Saturday, October 1, 2011

Keeping Up Appearances

The fun in reading Dickens often lies, not so much in what he is saying, but in how he is saying it. In Martin Chuzzlewit, that archetype hypocrite Seth Pecksniff is about the most royally annoying creature who might be comprehended by a human mind. . .but it is an unspeakable amount of fun to follow the deadpan tone in which his inventor describes him, as in these passages from Chapter 3, where he endeavours to make a favourable impression on (very rich) Old Martin Chuzzlewit:

'No,' said Mr Pecksniff, keeping his hand in his waistcoat as though he were ready, on the shortest notice, to produce his heart for Martin Chuzzlewit's inspection, 'I came here to offer my services to a stranger.'

* * *

It would be no description of Mr Pecksniff's gentleness of manner, to adopt the common parlance, and say, that he looked at this moment as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. He rather looked as if any quantitiy of butter might have been made out of him, by churning the milk of human kindness, as it spouted upwards from his heart.

* * *

. . .Mr. Pecksniff, towering on tiptoe among the curtains, as if he were literally rising above all worldly considerations, and were fain to hold on tight, to keep himself from darting skywards like a rocket. . .

No comments: