Nicholas Nickleby HTML version

Chapter 1
Introduces All The Rest
There once lived, in a sequestered part of the county of Devonshire, one Mr
Godfrey Nickleby: a worthy gentleman, who, taking it into his head rather late in
life that he must get married, and not being young enough or rich enough to
aspire to the hand of a lady of fortune, had wedded an old flame out of mere
attachment, who in her turn had taken him for the same reason. Thus two people
who cannot afford to play cards for money, sometimes sit down to a quiet game
for love.
Some ill-conditioned persons who sneer at the life-matrimonial, may perhaps
suggest, in this place, that the good couple would be better likened to two
principals in a sparring match, who, when fortune is low and backers scarce, will
chivalrously set to, for the mere pleasure of the buffeting; and in one respect
indeed this comparison would hold good; for, as the adventurous pair of the
Fives' Court will afterwards send round a hat, and trust to the bounty of the
lookers-on for the means of regaling themselves, so Mr Godfrey Nickleby and
HIS partner, the honeymoon being over, looked out wistfully into the world,
relying in no inconsiderable degree upon chance for the improvement of their
means. Mr Nickleby's income, at the period of his marriage, fluctuated between
sixty and eighty pounds PER ANNUM.
There are people enough in the world, Heaven knows! and even in London
(where Mr Nickleby dwelt in those days) but few complaints prevail, of the
population being scanty. It is extraordinary how long a man may look among the
crowd without discovering the face of a friend, but it is no less true. Mr Nickleby
looked, and looked, till his eyes became sore as his heart, but no friend
appeared; and when, growing tired of the search, he turned his eyes homeward,
he saw very little there to relieve his weary vision. A painter who has gazed too
long upon some glaring colour, refreshes his dazzled sight by looking upon a
darker and more sombre tint; but everything that met Mr Nickleby's gaze wore so
black and gloomy a hue, that he would have been beyond description refreshed
by the very reverse of the contrast.
At length, after five years, when Mrs Nickleby had presented her husband with a
couple of sons, and that embarassed gentleman, impressed with the necessity of
making some provision for his family, was seriously revolving in his mind a little
commercial speculation of insuring his life next quarter-day, and then falling from
the top of the Monument by accident, there came, one morning, by the general
post, a black-bordered letter to inform him how his uncle, Mr Ralph Nickleby, was
dead, and had left him the bulk of his little property, amounting in all to five
thousand pounds sterling.
As the deceased had taken no further notice of his nephew in his lifetime, than
sending to his eldest boy (who had been christened after him, on desperate
speculation) a silver spoon in a morocco case, which, as he had not too much to
eat with it, seemed a kind of satire upon his having been born without that useful
article of plate in his mouth, Mr Godfrey Nickleby could, at first, scarcely believe
the tidings thus conveyed to him. On examination, however, they turned out to be