Charles Dickens: The master of the snippet

By Matthew Davis
BBC News Magazine


In the year that marks Charles Dickens's 200th birthday, this correspondent has taken up the challenge of reading all the Victorian author's novels. Each day he is picking a quotation from the work he is reading - a "Dickens of the Day" - to be highlighted on the BBC News Magazine.

"'It wasn't the wine,' murmured Mr Snodgrass, in a broken voice. 'It was the salmon.' (Somehow or other, it never is the wine, in these cases.)"

This snippet from The Pickwick Papers - particularly when read on New Year's Day, head a little heavy from the night before - encapsulates one of the many pleasures of Dickens.

Delight in the humour and craft of the writing, of course, but also pleasure in the timeless observations of the human character, that draw the worlds of author and reader together across the centuries.

Part of the enchantment of Dickens is in walking the streets of Victorian England with the great author as guide, and in wondering what he would have made of our not-so-dissimilar times.

Over the course of 2012, I am reading all of Dickens's novels in chronological order and selecting a daily quotation from the section of the book I am engrossed in, to stand alongside the Magazine's regular Quote of the day.

This is in homage to The Inimitable (as Dickens styled himself) in a year in which there will be many celebrations of his life and work, 200 years since he was born.

The aim is to convey the richness of that heritage in quotations that may be relevant to contemporary events, share some timeless truth or simply stand as a wonderful line of prose.

While the daily extracts won't trace the sprawling plots of 900-page works like Bleak House or Dombey and Son, they will hopefully be a modern echo of the way in which the books were serialised in small instalments when they first appeared.

Once, the fact that Dickens' works were born in serial form was a curious insight into a bygone age of publishing. The serialisation of The Old Curiosity Shop saw weekly circulation of the magazine carrying it - Master Humphrey's Clock - reach 100,000 as the fate of Little Nell was played out.

Now, in the age of Twitter and other forms of microblogging, the serial method seems strangely apposite.

Despite being a former member of the Dickens Fellowship, I approach the project with no particular qualification other than being a Dickens lover, eager to share some of the humour, pathos and delight to be found in the books.

So with that in mind, readers are encouraged to submit their own examples of the pithiest quotations from the Dickens archive.

28 December

Gazing from the darkness of the panelled wall like life, the sedate face in the portrait, with the beard and ruff, looked down at them from under its verdant wreath of holly, as they looked up at it; and, clear and plain below, as if a voice had uttered them, were the words: Lord keep my Memory green - Dickens's message in The Haunted Man is that painful memories help us respond and grow as people

27 December

"What have you done?" returned the other, catching at his cloak. "What change have you wrought in me? What curse have you brought upon me? Give me back myself!" - Redlaw's bitterness, a result of his bargain with the Ghost, starts to infect others

26 December

It was a very Moloch of a baby, on whose insatiate altar the whole existence of this particular young brother was offered up a daily sacrifice. Its personality may be said to have consisted in its never being quiet, in any one place, for five consecutive minutes, and never going to sleep when required - Tetterby's baby demands the constant attention of its eldest brother

21 December

As the gloom and shadow thickened behind him, in that place where it had been gathering so darkly, it took, by slow degrees... an awful likeness of himself! Ghastly and cold, colourless in its leaden face and hands, but with his features, and his bright eyes, and his grizzled hair, and dressed in the gloomy shadow of his dress, it came into his terrible appearance of existence, motionless, without a sound - The Phantom, dread companion of the haunted man, makes itself visible

20 December

There are quiet victories and struggles, great sacrifices of self, and noble acts of heroism... done every day in nooks and corners, and in little households, and in men's and women's hearts - any one of which might reconcile the sternest man to such a world, and fill him with belief and hope in it - The Battle of Life is concerned with the heroism of self-sacrifice

19 December

For a long time, no village girl would dress her hair or bosom with the sweetest flower from that field of death: and after many a year had come and gone, the berries growing there, were still believed to leave too deep a stain upon the hand that plucked them - A battle long-ago is used as a metaphor for the struggles of life

18 December

There were deep green patches in the growing corn at first, that people looked at awfully. Year after year they re-appeared; and it was known that underneath those fertile spots, heaps of men and horses lay buried, indiscriminately, enriching the ground - Signs of a bloody battle are słow to fade in The Battle Of Life

17 December

"To have a cricket on the hearth is the luckiest thing in all the world!" - A chirping cricket acts as a guardian angel to the Peerybingle household in one of Dickens's Christmas stories

14 December

"...O listener, dear to him in all his visions, try to bear in mind the stern realities from which these shadows come; and in your sphere — none is too wide, and none too limited for such an end — endeavour to correct, improve, and soften them" - The Chimes is a campaigning story, and Dickens's moral message one of self improvement

13 December

"What!" he cried, shuddering. "I missed my way, and coming on the outside of this tower in the dark, fell down - a year ago?" "Nine years ago!" replied the figures - Toby Veck sees his own crushed and motionless body at the base of the church tower

12 December

"The voice of Time," said the Phantom, "cries to man, Advance! Time is for his advancement and improvement; for his greater worth, his greater happiness, his better life..." - The Goblin of the Bell upbraids Toby Veck for harking back to a golden age that never was

11 December

It was barely possible to make out their great shapes in the gloom; but there they were. Shadowy, and dark, and dumb. A heavy sense of dread and loneliness fell instantly upon him, as he climbed into this airy nest of stone and metal - Toby Veck climbs up into the belfry, where all is not what it seems

10 December

'I like to know the news as well as any man,' said Toby, slowly; folding it [his paper] a little smaller, and putting it in his pocket again: 'but it almost goes against the grain with me to read a paper now. It frightens me almost. I don't know what we poor people are coming to' - Toby Veck hopes for better news in the New Year, in The Chimes

7 December

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One! - Scrooge is a changed man after his encounter with the spirits

6 December

Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, Ebenezer Scrooge - The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come shows Scrooge the future towards which he is heading

5 December

"I see a vacant seat," replied the Ghost, "in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die" - Scrooge is shown the fate of Tiny Tim by the Ghost of Christmas Present

4 December

His face had not the harsh and rigid lines of later years; but it had begun to wear the signs of care and avarice. There was an eager, greedy, restless motion in the eye, which showed the passion that had taken root, and where the shadow of the growing tree would fall - The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge how his character has been formed

3 December

'I wear the chain I forged in life,' replied the Ghost. 'I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?' - Scrooge is visited by the ghost of Marley, his long dead business partner

"Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge."Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down the pen again. "And the Union workhouses?" demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation? - Scrooge deflects an appeal for a charitable donation at Christmas

29 November

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster - Scrooge the miser is one of Dickens's most memorable characters

28 November

Mrs Tope's care has spread a very neat, clean breakfast ready for her lodger. Before sitting down to it, he opens his corner-cupboard door; takes his bit of chalk from its shelf; adds one thick line to the score, extending from the top of the cupboard door to the bottom; and then falls to with an appetite - The final line of Edwin Drood - Dickens died with the book half finished

27 November

"Cannot people get through life without gritty stages, I wonder?" Rosa thought next day, when the town was very gritty again, and everything had a strange and an uncomfortable appearance of seeming to wait for something that wouldn't come - Her school days had glided past, but Rosa finds the wide world more complicated

26 November

I love you, love you, love you! If you were to cast me off now, but you will not, you would never be rid of me. No one should come between us. I would pursue you to the death - Mr Jasper makes a desperate, unreciprocated statement to the beautiful Rosa

23 November

Mr Grewgious saw a staring white face, and two quivering white lips, in the easy-chair, and saw two muddy hands gripping its sides. But for the hands, he might have thought he had never seen the face - John Jasper's behaviour after the disappearance of Edwin Drood leads many to conclude he was the murderer in Dickens's final, unfinished novel

22 November

Not such power of wind has blown for many a winter night. Chimneys topple in the streets, and people hold to posts and corners, and to one another, to keep themselves upon their feet - A winter storm blows through the streets of Cloisterham

21 November

Lavish profusion is in the shops: particularly in the articles of currants, raisins, spices, candied peel, and moist sugar. An unusual air of gallantry and dissipation is abroad; evinced in an immense bunch of mistletoe hanging in the greengrocer's shop doorway... - It is Christmas Eve in the cathedral town of Cloisterham

20 November

Women have a curious power of divining the characters of men, which would seem to be innate and instinctive; seeing that it is arrived at through no patient process of reasoning, that it can give no satisfactory or sufficient account of itself, and that it pronounces in the most confident manner even against accumulated observation on the part of the other sex - And this feminine judgement is also incapable of self revision, argues Dickens

19 November

Your vanity is intolerable, your conceit is beyond endurance; you talk as if you were some rare and precious prize, instead of a common boaster - Daggers are drawn between Edwin Drood and the combustible Neville Landless

16 November

I have been always tyrannically held down by the strong hand. This has driven me, in my weakness, to the resource of being false and mean - Neville Landless reveals the effects of being mistreated by his step-father in Edwin Drood

15 November

The cramped monotony of my existence grinds me away by the grain - John Jasper, choirmaster at Cloisterham Cathedral, subdues himself to his vocation

14 November

Chinaman convulsively wrestles with one of his many Gods or Devils, perhaps, and snarls horribly. The Lascar laughs and dribbles at the mouth. The hostess is still - The Mystery of Edwin Drood opens in a vile opium den

13 November

There is sometimes an odd disposition in this country to dispute as improbable in fiction, what are the commonest experiences in fact - Dickens addresses critics in a postscript to Our Mutual Friend

12 November

'Stop! What are you trying at? You can't drown Me. Ain't I told you that the man as has come through drowning can never be drowned? I can't be drowned - Rogue Riderhood is dragged into the lock by the murderous schoolmaster he is trying to blackmail

9 November

Mr Kibble had staggered up, with his lower jaw dropped, catching Potterson by the shoulder, and pointing to the half-door. He now cried out: 'Potterson! Look! Look there!' Potterson started up, started back, and exclaimed: 'Heaven defend us, what's that!' The missing heir, John Harmon, throws off his disguise and comes back from the dead

8 November

The train rattled among the house-tops, and among the ragged sides of houses torn down to make way for it, and over the swarming streets, and under the fruitful earth, until it shot across the river: bursting over the quiet surface like a bomb-shell, and gone again as if it had exploded in the rush of smoke and steam and glare - Dickens was involved in the horrific Staplehurst rail crash while writing Our Mutual Friend

7 November

The wretched creature seemed to suffer acutely under this renunciation. A desolate air of utter and complete loneliness fell upon him, like a visible shade - Bradley Headstone is suspected, correctly, of trying to kill his love rival

6 November

A new race of intimate friends has sprung up at Veneering's since he went into Parliament for the public good, to whom Mrs Veneering is very attentive. These friends, like astronomical distances, are only to be spoken of in the very largest figures - The Veneerings quickly distance themselves from the Lammales financial plight, with a cast of new "friends"

5 November

"The occupations of the day are sometimes a little wearing; and if there's nothing interposed between the day and your mother, why SHE is sometimes a little wearing, too" - Bella's father explains why he needs a quiet tea at the office before heading home

2 November

"White-lipped, wild-eyed, draggle-haired, seamed with jealousy and anger, and torturing himself with the conviction that he showed it all and they exulted in it, he went by them in the dark, like a haggard head suspended in the air: so completely did the force of his expression cancel his figure" - Headstone the schoolmaster is tortured by jealously and takes to following his rival Eugene Wrayburn

1 November

"...Travellers in the valley of the shadow of death are apt to be light-headed; and worn-out old people of low estate have a trick of reasoning as indifferently as they live, and doubtless would appreciate our Poor Law more" - Dickens uses the death of Betty Higden in Our Mutual Friend to attack the Poor Law

31 October

"See! A token of life! An indubitable token of life!... The four rough fellows, seeing, shed tears. Neither Riderhood in this world, nor Riderhood in the other, could draw tears from them; but a striving human soul between the two can do it easily" - 'Rogue' Riderhood's life hangs in the balance after he is pulled from the river

30 October

"A cry for the life-buoy passed from mouth to mouth. It was impossible to make out what was going on upon the river, for every boat that put off sculled into the fog and was lost to view at a boat's length. Nothing was clear but that the unpopular steamer... was the Murderer, bound for Gallows Bay..." - With fog obscuring the Thames, a steam ship runs down a small wherry boat

29 October

"Yes! you are the ruin - the ruin - the ruin of me. I have no resources in myself, I have no confidence in myself, I have no government of myself when you are near me or in my thoughts. And you are always in my thoughts now. I have never been quit of you since I first saw you. Oh, that was a wretched day for me! That was a wretched, miserable day!" - Bradley Headstone's appeal for the affection of Lizzie Hexam starts on the wrong note

26 October

"Warm!" cried Mr Boffin. "It's enough to make a man smoking hot. I can't go anywhere without being Patronized" - The Golden Dustman decries the stuff and nonsense surrounding his new-found wealth

25 October

I have made up my mind that I must have money, Pa. I feel that I can't beg it, borrow it, or steal it; and so I have resolved that I must marry it - Bella Wilfer announces she is setting out to captivate a wealthy husband

24 October

He was the meanest cur existing, with a single pair of legs. And instinct... going largely on four legs, and reason always on two, meanness on four legs never attains the perfection of meanness on two - Fascination Fledgeby is a greedy and corrupt moneylender

23 October

The staring black and white letters upon wharves and warehouses looked... like inscriptions over the graves of dead businesses - In the early hours, the freezing banks of the Thames are a dismal spot for those lying in wait for Gaffer

22 October

As is well known to the wise in their generation, traffic in Shares is the one thing to have to do with in this world. Have no antecedents, no established character, no cultivation, no ideas, no manners; have Shares - Dickens's novel frequently meditate on the relationship between money and morality

19 October

Professionally he declines and he falls, and as a friend he drops into poetry - The illiterate Mr Boffin employs Silas Wegg to read him the great history of the Roman Empire

18 October

Mr and Mrs Veneering were bran-new people in a bran-new house in a bran-new quarter of London. Everything about the Veneerings was spick and span new. All their furniture was new, all their friends were new... And what was observable in the furniture, was observable in the Veneerings - the surface smelt a little too much of the workshop and was a trifle sticky - The Veneerings are sneered at as nouveaux riches, making superficial attempts to impress

17 October

He was a hook-nosed man, and with that and his bright eyes and his ruffled head, bore a certain likeness to a roused bird of prey - "Gaffer" Hexam makes a living robbing corpses in the river Thames

16 October

I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her - Dickens rewrote the downbeat ending of Great Expectations, to hint that Pip and Estella would marry

15 October

My repugnance to him had all melted away; and in the hunted, wounded, shackled creature who held my hand in his, I only saw a man who had meant to be my benefactor... - Pip finally sees the dying Magwitch for the good man that he is

12 October

In shutting out the light of day, she had shut out infinitely more; that, in seclusion, she had secluded herself from a thousand natural and healing influences; that, her mind, brooding solitary, had grown diseased, as all minds do and must and will that reverse the appointed order of their Maker - Miss Havisham finally realises the evil in her moulding of Estella's icy heart

11 October

He'd no more heart than a iron file he was as cold as death, and he had the head of the Devil afore mentioned - Compeyson is a convict, a swindler and the nemesis of Pip's benefactor, Abel Magwitch

10 October

Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There's no better rule - Jaggers the lawyer chides Pip for his mistaken assumptions about his benefactor

9 October

Dinner over, we produced a bundle of pens, a copious supply of ink, and a goodly show of writing and blotting paper. For there was something very comfortable in having plenty of stationery - By organising their affairs, Pip and Herbert procrastinate over payment of their debts

8 October

I loved her simply because I found her irresistible... I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be - Pip is smitten by Estella, despite the wretchedness that his devotion brings him

5 October

All other swindlers upon earth are nothing to the self-swindlers, and with such pretences did I cheat myself. Surely a curious thing. That I should innocently take a bad half-crown of somebody else's manufacture is reasonable enough; but that I should knowingly reckon the spurious coin of my own make as good money - Dickens introduces Pip's flatmate with a typically arresting image - Pip invents excuses for staying at the local inn, rather than Joe's humble home

4 October

Startop... was reading and holding his head, as if he thought himself in danger of exploding it with too strong a charge of knowledge - Dickens introduces Pip's flatmate with a typically arresting image

3 October

No-man who was not a true gentleman at heart ever was, since the world began, a true gentleman in manner... no varnish can hide the grain of the wood; and that the more varnish you put on, the more the grain will express itself - Herbert Pocket shares his worldly wisdom with Pip, newly arrived in London

2 October

Now, I return to this young fellow. And the communication I have got to make is, that he has Great Expectations - The lawyer Jaggers has a secret commission to make Pip a gentleman

1 October

He dances at me, whenever he can catch my eye - The dutiful Biddy explains why she is troubled by the attentions of Orlick

28 September

It is a most miserable thing to feel ashamed of home - Pip's desire to impress sophisticated Estella, sees him view his upbringing as coarse and common

27 September

Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day - Pip reflects on a day that made great changes in his life

26 September

Everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its lustre and was faded and yellow. I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress... and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes - The decaying Miss Havisham makes a strong impression on the boy, Pip

25 September

A fearful man, all in coarse gray, with a great iron on his leg... A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars; who limped, and shivered, and glared, and growled; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin - The young Pip meets the convict Magwitch in a churchyard at the start of Great Expectations

24 September

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known - Sydney Carton mounts the scaffold, and is given one of the most famous closing lines to a novel

21 September

It was the best cure for headache, it infallibly prevented the hair from turning grey, it imparted a peculiar delicacy to the complexion, it was the National Razor which shaved close: who kissed La Guillotine, looked through the little window and sneezed into the sack - The hideous figure of the guillotine becomes a popular theme for jests

20 September

"Come, then!" cried Defarge, in a resounding voice. "Patriots and friends, we are ready! The Bastille!" - Revolutionaries rise up around Defarge's wine shop in the Saint Antoine area of Paris

19 September

The river being alarmingly near, and several voices remarking on the efficacy of cold immersion in bringing refractory members of the profession to reason, the protest was faint and brief -The undertakers at a spy's funeral bow to the wishes of the mob for changes to the ceremony

18 September

"Repression is the only lasting philosophy. The dark deference of fear and slavery, my friend,' observed the Marquis, 'will keep the dogs obedient to the whip..." - The Marquis is an absolute believer in the hierarchy of pre-revolutionary France

17 September

The form that was to be doomed to be so shamefully mangled, was the sight; the immortal creature that was to be so butchered and torn asunder, yielded the sensation. Whatever gloss the various spectators put upon the interest, according to their several arts and powers of self-deceit, the interest was, at the root of it, Ogreish - Charles Darnay, accused of treason, faces a gruesome sentence if found guilty

14 September

Hunger was the inscription on the baker's shelves... at the sausage-shop, in every dead-dog preparation that was offered for sale. Hunger rattled its dry bones among the roasting chestnuts in the turned cylinder; Hunger was shred into atomics in every farthing porringer of husky chips of potato, fried with some reluctant drops of oil - Dickens sees the poor in pre-revolutionary Paris are as brutalised as their counterparts in London

13 September

A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other - Some suggest A Tale of Two Cities reflects on Dickens's then recently begun affair with a young actress

12 September

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity - A Tale of Two Cites - a story of the French Revolution - has one of literature's most memorable opening lines

11 September

They went quietly down into the roaring streets, inseparable and blessed; and as they passed along in sunshine and shade, the noisy and the eager, and the arrogant and the froward and the vain, fretted and chafed, and made their usual uproar - Little Dorrit and Arthur are finally married

10 September

...The deep was nothing but ruin; nothing but burning hulls, bursting magazines, great guns self-exploded tearing friends and neighbours to pieces, drowning men clinging to unseaworthy spars and going down every minute, spent swimmers floating dead, and sharks - The nautical metaphor refers to the chaos after Mr Merdle's Ponzi scheme collapses

7 September

"What? You want another dose!" said Mr Flintwinch. "You shall have it, my woman, you shall have a good one! Oh! You shall have a sneezer, you shall have a teaser" - Mistress Affrey is kept silent by the bullying Flintwich

6 September

Two quiet figures were within the room; two figures, equally still and impassive, equally removed by an untraversable distance from the teeming earth and all that it contains, though soon to lie in it - The Dorrit brothers are as inseperable in death as they were in life

5 September

He's a man of immense resources - enormous capital - government influence. They're the best schemes afloat. They're safe. They're certain - Mr Pancks falls for an elaborate Ponzi fraud

4 September

He was passing at nightfall along the Strand, and the lamp-lighter was going on before him, under whose hand the street-lamps, blurred by the foggy air, burst out one after another, like so many blazing sunflowers coming into full-blow all at once - Part of Dickens's charm is his beautiful descriptions of archaic practices

3 September

Nothing disagreeable should ever be looked at. Apart from such a habit standing in the way of that graceful equanimity of surface which is so expressive of good breeding, it hardly seems compatible with refinement of mind. A truly refined mind will seem to be ignorant of the existence of anything that is not perfectly proper, placid, and pleasant - Mr Dorrit, with his new fortune, engages a dubious companion for his daughters

31 August

His life was made an agony by the number of fine scalpels that he felt to be incessantly engaged in dissecting his dignity - Freed from the debtors prison, William Dorrit still fumes at imagined assaults on his dignity

30 August

You talk very easily of hours, sir! How long do you suppose, sir, that an hour is to a man who is choking for want of air? - Mr Dorrit is found to be the heir to a great fortune, and is about to be released from prison

29 August

"Wherever there was a square yard of ground in British occupation under the sun or moon, with a public post upon it, sticking to that post was a Barnacle" - The Barnacle family's influence spreads far and wide

28 August

"...Most men are disappointed in life, somehow or other, and influenced by their disappointment. But it's a dear good world, and I love it!" - Henry Gowan bemoans the fact that despite his connections, he must still work for a living

27 August

"Stay!" said Clennam in a whisper."You have made a discovery" - Mr Dorrit is found to be the lost heir to a fortune, and able to pay his way out of prison

24 August

A tranquil summer sunset shone upon him as he approached the end of his walk, and passed through the meadows by the river side. He had that sense of peace, and of being lightened of a weight of care, which country quiet awakens in the breasts of dwellers in towns - Arthur Clennam walks to Twickenham on the banks of the Thames

23 August

It's no satisfaction to be done by two men instead of one. One's enough. A person who can't pay, gets another person who can't pay, to guarantee that he can pay - Mr Pancks, the rent collector, squeezes the residents of Bleeding Heart Yard

22 August

The lady was not young and fresh from the hand of Nature, but was young and fresh from the hand of her maid - Mrs Merdle, wife of a wealthy investor, is admired as one of Society's most glamorous hostesses

21 August

She thought of the sunrise on rolling rivers, of the sunrise on wide seas... and she looked down into the living grave on which the sun had risen, with her father in it three-and-twenty years, and said, in a burst of sorrow and compassion, 'No, no, I have never seen him in my life!' - Little Dorrit pities her father, the oldest inhabitant of the Marshalsea debtors prison

20 August

She had laughed and welcomed them, and made far too much of the dog, far, far, too much - that is to say, supposing there had been any third person looking on who loved her - Arthur Clennam decides against falling in love with Pet, but looks on as a rival moves in

17 August

It was inhabited by poor people, who set up their rest among its faded glories, as Arabs of the desert pitch their tents among the fallen stones of the Pyramids; but there was a family sentimental feeling prevalent in the Yard that it had character - The inhabitants of Bleeding Heart Yard can smell a creditor

16 August

If another Gunpowder Plot had been discovered half an hour before the lighting of the match, nobody would have been justified in saving the parliament until there had been half a score of boards, half a bushel of minutes, several sacks of official memoranda, and a family-vault full of ungrammatical correspondence, on the part of the Circumlocution Office - The Circumlocution Office has its finger in every public pie, every branch of government

15 August

Any one can go IN,' replied the old man; plainly adding by the significance of his emphasis, 'but it is not every one who can go out - Arthur Clennam follows Little Dorrit to the Marshlea debtors' prison

14 August

We know what Marseilles is... It couldn't exist without allonging or marshonging to something or other - victory or death, or blazes, or something - The English couple Mr and Mrs Meagles have a particular view of the French

13 August

A prison taint was on every thing there. The imprisoned air, the imprisoned light, the imprisoned damps, the imprisoned men were all deteriorated by confinement - A dismal jail outside Marseilles is the backdrop for the opening scene of Little Dorrit

10 August

The connecting chains appeared, and finally the bucket with the two men holding on at the sides... tenderly supporting between them, slung and tied within, the figure of a poor, crushed, human creature - Stephen Blackpool, fatally injured, is winched out of Old Hell Shaft

9 August

There was a blustering sheepishness upon him, at once extremely crestfallen and superlatively absurd. Detected as the Bully of humility, who had built his windy reputation upon lies... - Bounderby boasted of rising from the gutter, but his doting mother appears to unmask him

8 August

All day, Rachael toiled as such people must toil, whatever their anxieties. The smoke-serpents were indifferent who was lost or found, who turned out bad or good; the melancholy mad elephants, like the Hard Fact men, abated nothing of their set routine, whatever happened - Day and night, the factories and their workers are never at rest

7 August

When a man tells me anything about imaginative qualities, I always tell that man, whoever he is, that I know what he means. He means turtle soup and venison, with a gold spoon, and that he wants to be set up with a coach and six - Josiah Bounderby of Coketown is a hard-fact man to his grave

6 August

Some persons hold... that there is a wisdom of the Head, and that there is a wisdom of the Heart. I have not supposed so; but... I mistrust myself now - The inflexible Thomas Gradgrind lets imagination into his life

3 August

He laid her down... and saw the pride of his heart and the triumph of his system, lying, an insensible heap, at his feet - Mr Gradgrind's repressive parenting finally brings his daughter to her knees

2 August

A lady so decorous in herself... was not to be suspected of dropping over the banisters or sliding down them, yet her extraordinary facility of locomotion suggested the wild idea - Mrs Sparsit is never seen to hurry, but moves about her house with great velocity

1 August

It is the drifting icebergs setting with any current anywhere, that wreck the ships - Dickens refers to the indolent, indifferent James Harthouse, who wrecks a marriage

31 July

'Now it's clear to me,' said Mr. Bounderby, 'that you are one of those chaps who have always got a grievance. And you go about, sowing it and raising crops. That's the business of your life, my friend' - Stephen Blackpool is unjustly fired by Bounderby, and shunned by his fellow mill workers

30 July

Any capitalist there, who had made sixty thousand pounds out of sixpence, always professed to wonder why the sixty thousand nearest Hands didn't each make sixty thousand pounds out of sixpence, and more or less reproached them every one for not accomplishing the little feat - This is one of the many ways Coketown's masters put down their workers

27 July

Coketown lay shrouded in a haze of its own, which appeared impervious to the sun's rays. You only knew the town was there, because you knew there could have been no such sulky blotch upon the prospect without a town - Dickens sought to educate his readers on the conditions in England's industrial heartland

26 July

It is known, to the force of a single pound weight, what the engine will do; but, not all the calculators of the National Debt can tell me the capacity for good or evil, for love or hatred, for patriotism or discontent... in the soul of one of these its quiet servants - One of the themes of Hard Times is that business success and morality do not run in parallel

25 July

Old Stephen was standing in the street, with the old sensation upon him which the stoppage of the machinery always produced - the sensation of its having worked and stopped in his own head - The power-loom weaver Old Stephen lives a hard life in Coketown

24 July

I hadn't a shoe to my foot. As to a stocking, I didn't know such a thing by name. I passed the day in a ditch, and the night in a pigsty. That's the way I spent my tenth birthday. Not that a ditch was new to me, for I was born in a ditch - Mr Bounderby never loses a chance to impress that he is self-made man

23 July

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 - Thomas Gradgrind, the headmaster in Hard Times, is used to satirize the theory of a totally rationalised society

20 July

There is a ruin of youth which is not like age, and into such a ruin Richard's youth and youthful beauty had all fallen away... His laugh had not quite left him... but it was like the echo of a joyful sound, and that is always sorrowful - Richard Carstone's obesssion with an interminable lawsuit destroys him

19 July

His noble earnestness, his fidelity, his gallant shielding of her, his generous conquest of his own wrong and his own pride for her sake, are simply honourable, manly, and true - So often ridiculous, Sir Leicester Dedlock proves a worthy husband

18 July

Whenever a person proclaims to you 'In worldly matters I'm a child,' you consider that that person is only a-crying off from being held accountable and that you have got that person's number, and it's Number One - Inspector Bucket has some words of wisdom for Esther Summerson

17 July

She veils and dresses quickly, leaves all her jewels and her money, listens, goes downstairs at a moment when the hall is empty, opens and shuts the great door, flutters away in the shrill frosty wind - Lady Dedlock is unmasked, her secret spilled, her dignity shattered

16 July

Bridges are begun, and their not yet united piers desolately look at one another over roads and streams like brick and mortar couples with an obstacle to their union - Preparations are under way for a great railway through the Lincolnshire countryside

13 July

Sir Leicester sits like a statue, gazing at the cruel finger that is probing the life-blood of his heart - Dickens rails against rank poverty through the death of Jo the crossing sweeper - Inspector Bucket names the murderer of the lawyer Tulkinghorn

12 July

Dead, your Majesty. Dead, my lords and gentlemen. Dead, right reverends and wrong reverends of every order. Dead, men and women, born with heavenly compassion in your hearts. And dying thus around us every day - Dickens rails against rank poverty through the death of Jo the crossing sweeper

11 July

The one great principle of the English law is to make business for itself... Viewed by this light it becomes a coherent scheme and not the monstrous maze the laity are apt to think it - The labyrinthine suit of Jarndyce and Jarndyce embodies the ills Dickens sees in the legal system

10 July

When we had all arrived here, the physician stopped, and taking off his hat, appeared to vanish by magic and to leave another and quite a different man in his place - Inspector Bucket - one of the first great fictional detectives - has a masterly way of arriving unannounced

9 July

It is a melancholy truth that even great men have their poor relations - Dickens describes the ficitonal Sir Leicester Dedlock, but might have been been reflecting on his own situation

6 July

It is the long vacation in the regions of Chancery Lane. The good ships Law and Equity, those teak-built, copper-bottomed, iron-fastened, brazen-faced, and not by any means fast-sailing clippers are laid up in ordinary - London's seasons were regulated by the law terms and in the summer the capital was largely empty

5 July

What connexion can there have been between many people in the innumerable histories of this world who from opposite sides of great gulfs have, nevertheless, been very curiously brought together! - One of the themes of Bleak House is the interconnectedness of the city

4 July

He had a cane, he had an eye-glass, he had a snuff-box, he had rings, he had wristbands, he had everything but any touch of nature; he was not like youth, he was not like age, he was not like anything in the world but a model of deportment - Graceful Mr Turveydrop lives off the industry of his son, a dance instructor

3 July

The policeman considers him an imbecile civilian, a remnant of the barbarous watchmen times, but gives him admission as something that must be borne with until government shall abolish - By the 1850s, the role of the parish official beadle was dying out

2 July

Here, among his many boxes labelled with transcendent names, lives Mr Tulkinghorn... An oyster of the old school whom nobody can open - The manipulative lawyer Tulkinghorn is a great repository of secrets

29 June

He is an honourable, obstinate, truthful, high-spirited, intensely prejudiced, perfectly unreasonable man - The lawsuit at the centre of Bleak House has consumed many lives - There is no mightier baronet than Sir Leicester Deadlock

28 June

Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it means - The lawsuit at the centre of Bleak House has consumed many lives

27 June

The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction... Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln's Inn Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor - Fog - Dickens's metaphor for the Law's wilful confusion and delay

26 June

My lamp burns low, and I have written far into the night; but the dear presence, without which I were nothing, bears me company - David Copperfield draws his story to an end, with Agnes by his side

25 June

The society of girls is a very delightful thing, Copperfield. It's not professional, but it's very delightful - The sound of female laughter lights up Traddles's legal chambers

22 June

He made for the wreck, rising with the hills, falling with the valleys, lost beneath the rugged foam, borne in towards the shore, borne on towards the ship, striving hard and valiantly - Ham dies on the shores of Yarmouth, trying to save the man who wronged him

21 June

We came to Ipswich - very late, having had to fight every inch of ground since we were ten miles out of London; and found a cluster of people in the market-place, who had risen from their beds in the night, fearful of falling chimneys - A great storm brews en route to Norfolk, heralding trouble for those on land, and at sea

19 June

Slimy gaps and causeways, winding among old wooden piles, with a sickly substance clinging to the latter, like green hair... led down through the ooze and slush to the ebb-tide - A rank bank of the Thames is the backdrop for a moonlit meeting

18 June

The air of wicked grace: of triumph, in which, strange to say, there was yet something feminine and alluring: with which she ... looked at me, was worthy of a cruel princess in a legend - The widowed mother of James Steerforth is very much like her son

15 June

Some happy talent, and some fortunate opportunity, may form the two sides of the ladder on which some men mount, but the rounds of that ladder must be made of stuff to stand wear and tear - David Copperfield reflects on the virtue of hard work and perseverance

14 June

"The noise of wheels and tread of people were as hushed, as if the streets had been strewn that depth with feathers" - A thick snowfall sets the scene for a chance meeting in London's St Martin's Lane

13 June

He made motions with his mouth as if the pear were ripe already, and he were smacking his lips over it" - Uriah Heep nutures a scheme to marry the angelic Agnes

12 June

We must meet reverses boldly, and not suffer them to frighten us, my dear. We must learn to act the play out. We must live misfortune down, Trot! - David Copperfield's formidable aunt Betsey Trotwood is ruined

11 June

Mr Peggotty thrust forth his face; and never could I forget the change that came upon it when he saw us, if I were to live five hundred years - The fisherman learns that his niece has eloped with the rakish Steerforth

8 June

Try not to associate bodily defects with mental, my good friend, except for a solid reason - The diminutive Miss Mowcher brings some comic relief to David Copperfield

7 June

He is quite a good fellow - nobody's enemy but his own - Tommy Traddles works hard yet lacks money and connections

6 June

"Procrastination is the thief of time. Collar him!" - Mr Micawber dispenses some words of wisdom, but ought to act on them

5 June

"It was as true," said Mr Barkis, "as turnips is. It was as true," said Mr Barkis, nodding his nightcap, which was his only means of emphasis, "as taxes is. And nothing's truer than them" - Mr Barkis is a bit if a miser, but leaves a fortune behind him

4 June

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery - The credo of Wilkins Micawber, a character part-based on Dickens's father

1 June

I thought of him very much after I went to bed, and raised myself, I recollect, to look at him where he lay in the moonlight, with his handsome face turned up, and his head reclining easily on his arm - At boarding school, David Copperfield looks up to J Steerforth, who will later betray him

31 May

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show - David Copperfield is widely regarded as one of Dickens's finest works

30 May

Mr Dombey is a white-haired gentleman, whose face bears heavy marks of care and suffering; but they are traces of a storm that has passed on for ever, and left a clear evening in its track - Once proud Dombey is a changed man by the end of the novel , finally content

29 May

He heard a shout - another - saw the face change from its vindictive passion to a faint sickness and terror - felt the earth tremble - knew in a moment that the rush was come - uttered a shriek - looked round - saw the red eyes, bleared and dim, in the daylight, close upon him - Wearied and disorientated from his flight, Carker is struck by a steam train

28 May

The sudden change in her, the towering fury and intense abhorrence sparkling in her eyes and lighting up her brow, made him stop as if a fire had stopped him - Edith Dombey flees her husband, but rejects the scheming Mr Carker

25 May

"Ah, Miss Harriet, it would do us no harm to remember oftener than we do, that vices are sometimes only virtues carried to excess!" - The reference here is to pride

24 May

Mr Dombey, in a paroxysm of rage, made another grasp at the bell-rope that was not there, and, in its absence, pulled his hair rather than nothing - Mr Dombey is confronted by a servant over his treatment of his daughter

23 May

"I think I am a little nervous this morning, Flowers," said Mrs Skewton. "My hand quite shakes." - Mrs Skewton is suffers for being the life of last night's party

22 May

He might have read in that one glance that nothing that his wealth could do, though it were increased ten thousand fold, could win him... one look of softened recognition from the defiant woman, linked to him, but arrayed with her whole soul against him - Dombey effectively buys the hand of the beautiful but haughty Edith Granger

21 May

Food for the hospitals, the churchyards, the prisons, the river, fever, madness, vice, and death, - they passed on - Harriet Carker looks with compassion on the stragglers who came wandering into London

18 May

We are dreadfully real, Mr Carker," said Mrs Skewton; "are we not? - Mrs Skewton hankers after the poetry of existence

17 May

"[It] was one of the most desirable residences in the world when a rowing-match happened to be going past, but had its little inconveniences at other times... the occasional appearance of the river in the drawing-room, and the contemporaneous disappearance of the lawn and shrubbery." - Sir Barnet Skettles had a pretty villa on the banks of the Thames

16 May

Mr Carker the Manager, sly of manner, sharp of tooth, soft of foot, watchful of eye, oily of tongue, cruel of heart, nice of habit, sat with a dainty steadfastness and patience at his work, as if he were waiting at a mouse's hole - The devious James Carker is the villain of Dombey and Son

15 May

"That ridiculous old spectacle, Sir," pursued the Major, "aspires. She aspires sky-high, Sir. Matrimonially, Dombey." - Miss Lucretia Tox is a great admirer of Paul Dombey snr, but is spurned

14 May

It is when our budding hopes are nipped beyond recovery by some rough wind, that we are the most disposed to picture to ourselves what flowers they might have borne, if they had flourished - Walter is downcast at the prospect of being sent to the West Indies

11 May

She was dry and sandy with working in the graves of deceased languages. None of your live languages for Miss Blimber. They must be dead - stone dead - and then Miss Blimber dug them up like a Ghoul - There was no light nonsense about Miss Blimber, or Paul Dombey's new school

10 May

If any sunbeam stole into the room to light the children at their play, it never reached his face. He looked on so fixedly and coldly, that the warm light vanished even from the laughing eyes of little Florence, when, at last, they happened to meet his - In all his life, Mr Dombey had never made a friend

9 May

As I said just now, the world has gone past me. I don't blame it; but I no longer understand it... I am an old-fashioned man in an old-fashioned shop, in a street that is not the same as I remember it. I have fallen behind the time, and am too old to catch it again - Solomon Gills, ships' instrument maker, sends his son out into the world

8 May

He was not a man of whom it could properly be said that he was ever startled, or shocked; but he certainly had a sense within him, that if his wife should sicken and decay, he would be very sorry - The rigid Paul Dombey's wife dies after childbirth

7 May

In the soft strain which ever and again comes stealing back upon the ear, the memory of thine old love may find a voice perhaps; but it is a pleasant, softened, whispering memory, like that in which we sometimes hold the dead, and does not pain or grieve thee God be thanked - For Tom Pinch, a contented retirement at the end of Martin Chuzzlewit

4 May

They dragged him out into the dark street; but jury, judge, and hangman, could have done no more, and could do nothing now. Dead, dead, dead - Jonas is held for murder, but takes poison

3 May

Lying down and burying himself once more beneath the blankets, [he] heard his own heart beating Murder, Murder, Murder, in the bed - Jonas Chuzzlewit tries to still his emotions, hours after killing Montague Tigg

2 May

"There are some men," interrupted Moddle, with a hollow laugh, "who can't get run over. They live a charmed life. Coal waggons recoil from them, and even cabs refuse to run them down" - The gloomy Mr Moddle sounds more like a man about to be buried, than married

1 May

The sum which would complete the proprietorship in this snug concern, was nearly equal to Mr Pecksniff's whole hoard... The returns began almost immediately, and were immense - Seth Pecksniff is ensnared in a Ponzi scheme that will lead to his ruin

30 April

In a trembling, vivid, flickering instant, everything was clear and plain... - A glorious description of the effects of lightning, from Martin Chuzzlewit

27 April

No man can expect his children to respect what he degrades - Tom Pinch defends his sister, governess to the spoilt children of a wealthy family

26 April

We never knows wot's hidden in each other's hearts; and if we had glass winders there, we'd need keep the shetters - Mrs Gamp speaks as she finds in Martin Chuzzlewit

25 April

'A man can well afford to be as bold as brass, my good fellow, when he gets gold in exchange!' cried the chairman, with a laugh that shook him from head to foot - The unscrupulous Montague Tigg explains how his Ponzi Scheme is ripping off its clients

24 April

"Ah!" said Mrs Gamp, walking away from the bed, "he'd make a lovely corpse." - Sarah Gamp and her battered brolly were so popular with readers that Gamp became slang for umbrella

23 April

At last they stopped. At Eden too. The waters of the Deluge might have left it but a week before; so choked with slime and matted growth was the hideous swamp which bore that name - Martin Chuzzlewit reaches the American settlement in which he has invested his money

20 April

One would have asserted without scruple that if Mr Pecksniff's conscience were his bank, and he kept a running account there, he must have overdrawn it beyond all mortal means of computation - But some of Seth Pecksniff's enemies would say his conscience was a perfectly blank book

19 April

"And this," said Mr Tapley, looking far ahead, "is the Land of Liberty, is it? Very well. I'm agreeable. Any land will do for me, after so much water!" - After a tortuous crossing, Mark Tapley and Martin Chuzzlewit finally reach America.

18 April

We leave for Liverpool to-night. A vessel sails from that port, as I hear, in three days. In a month, or less, we shall be there. Why, what's a month! - Martin Chuzzlewit prepares to leave for America

17 April

There is no such passion in human nature, as the passion for gravy among commercial gentlemen - The guests at Todgers boarding house keep Mrs Todgers busy

16 April

Any man may be in good spirits and good temper when he's well dressed. There an't much credit in that. If I was very ragged and very jolly, then I should begin to feel I had gained a point, Mr Pinch - The good-humoured Mark Tapley sets out from the Blue Dragon

13 April

As he quitted the room, Sir John's face changed; and the smile gave place to a haggard and anxious expression, like that of a weary actor jaded by the performance of a difficult part - The villainous Sir John Chester is confronted with the truth about his illigitimate son

12 April

He has had a fall, and has been drinking. The fields and trees go round, and round, and round with him, and the ground heaves under his feet - Exhausted, beaten and begrimed, the riot leader Hugh is finally still

11 April

These four doomed wretches never ceased to call for help... in as great a frenzy of attachment to existence, as though each had an honoured, happy life before him, instead of eight-and-forty hours of miserable imprisonment, and then a violent and shameful death - As the rioters burn Newgate prison, the condemned men fear for their lives

10 April

He felt the handcuffs galling his wrists, the cord pressing his arms to his sides: the loaded guns levelled at his head; and those cold, bright, sharp, shining points turned towards him... now that he was bound and helpless, made the warm current of his life run cold - Barnaby Rudge is taken prisoner by the military

9 April

The tidings were everywhere received with that appetite for the marvellous and love of the terrible which have probably been among the natural characteristics of mankind since the creation of the world - News of the Gordon riots spreads to the towns and villages around London

6 April

The air was filled with execrations, hoots, and howlings. The mob raged and roared, like a mad monster as it was, unceasingly, and each new outrage served to swell its fury - The mob marches on Parliament, the Riot Act is read but not a man stirs

5 April

"Who did that?" he repeated. "Show me the man who did it. Dog, was it you? It was your deed, if not your hand - I know you" - Mr Haredale defies the mob on the banks of the Thames

4 April

Curiosity is, and has been from the creation of the world, a master-passion. To awaken it, to gratify it by slight degrees, and yet leave something always in suspense, is to establish the surest hold that can be had, in wrong, on the unthinking portion of mankind - a mania grows in London on rumours of a plot from overseas

3 April

"It was bare-headed to the storm. It turned its face without stopping, and fixed its eyes on mine. It was a ghost - a spirit." "Whose?" they all three cried together - Solomon Daisy sees the likeness of a murdered man

2 April

It's much the same thing, whatever regiment he's recruiting for. I'm told there an't a deal of difference between a fine man and another one, when they're shot through and through - Joe Willet joins the army to escape home

30 March

"Robbery on the king's highway, my young friend, is a very dangerous and ticklish occupation... I am afraid your career will be an extremely short one" - Hugh incriminates himself to the artful Mr Chester

29 March

"There are strings," said Mr Tappertit, flourishing his bread-and-cheese knife in the air, "in the human heart that had better not be wibrated..." - The apprentice, Simon Tapertit, bristles at the mention of a love rival

28 March

"She was really frightened now, and was yet hesitating what to do, when the bushes crackled and snapped, and a man came plunging through them, close before her." - Dolly Varden is accosted as she returns with an important letter

27 March

She was accustomed to wish with great emphasis that the whole race of women could but die off, in order that the men might be brought to know the real value of the blessings by which they set so little store - Miggs the maid holds the male sex to be utterly contemptible

26 March

'Look at him!' said Varden, divided between admiration of the bird and a kind of fear of him. 'Was there ever such a knowing imp as that! Oh he's a dreadful fellow!' - Barnaby Rudge's loquacious raven, Grip, inspired Edgar Allan Poe

23 March

The old man held one languid arm in his, and had the small hand tight folded to his breast, for warmth. It was the hand she had stretched out to him with her last smile - the hand that had led him on, through all their wanderings - The death of Little Nell gripped Victorian England

22 March

The place the deserted carcass had left so recently, a living man, was now a blazing ruin. There was something of the glare upon its face. The hair, stirred by the damp breeze, played in a kind of mockery of death... and its dress fluttered idly in the night wind - The malignant Quilp meets his end, drowned and washed up by the Thames

21 March

Do have a mug of beer. It will do me as much good to see you take it as if I might drink it myself - Mr Richard Swiveller offers a cup of his universal elixir

20 March

He burst into a yell of laughter... and pointed to a dyer's pole hard by, where a dangling suit of clothes bore some resemblance to a man upon a gibbet - Quilp taunts the young Kit who has been falsely accused of stealing a banknote

19 March

There are chords in the human heart - strange, varying strings - which are only struck by accident; which will remain mute and senseless to appeals the most passionate and earnest, and respond at last to the slightest casual touch - Nell's grandfather awakes at last to the huge debt that he owes her

16 March

You don't know how many strange faces and different scenes I trace in the red-hot coals. It's my memory, that fire, and shows me all my life - A labourer tells how he was born and bred in the steel mill

15 March

In busy places, where each man has an object of his own, and feels assured that every other man has his, his character and purpose are written broadly in his face - Nell and her grandfather shelter as a great crowd flows by

14 March

The clustered roofs, and piles of buildings, trembling with the working of engines, and dimly resounding with their shrieks and throbbings; the tall chimneys vomiting forth a black vapour... the clank of hammers beating upon iron, the roar of busy streets and noisy crowds... announced the termination of their journey - The travellers come, by canal, upon a great manufacturing town

13 March

'Get me money,' he said wildly, as they parted for the night. 'I must have money, Nell... not for myself, but to use for thee" - Nell's grandfather is in the clutches of his gambling addiction

12 March

"The caravan blundered on as if it too had been drinking strong beer and was drowsy" - Nell and her grandfather take a ride with Mrs Jarley' wax works show

9 March

... Children, scantily fed and clothed, spread over every street, and sprawling in the dust — scolding mothers, stamping their slipshod feet with noisy threats upon the pavement — shabby fathers, hurrying with dispirited looks to the occupation which brought them 'daily bread' and little more... Little Nell and her grandfather reach the poverty-stricken outskirts of London

8 March

"This is the way to keep off fever," said Quilp, "this is the way to keep off every calamity of life! We'll never leave off, all the time we stop here — smoke away, you dog, or you shall swallow the pipe!" - Mr Quilp urges his companions to finish their pipes

7 March

"I enter in this little book the names of the streets that I can't go down while the shops are open. This dinner today closes Long Acre.... There's only one avenue to the Strand left open now, and I shall have to stop up that tonight with a pair of gloves" - Debts close in on Richard Swiveller

6 March

Mr Richard Swiveller's apartments were … over a tobacconist's shop, so that he was enabled to procure a refreshing sneeze at any time by merely stepping out upon the staircase, and was saved the trouble and expense of maintaining a snuff-box - The manipulated Dick Swiveller lives in a compact bachelor's flat, near Drury Lane

5 March

His black eyes were restless, sly, and cunning; his mouth and chin, bristly with the stubble of a coarse hard beard; and his complexion was one of that kind which never looks clean or wholesome - The malignant dwarf Daniel Quilp makes an striking entrance in The Old Curiosity Shop

2 March

I am trampled down and ruined. The wretch told me true. The night has come! - The heartless moneylender Ralph Nickleby finally gets his just deserts

1 March

All the light and life of day came on; and, amidst it all, and pressing down the grass whose every blade bore twenty tiny lives, lay the dead man, with his stark and rigid face turned upwards to the sky - Lord Frederick Verisopht lies dead, by the hand which he had loaded with gifts, and clasped a thousand times

29 February

Some of the craftiest scoundrels... that ever crawled and crept through life by its dirtiest and narrowest ways, will gravely jot down in diaries the events of every day, and keep a regular debtor and creditor account with Heaven, which shall always show a floating balance in their own favour - But Ralph Nickleby is not a man of the stamp Dickens describes, he knows his own avarice and hatred

28 February

Love... is very materially assisted by a warm and active imagination: which has a long memory, and will thrive, for a considerable time, on very slight and sparing food - Nicholas Nickleby pines for an unknown lady whom he has seen only twice

27 February

You know, there is no language of vegetables, which converts a cucumber into a formal declaration of attachment - the mad gentleman next door expresses his feelings for Mrs Nickleby by leaving vegetables on her garden wall

24 February

Pride is one of the seven deadly sins; but it cannot be the pride of a mother in her children, for that is a compound of two cardinal virtues - faith and hope - Mrs Nickleby reflects on the changing fortunes of her offspring

23 February

The rags of the squalid ballad-singer fluttered in the rich light that showed the goldsmith's treasures, pale and pinched-up faces hovered about the windows where was tempting food, hungry eyes wandered over the profusion guarded by one thin sheet of brittle glass—an iron wall to them; half-naked shivering figures stopped to gaze at Chinese shawls and golden stuffs of India - a coach party from the provinces reaches the bustling streets of London, in Nicholas Nickleby

22 February

It is a hopeless endeavour to attract people to a theatre unless they can be first brought to believe that they will never get into it - Nicholas Nickleby joins a provincial theatre company, and learns the tricks of a trade dear to Dickens's heart

21 February

"Is it a good road?" inquired Nicholas. "Very bad," said the landlord. As of course, being a landlord, he would say - The practicalities of travel - shelter, sustenance and transport - are part of the fabric of the plot of Nicholas Nickleby

20 February

Both ladies had trembled very much, and been marvellously polite - certain indications that they were within an inch of a very desperate quarrel - The portrait artist Miss La Creevy and dressmaker's assistant Miss Knag leave their animosity bubbling below the surface

17 February

A couple of billiard balls, all mud and dirt, two battered hats, a champagne bottle with a soiled glove twisted round the neck, to allow of its being grasped more surely in its capacity of an offensive weapon... these, and many other tokens of riot and disorder, hinted very intelligibly at the nature of last night's gentlemanly frolics - A hangover, Nineteenth Century style, in Nicholas Nickleby

16 February

One of these double knocks at Madame Mantalini's door, announced the equipage of some great lady - or rather rich one, for there is occasionally a distinction between riches and greatness - The mechanics of the Victorian class system are laid bare in Nicholas Nickleby

15 February

"Wretch," rejoined Nicholas, fiercely, "touch him at your peril! I will not stand by, and see it done. My blood is up, and I have the strength of ten such men as you" - The mechanics of the Victorian class system are laid bare in Nicholas Nickleby

14 February

He had but one eye, and the popular prejudice runs in favour of two - The cruel schoolmaster Wackford Squeers is introduced in Nicholas Nickleby

13 February

A mania prevailed, a bubble burst, four stock-brokers took villa residences at Florence, four hundred nobodies were ruined, and among them Mr Nickleby - Nicholas Nickleby's father learns a harsh lesson about speculation

10 February

"That's the stile I came over; there are the hedges I crept behind, for fear any one should overtake me and force me back! Yonder is the path across the fields, leading to the old house where I was a little child! Oh Dick, Dick, my dear old friend, if I could only see you now!" - Oliver Twist returns to his native town, where the whole mystery of his birth is finally unravelled

9 February

Everything told of life and animation, but one dark cluster of objects in the centre of all - the black stage, the cross-beam, the rope, and all the hideous apparatus of death - In the midst of a great crowd of people, the gallows await Fagin at the end of Oliver Twist

8 February

You'll pay for this, my fine fellers. I wouldn't be you for something! I wouldn't go free, now, if you was to fall down on your knees and ask me. Here, carry me off to prison! Take me away! - The young Artful Dodger's courtroom manner causes consternation on the bench

7 February

"It was a ghastly figure to look upon. The murderer staggering backward to the wall, and shutting out the sight with his hand, seized a heavy club and struck her down." Nancy meets her end at the hands of her lover, the menacing Bill Sykes in Oliver Twist

6 February

Every Sunday night, from eleven until the clock strikes twelve," said the girl without hesitation, "I will walk on London Bridge if I am alive - The prostitute Nancy arranges a meeting the only way she can, in Oliver Twist

3 February

"Strip the bishop of his apron, or the beadle of his hat and lace; what are they? Men. Mere men. Dignity, and even holiness too, sometimes, are more questions of coat and waistcoat than some people imagine." Dickens takes aim - in Oliver Twist - at officialdom and its pretensions

2 February

"It opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes, and softens down the temper," said Mr Bumble. "So cry away." - Mr Bumble's heart is waterproofed against his wife's tears, but she soon makes her displeasure clear

1 February

"Cunning, ferocity, and drunkeness in all its stages, were there, in their strongest aspect; and women: some with the last lingering tinge of their early freshness almost fading as you looked: others with every mark and stamp of their sex utterly beaten out, and presenting but one loathsome blank of profligacy and crime" - Fagin visits the Three Cripples public house on business, a low and dismal London dive

31 January

"The cry was repeated - a light appeared - a vision of two terrified half-dressed men at the top of the stairs swam before his eyes - a flash - a loud noise - a smoke - a crash somewhere, but where he knew not, - and he staggered back" - Oliver Twist is forced into a burglary, but things go horribly wrong

30 January

"Look at his togs! Superfine cloth, and the heavy swell cut! Oh, my eye, what a game! And his books, too! Nothing but a gentleman, Fagin!" - The realistic portrayal of the criminal classes in Oliver Twist is embellished by the slang of Fagin's street gang

27 January

"The ground was covered, nearly ankle-deep, with filth and mire; a thick steam, perpetually rising from the reeking bodies of the cattle, and mingling with the fog, which seemed to rest upon the chimney-tops, hung heavily above" - The housebreaker Bill Sykes and Oliver Twist approach London's Smithfield market in the early morning.

26 January

"If he were really not in the habit of drinking rather more than was exactly good for him, he might have brought action against his countenance for libel, and have recovered heavy damages" - Mr Fang, the ruddy-faced magistrate, gives Oliver Twist an unwelcome introduction to the judicial system

25 January

"You've over-fed him, ma'am. You've raised a artificial soul and spirit in him, ma'am unbecoming a person of his condition: as the board, Mrs Sowerberry, who are practical philosophers, will tell you. What have paupers to do with soul or spirit?" - Mr Bumble identifies the reason for Oliver Twist's defiance: Not madness, but meat

24 January

"Juries," said Mr Bumble, grasping his cane tightly, as was his wont when working into a passion: "juries is ineddicated, vulgar, grovelling wretches." - The beadle turns his wrath on those who would keep a check on the abuses of the workhouse

23 January

"Please, sir," replied Oliver, "I want some more." The master aimed a blow at Oliver's head with the ladle; pinioned him in his arm; and shrieked aloud for the beadle - The orphan Oliver Twist bucks the system at the workhouse, delivering his immortal line

20 January

Let us leave our old friend in one of those moments of unmixed happiness, of which, if we seek them, there are ever some, to cheer our transitory existence here. There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast - The Pickwick Club is finally dissolved, and everything concluded to the perfect satisfaction of everybody

19 January

The body! It is the lawyer's term for the restless, whirling mass of cares and anxieties, affections, hopes, and griefs, that make up the living man. The law had his body; and there it lay, clothed in grave-clothes, an awful witness to its tender mercy - A prisoner held in the Fleet debtors' prison for 20 years, obtains his release at last

18 January

They passed through the inner gate, and descended a short flight of steps. The key was turned after them; and Mr Pickwick found himself, for the first time in his life, within the walls of a debtors' prison - A darker episode in the ebullient Pickwick Papers sees Mr Pickwick's principled refusal to pay damages land him in the Fleet prison

17 January

He had been staying nearly three weeks with Mr Bob Sawyer; Mr Bob Sawyer was not remarkable for temperance, nor was Mr Benjamin Allen for the ownership of a very strong head; the consequence was that, during the whole space of time just mentioned, Mr Benjamin Allen had been wavering between intoxication partial, and intoxication complete - Two medical students take their first steps into the world of work

16 January

All this time he was shivering with cold; and every time he raised his hand to the knocker, the wind took the dressing-gown in a most unpleasant manner - Mr Winkle is locked out of home in his night clothes, panicking as a group of ladies approaches

13 January

"A good, contented, well-breakfasted juryman is a capital thing to get hold of. Discontented or hungry jurymen, my dear sir, always find for the plaintiff" - Mr Perker, attorney for Samuel Pickwick, shares his legal knowledge

12 January

"Aha!" said the fat boy. As he said it, he glanced from the cod-fish to the oyster-barrels, and chuckled joyously. He was fatter than ever - The "fat boy", a Pickwick favourite, reappears just in time for a feast

11 January

"Ven you're a married man, Samivel, you'll understand a good many things as you don't understand now; but vether it's worth goin' through so much, to learn so little, as the charity-boy said ven he got to the end of the alphabet, is a matter of taste" - Sam Weller receives sage counsel from his father on maintaining marital harmony

10 January

A deep sigh escaped from the wasted form before him; the lips moved, and a smile played upon the face; but the lips were pallid, and the smile faded into a rigid and ghastly stare. He was alone in the world - In a tavern near Gray's Inn, an old man tells a tragic tale of debt, loss and revenge

9 January

'He wants you partickler; and no one else'll do, as the devil's private secretary said ven he fetched avay Doctor Faustus,' replied Mr Weller - A "wellerism" from Mr Pickwick's manservant Sam Weller, the streetwise cockney who made Dickens famous

6 January

'Show me the man who says anything against women, as women, and I boldly declare he is not a man.' And Mr Snodgrass took his cigar from his mouth, and struck the table violently with his clenched fist. 'That's good sound argument,' said the placid man - The would-be poet Mr Snodgrass leaps to the defence of the fairer sex

5 January

There are twenty washed men at the street door for you to shake hands with; and six children in arms that you're to pat on the head, and inquire the age of; be particular about the children, my dear sir - it has always a great effect, that sort of thing - A pep talk for the Honorable Samuel Slunkey as the Buffs and the Blues battle for votes in the borough of Eatanswill

4 January

The man of whom I speak was a low pantomime actor; and, like many people of his class, an habitual drunkard - A dismal stranger relates The Stroller's Tale to the Pickwickians, newly set off on their adventures

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