four mourning rings, besides a brooch representing a lady and a weeping willow at a tomb with an urn on it. I noticed, too, that several rings and seals hung at his watch-chain,

Category: Custom & Law | Type: Discussion | Title: Great Expectations (in Context) | Author: Charles Dickens | Ch: Chapter XXI

Beneath his mechanical exterior, Wemmick is a man of heart, sentimental and affectionate. Owing to his being in the employ of a criminal lawyer, some of whose clients will go to the gallows, he is an ambulatory memorial. 

Mourning in 19th-c. England assumed elaborate and at times grotesque proportions. From Oliver Twist on Dickens satirized the trade in death, which exploited the vulnerable and elevated the hypocritical. One not only wore mourning to the funeral but also, depending on the relationship to the deceased, for months if not a year or more after. Queen Victoria set the standard for the bereaved wife, wearing mourning garb for the remaining forty-two years of her life. Other than one's clothes, mourning could extend to include signs on the house's exterior, jewelry (jet), black-bordered stationary, and black-draped and be-ribboned carriages and horses. 

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