Dover Book

Text Box with description of Book

    Once again, I am held in awe of the great Dickens and his ability to tell a tale that is so compelling. Well, let's put it this way: every time I think I have found my favorite, and it just can't get any better, it does. Yep, Dickens is my man! The previous novel of his I read before this one was Nicholas Nickleby. I guffawed and chortled all the way through, as it was the funniest book of his I have read so far. But this one—yes it has its funny moments—I cannot imagine Dickens without humor—but it is also brutally serious. It is his first historical novel, initially published in serialized form from February to November, 1841, in his short-lived weekly periodical, Master Humphrey's Clock. It was also published as a book that year. The only other historical novel he wrote was A Tale of Two Cities, about the French Revolution, and yes, that, too was my new "favorite" when I read it. This one, however, is about the Gordon Riots right there in London, instigated by a Member of Parliament leading a faction that hated Catholics. I had never heard of this event, but having read Dickens' interpretation of it (based on factual records), not only will I never forget it, but I see this insanity—this out-of-control madness and lust for killing—just around the corner, here in America and all over the world. Dane speaks of the day when people finally wake up and realize what has been done to them—the weather warfare agenda being carried out by the U.S. military, which caused 2.5 million people in this country alone to lose their homes in 2023. I am included in that statistic. When people finally break out of their stupor and understand how they have been lied to, stolen from, stripped of their rights—yes, they will vent their spleen, and as Dane says, the pitchforks and torches will come out. More on the Gordon Riots in a bit. Below: Lord George Gordon.

Lord George Gordon

    But, as is typical of Dickens, his novels are multifaceted, and have numerous themes happening all at once, which amazingly all tie together in the end. It is a romance—I don't believe I have ever read one of his major novels where romance didn't play a role. Here it plays a big one. And let's not forget the other Dickens specialties—murders, and the supernatural. Then of course, there's the London underworld—the slime of the earth, that here, gladly rose to the occasion of leading the slaughter during the riots, not because they hated Catholics, but because they loved the power of violence, death and destruction. And one of the things I appreciate about Dickens' novels is that he always ties up the loose ends, and rarely leaves anything hanging. He even made sure we knew that Hugh's dog had been adopted by Barnaby, after Hugh is executed. Too many authors neglect the welfare of their animal characters! And also as usual, his novels have a sense of justice. The good guys win and the bad guys are punished for the most part. I really don't like it when stories end otherwise. We see enough of that in the "real" world.
    One Dickens characteristic that is noticeably absent in this one is his talent for creating silly names. Other than Simon Tappertit, (which could very well be a real, though unusual name) most everyone else has a regular British name, like Joe Willet, Edward Chester, Dolly Varden, and Emma Haredale. Not like Wackford Squeers, Uriah Heep and of course Ebenezer Scrooge, whose name has become synonymous with "miserly."
    And another rather unique quality of the main characters in this one is that there were very few for which the reader's feelings might have been lukewarm. There was a sharp divide between those that we loved and those we loathed.
    This novel had still more unique qualities. One of the main characters, the title character, Barnaby Rudge, is described as "dimwitted." I pondered over that one. He was too sharp about some things to be developmentally disabled or challenged, as we would call it today. But his mind was all over the place. Was he autistic? I would imagine that condition was not readily diagnosed back then—or perhaps ADD, or other related mental challenges. If anyone in the story had a mental dysfunction, it would have been Joe's father, John Willet!
    And another main character was a bird—a Raven named Grip, who was Barnaby's beloved companion, and who also played an important role. Now, I must say a bit more about Grip, who was actually a talking pet belonging to Dickens. Dickens had her stuffed after her death, and she now is on display at the Parkway Central Library in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Here is more about Grip (several of them, actually). Dickens wrote, "Barnaby being an idiot, my notion is to have him always in company with a pet raven, who is immeasurably more knowing than himself. To this end I have been studying my bird, and think I could make a very queer character of him." And one more important fact about Grip—she was the inspiration for Poe's most famous poem, The Raven! Wow, I think that's cool. Incidentally, the Project Gutenberg edition linked below has a better Preface by the author than my Dover edition, which provides more information about the several "Grips" in Dickens' life. The part about the riots is included in my edition, however.
    Here's the Wikipedia page for Barnaby Rudge, which really isn't that good, and I don't agree with all of it. But I do agree with this statement: "It is one of his less popular novels; British historian and Dickens biographer Peter Ackroyd has called it 'one of Dickens's most neglected, but most rewarding, novels'" Yes, totally engrossing, really.
    Incidentally, having read this novel, I only have FOUR more to go to complete my goal of reading them all, plus I have to re-read two others that I originally read decades ago, so I can review them and add them to my Dickens Index Page, where you can read all my reviews of his works. And since I have written so much about Dickens himself, I won't include that in this long review. Here is his Wikipedia page for more information about his life and volumes of works (much more than just his novels). Here is the page for his Bibliography.
    Project Gutenberg has most or possibly all of this great Master's works digitized and available for free, but most of the novels are too long to read on a reader. I hate having to stop to charge the battery constantly. I own all fifteen novels in paperback, including his final unfinished one. This Dover Thrift Edition is 579 pages, but the print is quite small, which means more words per page, which makes them thrifty. It is eighty-two chapters. This is one of the shorter ones. Others go into the 800 pp. Here's the Project Gutenberg page for this one, which will also take you to his main page, where his novellas, short stories, and collaborations are also available. If you have not read the works of this extraordinary man, PLEASE DO. You will be richly rewarded, and learn a great deal about life in England during Dickens' time, so in a sense, all of his novels are "historical."
    With books such as this, I obviously cannot go into too much detail for a review, so I will relate the story in a more broad manner, going through my notes and choosing quotes that I had highlighted. The Gordon Riots happen in the latter part of the story, and of that I will go into detail. So now, here is a synopsis of the story. Incidentally, the original title of the novel was Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of Eighty. Below: The Maypole Inn.

The Maypole Inn

    The novel begins on a stormy night, where the three regular cronies are sitting in their usual places at the Maypole Inn, whose proprietor is John Willet:

   a burly, large-headed man with a fat face, which betokened profound obstinacy and slowness of apprehension, combined with a very strong reliance upon his own merits. It was John Willet's ordinary boast in his more placid moods that if he were slow he was sure; which assertion could, in one sense at least, be by no means gainsaid, seeing that he was in everything unquestionably the reverse of fast, and withal one of the most dogged and positive fellows in existence—always sure that what he thought or said or did was right, and holding it as a thing quite settled and ordained by the laws of nature and Providence, that anybody who said or did or thought otherwise must be inevitably and of necessity wrong.

    On this particular night, there is a stranger at the Inn—quiet and revealing little of himself. There is another man, though bedraggled from riding in the rough weather, still obviously a gentleman. John knows him. The other person present is Joe, John's twenty-year-old son, who is treated like child by his father, and not even allowed to speak unless spoken to, thus being constantly made a fool.
    But more importantly, it is the 22nd anniversary of a brutal and still unsolved murder that took place at the Haredale estate nearby—the Warren—and the only one allowed to retell it is Solomon Daisy, the parish-clerk and bell-ringer of Chigwell. He tells it for the benefit of the stranger who is asking too many questions about the Haredales. It was a miserable night, as has been on this date, March 19, (1753), every year, when Solomon had been called upon late at night to ring the bell because an old gentleman of the village had just passed away. But he became afraid, seeing shadows in the graveyard and thinking the dead were roaming around.

   I had known all the niches and arches in the church from a child; still, I couldn't persuade myself that those were their natural shadows which I saw on the pavement, but felt sure there were some ugly figures hiding among 'em and peeping out. Thinking on in this way, I began to think of the old gentleman who was just dead, and I could have sworn, as I looked up the dark chancel, that I saw him in his usual place, wrapping his shroud about him and shivering as if he felt it cold. All this time I sat listening and listening, and hardly dared to breathe. At length I started up and took the bell-rope in my hands. At that minute there rang—not that bell, for I had hardly touched the rope—but another!
   I heard the ringing of another bell, and a deep bell too, plainly. It was only for an instant, and even then the wind carried the sound away, but I heard it. I listened for a long time, but it rang no more. I had heard of corpse candles, and at last I persuaded myself that this must be a corpse bell tolling of itself at midnight for the dead. I tolled my bell—how, or how long, I don't know—and ran home to bed as fast as I could touch the ground.

    The next day, Reuben Haredale is found murdered, and, having tried to ring his alarm bell, the severed cord is still in his hand. Missing were the gardener and Haredale's servant, Mr. Rudge, who was later found, decomposed, in a nearby body of water, but wearing his watch and ring. Haredale's cash-box had also been stolen. It was assumed the crime had been committed by the gardener, but in truth, nothing had been solved and questions still remained. Thus, Reuben's younger brother, Geoffrey, was now left with Reuben's year-old daughter, Emma, to raise, whom he dearly loved. Emma's mother had recently died.
    We don't know yet how all the pieces of the story fit together, but this mystery is one of the central events. As for the young gentleman, he has left despite the storm, and soon the stranger leaves, too.
    We next meet Gabriel Varden, an older gentleman who is the local locksmith. He is also travelling during the terrible storm, and runs across the stranger who has left the Maypole. Their encounter is not good, but Varden is not easily frightened. The traveler, riding like a bat out of hell, as the saying goes, nearly runs into Varden's chaise, then blames Varden for injuring his horse, (which he hasn't). Varden makes it clear that if he's a robber, he's completely prepared to defend himself. The encounter ends by the stranger telling Varden he was close to killing him.

   "I will, at any cost," rejoined the traveller. "In proof of it, lay this to heart—that you were never in such peril of your life as you have been within these few moments; when you are within five minutes of breathing your last, you will not be nearer death than you have been to-night!"

    And it is here that we get the first description of Varden, and we grow to love him throughout the story, because he is such a good person. A plain locksmith he may be, but his bravery, honesty and determination to always do what is right and what needs to be done, make him by far the great hero of the novel. He was also by far my favorite character. Here's a couple paragraphs that go a long way.

   The looker-on was a round, red-faced, sturdy yeoman, with a double chin, and a voice husky with good living, good sleeping, good humour, and good health. He was past the prime of life, but Father Time is not always a hard parent, and, though he tarries for none of his children, often lays his hand lightly upon those who have used him well; making them old men and women inexorably enough, but leaving their hearts and spirits young and in full vigour. With such people the grey head is but the impression of the old fellow's hand in giving them his blessing, and every wrinkle but a notch in the quiet calendar of a well-spent life.
   The person whom the traveller had so abruptly encountered was of this kind: bluff, hale, hearty, and in a green old age: at peace with himself, and evidently disposed to be so with all the world. Although muffled up in divers coats and handkerchiefs—one of which, passed over his crown, and tied in a convenient crease of his double chin, secured his three-cornered hat and bob-wig from blowing off his head—there was no disguising his plump and comfortable figure; neither did certain dirty finger-marks upon his face give it any other than an odd and comical expression, through which its natural good humour shone with undiminished lustre.

    He stops at the Inn to get refreshed, even though his wife Martha will be critical, but she's critical about everything her good man does. Then he heads for home, where he encounters another emergency. Someone is calling for help, and it is Barnaby, whom Varden knows well. (At one time, his mother had been Gabriel's sweetheart.) A young man has been stabbed and robbed. It is the young gentleman that was at the Maypole that evening (though we don't realize it yet). Gabriel and Barnaby take him to Barnaby's house, so Mary can tend to him. The man is Edward Chester.
    I am going to skip ahead, and also just briefly give mention to a few other characters. Martha, and her maid Miggs are truly obnoxious. I didn't like either of them, and their appearance throughout the novel became some of the least enjoyable reading, but as we learn at the end, necessary. The same for Gabriel's apprentice, Simon Tappertit, who is beyond strange, and is part of a sordid underground organization that has no compunction about going around killing people. At first we think he's all braggadocio, but in fact, this underground society becomes the main slaughterers during the riot. Miggs is just a silly and troublesome woman, who urges Martha to speak badly about her husband, then turns traitor. Dolly Varden is their only child. She is very beautiful, but fickle and flirtatious. Joe Willet is in love with her, and she's in love with him, but she is too frivolous to admit it. One day, finally having put up with enough abuse and humiliation from his father, he sneaks out of the Inn in the wee hours of the morning and joins the military, then is sent to America to fight the War. Before he leaves, he pours his heart out to Dolly, but she is flippant and acts like she couldn't care less about him leaving, which he does. She assumes he will turn around and come back, but he doesn't, and she realizes she has made a colossal error. So, that is one of the novel's romances, and the other is between Edward Chester and Emma Haredale. There are no issues between the Vardens and John Willet, had Joe and Dolly agreed to marry, but there certainly are issues between Haredale and John Chester, and those issues date from way back. If I had to choose the one character in the story who was inherently the most despicable, detestable, and loathsome of them all, it would be Edward Chester's father, and he wasn't even involved in the riots, at least, not openly.
    We first hear of his presence when we learn that the injured man found by Barnaby is Edward Chester. When Gabriel comes the next day to check up on him, Mary Rudge informs him that his father has been with him all day, so we naturally think of a caring parent. Not so, by a long shot. It is also during these visits to Mary that Gabriel is aware of something terrorizing her. Her cheerful disposition of long ago has changed to that signifying a person in constant fear of someone or something. It is not just Gabriel's imagination, because one evening a villainous man shows up at Mary's door. He runs when he sees Gabriel, but when he wants to go after him, Mary begs him not to and to not ask questions. And so another mystery develops, although we can figure out who he is and why he is there. At least I had it figured.
    But, back to the Chesters—Edward's father shows up at the Maypole, and although Willet doesn't know who he is, he appears to be the most elegant of gentleman—and wealthy, no doubt, expecting the best room and as much luxury as was available. He also requests someone take a note to Haredale. Joe isn't around, but Barnaby is, so he takes the note, and certainly knows who the gentleman is, having been at his house to visit his injured son.
    Well, that's a bit of a surprise to Willet, who, when Chester is settled in his room, exclaims to his cronies that there's gonna be a duel, because everyone knows how those two hate each other. (We learn bits and pieces of the "why" as the story unfolds.) But there won't be a duel, at least not that day, because Chester wants to discuss an issue of benefit to both of them, that being, the means to permanently break up the love relationship between Edward and Emma, of which neither of the elders were aware to this point.
    Here's part of their conversation, and though it may seem as if Haredale is the rude one while Chester is perfectly courteous, we learn as the tale progresses that every word out of Chester's mouth is phony pretense and subterfuge, and Haredale is the honorable and honest one. Chester has worked out a plan to ensure that the young lovers are permanently parted, and really doesn't care how or who gets hurt, because their breakup serves his agenda. Haredale, however, does care about Emma's feelings, but could not under any circumstances, allow her to marry a Chester.

   "I love my niece," said Mr. Haredale, after a short silence. "It may sound strangely in your ears; but I love her."
   "Strangely, my good fellow!" cried Mr. Chester, lazily filling his glass again, and pulling out his toothpick. "Not at all. I like Ned too—or, as you say, love him—that's the word among such near relations. I'm very fond of Ned. He's an amazingly good fellow, and a handsome fellow—foolish and weak as yet; that's all. But the thing is, Haredale—for I'll be very frank, as I told you I would at first—independently of any dislike that you and I might have to being related to each other, and independently of the religious differences between us—and damn it, that's important—I couldn't afford a match of this description. Ned and I couldn't do it. It's impossible."
   "Curb your tongue, in God's name, if this conversation is to last," retorted Mr. Haredale fiercely. "I have said I love my niece. Do you think that, loving her, I would have her fling her heart away on any man who had your blood in his veins?"
   "You see," said the other, not at all disturbed, "the advantage of being so frank and open. Just what I was about to add, upon my honour! I am amazingly attached to Ned—quite doat upon him, indeed—and even if we could afford to throw ourselves away, that very objection would be quite insuperable.—I wish you'd take some wine?"
   "Mark me," said Mr. Haredale, striding to the table, and laying his hand upon it heavily. "If any man believes—presumes to think—that I, in word or deed, or in the wildest dream, ever entertained remotely the idea of Emma Haredale's favouring the suit of any one who was akin to you—in any way—I care not what—he lies. He lies, and does me grievous wrong, in the mere thought."
   "Haredale," returned the other, rocking himself to and fro as in assent, and nodding at the fire, "it's extremely manly, and really very generous in you, to meet me in this unreserved and handsome way. Upon my word, those are exactly my sentiments, only expressed with much more force and power than I could use—you know my sluggish nature, and will forgive me, I am sure."
   "While I would restrain her from all correspondence with your son, and sever their intercourse here, though it should cause her death," said Mr. Haredale, who had been pacing to and fro, "I would do it kindly and tenderly if I can. I have a trust to discharge, which my nature is not formed to understand, and, for this reason, the bare fact of there being any love between them comes upon me to-night, almost for the first time."
   "I am more delighted than I can possibly tell you," rejoined Mr. Chester with the utmost blandness, "to find my own impression so confirmed. You see the advantage of our having met. We understand each other. We quite agree. We have a most complete and thorough explanation, and we know what course to take.—Why don't you taste your tenant's wine? It's really very good."
   "Pray who," said Mr. Haredale, "have aided Emma, or your son? Who are their go-betweens, and agents—do you know?"
   "All the good people hereabouts—the neighbourhood in general, I think," returned the other, with his most affable smile. "The messenger I sent to you to-day, foremost among them all."
   "The idiot? Barnaby?"

    Barnaby, in his simple-minded trust of everyone, isn't able to discern good from evil, as we painfully discover as the story unfolds. However, Chester has a great many other spies at his command, who most definitely do know evil, as it is their mode of operation.
    Soon after, Joe and Edward are riding back to the Maypole together. Joes holds his horse, while Edward stops in the Warren to see Emma, where he is promptly thrown out. The two lovers then realize someone has betrayed them. Edward returns home to have a talk with his father.
    This is the last main part of the story that I will detail, even though there are so many things going on. But this is important, because we learn the sordid truth about Chester. In fact, his son learns it, too, and is shocked. But the point is, Chester is determined to marry off Edward to a wealthy heir, because he is flat broke and in debt up to his ears, having lived way beyond his means for so long, and even worse, raised his son that way. Unless Edward marries into wealth, Chester will have no means to live. Haredale isn't wealthy, and along with the animosity between the two men that dates far back, the Haredales are Catholic. Edward's first order of business is to declare how deeply in love he is with Emma. Then he learns the real reason why he will never be permitted to marry her. Here is a rather long quote of their conversation, but it is vital to the plot of the story.

   "What I would say then, tends to this," said Edward. "I cannot bear this absolute dependence, sir, even upon you. Time has been lost and opportunity thrown away, but I am yet a young man, and may retrieve it. Will you give me the means of devoting such abilities and energies as I possess, to some worthy pursuit? Will you let me try to make for myself an honourable path in life? For any term you please to name—say for five years if you will—I will pledge myself to move no further in the matter of our difference without your full concurrence. During that period, I will endeavour earnestly and patiently, if ever man did, to open some prospect for myself, and free you from the burden you fear I should become if I married one whose worth and beauty are her chief endowments. Will you do this, sir? At the expiration of the term we agree upon, let us discuss this subject again. Till then, unless it is revived by you, let it never be renewed between us."
   "My dear Ned," returned his father, laying down the newspaper at which he had been glancing carelessly, and throwing himself back in the window-seat, "I believe you know how very much I dislike what are called family affairs, which are only fit for plebeian Christmas days, and have no manner of business with people of our condition. But as you are proceeding upon a mistake, Ned—altogether upon a mistake—I will conquer my repugnance to entering on such matters, and give you a perfectly plain and candid answer, if you will do me the favour to shut the door."
   Edward having obeyed him, he took an elegant little knife from his pocket, and paring his nails, continued:
   "You have to thank me, Ned, for being of good family; for your mother, charming person as she was, and almost broken-hearted, and so forth, as she left me, when she was prematurely compelled to become immortal—had nothing to boast of in that respect."
   "Her father was at least an eminent lawyer, sir," said Edward.
   "Quite right, Ned; perfectly so. He stood high at the bar, had a great name and great wealth, but having risen from nothing—I have always closed my eyes to the circumstance and steadily resisted its contemplation, but I fear his father dealt in pork, and that his business did once involve cow-heel and sausages—he wished to marry his daughter into a good family. He had his heart's desire, Ned. I was a younger son's younger son, and I married her. We each had our object, and gained it. She stepped at once into the politest and best circles, and I stepped into a fortune which I assure you was very necessary to my comfort—quite indispensable. Now, my good fellow, that fortune is among the things that have been. It is gone, Ned, and has been gone—how old are you? I always forget."
   "Seven-and-twenty, sir."
   "Are you indeed?" cried his father, raising his eyelids in a languishing surprise. "So much! Then I should say, Ned, that as nearly as I remember, its skirts vanished from human knowledge, about eighteen or nineteen years ago. It was about that time when I came to live in these chambers (once your grandfather's, and bequeathed by that extremely respectable person to me), and commenced to live upon an inconsiderable annuity and my past reputation."
   "You are jesting with me, sir," said Edward.
   "Not in the slightest degree, I assure you," returned his father with great composure. "These family topics are so extremely dry, that I am sorry to say they don't admit of any such relief. It is for that reason, and because they have an appearance of business, that I dislike them so very much. Well! You know the rest. A son, Ned, unless he is old enough to be a companion—that is to say, unless he is some two or three and twenty—is not the kind of thing to have about one. He is a restraint upon his father, his father is a restraint upon him, and they make each other mutually uncomfortable. Therefore, until within the last four years or so—I have a poor memory for dates, and if I mistake, you will correct me in your own mind—you pursued your studies at a distance, and picked up a great variety of accomplishments. Occasionally we passed a week or two together here, and disconcerted each other as only such near relations can. At last you came home. I candidly tell you, my dear boy, that if you had been awkward and overgrown, I should have exported you to some distant part of the world."
   "I wish with all my soul you had, sir," said Edward.
   "No you don't, Ned," said his father coolly; "you are mistaken, I assure you. I found you a handsome, prepossessing, elegant fellow, and I threw you into the society I can still command. Having done that, my dear fellow, I consider that I have provided for you in life, and rely upon your doing something to provide for me in return."
   "I do not understand your meaning, sir."
   "My meaning, Ned, is obvious—I observe another fly in the cream-jug, but have the goodness not to take it out as you did the first, for their walk when their legs are milky, is extremely ungraceful and disagreeable—my meaning is, that you must do as I did; that you must marry well and make the most of yourself."
   "A mere fortune-hunter!" cried the son, indignantly.
   "What in the devil's name, Ned, would you be!" returned the father. "All men are fortune-hunters, are they not? The law, the church, the court, the camp—see how they are all crowded with fortune-hunters, jostling each other in the pursuit. The stock-exchange, the pulpit, the counting-house, the royal drawing-room, the senate,—what but fortune-hunters are they filled with? A fortune-hunter! Yes. You ARE one; and you would be nothing else, my dear Ned, if you were the greatest courtier, lawyer, legislator, prelate, or merchant, in existence. If you are squeamish and moral, Ned, console yourself with the reflection that at the very worst your fortune-hunting can make but one person miserable or unhappy. How many people do you suppose these other kinds of huntsmen crush in following their sport—hundreds at a step? Or thousands?"
   The young man leant his head upon his hand, and made no answer.
   "I am quite charmed," said the father rising, and walking slowly to and fro—stopping now and then to glance at himself in the mirror, or survey a picture through his glass, with the air of a connoisseur, "that we have had this conversation, Ned, unpromising as it was. It establishes a confidence between us which is quite delightful, and was certainly necessary, though how you can ever have mistaken our positions and designs, I confess I cannot understand. I conceived, until I found your fancy for this girl, that all these points were tacitly agreed upon between us."
   "I knew you were embarrassed, sir," returned the son, raising his head for a moment, and then falling into his former attitude, "but I had no idea we were the beggared wretches you describe. How could I suppose it, bred as I have been; witnessing the life you have always led; and the appearance you have always made?"
   "My dear child," said the father"—for you really talk so like a child that I must call you one—you were bred upon a careful principle; the very manner of your education, I assure you, maintained my credit surprisingly. As to the life I lead, I must lead it, Ned. I must have these little refinements about me. I have always been used to them, and I cannot exist without them. They must surround me, you observe, and therefore they are here. With regard to our circumstances, Ned, you may set your mind at rest upon that score. They are desperate. Your own appearance is by no means despicable, and our joint pocket-money alone devours our income. That's the truth."
   "Why have I never known this before? Why have you encouraged me, sir, to an expenditure and mode of life to which we have no right or title?"
   "My good fellow," returned his father more compassionately than ever, "if you made no appearance, how could you possibly succeed in the pursuit for which I destined you? As to our mode of life, every man has a right to live in the best way he can; and to make himself as comfortable as he can, or he is an unnatural scoundrel. Our debts, I grant, are very great, and therefore it the more behoves you, as a young man of principle and honour, to pay them off as speedily as possible."
   "The villain's part," muttered Edward, "that I have unconsciously played! I to win the heart of Emma Haredale! I would, for her sake, I had died first!"
   "I am glad you see, Ned," returned his father, "how perfectly self-evident it is, that nothing can be done in that quarter. But apart from this, and the necessity of your speedily bestowing yourself on another (as you know you could to-morrow, if you chose), I wish you'd look upon it pleasantly. In a religious point of view alone, how could you ever think of uniting yourself to a Catholic, unless she was amazingly rich? You ought to be so very Protestant, coming of such a Protestant family as you do. Let us be moral, Ned, or we are nothing. Even if one could set that objection aside, which is impossible, we come to another which is quite conclusive. The very idea of marrying a girl whose father was killed, like meat! Good God, Ned, how disagreeable! Consider the impossibility of having any respect for your father-in-law under such unpleasant circumstances—think of his having been 'viewed' by jurors, and 'sat upon' by coroners, and of his very doubtful position in the family ever afterwards. It seems to me such an indelicate sort of thing that I really think the girl ought to have been put to death by the state to prevent its happening. But I tease you perhaps. You would rather be alone? My dear Ned, most willingly. God bless you. I shall be going out presently, but we shall meet to-night, or if not to-night, certainly to-morrow. Take care of yourself in the meantime, for both our sakes. You are a person of great consequence to me, Ned—of vast consequence indeed. God bless you!"

    Despite all Emma and Edward's efforts to communicate by letters, Chester's spies intervene. Simon Tappertit is one, and so is Hugh, the hostler (the one who takes care of the horses), at the Maypole, who is an orphan and little more than a savage himself. As a little child, he watched his mother get hanged for a minor offense "to set an example." He plays the main role in the death and destruction during the riots, but in the end, he puts a curse on Chester, and it comes true. What goes around . . . .
    Anyways, Edward has one final falling out with his father, who bans him from the premises, then we hear nothing of him until the section on the riots. It turns out, he has left England, as Joe did, and they both return about the same time, becoming heroes, along with the other worthy characters.
    Here is one last quote concerning Chester, just to make sure we know what a slippery little bastard he really is.

   How the accomplished gentleman spent the evening in the midst of a dazzling and brilliant circle; how he enchanted all those with whom he mingled by the grace of his deportment, the politeness of his manner, the vivacity of his conversation, and the sweetness of his voice; how it was observed in every corner, that Chester was a man of that happy disposition that nothing ruffled him, that he was one on whom the world's cares and errors sat lightly as his dress, and in whose smiling face a calm and tranquil mind was constantly reflected; how honest men, who by instinct knew him better, bowed down before him nevertheless, deferred to his every word, and courted his favourable notice; how people, who really had good in them, went with the stream, and fawned and flattered, and approved, and despised themselves while they did so, and yet had not the courage to resist; how, in short, he was one of those who are received and cherished in society (as the phrase is) by scores who individually would shrink from and be repelled by the object of their lavish regard; are things of course, which will suggest themselves. Matter so commonplace needs but a passing glance, and there an end.
   The despisers of mankind—apart from the mere fools and mimics, of that creed—are of two sorts. They who believe their merit neglected and unappreciated, make up one class; they who receive adulation and flattery, knowing their own worthlessness, compose the other. Be sure that the coldest-hearted misanthropes are ever of this last order.

The Gordon Riots
    I will conclude this long review with more about the Gordon Riots. Here is the Wikipedia page, but as usual, they have their own way of perceiving history, which is often done in the most conservative manner, usually following the official narrative, and having little to do with the real human aspect. Here's their opening paragraph, and it was nearly an entire week, not several days.

   The Gordon Riots of 1780 were several days of rioting in London motivated by anti-Catholic sentiment. They began with a large and orderly protest against the Papists Act 1778, which was intended to reduce official discrimination against British Catholics enacted by the Popery Act 1698. Lord George Gordon, head of the Protestant Association, argued that the law would enable Catholics to join the British Army and plot treason. The protest led to widespread rioting and looting, including attacks on Newgate Prison and the Bank of England and was the most destructive in the history of London.

    And here are some other quotes.

   The political climate deteriorated rapidly. On 29 May 1780, Gordon called a meeting of the Protestant Association, and his followers subsequently marched on the House of Commons to deliver a petition demanding the repeal of the Act.

   On 2 June 1780 a huge crowd, estimated at 40,000 to 60,000 strong, assembled and marched on the Houses of Parliament. Many carried flags and banners proclaiming "No Popery", and most wore blue cockades which had become the symbol of their movement. As they marched, their numbers swelled. They attempted to force their way into the House of Commons, but without success. Gordon, petition in hand, and wearing in his hat the blue cockade of the Protestant Association, entered the Commons and presented the petition. Outside, the situation quickly got out of hand and a riot erupted. Members of the House of Lords were attacked as they arrived, and a number of carriages were vandalised and destroyed.
   Despite being aware of the possibility of trouble, the authorities had failed to take steps to prevent violence breaking out. The Prime Minister, Lord North, had forgotten to issue an order mobilising the small number of Constables in the area. Those that were present in the House of Commons were not strong enough to take on the angry mob. Eventually a detachment of soldiers was summoned, and they dispersed the crowd without violence. Inside the House of Commons, the petition was overwhelmingly dismissed by a vote of 192 to 6.

   The army was called out on 7 June and given orders to fire upon groups of four or more who refused to disperse. About 285 people were shot dead, with another 200 wounded. Around 450 of the rioters were arrested. Of those arrested, about twenty or thirty were later tried and executed. Gordon was arrested and charged with high treason but was acquitted. Brackley Kennett, the Lord Mayor, was convicted of criminal negligence for not reading out the Riot Act and was given a £1,000 fine. The military units which dealt with the rioters included the Horse Guards, Foot Guards, Inns of Court Yeomanry, the Honourable Artillery Company, line infantry including the 2nd (Queen's Royal) Regiment, and militia from the city and neighbouring counties. The defence of the Bank of England was conducted by the 9th Regiment of Foot under the command of Thomas Twisleton, 13th Baron Saye and Sele.

    Yes, the big problem here was that there was no police of military forces to keep the peace, and even when some arrived, they had not been given the orders to stop the rioters, whatever it takes. That finally did happen, and hundreds of people were killed or wounded, but that was after two prisons, churches and innocent peoples' houses had been ransacked at best, or burned to the ground at worst. Here is one last quote, and as mentioned at the beginning of this review, when people finally awaken out of their stupor, this is what will happen. Yes, just like the French Revolution.

   Edmund Burke later recalled the riots as a dangerous foretaste of the 1789 French Revolution:

   Wild and savage insurrection quitted the woods, and prowled about our streets in the name of reform. . . . A sort of national convention . . . . nosed parliament in the very seat of its authority; sat with a sort of superintendence over it; and little less than dictated to it, not only laws, but the very form and essence of legislature itself.

    And now, here are some quotes from the novel. Dickens did his research, and though this is fiction with fictional characters, from a human/social standpoint, I would trust his accuracy to Wikipedia's. The section begins as Lord George Gordon, his secretary Gashford (whom we find out later is nothing but a scoundrel) and Gordon's servant, Grueby stop at the Maypole before proceeding into London. This quote exemplifies what I wrote above—once the trigger for violence begins, it will be out of control like wildfire.

   To surround anything, however monstrous or ridiculous, with an air of mystery, is to invest it with a secret charm, and power of attraction which to the crowd is irresistible. False priests, false prophets, false doctors, false patriots, false prodigies of every kind, veiling their proceedings in mystery, have always addressed themselves at an immense advantage to the popular credulity, and have been, perhaps, more indebted to that resource in gaining and keeping for a time the upper hand of Truth and Common Sense, than to any half-dozen items in the whole catalogue of imposture. Curiosity is, and has been from the creation of the world, a master-passion. To awaken it, to gratify it by slight degrees, and yet leave something always in suspense, is to establish the surest hold that can be had, in wrong, on the unthinking portion of mankind.
   If a man had stood on London Bridge, calling till he was hoarse, upon the passers-by, to join with Lord George Gordon, although for an object which no man understood, and which in that very incident had a charm of its own,—the probability is, that he might have influenced a score of people in a month. If all zealous Protestants had been publicly urged to join an association for the avowed purpose of singing a hymn or two occasionally, and hearing some indifferent speeches made, and ultimately of petitioning Parliament not to pass an act for abolishing the penal laws against Roman Catholic priests, the penalty of perpetual imprisonment denounced against those who educated children in that persuasion, and the disqualification of all members of the Romish church to inherit real property in the United Kingdom by right of purchase or descent,—matters so far removed from the business and bosoms of the mass, might perhaps have called together a hundred people. But when vague rumours got abroad, that in this Protestant association a secret power was mustering against the government for undefined and mighty purposes; when the air was filled with whispers of a confederacy among the Popish powers to degrade and enslave England, establish an inquisition in London, and turn the pens of Smithfield market into stakes and cauldrons; when terrors and alarms which no man understood were perpetually broached, both in and out of Parliament, by one enthusiast who did not understand himself, and bygone bugbears which had lain quietly in their graves for centuries, were raised again to haunt the ignorant and credulous; when all this was done, as it were, in the dark, and secret invitations to join the Great Protestant Association in defence of religion, life, and liberty, were dropped in the public ways, thrust under the house-doors, tossed in at windows, and pressed into the hands of those who trod the streets by night; when they glared from every wall, and shone on every post and pillar, so that stocks and stones appeared infected with the common fear, urging all men to join together blindfold in resistance of they knew not what, they knew not why;—then the mania spread indeed, and the body, still increasing every day, grew forty thousand strong.

    And then came that "too big to fail" attitude—the rioters' belief that not only would they not die, but they wouldn't even be punished for their evil deeds. Is that not exactly what we have now? Gates, Schwab; these toxic bioweapon "vaccines;" weather warfare? The rioters were wrong. Many were killed or punished. Lord Gordon went to prison, and the Lord Mayor was convicted of criminal negligence.

   Indeed, the sense of having gone too far to be forgiven, held the timid together no less than the bold. Many who would readily have pointed out the foremost rioters and given evidence against them, felt that escape by that means was hopeless, when their every act had been observed by scores of people who had taken no part in the disturbances; who had suffered in their persons, peace, or property, by the outrages of the mob; who would be most willing witnesses; and whom the government would, no doubt, prefer to any King's evidence that might be offered. Many of this class had deserted their usual occupations on the Saturday morning; some had been seen by their employers active in the tumult; others knew they must be suspected, and that they would be discharged if they returned; others had been desperate from the beginning, and comforted themselves with the homely proverb, that, being hanged at all, they might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb. They all hoped and believed, in a greater or less degree, that the government they seemed to have paralysed, would, in its terror, come to terms with them in the end, and suffer them to make their own conditions. The least sanguine among them reasoned with himself that, at the worst, they were too many to be all punished, and that he had as good a chance of escape as any other man. The great mass never reasoned or thought at all, but were stimulated by their own headlong passions, by poverty, by ignorance, by the love of mischief, and the hope of plunder.
   One other circumstance is worthy of remark; and that is, that from the moment of their first outbreak at Westminster, every symptom of order or preconcerted arrangement among them vanished. When they divided into parties and ran to different quarters of the town, it was on the spontaneous suggestion of the moment. Each party swelled as it went along, like rivers as they roll towards the sea; new leaders sprang up as they were wanted, disappeared when the necessity was over, and reappeared at the next crisis. Each tumult took shape and form from the circumstances of the moment; sober workmen, going home from their day's labour, were seen to cast down their baskets of tools and become rioters in an instant; mere boys on errands did the like. In a word, a moral plague ran through the city. The noise, and hurry, and excitement, had for hundreds and hundreds an attraction they had no firmness to resist. The contagion spread like a dread fever: an infectious madness, as yet not near its height, seized on new victims every hour, and society began to tremble at their ravings.

    Even after the military is called out, it didn't stop the madness or delusion.

   At last, at seven o'clock in the evening, the Privy Council issued a solemn proclamation that it was now necessary to employ the military, and that the officers had most direct and effectual orders, by an immediate exertion of their utmost force, to repress the disturbances; and warning all good subjects of the King to keep themselves, their servants, and apprentices, within doors that night. There was then delivered out to every soldier on duty, thirty-six rounds of powder and ball; the drums beat; and the whole force was under arms at sunset.
   The City authorities, stimulated by these vigorous measures, held a Common Council; passed a vote thanking the military associations who had tendered their aid to the civil authorities; accepted it; and placed them under the direction of the two sheriffs. At the Queen's palace, a double guard, the yeomen on duty, the groom-porters, and all other attendants, were stationed in the passages and on the staircases at seven o'clock, with strict instructions to be watchful on their posts all night; and all the doors were locked. The gentlemen of the Temple, and the other Inns, mounted guard within their gates, and strengthened them with the great stones of the pavement, which they took up for the purpose. In Lincoln's Inn, they gave up the hall and commons to the Northumberland Militia, under the command of Lord Algernon Percy; in some few of the city wards, the burgesses turned out, and without making a very fierce show, looked brave enough. Some hundreds of stout gentlemen threw themselves, armed to the teeth, into the halls of the different companies, double-locked and bolted all the gates, and dared the rioters (among themselves) to come on at their peril. These arrangements being all made simultaneously, or nearly so, were completed by the time it got dark; and then the streets were comparatively clear, and were guarded at all the great corners and chief avenues by the troops: while parties of the officers rode up and down in all directions, ordering chance stragglers home, and admonishing the residents to keep within their houses, and, if any firing ensued, not to approach the windows. More chains were drawn across such of the thoroughfares as were of a nature to favour the approach of a great crowd, and at each of these points a considerable force was stationed. All these precautions having been taken, and it being now quite dark, those in command awaited the result in some anxiety: and not without a hope that such vigilant demonstrations might of themselves dishearten the populace, and prevent any new outrages.
   But in this reckoning they were cruelly mistaken, for in half an hour, or less, as though the setting in of night had been their preconcerted signal, the rioters having previously, in small parties, prevented the lighting of the street lamps, rose like a great sea; and that in so many places at once, and with such inconceivable fury, that those who had the direction of the troops knew not, at first, where to turn or what to do. One after another, new fires blazed up in every quarter of the town, as though it were the intention of the insurgents to wrap the city in a circle of flames, which, contracting by degrees, should burn the whole to ashes; the crowd swarmed and roared in every street; and none but rioters and soldiers being out of doors, it seemed to the latter as if all London were arrayed against them, and they stood alone against the town.
   In two hours, six-and-thirty fires were raging—six-and-thirty great conflagrations: among them the Borough Clink in Tooley Street, the King's Bench, the Fleet, and the New Bridewell. In almost every street, there was a battle; and in every quarter the muskets of the troops were heard above the shouts and tumult of the mob. The firing began in the Poultry, where the chain was drawn across the road, where nearly a score of people were killed on the first discharge. Their bodies having been hastily carried into St Mildred's Church by the soldiers, the latter fired again, and following fast upon the crowd, who began to give way when they saw the execution that was done, formed across Cheapside, and charged them at the point of the bayonet.
   The streets were now a dreadful spectacle. The shouts of the rabble, the shrieks of women, the cries of the wounded, and the constant firing, formed a deafening and an awful accompaniment to the sights which every corner presented. Wherever the road was obstructed by the chains, there the fighting and the loss of life were greatest; but there was hot work and bloodshed in almost every leading thoroughfare.

    And though the details of this next quote are most likely fictional, I wouldn't be surprised if it, also, wasn't based on truth. Many of these people were the scum of the earth, drunks, and drug addicts—all gone mad over a cause that didn't even concern them, as they were undoubtedly not devoted to their religious beliefs!!

   The vintner's house with a half-a-dozen others near at hand, was one great, glowing blaze. All night, no one had essayed to quench the flames, or stop their progress; but now a body of soldiers were actively engaged in pulling down two old wooden houses, which were every moment in danger of taking fire, and which could scarcely fail, if they were left to burn, to extend the conflagration immensely. The tumbling down of nodding walls and heavy blocks of wood, the hooting and the execrations of the crowd, the distant firing of other military detachments, the distracted looks and cries of those whose habitations were in danger, the hurrying to and fro of frightened people with their goods; the reflections in every quarter of the sky, of deep, red, soaring flames, as though the last day had come and the whole universe were burning; the dust, and smoke, and drift of fiery particles, scorching and kindling all it fell upon; the hot unwholesome vapour, the blight on everything; the stars, and moon, and very sky, obliterated;—made up such a sum of dreariness and ruin, that it seemed as if the face of Heaven were blotted out, and night, in its rest and quiet, and softened light, never could look upon the earth again.
   But there was a worse spectacle than this—worse by far than fire and smoke, or even the rabble's unappeasable and maniac rage. The gutters of the street, and every crack and fissure in the stones, ran with scorching spirit, which being dammed up by busy hands, overflowed the road and pavement, and formed a great pool, into which the people dropped down dead by dozens. They lay in heaps all round this fearful pond, husbands and wives, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, women with children in their arms and babies at their breasts, and drank until they died. While some stooped with their lips to the brink and never raised their heads again, others sprang up from their fiery draught, and danced, half in a mad triumph, and half in the agony of suffocation, until they fell, and steeped their corpses in the liquor that had killed them. Nor was even this the worst or most appalling kind of death that happened on this fatal night. From the burning cellars, where they drank out of hats, pails, buckets, tubs, and shoes, some men were drawn, alive, but all alight from head to foot; who, in their unendurable anguish and suffering, making for anything that had the look of water, rolled, hissing, in this hideous lake, and splashed up liquid fire which lapped in all it met with as it ran along the surface, and neither spared the living nor the dead. On this last night of the great riots—for the last night it was—the wretched victims of a senseless outcry, became themselves the dust and ashes of the flames they had kindled, and strewed the public streets of London.

They lay in heaps all round this fearful pond.

    And on that, I will conclude; unlike Dickens, I will not tie up loose ends, so you will be compelled to read this amazing book. Please DO! Dickens never disappoints his readers.

    One last comment: These Project Gutenberg editions are often the originals, with the original illustrations, which are not available in the Dover Thrift editions. I usually enjoy them, but the ones for this book I found very dissimilar to how I visualized the characters in my imagination. Perhaps because this was of a more serious nature than many of Dickens' works, I didn't like the grotesque artwork—overly fat, hideous faces, and Barnaby truly looking like an idiot. The illustration on the book cover above, by Charles Andrew Foster (1870) is perfect! However, I did choose these two (this one and the one at the beginning) to share that seemed more appropriate.

dddddddd

All material on this site copyright © 2024 by Laughing Crow.
This site designed and written by Laughing Crow.