I am finished with March, finished with
winter, and finished with Nicholas Nickleby! The book was a
stalwart friend throughout and guided me night by night
toward a warmer season. It worked–it’s spring!
Some of you may remember that I posted a while ago about
being in the middle of NN–and with 556 pages in volume I and
548 pages in volume II that gives you an idea of the reading
involved. Because I don’t know how to “link” yet, you’ll have
to manually type in “Nicholas Nickleby” in the search box above
to the right, to see what I wrote so far.
Nicholas and Kate, brother and sister, are the central characters,
and we follow them through their trials and tribulations as they
try to earn their livings and support their widowed mother.
Sounds dour, but of course with Dickens at the helm, it’s anything
And, don’t fret, there is a full cast of characters–one of my favorites
being Mr. Mantalini — “Demnition!—-demmit!” when aggravated
by Mrs. Mantalini who accuses him (justly) of flirting or worse with
other women. “How could my joy and blessing think of such a thing?”
Mrs. Nickleby, the mother, is another enduring, and I do mean
enduring character—-when we’re forced to read almost pages at
a time as she talks on and on about things with always a direct
leaning towards the glories of herself. Any romantic interest by
a suitor of Kate’s is interpreted by Mrs. N as being an interest in
her own self, and so on. (Spoiler alert—she does indeed receive a
There is Mr. Witterly, employer of Kate for a while, and when
that employment is ended, he owes Kate a “trifle of salary”.
He says that he will owe it to her. ” . . .Mr. Witterly being accustomed
to owe small amounts- and to leave them owing. All men have some
little pleasant way of their own: and this was Mr. Witterly’s.”
Or maybe you’d enjoy living with the Kenwigs. Mrs. K’s uncle, Mr.
Lillyvick, has an esteemed position in the family as a water rate
collector. There are hints that he will be leaving the little
Kenwig children very well off when he dies. When a new baby
arrives, which they name “Lillyvick” to impress the uncle, the
doctor says to Mr. Kenwig, “That makes six. You’ll have a
fine family in time, sir.”
For ladies, we have Miss Knag–“Hem!”
And sweet Miss La Creevy who paints miniature portraits.
The brothers Cheeryble are the dearest twosome you might ever
meet in a Dickens novel, or anywhere else, and they give you reason
to believe in goodness after all. Their clerk, Tim Linkinwater, has a
talking blackbird that he keeps in the office with him.
And through it all, Ralph Nickleby, the uncle and supposed crutch
for the family to lean on, snakes his way through the book plotting
and scheming and squabbling to get the most usage and coin from
any situation. Shall I tell you there is a beautiful young girl in the
plot?—Nicholas falls in love. And a handsome young man?—Kate
falls in love. Do you think it’s easy? Do you think there might
be secrets somewhere in the wings?
I think it’s very amusing that about page 362 in the SECOND
volume, the pages of my book began to creak—and it’s because
they had never been opened! Even though I have a very old
edition of NN, apparently someone before me never quite read it
all the way through! I am pleased to report that every page has
now been soundly read.
So, good-bye Nicholas Nickleby. I liked it very much, not as much
as Bleak House, but certainly very, very winter worthy.
A lot of the joy in reading this book was the inclusion in my copy of
illustrations by Hablôt Knight Browne, or “Phiz”. I’ll include a few here
for those interested . . .and then good-bye.