I’m just about in the middle of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles
Dickens. It’s a faithful friend of a book to finish up these winter
I bought a nice old edition from a local used bookstore–just
what I was looking for –with original illustrations by Hablôt Knight
Browne known as “Phiz”.
This edition has Nicholas Nickleby divided into two “books”
in one volume, and is part of a set. I don’t mind if I don’t
have the others to match–it’s still a nice cozy edition with
easy to read print:
I read about 30 pages each night—kind of the way the
London folks would have read the chapters as they came out
Nicholas and his sister, Kate, have recently lost their father,
and are penniless, at the mercy of their uncle Ralph Nickleby.
He is a mean schemer with little interest in helping his brother’s
children and widow, but makes feeble attempts to find them
Nicholas’ first job is at “Dotheboys Hall”, being assistant to Mr.
Squeers, the headmaster. What a dump! And the boys at the
school—poor things! Mr. and Mrs. Squeers are out to squeeze
every penny from those boys’ tuitions and spend as little as
possible to run the school.
On the first night, the Squeers eat a sumptuous meal, allowing
some to Nicholas and then “regaled the (students) with a light
supper of porridge.”
On one of the frosty mornings, the pump is frozen and Squeers
cautions Nicholas that there’s no water for a washup, ” . . . have
to give yourself a ‘dry polish'”.
After the first 200 pages or so, Nicholas runs away and a poor
wretch named Smike follows him. Smike had been at Dotheboys
Hall, too, a mistreated and pitiful former student. I think you’ll like
Kate isn’t having an easy time of it either, and the two of their
stories, Nicholas’ and Kate’s, keep the story moving along quickly.
As always, the characters are richly drawn, and the wit and
cleverness of the writing keep Dickens in a favored light.
I think/hope the book will last til the end of March. Surely,
by then it will be spring.