Nicholas Nickleby

Nicholas Nickleby

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Nicholas Nickleby combines comedy and tragedy in a tale of triumph over adversity in a story that mirrors Dickens' own rise from poverty to great success.

After his father dies, Nicholas Nickleby if left to take care of his mother and sister. His uncle, Ralph Nickleby, a disobliging businessman, dislikes Nicholas, sending him away to work at a menial job for a wicked conman. Though many trials assail his family and despite the social injustice he faces, Nicholas believes he can succeed.

This novel is part of Brilliance Audio's extensive Classic Collection, bringing you timeless masterpieces that you and your family are sure to love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781491573259
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication date: 05/26/2015
Edition description: Unabridged
Sales rank: 671,423
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 6.70(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Charles Dickens (7 February 1812 - 9 June 1870) is considered the greatest novelist of the Victorian era and created many of the worlds most notable fictional characters, including Fagin, Mr Micawber and Miss Havisham.

GUSTAV SCHROTTER worked as a comics artist during the Golden Age of comics, the 1940s. He illustrated among others Novelty's 'Dan'l Flannel', that appeared in Target Comics, Blue Bolt and Most Comics. He did several features for Timely, like 'The Angel', 'Captain Dash', 'Daredevils Three', 'Nellie the Nurse', 'The Patriot' and 'The Vision'. He also did horror comics for Farrell and Fox, as well as crime titles for MC Combs. Schrotter was active in comic books until the early 1950s. He then became a children's book illustrator.

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


Home-schooling; attended Dame School at Chatham briefly and Wellington

Read an Excerpt


Introduces all the Rest

There once lived, in a sequestered part of the county of Devonshire, one Mr. Godfrey Nickleby: a worthy gentleman, who, taking it into his head rather late in life that he must get married, and not being young enough or rich enough to aspire to the hand of a lady of fortune, had wedded an old flame out of mere attachment, who in her turn had taken him for the same reason. Thus two people who cannot afford to play cards for money, sometimes sit down to a quiet game for love.

Some ill-conditioned persons who sneer at the life-matrimonial, may perhaps suggest, in this place, that the good couple would be better likened to two principals in a sparring match, who, when fortune is low and backers scarce, will chivalrously set to, for the mere pleasure of the buffeting; and in one respect indeed this comparison would hold good; for, as the adventurous pair of the Fives' Court will afterwards send round a hat, and trust to the bounty of the lookers-on for the means of regaling themselves, so Mr. Godfrey Nickleby and his partner, the honey-moon being over, looked wistfully out into the world, relying in no inconsiderable degree upon chance for the improvement of their means. Mr. Nickleby's income, at the period of his marriage, fluctuated between sixty and eighty pounds per annum.

There are people enough in the world, Heaven knows! and even in London (where Mr. Nickleby dwelt in those days) but few complaints prevail of the population being scanty. It is extraordinary how long a man may look among the crowd without discovering the face of a friend, but it is no less true. Mr. Nickleby looked, and looked, till his eyes became sore as his heart, but no friend appeared; and when, growing tired of the search he turned his eyes homeward, he saw very little there to relieve his weary vision. A painter who has gazed too long upon some glaring colour, refreshes his dazzled sight by looking upon a darker and more sombre tint; but everything that met Mr. Nickleby's gaze wore so black and gloomy a hue, that he would have been beyond description refreshed by the very reverse of the contrast.

At length, after five years, when Mrs. Nickleby had presented her husband with a couple of sons, and that embarrassed gentleman, impressed with the necessity of making some provision for his family, was seriously revolving in his mind a little commercial speculation of insuring his life next quarter-day, and then falling from the top of the Monument by accident, there came, one morning, by the general post, a black-bordered letter to inform him how his uncle, Mr. Ralph Nickleby, was dead, and had left him the bulk of his little property, amounting in all to five thousand pounds sterling.

As the deceased had taken no further notice of his nephew in his lifetime, than sending to his eldest boy (who had been christened after him, on desperate speculation) a silver spoon in a morocco case, which, as he had not too much to eat with it, seemed a kind of satire upon his having been born without that useful article of plate in his mouth, Mr. Godfrey Nickleby could, at first, scarcely believe the tidings thus conveyed to him. On examination, however, they turned out to be strictly correct. The amiable old gentleman, it seemed, had intended to leave the whole to the Royal Humane Society, and had indeed executed a will to that effect; but the Institution, having been unfortunate enough, a few months before, to save the life of a poor relation to whom he paid a weekly allowance of three shillings and sixpence, he had, in a fit of very natural exasperation, revoked the bequest in a codicil, and left it all to Mr. Godfrey Nickleby; with a special mention of his indignation, not only against the society for saving the poor relation's life, but against the poor relation also, for allowing himself to be saved.

With a portion of this property Mr. Godfrey Nickleby purchased a small farm near Dawlish in Devonshire, whither he retired with his wife and two children, to live upon the best interest he could get for the rest of his money, and the little produce he could raise from his land. The two prospered so well together that, when he died, some fifteen years after this period, and some five after his wife, he was enabled to leave, to his eldest son, Ralph, three thousand pounds in cash, and to his youngest son, Nicholas, one thousand and the farm, which was as small a landed estate as one would desire to see.

These two brothers had been brought up together in a school at Exeter; and, being accustomed to go home once a week, had often heard, from their mother's lips, long accounts of their father's sufferings in his days of poverty, and of their deceased uncle's importance in his days of affluence: which recitals produced a very different impression on the two: for, while the younger, who was of a timid and retiring disposition, gleaned from thence nothing but forewarnings to shun the great world and attach himself to the quiet routine of a country life, Ralph, the elder, deduced from the often-repeated tale the two great morals that riches are the only true source of happiness and power, and that it is lawful and just to compass their acquisition by all means short of felony. "And," reasoned Ralph with himself, "if no good came of my uncle's money when he was alive, a great deal of good came of it after he was dead, inasmuch as my father has got it now, and is saving it up for me, which is a highly virtuous purpose; and, going back to the old gentleman, good did come of it to him too, for he had the pleasure of thinking of it all his life long, and of being envied and courted by all his family besides." And Ralph always wound up these mental soliloquies by arriving at the conclusion, that there was nothing like money.

Not confining himself to theory, or permitting his faculties to rust, even at that early age, in mere abstract speculations, this promising lad commenced usurer on a limited scale at school; putting out at good interest a small capital of slate-pencil and marbles, and gradually extending his operations until they aspired to the copper coinage of this realm, in which he speculated to considerable advantage. Nor did he trouble his borrowers with abstract calculations of figures, or references to ready-reckoners; his simple rule of interest being all comprised in the one golden sentence, "two-pence for every halfpenny," which greatly simplified the accounts, and which, as a familiar precept, more easily acquired and retained in the memory than any known rule of arithmetic, cannot be too strongly recommended to the notice of capitalists, both large and small, and more especially of money-brokers and bill-discounters. Indeed, to do these gentlemen justice, many of them are to this day in the frequent habit of adopting it, with eminent success.

In like manner did young Ralph Nickleby avoid all those minute and intricate calculations of odd days, which nobody who has worked sums in simple-interest can fail to have found most embarrassing, by establishing the one general rule that all sums of principal and interest should be paid on pocket-money day, that is to say, on Saturday: and that whether a loan were contracted on the Monday, or on the Friday, the amount of interest should be, in both cases, the same. Indeed he argued, and with great show of reason, that it ought to be rather more for one day than for five, inasmuch as the borrower might in the former case be very fairly presumed to be in great extremity, otherwise he would not borrow at all with such odds against him. This fact is interesting, as illustrating the secret connexion and sympathy which always exists between great minds. Though Master Ralph Nickleby was not at that time aware of it, the class of gentlemen before alluded to, proceed on just the same principle in all their transactions.

From what we have said of this young gentleman, and the natural admiration the reader will immediately conceive of his character, it may perhaps be inferred that he is to be the hero of the work which we shall presently begin. To set this point at rest for once and for ever, we hasten to undeceive them, and stride to its commencement.

On the death of his father, Ralph Nickleby, who had been some time before placed in a mercantile house in London, applied himself passionately to his old pursuit of money-getting, in which he speedily became so buried and absorbed, that he quite forgot his brother for many years; and if, at times, a recollection of his old playfellow broke upon him through the haze in which he lived — for gold conjures up a mist about a man, more destructive of all his old senses and lulling to his feelings than the fumes of charcoal — it brought along with it a companion thought, that if they were intimate he would want to borrow money of him. So, Mr. Ralph Nickleby shrugged his shoulders, and said things were better as they were.

As for Nicholas, he lived a single man on the patrimonial estate until he grew tired of living alone, and then he took to wife the daughter of a neighbouring gentleman with a dower of one thousand pounds. This good lady bore him two children, a son and a daughter, and when the son was about nineteen, and the daughter fourteen, as near as we can guess — impartial records of young ladies' ages being, before the passing of the new act, nowhere preserved in the registries of this country — Mr. Nickleby looked about him for the means of repairing his capital, now sadly reduced by this increase in his family, and the expenses of their education.

"Speculate with it," said Mrs. Nickleby.

"Spec — u — late, my dear?" said Mr. Nickleby, as though in doubt.

"Why not?" asked Mrs. Nickleby.

"Because, my dear, if we should lose it," rejoined Mr. Nickleby, who was a slow and time-taking speaker, "if we should lose it, we shall no longer be able to live, my dear."

"Fiddle," said Mrs. Nickleby.

"I am not altogether sure of that, my dear," said Mr. Nickleby.

"There's Nicholas," pursued the lady, "quite a young man — it's time he was in the way of doing something for himself; and Kate too, poor girl, without a penny in the world. Think of your brother! Would he be what he is, if he hadn't speculated?"

"That's true," replied Mr. Nickleby. "Very good, my dear. Yes. I will speculate, my dear."

Speculation is a round game; the players see little or nothing of their cards at first starting; gains may be great — and so may losses. The run of luck went against Mr. Nickleby. A mania prevailed, a bubble burst, four stockbrokers took villa residences at Florence, four hundred nobodies were ruined, and among them Mr. Nickleby.

"The very house I live in," sighed the poor gentleman, "may be taken from me to-morrow. Not an article of my old furniture, but will be sold to strangers!"

The last reflection hurt him so much that he took at once to his bed; apparently resolved to keep that, at all events.

"Cheer up, sir!" said the apothecary.

"You mustn't let yourself be cast down, sir," said the nurse.

"Such things happen every day," remarked the lawyer.

"And it is very sinful to rebel against them," whispered the clergyman.

"And what no man with a family ought to do," added the neighbours.

Mr. Nickleby shook his head, and motioning them all out of the room, embraced his wife and children, and having pressed them by turns to his languidly beating heart, sunk exhausted on his pillow. They were concerned to find that his reason went astray after this; for he babbled, for a long time, about the generosity and goodness of his brother and the merry old times when they were at school together. This fit of wandering past, he solemnly commended them to One who never deserted the widow or her fatherless children, and, smiling gently on them, turned upon his face, and observed that he thought he could fall asleep.


Of Mr. Ralph Nickleby, and his Establishment, and his Undertakings. And of a great Joint Stock Company of vast national Importance

Mr. Ralph Nickleby was not, strictly speaking, what you would call a merchant, neither was he a banker, nor an attorney, nor a special pleader, nor a notary. He was certainly not a tradesman, and still less could he lay any claim to the title of a professional gentleman; for it would have been impossible to mention any recognised profession to which he belonged. Nevertheless, as he lived in a spacious house in Golden Square, which, in addition to a brass plate upon the street-door, had another brass plate two sizes and a half smaller upon the left-hand doorpost, surmounting a brass model of an infant's fist grasping a fragment of a skewer, and displaying the word "Office," it was clear that Mr. Ralph Nickleby did, or pretended to do, business of some kind; and the fact, if it required any further circumstantial evidence, was abundantly demonstrated by the diurnal attendance, between the hours of half-past nine and five, of a sallow-faced man in rusty brown, who sat upon an uncommonly hard stool in a species of butler's pantry at the end of the passage, and always had a pen behind his ear when he answered the bell.

Although a few members of the graver professions live about Golden Square, it is not exactly in anybody's way to or from anywhere. It is one of the squares that have been; a quarter of the town that has gone down in the world, and taken to letting lodgings. Many of its first and second floors are let, furnished, to single gentlemen; and it takes boarders besides. It is a great resort of foreigners. The dark-complexioned men who wear large rings, and heavy watch-guards, and bushy whiskers, and who congregate under the Opera Colonnade, and about the box-office in the season, between four and five in the afternoon, when they give away the orders, — all live in Golden Square, or within a street of it. Two or three violins and a wind instrument from the Opera band reside within its precincts. Its boarding-houses are musical, and the notes of pianos and harps float in the evening time round the head of the mournful statue, the guardian genius of a little wilderness of shrubs, in the centre of the square. On a summer's night, windows are thrown open, and groups of swarthy mustachioed men are seen by the passer-by, lounging at the casements and smoking fearfully. Sounds of gruff voices practising vocal music invade the evening's silence; and the fumes of choice tobacco scent the air. There, snuff and cigars, and German pipes and flutes, and violins and violoncellos, divide the supremacy between them. It is the region of song and smoke. Street bands are on their mettle in Golden Square; and itinerant glee-singers quaver involuntarily as they raise their voices within its boundaries.

This would not seem a spot very well adapted to the transaction of business; but Mr. Ralph Nickleby had lived there, notwithstanding, for many years, and uttered no complaint on that score. He knew nobody round about, and nobody knew him, although he enjoyed the reputation of being immensely rich. The tradesmen held that he was a sort of lawyer, and the other neighbours opined that he was a kind of general agent; both of which guesses were as correct and definite as guesses about other people's affairs usually are, or need to be.

Mr. Ralph Nickleby sat in his private office one morning, ready dressed to walk abroad. He wore a bottle-green spencer over a blue coat; a white waistcoat, grey mixture pantaloons, and Wellington boots drawn over them. The corner of a small-plaited shirt-frill struggled out, as if insisting to show itself, from between his chin and the top button of his spencer; and the latter garment was not made low enough to conceal a long gold watch-chain composed of a series of plain rings, which had its beginning at the handle of a gold repeater in Mr. Nickleby's pocket, and its termination in two little keys: one belonging to the watch itself, and the other to some patent padlock. He wore a sprinkling of powder upon his head, as if to make himself look benevolent; but if that were his purpose, he would perhaps have done better to powder his countenance also, for there was something in its very wrinkles, and in his cold restless eye, which seemed to tell of cunning that would announce itself in spite of him. However this might be, there he was; and as he was all alone, neither the powder, nor the wrinkles, nor the eyes, had the smallest effect, good or bad, upon anybody just then, and are consequently no business of ours just now.


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Nicholas Nickleby (Everyman's Library Series) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Being written early in his career and started before "Oliver Twist" was completed, "Nicholas Nickleby" contains all of the classic Dickens qualities of richly detailed characters and numerous intertwing subplots, yet it seems somewhat rushed in conclusion. Dickens fans will surely recall "Nickleby" with fondness, but it is certainly not the first full length Dickens novel one should read. "David Copperfield" or "Bleak House" are better representations of Dickens at his best.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Some critics complain that Nicholas Nickleby is unsophisticated and melodramatic compared to Dickens' later works. In my opinion they are missing the point - it is melodramatic to be sure, but that is all part of the tounge-in-cheek tone of the work. This is an extremely entertaining novel. Highly recommended!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was fantastic. It was the second book by Dickens that I read, and I thought that it was even better than Oliver Twist. I loved the characters, the plot, and even the ending. However, Nicholas is certainly a flawed hero, but that just makes the story more intriguing. It has a perfect amount of political satire, humor, and tragedy. Wonderful book!!
NellyDT More than 1 year ago
can interest people who don't like to read  
LibraryLadyMB More than 1 year ago
I've noticed in most e-books that there are a lot of typos. I am assuming that the books are scanned and not re-typed, so the scanners must be fallible. The story of Nicholas Nickleby is wonderful, and I am reading it again in order to encounter the man in smalls once more.
NPhillygirlPA More than 1 year ago
I've read it before but I can't seem to get my NOOK to cooperate and let me read it again. :-(
C.J.Moran on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Q: Why, more than 140 years+ after his death is Charles Dickens still regarded as the greatest novelist the English language has ever seen?A: Because that is what he is.Nicholas Nickleby is a good illustration. I set myself to finish this - 776 pages in this edition - in a month; in the event it took twelve days. On most days, I only put it down because my eyes were throbbing from the small print.Of course, 776 pages is a lot of book but there is a lot of story; a lot happens to a lot of people. The reader must be given a chance to get to know these people if he is to a give a damn what happens to them. Dickens gives us this time; it is part of his art. He takes time, too, to describe people and places; remember that he wrote in the days before television, or newsreels, or even cheap picture-books. If he wanted the reader to know what something looked like, he had to describe it.To many, in this world where one death is a tragedy but a million deaths is a sound-bite, such a deliberate approach to story-telling will prove too taxing. To those with a more traditional attention span, it must simply add to the experience.And experience it is. Nickleby loses nothing with the passing of years. Dickens dealt, as do all great writers, with human nature and the real world. At root, neither changes. We are still afflicted with businessmen who know no morality beyond the p&l account; educationalists who substitute cant for understanding and choose to forget the humanity of their charges; gold diggers, cheats and frauds; and parents who care nothing for their children.Nicholas Nickleby was a page-turner in 1838 and it is a page-turner today. It has, by turns, villainy and romance, comedy and tragedy, sudden death and new beginnings. Truly, all human life is here.
michaeldwebb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To be honest I found this a bit of a struggle, just because of the sheer length. Parts of the writing still felt exciting and relevant, but some of the side stories just felt like padding. I know, it's pretty pointless 'reviewing' Dickens, so I'll just leave it that I didn't enjoy this as much as Bleak House, the last Dickens I read.
samfsmith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A more appropriate title might be ¿The Nicklebys¿ or ¿The Nickleby Family¿. Mean, miserly Uncle Ralph is as much the center of the novel as Nicholas, and there¿s Kate Nickleby, and Nicholas¿s mother. It¿s a Victorian plot full of coincidences and family secrets ¿ a joy to read and discover.
mbmackay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dickens' third, and very wordy, work published in installments totaling 761 pages (in my Project Gutenberg download). Tells the story of Nicholas and family (mother and sister, Kate) from the time of their sudden plunge into poverty on the death of their father at the time of failed investments. The book is notionally a love story telling the romances of Nicholas and Kate, but the theme of the work is social standing and mobility - mostly abrupt falls such as faced by the Nickleby's, Newman Nogg and Madeline Bray, but also some attempts to establish a status, such as by the Kenwigses with their water rates collector uncle as their lynchpin. The writing has its soap opera-ish elements - such as when Uncle Ralph just happens to overhear Kate candidly venting her views behind a screen, and in the utterly black and white characters - pure evil such as Uncle Ralph and schoolmaster Squeers, or pure good, such as the brothers Cherryble. Dickens is also careful to avoid subtlety - where Jane Austen allows characters to define themselves by their speech and actions, Dickens sees the need to add asides to remove all doubt. Dickens has two, clearly personal, digs in the book - one against politicians when NN applies for a job with an MP, and a second when he gives a piece of his mind to a "literary gentleman" who dramatises novels for the stage. Among the darkness, there are slabs of comedy. The acting troop that NN joins, and especially the juvenile "Phenomenon" provides much humour, as does the bucolic John Browdie with his broad Yorkshire accent and simple manners. So, the book is not without flaws, but Dickens does manage to pull it off - I was in the grip of a page-turner for the last third of the book. Read December 2011.
eleanor_eader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Deliciously satirical Dickens, the author hell-bent on seeing evildoers get their come-uppance, and the innocent prevail, while ridiculing, with varying degrees of fierceness, everything he points his nib at. I recently read, and loved Bleak House, and while Nicholas Nickleby wasn¿t quite that cohesive a story - the serial nature of its release slightly more obvious - I still enjoyed it enormously (perhaps even more than Bleak House on the basis of the quality of writing). I worried, through the first few pages, that the biting humour might distance me from enjoying the story for its own sake, but didn¿t allow for Dickens¿ incredible storytelling capacity and unrivalled talent for character. It¿s impossible not to be invested in the fate of the most idly-sketched person in any of his works.Nicholas, our hero, is a pleasant and agreeable young man in pursuit of means after the death of his father leaves his family practically destitute. Relying at first upon the kindness of his uncle, and then discovering the man has none, he is first employed as a teacher at a school for young boys under the management of the brutal Mr. Squeers, where he takes under his wing ¿ and takes off with - the loyal, if childlike, Smike. Nicholas sets about taking his fortunes into his own hands, and releasing his family, and especially his sister, Kate, from the clutches of the avaricious and vengeful Ralph Nickleby (characters whom I¿d like to slap, list, head of). Some of the most hilarious, satisfying scenes in literature fall between the covers of Nicholas Nickleby, those wherein Nicholas makes delightful use of his fists (always where others commit outrages on those under his charge) being particularly enjoyable; the fantastic Newman Noggs finally getting to tell off his employer, and the remarkable prison break of the re-captured Smike, masterminded by the Yorkshireman, John Browdie, whose stifling of his own hilarity caused me to half-choke on mine.Better yet, barely a scene passes that isn¿t pasted up and down with Dickens¿ satirical social commentary, the perfect tone for this story which deals with the inconsistencies and injustices of a rampantly money-conscious society.Any work can be described as flawed if examined closely enough; caught up in the story, I didn¿t care to poke too critically at anything, and the negatives I can summon are very slight¿ there are several examples of Dickens¿ more sentimentally `perfect¿ characters ¿ the brothers, Ned and Charles (enjoyable), come to mind, as does Kate Nickleby (bland), although for once it¿s hard to knock the stereotypical `perfection¿ of one woman in a novel, when the entire cast consists of people drawn at the extremes of nature ¿ and, being a tale with a happy ending for most of those that deserve it, the single undeserved tragedy feels rather more unfair to its victim than normal. Far more poignant and clever is the end of the antagonist, towards whom the reader had developed a sort of complicated pity (which in no way precluded the urge to slap him). There exists, perhaps, a weakness in the very last tying up of the plot in that the final machinations of Ralph Nickleby seem to have, in the end, been undone largely by the virtuous following the villainous around for a bit until things reveal themselves.It took me a fortnight to read Nicholas Nickleby and, despite the pressing urge to read other books on my pile, and the unpleasantly small text in my copy, I consider it time well spent, an auspicious beginning to the year¿s reading, and a new favourite.
Fluffyblue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nicholas Nickleby wasn't, for me, the best Dickens I've read so far (and I've still got a lot to go...!). At times it felt a little aimless, but as usual, the characters and the descriptions are just brilliant. You know it's going to end well, but how it gets there is often a bit of a roundabout journey. My favourite characters were Mr Squeers (love that name!), Miss La Creevey, and Mrs Nickleby. They were hilarious.
mattviews on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
NICHOLAS NICKLEBY is a significant Dickens in the uncannily absorbing way the narrative diversifies to various literary discourses. The protagonist's experiences and encounters in adverse milieu through life not only embody melodrama, comic relief, political satire, class comedy, social criticism, and domestic farce, they allow Dickens the opportunity to portray, to the minutest nuance, an extraordinary cast of rogues and eccentrics. The main frame of NICHOLAS NICKLEBY is a quintessential Dickens: a generic, virtuous man who concerns with the affair of establishing his identity as a gentleman and the pruning of whom entwines him in a checkered fate. Nicholas Nickleby has committed no fault and offenses, and yet he is to be entirely alone in the world, to be separated from the people he loves, and to be proscribed like a criminal. The more unbearable the ordeals and the more injudicious the deal of the hand from life, the more profusely the novel accentuates Dickens' outrage at the cruelty and social injustice. When Nicholas Nickleby is left exiguous after his father's death, he turns to his hard-hearted uncle to solicit succor. But Ralph Nickleby, a most unscrupulous and avarious man he is, demonstrates that he is proof against all appeals of blood and kindred, and is steeled against every tale of distress and sorrows. The man will never fail to exert any resolution or cunning that will promise increase of money for there is scarcely anything he will not have hazarded to gratify his greed. It's not that he is unconscious of the baseness of the means with which he acquires his gains. He cares only for gratification of his passions of avarice and hatred. He might have from the beginning conceived dislike to his nephew whom he brazenly places in Squeers' Dotheboys Hall, a school for unwanted boys, as an assistant master. The cruelty of Squeers, who's coarse and ruffian behavior even at his best temper, Nicholas has been an unwilling witness. The filthy condition of the school and the bodily distortion of the boys impart in him a dismal feeling. The thought of being a helper and abettor of such squalid practice fills his with honest disgust and indignation. The cruelties descend upon helpless infancy fuel this rightful indignation in Nicholas, who interferes with the schoolmaster's flogging a boy named Smike and astonishes everyone in school. Not only does Ralph persuade Nicholas' family to renounce him for the atrocities to Squeers of which he is guilty, he also betrays his niece Kate into the company of some libertine men who are clients of his and who speak of her in a most casual, lecherous, ribald and vulgar terms. She is roused beyond all endurance by a profusion of compliments of which coarseness becomes humor and of which vulgarity softens down to the most charming eccentricity. The mutual hatred between uncle and nephew aggravates as Nicholas overhears conversations about his sister. The hidden feud further percolates to the surface and leads to a pitch to its malignity as he tries to rescue a girl from a marriage to which she has been impelled. As the uncle insidiously hatches a scheme to retaliate against his nephew who has in every step of the way interceded and thwarted his plans for mercenary gains, Nicholas entwines with a cast of characters who are humorous, memorable, and true to life. Peripheral to his molding to become a gentleman are episodes of political satire, theatrical success, courtship, family farce, and chicanery. The most significant character is no doubt Smike, whom Nicholas saves from the hellish grip of the schoolmaster and has become his best friend. Nicholas' unfailing love and protectiveness toward the boy accentuates his being the novel's hero, whose domestic virtues, affections, compassion, and delicacy of feelings qualifies him to his later fortune and does him justice. NICHOLAS NICKLEBY is a flamboyantly exuberant work in which Dickens wreaks the tension of his social satire to a pitch. Detai
souloftherose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was Dickens' third novel which he started writing in 1838, while he was finishing Oliver Twist, and finished writing in 1839, while he was starting The Old Curiosity Shop. Like most of his novels, it was originally published in monthly instalments before being published in a single volume.Initially I found Nicholas Nickleby a strange mixture of styles; Dickens' contract with his publishers was to write something 'of a similar character and of the same extent and contents in point of quantity' to The Pickwick Papers, Dickens' first novel, which was a lighter, more episodic work than Oliver Twist. However, Dickens' had been doing some investigative work in respect of the infamous 'Yorkshire schools' of the period and wanted to include some criticism of these schools in Nicholas Nickleby in the same way that he criticised the Poor Laws in Oliver Twist so it has some darker sections unlike The Pickwick Papers.Nicholas Nickleby follows the adventures of our eponymous hero, Nicholas Nickleby, his mother and his sister Kate after the death of their father. The family begin the story in a very bad way as Nicholas' father was in debt when he died. They are forced on the mercy of their uncle, the dastardly Ralph Nickleby who obtains a position for Nicholas as a teacher at a Yorkshire boarding school. The first quarter of the book shows us the appalling realities of life in a boys' boarding school in Yorkshire through the eyes of Nicholas. The villains who run the school are appropriately grotesque and their pupils appropriately pathetic so it would be easy for the reader to assume that Dickens' descriptions of these schools was an exaggeration. However, from the information in the introduction to my edition (the Penguin Classics edition) it seems that Dickens' description of these schools was all too accurate. Thankfully, the popularity of Nicholas Nickleby meant that most of these schools were forced to close down over the next ten years.As with all of Dickens' stories, the family who are obviously good and begin the book in poverty don't end the book that way, although there are many twists and turns before all the characters get what they deserve. I initially found the story somewhat rambling in nature and it felt like a lot of the incidents described, although amusing, didn't really have a bearing on the main plot. It helped me to think of these asides as being similar to The Pickwick Papers which is less plot driven and apparently this style of writing is similar to the picaresque style used by Henry Fielding in Tom Jones and Tobias Smollett's Humphrey Clinker.In terms of characters there were some wonderful villains such as Wackford Squeers, the owner of the Yorkshire school, and Ralph Nickleby, Nicholas' uncle who takes an immediate dislike to his nephew. Both were so deliciously villainous that I felt myself wanting to boo or hiss at them in pantomime style every time they entered the story. There are also many ridiculous characters to laugh at such as Nicholas' mother who never fails to wander from the point in the most amusing fashion and the deceitful yet entertainingly flattering Mr Mantalini. To me Nicholas Nickleby seems to lie somewhere in between Dickens' first two novels in terms of style, or rather, it seems to be combine aspects of both and so overall, I didn't think it worked quite as well as either. However, I still enjoyed it a lot, especially once I was past the slower first quarter of the book.
jphilbrick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My fourth Dickens read, and maybe my second favorite, right behind David Copperfield. It's the same sort of traveling feast of characters as that and the Pickwick Papers, and the usual good vs. evil storyline. The secondary characters in this one are so good, though, that it makes up for some of the more formulaic aspects: La Creevy, John Browdie, Newman Noggs, and the deliciously good villains: "schoolmeasther" Squeers, Ralph Nickleby, and Arthur Gride. I don't remember if most Dickens books have such a great plot twist at the end as this one, but it was a good one!This might be the fastest I've ever read a Dickens novel: 15 days!
wordygirl39 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My favorite Dickens book so far. I'll read this one again someday.
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