Martin Chuzzlewit: A Final Wrap-Up

Wherein we conclude our journey with Martin Chuzzlewit and wrap up the final week of discussion (Week 48 of the Dickens Chronological Reading Club); with a look-ahead to our break in-between reads.

(Banner image: “Brother and Sister,” by Fred Barnard. Scanned image by Philip V. Allingham, via Victorian Web.)

“Done!” by Fred Barnard. Scanned image by Philip V. Allingham, via Victorian Web.

By the #DickensClub members, edited/compiled by Rach

“The music of thy heart speaks out—the story of thy life relates itself.”

Friends, we have come to the end of our journey with, among others, the Chuzzlewits, Mrs. Gamp, the Pinch siblings, John Westlock, and the Pecksniffs. Thank you so much for journeying with us!!

In addition to wrapping up this final week’s discussion, I’ll try to pull together a final thematic wrap-up for Martin Chuzzlewit

But first, here are some quick links:

  1. General Mems
  2. Martin Chuzzlewit, Week Four (Chs 42-54): A Summary
  3. Discussion Wrap-Up
  4. Final Thematic Wrap-Up
  5. A Look-Ahead to Our Break (6-19 Dec, 2022), and Beyond

General Mems

First of all, a very warm welcome to our newest member, Jeff B.! Jeff found us while looking for a Dickensian book club, as he has been reading Dickens chronologically on his own (and we’re all almost perfectly in sync, as he is currently on Chuzzlewit), so we hope he’ll be joining us for the group chat this Saturday!

If you’re counting, today is day 336 (and week 49) in our #DickensClub! Today we wrap up our fourth and final week of Martin Chuzzlewit, our ninth read of the group. Please feel free to comment below this post for any final thoughts on Martin Chuzzlewit, or of what you plan to do, read, or watch during the break (Dickens or non-Dickens!), 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 to The Charles Dickens Page and The Victorian Web for such fantastic background information and illustrations.

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 American Notes and Martin Chuzzlewit can be found here; Chris’s supplement of Peter Ackroyd’s introductions 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.

Martin Chuzzlewit, Week Four (Chr 42-54): A Summary

“Mr Jonas Exhibits his Presence of Mind,” by Phiz. https://www.charlesdickenspage.com/illustrations-martin-chuzzlewit.html

Jonas, on his carriage ride with Tigg, continues in his strange, devil-may-care, reckless frame of mind, and it makes Tigg nervous as images of Jonas harming him come into his thoughts—or dreams; he can’t be sure which. Jonas doesn’t want Bailey to come inside the carriage, despite the rough, stormy weather. When the carriage runs off into a ditch, Jonas seems to be trying to run over Tigg with the horses—and the driver reprimands Jonas for his carelessness, which Tigg overhears. Meanwhile, Bailey appears to be near to death and is taken to an inn.

Meanwhile, at the Blue Dragon, Martin and Mark are received with a warm welcome from Mrs Lupin, who gives them much of the news of the recent goings-on, including about the situation in the Pecksniff household, about old Martin’s mental decline and his reliance on Pecksniff (and that old Martin and Mary are living with Pecksniff), and that Tom Pinch was discharged. Mrs. Lupin encourages Martin to seek forgiveness from his grandfather, whether or not Pecksniff proves too strong an obstacle.

“Mr Pecksniff Announces Himself as the Shield of Virtue,” by Phiz. https://www.charlesdickenspage.com/illustrations-martin-chuzzlewit.html

After a first attempt to see his grandfather–foiled by Pecksniff–young Martin finally makes his way into his grandfather’s presence, appealing to him in the tone of the changed young man that Martin is, wiser from suffering. Pecksniff keeps interjecting like a Chorus in a Greek tragedy, but young Martin ignores Pecksniff entirely, even though his old grandfather keeps looking at Pecksniff as if for guidance.

“‘His sense of justice is so fine,’ said Mr Pecksniff, ‘that he will hear even him, although he knows beforehand that nothing can come of it. Ingenuous mind!’ Mr Pecksniff did not address himself immediately to any person in saying this, but assuming the position of the Chorus in a Greek Tragedy, delivered his opinion as a commentary on the proceedings.”

Martin and Mary then meet discreetly, and she tells him of her resolution to remain with his grandfather, to be the one person in his life unswayed by Pecksniff and those like him, and to try to make an appeal for young Martin.

Pecksniff, swayed by the elegance surrounding Tigg (who looks familiar, but whom he doesn’t quite recognize), becomes a final partner in the life assurance company.

“Mr Moddle is Led to the Contemplation of His Destiny,” by Phiz. https://www.charlesdickenspage.com/illustrations-martin-chuzzlewit.html

Tom and Ruth have a cozy evening at John Westlock’s, and a clear romantic interest is forming between Ruth and John. They all discuss the incident of seeing Mercy and Jonas at the wharf, and of Tom’s being wrangled in to deliver the letter, and John suggests that Tom make sure Jonas understands the situation and that he doesn’t know anything about it.

When Ruth and Tom visit Mercy in company with Charity and her melancholy, almost death-wishing fiancé, Mr. Moddle, however, the scene does not go well. Jonas suspects Tom and Mercy of plotting something against him, and threatens Tom, whom Mercy begs to leave the house. After they leave, Mrs. Gamp reports to Jonas that Mr. Chuffey has been asking about a corpse upstairs, and suggesting some misdeed; Jonas interiorly wonders what is bringing all this up now, and is haunted by the chiming of a clock. In disguise, Jonas sneaks out of the house.   

Jonas sees Tigg and Pecksniff traveling together. When Tigg is alone, Jonas kills him and leaves his body in the woods—but the body continues to haunt him. Not with remorse, but with fear of discovery. Returning home, he finds that Mercy had had no visitors but Mr. Nadgett; she had told him that Jonas was sleeping.

Tom, after being delighted to renew the friendship of Martin and Mark and hear their stories—and that it is Mark’s intention after all to wed Mrs. Lupin—takes them to talk to John Westlock, a good person to consult with for employment prospects. John, while welcoming them in, says that he has a curious visitor: the ill gentleman that Mrs. Gamp had been taking care of, Mr. Lewsome. He told John that, as a surgeon who had gambled before with Jonas, he had procured for Jonas some drugs that would provide for an easier release from this life. With the assurance that Jonas wanted them near but didn’t intend to use them, Lewsome agreed, as a repayment of a debt to Jonas. However, Anthony Chuzzewit died soon after this, and Mr. Lewsome is wracked with guilt. They all suspect that the strange business on the wharf might be connected with this, even if Anthony actually died of natural causes. They consider going to see Mrs. Gamp about talking with Mr. Chuffey, as a possible witness. Martin then writes to the grammar school at John’s suggestion; that it was his design, which Pecksniff stole.

It seems as if Bailey has died; Mr Sweedlepipe and Mrs Gamp reminisce about him. After a falling out between Mrs Gamp and her coworker Betsey Prigg, John and Martin call on her. Another falling out appears to be on the horizon, as young Martin expresses his wounded disappointment with Tom, for some reason that Tom cannot figure out. After Martin leaves, Ruth reveals that she knows her brother’s feelings for Mary; Tom expresses his certainty that it cannot and should not be.

“You think of me…as if I were a character in a book; and you make it a sort of poetical justice that I should, by some impossible means or other, come, at last, to marry the person I love. But there is a much higher justice than poetical justice, my dear, and it does not order events upon the same principle. Accordingly, people who read about heroes in books, and choose to make heroes of themselves out of books, consider it a very fine thing to be discontented and gloomy, and misanthropical, and perhaps a little blasphemous, because they cannot have everything ordered for their individual accommodation.”

Tom learns that old Martin is his employer when old Martin comes to visit him at his work. Martin also expresses his contempt for Pecksniff, and what he and Mary have had to endure, and to be made aware that he has plans to settle all accounts. But Tom should be more immediately prepared, too: Pecksniff is on his way there.

The life assurance company is shown for the scam that it is, and Jonas, haunted by trying to imagine when Tigg’s body will be found, has plans to kill Mr. Chuffey of being a liability to him. Jonas inquires about Mercy’s whereabouts; a servant is sent to Mrs Todgers’, but Mercy had recently left. When Mrs Gamp enters, old Martin, Lewsome, Mark, and John enter shortly after. Old Martin has taken Mercy into his care.

Chuffey tells Lewsome that he has misunderstood the situation: Anthony had found the drugs and, understanding what Jonas intended, blamed himself and the way he raised Jonas; he hopes to reconcile with his son and encourage him to be a better father, and, feigning to sip the mixture in front of Jonas, who doesn’t try and intervene, Anthony died of a broken heart.

“Mr Pinch is Amazed by an Unexpected Apparition,” by Phiz. https://www.charlesdickenspage.com/illustrations-martin-chuzzlewit.html

Mr Nadgett enters, and, admitting that he had been tailing Jonas on Tigg’s orders, also accuses Jonas of Tigg’s murder. One of the arresting officers is none other than Chevy Slyme. Before being taken into custody, Jonas asks for a few minutes alone. Chevy Slyme reenters after the time elapes; on their ride away, Jonas dies. He had poisoned himself in those minutes alone.

Mark comes to old Martin; he had delivered the letter and intelligence which old Martin wanted communicated to young Martin. Mark helps old Martin dress for the visitors that are to come, not without a word of Tapleyesque insight for old Martin: his grandson is changed; and whatever qualities had suppressed his better ones in former times are those which he had learned from his grandfather. Then, a gathering is formed: young Martin and Mary, John and the Pinches, Mrs. Lupin, and Pecksniff. At Pecksniff’s verbose indignation at the company from whom he ostensibly wants to protect old Martin, the latter swats pecksniff with a cane when he tries to place a hand on him.

“Warm Reception of Mr Pecksniff by His Venerable Friend,” by Phiz. https://www.charlesdickenspage.com/illustrations-martin-chuzzlewit.html

Martin then begins his confession of his whole scheme, and also of his own guilt: in suspecting everyone else of selfishness, and testing everyone, he didn’t see his own selfishness. He had tested Mary (whom he secretly and initially did hope that his grandson would fall in love with), and Pecksniff; the latter failed on every count. He himself was behind the 20 pound note that young Martin received before his departure to America; all along, he was hoping his grandson would come back to him.

Old Martin had also hired Tigg to help keep an eye on his grandson, and so he feels guilty about Tigg’s death; it was money in the hands of a scoundrel. Young Martin apologizes to Tom; he now realizes that Tom was hired through an intermediary sent from his grandfather.

Pecksniff is brought low, but still leaves on a note of condescending forgiveness to all involved. Finally, it is discovered that Bailey didn’t die after all, and Sweedlepipe would like to take him on in his business.

John confesses his love to Ruth, who is overjoyed; further, John answers her protests about not being able to leave her brother by saying that she should not have to…they will all live together. Ruth tells him of his hopeless love for Mary, and they both conspire how to make life more comfortable and happy for him. Mr Chuzzlewit, who had suspected as much and tried to keep Tom back to give John and Ruth some time alone, bestows gifts on both Mary and Ruth.

“The Nuptials of Miss Pecksniff Receive a Temporary Check,” by Phiz. https://www.charlesdickenspage.com/illustrations-martin-chuzzlewit.html

Mercy then meets with old Martin, and kisses his hand. Old Martin apologizes for doing her an injustice; but Mercy feels that she had deserved it; and she has now grown through suffering. Martin offers her her own home, near him. Charity, meanwhile, who is getting ready for the wedding which is happening that day, is, in a peculiarly Pecksniffian way, crowing over her sister, saying that she needs no one but Mr Moddle, so she doesn’t even try to act with particular consideration towards old Martin. Mr Moddle, however, leaves her almost at the altar—with a note hoping that she will be satisfied with the furniture, because he cannot marry her.

We end our journey with Tom some years down the line. Pecksniff has taken to drink and to “borrowing” money; Charity is not much better off. However, Tom’s quiet life with his little niece, sister, and brother-in-law is a happy one. Prematurely gray but contented, playing the organ, Tom reflects on old Martin Chuzzlewit’s death, and how, in his final words, he had blessed Tom.

“Thy life is tranquil, calm, and happy, Tom. In the soft strain which ever and again comes stealing back upon the ear, the memory of thine old love may find a voice perhaps; but it is a pleasant, softened, whispering memory, like that in which we sometimes hold the dead, and does not pain or grieve thee, God be thanked….Thou glidest, now, into a graver air; an air devoted to old friends and bygone times; and in thy lingering touch upon the keys, and the rich swelling of the mellow harmony, they rise before thee. The spirit of that old man dead, who delighted to anticipate thy wants, and never ceased to honour thee, is there, among the rest; repeating, with a face composed and calm, the words he said to thee upon his bed, and blessing thee!”

Discussion Wrap-Up

Whimsy, & What We Loved

The Stationmaster & Rob expressed their love for this line about melancholy Mr Moddle:

Adaptation Stationmaster comment

Rob, in spite of a very busy schedule (“break a leg”!!) has been so enthralled by this latter section of Chuzzlewit, that he’s been rereading/relistening to about the last half of the book, in quick succession…and enjoyed the surprise of Tom’s mystery employer:

Rob G. comment

Daniel has been really enjoying all of the group’s insights, and loves the way Dickens has this unparalleled capacity to “capture, and sweetly manipulate” the reader:

Daniel M. comment

As Boze and I can attest to with our constant references to all things Droodish, Pecksniffian, Pickwickian, etc, our own Stationmaster has really captured what it is to be a hopeless Dickensian in everyday life:

Also, check out these wonderful old London photographs that Chris shared:

Light & Dark; Comedy & Tragedy

Dickens always knows how to bring things (plot, character, motif/imagery) back around again–and so does Lenny. Here he focuses on that light-dark, comic-tragic “Chaplinesque” quality in Dickens–seeing the comedy from a distance, and the tragedy close up–which is evident in a character like Mrs. Gamp, “who we laugh at in spite of ourselves”:

Lenny H. comment

Dickens’s “Writing Lab”: Characterization & His First “Antihero”; Plot Twists; the Ensemble Burying the Heroic Figures; Tighter Plotting

The Stationmaster brought up a lot of discussion points here: plot twists (e.g. the big Anthony Chuzzlewit reveal, Tom Pinch’s mystery employer); obscure character motives; Merry Pecksniff continuing in the Dolly Varden tradition; wishing for “Justice for Charity”; tighter plotting. He believes that, with Chuzzlewit, “Dickens wanted to stretch his storytelling muscles” and even to go outside of his usual haunts–to the point of setting a portion of it outside of England.

Adaptation Stationmaster comment

Chris agrees that there has been a connection with Nickleby here in Chuzzlewit, and that “Smike and Nicholas have morphed together to become the healthy and more animated Tom Pinch.” She discusses some of the many connections that might be made between the two stories:

Chris M. comment

Lenny responds, appreciating Chris’s “shrewd analysis” and “astute commentary” (agreed!) on Nickleby; he is beginning to see, as one new to some of Dickens’s works, how connections can be made from one book to another. He also writes: “with the exception of Pickwick, our various heroes through the first several novels seem to be rather nebulous characters. The fact is expecially true when we put their ‘personalities’ up against the villains that are eventually brought to justice. And I’m wondering, also, if the sheer weight of the other characters in these novels sort of buries the so-called ‘heroic’ figures.”

Lenny H. comment

Chris responds:

Chris M. comment

Dickens’s Women: The Pecksniff Sisters; Mercy’s Arc; “Justice for Charity”

Continuing the thread from our previous novels about “Dickens’s Women,” the Stationmaster, who had earlier reflected on wishing some sort of “Justice for Charity,” finds it interesting that Ruth would prefer a housekeeping role to that of a governess:

Adaptation Stationmaster comment

Chris reflects on the characterization too–while believing that there would need to be further elaboration and character arc on Charity’s part in order for “justice” to be done her, as even her kindness towards Tom was inherently selfish. She reflects on the “battered women in Dickens”–and the unfortunately tenuous “sisterhood” of the Pecksniff daughters, who have been pigeonholed into their respective “roles” and whose relationship is not strong enough to withstand their own selfishness. Chris first analyzes the “bully” quality in Jonas Chuzzlewit:

Chris M. comment

Dickens & America: The English vs. American Sections; The Real-Life “Eden”; Dickens’s First Setting Outside England

A quick additional note here from the Stationmaster, on Dickens’s real-life model for “Eden,” which Chris had previously shared the article about:

Adaptation Stationmaster comment

“The Life & Adventures of Tom Pinch” (Cont’d from Last Week…)

Tom’s arc is one that many of us are most interested in, so I’m continuing that discussion here, from the Stationmaster’s comment last week that he’d like to have read “The Life and Adventures of Tom Pinch”:

Rach M. comment

Chris agrees that Tom “might be a better title character than is Martin Chuzzlewit because he is one character to whom all other characters relate” and he is the one who “experiences the most growth, moving from subserviently naive to actively self-sufficient after his eyes are opened to the true nature of Pecksniff,” though in a quiet way, “Tom’s inner strength has supported him all along”:

Chris M. comment

I made a little thread for Tom, with the beautiful illustrations from Sol Eytinge, Jr, and Fred Barnard:

And Priscilla is just loving Tom:

Dickens & Shakespeare: The Duke, Malvolio, and Martin Chuzzlewit as “Problem Novel”

While loving much about the way old Martin’s character is drawn, I still can’t help but think of him in the light of the fascinating but problematic Shakespearean figures who are, to some degree, playing God through their judgments, testings, and manipulation (e.g. the Duke in Measure for Measure). I also had some fun toying around with the thought of Pecksniff as like a Malvolio (Twelfth Night)–with the latter’s final threats to the company that had humiliated him as possibly foreshadowing an Iago-in-the-making:

Rach M. comment

Final Thematic Wrap-Up

Friends, in keeping with our “final wrap-up” structure, I’ll outline a few recurring themes that we’ve discussed over our weeks with Martin Chuzzlewit:

  1. Crime and Violence (This carryover topic was implied rather than overt; Chris discussed Jonas Chuzzlewit as “bully” and Mercy as a tragically “battered woman” figure.)
  2. Light & Dark; Comedy & Tragedy; “Comic Chaos” (Lenny has been particularly bringing us back around to this topic, with considerations of comic-tragic figures, almost “Chaplinesque,” such as Mrs. Gamp. Which is perhaps why she’s not as “funny” as she’s reputed to be–there is too much of the pitiable? Lenny and Rach discussed the hilarious scenes of the drunken Pecksniff, or of Pecksniff’s trespassing on the stranger’s lawn.)
  3. Self-Definition Through Characterization (Chris discusses that Mrs. Gamp’s invention of Mrs. Harris might be equated with the way Dickens defines himself & the world through his characters.)
  4. The Joys of Reading Dickens Aloud (Boze and I have been doing this as an experiment, and are determined to read the rest of Dickens aloud, as we’re finding it so enriching, funny, illuminating. Rob, our actor-narrator extraordinaire, gives us a feast of Dickensian listening! We’ve also discussed how Mrs. Gamp, who perhaps is not quite as “funny” on the page as expected, can be hilarious when read aloud or seen–e.g. Miriam Margolyes’ interpretation.)
  5. Mental Health (We didn’t discuss this overtly, but I’m continuing the thread here, for future works; I think here we might consider the Mr. Chuffey–who, to paraphrase Hamlet, when it comes down to it, knows a hawk from a handsaw, and “sees” more than he lets on. We might also consider Jonas in this light–or dark–as his paranoia and superstition continue to become more alarming as it goes on.)
  6. Money & Selfishness (Boze brought this up in his Intro. The two Martins. Money, and individuals’ relationship to it, is an ongoing theme in Dickens. With MC, he tackles the theme of selfishness, which is often related to it.)
  7. Dickens’ Women (The Pecksniff daughters; Ruth and Mary. We’ve all been commenting on this to one degree or another; the Stationmaster, Chris, and Lenny have been really tackling the womens’ trajectories here. Lenny & Rach–particularly Lenny–talked about the wonderful scene between old Martin and Merry before her marriage to Jonas; old Martin’s trying to draw out her “core sensibilities”–and to warn her.)
  8. “The Transactional Nature of Much of our Social Life” (This is related to the “Money & Selfishness” theme. Daniel brought this up; this is pure Dickens…and particularly vis-a-vis America, where everything becomes transactional, and people & things commodified; this might be said of old Martin’s view of the world too, and the cause of his paranoia and selfishness which he needs to overcome in order to be open to the relational rather than the transactional.)
  9. Dickens’ “Writing Lab”: Characterization & Character Arcs; Picaresque to Bildungsroman; Atmosphere; Antiheroes; Tighter Plotting (Chris, the Stationmaster, & Daniel have been particularly discussing Dickens’s capacity to reflect the human condition. Also, he is flexing his muscles here, and his plotting is tighter. At the same time, the Stationmaster has reflected a lot on young Martin as Dickens’ first “antihero”; Rach & Rob have discussed the young Martin & his characterization as being part of what makes this a “problem novel.” Daniel discussed that while “MC seems to be missing some of [Dickens’s] best characters we have encountered so far,” yet “in time, the villains get their due and the good emerge intact and ‘triumphant’.” Rob has really talked about why his English section is so much more captivating than the American portion. We also discussed the fabulously atmospheric writing in Chapter 2, which Chris believes rivals the opening in Bleak House. Rob loved the idea of “the year having a wardrobe.”)
  10. The Pilgrim’s Progress; the “Slough of Despond” (Lenny discussed this in depth; we’ve gone from Picaresque–more episodic vignettes–to a kind of Pilgrim’s Progress–again, like Nickleby!–and the almost too-difficult-to-read American passages. Here, we’re in the storytelling cave, the dark night of the soul, the Slough of Despond.)
  11. A “Pilgrim’s Progress” From One Novel to Another (Chris and Stationmaster have talked about the comparison between Chuzzlewit and Nickleby; Lenny and the rest of us are really seeing the connection and progression from one work to another.)
  12. Doubling (Though we did not discuss this overtly, I’m keeping it as a carryover from other works. We might consider the two Martins; Cherry and Mr. Pecksniff; Charity and Mercy. Chris mentions in the first week that no one is what they appear to be, but that Tom and Jonas are doubled–or foiled–in a way: one with the simplicity of goodness; one with the simplicity of cunning.)
  13. Dickens, Shakespeare, & Martin Chuzzlewit as a “Problem Novel” (Rach and Lenny have been particularly grappling with this idea. Old Martin’s similarity to the Duke in Measure for Measure; a Malvolio-like scenario with Pecksniff; the potentially problematic leading character and the arcs here. Lenny writes that many great novels have that quality: the “irritations that just won’t go away,” no matter the number of times we reread them.)
  14. Dickens & America (Chris & the Stationmaster have been especially discussing the way Dickens’s disillusionment about America–see American Notes–influenced his portrayal here. Chris shared the real-life “Eden” article. Rob discusses the greater interest in the English portion of the novel.)
  15. “The Life & Adventures of Tom Pinch” (Many of us feel that Tom’s story is the true heart of the piece. The Stationmaster gave us this wonderful alternate-title of the work in that light.)

A Look-Ahead to Our Break (6-19 Dec, 2022), and Beyond

Today is our final day of Martin Chuzzlewit, and then we begin our 2-week break between reads. It would be fun to share some of the Dickens and non-Dickens things that we are reading or watching during that time!

Friendly reminder that we will have our second online group chat on Saturday, 10 December, 11am PT/2pm ET/7pm GMT! If Rach doesn’t have you on her email list and you’d like the Zoom link, please email her here! This meeting will be mostly centered around Dickens’s “American works,” American Notes and Martin Chuzzlewit. (Note: Please join if you’d like, even if you’re not up to date in the reading–as long as you don’t mind potential spoilers!)

It is rather perfect that our group read of A Christmas Carol falls on Christmas week (20-26 December), and then we’ll be reading four of the five Christmas Books (which are relatively short) at the pace of one per week; they will be interrupted, however, by Pictures from Italy (Dickens’s Italian travelogue, published in 1846), as we’re reading in chronological order, in January. We’ve allotted 3 weeks for Pictures, even though it is about 100 pages shorter than American Notes. As this is an extra/optional work, those three weeks could also be an additional break or a chance to catch up! (Note: our final Christmas Book, The Haunted Man, was published after his serial novel Dombey & Son, so we’ll be reading it after Dombey, but there will not be a separate Intro for it.)

Hope to see you on 10 December for our online chat, friends! Or see you back here for Boze’s introduction to the Christmas Books and Pictures from Italy on 20 December!

Wishing all of you a peaceful and Happy Holidays, and a Merry Christmas!

7 Comments

  1. We didn’t really talk about the sad conclusion-or lack of a conclusion-to the subplot of Tom Pinch’s unrequited love. Not that we should have done so necessarily. I didn’t have anything to say about it and I assume no one else did either. But it occurs to me that the lack of satisfying ending (see the quote about heroes in books versus real life) is another connection between Martin Chuzzlewit and Shakespeare’s dark comedies. Tom doesn’t get a backup love interest or anything.

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  2. Hey, All!

    Rach, you did your marvelous alchemy–creating order out of the “chaos” of our various comments! Thanks so much for the time and energy you expend on this undertaking. You make us downright intelligible!

    Stationmaster, my “take” on Tom’s trajectory is that he–being the epitome of self-giving kindness (opposite of selfishness, a central motif)–has a wonderful role as uncle, brother, and brother-in-law . . . as well as maker of mellowing music on the organ. So, his “end” is fitting, I think: his life is truly about making things better for others.

    Also, Stationmaster, your video featuring the summoning of Dickens characters as the perfect way to express the quality of another person succinctly: funny and very astute! Thank you for that comic relief!

    I’m wondering how others understand the notion of “a much higher justice than poetical justice.” My sense about Dickens overall is that he is a maestro of divine providence–the unseen hand that guides things . . . not dictatorially, but invitingly and benevolently . . . that is the “much higher justice” that, indeed, has the final word.

    That comparison between Pecksniff and Malvolio evokes great possibilities! Indeed, Pecksniff shares Malvolio’s self-absorbed self-importance and, in the end, highly mockable stupidity.

    Blessings, All, as we move into the season of marvelous sights and sounds!

    Daniel

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  3. You nailed it Daniel! Order out of chaos, indeed–as there were so many disparate thoughts developed in this final week of MC! All very interesting, all developing more ideas and conclusions concerning this “problem” novel–as Rach describes it. She’s amazing!

    Pecksniff is an interesting antagonist, somewhat understated because of his smooth but vacuous conversational style, pretending ALWAYS to be more than he is–and absolutely morally bankrupt. His biggest liability is, I think, that he’s sold himself on himself, maybe, in fact, just fallen in love with the person he’s made himself out to be. He seems to have little or no consideration for what is morally right, although he speaks platitudes that give others the sense that he is a master of ethics. He’s a slippery character and the fact that he’s still on the loose–to to speak–makes him a social liability.

    A failure as a parent, a useless practitioner as an architect, by no means a teacher, and like Squeers, living off the tuition of those who come to him to learn to be practicing architects, and a sexual predator a la Mulberry Hawk–what’s to like about him? Definitely Malvolio-like–as he represents the forces of darkness–along with the awful Jonas Chuzzlewit–who invade this novel and make it seem less a comedy and more of a melodrama.

    As to Tom. Well, Tom is Tom…and seems to me, from the first, to be destined for bachelorhood. Along with Mrs. Todgers, Mrs. Lupin, and Mark Tapley, he’s one of the more self-contained characters in the novel. Although there are many personalities in this novel who transform themselves over time, these four characters tend to remain fairly static right from the narrative’s beginning and create a kind of touchstone for a stable society. Yes, Tom finally realizes the “true” character of Pecksniff, and transforms himself accordingly, but his steady morality, love for his sister, great attitude toward life, ability as a musician–all these attributes establish him as a resourceful and ideal role model. He functions as a great foil to Pecksniff and Jonas, and represents the comic center of the novel–as such. That JOYOUS stagecoach ride he takes–out of the milieu of Pecksniff toward London is the highest comedic point in the novel. This is the essence of what I would call “comic being.” Would we could all aspire to have a life of such feelings of JOY that come to Tom during this moment in the novel. And this “comic” positivity is the essence of his character!

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  4. A wonderful drawing together of all the discussion points… and most interesting they are too. I do envy your ability to summarise it all so succinctly, Rach 🙂 All my thoughts tend to whirl round and round in my head and stubbornly refuse to present themselves in an orderly fashion for the setting down.

    I am so glad I stumbled across the Dickens Club. I might never have read this wonderful novel (The title never really appealed) but I am so glad I have.

    I feel I need to play catch-up with the earlier novels that I have not read. I am about a quarter of the way through Pickwick. Then I hope to get to The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge ) ideally before we get to Dombey & Son. I will of course be joining in with the Christmas Books, but I know these quite well already 🙂

    Sorry to be missing the Zoom chat… pesky work!! Enjoy the Pecksniffery 😀

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    1. Aww, Rob, we will MISS YOU!!! Darn work…! 😦 But best wishes to you with all of that. Are you doing Pickwick on audio? Simon Prebble (who also read Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell) reads a MARVELOUS Pickwick!!! It is one of my favorite reads ❤

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      1. I am indeed doing the audio version. It whiles away the many hours I spend travelling to and from work. I have a copy of the Audible Studios version, narrated by Rory Kinnear. (The Chuzzlewit I listened to was from the same collection – Derek Jacobi narrated) I am enjoying it very much… should have it finished tomorrow, then on to The Old Curiosity Shop.

        That trial chapter is an absolute hoot 😀

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