picLyme Park, Disley Cheshire

Dombey and Son

A review, synopsis and excerpt from a fine novel by Charles Dickens published in 1848

Main Characters
Mr. Paul Dombey - A widowed businessman in the shipping trade with two children.
Florence Dombey - Dombey's eldest child who is neglected in favour of his young son and prospective heir Paul junior.
Paul Dombey junior - The son and heir, a weak six year old in poor health.
Edith Granger - Paul Dombey's second wife.
Susan Nipper - Florence's maid, confidente and faithful friend.
James Carker - The devious and untrustworthy manager of the Dombey business empire.
John Carker - James's older brother, an office junior, fallen from grace, maybe with a mysterious past.
Miss Harriet Carker - The brother's kindly spinster sister.
Mr. Morfin - The assistant manager and accountant.
Walter Gay - Office junior and general dogsbody and an admirer of Florence.
Solomon Gills - Maker of nautical instruments and owner of the "Wooden Midshipman" shop and Walter's uncle.
Captain Ned (Edward) Cuttle - Retired sea captain, funny and likeable friend of Solomon Gills.

       The story is set in early Victorian London and follows the fortunes of Dombey & Son, a successful shipping company at a time of increasing economic activity and prosperity, constructed around an interesting assortment of characters, made up of modest heroes, opportunistic villains, cunningly incorrigible rogues and others. Paul Dombey an aloof and flawed widower father of Florence and Paul junior and the owner of the company, presides over a series of trials and misfortunes, virtually ignoring his older beautiful and devoted daughter investing all his hopes and dreams in the prospect of his new born son one day joining him in the company and eventually taking the reins.

pic        Paul Dombey, the main character in the story the head of the family and a thriving business is delighted at the birth of his newly born child, also named Paul, a much longed for son and heir and the fulfilment of all his hopes and dreams, who will carry the business forward into the future. However spirits are dampened somewhat when his unfortunate wife dies shortly after the birth and it becomes apparent that the boy has a weak and sickly constitution. Sadly future prospects are bleak and despite the best treatment and the devotion of his sister and nurses he doesn't survive beyond his sixth birthday, seriously affecting the mood and outlook of a disappointed and increasingly embittered father. James Carker, a man of rather dubious character, is the manager of Dombey and Son and has overall responsibility for day to day business helped by assistant manager Mr Morfin, his older brother John Carker, a lowly clerk with a mysterious past, and Walter Gay a junior. As the plot develops we are introduced to Solomon Gills, Walter's uncle, a nautical instrument maker with a shop called the Wooden Midshipman, and his friend Captain Edward Cuttle, both will play a major supporting role in events which transpire as the main character's lives become more than a little chaotic. Florence attracts many admirers along the way but is only interested in winning the affection and approval of a proud and troubled father, however when it becomes clear that Walter Gay has romantic feelings towards her it is seen as a potential threat to James Carker who conspires with his boss to dispatch Walter to the West Indies.
       Meanwhile wider family members and well wishers are encouraging Mr Dombey to remarry and on a short break to Leamington Spa he forms a relationship with Edith Granger an ill conceived match which will have disastrous consequences. After the wedding things take another turn for the worse when, after years of mis-management and some disastrous speculative transactions chickens come home to roost at Dombey and Son resulting in the flight of James Carker to Dijon with Edith leaving the firm in desperate financial straits with Florence taking the blame and being banished from the family home. With rumours of shipwrecks in the Caribbean and fears for Walter's safety, Florence takes refuge with Captain Cuttle at the Wooden Midshipman whilst Sol Gills goes off in search of news of Walter and Dombey sinks further into deep despair while Mr Morfin attempts to bring some order the the firms accounts. Unfortunately there is no salvation for Dombey and Son but there is retribution in the form of a chase across Europe culminating in for the time, a very topical railway fatality, redemption and rehabilitation for a contrite father and reconciliation with his daughter as this masterpiece draws to a heartwarming and satisfactory conclusion.
       The individual characters are so well defined and easy to relate to, whether it be the sharp tongue of Mrs McStinger Captain Cuttle's landlady who puts the fear of God into the lovable seafarer in more than one chapter or by contrast the cheerful steadfastness of Susan Nipper, Florence's maid, always there to support, there is something in this book for everyone. A terrific storyline with wonderful characters against a background of Victorian England and of course English prose at its best, this book is highly entertaining and a thoroughly good read.

An extract - Subsequent to the demise of the house of Dombey
       ..... The Counting House soon got to be dirty and neglected. The principal slipper and dogs' collar seller, at the corner of the court, would have doubted the propriety of throwing up his forefinger to the brim of his hat any more, if Mr Dombey had appeared there now; and the ticket porter with his hands under his white apron, moralised good sound morality about ambition which (he observed) was not, in his opinion, made to rhyme to perdition for nothing. Mr Morfin, the hazel-eyed bachelor, with the hair and whiskers sprinkled with grey, was perhaps the only person within the atmosphere of the House - its head, of course, excepted - who was heartily and deeply affected by the disaster that had befallen it. He had treated Mr Dombey with due respect and deference through many years, but he had never disguised his natural character, or meanly truckled to him, or pampered his master passion for the advancement of his own purposes. He had, therefore, no self-disrespect to avenge; no long-tightened springs to release with a quick recoil. He worked early and late to unravel whatever was complicated or difficult in the records of the transactions of the House; was always in attendance to explain whatever required explanation; sat in his old room sometimes very late at night, studying points by his mastery of which he could spare Mr Dombey the pain of being personally referred to; and then would go home to Islington, and calm his mind by producing the most dismal and forlorn sounds out of his violoncello before going to bed. He was solacing himself with this melodious grumbler one evening, and, having been much dispirited by the proceedings of the day, was scraping consolation out of its deepest notes, when his landlady (who was fortunately deaf, and had no other consciousness of these performances than a sensation of something rumbling in her bones) announced a lady. 'In mourning' she said. The violoncello stopped immediately; and the performer, laying it on the sofa with great tenderness and care, made a sign that the lady was to come in. He followed directly, and met Harriet Carker on the stair .....

       ..... He handed her down to a coach she had waiting at the door; and if his landlady had not been deaf, she would have heard him muttering as he went back upstairs, when the coach had driven off, that we were creatures of habit and it was a sorrowful habit to be an old bachelor. The violoncello, lying on the sofa between the two chairs, he took it up, without putting away the vacant chair, and sat droning on it, and slowly shaking his head at the vacant chair, for a long, long time. The expression he communicated to the instrument at first, though monstrously pathetic and bland, was nothing to the expression he communicated to his own face, and bestowed upon the empty chair: which was so sincere, that he was obliged to have recourse to Captain Cuttle's remedy more than once, and to rub his face with his sleeve. By degrees, however, the violoncello, in unison with his own frame of mind, glided melodiously into the Harmonious Blacksmith which he played over and over again, until his ruddy and serene face gleamed like true metal on the anvil of a veritable blacksmith. In fine, the violoncello and the empty chair were the companions of his bachelorhood until nearly midnight; and when he took his supper, the violoncello set up on end in the sofa corner, big with the latent harmony of a whole foundry full of harmonious blacksmiths, seemed to ogle the empty chair out of its crooked eyes, with unutterable intelligence.

Charles Dickens 1848

Palfreyman - 2nd January 2014

picFarthingale Publications: ..... picIs a hobby web site containing articles of local interest to Lancastrians, some favourite walking and cycling routes, selected words and poetry, and some writings of more general nature as well as the authors own picture gallery. Access is available via the homepage and menu at the head of the page or via one of the direct links below.

Local Interest: Richmond Hill Dairies; Mind Your Language; John Lancaster Wigan MP; Thomas Aspinwall Miners Agent; Thomas Aspinwall Obituary; Upholland Telephone Exchange; Thomas Linacre School Wigan; God's Choir; Scot Lane School Wigan; The Lindsays of Haigh; Dust Upon God's Fair Earth; The Nurburgring 1960; Wigan Advertisements 1960; Wigan Soldier Missing in Action; It's a Funny Life; Private Thomas Whitham VC; Isaac Watts 1674 - 1748; Wigan Old Bank 1792; The Brocklebank Line; John Byrom 1692 - 1793; The Holy City Liverpool; Jubilee Park Memorial, Ashton in Makerfield; Little Ships at War 1918; A Cricket Calypso; Not Much of a Warrior; Peveril of the Peak.

Walking & Cycling: Moss Eccles Tarn; Abbey Lakes to Coppull Moor; Chorley Ice Cream Walk; Douglas Valley Dawdle; Three Counties Cycle Ride; Haigh to Borsdane Wood; A Lancshire Linear Walk; Blackrod or Bust; Cycle the Sankey Valley; Cycle the Monsal Trail; Wigan Circular by Bike; Freshfield to Crosby; Irwell Valley Trail (Bury to Rawtenstall); Irwell Valley (Bury to Salford).

Words & Poetry: Wisdom; Only a Cranky Owd Foo'; Martin Chuzzlewit; Dover Harbour; Rogue Herries; The Heart of Midlothian; King Cotton; The Family Man; The Pickwick Papers; The Fair Rosamond; The Fair Rosamond Comic; A Legend of Montrose; When Winds Breathe Soft; The Wreck of the Hesperus; God Bless these Poor Wimmen that's Childer; Dombey and Son; Aw've Turned me bit O' Garden O'er; On Th' Hills; Four Favourite Poems; The Darkling Thrush; The Glory of the Garden; The Rolling English Road; The Antiquary; Hymn Before Action; Dust upon God's Fair Earth; Mind Your Language; Jeff Unsworth's dialect poetry; Martyrs of the Arena; Th' Coartin' Neet; Boat Song; Toddlin' Whoam; A Lancashire Mon; Calm is the Sea; The Bride of Lammermoor; Redgauntlet; A Tale of Two Cities.

Wallgate Chronicles: pic Little Dorrit; Hugo Boss comes to Wigan; In the footsteps of the Manchester Rambler; Fun with Trigonometry; Surprise at the Philharmonic; The Marriage of Figaro; Cat Bells; A Walk in the Hills; Eay Times Uv Changed; Fidelio; The Ravioli Room; Desert Island Discs; Travels in Time 1960; Travels in Time 2010; The Spectroscope; The Bohemian Girl; Bookcase; Barnaby Rudge; Romance on a Budget; The Battle of Solferino; The Getaway Car; The Switchroom Wigan; The Force of Destiny; Adolphe Adam; The Fair Maid of Perth; Ivanhoe; Semele; Lohengrin; The Old Curiosity Shop; Hard Times.

Selected articles from the above listed:
pic Richmond Hill Dairies - Pemberton - These pages contain some personal memories from my youth and my association with Richmond Hill Dairies, a local business I grew up with and remember with some affection. A well known and important feature of the local community in its day and part of the heritage of Pemberton, this is my attempt to commit some small snapshot of its history to print, I hope these pages paint a worthy picture.
Mind Your Language - A humorous poem by "the bard of Haydock" George Anderton, inspired by memories of a trip to Bad Canstatt, Stuttgart Germany with the Haydock Male Voice Choir in 1975. This publication will bring a smile to the faces of not only those members who were there at the time and know the people involved but the wider population of Haydock as well who speak the language.
Wigan and the American Civil War - Wigan Coal and Iron Company, The Right Honourable John Lancaster MP for Wigan, the Confederate Raider Alabama, USS Kearsarge, Cherbourg and the yacht Deerhound all feature in the last great sea battle of the American Civil War.
Wigan Old Bank 1792 - A tragic boating accident on Windermere and a surprising journey through the social history of Wigan during the reign of Queen Victoria, highlighting the relationships between four families who played an important part in the commercial development of the town.
The Brocklebank LineDaniel Brocklebank (1741-1801), shipbuilder and mariner, a brief biography, and some background detail of his family and the shipping line he founded.
Little Ships at ZeebruggeAn account of a heroic attempt to block the port of Zeebrugge during the first World War, to protect supply routes into the UK by denying enemy submarines based there access to the open sea.
A Cricket Calypso - A short biopic of cricketer Cyril Washbrook and a snapshot of his career including his role in the West Indies tour of 1950 recorded in the lyrics of the Cricket Calypso.
Not Much of a Warrior - Wigan RLFC in the fifties and sixties, through rose coloured glasses. A golden age of legendary players and memorable moments, along with some personal memories.

picThe Langdales from Moss Eccles Tarn