all. It’s bordering comical now to the absurd. I again was wondering also if this was just a way to get a next installment in.

Noggs is a resourceful one! I was cheering him on. I really thought he’d end up having more past, but still he was quite the champion in so many instances. I’m curious what will happen with him now. I hope the Cheerybl’s bring him on. He does like his drink, but deep down he has a good heart.

I wonder if this will all be to Ralph’s demise now? It was interesting about his past. Piyangie do you think he was still envious or was that just in his youth? It seems he only married for the money, he didn’t care about her or his son. Interesting that he still thought of Kate and she seems to be the only one that does matter to him.


message 7: by Piyangie, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Piyangie | 828 comments Mod
Brenda wrote: "So, firstly…I was wholly confused at last weeks ending and thought Gride ran off with Madeleine. It just said “he” and I read it wrong. Oh boy!!! Was I glad to get to this week. ..."

Oh, Brenda, you must have had a pretty anxious heart the past week not knowing she was saved by Nicholas. I can imagine your relief. :)


message 8: by Piyangie, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Piyangie | 828 comments Mod
Brenda wrote: "So, firstly…I was wholly confused at last weeks ending and thought Gride ran off with Madeleine. It just said “he” and I read it wrong. Oh boy!!! Was I glad to get to this week.

Another section f..."


Cheerybles are not aristocracy, nor landed gentry. They are self made merchants and Nicholas's father was a respectable man with property who lost everything having taken part in speculation. So I don't think there is a class issue here. I think Nicholas is governed by the fear that the Cheerybles will misunderstand them and think Kate's interest in Frank will be pecuniary. It is quite an unnecessary fear though. I'm pretty sure Cheerybles will not think likewise and be very pleased with a union between Kate and Frank.

Noggs is the hero of this segment, no doubt. I've never liked him more. :) His impatience to strike down Squeers matched mine (it sounds wicked I know :) ). Frank had such a difficult time in staying him.

There is only one more segment to go and I hope we'll learn more about Newman Noggs. I hope Dickens won't rush it through a few paragraphs. That wouldn't do justice for him.

I think part of Ralph's dislike for his brother is his success in having his won family although he is comparatively poor. Ralph with all his wealth was a lonely man and he has no heir to leave his vast wealth. I don't know what other envies Ralph must have had of his brother in their youth, but it certainly looks like in his old age he grudged his brother for having what he did not. Ralph was always mercenary minded and his actions were solely governed by his love for acquiring wealth, but despite all this, I believe he might have felt the loss of his child. No man can be that heartless.


message 9: by Robin (new)

Robin | 162 comments I think that it is certainly worth making the point about the pecuniary concerns, not class concerns, that inform Nicholas's attitude towards the burgeoning relationship between Kate and Fran. The Cheerybles are a good example of self made people whose hearts are in the right place. I think that earlier in the novel this is what influenced Nicholas. He was aware that they didn't use their cutlery properly, but they are good people. I think that Mrs Nickleby might have thought differently about the brothers early On?


Brenda (gd2brivard) | 141 comments Piyangie I absolutely agree about the Cheerybls being happy about a match between Frank and Kate. They love Nicholas and everyone loves Kate. I just had a fleeting thought and can’t remember the whole of it (am reading the book on kindle which limits quickly finding it) what were Cheerybls reasons why they didn’t want Frank trying to help Madeleine ? He thought she was pretty I remember that. Was it just because his feelings might have clouded the task at hand? Perhaps because Nicholas is still young and does depend a lot on the Cheerybls his thoughts on it are skewed and he is afraid of making any waves?

I do like how all of our main characters (minus Ralph) have all come together and help each other etc. I just remembered Miss LaCreevy and hope Dickens ties that up-hopefully with Tim...???

I agree about Squeers and think he’s horrible. I rate him worse than Ralph, as he’s harming innocent children who depend on him. I think he’s the lowest of the low and I really hope his whole family is exposed and end up in the workhouse. That’s even too good for them!

Yes, I agree with your thoughts on Ralph. And Brooker, I think that was his name, seems to have alluded that Ralph felt something when he returned and was told his son had died. I suppose some people get so caught up in themselves or money and don’t realize how far they start falling away then from others and reality, if that makes sense. They get caught up in whatever « distraction » and don’t see when it stars to take over.


Brenda (gd2brivard) | 141 comments Robin, you make a good point about Mrs Nickelby, which then makes me wonder about Nicholas behavior, as she rather started the anti Frank/Kate match, and her children are usually of the mind to disregard her ramblings. Unless I missed something in that section? I won’t deny, I’ve skimmed through much of anything the Mrs has said lately as I just can’t stomach it anymore.


message 12: by Robin (new)

Robin | 162 comments The role of family is indeed important, Brenda. I recall mentioning this early on when reading chapters that showed the closeness in Nicholas's family (despite the foolishness of Mrs N.) and Ralph's hatred of Nicholas. My feeling is that Ralph has always been envious, at the same time as he pursued financial security. He is a really damaged, and damaging character, with, I think, no redeeming features. I agree that at the end he was remorseful about Smike. But I wonder why he didn't know about the child who was left with Squeers? I must have missed something, perhaps, but I can't recall any explanation about Ralph and his relationship with Smike's mother.


Brenda (gd2brivard) | 141 comments The mother/wife ran off with someone else I believe and maybe Ralph was on business and /or away a lot? I remember Brooker ended up taking care of Smike and eventually thought it better if the boy was elsewhere. Unfortunately « better » was Squeers. Brooker told Ralph the boy had died. So Brooker paid for Smikes time at Dotheboys until he was sent out of the country. If I have it right ?
It was kind of a strange section for me, the whole explanation of Ralph getting married, and I had a hard time understanding the whole of it.


Frances (francesab) | 354 comments I expect part of Ralph's punishment was learning that his son spent his life being mistreated and starved by Squeers, whom he had supported in doing this to other unfortunate boys (although clearly the punishment was visited on poor Smike to an even greater degree).


message 15: by Piyangie, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Piyangie | 828 comments Mod
Ralph has kept his wife in the country home and was doing business from London. I gathered he was visiting her only. They've been keeping their marriage a secret to secure some inheritance. But what I didn't understand was why Ralph had to separate the boy from his mother.

I agree with you Brenda, that section was a bit confusing. Ralph doesn't strike me as a man who would take another man's word for granted, so why he totally believed this Brooker is beyond my understanding.


message 16: by Piyangie, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Piyangie | 828 comments Mod
Brenda, as to your question on Madeline and Frank, the Cheerybles's worry was that Frank might needlessly fall in love with Madeline for her beauty before knowing his own mind, before being assured of his true feelings. They consider him chivalrous but also a bit thoughtless and at times reckless. I think Cheerybles feel Nicholas to be more responsible and can be more relied upon than Frank.


message 17: by Piyangie, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Piyangie | 828 comments Mod
Frances wrote: "I expect part of Ralph's punishment was learning that his son spent his life being mistreated and starved by Squeers, whom he had supported in doing this to other unfortunate boys (although clearly..."

I agree there with you, Frances. And it is a severe punishment like no other, knowing your son lived on and suffered many tortures at Dotheboys Hall while he daily accrued more wealth.


Brenda (gd2brivard) | 141 comments Frances wrote: "I expect part of Ralph's punishment was learning that his son spent his life being mistreated and starved by Squeers, whom he had supported in doing this to other unfortunate boys (although clearly..."

I agree also, I hadn't really though of that. What a good point!


Brenda (gd2brivard) | 141 comments Piyangie wrote - But what I didn't understand was why Ralph had to separate the boy from his mother.

I will have to go back and read this again now. Maybe that was when she ran off? It is interesting to me they call it "eloping" when she was already married. The same thing happened with Kenwigs, his "wife" ran off and eloped with another man. Maybe the terms have evolved? When you read a character was "making love" to another in a Jane Austen book it is a bit different from how we consider it in present day.


message 20: by Piyangie, Moderator (last edited Jul 22, 2020 07:41AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Piyangie | 828 comments Mod
Brenda wrote: " Piyangie wrote - But what I didn't understand was why Ralph had to separate the boy from his mother.

I will have to go back and read this again now. Maybe that was when she ran off? It is intere..."


So many things have changed over the centuries including language and it is interesting to know different meanings that some words have had in the past from our present understanding of the word.

And to take up a point Brenda, you seem to be expecting a possible union of Tim and Miss Creevy. Did I miss something important there?


Brenda (gd2brivard) | 141 comments Piyangie, the day the crazy neighbor crawled into the chimney, Frank was there with Tim, and Miss La Creevy happened to be there. And it seemed to me that Miss La Creevy and Tim were making a lot of goo-goo eyes and talking only among themselves the entire time. Its sometimes hard to get parts of the stories in between Mrs Nickelby going on and on and on! LOL


message 22: by Piyangie, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Piyangie | 828 comments Mod
Brenda wrote: "Piyangie, the day the crazy neighbor crawled into the chimney, Frank was there with Tim, and Miss La Creevy happened to be there. And it seemed to me that Miss La Creevy and Tim were making a lot o..."

Oh, I missed that totally. I'll have to read that section again. :)


Brenda (gd2brivard) | 141 comments I reread the section where Brooker tells Ralph’s story... they sent the son (Smike) away to nurse after he was born, probably to avoid the brother finding out about the marriage. The wife only saw her baby once or twice. The brother was almost dying but Ralph and the wife fought so much she ran off before it happened. Then Ralph called in Brooker to get Smike. Smike was already sickly from neglect and needing a doctors attention, who said he must have a change of air to improve. Ralph was gone for six weeks so Brooker concocted the story Smike died, but instead sent him to Squeers, and paid for himself.


message 24: by Robin (new)

Robin | 162 comments Brenda wrote: "I reread the section where Brooker tells Ralph’s story... they sent the son (Smike) away to nurse after he was born, probably to avoid the brother finding out about the marriage. The wife only saw ..."

Thank you everyone for clarifying the Ralph marriage and its outcome for his wife, and Smike. I'll have to read more carefully next time, or keep everything in my mind. I'm a bit of a reader of books in between so then sometimes forget the pertinent parts. This is unforgiveable in this case, and I'm grateful that it is now clear to me.

I like the comments on the change in language, too.

By the way, one of the books I've read at the same time is an autobiography where the writer refers to his school (before his time at Eton) as Dotheboys Hall!


message 25: by Piyangie, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Piyangie | 828 comments Mod
Robin wrote: "Brenda wrote: "I reread the section where Brooker tells Ralph’s story... they sent the son (Smike) away to nurse after he was born, probably to avoid the brother finding out about the marriage. The..."

You are welcome, Robin. I understand you completely. When you read couple of books at the same time this kind of missing out is possible. It happens to me too and then I have to reread parts again. :)

So has Dotheboys Hall gained a universal name of reference for schools of poor condition and education? This is an interesting fact. Thank you, Robin, for sharing with us.


Brenda (gd2brivard) | 141 comments Yes, Robin... that’s interesting about Dotheboy’s reputation. Thank you for sharing that!


Brenda (gd2brivard) | 141 comments Robin wrote -I'm a bit of a reader of books in between so then sometimes forget the pertinent parts. This is unforgiveable in this case, and ...
You’re too hard on yourself. 🙂 we all missed things in this section. There’s been a lot going on and it was at the tail end, so I think it was easy to not get every little nuance. Sometimes I still get caught up in the writing as well, and many times I have to reread something a few times as Dickens is just saying « he » and I’m not sure at all which he is being referred to. Case in point, I thought Gride ran off with Madeleine. Lol.


message 28: by Robin (new)

Robin | 162 comments Thank you, all , for your comments re my misreading a section.

The reference to Dotheboys Hall was in the memoir of Nicholas Coleridge, The Glossy Years Magazines, Museums and Selective Memoirs. I haven't come across it being referenced previously, but this is the first time I've read Nicholas Nickleby so might not have recognised the name and connotations. .


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