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Going into Society – 1858 – a short story
Dickens wrote this as a story-within-a-story, in 1858. It is about a sideshow and the various characters who inhabit it – especially a dwarf who seeks to gain property and go into society.
|THE STORY: |
The story-within-a-story considers a house-to-let the narrator is seeking out the showman who had previouysly owned it.
He was found in Deptford, smoking a pipe at the rear of a wooden house on wheels, near the mouth of a muddy creek. The showman was Toby Magsman and when asked said he had left the house ‘along of a Dwarf’. He was pressed for more background, and the tale outlines these details.
Toby had seen the house and decided to take it. It was in a good neighbourhood and he had offended his neighbours by hanging a canvas half the height of the house with the image of a Giant.
There was another canvas of an Albina Lady, one of a Wild Indian scalping someone, a further canvas of a British planter seized by two boa constrictors, one that depicted the Wild Ass of the prairies, and finally a canvas showing a Dwarf.
There was a sign saying ‘Magman’s Amusements’ across the front of the house. A barrel organ played unceasingly, admittance was theepence.
The dwarf was named Major Tpschoffki, though his real name was Stakes, and he was called Mr Chops. He was small, though not quite as small as he was made out to be. He was always in love with a large woman, He believed he should own property.
This desire for property was particularly strong when he sat on the barrel organ, with the vibration passing through him. He was upset that he would never go into Society, despite his desire to do so.
At Egham races it came about that Mr Chops won the lottery, twelve thousand five hundred pounds. He immediately challenged the Indian to a fight for five hundred pounds, but the Indian could not raise that sum.
He was upset for a week, but then summoned a genteel young man, who called himself Normandy, to join him in going into Society. Normandy checked that Chops would finance all of this, he agreed and said he would give the young man a princely allowance too.
The two went into socitey wearing silk jackets and riding a chaise and four. They took lodgings in Pall Mall in London.
Magsman went to see them and they ate and drank richly. When Magsman took his leave Chops saw him out, to catch a word with him.
|Chops said he wasn’t happy. He confides his two companions abused his hospitality. Magsman said he should get rid of them then. He says he cannot because they were in Society together. Then leave Society, Magsman suggested. He said Magsman did not understand Society and they parted.|
Magsman read that Chops had achieved his goals by being presented to George IV. Magsman commissioned a picture of the dwarf with bags of money and presenting it to George IV.
He took the house to run his amusements from there. This he did for thirteen months, with his canvases hung outside. Then one night Chops turned up and asked Magsman to take him on upon the old terms, Magsman agreed.
After a meal of sausages Chops declares that he has been in society and he has left it. He declares he sold out of it. He mused that it is not a question of a person going into society, more that society goes in to the person. He mentions that his colleagues had bolted with the plate and the jewels, and that society had taken all twelve and a half thousand pounds.
He says society is full of Fat Women that had picked him dry.
He collapses, when he wakes, he says, ‘When I was out of Society, I was paid light for being seen. When I went into Society, I paid heavy for being seen.’
Chops moved seamlessly back into his old life, his head getting larger as he gained wisdom. One night he asked for music and in the morning they found him dead, Magsman gave him a good funeral.
But the house seemed so miserable thereafter that he had left the house.
The tale ends with two characters discussing this tale, But the narrator declares that Magsman had not been the last tenant, and asks Jarber for dates for the foregoing tale. Jarber leaves and comes back with a new tale. but this is left untold.
Magsman, Toby (Robert)
Major Tpschoffki (Stakes, Mr Chops)
Stakes, the dwarf
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