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Subject:
From:
Patrick McCarthy <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Charles Dickens Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Date:
Tue, 6 Jul 1993 11:21:10 -0700
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From Nancy Metz <[log in to unmask]>

Many thanks for the help annotating chapter 7 of Martin Chuzzlewit.  Now on
to chapter 8!

1.  In this chapter, a well-oiled Pecksniff pontificates on life and death,
comparing the span of human life to posting stations on a coach journey:

"What are we?" said Mr. Pecksniff, "but coaches? . . . We start from The
Mother's Arms, and we run to the Dust Shovel.'

I've found an early nineteenth-century poem which looks close enough to be
a source, and I am wondering if any of you have seen any hard evidence that
Dickens knew this work.  Here's an excerpt:

The course through which our Life is past,
>From our first moments to our last,
Has been described in various forms:
The river's calm, the ocean's storms . . .
It is as clearly understood
If for our symbol we engage
The Common Carriage called a STAGE.

Few who their destin'd course begin,
Or from the SUN or ANGEL INN,
Of the known way complete the whole
Through which the wheels are bound to roll.

The poem is called "The Last Stage"; it was written by William Combe to
illustrage an engraving in Rowlandson's The English Dance of Death
(1815-1816).  I know that Dickens was familiar with and fascinated by the
Dance of Death motif.  But what about this particular version of the
familiar theme?

2.  Can anyone help me with this joke?  Against the fender at Todgers's
Commercial Boarding House is a "pair of short black gaiters, on one of
which was chalked . . . "Jinkin's Particular."  Here's my attempt so far,
but do I have it right?

Gaiters were cloth leg-casings buttoning from knee to ankle and sometimes
covering the instep.  They were worn with knee-breeches, which were out of
fashion during the period described by the novel, having been gradually
replaced by longer trousers at the turn of the century.  The quoted phrase
puns on two colloquial meanings of the word 'particular'--as something
especially belonging to or favored by a place or person, or more
specifically, as a special kind of Madeira wine imported for the London
market (OED).  The cylindrical shape of the gaiters presumably suggested to
the wag who rose early to chalk them an analogy to a bottle of wine, and
the relative rarity of this article of gentlemanly apparel gave point to
the joke that they were Jenkins's own.  The more common colloquial use of
the term 'particular' was as a synonym for fog.  See Esther's naive
question to the representative of Kenge and Carboy in Chapter 3 of Bleak
House:
        I asked him whether there was a great fire anywhere?  for the
        were so full of dense brown smoke that scarcely anything was to
        be seen.
                "O dear no, miss,' he said.  'This is a London particular.'