Dickens Club Week 8 (Final week of Sketches by Boz) and a Week 7 Wrap-up

Wherein we glance back at the seventh week of the Dickens Chronological Reading Club 2022-23; with a look ahead to week eight, the final week of Sketches by Boz.

Sketches-by-Boz33Well, here we are, about to embark on our final week with Sketches by Boz…wow. What a treasury of riches we’ve had here in our comment threads: on Dickens’ techniques, his narrative style and structure, his progress as a writer, and the themes that fascinate him.

And this is only the beginning of the journey…

No matter where you’re at in the reading process, a huge “thank you” for reading along with us! Always and forever, a heartfelt thanks to the joyously Dickensian account, the Dickens Fellowship for retweeting these and keeping us all in sync, and to The Circumlocution Office for providing such an online resource for us!

General Mems

I have altered the reading schedule in our Intro post for the Club (only very slightly, by a couple of days here and there) mostly because ending one read on a Monday and starting out with another on a Tuesday works well with the odd live-in shifts of yours truly, and the creation of the discussion wrap-ups. However, unavoidably, some novels/works will start or end on different days of the week, as the many of them fall perfectly into a single calendar month. But…just fyi.

Little reminders: feel free to comment below this post for Week Eight’s Sketches, or comment on twitter with the hashtag #DickensClub.

I will post a final wrap-up for the Sketches next Monday, 28 Feb, followed by an introduction to The Pickwick Papers on Tuesday.

For any newer members or those who might be interested in joining: the schedule is in my intro post here. If you have been reading along with us but are not yet on the Member List, I would love to add you! Please feel free to message me here on the site, or on twitter.

Week Seven Wrap-up: Supplemental Readings, How to Proceed after Sketches, Dickens’ Development as a Writer, Parallels in This Week’s Sketches, Things We Loved, and a Question

boz27We started the week with “Shabby-Genteel People,” and then met a delightful pair of drunken troublemakers who were well and truly “Making a Night of It.” Then, to the first of the “Tales” with matrimonial incidents in “The Boarding-House,” followed by Dickens’ first published piece of fiction, and the hassles of dealing with Mr. Minns’ least favorite things ~ dogs, children, and society ~ in “Mr. Minns and His Cousin” (renamed from the original title, “A Dinner at Poplar Walk”); then “Sentiment” and “The Tuggses at Ramsgate.”

sketches wk 8 coriale article rach commentFinally, we will conclude this week ~ and begin our final week ~ with “Horatio Sparkins.”

This week, I posted a little supplement to the Sketches in a passage from John Forster on the delights and attractions of the Sketches, and Chris shared with us two fascinating journal articles to supplement our reading: “So Frail a Machine,” and “The Carnivalesque City.”

We also polled and discussed about how to proceed with the posts and the reading divisions once Sketches is finished, and we seem to be of similar mind.

So, I will continue the weekly discussion wrap-ups, and each novel will be divided as equally as possible into the number of weeks we have to read them, so that we’re all discussing only specific chapters in a given week (even if some of us read ahead). More on this in the “Intro to Pickwick” post to come.

sketches wk 8 sarah comment finished sbbOne of our members, Sarah, has finished the Sketches, and is reading Claire Tomalin’s The Invisible Woman (on Ellen Ternan) while she awaits the group start of Pickwick. (I have recently picked up her biography of Dickens, but won’t be delving into that for a while yet, as I’m in the middle of several other related reads…but looking forward to it!)

sketches wk 8 - yvonne comment shabby-genteelWe had lots to say on “Shabby-Genteel People” ~ and Yvonne questions Dickens’ lack of inclusion of women among those capable of that designation. (She also pointed us to a fascinating bit of Victoriana, inspired by this sketch, in regards to black and blue “reviver” noted in this Sketch.)

Chris notes the difference in the composition of this Sketch versus Dickens’ later works; in essence, that it comes off like a more juvenile/by-the-book attempt to “tell” rather than “show” us. It is comforting that Dickens, so masterful at doing the latter, had to develop this craft, too:

Chris M. comment

On the hilarious “Making a Night of It,” some selections from Lenny’s fabulous comments. (This is the “gallery view”; click on each to see it enlarged:)

I have to restrain myself from going on too long about “Making a Night of it.” As a sucker for a bromance, however ridiculous, I particularly loved this Sketch:

Rach M. comment

On “The Prisoners’ Van,” The Circumlocution Office kindly provided the two delightful paragraphs that were in the original version of the Sketch, but omitted for book publication, somewhat to the lament of Chris and myself. Lenny, however, had the editor’s eye here, and thinks overall it was a wise omission:

Lenny H. comment, “The Prisoners’ Van”

Both Lenny and Chris had such rich things to say on “The Boarding House,” “Mr. Minns,” “Sentiment,” and “The Tuggses.” Lenny found fascinating parallels between the first three, in spite of the differences in the tales themselves. Though I looked at “Minns,” for example, more in light of a kind of comical, ironical karma for Minns’ dislike of innocent and joyous beings ~ dogs and children ~ and of human interaction in general, Lenny had an empathetic look at him as a victim of a “schemer” (his cousin), much in the way Mrs. Tibbs schemes in “The Boarding-House.” Here is a passage in his consideration of “Mr. Minns” parallels to “The Boarding-House,” though I hope you’ll read the whole of his thoughts:

Lenny H. comment on “Mr. Minns and His Cousin”

Chris gives a fascinating perspective when “Sentiment” in particular is looked at in the context of Dickens’ own life, particularly what was to come long after the writing of these Sketches:

Chris M. comment on “Sentiment

These are just a few of the many wonderful comments this week. I need to take another dive in myself, and I hope you do too! As a final thought to end the discussion with ~ or rather, to start a new one with ~ Daniel, who has been listening to the Sketches on audiobook, has a question: Do we have a “Dickens” today?

Daniel M. comment

A Look-ahead to Week Eight…

Today’s Sketch is the fifth in the “Tales” Sequence, “Horatio Sparkins.”

Tues, 22 Feb, 2022: “Tales,” Chapter Six: “The Black Veil”

Wed, 23 Feb, 2022: “Tales,” Chapter Seven: “The Steam Excursion”

Thurs, 24 Feb, 2022: “Tales,” Chapter Eight: “The Great Winglebury Duel”

Fri, 25 Feb, 2022: “Tales,” Chapter Nine: “Mrs. Joseph Porter”

Sat, 26 Feb, 2022: “Tales,” Chapter Ten: “A Passage in the Life of Mr. Watkins Tottle”

Sun, 27 Feb, 2022: “Tales,” Chapter Eleven: “The Bloomsbury Christening”

Mon, 28 Feb, 2022: “Tales,” Chapter Twelve: “The Drunkard’s Death”

…and The End.

We’ll see you on Monday the 28th for our final wrap-up of Sketches by Boz, followed by Tuesday 1 March’s Introduction to The Pickwick Papers!


  1. Rach: Another great gold star summary of the Dickens’ Reading Club’s writings. I always enjoy reading the items as they appear daily, but I also very much look forward to your summaries because they add so much to my understanding of how they all fit together, dove-tail with each other. And, my goodness, what a lot of “work” we’ve accomplished over the last 7 weeks. Rich and wonderful. And it’s all thanks to you as moderator, editor, critic, and instigator! Thanks so much AGAIN!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I know that it’s the beginning of a new week with new readings, but I want to turn the clock back to Chris’s essay on Dickens’ “The Tuggses At Ramgate.” She captures the essence of this work so well, speaking about the incredulousness of this business-oriented families’ naivete, its inability to sense the fraud that is being perpetrated on them by their supposed “friends” at this popular resort. She implies that they ought to have known better because they were so meticulous in their selling of merchandise out of their store. I just shook my head thinking “yes” at each remark but then began to think about why they were–as a group–so gullible. So, I decided to reread the tale to see what I’d missed, to get some idea of what went wrong with the decision-making process that led to their being so badly fleeced. What follows, briefly, is what I came up with….

    After reading about the inheritance that they received, the tale proceeds as follows:

    “A prolonged consultation took place, that night, in the little parlour—a consultation that was to settle the future destinies of the Tuggses. The shop was shut up, at an unusually early hour; and many were the unavailing kicks bestowed upon the closed door by applicants for quarterns of sugar, or half-quarterns of bread, or penn’orths of pepper, which were to have been ‘left till Saturday,’ but which fortune had decreed were to be left alone altogether.

    ‘We must certainly give up business,’ said Miss Tuggs.

    ‘Oh, decidedly,’ said Mrs. Tuggs.

    ‘Simon shall go to the bar,’ said Mr. Joseph Tuggs.

    ‘And I shall always sign myself “Cymon” in future,’ said his son.

    ‘And I shall call myself Charlotta,’ said Miss Tuggs.

    ‘And you must always call me “Ma,” and father “Pa,”’ said Mrs. Tuggs.

    ‘Yes, and Pa must leave off all his vulgar habits,’ interposed Miss Tuggs.

    ‘I’ll take care of all that,’ responded Mr. Joseph Tuggs, complacently. He was, at that very moment, eating pickled salmon with a pocket-knife.

    ‘We must leave town immediately,’ said Mr. Cymon Tuggs.

    Everybody concurred that this was an indispensable preliminary to being genteel. The question then arose, Where should they go?”

    This whole “conversation” is so laugh out loud funny that I MUST have missed the implications with both the individual and collective statements. Each of these participants–as well as the family as a whole–seem to be mentally (as we would say) a few cards short of a full deck. I guess we could declare, as an excuse, that they are so caught up in the excitement of the moment that they are unable to make rational decisions. But there is something else going on here. You could call it impetuosity when the daughter says they should “give up business.” But that seems silly, as they are there sitting IN their place of business while their long-time customers have been knocking at their door for purchases. But, what the heck, Mrs. Tuggs agrees. Next, Mr Tuggs exclaims that Simon will study for the law. OK, that’s reasonable, but a bit too early for a decision of that magnitude to take place. Is he qualified? Does he want to study law, etc? But then the conversation really goes off the rails with Simon first strangely wanting to change his name to CYMON and then his sister Charlotte chimes in with a similar pronouncement–she wants to be named “Charlotta”–perhaps beginning to see herself as a heroine in a romance. And the verbal madness continues to the final declaration that they, as a group, want to appear “genteel.”

    It appears that this family is not only naive but really and crazily bonkers. If true, then this analysis probably explains their customers’ complaints and curiosities about their grocery-selling methods. And this curiously bizarre dialogue supports any suspicious notions WE might have about their business prowess. At any rate, they are ripe for the plucking by the Captain and his wife and suffer the consequences of their mental shortcomings. They are “Gulled” to the extent of 1500 pounds, a mighty sum in Britain of the 1830’s!

    My special thanks to Chris for stimulating these further thoughts regarding this outrageous and wonderful “Tale.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lenny, Thanks for the kind words AND the glowing praise of Rach which I whole-heartedly add, “Ditto, ditto ditto!!”

      I have to admit that I am not familiar enough with the grocery trade of the 1830’s to be entirely sure if the “precision” with which the Tuggs’s dispensed of their merchandise is because they were extremely accurate or extremely nit-picky. I erred on the side of them being accurate, but in hindsight they were probably nit-picky and trying to get the most out of their products and their customers. Either way, however, they would have had to keep a close eye on their merchandise and how it was dispensed in order to get the most out of their customers. So it seemed odd to me that they would suddenly turn a relatively blind eye toward how their money was being spent. But I guess they let their inheritance go to their heads, and whatever “crazily bonkers” notions they had before the money just increased exponentially.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Tales – Chapter 5 – Horatio Sparkins
    Despite an opening that echos Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”, it should be obvious to us by this point in our familiarity with Dickens/Boz that the Malderton’s will not fare as well as the Bennett’s because: (1) we should be skeptical of a woman’s prospects whenever Dickens/Boz describes her as above a certain age (i.e., above 21) and as “fat” rather than “plump” or “blooming” as he does Miss Teresa, (2) we should be on high alert when a family is described as harboring “ideas . . . [which] became elevated to an extraordinary pitch as their means increased; they affected fashion, taste, and many other fooleries, in imitation of their betters, and had a very decided and becoming horror of any thing which could by possibility be considered LOW.”

    The Malderton’s set their sights on Horatio Sparkins, deciding he must be SOMEBODY “because he perceives our superiority, and pays us so much attention.” They view people based on how people view THEM, or as Dickens will say of Mr Dombey, (and I paraphrase) he acknowledged the merits of others based on their reverence for him. The Malderton’s are pretenders – they ape their betters, and not very successfully. Mrs Malderton and her (precariously mature) daughters dress in matching costumes that are inappropriate for their ages, Mr Frederick is “the very beau ideal of a smart waiter”, and Mr Tom “strongly resembled . . . George Barnwell” (who, per a footnote, was “a London apprentice who robs his employer and murders his uncle and is eventually hanged, having maintained an air of high-minded virtue throughout”). And Mr Malderton, who “had raised him[self] from a situation of obscurity and comparative poverty, to a state of affluence” through “a few such successful speculations” is spasmodically ashamed of his brother-in-law who, though a “grocer”, is a successful businessman in his own right.
These people cannot possibly succeed.

    What is interesting here is that just as the Malderton’s “were ambitious of forming acquaintances and connexions [sic] in some sphere of society superior to that in which they themselves moved”, so too is Horatio/Samuel. He aspires to gentility, a sphere the Malderton’s have newly acquired but which they have not yet mastered. He, on the other hand, plays the genteel role so well that he is thought to be socially superior to the Maldertons. (Dickens again pokes fun at himself by including “a contributor to the magazines” in the possibilities of who or what Horatio could be. And I found the foreshadowing of Horatio’s true identity is cute: Flamwell: “have you been much among the silk gowns . . .?” Sparkins: “Nearly all my life”; Flamwell: “do you happen to know Mr Delafontaine . . . ?” Sparkins: “I have had an opportunity of serving him considerably”.)

    Horatio/Samuel unfortunately is found out precisely because the Malderton’s have not mastered gentility. If they had, Mrs Malderton would NEVER have sought to save money by patronizing the “dirty-looking ticketed linen-draper’s shop” in which Horatio/Samuel is employed. And though her daughters exert their nouveau riche ways enough to be “horrified” that their mother has brought them to such an establishment, they do not refuse to go in. Horatio/Samuel is exposed and Miss Teresa’s hopes are dashed, but nothing else appears to change except the Malderton’s “increased aversion to any thing LOW.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow, great analysis, Chris. I love that you mention PRIDE AND PREJUDICE because that novel came immediately to mind during the opening stages of “Horatio.” I have no idea what Dicken’s views were on Jane Austen, but he must have seen the parallels between this “Tale” and the Austen novel. Is it possible that “Horatio” is a kind of parody of the Austen design, and that of the other late 18th and early 19th century novels like hers? Moreover, this new tale seems almost Shakespearean in its makeup, a “lower class” comedy of errors, using the romantic comedy paradigm but one that revels in farce or comic exaggeration.

      The “comedy” in this piece is built around the idea of mistaken identity, as the two “sides” of the narrative perceive each other as beneficial in their quests for “Gentility.” The Maldertons view Horatio as a “catch” for their eldest daughter (much like Mrs. Bennet views the young parson as the “right ” man for Lizzie), while Horatio sees the Maldertons and the prospects of a marriage to Teresa as his ticket to becoming a genteel gentleman. And the parallel here, with P & P, is the parson’s lust for Lizzie (HIS “catch”) and of course his receipt of the family fortune which is his by entail. He would, thus, “kill two birds with one stone” as the saying goes. But the similarities pretty much end there. There is no mistaken identity in this love match between Lizzie and the young parson.

      And so the Boz “drama” plays out with comic exaggeration in both the dialogue between the main participants, and the external trappings worn by each of the main participants in order to charm one another–each thinking of the other as the more “genteel.” It’s appearance vs reality, again, a theme that runs throughout these sketches, a theme in this case which deepens as the narrative progresses and finally climaxes with the Malderton’s visit to the thrift shop where Samuel works. Here the comic “reveal” takes place with the horror that it creates in all the participants. Thus, this “Tale” finishes as a kind of “anti-romantic comedy”!

      And interestingly, this tale is another story involving “schemes” (is Dickens obsessed by this idea?), as we have seen in the last several writings. But this tale is certainly a more benign specimen, especially when compared to the Tuggses narrative before it where the Captain’s scam on them is more overtly a criminal act. There is certainly naivete on both sides of the “Horatio” story which compares to the hopeless naivete of the Tuggses, but no naivete on the part of the perpetrators. They are completely evil people! In “Horatio” there is just plain good fun on a more “laughable” level.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I tried to comment but had trouble, and I think it was deleted…Anyway! Love this conversation, Chris and Lenny!!! I love the Austen parallels, and Lenny, yes, particularly Collins/Elizabeth! Chris, love the assessment of the mistakes that are gotten into in part due to the novelty of gentility ~ and I so agree with your first paragraph, that you know you have to be on your guard when women are spinsters above a certain age, described in a particular manner, and when those who are aspiring to gentility, despise anything “Low”…we know Dickens is going to humble them in the course of the tale…


  4. Dear Inimitables,

    First off, I join Chris and Lenny in their appreciation and praise of Dickensian Wren’s exquisite recaps of the previous week.

    “Tritto! Tritto! Tritto!”

    Second, I delighted in the reflection on “The Sketches” as genre. This makes so much sense to me: “The montage Dickens accidentally produced” as a result “reveal[ed] what was ordinarily invisible to the human eye.” And the Dickensian Wren’s observation that “The Sketches” are no more orderly than a day in London . . . AMEN!

    Third, I want to throw in the Merriam-Webster definitions of “sketch” as a noun.

    1: a rough drawing representing the chief features of an object or scene and often made as a preliminary study
    b: a tentative draft (as for a literary work)
    2: a brief description (as of a person) or outline
    3a: a short literary composition somewhat resembling the short story and the essay but intentionally slight in treatment, discursive in style, and familiar in tone

    The second definition does not fit particularly well methinks. However, the first and third seem to me to be helpful, esepecially “discursive in style, and familiar in tone.”

    Tale on!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Tales – Chapter 6 – The Black Veil – Or, as Ackroyd describes it, Dickens’s/Boz’s “first proper story; it is no longer a sketch or a scene or a farcical interlude but a finished narrative.” (170)

    “A Visit to Newgate” and “The Black Veil” were both written specifically for the first series of collected Sketches which appeared in February 1836, with “Newgate” being penned before “Veil” sometime between Dickens’s November 1835 tour of Newgate Prison and the February publication date (Schlicke 4; Patten 72).

    According to Patten, “Veil” “becomes a sequel to the last night in Newgate. Rather than writing the back story for a previously composed tale . . . Dickens extends the Newgate sketch beyond what one might imagine was the definitive end of every story . . . [i.e.,] the living body transmogrified into a corpse.” In other words, in “Veil” Boz shows what happens to the criminal after he has been executed. Patten also points out that the dead man in “Veil” “has the same story as Boz will imagine a year later in Monmouth Street about the indulged child who turned bad.” (72-73) (Note, “Meditations in Monmouth Street” was originally published in September 1836 for a new revised reissue of the Sketches entitled, “Sketches by Boz, New Series”.)

    But wait, there’s more! Reed tells us that “the fable of a delinquent son who is the occasion of his virtuous mother’s suffering” is yet again restyled in “Criminal Courts” (recall this Sketch wherein a young boy is being released after a long prison sentence into the custody of his grieving mother). This time Boz “focuses on an early stage at which this malignant process might be halted and even reversed” (66). (Note, “Criminal Courts” was published in December 1837 for “Sketches by Boz: Second Series”, another revised reissue!)

    Clearly Dickens’s visit to Newgate Prison sparked his imagination and inspired him for years to come – arguably until his death. So many of his novels have prison scenes, criminals, wayward sons, and it is speculated that his last unfinished novel was to end with a prison scene.

    Works cited (not in proper format): Peter Ackroyd, “Dickens”; Paul Schlicke, “‘Risen Like a Rocket’: The Impact of “Sketches by Boz’” in Dickens Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 1 (March 2005) pp. 3-18; Robert L. Patten “Charles Dickens and ‘Boz’”; John R. Reed “Dickens and Thackeray: Punishment and Forgiveness”

    There are some illustrations by Harry Furniss (1910) and Fred Barnard (1876) with commentary on the Victorian Web: https://victorianweb.org/art/illustration/furniss/207.html

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I got so caught up in all that research that I forgot to step back and give my own impressions of the Tale!

      What struck me initially is that the figure of the woman dressed in black is very like the specter of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come in “A Christmas Carol”:

      The Black Veil – “It was a singularly tall female, dressed in deep mourning . . . The upper part of her person was carefully muffled in a black shawl, as if for the purpose oof concealment, and her face was shrouded by a thick black veil. She stood perfectly erect; her figure was drawn up to its full height, and through the surgeon FELT that they eyes beneath the veil were fixed on him, she stood perfectly motionless, and evinced, by not gesture whatever, the slightest consciousness of his having turned towards her. . . . The female slightly inclined her head, in token of acquiescence.”

      A Christmas Carol – “It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing oof it visible save one outstretched hand. . . . He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved. . . . The upper portion of the garment was contracted for an instant in its folds, as if the Spirit had inclined its head. That was the only answer [Scrooge] received.”

      And the hopelessness of the woman as she speaks of the “patient” who is not yet dead but who will be soon seems to me to be not too far off, in terms of its dreadfulness, from Scrooge seeing his own future except that he has a chance to be saved.

      Also, the description of the Doctor’s trepidation when he is in the woman’s Walworth neighborhood is chilling! The imperfect or non-existent lighting, the cannibalized hovels, the desperate and/or depraved characters, etc. Sadly in describing Walworth Dickens could be describing many inner city slums or outlying depressed rural areas of today.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. God lord, Chris, you give us all a boatload of ideas and things to think about and do further research with. The entire pastiche of materials that surround this tale would be interesting to string together as a kind of novelette in several parts. But I’m wondering what would be the outcome and would it be structurally and aesthetically possible? You and others might have an answer for that….

        As it IS, now, I find the tale so intriguing and complex that it would take many pages of writing and exploration to do it justice. I’m just going to make a few suggestions how I might go about making a fairly long explication of “The Black Veil” without following up very much on them.

        One could certainly come at the tale with some analysis of its antecedents and followers and how they could, with their themes, characters, structures, descriptive details give meaning and purpose to this Dickens’ tale. I’m thinking particularly of the young American writers who were working more or less contemporaneously with Dickens. As I was reading the “Veil” I thought immediately of Hawthorne, Irving, and secondarily, of Poe–all of whom were writing in something we could call the “Gothic” tradition. The Stories I’m thinking of are Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Browne” and “The Minister’s Black Veil”–and with Irving, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle. With Poe, writing later, there is “The Fall of the House of Usher,” which really made a huge impression on me as an undergraduate. All of these “tales” are dark, strange, symbolic, introduce dream/nightmare states and suggest allegory–Christian or otherwise. At one time or another, Dickens was probably familiar with them all but to what extent he made use of them I don’t know. Nevertheless, they contain elements which could be read back into the “Veil” productively, seeing it as a kind of gothic allegory.

        Two other approaches to this tale really excite me–they are similar and might be used in parallel fashion–Joseph Campbell’s “Monomyth” (coming from his great and provocative work THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES), and the German heroic structure–the “BILDUNGSROMAN.” In many ways, an analysis involving these two “traditional” approaches would or could intermingle and heighten the meaning of both and each other and thus the the Dickens’ tale. In other words their ideas could be integrated usefully in an analysis by looking at the tale from these perspectives. This is not to say that the Hawthorne, Irving, Poe inferences would be left out in this complex of ideas. Bringing in meaning and details from these sources would just enrich our understanding of the multifaceted meanings of this complex work by our dear Charles.

        The Key structure in the monomyth is in three parts: Beginning with the main character’s SEPARATION- leading to an INITIATION and ending with the hero/heroine/protagonist’s RETURN. This fits the structure of “The Black Veil” to a “T.” The young doctor, sitting more or less complacently in his warm cottage, protected from the wild storm raging outside, falls asleep and dreams positively of his future with his bride to be. This dream positions him in a fairly “safe” place and heightens his more or less complacent present situation. But he is awakened by his young assistant and faced with the spectre of the veiled woman who, in all her austerity, is terribly frightening. She makes her verbal appeal to him as doctor to meet with her the next morning so that he might be able to take care of someone who, as it turns out would be his first patient! In the monomyth, this veiled woman would, in taking the young doctor out of his “safe” environment, act as his GUIDE into the “Initiation” part of the Campbell structure. And this segment of the structure, makes up the bulk of the tale, where the doctor moves out of his home into kind of unknown and strange environment where he begins to see and experience a part of life he’s new to. The grotesque, chaotic, ramshackle, impoverished landscape will imprint itself upon him for ever, and give him an awareness he perhaps has never before experienced.

        END PART I: I need to make and eat breakfast….

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Fantastic references, Chris! And thanks for that Victorian web link. How fascinating that those three in particular, Winglebury, Newgate, and Black Veil, were all unpublished Sketches that were accommodated at the end!


      1. 0h Lenny, what fantastic reflections! Sorry, all my responses seem to be ending up in the wrong places this evening…I am not sure what I’m doing wrong…

        Anyway, more anon I hope. Some things have happened this week that make it a difficult one ~ but what a joy to come in and read such stunning reflections…thank you all 💙

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Alright, then, PART II:

    As Chris mentions, “the Walworth neighborhood is quite chilling.” Yes, it’s definitely a “wasteland”–but there is more. It serves as a hiding place and training ground for thieves and murderers. Perhaps the birthplace of the son of the veiled woman! And this fact is definitely a crucial segment of the monomyth, especially as it is combined with the mysterious and “dark” “residence” of the dead man. For in the monomyth, there is usually a DESCENT during the initiation phase, into some kind of shadowy underworld and the horrors that might go with it. The “guide”–here the mother–is responsible for drawing the protagonist into this dark place where the protagonist’s “education” continues. Campbell states that this “place” could be a forbidden psychological space, a spiritual environment, or simply a realistically awful landscape. Whatever, the descent is usually terrifying, a kind of Gethsemane, perhaps. In “The Black Veil” The gothic description of the dead man’s home and resting place is dark and austere, and reminds me of the horrible spaces in a Kafka novel or something from a surreal painting of Dali. In fact, in this regard, I’m tempted to classify the entire tale as a surreal short story–with its early dream sequence and the very nightmare-like details near the story’s conclusion. In raw terms, also, one might say that the mother has beckoned the young doctor into an “appointment with death’! And, naturally, this is one of the great ironies of the story. The doctor’s FIRST patient is a dead man! Now we’re getting, I believe, into the realm of Poe!

    But then to the third segment of the monomyth, the RETURN. The idea behind the Campbell structure is that the Hero/Heroine separates from an initial place/space, moves through some kind of initiation, and comes back into his original
    “environment” more or less in tact with the knowledge that the initiation has “taught” him or her. With this new information, he ideally will integrate himself back into society and do good works with his new knowledge. And this, in brief, is what happens on a small scale in “The Black Veil”:

    “For many years after this occurrence, and when profitable and arduous avocations would have led many men to forget that such a miserable being existed, the young surgeon was a daily visitor at the side of the harmless mad woman; not only soothing her by his presence and kindness, but alleviating the rigour of her condition by pecuniary donations for her comfort and support, bestowed with no sparing hand. In the transient gleam of recollection and consciousness which preceded her death, a prayer for his welfare and protection, as fervent as mortal ever breathed, rose from the lips of this poor friendless creature. That prayer flew to Heaven, and was heard. The blessings he was instrumental in conferring, have been repaid to him a thousand-fold; but, amid all the honours of rank and station which have since been heaped upon him, and which he has so well earned, he can have no reminiscence more gratifying to his heart than that connected with The Black Veil.”

    A lesser man might ignore the learning that has taken place during the initiation and simply forget about the veiled woman. But the young doctor doesn’t and receives both material and spiritual rewards for his caring and love for the dead son’s mother. Perhaps then, we could also see this tale as a Christian Allegory similar to Bunyan’s PILGRIMS PROGRESS! We could then, extrapolate the ideas and methods from Bunyan’s popular narrative and use that as our “Monomyth Sounding Board.”
    Oh Boy! The interpretation possibilities just pile up!

    But now, very quickly, to the “Bildungsroman.” Again, as in the monomyth, the narrative involves a protagonist who goes through a segment of life involving trials and tribulations. This genre usually implies a journey or some kind of quest. And through this experience the protagonist receives an “education,” maybe we could call it “life lessons.” Dickens would be as familiar with this kind of structure as he would be with the novels and stories containing the monomyth. One of his favorite novels was, I presume, Fielding’s TOM JONES, and this novel contains the narrative structure I’ve just alluded to. I think that this Fielding novel was one of his favorites because Dicken named one of his sons after Fielding. So, in “The Black Veil” we could be seen to have a kind of truncated Bildungsroman. Here, we could discuss the novel in terms of the Fielding work, the various stages of Tom Jones’ journey, and apply them to gain meaning to the events and characters of Dicken’s story. Or we could simply research the motifs and ideas inherent in, generically, the Bildungsroman, and see what depth they would reveal about the “Veil.” However, I tend to see the Bildungsroman as more of a secular story, whereas the monomyth moves, often, in the direction of religious narrative. But I’m splitting hairs, here, and getting onto dangerous ground. Perhaps they are more interchangeable than I think. But I’d put my money on the monomyth idea as I ventured to do an in-depth analysis of “The Black veil.

    In the past, and this will sound a bit too erudite, my favorite Bildungsroman was Goethe’s WILHELM MEISTER’S WANDERJAHR. This is a lovely German narrative that Dickens may or may not have read. He was probably familiar with in in some capacity. But for the life of me, I remember practically nada about it–after 50+ years–and have promised myself to reread it these last ten years but haven’t gotten around to it!!! So sad….

    I believe that DAVID COPPERFIELD and GREAT EXPECTATIONS are wonderful possibilities for the kind af analysis I’ve been talking about. But we’ll know that once we take on those novels. You Dickensians would know much more about how any of these ideas fit with the other novels and stories….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lenny, I’ve got to digest what you’ve written – so applicable certainly to the later novels. I’ve seen some of these approaches mentioned re Dickens’s in my readings but I can’t put my finger on them – will keep searching! In particular, one of the sources I looked at mentioned Hawthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Veil” but, of course, I can’t find it now. I so appreciate your “other approaches” giving us different ways to see these readings. I spent a lot of time thinking about the woman in “Veil” and gave little thought to the young doctor who is, after all, the protagonist here! You’ve brought me back to him and I am now reconsidering the Tale from his point of view – which is where it actually all takes place. He began by wondering how his practice will ever get started and by the end of the Tale we see it fulfilled. Taking just one more step back to the woman, I guess we could say that at least one good – the good doctor – came out of the dissipated son’s existence.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Tales – Chapter 7 – The Steam Excursion – Another early sketch and one that Dickens apparently “borrowed” from a story by John Poole called “Preparations for Pleasure; or, the Pic-nic” published in 1829. Poole’s story included similar characters and a similar story arc but Dickens “decorates his farcical basis with a much more gray and subtle kind of humour” (“Dickens and a Story by John Poole”, Tillotson, Dickensian, Vol. 52, 1/1/56, p. 69). “Borrowing” from other sources is something that has always been done in writing, and continues to be so. Making the borrowed material one’s own is not always an easy thing to do, and the line between homage and plagiarism is very fine. Not having read Poole’s story and basing my opinion on Tillotson’s reporting, what we can see in this early sketch is typical Dickensian humor brought out through dialogue and situation, including the typical Dickensian wrap up at the end where everyone accounted for and given their just desserts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As Chris mentions, “The Steam Excursion” is probably adapted from an earlier source and reformulated into a new “story” by Dickens as told by Boz. So there is a direct historical precedent for this narrative–but my first thought was how this rendition reminded me of one of my favorite earlier sketches, “The River.” I remember writing about the broad comic aspects of this neat little writing and saw in it a wonderful blend of commentary and slapstick–the kind of visual comedy that could be played so beautifully by either Chaplin or Keaton. And in some respects, I feel this “Excursion” could work in much the same way.

      But first I want to give this quote from “The River” that foreshadows the narrative possibilities that come into play in the present story–“Excursion”:

      “Who ever heard of a successful water-party?—or to put the question in a still more intelligible form, who ever saw one? We have been on water excursions out of number, but we solemnly declare that we cannot call to mind one single occasion of the kind, which was not marked by more miseries than any one would suppose could be reasonably crowded into the space of some eight or nine hours. Something has always gone wrong. Either the cork of the salad-dressing has come out, or the most anxiously expected member of the party has not come out, or the most disagreeable man in company would come out, or a child or two have fallen into the water, or the gentleman who undertook to steer has endangered everybody’s life all the way….”

      When I first read this I didn’t know what to think. Is the narrator just pulling my leg, or is he in earnest? Of course there are successful water-parties; who hasn’t gone on one that was an enjoyable experience? But occasionally, there could be SOME that experience “difficulties,” and I then remembered the part of this quote where Boz explicitly says “we cannot call to mind one single occasion” of a party that hasn’t suffered some misery or another. Enter, then, “The Steam Excursion” which is an interesting and in-depth expression, from beginning to end, of a “water-party” that starts more or less successfully and which ends as a totally miserable experience: “which was not marked by more miseries than anyone would suppose could reasonably crowded in the space….”

      Our hero in “Excursion” is the sometime law student Mr. Noakes–who I believe is an incredibly interesting character in that he’s forsaken his studies to become involved in society at large, seems to know everyone, and wants to have a life of excitement and pleasure. In this regard, he’s obviously not suited for the legal profession and seems to be finding his way toward what we today would call a professional “Event Coordinator.” And he’s really good in this endeavor. He knows important people, he imaginatively invents a water-party with these people and with the help of many friends, knows what a successful water-party needs in the way of food and accommodations, and has an eye toward the kind of entertainers that folks on board the cruise would find funny and intriguing. And things go well for him and the party until the weather turns “miserable” and the party, as they say, comes to a sad and soaking conclusion. But KUDOS to our Mr. Noakes for putting all this COMIC splendor together and satisfying, at least for a while, the wants and needs of his clients!

      He’s an intriguing character and in many ways we could refer to him as a pretty cool guy who is not totally defeated by the outcome of HIS nicely conceived water-party. And our dear narrator, Mr. Boz lets us know this about him in the final moment of the story:

      “Mr. Percy Noakes is as light-hearted and careless as ever.”

      I imagine that after the events of the “Excursion” he’ll go on with his life in tact and engage in other similar endeavors in the future! Cool, collected, imaginative and engaging!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I thought it was interesting that the passage on Steam Excursion @ Victorian Web likens Percy to Dickens himself, and Mr H to Forster ~ but it looks like this sketch was first published in Oct of ’34 for the Monthly Magazine…and D wasn’t to meet Forster for another 2 years. But no wonder you find Percy N fascinating! He was great fun to read about!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Tales – Chapter 8 – The Great Winglebury Duel – Duels, love triangles, forbidden romance (including a December-May romance), mistaken identity, cross-purposes, runaway marriages, inheritance at risk, a little embezzlement, intrigue, madness, mystery! This one has it all – and a happy ending to boot, except for poor Lord Peter! This tale is a nice primer for what’s to come in Pickwick.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Chris: well as you know, I lost my original reply to your wonderful summary–which you wrote in the best Dickensian sense with a riff of words he’d be proud of! My two bits worth regarding this “story” dealt with how close it comes to the events of a typical western right out of American cinema! Although it would be more of a parody or spoof, filmed in the comic vein of something like Mel Brooks’ BLAZING SADDLES ! But it also comes close to the stories of Bret Hart and Mark Twain, and with the latter I’m reminded of his great collection of western tales in ROUGHING IT. To show the similarities, I’m repeating the opening paragraph of “Duel”:

      “The little town of Great Winglebury is exactly forty-two miles and three-quarters from Hyde Park corner. It has a long, straggling, quiet High-street, with a great black and white clock at a small red Town-hall, half-way up—a market-place—a cage—an assembly-room—a church—a bridge—a chapel—a theatre—a library—an inn—a pump—and a Post-office. Tradition tells of a ‘Little Winglebury,’ down some cross-road about two miles off; and, as a square mass of dirty paper, supposed to have been originally intended for a letter, with certain tremulous characters inscribed thereon, in which a lively imagination might trace a remote resemblance to the word ‘Little,’ was once stuck up to be owned in the sunny window of the Great Winglebury Post-office, from which it only disappeared when it fell to pieces with dust and extreme old age, there would appear to be some foundation for the legend.”

      I’m sure Twain read this and many of the other tales for he loved Dickens and even went to one of Dickens “reading events” in New York and actually wrote a journalistic piece about it. But I don’t know if they ever met. Nevertheless, what strikes me about this opening paragraph is its “universality”–and how easily it foresees the great comic literature that came out of the American West in the later stages of the 19th century.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Dear Group” I posted a “reply” to Chris regarding the “Duel” story and for some reason it has disappeared. Anybody have an idea of what might have happened or how I might “retrieve it? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks, Lenny

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not very tech-savvy but did you look on your clipboard? (I think that would only work if you copied it though.) Sorry, hope you can re-create it because I’m sure it was wonderful!


    2. Oh No! Lenny, I’m so sorry to hear this…no, I checked my email just to be sure it didn’t ask me to “approve” a comment (which I shouldn’t need to do anymore anyway…it only asks me to approve something like the first time or two that a new person comments). I have no idea from my end 😢 that makes me sad!

      I am very much looking forward to catching up. Alas, I am a bit of a passive enjoyer of the reading & comments this week…we lost a pet and there have been several other very unusual things this week that has put me behind in commenting as I’d like 🙂 and now I am at work…but perhaps during the quiet time tonight!

      I sure hope you can somehow retrieve your comment, Lenny…I have started to write mine in some other text document, and then copy/paste, for just such a situation. I hate when that happens 😢


      1. Thanks you two for your sympathies It was a short writing that I can replicate fairly easily, and it really amounts to nothing when I hear of Rach’s tough week. Losing a pet is no fun–around our house it would be major trauma–so I am really sympathetic with whatever is going on there! And I’m deeply sorry your week, otherwise, is not going well either. Please write me an email if you want to “talk.”

        I’m going to take your advice and start composing on a word processer and then cut and paste….Ugh!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Tales – Chapter 9 – Mrs Joseph Porter – Some people are just nasty! Mrs Gattleton is justified and correct when she observes “I really very much wish Mrs Joseph Porter wasn’t coming on Thursday. I am sure she’s scheming something.” Granted, the Galleton’s private theatrical venture didn’t need much help in failing or the players & musicians in looking foolish, but did Mrs Porter REALLY have to throw gasoline (Uncle Tom) on the fire? Well, of course she did because she’s, a-hem, a little Dickens! A mischievous, meddling woman, bent on pointing out the errors of others, of one-upping her neighbors, and proving herself superior. This type of woman is not uncommon in Dickens but usually they get their comeuppance in the end, and if this story were to have a second chapter Mrs Porter would have been put in her place. It is nice, all things considered, to see a happy family – the Galleton’s – working together on such a big project and getting along with no animosity or huge disfunction. Yes, they are perhaps a bit odd, but they seem to get on and they do manage to “put on” the show even though it doesn’t go as planned. Kudos to them for trying and raspberries to Mrs Joseph Porter!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh my, Mrs Porter and the Uncle! I felt so bad for the players, but it was pretty hilarious…the musicians, the ill-fitting costumes and the Wellingtons, the “ting, ting, ting” like a muffin boy going down a particularly long street (I’m paraphrasing)…

    You’re right Chris, another scheming, meddling woman who surprisingly doesn’t get her comeuppance. And Uncle is just blusteringly but innocently annoying, though very funny, and I suppose the great “tragedy” of this particular Othello was that he/she destroyed their love for theatricals and the Bard in the process! THAT is a tragedy indeed…

    I laughed so much about the orchestra, and the instruments racing each other…

    I am finally reading Claire Tomalin’s bio of Dickens, and there is a wonderful passage in it about Dickens’ passion for the theatre. (I read Simon Callow’s book on Dickens and the Theater too, but it has been some years, so I’ve forgotten too much.) It just brought to mind again how Dickens’ love of the theatre, and of melodrama in the (mostly) best sense, has inundated all his writing. Of course, he also put on home amateur theatricals, so I’m sure all of his bits about the preparations (and perhaps some of the mishaps too) are coming from personal experience. He deeply, deeply loved the theater, and it was part of a “daydream” of his to live near one, which would be under his own management.

    I’m not at home now so I can’t fetch the quote I’m looking for, but just thought I’d chime in. (Ting, ting, ting!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Ting, Ting, Ting” indeed! I agree with you two–this is a tremendously hilarious story that works so beautifully with comic overstatement! The first sense I got that all was not going to go well came in the paragraph describing the shambles of the house where the drama was going to take place:

      ” the house, usually so clean and tidy, was, to use Mr. Gattleton’s expressive description, ‘regularly turned out o’ windows;’ the large dining-room, dismantled of its furniture, and ornaments, presented a strange jumble of flats, flies, wings, lamps, bridges, clouds, thunder and lightning, festoons and flowers, daggers and foil, and various other messes in theatrical slang included under the comprehensive name of ‘properties.’ The bedrooms were crowded with scenery, the kitchen was occupied by carpenters. Rehearsals took place every other night in the drawing-room, and every sofa in the house was more or less damaged by the perseverance and spirit with which Mr. Sempronius Gattleton, and Miss Lucina, rehearsed the smothering scene in ‘Othello’—it having been determined that that tragedy should form the first portion of the evening’s entertainments.”

      In our present-day vernacular, we would say that the house has been “trashed”! And as I write this, I’m thinking that the house, itself, is like a stage-setting, and by extension, the entire story is like a drama, and the “drama”–itself–is like a play-within-a-play…. In this drama context, the horrible state of the house is described as a kind of “mise-en-scene” as befits the stage setting of a comic drama. And within this descriptive setting, the narrator points out that every room in the house is being “destroyed” by not only the messy and ever present paraphernalia of this drama in the making, but also by the very rehearsal activities of the actors, themselves, as in the case with their ruining “”every sofa in the house.” Thus, in a WAY, this scene of chaos makes up the framing drama. If we wish to see it this way….

      In the very next paragraph, we get this unreal statement:

      ‘‘When we’re a leetle more perfect, I think it will go admirably,’ said Mr. Sempronius, addressing his corps dramatique, at the conclusion of the hundred and fiftieth rehearsal. ”

      Oh boy, this is more like dialogue in a drama, but it is in this ‘”external” drama, and suggests that the overstatement ruling the frame will probably be as dominant in the “real” play. 150 rehearsals–that is absurd, and is very telling, if true; it’s definitely more comic hyperbole, but also foretells that the rehearsal, even perhaps the progress of the entire play, isn’t going so well!

      But then we also have this crazy side dialogue which an audience–if all this were on stage–would find incredibly droll and very sadly funny:

      “‘But I think,’ added the manager, ‘you are hardly perfect in the—fall—in the fencing-scene, where you are—you understand?’

      ‘It’s very difficult,’ said Mr. Evans, thoughtfully; ‘I’ve fallen about, a good deal, in our counting-house lately, for practice, only I find it hurts one so. Being obliged to fall backward you see, it bruises one’s head a good deal.’

      ‘But you must take care you don’t knock a wing down,’ said Mr. Gattleton, the elder, who had been appointed prompter, and who took as much interest in the play as the youngest of the company. ‘The stage is very narrow, you know.’

      ‘Oh! don’t be afraid,’ said Mr. Evans, with a very self-satisfied air; ‘I shall fall with my head “off,” and then I can’t do any harm.’”

      Oh my, this is horrible indeed. It appears that the man is maiming himself to perfect what the director discloses is his thus far IMperfect fall! He’s bruised himself multiple times, obviously sacrificing himself to please his superior and to make the correct manner of falling for the good of the play. Are we nearing the theater of the absurd, with this brief dialogue????

      Perhaps we have, because there is one more component to add to the chaos factor, and that is the nasty neighbor, Mrs Porter. Dare we say, “enter stage right…”? And there she is–. And it is she who will, with her conniving, influence Uncle Tom to become a kind of prompter/long-running commentator who will put to certain death a performance that, even up to this point, was probably doomed to at least middling failure!

      We get, finally, to the “actual” drama, and it is here where we see the intermingling of the two “theaters”–the exterior and the interior and the damage that Mrs. Porter has wrought:

      “It would be useless and tiresome to quote the number of instances in which Uncle Tom, now completely in his element, and instigated by the mischievous Mrs. Porter, corrected the mistakes of the performers; suffice it to say, that having mounted his hobby, nothing could induce him to dismount; so, during the whole remainder of the play, he performed a kind of running accompaniment, by muttering everybody’s part as it was being delivered, in an under-tone.”

      With this combining of the two “narratives” or dramas, we can see, then, how Dickens–in what seems a fairly light and humorous story–constructs his narrative with such amazing dexterity and complexity.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Tales – Chapter 10 – Passage in the Life of Mr Watkins Tottle – So, I was curious about the arc of this tale, how it goes from silly & humorous to sad and then, oh, dear, tragic! And I looked again at the title – “Passage in the Life” – at first I read it to mean an excerpt, a tale of something that happened in Mr Watkins Tottle’s life. But then I went to the dictionary and looked up the word “passage” and found these relevant definitions:

    NOUN – a way of exit or entrance: a road, path, channel, or course by which something passes; the action or process of passing from one place, condition, or stage to another; DEATH [emphasis in original]; a continuous movement or flow; a specific act of traveling or passing especially by sea or air; something that happens or is done; something that takes place between two persons mutually; a usually brief portion of a written work or speech that is relevant to a point under discussion or noteworthy for content or style
    VERB – to go past or across

    The use of the word “passage” in the title refers not only, then, to this episode of the way or action Watkins takes to change his condition from bachelor to married man, and of his failed courtship of Miss Lillerton, and of his financial troubles, but also to the fact that this way/action leads to his death – to his passage from this life to the next – ironically by drowning (by sea). The word “passage” is loaded and Dickens/Boz does a fantastic job of unloading it for us.

    The interlude of the Debtors in the lock-up house I think is the turning point where the tone of the tale changes from silly & humorous to sad & tragic. I wondered about it, especially as the comedy of the dinner & mistaken proposal follows it until I got to the end of the tale and realized that Watkins probably had an epiphany while incarcerated as to what his life would be like if he did not marry money and soon. Without the marriage he would probably be indebted to his friend Parsons for the rest of his life, or put back in prison. His second effort in proposing marriage apparently failed as had the first (he responded to “a matrimonial advertisement from a lady”) and his natural submissiveness and lack of courage apropos of Marriage proved to be the obstacle he could not overcome. That he could not figure out a way to change his lifestyle to suit his income, or change his income to suit his lifestyle, in any other way than by a mercenary marriage was a passage he could not make.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Fantastic analysis, Chris! Your fastening on the term “passage” and all its definitions and ramifications beautifully and fully opens up the various meanings of this hugely complex story. In going back to one of our earlier terms which we found useful while trying to define some of the earlier “sketches,” I’m wondering if “admonitory exemplum” fits? You might also see this narrative as a “bildungsroman” gone wrong. The “learning” that takes place during Tottle’s “adventure”/” passage” is so abrupt and negative that he sees his only out to be suicide.

      With regard to suicide, I think I detect a hint of this horrible event in the “Tales'” opening five sentences–which MAY be seen to predict the “arc” of the story–as you call it:

      “Matrimony is proverbially a serious undertaking. Like an over-weening predilection for brandy-and-water, it is a misfortune into which a man easily falls, and from which he finds it remarkably difficult to extricate himself. It is of no use telling a man who is timorous on these points, that it is but one plunge, and all is over. They say the same thing at the Old Bailey, and the unfortunate victims derive as much comfort from the assurance in the one case as in the other.

      Mr. Watkins Tottle was a rather uncommon compound of strong uxorious inclinations, and an unparalleled degree of anti-connubial timidity.”

      Tottle is primed for the tragedy that befalls him, as he has a “predilection” for WANTING to be married, he “falls” hook, line, and sinker for the “scheme” the unaware Mr. Gabriel Parsons sets out for him, and takes the “plunge”–and “all is over.” Of course, as contained in the next to last last sentence of this quote, the mention of “Old Bailey” and “unfortunate victims” looks ahead to the fate that Tottle fears will befall him. Pile on top of all this negativity, his “timidity” and uxoriousness, and the outcome is tragically complete.

      Of course, the series of events ultimately needs a “director” and catalyst, and Mr. Tottle finds that in his so-called “friend” Parson. And here I find something sleazy about him and his mannerism of constantly jingling coins in his pockets. In fact, I’m seriously wondering if Tottle has been a kind of “mark” all along. That Miss Lillerton has money, that Tottle is always in debt, that he can be, more-or-less, bribed into marrying her by Parsons, that Parsons will raise the amount of debt that Tottle will owe him to 150 pounds, and that by marrying Miss Lillerton, Tottle will be able, probably, to pay Parsons the debt he owes him–solidifies his (Parson’s) “profit” from the entire “endeavor.”

      Parsons, then, loses out when his scheme goes wrong. Horribly wrong–as the real process by which Miss Lillerton is to get married is lost in translation. Miss Lillerton has simply mistaken Tottle’s advances as a way to further her marriage plans; she uses him as a kind of catalyst or go-between between herself and the man she wants to marry. With tragic irony, Tottles’ “usefulness” is sadly rewarded by his horrible death when he takes the “plunge.”

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Chapter 11 – The Bloomsbury Christening – Certainly Nicodemus Dumps has to be a prototype for Ebenezer Scrooge – except that Dumps has “friends” and, at least until after the Christening party, will visit his relations. What a miserable man. I don’t think Scrooge every went quite as far out of his way to make people miserable as Dumbs does. The maliciousness of his comments to Kitterbell before the baby is born and of his speech after dinner is SO offensive and unacceptable, to be matched only by the depravity of Dumps’s pleasure in the reactions of his listeners. I am glad of his misadventures in the omnibus and that he was robbed of the silver cup and that he was duped into thinking the robber was a “well-disposed” man. Serves him right! He, like Scrooge, is “a wicked old screw” who would certainly benefit by being visited by three spirits next Christmas time!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Greetings, Inimitables,

    I’m a Johnny-come-lately to the outstanding discourse you are sharing on the wra-up of “Sketches.”

    Thanks for the richness of your insights, research, and sharing.

    Just a couple of quick wrap-up thoughts/perspectives.

    1. The making of a Victorian novelist: It does seem that we are witnessing a great novelist-in-the-making . . . with so many intimations of great works to come. For example, Chris’ insight into the Scrooge-like Nicodemus Dumps. Bah humbug!

    2. Damon and Pythias (Dickens and Forster?): Thanks to the Dickensian Wren for sharing the backdrop to this timeline prototype of Jonathan-and-David bromance. I’m wondering if the friendship/collaboration between Dickens and Forster might qualify . . . ?

    3. “Dickensian culture”: It strikes me that we are, with the expert guidance of the Dickensian Wren, co-creating a culture of things Dickensian–a unique set of shared experiences, values, and norms . . . infused and informed by Dickens.

    4. “Sentiment”: I was really touched by the prospect of Dickens’ own experience of “the sentiment,” committed to a marriage that was not bringing out the best in the partners. Thank you, Chris!

    5. “Rampany ideologies”: I chuckled at my typo–“rampany” instead of “rampant.” Could that be a coinage referring to a company of rampants?

    Regarding my question about a Dickens among us, Dickens sees sharply the personal effects of ill-use of power and bad public policy. He gives the effects human faces, spirits, and souls (often crushed). Perhaps today this role is filled by social movements such as Black Lives Matter.

    Blessings, All!




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