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34

Mr. Pecksniff, in Dicken’s Martin Chuzzlewit, is  hideously self-righteous man who makes a bizarre moral show of everything. Dickens undercuts Mr. Pecksniff with delicious irony

When Mr Pecksniff and the two young ladies got into the heavy coach at the end of the lane, they found it empty, which was a great comfort; particularly as the outside was quite full and the passengers looked very frosty. For as Mr Pecksniff justly observed— when he and his daughters had burrowed their feet deep in the straw, wrapped themselves to the chin, and pulled up both windows— it is always satisfactory to feel, in keen weather, that many other people are not as warm as you are. And this, he said, was quite natural, and a very beautiful arrangement; not confined to coaches, but extending itself into many social ramifications. ‘For’ (he observed), ‘if every one were warm and well-fed, we should lose the satisfaction of admiring the fortitude with which certain conditions of men bear cold and hunger. And if we were no better off than anybody else, what would become of our sense of gratitude; which,’ said Mr Pecksniff with tears in his eyes, as he shook his fist at a beggar who wanted to get up behind, ‘is one of the holiest feelings of our common nature.’

and in another place with a marvel of bombast:

But before he composed himself for a nap, Mr Pecksniff delivered a kind of grace after meat, in these words:

‘The process of digestion, as I have been informed by anatomical friends, is one of the most wonderful works of nature. I do not know how it may be with others, but it is a great satisfaction to me to know, when regaling on my humble fare, that I am putting in motion the most beautiful machinery with which we have any acquaintance. I really feel at such times as if I was doing a public service. When I have wound myself up, if I may employ such a term,’ said Mr Pecksniff with exquisite tenderness, ‘and know that I am Going, I feel that in the lesson afforded by the works within me, I am a Benefactor to my Kind!’

As nothing could be added to this, nothing was said; and Mr Pecksniff, exulting, it may be presumed, in his moral utility, went to sleep again.

Charles Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit