Martin Chuzzlewit HTML version

Chapter 1
As no lady or gentleman, with any claims to polite breeding, can possibly
sympathize with the Chuzzlewit Family without being first assured of the extreme
antiquity of the race, it is a great satisfaction to know that it undoubtedly
descended in a direct line from Adam and Eve; and was, in the very earliest
times, closely connected with the agricultural interest. If it should ever be urged
by grudging and malicious persons, that a Chuzzlewit, in any period of the family
history, displayed an overweening amount of family pride, surely the weakness
will be considered not only pardonable but laudable, when the immense
superiority of the house to the rest of mankind, in respect of this its ancient origin,
is taken into account.
It is remarkable that as there was, in the oldest family of which we have any
record, a murderer and a vagabond, so we never fail to meet, in the records of all
old families, with innumerable repetitions of the same phase of character. Indeed,
it may be laid down as a general principle, that the more extended the ancestry,
the greater the amount of violence and vagabondism; for in ancient days those
two amusements, combining a wholesome excitement with a promising means of
repairing shattered fortunes, were at once the ennobling pursuit and the healthful
recreation of the Quality of this land.
Consequently, it is a source of inexpressible comfort and happiness to find, that
in various periods of our history, the Chuzzlewits were actively connected with
divers slaughterous conspiracies and bloody frays. It is further recorded of them,
that being clad from head to heel in steel of proof, they did on many occasions
lead their leather-jerkined soldiers to the death with invincible courage, and
afterwards return home gracefully to their relations and friends.
There can be no doubt that at least one Chuzzlewit came over with William the
Conqueror. It does not appear that this illustrious ancestor 'came over' that
monarch, to employ the vulgar phrase, at any subsequent period; inasmuch as
the Family do not seem to have been ever greatly distinguished by the
possession of landed estate. And it is well known that for the bestowal of that
kind of property upon his favourites, the liberality and gratitude of the Norman
were as remarkable as those virtues are usually found to be in great men when
they give away what belongs to other people.
Perhaps in this place the history may pause to congratulate itself upon the
enormous amount of bravery, wisdom, eloquence, virtue, gentle birth, and true
nobility, that appears to have come into England with the Norman Invasion: an
amount which the genealogy of every ancient family lends its aid to swell, and
which would beyond all question have been found to be just as great, and to the
full as prolific in giving birth to long lines of chivalrous descendants, boastful of
their origin, even though William the Conqueror had been William the