Barnaby Rudge, Week 3 ~ and a Week 2 Wrap-Up

Wherein we revisit our second week’s reading of Barnaby Rudge (Week 37 of the Dickens Chronological Reading Club); with a summary and discussion wrap-up; and a look-ahead to Week Three.

Dana R. comment

By the #DickensClub members, edited/compiled by Rach

Friends, it’s been another hopping week in our comments on Barnaby Rudge, and many of us have said some variation of the following: Why isn’t Barnaby more widely known, read, and appreciated among Dickens’ novels?

I’ve not been able to include all the comments, so I hope you have a chance to take a deeper look under last week’s post.

Here are some quick links:

  1. General Mems
  2. Barnaby Rudge, Week Two (Chapters 20-39): A Summary
  3. Discussion Wrap-Up
  4. A Look-Ahead to Week Three of Barnaby Rudge

General Mems

This Saturday, the #DickensClub has its first online chat! For more info, and to contact Rach if you’re interested, please see the Look-Ahead below

Also, Henry started a wonderful thread on twitter, if you’d like to add some of your favorite things about Barnaby Rudge!

If you’re counting, today is day 259 (and week 38) in our #DickensClub! It will be Week Three of Barnaby Rudge, our seventh read of the group. Please feel free to comment below this post for the third week’s chapters, or use the hashtag #DickensClub if you’re commenting on twitter.

No matter where you’re at in the reading process, a huge “thank you” for reading along with us. Heartfelt thanks to our dear Dickens Fellowship, The Dickens Society, and the Charles Dickens Letters Project for retweets, and to all those liking, sharing, and encouraging our Club, including Gina Dalfonzo, Dr. Christian Lehmann and Dr. Pete Orford. Huge “thank you” also to The Circumlocution Office (on twitter also!) for providing such a marvelous online resource for us.

And for any more recent members or for those who might be interested in joining: the revised two-and-a-half year reading schedule can be found here. Boze’s introduction to Barnaby Rudge can be found here. If you’ve been reading along with us but aren’t yet on the Member List, we would love to add you! Please feel free to message Rach here on the site, or on twitter.

Barnaby Rudge, Week Two (Chapters 20-39): A Summary

Priscilla W. comment

Dolly, a familiar face and family friend to the Haredales, gives Emma the letter from Edward Chester. Dolly is given a letter in response, and a bracelet; however, Mr. Haredale stops her before she can leave the house, and obliges Dolly to tell him about the letter exchange, though she doesn’t give it up and doesn’t plan to. To Dolly’s surprise, Haredale asks whether she would consider being hired as an attendant for Emma.

Dolly is walking back towards the Maypole when she is accosted by Hugh, who roughly steals a kiss—and, without her knowing, the letter and bracelet—and is only stopped in his sexual attack on her by her screams, which are heard by Joe Willet as he is passing nearby. However, as Hugh had threatened something terrible to loved ones if she disclosed what had happened, Dolly keeps silent about her attacker and the nature of the attack; she says it was a robbery attempt. Back at the Maypole, as Dolly is telling her story, Hugh is one of the party, and he appears to taunt her silently, but she doesn’t give him up.

“The Maypole’s State Couch,” by George Cattermole. Scanned image, colour correction, sizing, caption, and commentary by Philip V. Allingham.

Upon returning to London, Miggs hears Dolly’s story, passing it along to Sim, who, jealous of Joe’s bravery in the incident, is determined to have revenge.

We reencounter Sir John Chester as he reads and lauds the work of Lord Chesterfield (see the insightful comments from the group’s discussion of this exemplary model of dissipated selfishness).

“‘My Lord Chesterfield,’ he said, pressing his hand tenderly upon the book as he laid it down, ‘if I could but have profited by your genius soon enough to have formed my son on the model you have left to all wise fathers, both he and I would have been rich men. Shakespeare was undoubtedly very fine in his way; Milton good, though prosy; Lord Bacon deep, and decidedly knowing; but the writer who should be his country’s pride, is my Lord Chesterfield.’”

Hugh comes to make his report and hand over the letter to Sir John—who allows him to keep the bracelet. Chester reads and burns Emma’s letter, and asks Hugh to continue to keep him apprised and to intervene in any similar matters.

Hugh is not the only one in Sir John’s manipulative hands; Sim, too, discloses that Dolly has acted as a messenger for his son, and that Sir John also has reasons for disliking—and taking action against—Joe Willet. 

“Old John Asleep in his Cozy Bar,” by George Cattermole.

Mrs. Rudge, haunted in mind by the mysterious stranger, visits the Warren, where her husband had worked so long ago. Mr. Warren is welcoming, hoping she’ll return; on the contrary, however, Mrs. Rudge says that she must move to a secret location, and can no longer accept the annuity she has received from him since her husband’s death. He tries to urge her to reconsider, knowing her value and shocked that she has had the misfortune of falling into bad company, but she is determined. On discussing all this with Varden, Haredale wonders whether she might have had some secret, dangerous marriage that she must now flee from. They visit her home, but Chester is there ahead, assuring them of his schemes to make the marriage between Edward and Emma impossible.

“Mr. Chester Making an Impression,” by Phiz.

Chester begins to work over the Vardens, Miggs, and Sim, charming Mrs. Varden especially, who believes him the most virtuous of gentlemen. Dolly is still dubious, however. (In a juicy scene of false flattery shading utter contempt, Chester flatters Sim into thinking himself invaluable.) Hugh then gives Chester a letter that was to go to Emma from Dolly, explaining the theft of the letter from Emma to Edward.

“Miss Haredale on the Bridge,” by George Cattermole.

Sir John Chester says he will deliver it himself. During this scene, however, something about Hugh’s look awakens curiosity in Chester, and once at night he even thinks Hugh has called to him. Chester gives the letter to Emma in an effort to win her trust, and to convince her that Edward intends to break faith with her for the very reasons that Chester himself has proposed.

“There lies on his desk at this moment, ready for transmission to you, a letter, in which he tells you that our poverty–our poverty; his and mine, Miss Haredale–forbids him to pursue his claim upon your hand…”

Meanwhile, relations between Joe and his father—the latter ever demeaning in his attitude to Joe—come to a new low, and Joe realizes it is time to move on from the Maypole. He sneaks off to enlist in the army, but not before telling Dolly of his feelings—which she, being playful, appears to reject, but he leaves in complete despondency.

Five years later…

“Solomon Frightened by a Ghost,” by Phiz.

It is 1780, and we are met with ghosts almost from the first…

“One wintry evening, early in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty, a keen north wind arose as it grew dark, and night came on with black and dismal looks. A bitter storm of sleet, sharp, dense, and icy-cold, swept the wet streets, and rattled on the trembling windows. Signboards, shaken past endurance in their creaking frames, fell crashing on the pavement; old tottering chimneys reeled and staggered in the blast; and many a steeple rocked again that night, as though the earth were troubled.”

It is March 19, the anniversary of Reuben Haredale’s murder. “In coffee-houses of the better sort, guests crowded round the fire, and forgot to be political.” At the Maypole, Solomon Daisy recounts a harrowing experience he had just had while going to wind the church clock: a ghost—no doubt the murdered man himself—had called to him from the churchyard.

“I little thought what day of the month it was. I have never gone alone into the church after dark on this day, for seven-and-twenty years. I have heard it said that as we keep our birthdays when we are alive, so the ghosts of dead people, who are not easy in their graves, keep the day they died upon.”

John Willet and Hugh visit the Warren to recount this tale to Mr. Haredale, who is shaken by it.

“Distinguished Guests at the Maypole,” by Phiz.

John and Hugh are met by three men—whom they at first fear to be highwaymen—on the road on their way back to the Maypole. John realizes they are intent on finding lodging, and invites them to follow him to his inn. We find out that the leader of the group is Lord George Gordon, prime influencer against the rights of English Catholics, including the Act of 1778 which was an attempt to repeal some of the anti-catholic measures of the Papists Act of 1698. Gordon rides with his obsequious secretary (Gashford) and a man named John Grueby. Gordon has now upwards of forty thousand followers in his anti-Catholic fight, but their finances are strained. (Among their donors they list off the ‘Prentice Knights, now the United Bull-Dogs.) We find that the house of Varden has been divided, with Mrs. Varden supporting Gordon while Gabriel Vardon does not.

Gordon has a curious dream that night, that he and Gashford are Jews. We find out that the hangman in London (Dennis) is a supporter of Gordon, as is Hugh, now. These latter two drink Gordon’s health at a local pub, before beginning a “No-Popery Dance”. Sim meets up with the two of them, convincing Hugh to join in his “United Bull-Dogs” association, and feels Hugh will be a real asset to the group.

“To surround anything, however monstrous or ridiculous, with an air of mystery, is to invest it with a secret charm, and power of attraction which to the crowd is irresistible. False priests, false prophets, false doctors, false patriots, false prodigies of every kind, veiling their proceedings in mystery, have always addressed themselves at an immense advantage to the popular credulity, and have been, perhaps, more indebted to that resource in gaining and keeping for a time the upper hand of Truth and Common Sense, than to any half-dozen items in the whole catalogue of imposture. Curiosity is, and has been from the creation of the world, a master-passion. To awaken it, to gratify it by slight degrees, and yet leave something always in suspense, is to establish the surest hold that can be had, in wrong, on the unthinking portion of mankind.”

Discussion Wrap-Up

Historical Context and Fictionalization: Lord George Gordon–and His Foil, Barnaby?–Gashford, the Gordon Riots, and the “Mob”

Henry shared a lovely etching of Broad Street during the Riots:

Henry O. comments

I shared a 16-part twitter thread regarding the fascinating character of Lord George Gordon, and the Riots:

Rach M. comment slideshow

Lenny responded about the “really complex and strangely confused character” of Lord Gordon, how “out of touch” he sometimes was, and how Dickens portrays this paradoxical figure:

Lenny H. comment

I respond, bringing in my concerns about the “mob,” which Dickens is building up here (as he will later in A Tale of Two Cities), and how such scenes can be merely an excuse for giving free vent to the tendencies to violence and personal aggrandizement, often unrelated to the issue itself:

Rach M. comments

Chris had a fascinating take on the way Barnaby is described, comparing his characterization, “both in the physical descriptions and the temperamental,” with Gordon’s:

Chris M. comments

Lenny responds with a telling extended quote about both the characteristics of Gordon and Gashford, and what their dialogue “puts into high relief,” which he describes as the “unassuming and melancholy character of the Scottish Lord as it contrasts with the obsequious and sly personality of his ‘secretary’ Gashford”:

Lenny H. comments

The question had been brought up as to whether Gashford is a historical figure, but both Chris and I read that he was invented by Dickens.

Calling for a “Barnaby Revolution”

Henry has been encouraging everyone to read Barnaby, and it really has it all: “A murder mystery, a talking raven, a suspicious criminal, a charming country inn, a dramatic rioting mob, and some lovely Georgian world building.” Join the Barnaby Revolution!

Henry O. comments

From the first, I’d loved Barnaby far more that I’d expected to, but starting with chapters 33 and 34, things really took a most fascinating turn for me:

Rach M. comment

Applicability and Timeliness: Sexual Harassment

Though we didn’t discuss this as a group in detail, I really want to highlight the Stationmaster’s wonderful insight about the timeliness and applicability of Barnaby Rudge, which we began to discuss previously in a political context, but which also relates to sexual harassment:

Adaptation Stationmaster comment
“Hugh and Dolly Varden,” by William Powell Frith.

“I Am Not What I Am”: Chester, Chesterfield, and Gashford

Folks, have we been “loving to hate” Sir John Chester, or what?

But before we get into his characterization, the Stationmaster had asked a question about Chester’s motive in giving Emma the letter from Dolly. Chris responds:

Chris M. comment

I discuss Chester as “one of my absolute favorite types of Villain”:

Rach M. comment

He is, as Lenny commented, one whose public persona and private reality are at complete odds with one another:

“I beg pardon–do I address Miss Haredale?” by Fred Barnard. Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.

“Sir John–in spite of his hugely deficient character in terms of his morality–is PUBLICALLY revered by those who socialize with him, pander to him, but who, when in private, probably despise him. What is most relevant is that Dickens is providing an OUTSIDE view of him from the point of view of others who socialize with him, those who are probably members of his class. As readers we are privileged to see him–more or less–from the INSIDE, not only his thoughts but his private conversations with various members of the “cast” of characters we are most familiar with. In this more “private” sphere, we get to see him being accepted or rejected by those whom he is duping as well as those who he is insulting.”

~Lenny H. comment

The Stationmaster also drew our attention to a quote from Chapter 24. He writes:

“It’s interesting that long before we get to the description of the Gordon Riots, Dickens warns against another kind of mob in his description of John Chester at a party…

“’How the accomplished gentleman spent the evening in the midst of a dazzling and brilliant circle; how he enchanted all those with whom he mingled by the grace of his deportment, the politeness of his manner, the vivacity of his conversation, and the sweetness of his voice; how it was observed in every corner, that Chester was a man of that happy disposition that nothing ruffled him, that he was one on whom the world’s cares and errors sat lightly as his dress, and in whose smiling face a calm and tranquil mind was constantly reflected; how honest men, who by instinct knew him better, bowed down before him nevertheless, deferred to his every word, and courted his favourable notice; how people, who really had good in them, went with the stream, and fawned and flattered, and approved, and despised themselves while they did so, and yet had not the courage to resist; how, in short, he was one of those who are received and cherished in society (as the phrase is) by scores who individually would shrink from and be repelled by the object of their lavish regard; are things of course, which will suggest themselves.’”

~Adaptation Stationmaster comment (with quote from Barnaby Rudge, Ch. 34)

Lenny believes Chester “a far more interesting antagonist than either Quilp or Ralph Nickleby”:

Lenny H. comment

But he also adds that, while the Iago passage I quoted above is applicable to Chester–who, as Lenny remarks, “heads the list of deceivers and planners”–it is also applicable to another character: Gashford!

Lenny H. comments

The Stationmaster asked about the reference to Lord Chesterfield in Chapter 23, the writings of whom Sir John Chester eulogizes at some length. Chris responds:

Chris M. comment

Lenny believes that “the 19th century readers would probably be aware of this equation right off the bat,” and the connection (even in name) between the two “deepens our awareness of the immoral and dissipated character of this novel’s chief villain in its early stages”:

Lenny H. comment

The whole conversation about Lord Chesterfield rang a bell for Dana, from her college days. She also gave us a link to the letters themselves:

Dana R. comment

I was thinking of Chester, for a while, as a kind of prototype of the Marquis St. Evrémonde (in A Tale of Two Cities), although the latter wouldn’t have given the time of day, even for the sake of deception, to deceive any as “low” as Simon Tappertit (as in the juicy scene when the latter is flattered by Chester, who clearly despises him):

Rach M. comment

I was remarking on twitter about my love-to-hate feeling about Chester, which Chris and Matt Carton agreed with:

However, Chris does admit to having one thing in common with Sir John, and I’ll toast to that:

Dickens’ “Writing Lab”: Characterization; Dickens’ “Best Romance”?

The Stationmaster is surprised by some of his reactions to the characters, including “feeling a little sorry for Hugh.” He also writes of what he considers weaknesses (in mystery, surprise, and characterizations). He is finding some similarities in tone to Oliver Twist:

Adaptation Stationmaster comment

He writes of finding other characters “more sympathetic” than he previously did, and reflects on the three men that Willet and Hugh meet on the road, and the “tragic antagonist,” Lord Gordon:

Adaptation Stationmaster comment

The Illustrations: “Full of Information and Interpretation”

Chris gave us an important reminder to do a close reading not only of Dickens’ text, but of the accompanying illustrations:

Chris M. comment

Here is the illustration Chris refers to:

“Mr. Chester’s Diplomacy,” by Phiz. Image scan, caption, and commentary by Philip V. Allingham.

I shared her insights on twitter, and Dr. Christian responded, reminding us that Barnaby and Shop, being part of Master Humphrey’s Clock, are different from Dickens’ other illustrated novels, as “they were dropped into the text, rather than being in plates.” (Hence, it might be, increased reader engagement and text-to-illustration relationship.) Dr. Christian also recommends “looking at the decorative capitals,” which are in Appendix II of the Penguin edition:

A Look-Ahead to Week Three of Barnaby Rudge (20-26 Sept, 2022)

Friends, this week is particularly exciting, as we have our first online chat for the #DickensClub coming up this Saturday, 24 September, 2022! It will be held on Google Meet at 11am PT/2pm ET/6pm GMT.

If I haven’t contacted you to send a link, it’s because I’m not sure who all is currently reading or interested, and/or I don’t have everyone’s email address. If you’d like to join, please feel free to message Rach on twitter, or to email her!

A Note on our First Online Meeting:

This will be a very informal chat, so even if you’re not currently reading Barnaby Rudge, we’d love to have you join! Boze will be the main facilitator and Rach will take notes and help to keep us on schedule (no longer than an hour). (But with our members, I have a feeling the conversation will just take off in its own direction!) The default, informal breakdown will be something like this:

  1. Meet and greet, for those who would like to introduce themselves! (No pressure–a few of us introverts remember the school-day shyness! But we’d love to get to know everyone, even as simple as: your name & what part of the world you’re joining from.)
  2. Favorite read so far in the group? (Those who’d like to could share a favorite passage or scene. But again…no pressure!)
  3. During the final 15-20 minutes we’ll be touching on Barnaby Rudge, so…for those who are not reading it and don’t want spoilers, you can bail here. But you’re more than welcome to stay, whether or not you’re currently reading!

This Week in Barnaby Rudge

This week we’ll be reading Chapters 40-59 of Barnaby Rudge.

If you’d like to read it online, here’s a link to our trusty Circumlocution Office, with additional resources. It can also be downloaded at Gutenberg.


  1. A fine and Herculean job, Rach. I can’t imagine the time it took you to put together your excellent (and exciting) summary, as well as your collating not only the “regular” submissions but the many tweets that you have sent out and received. Such a neat and fulfilling read for all of us. Kudos, kudos, kudos. You are spoiling us with your editorship prowess! Thanks so much! Very much looking forward to the group’s comments during our reading of the next, exciting 20 chapters! Oh boy!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Geoffrey Haredale standing up to Lord George Gordon (and showing us another side of Gashford) in Chapter 43 was awesome even if he didn’t handle the aftermath as well as he could have. (Gen. Conway and Col. Gordon in Chapter 49 were awesome too.) John Grueby helping him was an interesting surprise. We knew that he disapproved the No-Popery movement but that was because he could see it was bad for Lord George himself. There wasn’t any indication I remember that he sympathized with Catholic victims. If we learn anything more about his motivations later, don’t spoil it for me! I’ve only gotten to Chapter 51 so far.

    When a blind man showed up in the story, I guess it was dumb of me not to suspect it was Stagg right away. I’d forgotten he was in this story.

    I used to think Martin Chuzzlewit was Dickens’s first attempt at an antihero. With how easily Barnaby is corrupted by promises of wealth, should we actually consider him that? Or should we excuse him since he’s not in his right mind and is motivated by a desire to help his mother? Of course, Barnaby Rudge arguably isn’t the protagonist of this novel. Dickens’s original idea was to title it “Gabriel Varden” and I guess one would have made as much sense as another. Barnaby Rudge, the book, doesn’t really have a central character. And I’m totally fine with that! I don’t think every story has to follow one central figure.

    Was the detail in Chapter 49 of a boy walking on people’s heads taken from a historical account or did Dickens make it up? It sounds like either something only Dickens could come up with or which no author could come up with.

    This description of the mob at the end of Chapter 50 is great.

    “Thus—a vision of coarse faces, with here and there a blot of flaring, smoky light; a dream of demon heads and savage eyes, and sticks and iron bars uplifted in the air, and whirled about; a bewildering horror, in which so much was seen, and yet so little, which seemed so long, and yet so short, in which there were so many phantoms, not to be forgotten all through life, and yet so many things that could not be observed in one distracting glimpse—it flitted onward, and was gone.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This is GREAT writing and thinking Stationmaster. What you say about that crucial encounter between Haredale and the mob led by Gashford is really important. It says so much about the main individuals involved and creates a more defining portrait of Hardale as resolute, prideful and a bit too stubborn. That he accosts Gashford in his own defense, and tosses him to the ground was a wonderful moment that I briefly reveled in. I didn’t realize–at the time–how deeply GASHFORD’S pride would be injured and that the consequences of Haredale’s actions would be so devastating! But I, too, loved the intervention by Grueby!

      As I write this, I am also struck by how strange these characters’ names are…. Symbolic?

      But Stationmaster, your third paragraph is the humdinger! The notion contained within it–that Barnaby, himself is the “namesake” for the novel has always, since about 1/3 of the way through, struck me as interesting, if not just plain strange. He is not–as you interpret–an heroic figure, is more anti-heroic, if anything, and continually makes me wonder why the novel takes its title from him. I’m sure there are reams of responses to this out there in Dickens criticism, but I have no idea what they might be, what they would say. As a group, we’ll probably want to address this idea more.

      But just as important is your statement that “BARNABY RUDGE … really doesn’t have a central character.” I, too, have been thinking about this and wondering what the consequences are of THIS fact–for the novel, for the readers reading it, and for its status in the Dickens’ hierarchy of most and least popular novel. According to Boze and to some of you, critics seem to shun this novel, perhaps write a bit about it, or not at all. So, What the heck is this about? You may have put your finger on why this lack of critical response is so evident! But your remarks are important for ANOTHER cogent reason! You say: “I don’t think every story has to follow one central figure.” That’s a pretty “modernist” statement! I’m wondering to what extent you are saying this from experience, because it seems to me that you have hit on a really IMPORTANT aspect of this novel. In the world of novels, to what extent is this factor in BARNABY an anomaly? Is this also, in the Dickens’ corpus, a huge exception? These are VERY intriguing questions that your third paragraph gives rise to.

      In short, Stationmaster, you’ve opened an entire box full of ideas and questions which we–and you–can pursue further! We owe a large vote of thanks to you for these eye-opening comments!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess I’d say it comes from experience. There are stories without a central character or characters that I really enjoy and I’m not going to pretend that’s a problem when it really doesn’t feel like one to me just because critics say it is. I don’t really think of this position as being pre-modernist, modernist or postmodernist. It’s just palpably true.

        It might be that the reason Dickens gave Barnaby the title was that he wanted the book to be about how the mob corrupts everyone and Barnaby is the most innocent character to get involved with them. He’s not bigoted toward Catholics or self-righteous like even the more “tragic” proponents of No-Popery, like Lord George Gordon or Mrs. Varden, are. Like you said, there’s probably been a lot of critical discussion on this, and I’m sure someone has made that claim before but sadly I don’t know who it is, so I can’t credit them.

        Thank you for your kind words.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Wonderful insights, questions, tantalizing things to think about, Stationmaster & Lenny!!!

    I too have been trying to puzzle put whether we have anyone who could really be called a “central” character. It really is an *ensemble*. It is, again, not unlike A Tale of Two Cities in that regard–a cast of characters getting swept up into a larger event; though in ATTC, we have a character who, though he may have no more “screen time” than any other, is clearly the *heart* of the story.

    I won’t spoil anything because I hardly remember it myself, it has been so long, but my initial thought on the title character being changed from Varden to Barnaby is that it *is* a symbolic move on Dickens’ part. Varden represents the good, solid English figure for Dickens–not Catholic, of course, but not insanely prejudiced against them or anyone else, either; an honest fellow who will try to do the right thing in bewildering circumstances.

    Barnaby, on the other hand, perhaps says something about the Riots themselves? He is truly an *innocent*, one who is easily swayed, but for well-intentioned reasons, going with the flow and responding to the world of dreams and shadows. (Much like Gordon–relative to Chris’ earlier comparison!) Barnaby is, in Dickens’ world, perhaps not in *his full senses*, but neither are the Riots–those we know (Hugh, Dennis, Sim, Gashford) among the rioters have little sensibly to be rioting about, or are motivated by different things than the one for which they’re supposed to be marching on Parliament for! And for Barnaby, much as I adore Grip, the latter has been often described as a “devil”, who tells Barnaby what to do and where to go, egging him on to further mad doings. Grip is the madness that “grips” the rioters!

    Is Barnaby then the flawed, common man with the devil on his shoulder–the madness that eggs him on to loot, pillage, destroy? In Barnaby, perhaps we have the perfect *condemnation* of the Riots: both the innocent, unconscious reason for getting caught up in the madness, as well as being an innocent “victim” of them. He is being used for reasons he is entirely unaware of; he has no malice in him, a little innocent greed (for his mother’s sake), and is as much a victim, perhaps, as anyone. The perfect representation of 1780?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I didn’t remember Simon Tappertit trying to save Mrs. Varden. That was surprisingly decent of him. Maybe we’ll learn next week that he had some selfish motive (To get in good with Dolly?) or maybe not.

    I’ll admit when the rioters first started to abuse John Willet, I was prepared to enjoy it. But the scene of him grieving the Maypole was really sad. It was interesting that Dickens had Solomon Daisy be the one to comfort him since previously I’d thought of him as a comic character apart from his role as giver of creepy exposition. I usually enjoy it when humorous characters end up having a serious/dramatic side to them. While this wasn’t the most effective example of that, I still liked it.

    The symbolic implication of Grip adding “I’m a Protestant” and “no Popery” to his list phrases is obvious (that the people who shout those slogans are like mindless parrots), but I wonder if his saying, “I’m a Protestant kettle,” besides being funny, is meant to suggest that the Protestants in this book are like a boiling, shrieking kettle.

    In keeping with what Chris wrote last week about Gordon being a foil for Barnaby, we see a lot of him deluding himself in this section. He refuses to believe what Haredale says about Gashford’s backstory (though that one’s arguably understandable since, whether he’s Catholic or not, he really doesn’t know Haredale well and he’s known Gashford for some time) and refuses to believe that Barnaby is mad even when confronted with the evidence. Weirdly, even after seeing all the destruction he’s caused, I don’t totally despise the character at this point. Maybe it’s the parallels between him and Barnaby. Maybe it’s because we all delude ourselves once in a while to cope with this overwhelming world.

    Dickens’s portrayal of society, which was already plenty nuanced IMO, becomes even more nuanced in Chapter 58 with the character of the magistrate hating sergeant who demonstrates that authority figures can be as (potentially) violent and cruel as the rioters. (Previously, the law enforcers had appeared as positive, even heroic characters and Mrs. Varden was portrayed negatively for not wanting her husband to join the Royal East London Volunteers.) Then again, since the sergeant is opposed to magistrates, this arguably reinforces the idea that we need authority figures to protect society from itself.

    I don’t get why Hugh keeps saying if he had Barnaby by his side, he could do anything. Barnaby doesn’t really seem that competent.

    I know it comes from one of the darkest scenes in the book, but this description of the character’s ego made me laugh.

    “Simon Tappertit, who had at first implicitly believed that the locksmith’s daughter, unable any longer to suppress her secret passion for himself, was about to give it full vent in its intensity, and to declare that she was his for ever, looked extremely foolish when she said these words…”

    Is anyone else worried about that old woman who got left behind with Barnaby?


    1. Stationmaster – Hugh and Barnaby have been friends since their youth at the Maypole – Hugh as holster & Barnaby trekking back & forth from his home in London. They are both outsiders, literally and figuratively – literally in that they would both rather be outdoors, running around the countryside with dogs & animals; figuratively in terms of Hugh’s history & Barnaby’s disability. Because of this they naturally gravitated to each other. They are pretty evenly matched in term of physical strength, and both are pretty basic creatures in terms of being simple, free, and earthy. So Hugh knows he can count on Barnaby’s loyalty and ability to handle strenuous physical activities. Hugh also knows that while Barnaby’s attention may be easily distracted, he also has an amazing capacity for single-mindedness which Hugh can manipulate and exploit if necessary.

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      1. Would you describe them as foils for each other? I can see that. On reflection, there are lot of characters in Barnaby Rudge who could be described as outcasts from society. Besides Hugh and Barnaby, there’s Haredale who is a bit of an outcast, though not a huge one, for being a Catholic in a generally Protestant country. Edward Chester and Joe Willet are cast out by their fathers and the neighborhood seems to take said fathers’ sides. Simon Tappertit sees himself and his fellow apprentices as being oppressed by society though that seems to be mostly in their heads.


  5. I watched the 1960 BBC adaptation of “Barnaby Rudge” and overall it is really pretty good. It’s more of a stage production than a movie, and it’s in black & white which adds some character. The script keeps very close to the text – the dialogue is mostly verbatim, with speeches added to fill in the descriptive passages of time/place/action. Due to the stage space, some of the scenes are limited – the mob-riot scenes and the burning of the Warren for example – but the idea still comes across pretty well.

    The acting is well done. All of the major roles are well played, especially Miggs, Mrs Varden and Sim. The actors playing Joe, Dolly, Edward, Emma, Sim, and Barnaby are too old for the roles, but their acting makes up for this. Barnaby and Sir John are a bit stiff, but their delivery is animated – if I just listened to their dialogue they both are great, but their movements (if any) do not enhance the verbal performance. Miggs, Mrs Varden and Sim, on the other hand, are very animated and fun to watch. Lord George is very good and convincingly conveys the insecure zealot. Gashford does a good job of being alternately passive and aggressive in his manipulation of others. Hugh, Dennis, Rudge Sr, and Stagg are sufficiently menacing. Grip was a big disappointment – only a couple of very short shots of a real bird, otherwise a very obvious stuffed bird, or no bird, accompanied by canned, horrible, croaking and talking.

    All in all it is a very enjoyable adaptation and worth the watch to accompany the novel, though an update I think is overdue.


  6. On top of, or perhaps under cover of, the religious and political intrigue to present and ratify the Protestant Movement’s petition we have the secular and anarchic intrigue that results in arson, sacking, and kidnapping. Both intrigues are directed by unseen hands, or as Haredale says of Sir John and Gashford, by “Men of your capacity [who] plot in secrecy and safety, and leave exposed posts to the duller wits” (Ch 43). The duller wits who excel at the secular and anarchic are Dennis, Hugh, and Sim. These three are eager to participate and, while they (especially Dennis and Hugh) are (mostly) aware they are being directed to do things, they don’t care. They relish the opportunity to act and exceed the expectations of those whom they serve.

    Well beyond the purview of the Protestant Movement, the burning of the Warren fulfills the desires and directives of Sir John and Gashford; the associated sacking of the Maypole and kidnapping of Emma and Dolly are solely Hugh’s and Sim’s ideas, respectively. The sacking of the Maypole shows the far-reaching nature of the “prevailing disturbances” taking place in London – far-reaching both in abstract and in concrete terms (Ch 54). John Willet holds an out-of-sight-out-of-mind attitude until the rioters are literally on his doorstep, and even then he cannot comprehend what is happening. The burning of the Warren is a literal and symbolic act of revenge and aggression against Haredale as a representative of the Catholic Church. The kidnapping of Emma and Dolly is also a show of dominance (man over man, man over woman), with a little revenge (against Haredale and Varden) and a lot of lust thrown in. I’m happy that Dolly shows some real spunk – love the illustration of her punching Hugh – even though she and Emma more or less go quietly. (Dickens seems to be absolutely smitten with Dolly in his descriptions of her in Ch 59.) These three wits – Dennis, Hugh, and Sim – have been marginalized and are now making the most of the opportunity to be in charge, but because they are “dull” they squander the opportunity in violence and debauchery.

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      1. The best place to see all the illustrations is on – a great resource. On the main page, click on “Dickens Novels”, then “Barnaby Rudge”, then “Illustrations”, and scroll down to “Dolly in Hugh’s arms”. If you click on the individual illustration you’ll get a large view – lots of detail.


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