Sunday, February 14, 2021

Nicholas Nickleby Readalong 2021 Week #2 Update

This is the second weekly update of Nicholas Nickleby Readalong 2021. How do you progress so far? What chapter are you in?

Chapter XI to XXI brought us to Nicholas' and Kate's further persecutions in their respective situations. At the Dotheboys Hall, Nicholas has had enough of Squeers' cruel treatment to the children, especially poor Smike, of whom he is most affectionate. Smike was about to be beaten, probably to his death, had not Nicholas intervened; and in his rage and indignation, he struck Mr. Squeers (who really deserves it!). Fanny Squeers turned out to be a true manipulator, and to avenge her "humiliating" rejection by Nicholas, she accused him of theft, besides, of course, of beating her father.

The penniless Nicholas ran away, helped by a new character Mr. John Browdie (fiancee to Tilda Price, Fanny Squeers' friend), who I hope will reappear in further chapters. Fulfilling Newman Noggs' premonition, Nicholas seeks his help, and thither he goes with Smike (I'm so relieved at his deliverance!!) Here we were introduced to some fresh interesting charcters from Newman Noggs' circle - The Kenwigses, Mr. Lilyvick the collector of water-rates (I didn't know such profession existed in Victorian era), and Miss Petowker of the Theater Royal in Drury Lane are some of them. Nicholas is hired by Mrs. Kenwig as private tutor for her children, after he rejected a seemed-to-be-promising job as a parliament secretary, which he got from the General Agency Office. However, another promising future character made an appearance here: a pretty young woman seeking job as governess, whom Nicholas saw in the office - would she be his future love interest? Let's hope so. However, after Fanny Squeers' letter of accusation met Ralph Nickleby - who, of course, believes her more than his own nephew - Nicholas is forced to leave home to avoid bringing disgrace to his family, so that they can still hope of Ralph Nickleby's support for Kate and her mother.

Kate, on the other hand, is facing another kind of persecution at Madam Mantalini's. Her colleague envied her for having a better opportunity. Mr. Mantalini, who I predict will give Kate inappropriate attention, turns out to be much less worrying than these new antagonists we are introduced in chapter XIX. They are guests to Ralph Nickleby's dinner party, of which he required Kate to attend. And this is a further proof of Ralph's selfishness and love of money. He "offers" his own niece as business proposition to his two big customers: Sir Mulberry Hawk (a hawk indeed!) and Lord Verisopht (very soft?). After this disgraceful evening, Kate is discharged from Madam Mantalini's due to its bankruptcy. But soon she finds another situation as a lady companion to yet another new character: Mrs. Wititterly.

What awaits Nicholas and Smike ahead? What kind of situation they will stumble upon? And can Kate get deliverance from her two pursuers after entering her new job? Let's see... but for now, I have another topic that we can discuss:


The ill-treated pupils in some cheap boarding schools in Yorkshire during Victorian era - how do you think can it happen in the first place? And for quite so long time before Dickens brought it up?

I think the main reason is because the pupils are unwanted children. In the earlier chapter, there's a man who was interested in Dotheboys Hall because he wants to "get rid" of his wife's children from previous husband. It makes sense, for after you get rid of them, you won't be interested to know more about their welfare; you'd only make sure that they stay where they are, pay the little sum only to soothe your conscience that it's all for the children's sake. The children could not tell their stories, and even if the could, no one would believe it, because they don't want them anyway. It's terribly sad and tragic, and we must thank Dickens for bringing this up in this book.

Now let us hear your opinion! You can leave comments below, or you can post on your blog if you feel like it, but don't forget to leave the link here so we can visit and read your post! But If you have read ahead, please make sure to refrain from any spoilers.

See you next week!


  1. I agree--on them being unwanted children--one can somewhat compare Jane Eyre's school where almost all were orphans. But at the same time, perhaps children n general are fairly reluctant to speak about things that bother them at school. And it wasn't only schools like Mr Squeers, nurses like Sairey Gamp from Martin Chuzzlewit were along the same lines.

    I don't know that Ralph believed Fanny Squeers, most likely he just needed a reason to persecute Nicholas a little more--we know that he didn't take to him right at the start. And being the kind of man he is, he would be well acquainted with what the people he deals with are really like.

    Poor Kate, I really felt for her. Ralph seems to deserve what Nicholas did to Mr Squeers as well.

    1. Agree, Mallika. Ralph has chosen to detest Nicholas from the start.

      I haven't read Chuzzlewit, but I'm interested now :)
      Children might not talk about things at school, but the parents/caretakers can surely notice something wrong during holiday/visits, IF they really love/care about them. Being unwanted children is surely a huge handicap in this case.

    2. I agree, yes, if parents aren't interested, they won't see the signs. And this was a school that had no holidays, so more or less a place to rid yourself of your children

    3. I agree--and Squeers' was a school with no holidays, all the more attesting to the fact that it was for children who weren't wanted. I wonder what happened to the others eventually, the ones whose family didn't abandon them like Smike

  2. I'm still limping along ..... just finishing chapter 4 but I'm enjoying your posts!

    1. Please feel free to comment along in the posts anytime, Cleo. :)

  3. My second week post:

  4. I just finished chapter 19 last night. So happy for Smike and proud of Nick for standing up for him. Where Dickens exposed the common issue of neglect and abuse of children in these poor excuses for schools, it is as if he were Nicholas Nickleby in his own story: a righter of wrongs. I Wonder if the attitudes of Victorian England toward children were simply that there was not much care or concern for them. Children were looked down upon, a nuisance, a bother; and in poverty, they were a burden. Maybe that was why they could continue getting away with the abuse. ??

    1. I'm proud of Nicholas too, though I didn't expect the deliverance would come that soon!

      About Victorian England's attitude toward children, I see some sense in your idea. Maybe not every children are looked down as nuisance, but they tend to feel shameful towards the abnormal ones (in any way: ugly/stupid/etc.). Since they usually have more than two children, they chose to take care the prosperous ones, and abandon the unlucky ones. Maybe? :(


What do you think?