Dickens /Major /Dombey and Son

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Dombey and Son – 1846-1848 – a monthly serialised novel

The Dombey family

His seventh novel Dombey and Son was first published in instalments that began in 1846 and ran through 1848. It was published by Bradbury & Evans, and illustrated by Phiz.

Dickens began writing this in Lausanne, Switzerland and finished it in London. Dickens gave a reading of the first instalment of Dombey to some of his friends. This went so well that this gave Dickens the idea of public readings.

The new publishers soon grew the sales of this novel to 34,000 issues each month. William Thackeray’s Vanity Fair being produced by the same publisher
only ever achieved 5,000 monthly copies.
Paul Dombey, 48 years old, is the head of a shipping company and is keen to have a son to carry the business forward, as Dombey and Son.

The story opens with him already having a six-year-old daughter, Florence, to whom he has not warmed, he wants a son. Despite the efforts of the doctor, Dr Parker Peps, and of Miss Lucretia Tox, a friend, his wife Fanny dies after childbirth.

He does however get a son, Paul junior. On the advice of his sister, Mrs Louisa Chick, he employs a wet nurse, Mrs Toodle, called by Dombey ‘Richards’.

Paul Junior is often unwell, a rather sickly child. The children are moved to Brighton where they live with Mrs Pipchin. Paul Junior attends Dr and Mrs Blimber’s school, and while there Paul Junior develops a friendship with Mr Toots, who falls in love with Florence.

During a trip to visit her home at Stagg’s Gardens, Richards takes the children with her. Florence is ‘taken’ by Good Mrs Brown in the melée Though this does not perturb Dombey, what does upset him is that she has taken his son too. He fires Richards for this. Florence has her clothes stolen by Good Mrs Brown, but she is rescued by Walter Gay.

Walter Gay is nephew to Solomon Gills, owner of the Wooden Midshipman, a nautical instrument shop. He works for Dombey and Son and develops a friendship with Florence, which Dombey is determined to spoil. He sends Walter on a ship to Barbados to fill a role in the counting-house there. The ship is lost with all hands feared to have been lost. His uncle, Walter, goes to the West Indies to investigate, he leaves the Wooden Midshipman in the capable hands of his friend, Captain Edward Cuttle.

Paul Junior later dies, at six years old, of an unspecified illness, and Dombey does not seek comfort with Florence, instead he pushes her away.

Paul Snr has moved to Leamington Spa with his friend Major Joseph B Bagstock. Bagstock introduces him to Mrs Skewton and her widowed daughter Edith Skewton Granger. He remarries Edith though she does not love him as he has ‘purchased’ her, her mother having been left in financial disarray. They move back to London.

She runs away with Mr James Carker, a manager at Dombey and Son, to Dijon and sets about ruining Dombey’s reputation. Dombey soon finds he cannot run the organisation without Carker. In an argument with Florence he strikes Florence who has to escape him.

Florence arrives at the Midshipman, distraught and in poor health, Cuttle takes her in and tries to nurse her back to health. While there she is routinely visited by Mr Toots and his friend ‘The Chicken’, a prizefighter.

Dombey sets out to find his wife in Dijon. But she is no more content with her lot with Mr Carker and flees their apartment. Carker decides to return to England but accidentally falls under a train and is killed. After his death his siblings, John and Harriet, inherit his ill-gotten gains, but do not feel this is right. They channel the money back to Dombey and Son, via Mr Morphin.

Walter Gay reappears, he had clung to some wreckage until picked up. He meets up again with Florence and they marry, andplan to leave for China for a year on Walter’s new ship.

Solomon Gills returns from Barbados having heard that a China trader had picked up survivors, so he hastened back.
Walter and Florence leave for China, entrusting a letter to Solomon. The letter is to Florence’s father asking for a reconciliation.

Dombey is left for a year contemplating how Florence had been the one constant in his life. On their return Florence and Walter are reconciled with Dombey, and Walter is having success in his business.

Solomon Gills and Captain Cuttle are partners at the Midshipman and provide a bottle of Madeira that he has saved for this occasion. Edith has returned to England and seeks to mend her relationship with Dombey. Toots has married Susan Nipper, and they have their third child.

At the close of the novel, aged Dombey is the proud grandparent to both a grandson and a granddaughter.

Inside the Wooden Midshipman


Carker, James – devious manager at Dombey and Son
Cuttle, Captain Edward (Ned) – friend of Solomon Gills
Dombey, Fanny – Dombey’s first wife
Dombey, Florence (Floy) – daughter to Dombey
Dombey, Paul- the main protagonist, 48-year-old
Dombey, Paul Junior – the short-lived ’Son’ of Dombey
Gay, Walter – nephew of Solomon Gills, believed lost at sea
Gills, Solomon – maker of and dealer in ships’ instruments
Granger, Edith – Dombey’s second wife
Bagstock, Mjr Joseph – retired army major, Dombey’s friend
Brown, Alice (Marwood) – daughter to Good Mrs Brown
Brown, Good Mrs – elderly rag dealer and kidnapper
Chick, Louisa Dombey – Dombey’s sister
Peps, Dr Parker – a court physician treating Fanny Dombey
Morfin, Mr – assistant manager at Dombey and Son
Skewton, Mrs – aged 70, she dresses as if 20, mother of Edith
Toodle, Polly (Richards) – nurse to Young Paul
Tox, Lucretia – friend of Mrs Chick
Baps, Mr – a dancing teacher at Dr Blimber’s school
Berinthea (Berry) – Mrs Pipchin’s unmarried nieceand servant
Bitherstone, Bill
Bitherstone, Master – a child at Mrs Pipchin’s
Blimber, Cornelia – daughter of Dr Blimber
Blimber, Dr – runs a school in Brighton
Blimber, Mrs- wife to Dr Blimber
Blockitt, Mrs – a nurse
Briggs – pupil at Dr Blimber’s school, ‘the stony boy’
Brogley, Mr – second-hand goods seller and broker
Brown, Alice – returned from transportation, dislikes the Carkers as a result
Bunsby, Jack- captain of the Cautious Clara
Carker, Harriet – sister to James
Carker, John – disgraced older brother to James Carker
Chick, John – husband of Mrs Chick
Diogenes – a large dog at Dr Blimber’s school
Feeder BA, Mr – assistant at Dr Blimber’s school
Feenix, Cousin – a Skewton relative
Flowers – a maid
Game Chicken, The – a rowdy prize-fighter
Howler, Rev Melchisedech – Mrs MacStinger’s local priest
Johnson – at Dr Blimber’s
MacStinger, Alexander – son of Mrs MacStinger
MacStinger, Charles – son of Mrs MacStinger
MacStinger, Juliana – daughter of Mrs MacStinger
MacStinger, Mrs – fierce landlady to Captain Cuttle
Melia – a domestic servant
Miff, Mrs – church helper at wedding to Edith
Native, The – Bagstock’s servant
Nipper, Susan – Florence’s loyal nurse
Pankey, Miss-a child at Mrs Pipchins
Perch – messenger at Dombey and Son
Pilkins, Mr – physician to the Dombeys
Pipchin, Mrs – keeps a boarding house for children in Brighton
Skettles, Sir Barnet – attends Dr Blimber’s dance school
Skettles, Lady – wife of Sir Barnet
Skettles, Master – pupil at Dr Blimber’s school
Sownds, Mr – the beadle
Toodle – a locomotive stoker
Toodle, Jemima – an acquaintance of Miss Tox
Toodle, Robin (The Ginder, Biler) – son of Polly Toodle
Toots, Mr P – the oldest pupil at Dr Blimber’s school
Towlinson – Dombey’s butler
Tozer – pupil at Dr Blimber’s school
Wickham, Mrs – Paul Junior’s second nursemaid
Withers – a domestic
I – October 1846 (chapters 1–4);
II – November 1846 (chapters 5–7);
III – December 1846 (chapters 8–10);
IV – January 1847 (chapters 11–13);
V – February 1847 (chapters 14–16);
VI – March 1847 (chapters 17–19);
VII – April 1847 (chapters 20–22);
VIII – May 1847 (chapters 23–25);
IX – June 1847 (chapters 26–28);
X – July 1847 (chapters 29–31);
XI – August 1847 (chapters 32–34);
XII – September 1847 (chapters 35–38);
XIII – October 1847 (chapters 39–41);
XIV – November 1847 (chapters 42–45);
XV – December 1847 (chapters 46–48);
XVI – January 1848 (chapters 49–51);
XVII – February 1848 (chapters 52–54);
XVIII – March 1848 (chapters 55–57);
XIX-XX – April 1848 (chapters 58–62).

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