Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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family, from which it distinctly appears, being stated in so many
words, that one Diggory Chuzzlewit was in tlie habit of perpetually
dining Avith Duke Humphrey. So constantly was he a guest at
that nobleman's table, indeed ; and so unceasingly were His Grace's
hospitality and companionship forced, as it were, upon him ; that
we find him uneasy, and full of constraint and reluctance : writing
his friends to the eff"ect that if they fail to do so and so by bearer,
he will have no choice but to dine again with Duke Humphrey :
and expressing himself in a very marked and extraordinary manner
as one surfeited of High Life and Gracious Company.

It has been rumoured, and it is needless to say the rumour
originated in the same base quarters, that a certain male Chuzzle-
wit, whose birth must be admitted to be involved in some obscurity,
was of very mean and low descent. How stands the proof? When
the son of that Individual, to whom the secret of his father's birth
was supposed to have been communicated by his father in his life-
time, lay upon his deathbed, this question was put to him in a
distinct, solemn, and formal way: "Toby Chuzzlewit, who was
your grandfether ? " To which lie, with Ids last breath, no less
distinctly, solemnly, and formally replied : and his Avords were
taken down at the time, and signed by six witnesses, each with
his name and address in full : " The Lord No Zoo." It may be
said — it has been said, for human wickedness has no limits — that
there is no Lord of that name, and that among the titles which
have become extinct, none at all resembling this, in sound even,
is to be discovered. But what is the irresistible inference 1 Re-
jecting a theory broached by some Avell- meaning but mistaken
persons, that this Mr. Toby Chuzzlewit's grandfather, to judge
from his name, must surely have been a IMandarin (which is wholly
insupportable, for there is no pretence of his grandmother ever
having been out of this country, or of any Mandarin having been
in it within some years of liis father's birth : except those in the
tea-sliops, which cannot for a moment be regarded as having any
bearing on the question, one way or other), rejecting this hypotliesis,


is it not manifest that Mr. Toby Chuzzlowit had either received
the name imperfectly from his father, or that he had forgotten it,
or that he had misioronounced it 1 and that even at tlie recent
period in question, the Chuzzlewits were connected by a bend
sinister, or kind of heraldic over- the -left, with some unknown
noble and illustrious House 1

From doi'unientary evidence, yet preserved in the family, the
fact is clearly established that in the comparatively modern days
of the Diggory Chuzzlewit before mentioned, one of its members
had attained to very great wealth and influence. Throughout
such fragments of his correspondence as have escaped the ravages
of the moths (who, in right of their extensive absorption of the
contents of deeds and papers, may be called the general registers of
the Insect World), we find him making constant reference to an
uncle, in respect of whom he would seem to have entertained great
expectations, as he was in the habit of seeking to propitiate his
favour by presents of plate, jewels, books, watches, and other
valuable articles. Thus, he writes on one occasion to his brother
in reference to a gravy- spoon, the brother's property, which he
(Diggory) would appear to have borrowed or otherwise possessed
himself of: "Do not be angry, I have parted with it — to my
uncle." On another occasion he expresses himself in a similar
manner with regard to a child's mug which had been entrusted to
him to get repaired. On another occasion he says, " I have be-
stowed upon that irresistible uncle of mine everything I ever
possessed." And that he was in the habit of paj'ing long and
constant visits to this gentleman at his mansion, if, indeed, he did
not wholly reside there, is manifest from the following sentence :
" AVith the exception of the suit of clothes I carry about with me,
the whole of my wearing apparel is at present at my uncle's."
This gentleman's patronage and influence must have been very
extensive, for his nephew writes, "His interest is too high"— "It
is too much " — " It is tremendous "■ — and the like. Still it does
not appear (which is strange) to have i^rocured for him any lucrative
post at court or elsewhere, or to have conferred upon him any
other distinction than that which was necessarily included in the
countenance of so great a man, and the being invited by him to
certain entertainments, so splendid and costly in their nature that
he emphatically calls them " Golden Balls."

It is needless to multiply instances of the high and lofty station,
and the vast importance of the Chuzzlewits, at diflerent periods.
If it came within the scope of reasonable probability that further
proofs were required, they miglit be heaped upon each other until
they formed an Alps of testimony, beneath which the boldest



scepticism should be crushed and beaten flat. As a goodly tumulus
is already collected, and decently battened up above the Family
grave, the present chapter is content to leave it as it is : merely
adding, by way of a final spadeful, that many Chuzzlewits, both
male and female, are proved to demonstration, on the faith of
letters written by their own mothers, to have had cliiselled noses,
undeniable chins, forms that might have served the sculptor for a
model, exquisitely -turned limbs, and polished foreheads of so
transparent a texture that the blue veins might be seen branching
off in various directions, like so many roads on an ethereal map.
This fact in itself, though it had been a solitary one, would have
utterly settled and clenched the business in hand ; for it is well
known, on the authority of all the books which treat of such
matters, that every one of these phenomena, but especially that of
the cliiselliug, are invariably peculiar to, and only make themselves
apparent in, persons of the very best condition.

This history, having, to its own perfect satisfaction (and,
consequently, to the full contentment of all its readers) proved
the Chuzzlewits to have had an origin, and to have been at one
time or other of an importance which cannot fail to render them
highly improving and acceptable acquaintance to all right-minded
individuals, may now proceed in earnest with its task. And
having shown that they must have had, by reason of their ancient
birth, a pretty large share in the foundation and increase of the
human family, it will one day become its province to submit, that
such of its members as shall be introduced in these pages, have
still many counteri)arts and prototypes in the Great World about
us. At present it contents itself with remarking, in a general
way, on this head : Firstly, that it may be safely asserted and
yet without implying any direct participation in the Monboddo
doctrine toucliing the probability of the human race having once
been monkeys, tliat men do play very strange and extraordinary
tricks. ( Secondly, and yet witliout trencliing on the Blumenbach
theory as to the descendants of Adam having a vast number of
qualities which belong more particularly to swine tiian to any
other class of animals in the creation, that some men certainly
are remarkable for taking uncommon good care of themselves. 1




It was pretty late in the autumn of the year, when the
declining sun, struggling through the mist which had obscured it
all day, looked brightly down upon a little "Wiltshire village, within
an easy journey of the fair old town of Salisbury.

Like a sudden flash of memory or spirit kindling up the mind
of an old man, it shed a glory upon the scene, in which its dei)arted
youth and fresluiess seemed to live again. The wet grass sparkled
in the light ; the scanty patches of verdure in tlie hedges — where
a few green twigs yet stood together bravely, resisting to the last
the tyranny of nipping winds and early frosts — took heart and
brightened up ; the stream which had been dull and sullen all day
long, broke out into a cheerful smile ; the birds began to chirp
and twitter on the naked boughs, as though tlie hopelul creatures
half believed that winter had gone by, and spring had come
already. The vane upon tlie tapering spire of the old church
glistened from its lofty station in sympathy with the general
gladness ; and from the ivy-shaded windows such gleams of light
shone back upon the glowing sky, that it seemed as if the quiet
building were the hoarding-place of twenty summers, and all their
ruddiness and warmth Avere stored Avithin.

Even those tokens of the season Avhich emphatically whispered
of the coming Avinter, graced the landscape, and, for the moment,
tinged its livelier features Avitli no oppressive air of sadness. The
fallen lea\'es, Avith Avhich the ground Avas strewn, gave forth a
pleasant fragrance, and subduing all harsh sounds of distant feet
and Avheels, created a repose in gentle unison with the light scatter-
ing of seed hither and tliither by the distant husbandman, and with
the noiseless passage of tiie plough as it turned up the rich brown
earth, and Avrought a graceful pattern in the stubbled fields. On
the motionless branches of some trees, autumn berries hung like
clusters of coral beads, as in those fabled orchards Avhere the fruits
Avere jcAvels ; others, stripped of all their garniture, stood, each
the centre of its little heap of bright red leaves, Avatching their
slow decay ; others again, still Avearing theirs, had them all
crunched and crackled up, as though they had l)ccn burnt ; about
the stems of some were piled, in ruddy mounds, the apples they


liad borne that year ; while others (hardy evergreens this
showed somewhat stern and gloomy in their vigour, as charged by
nature with the admonition that it is not to her more sensitive
and joyous ftivourites she grants the longest term of life. Still
athwart their darker boughs, the sunbeams struck out paths of
deeper gold ; and the red light, mantling in among their swarthy
branches, used them as foils to set its brightness oft', and aid the
lustre of the dying day.

A moment, and its glory was no more. The sun went down
beneath the long dark lines of hill and cloud which piled up in
the west an airy city, wall heaped on wall, and battlement on
battlement ; the light was all withdrawn ; the shining church
turned cold and dark; the stream forgot to smile; the birds were
silent ; and the gloom of winter dwelt on everything.

An evening wind uprose too, and the slighter branches cracked
and rattled as they moved, in skeleton dances, to its moaning
music. The withering leaves no longer quiet, hurried to and fro
in search of shelter from its chill pursuit ; the labourer unyoked
his horses, and with head bent down, trudged briskly home beside
them ; and from the cottage windows lights began to glance and
wink upon the darkening fields.

Then the village forge came out in all its bright importance.
The lusty bellows roared Ha ha ! to the clear fire, which roared in
turn, and bade the shining s})arks dance gaily to the merry clinking
of the hammers on the anvil. The gleaming iron, in its emulation,
sparkled too, and shed its red-hot gems around jn'ofusely. The
strong smith and his men dealt such strokes upon their Avork, as
made even the melancholy night rejoice ; and brought a glow into
its dark face as it liovered about the door and windows, peeping
curiously in above the shoulders of a dozen loungers. As to this
idle company, there they stood, spellbound by the place, and, cast-
ing now and then a glance upon the darkness in their rear, settled
their lazy elbows more at ease upon the sill, and leaned a little
further in : no more disposed to tear themselves away, than if
they had been born to cluster round the blazing hearth like so
many crickets.

Out upon the angry wind ! liow from sighing, it began to
bluster round the merry forge, banging at the wicket, and
grumbling in the chimney, as if it bullied the jolly bellows for
doing anything to order. And what an impotent swaggerer it
was too, for all its noise : for if it had any influence on that
hoarse companion, it was but to make him roar his cheerful song
the louder, and by consequence to make the fii-e burn the 1)righter,
and the sparks to dance more gaily yet : at length, they -N^hizzed


so madly round and round, that it Avas too much for such a surly
wind to bear : so off it flew with a howl : giving the old sign
before the ale-house door such a* cuff as it went, that tlie Blue
Dragon was more rampant than usual ever afterwards, and
indeed, before Christmas, reared clean out of his crazy frame.

It was small tyranny for a respectable wind to go wreaking its
vengeance on such poor creatures as the fallen leaves, but this
wind happening to come up with a great heap of them just after
venting his humour on the insulted Dragon, did so disi^erse and
scatter them that they lied away, pell-mell, some here, some there,
rolling over each other, whirling round and round upon their thin
edges, taking frantic flights into the air, and playing all manner
of extraordinary gambols in the extremity of their distress. Nor
was this enough for its malicious fury : for not content with
driving them abroad, it charged small parties of them and hunted
them into the wheelwright's saw- pit, and beloAV the planks and
timbers in the yard, and, scattering the sawdust in the air, it
looked for them underneath, and when it did meet Avith any,
whew ! how it drove them on and followed at their heels !

The scared leaves only flew the faster for all this, and a giddy
chase it was : for they got into unfrequented places, where there
was no outlet, and where their pursuer kept them eddying round
and round at his pleasure ; and they crc]:)t under the eaves of houses,
and clung tightly to the sides of hay-ricks, like bats ; and tore in at
open chamber-Avindows, and coAvered close to hedges ; and in short
went any whei-e for safety. But the oddest feat they achieved Avas,
to take advantage of the sudden opening of Mr. Pecksnift''s front-
door, to dash Avildly into his passage ; whither the Avind following
close upon them, and finding the back-door open, incontinently
bleAV out the lighted candle lield by IMiss Pecksnift', and slammed
the front- door against Mr. Pecksnifl" Avho Avas at that moment
entering, Avith such violence, that in the twinkling of an eye he
lay on his back at the bottom of the steps. Being by this time
Aveary of such trifling performances, the boisterous rover hurried
away rejoicing, roaring over moor and meadoAV, hill and flat, until
it got out to sea, Avhere it met Avith other Aviuds similarly disposed,
and made a night of it.

In the meantime Mr. Pecksnifl', having received, from a sharj)
angle in the bottom step but one, that sort of knock on the head
which lights up, for the patient's entertainment, an imaginary
general illumination of very bright short-sixes, lay placidly staring
at his OAvn street-door. And it Avould seem to have been more
suggestive in its aspect tiian street-doors usually are; for he
continued to lie there, rather a lengthy and unreasonable time,


without so much as wondering whether he was hurt or no : neither,
when Mi.>s Pecksniff inquired through the key- hole in a shrill
voice, which might have belonged to a whid in its teens, "Who's
there?" did he make any reply: uor, when Miss Pecksniff opened
the door again, and shading the candle witli her hand, peered out,
and looked provokingly round him, and about him, and over him,
and everywhere but at him, did he offer any remark, or indicate
in any manner the least hint of a desire to be picked up.

" / see you," cried ]\Iiss Pecksniff, to the ideal inflictor of a
runaway knock. " You'll catch it, Sir ! "

Still Mr. Pecksniff, perhaps from having caught it already,
said nothing.

"You're round the corner now," cried Miss Pecksniff. She
said it at a venture, but there was appropriate matter in it too ;
for Mr. Pecksniff, being in the act of extinguishing the candles
before mentioned pretty rapidly, and of reducing the number of
brass knobs on his street-door from four or five hundred (which
had previously been juggling of their own accord before his eyes
in a very novel manner) to a dozen or so, might in one sense
have been said to be coming round the corner, and just turning it.

With a sharply-delivered warning relative to the cage and tlie
constable, and the stocks and the gallows, Miss Pecksniff was
about to close the door again, when Mr. Pecksniff (being still at
the bottom of the steps) raised himself on one elbow, and

" That voice ! " cried Miss Pecksniff, " my parent ! "

At this exclamation, another ]\Iiss Pecksniff bounced out of
the parlour : and the two Miss Pecksniffs, with many incoherent
expressions, dragged Mr. Pecksniff into an upright posture.

" Pa ! " they cried in concert. " Pa ! Speak, Pa ! Do not
look so wild, my dearest Pa ! "

But as a gentleman's looks, in such a case of all others, are
by no means under his own control, Mr. Pecksniff continued to
keep his mouth and his eyes very wide open, and to drop his
lower jaw, somewhat after the manner of a toy nut-cracker : and
as his hat had ftillen off, and his face was pale, and his hair
erect, and his coat muddy, the spectacle he presented was so very
doleful, that neither of the Miss Pecksniffs could repress an
involuntary screech.

"That'll do," said Mr. Pecksniff. "I'm better."

"He's come to himself!" cried the youngest Miss Pecksniff.

" He speaks again ! " exclaimed the eldest.

With whicli joyfid words they kissed Mr. Pecksniff on either
cheek ; and bore him into the house. Presently, the youngest


Miss Pecksiiift' niii out again to pick up his liat, liis brown-paper
parcel, his umbrella, his gloves, and other .small articles : and
that do]ie, and the door closed, both young ladies applied them-
selves to tending Mr. Pecksnift''s wounds in tlie back parlour.

They were not very serious in their nature : being limited to
abrasions on what the eldest j\Iiss Pecksniff called " the knobby
parts" of her parent's anatomy, such as his knees and elbows,
and to the development of an entirely new organ, luiknown to
phrenologists, on the back of his head. These injuries having
been comforted externally, with patches of pickled brown paper,
and Mr. Pecksniff having been comforted internally, with some
stiff brandy -and -water, the eldest Miss Pecksniff sat down to
make the tea, which was all ready. In the meantime the youngest
Miss Pecksniff' brought from the kitchen a smoking dish of ham
and eggs, and, setting the same before her father, took up her
station on a low stool at his feet : thereby bringing lier eyes on
a level with the teaboard.

It must not be inferred from this position of humility, that
the youngest Miss Pecksniff" was so young as to be, as one may
say, forced to sit upon a stool, by reason of the shortness of her
legs. Miss Pecksniff sat upon a stool, because of her simplicity
and innocence, which Avere very great : very great. Miss Peck-
sniff sat upon a stool, because she was all girlishness, and play-
fulness, and wildness, and kittenish buoyancy. She was the most
arch and at the same time the most artless creature, was the
youngest Miss Pecksniff, that you can possibly imagine. It was
her great charm. She was too fresh and guileless, and too full
of child-like vivacity, was the youngest Miss Pecksniff, to wear
combs in her hair, or to turn it up, or to frizzle it, or braid it.
She wore it in a crop, a loosely flowing crop, which had so
many rows of curls in it, that the top row was only one curl.
Moderately buxom was her shape, and quite womanly too ; but
sometimes — yes, sometimes — she even wore a pinafore ; and how
charming that Wiis ! Oh ! she Avas indeed "a gushing thing" (as
a young gentleman had observed in verse, in the Poet's-corner of
a provincial newspaper), was the youngest Miss Pecksniff !

Mr. Pecksniff was a moral man : a grave man, a man of noble
sentiments, and speech : and he had had her christened IMercy.
Mercy ! oh, what a charming name for such a pure-souled being
as the youngest Miss Pecksniff! Her sister's name was Charity.
There Avas a good thing ! Mercy and Charity ! And Charity,
with her fine strong sense, and her mild, yet not reproachful
gravity, Avas so well named, and did so Avell set off and illustrate
her sister ! What a pleasant sight Avas that, the contrast they


])resented : to see each loved and loving one sympathising with,
and devoted to, and leaning on, and yet correcting and counter-
checking, and, as it Avere, aiitidoting, tlie other ! To beiiold
each damsel, in lier very admiration of her sister, setting up in
business for herself on an entirely different principle, and announc-
ing no connexion with over-the-way, and if the quality of goods
at that establishment don't please you, you are respectfully invited
to favour me with a call ! And the crowning circumstance of
the whole delightful catalogue was, that both the fair creatures
were so utterly unconscious of all this ! They had no idea of it.
They no more thought or dreamed of it, than Mr. Pecksniff did.
Nature played them off against each other : ihei/ had no hand in
it, the two Miss Pecksniffs.

It has been remarked that Mr. Pecksniff was a moral man.
So he was. Perhaps there never was a more moral man than
Mr. Pecksniff: especially in his conversation and correspondence.
It was once said of him by a homely admirer, that he liad a
Fortunatus's purse of good sentiments in his inside. In this
particular he was like the girl in the fairy tale, except that if
they were not actual diamonds which fell from his lips, tliey were
the very brightest paste, and shone prodigiously. He was a most
exemplary man : fuller of virtuous i^recept than a copy-book.
Some peojDle likened him to a direction -post, which is always
telling the w^ay to a place, and never goes there : but these were
his enemies ; the shadows cast by his brightness ; that was all.
His very throat Avas moral. You saw a good deal of it. You
looked over a very low fence of Avhite cravat (whereof no man
had ever beheld tlie tie, for he fastened it behind), and there it
lay, a valley between two jutting heights of collar, serene and
whiskerless before you. It seemed to say, on the part of Mr.
Pecksniff, " There is no deception, ladies and gentlemen, all is
peace : a holy cahn pervades me." So did his hair, just grizzled
with an iron-gray, which Avas all brushed off his forehead, and
stood bolt upright, or slightly drooped in kindred action with his
lieavy eyelids. So did his i)erson, Avhich Avas sleek though free
from coi'pulency. So did his manner, which Avas soft and oily.
In a Avord, even his ])lain black suit, and state of Avidower,- and
dangling double (eyeglass, all tended to the same purjiose, and
cried aloud, "Behold the moral Pecksniff!"

The brazen jilate upon the door (which being Mr. Pecksniff's,
could not lie) bore this inscription, "Pecksniff, Apx'hitect,"
to Avhich Mr. Pecksniff, on his cards of business, added, " and
Land Surveyor." In one sense, and only one, he may be said
to liave been a Land Surveyor on a pretty large scale, as an



extensive prospect lay stretched out before tlic windows of his
lionse. Of his architectural doings, nothing was clearly' known,
except that he had never designed or built anything ; but it was
generally understood that his knowledge of the science was
almost awful in its profundity.

Mr. Pecksniff's professional engagements, indeed, were almost,
if not entirely, confined to the reception of pupils ; for the collec-
tion of rents, with which pursuit he occasionally varied and
relieved his graver toils, can hardly be said to be a strictly
architectural employment. His genius lay in ensnaring parents
and guardians, and pocketing prenuums. A young gentleman's
premium being paid, and the young gentleman come to Mr.
Pecksniff's house, Mr. Pecksniff borrowed his case of mathematical
instruments (if silver-mounted or otherwise valuable) ; entreated
him, from that moment, to consider himself one of the fiimily ;
complimented him highly on his parents or guardians, as the case

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 3 of 80)