Charles Dickens's powerful black comedy of of hypocrisy and greed
The greed of his family has led wealthy old Martin Chuzzlewit to become suspicious and misanthropic, leaving his grandson and namesake to make his own way in the world. And so young Martin sets out from the Wiltshire home of his supposed champion, the scheming architect Pecksniff, to seek his fortune in America. In depicting Martin's journey - an experience that teaches him to question his inherited self-interest and egotism - Dickens created many vividly realized figures: the brutish lout Jonas Chuzzlewit, plotting to gain the family fortune; Martin's optimistic manservant, Mark Tapley; gentle Tom Pinch; and the drunken and corrupt private nurse, Mrs Gamp. With its portrayal of greed, blackmail and murder, and its searing satire on America Dickens's novel is a powerful and blackly comic story of hypocrisy and redemption. In her introduction, Patricia Ingham examines characterization, the central themes of the novel, and Dickens's depiction of America. This edition also includes two new prefaces, Dickens's postscript written in 1868, his working papers, a note on Mrs Gamp's eccentric speech, a chronology, updated further reading, appendices and original illustrations by 'Phiz'.
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About the Author
Date of Birth:February 7, 1812
Date of Death:June 18, 1870
Place of Birth:Portsmouth, England
Place of Death:Gad's Hill, Kent, England
Education:Home-schooling; attended Dame School at Chatham briefly and Wellington
Read an Excerpt
The One Thing Needful
“Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, Sir!”
The scene was a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a schoolroom, and the speaker’s square forefinger emphasized his observations by underscoring every sentence with a line on the schoolmaster’s sleeve. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s square wall of a forehead, which had his eyebrows for its base, while his eyes found commodious cellerage in two dark caves, overshadowed by the wall. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s mouth, which was wide, thin, and hard set. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s voice, which was inflexible, dry, and dictatorial. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s hair, which bristled on the skirts of his bald head, a plantation of firs to keep the wind from its shining surface, all covered with knobs, like the crust of a plum pie, as if the head had scarcely warehouse-room for the hard facts stored inside. The speaker’s obstinate carriage, square coat, square legs, square shoulders,—nay, his very neckcloth, trained to take him by the throat with an unaccommodating grasp, like a stubborn fact, as it was,—all helped the emphasis.
“In this life, we want nothing but Facts, Sir; nothing but Facts!”
Thespeaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person present, all backed a little, and swept with their eyes the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim.
Murdering the Innocents
Thomas Gradgrind, Sir. A man of realities. A man of facts and calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for anything over. Thomas Gradgrind, Sir—peremptorily Thomas—Thomas Gradgrind. With a rule and a pair of scales, and the multiplication table always in his pocket, Sir, ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you exactly what it comes to. It is a mere question of figures, a case of simple arithmetic. You might hope to get some other nonsensical belief into the head of George Gradgrind, or Augustus Gradgrind, or John Gradgrind, or Joseph Gradgrind (all supposititious, non-existent persons), but into the head of Thomas Gradgrind—no, Sir!
In such terms Mr. Gradgrind always mentally introduced himself, whether to his private circle of acquaintance, or to the public in general. In such terms, no doubt, substituting the words “boys and girls,” for “Sir,” Thomas Gradgrind now presented Thomas Gradgrind to the little pitchers before him, who were to be filled so full of facts.
Indeed, as he eagerly sparkled at them from the cellarage before mentioned, he seemed a kind of cannon loaded to the muzzle with facts, and prepared to blow them clean out of the regions of childhood at one discharge. He seemed a galvanizing apparatus, too, charged with a grim mechanical substitute for the tender young imaginations that were to be stormed away.
“Girl number twenty,” said Mr. Gradgrind, squarely pointing with his square forefinger, “I don’t know that girl. Who is that girl?”
“Sissy Jupe, sir,” explained number twenty, blushing, standing up, and curtseying.
“Sissy is not a name,” said Mr. Gradgrind. “Don’t call yourself Sissy. Call yourself Cecilia.”
“It’s father as calls me Sissy, sir,” returned the young girl in a trembling voice, and with another curtsey.
“Then he has no business to do it,” said Mr. Gradgrind. “Tell him he mustn’t. Cecilia Jupe. Let me see. What is your father?”
“He belongs to the horse-riding, if you please, sir.”
Mr. Gradgrind frowned, and waved off the objectionable calling with his hand.
“We don’t want to know anything about that, here. You mustn’t tell us about that, here. Your father breaks horses, don’t he?”
“If you please, sir, when they can get any to break, they do break horses in the ring, sir.”
“You mustn’t tell us about the ring, here. Very well, then. Describe your father as a horsebreaker. He doctors sick horses, I dare say?”
“Oh yes, sir.”
“Very well, then. He is a veterinary surgeon, a farrier and horsebreaker. Give me your definition of a horse.”
(Sissy Jupe thrown into the greatest alarm by this demand.)
“Girl number twenty unable to define a horse!” said Mr. Gradgrind, for the general behoof of all the little pitchers. “Girl number twenty possessed of no facts, in reference to one of the commonest of animals! Some boy’s definition of a horse. Bitzer, yours.”
The square finger, moving here and there, lighted suddenly on Bitzer, perhaps because he chanced to sit in the same ray of sunlight which, darting in at one of the bare windows of the intensely whitewashed room, irradiated Sissy. For, the boys and girls sat on the face of the inclined plane in two compact bodies, divided up the centre by a narrow interval; and Sissy, being at the corner of a row on the sunny side, came in for the beginning of a sunbeam, of which Bitzer, being at the corner of a row on the other side, a few rows in advance, caught the end. But, whereas the girl was so dark-eyed and dark-haired, that she seemed to receive a deeper and more lustrous colour from the sun, when it shone upon her, the boy was so light-eyed and light-haired that the self-same rays appeared to draw out of him what little colour he ever possessed. His cold eyes would hardly have been eyes, but for the short ends of lashes which, by bringing them into immediate contrast with something paler than themselves, expressed their form. His short-cropped hair might have been a mere continuation of the sandy freckles on his forehead and face. His skin was so unwholesomely deficient in the natural tinge, that he looked as though, if he were cut, he would bleed white.
“Bitzer,” said Thomas Gradgrind. “Your definition of a horse.”
“Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.” Thus (and much more) Bitzer.
“Now girl number twenty,” said Mr. Gradgrind. “You know what a horse is.”
She curtseyed again, and would have blushed deeper, if she could have blushed deeper than she had blushed all this time. Bitzer, after rapidly blinking at Thomas Gradgrind with both eyes at once, and so catching the light upon his quivering ends of lashes that they looked like the antennæ of busy insects, put his knuckles to his freckled forehead, and sat down again.
The third gentleman now stepped forth. A mighty man at cutting and drying, he was; a government officer; in his way (and in most other people’s too), a professed pugilist; always in training, always with a system to force down the general throat like a bolus, always to be heard of at the bar of his little Public-office, ready to fight all England. To continue in fistic phraseology, he had a genius for coming up to the scratch,2 wherever and whatever it was, and proving himself an ugly customer. He would go in and damage any subject whatever with his right, follow up with his left, stop, exchange, counter, bore his opponent (he always fought All England)3 to the ropes, and fall upon him neatly. He was certain to knock the wind out of common sense, and render that unlucky adversary deaf to the call of time. And he had it in charge from high authority to bring about the great public- office Millennium, when Commissioners should reign upon earth.
“Very well,” said this gentleman, briskly smiling, and folding his arms. “That’s a horse. Now, let me ask you girls and boys, Would you paper a room with representations of horses?”
After a pause, one half of the children cried in chorus, “Yes, Sir!” Upon which the other half, seeing in the gentleman’s face that Yes was wrong, cried out in chorus, “No, Sir!”—as the custom is, in these examinations.
“Of course, No. Why wouldn’t you?”
A pause. One corpulent slow boy, with a wheezy manner of breathing, ventured the answer, Because he wouldn’t paper a room at all, but would paint it.
“You must paper it,” said the gentleman, rather warmly.
“You must paper it,” said Thomas Gradgrind, “whether you like it or not. Don’t tell us you wouldn’t paper it. What do you mean, boy?”
Table of Contents
- INTRODUCTORY, CONCERNING THE PEDIGREE OF THE CHUZZLEWIT FAMILY
- WHEREIN CERTAIN PERSONS ARE PRESENTED TO THE READER, WITH WHOM HE MAY, IF HE PLEASE, BECOME BETTER ACQUAINTED
- IN WHICH CERTAIN OTHER PERSONS ARE INTRODUCED; ON THE SAME TERMS AS IN THE LAST CHAPTER
- FROM WHICH IT WILL APPEAR THAT IF UNION BE STRENGTH, AND FAMILY AFFECTION BE PLEASANT TO CONTEMPLATE, THE CHUZZLEWITS WERE THE STRONGEST AND MOST AGREEABLE FAMILY IN THE WORLD
- CONTAINING A FULL ACCOUNT OF THE INSTALLATION OF MR PECKSNIFF’S NEW PUPIL INTO THE BOSOM OF MR PECKSNIFF’S FAMILY. WITH ALL THE FESTIVITIES HELD ON THAT OCCASION, AND THE GREAT ENJOYMENT OF MR PINCH
- COMPRISES, AMONG OTHER IMPORTANT MATTERS, PECKSNIFFIAN AND ARCHITECTURAL, AND EXACT RELATION OF THE PROGRESS MADE BY MR PINCH IN THE CONFIDENCE AND FRIENDSHIP OF THE NEW PUPIL
- IN WHICH MR CHEVY SLYME ASSERTS THE INDEPENDENCE OF HIS SPIRIT, AND THE BLUE DRAGON LOSES A LIMB
- ACCOMPANIES MR PECKSNIFF AND HIS CHARMING DAUGHTERS TO THE CITY OF LONDON; AND RELATES WHAT FELL OUT UPON THEIR WAY THITHER
- TOWN AND TODGER’S
- CONTAINING STRANGE MATTER, ON WHICH MANY EVENTS IN THIS HISTORY MAY, FOR THEIR GOOD OR EVIL INFLUENCE, CHIEFLY DEPEND
- WHEREIN A CERTAIN GENTLEMAN BECOMES PARTICULAR IN HIS ATTENTIONS TO A CERTAIN LADY; AND MORE COMING EVENTS THAN ONE, CAST THEIR SHADOWS BEFORE
- WILL BE SEEN IN THE LONG RUN, IF NOT IN THE SHORT ONE, TO CONCERN MR PINCH AND OTHERS, NEARLY. MR PECKSNIFF ASSERTS THE DIGNITY OF OUTRAGED VIRTUE. YOUNG MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT FORMS A DESPERATE RESOLUTION
- SHOWING WHAT BECAME OF MARTIN AND HIS DESPARATE RESOLVE, AFTER HE LEFT MR PECKSNIFF’S HOUSE; WHAT PERSONS HE ENCOUNTERED; WHAT ANXIETIES HE SUFFERED; AND WHAT NEWS HE HEARD
- IN WHICH MARTIN BIDS ADIEU TO THE LADY OF HIS LOVE; AND HONOURS AN OBSCURE INDIVIDUAL WHOSE FORTUNE HE INTENDS TO MAKE BY COMMENDING HER TO HIS PROTECTION
- THE BURDEN WHEREOF, IS HAIL COLUMBIA!
- MARTIN DISEMBARKS FROM THAT NOBLE AND FAST–SAILING LINE–OF–PACKET SHIP, ‘THE SCREW’, AT THE PORT OF NEW YORK, IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. HE MAKES SOME ACQUAINTANCES, AND DINES AT A BOARDING– HOUSE. THE PARTICULARS OF THOSE TRANSACTIONS
- MARTIN ENLARGES HIS CIRCLE OF AQUAINTANCE; INCREASES HIS STOCK OF WISDOM; AND HAS AN EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY OF COMPARING HIS OWN EXPERIENCES WITH THOSE OF LUMMY NED OF THE LIGHT SALISBURY, AS RELATED BY HIS FRIEND MR WILLIAM SIMMONS
- DOES BUSINESS WITH THE HOUSE OF ANTHONY CHUZZLEWIT AND SON, FROM WHICH ONE OF THE PARTNERS RETIRES UNEXPECTEDLY
- THE READER IS BROUGHT INTO COMMUNICATION WITH SOME PROFESSIONAL PERSONS, AND SHEDS A TEAR OVER THE FILAIL PIETY OF GOOD MR JONAS
- IS A CHAPTER OF LOVE
- MORE AMERICAN EXPERIENCES, MARTIN TAKES A PARTNER, AND MAKES A PURCHASE. SOME ACCOUNT OF EDEN, AS IT APPEARED ON PAPER. ALSO OF THE BRITISH LION. ALSO OF THE KIND OF SYMPATHY PROFESSED AND ENTERTAINED BY THE WATERTOAST ASSOCIATION OF UNITED SYMPATHISERS
- FROM WHICH IT WILL BE SEEN THAT MARTIN BECAME A LION OF HIS OWN ACCOUNT. TOGETHER WITH THE REASON WHY
- MARTIN AND HIS PARTNER TAKE POSSESSION OF THEIR ESTATE. THE JOYFUL OCCASION INVOLVES SOME FURTHER ACCOUNT OF EDEN
- REPORTS PROGRESS IN CERTAIN HOMELY MATTERS OF LOVE, HATRED, JEALOUSY, AND REVENGE
- IS IN PART PROFESSIONAL, AND FURNISHES THE READER WITH SOME VALUABLE HINTS IN RELATION TO THE MANAGEMENT OF A SICK CHAMBER
- AN UNEXPECTED MEETING, AND A PROMISING PROSPECT
- SHOWING THAT OLD FRIENDS MAY NOT ONLY APPEAR WITH NEW FACES, BUT IN FALSE COLOURS. THAT PEOPLE ARE PRONE TO BITE, AND THAT BITERS MAY SOMETIMES BE BITTEN.
- MR MONTAGUE AT HOME. AND MR JONAS CHUZZLEWIT AT HOME
- IN WHICH SOME PEOPLE ARE PRECOCIOUS, OTHERS PROFESSIONAL, AND OTHERS MYSTERIOUS; ALL IN THEIR SEVERAL WAYS
- PROVES THAT CHANGES MAY BE RUNG IN THE BEST–REGULATED FAMILIES, AND THAT MR PECKNIFF WAS A SPECIAL HAND AT A TRIPLE–BOB–MAJOR
- MR PINCH IS DISCHARGED OF A DUTY WHICH HE NEVER OWED TO ANYBODY, AND MR PECKSNIFF DISCHARGES A DUTY WHICH HE OWES TO SOCIETY
- TREATS OF TODGER’S AGAIN; AND OF ANOTHER BLIGHTED PLANT BESIDES THE PLANTS UPON THE LEADS
- FURTHER PROCEEDINGS IN EDEN, AND A PROCEEDING OUT OF IT. MARTIN MAKES A DISCOVERY OF SOME IMPORTANCE
- IN WHICH THE TRAVELLERS MOVE HOMEWARD, AND ENCOUNTER SOME DISTINGUISHED CHARACTERS UPON THE WAY
- ARRIVING IN ENGLAND, MARTIN WITNESSES A CEREMONY, FROM WHICH HE DERIVES THE CHEERING INFORMATION THAT HE HAS NOT BEEN FORGOTTEN IN HIS ABSENCE
- TOM PINCH DEPARTS TO SEEK HIS FORTUNE. WHAT HE FINDS AT STARTING
- TOM PINCH, GOING ASTRAY, FINDS THAT HE IS NOT THE ONLY PERSON IN THAT PREDICAMENT. HE RETALIATES UPON A FALLEN FOE
- SECRET SERVICE
- CONTAINING SOME FURTHER PARTICULARS OF THE DOMESTIC ECONOMY OF THE PINCHES; WITH STRANGE NEWS FROM THE CITY, NARROWLY CONCERNING TOM
- THE PINCHES MAKE A NEW ACQUAINTANCE, AND HAVE FRESH OCCASION FOR SURPRISE AND WONDER
- MR JONAS AND HIS FRIEND, ARRIVING AT A PLEASANT UNDERSTANDING, SET FORTH UPON AN ENTERPRISE
- CONTINUATION OF THE ENTERPRISE OF MR JONAS AND HIS FRIEND
- HAS AN INFLUENCE ON THE FORTUNES OF SEVERAL PEOPLE. MR PECKSNIFF IS EXHIBITED IN THE PLENITUDE OF POWER; AND WIELDS THE SAME WITH FORTITUDE AND MAGNANIMITY
- FURTHER CONTINUATION OF THE ENTERPRISE OF MR JONAS AND HIS FRIEND
- IN WHICH TOM PINCH AND HIS SISTER TAKE A LITTLE PLEASURE; BUT QUITE IN A DOMESTIC WAY, AND WITH NO CEREMONY ABOUT IT
- IN WHICH MISS PECKSNIFF MAKES LOVE, MR JONAS MAKES WRATH, MRS GAMP MAKES TEA, AND MR CHUFFEY MAKES BUSINESS
- CONCLUSION OF THE ENTERPRISE OF MR JONAS AND HIS FRIEND
- BEARS TIDINGS OF MARTIN AND OF MARK, AS WELL AS OF A THIRD PERSON NOT QUITE UNKNOWN TO THE READER. EXHIBITS FILIAL PIETY IN AN UGLY ASPECT; AND CASTS A DOUBTFUL RAY OF LIGHT UPON A VERY DARK PLACE
- IN WHICH MRS HARRIS ASSISTED BY A TEAPOT, IS THE CAUSE OF A DIVISION BETWEEN FRIENDS
- SURPRISES TOM PINCH VERY MUCH, AND SHOWS HOW CERTAIN CONFIDENCES PASSED BETWEEN HIM AND HIS SISTER
- SHEDS NEW AND BRIGHTER LIGHT UPON THE VERY DARK PLACE; AND CONTAINS THE SEQUEL OF THE ENTERPRISE OF MR JONAS AND HIS FRIEND
- IN WHICH THE TABLES ARE TURNED, COMPLETELY UPSIDE DOWN
- WHAT JOHN WESTLOCK SAID TO TOM PINCH’S SISTER; WHAT TOM PINCH’S SISTER SAID TO JOHN WESTLOCK; WHAT TOM PINCH SAID TO BOTH OF THEM; AND HOW THEY ALL PASSED THE REMAINDER OF THE DAY
- GIVES THE AUTHOR GREAT CONCERN. FOR IT IS THE LAST IN THE BOOK
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I am suprised that most people I meet, when asked what their favorite Dickens books is, reply either 'Little Dorrit' or 'Great Expectations'. Nobody mentions Martin Chuzzlewit which is an amazing book. The characters are so real, they might be the people living next door. Wickedness in all forms is portrayed in the gaiety of Mercy (pun intended), in the righteousness of the famous Pecksniff, in the peevishness of Chuzzlewit and the plain evil of the old nurse. The good people win, and the bad fall. This universal theme undergoes so many subtle modifications that there seem to be a new set of rules. Dickens manages to describle places equally if not better than his characters and I was thrilled with Todgers, a boarding-house and The Dragon, the local bar. Find a quiet spot under the shade of some tree and start reading.
This is Dickens' sixth major work, written when he was 31/32 years old. His writing skills are visibly improving, the characters are better developed and the plot structure is sound. But the reliance on coincidence and plot twists is typically Dickens. The book starts well, introducing the key characters gradually, developing them as the book proceeds. For the first time, the major villain (Pecksniff) is a rounded, believable creation. The major hero (Pinch) is also well developed, but just a little too good to be entirely credible. The seemingly obligatory comic character (Mrs Gamp) makes too many appearances and stays on the scene too long for my taste.The book was written after Dickens' first trip to the USA and he is humourously critical of much of the pretension he found there. He must have lost audience support in the US as a result, because the edition I read had a postscript, written around the time of his second visit 20 years later, stating how much the place has improved! Dickens' takes a progressive position on slavery and excoriates the practice in the US. He also paints an interesting picture of the gentleman, young Martin Chuzzlewit, learning how to live a better life from his servant, Mark Tapley - not a common position for an author to take in this era.A long book, at 786 pages, but as usual, I found myself drawn in to a real page turner in the last third of the work. Read February 2012.
Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens wasn¿t a particularly long novel (unlike War and Peace) nor was the language particularly challenging (like the writing of Proust) yet I had a difficult time completing this novel.The characters in the book were incredibly rich, but many of them were completely unlikeable. The entire Pecksniff family, father and daughters alike, were despicable. The duplicitous nature of Seth Pecksniff made me ill each time he entered the scene. His blatant hypocrisy and pandering in the hopes of increasing his wealth and social standing was nauseating. While the daughters may have received unfair treatment by other characters, the manner in which they treated Pinch more than warranted the karmic payback. Jonas Chuzzlewit, a swindler and wife beater, at least received his due in the end.Sending a few of the characters off to America to try to make a fresh start was a bit confusing. It didn¿t further the story and really only provided the author with a means at taking pot shots at the ¿U-nited States.¿ He made the entire country out to be a savage, disease infested wilderness run by a bunch of con-men. The characters¿ survival of their time in Eden, however, did help forge their bonds through the remainder of the story.One main theme in the story, found in much of Dicken¿s writing, is a commentary on class distinction. While Pinch was a surveyor and civil engineer, trades that are considered to be respectable today, he was always treated as a second class citizen by the Pecksniffs; often to the point of appearing to be no more than a lap dog. However, his higher caliber of character raises him in the end.The entire Pecksniff-Chuzzlewit clan could justify any means of advancing their standing. From their poor treatment of others, swindling through Ponzi schemes and even murder, nothing was beneath them and everything was rationalized to be morally acceptable. Their self righteous attitudes towards their foul deeds made them all the more corrupt.In retrospect, I think my difficulties may have roots in the fact that I simply didn¿t like the people about which I was reading. The story was secondary to the characters and their moral defects.
Another great Dickens¿ novel of biblical proportions. Even the pages of this edition have a scriptural feel to them - thin and vellum-like, with the added benefit of the original illustrations.And the novel is everything that I have come to expect of Dickens. Plenty of memorable characters and scenes and a plot full of unexpectedly and unbelievable coincidences. You just have to suspend your modern cynicism and go with it - when you do, it¿s incredibly satisfying. Every character, no matter how insignificant, gets their just desserts at the end.This is also the novel where Dickens turns his satirical eye on the United States, since two of the characters immigrate in quest of their fortune, and are horribly disappointed. In the appendix, there is actually a postscript where Dickens attempts to make amends.So heft a copy of this 800 page tome and give it a read - you won¿t be disappointed.
I tend to overdo my pleasures. Very recently, I've read Dombey and Sons, Hard Times, Our Mutual Friend, and the Mystery of Edwin Drood. So it's only to be expected that I should encounter a little Dickens fatigue. And along about page 600 of Martin Chuzzlewit, the thought kept popping into my mind, like those Interstate motel advertisements, "if this had been John Sanford's 'Prey on Greed', I would be home by now."Yes, I'd had it with ole "Sairey" Gamp, who seemed to have no purpose in Dicken's universe, except to annoy the hell out of me with her quaint dialect stylings and her bottle on the mantelpiece when she was so "dispoged". Not to mention how she precipitated a debilitating series of Robin-Williams-in-Doubtfire-drag flashbacks.And those Pecksniff hoes, Cherry and Merry? Like any time I want more of that action, there's a thousand starlet wannabe's on Youtube looking sideways at a web cam, mis-accenting their dialogue and raising their eyebrows like they all suffer from the same bizarre tic doloureux. Enuff a dat, thank you very much.I did enjoy Martin Jr. and Mark Tapley, when - to hum a bit of Paul Simon - they "walked off to look for America." Dickens riff list of New York City newspapers was genius "The Sewer, The Stabber, The Family Spy, The Private Listener, The Peeper, The Plunderer, The Keyhole Reporter, and The Rowdy Journal." Indeed, what with wire photos, colored printing, the Internet , it's nice to see that a century of technological change hasn't really spoiled the industry, eh wot?I found myself comparing Chuzzlewit to Our Mutual Friend. Both novels contained a universe of characters. In both, the ecology - the way they fed and fed on one another - was similarly complex. Both used major plot twists. But Our Mutual Friend has a much better flow (no pun about the Thames intended). And equivalent characters are much more interesting in Our Mutual Friend. Little Jenny Wren, for example, steals the show very much like Gamp does in Chuzzlewit, and has a role of equal proportion, but I think she's far more interesting and funny.Bottom line - two things - first, if you're thinking of broadening your reading of Dickens, choose Our Mutual Friend over Martin Chuzzlewit; second, Chuzzlewit doesn't have much forward motion, so focus on enjoying the eccentricities of the characters rather than expecting much from the plot.
Much to my surprise, Martin Chuzzlewit turned out to be one of my favorite Dickens books, right behind Bleak House and Great Expectations. It's funnier than most of his books and features one of Dickens' best villains, Seth Pecksniff (what a name). I have just one more Dickens novel, Our Mutual Friend, to finish and I can say I completed Dickens' oeuvre. It has taken me only ten years to do it.
Just started reading this book and I have to say that Dickens is a master at words. His masterful work is apparent once again in this book where the characters really come alive, and the description is so real. It's as if his characters are across the room. This Penguin Classics edition is a good copy. It gives some really interesting and insightful background information pertaining to this book that is very valuable. I must say, though, that the excerpt from Chap. 1 and 2 displayed here is actually from Dickens' Hard Times, not Martin Chuzzlewit.