Wednesday, 6 September 2000

Charles Dickens: Martin Chuzzlewit (1844)

Edition: Heron
Review number: 602

There can be few fans who would consider Martin Chuzzlewit to be one of the best of Dickens' novels. It created a considerable drop in the sales of the periodical in which it originally appeared, despite getting good reviews, and shows evidence of some desperation to reverse this trend. (The hastily thrown in and later regretted American episodes which are among the novel's best known parts form an example of this.)

That is not to say that there is not some excellent writing in Martin Chuzzlewit. There is a remarkable section about two thirds of the way through, starting with the journey made by Jonas Chuzzlewit and Tigg Montague to Salisbury, which is extremely vivid. It has one or two characters up to the usual standard, of whom the most famous is Mrs Gamp. In the main, though, it remains a dull, straightforward and regrettably sentimental story of the downfall of hypocrisy (personified by Mr Pecksniff) and the triumph of virtue (personified by Martin Chuzzlewit).

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