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Martin Chuzzlewit
by Charles Dickens
The original, squashed down to read in about 25 minutes

(London, 1844)

On its monthly publication, in 1843-44, "Martin Chuzzlewit" was, pecuniarily, the least successful of Dickens's serials, though popular as a book. It was his first novel after his American tour, and the storm of resentment that had hailed the appearance of "American Notes," in 1842, was intensified by his merciless satire of American characteristics and institutions in "Martin Chuzzlewit.

For more works by Dickens, see The Index
Abridged: GH/JH

Martin Chuzzlewit

I. - Mr. Pecksniff's New Pupil

Mr. Pecksniff lived in a little Wiltshire village within an easy journey of Salisbury.

The brazen plate upon his door bore the inscription, "Pecksniff, Architect," to which Mr. Pecksniff, on his cards of business, added, "and Land Surveyor." Of his architectural doings nothing was clearly known, except that he had never designed or built anything.

Mr. Pecksniff's professional engagements, indeed, were almost, if not entirely, confined to the reception of pupils. His genius lay in ensnaring parents and guardians and pocketing premiums.

Mr. Pecksniff was a moral man. Perhaps there never was a more moral man than Mr. Pecksniff, especially in his conversation and correspondence. Some people likened him to a direction-post, which is always telling the way to a place, and never goes there; but these were his enemies.

Into Mr. Pecksniff's house came young Martin Chuzzlewit, a relation of the architect's. Tom Pinch, Mr. Pecksniff's assistant, had driven over to Salisbury for the new pupil, and had already discoursed to Martin on Mr. Pecksniff and his family (for Mr. Pecksniff had two daughters - Mercy, and Charity), in whose good qualities he had a profound and pathetic belief.

Festive preparations on a rather extensive scale were already completed for Martin's benefit on the night of his arrival. There were two bottles of currant wine, white and red; a dish of sandwiches, very long, and very slim; another of apples; another of captain's biscuits; a plate of oranges cut up small and gritty with powdered sugar; and a highly geological home-made cake. The magnitude of these preparations quite took away Tom Pinch's breath, for though the new pupils were usually let down softly, particularly in the wine department, still this was a banquet, a sort of lord mayor's feast in private life, a something to think of, and hold on by afterwards.

To this entertainment Mr. Pecksniff besought the company to do full justice.

"Martin," he said, addressing his daughters, "will seat himself between you two, my dears, and Mr. Pinch will come by me. This is a mingling that repays one for much disappointment and vexation. Let us be merry." Here he took a captain's biscuit. "It is a poor heart that never rejoices; and our hearts are not poor. No!"

The following morning Mr. Pecksniff announced that he must go to London. "On professional business, my dear Martin; strictly on professional business; and I promised my girls long ago that they should accompany me. We shall go forth to-night by the heavy coach - like the dove of old, my dear Martin - and it will be a week before we again deposit, our olive-branches in the passage. When I say olive branches," observed Mr. Pecksniff, in explanation, "I mean our unpretending luggage."

"And now let me see," said Mr. Pecksniff presently, "how can you best employ yourself, Martin, while I am absent. Suppose you were to give me your idea of a monument to a Lord Mayor of London, or a tomb for a sheriff, or your notion of a cow-house to be erected in a nobleman's park. A pump is a very chaste practice. I have found that a lamp-post is calculated to refine the mind and give it a classical tendency. An ornamental turnpike has a remarkable effect upon the imagination. What do you say to beginning with an ornamental turnpike?"

"Whatever Mr. Pecksniff pleased," said Martin doubtfully.

"Stay," said that gentleman. "Come! as you're ambitious, and are a very neat draughtsman, you shall try your hand on these proposals for a grammar-school. When your mind requires to be refreshed by change of occupation, Thomas Pinch will instruct you in the art of surveying the back-garden, or in ascertaining the dead level of the road between this house and the finger-post, or in any other practical and pleasing pursuit. There is a cart-load of loose bricks, and a score or two of old flower-pots in the back-yard. If you could pile them up, my dear Martin, into any form which would remind me on my return, say, of St. Peter's at Rome, or the Mosque of St. Sophia at Constantinople, it would be at once improving to you and agreeable to my feelings."

The coach having rolled away, with the olive-branches in the boot and the family of doves inside, Martin Chuzzlewit and Tom Pinch were left together. Now, there was something in the very simplicity of Pinch that invited confidences, and young Martin could not refrain from telling his story.

"I must talk openly to somebody," he began, "I'll talk openly to you. You must know, then, that I have been bred up from childhood with great expectations, and have always been taught to believe that one day I should be very rich. Certain things, however, have led to my being disinherited."

"By your father?" inquired Tom.

"By my grandfather. I have had no parents these many years. Now, my grandfather has a great many good points, but he has two very great faults, which are the staple of his bad side. He has the most confirmed obstinacy of character, and he is most abominably selfish; I have heard that these are failings of our family, and I have to be very thankful that they haven't descended to me. Now I come to the cream of my story, and the occasion of my being here. I am in love, Pinch. I am in love with one of the most beautiful girls the sun ever shone upon. But she is wholly and entirely dependent upon the pleasure of my grandfather; and if he were to know that she favoured my passion, she would lose her home and everything she possesses in the world. My grandfather, although I had conducted myself from the first with the utmost circumspection, is full of jealousy and mistrust, and suspected me of loving her. He said nothing to her, but attacked me in private, and charged me with designing to corrupt the fidelity to himself - observe his selfishness-of a young creature who was his only disinterested and faithful companion. The upshot of it was that I was to renounce her or be renounced by him. Of course, I was not going to yield to him, and here I am!"

Mr. Pinch, after staring at the fire, said, "Pecksniff, of course, you knew before?"

"Only by name. My grandfather kept not only himself, but me, aloof from all his relations. But our separation took place in a town in the neighbouring county. I saw Pecksniff's advertisement in the paper when I was at Salisbury, and answered it, having always had some natural taste in the matters to which it referred. I was doubly bent on coming to him if possible, on account of his being - "

"Such an excellent man," interposed Tom, rubbing his hands.

"Why, not so much on that account," returned Martin, "as because my grandfather has an inveterate dislike to him, and after the old man's arbitrary treatment of me, I had a natural desire to run as directly counter to all his opinions as I could."

II. - Mr. Pecksniff Discharges His Duty

Mr. Pecksniff and his daughters took up their lodging in London at Mrs. Todgers's Commercial Boarding House, and it was at that favoured abode that old Martin Chuzzlewit, whose grandson had just entered Mr. Pecksniff's house, sought him out.

"I very much regret," said old Martin, "that you and I held such a conversation as we did when we met awhile since. The intentions that I bear towards you now are of another kind. Deserted by all in whom I have ever trusted; hoodwinked and beset by all who should help and sustain me, I fly to you for refuge. I confide in you to be my ally; to attach yourself to me by ties of interest and expectations. I regret having been severed from you so long."

Mr. Pecksniff looked up to the ceiling, and clasped his hands in rapture.

"I fear you don't know what an old man's humours are," resumed old Martin. "You don't know what it is to be required to court his likings and dislikings; to do his bidding, be it what it may. You have a new inmate in your house. He must quit it."

"For - for yours?" asked Mr. Pecksniff.

"For any shelter he can find. He has deceived you."

"I hope not," said Mr. Pecksniff eagerly, "I trust not. I have been extremely well disposed towards that young man. Deceit - deceit, my dear Mr. Chuzzlewit, would be final. I should hold myself bound, on proof of deceit, to renounce him instantly."

"Of course, you know that he has made his matrimonial choice?"

"Surely not without his grandfather's consent and approbation, my dear sir?" cried Mr. Pecksniff. "Don't tell me that. For the honour of human nature say you're not about to tell me that!"

"I thought he had suppressed it."

The indignation felt by Mr. Pecksniff at this terrible disclosure was only to be equalled by the kindling anger of his daughters. What, had they taken to their hearth and home a secretely contracted serpent? Horrible!

Old Martin then went on to inquire when they would be returning home; and, after relieving Mr. Pecksniff's unexpressed anxiety by mentioning that Mary Graham, the young lady whom the old man had adopted, would receive nothing at his death, announced that they might expect to see him before long.

With a hasty farewell, the old man left the house, followed to the door by Mr. Pecksniff and his daughters. A few days later the Pecksniffs set out for home.

Tom Pinch and Martin were both out in the lane to meet the coach, but Mr. Pecksniff pointedly ignored Martin's presence, even when the house had been reached; and it was not till Martin sharply demanded an explanation that he addressed him.

"You have deceived me," said Mr. Pecksniff. "You have imposed upon a nature which you knew to be confiding and unsuspicious. This lowly roof, sir, must not be contaminated by the presence of one who has, further, deceived - and cruelly deceived - an honourable and venerable gentleman, and who wisely suppressed that deceit from me when he sought my protection. I weep for your depravity. I mourn over your corruption, but I cannot have a leper and a serpent for an inmate! Go forth," said Mr. Pecksniff, stretching out his hand, "go forth, young man! Like all who know you, I renounce you!"

Martin made a stride forward at these words, and Mr. Pecksniff stepped back so hastily that he missed his footing, tumbled over a chair, and fell in a sitting posture on the ground, where he remained, perhaps considering it the safest place.

"Look at him, Pinch," said Martin, "as he lies there - a cloth for dirty hands, a mat for dirty feet, a lying, fawning, servile hound! And, mark me, Pinch, the day will come when even you will find him out!"

He pointed at him as he spoke with unutterable contempt, and flinging his hat upon his head, walked from the house. He went on so rapidly that he was clear of the village before Tom Pinch overtook him.

"Are you going?" cried Tom.

"Yes," he answered sternly, "I am."

"Where?" asked Tom.

"I don't know. Yes, I do - to America."

III. - New Eden

Martin did not go to America alone, for Mark Tapley, formerly of the Blue Dragon, an inn in the village where Mr. Pecksniff resided, insisted on accompanying him.

"Now, sir, here am I, without a sitiwation," Mr. Tapley put it, "without any want of wages for a year to come - for I saved up (I didn't mean to do it, but I couldn't help it) at the Dragon; here am I with a liking for what's wentersome, and a liking for you, and a wish to come out strong under circumstances as would keep other men down - and will you take me, or will you leave me?"

Once landed in the United States, the question of what to do arose, and Martin decided to invest his savings in buying land in the rising township of New Eden.

"Mark, you shall be a partner in the business," said Martin (Mark having invested £37 to Martin's £8); "an equal partner with myself. We are no longer master and servant. I will put in, as my additional capital, my professional knowledge, and half the annual profits, as long as it is carried on, shall be yours. Our business shall be commenced, as soon as we get to New Eden, under the name of Chuzzlewit and Tapley."

"Lord love you, sir," cried Mark, "don't have my name in it! I must be 'Co.,' I must."

"You shall have your own way, Mark."

"Thank 'ee sir! If any country gentleman thereabouts in the public way wanted such a thing as a skittle-ground made, I could take that part of the bis'ness, sir."

It was a long steamboat journey, but at last they stopped at Eden. The waters of the Deluge might have left it but a week ago, so choked with slime and matted growth was the hideous swamp which bore that name.

A man advanced towards them when they landed, walking slowly, leaning on a stick.

"Strangers!" he exclaimed.

"The very same," said Mark. "How are you, sir?"

"I've had the fever very bad," he answered faintly. "I haven't stood upright these many weeks. My eldest son has a chill upon him. My youngest died last week."

"I'm sorry for it, governor, with all my heart!" said Mark. "The goods is safe enough," he added, turning to Martin, and pointing to their boxes. "There ain't many people about to make away with 'em. What a comfort that is!"

"No," cried the man; "we've buried most of 'em. The rest have gone away. Them that we have here don't come out at night."

"The night air ain't quite wholesome, I suppose?" said Mark.

"It's deadly poison," was the answer.

Mark showed no more uneasiness than if it had been commended to him as ambrosia; but he gave the man his arm, and as they went along explained the nature of their purchase, and inquired where it lay. Close to his own log-house, he said.

It was a miserable cabin, rudely constructed of the trunks of trees, the door of which had either fallen down or been carried away. When they had brought up their chest, Martin gave way, and lay down on the ground, and wept aloud.

"Lord love you, sir," cried Mr. Tapley. "Don't do that. Anything but that! It never helped man, woman, or child over the lowest fence yet, sir, and it never will."

Mark stole out gently in the morning while his companion slept, and took a rough survey of the settlement. There were not above a score of cabins in the whole, and half of these appeared untenanted. Their own land was mere forest. He went down to the landing-place, where they had left their goods, and there he found some half a dozen men, wan and forlorn, who helped him to carry them to the log-house.

Martin was by this time stirring, but he had greatly changed, even in one night. He was very pale and languid, and spoke of pains and weakness.

"Don't give in, sir," said Mr. Tapley. "Why, you must be ill. Wait half a minute, till I run up to one of our neighbours and find out what's best to be took."

Martin was soon dangerously ill, very near his death. Mark, fatigued in mind and body, working all the day and sitting up at night, worn by hard living, surrounded by dismal and discouraging circumstances, never complained or yielded in the least degree. And then, when Martin was better, Mark was taken ill. He fought against it; but the malady fought harder, and his efforts were vain.

"Floored for the present, sir," he said one morning, sinking back upon his bed, "but jolly."

And now it was Martin's turn to work and sit beside the bed and watch, and listen through the long, long nights to every sound in the gloomy wilderness.

Martin's reflections in those days slowly showed him his own selfishness, and when Mark Tapley recovered, he found a singular alteration in his companion.

"I don't know what to make of him," he thought one night. "He don't think of himself half as much as he did. It's a swindle. There'll be no credit in being jolly with him!"

The settlement was deserted. The only thing to be done was to return to England.

IV. - The Downfall of Pecksniff

Old Martin Chuzzlewit had for some time taken up his residence at Mr. Pecksniff's, and Martin and Mark Tapley went to the Blue Dragon on their return.

Martin at once sought out his grandfather, and marched into the house resolved on reconciliation. The old man listened to his appeal in silence; but Mr. Pecksniff spoke for him, and bade the young man begone.

But old Martin was awake to Pecksniff's character, and resolved to set Mr. Pecksniff right, and Mr. Pecksniff's victims, too.

Mark Tapley was the first person old Martin invited to see him. The old man had gone to London, and his grandson, Mary Graham, and Tom Pinch were all summoned to wait on him at a certain hour.

From Mark, old Martin learnt that his grandson was an altered man.

"There was always a deal of good in him," said Mr. Tapley, "but a little of it got crusted over somehow. I can't say who rolled the paste of that 'ere paste, but - well, I think it may have been you, sir."

"So you think," said Martin, "that his old faults are in some degree of my creation?"

"Well, sir, I'm very sorry, but I can't unsay it. I don't believe that neither of you ever gave the other a fair chance."

Presently came a knock at the door, and young Martin entered. The old man pointed to a distant chair. Then came Tom Pinch and his sister, Ruth; and Mary Graham; and Mrs. Lupin, the landlady of the Blue Dragon; and John Westlock, an old friend of Tom Pinch's.

"Set the door open, Mark!" said Mr. Chuzzlewit.

The last appointed footstep sounded now upon the stairs. They all knew it. It was Mr. Pecksniff's; and Mr. Pecksniff was in a hurry, too, for he came bounding up with such uncommon expedition that he stumbled once or twice.

"Where is my venerable friend?" he cried upon the upper landing. And then, darting in and catching sight of old Martin, "My venerable friend is well?"

Mr. Pecksniff looked round upon the assembled group, and shook his head reproachfully.

"Oh, vermin!" said Mr. Pecksniff. "Oh bloodsuckers! Horde of unnatural plunderers and robbers! Leave him! Leave him, I say! Begone! Abscond! You had better be off! Wander over the face of the earth, young sirs, and do not presume to remain in a spot which is hallowed by the grey hairs of the patriarchal gentleman to whose tottering limbs I have the honour to act as an unworthy, but I hope an unassuming, prop and staff."

He advanced, with outstretched arms, to take the old man's hand; but he had not seen how the hand clasped and clutched the stick within its grasp. As he came smiling on, and got within his reach, old Martin, burning with indignation, rose up and struck him to the ground.

"Drag him away! Take him out of my reach!" said Martin. And Mr. Tapley actually did drag him away, and struck him upon the floor with his back against the opposite wall.

"Hear me, rascal!" said Mr. Chuzzlewit. "I have summoned you here to witness your own work. Come hither, my dear Martin! Why did we ever part? How could we ever part? How could you fly from me to him? The fault was mine no less than yours. Mark has told me so, and I have known it long. Mary, my love, come here."

She trembled, and was very pale; but he sat her in his own chair, and stood beside it holding her hand, Martin standing by him.

"The curse of our house," said the old man, looking kindly down upon her, "has been the love of self - has ever been the love of self." He drew one hand through Martin's arm, and standing so, between them, proceeded, "What's this? Her hand is trembling strangely. See if you can hold it."

Hold it! If he clasped it half as tightly as he did her waist - well, well!

But it was good in him that even then, in high fortune and happiness, he had still a hand left to stretch out to Tom Pinch.

* * * * *

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