Charles Dickens, Great Expectations: Ch. 27

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Chapter XXVII

"MY DEAR MR PIP:—

"I write this by request of Mr. Gargery, for to let you know that he is going to London in company with Mr. Wopsle and would be glad if agreeable to be allowed to see you. He would call at Barnard's Hotel Tuesday morning at nine o'clock, when if not agreeable please leave word. Your poor sister is much the same as when you left. We talk of you in the kitchen every night, and wonder what you are saying and doing. If now considered in the light of a liberty, excuse it for the love of poor old days. No more, dear Mr. Pip, from your ever obliged, and affectionate servant,

"BIDDY."

"P.S. He wishes me most particular to write what larks. He says you will understand. I hope and do not doubt it will be agreeable to see him, even though a gentleman, for you had ever a good heart, and he is a worthy, worthy man. I have read him all, excepting only the last little sentence, and he wishes me most particular to write again what larks."

I received this letter by the post on Monday morning, and therefore its appointment was for next day. Let me confess exactly with what feelings I looked forward to Joe's coming.

Not with pleasure, though I was bound to him by so many ties; no; with considerable disturbance, some mortification, and a keen sense of incongruity.d If I could have kept him away by paying money, I certainly would have paid money. My greatest reassurance was that he was coming to Barnard's Inn, not to Hammersmith, and consequently would not fall in Bentley Drummle's way. I had little objection to his being seen by Herbert or his father, for both of whom I had a respect; but I had the sharpest sensitiveness as to his being seen by Drummle, whom I held in contempt. So, throughout life, our worst weaknesses and meannesses are usually committed for the sake of the people whom we most despise.

I had begun to be always decorating the chambers in some quite unnecessary and inappropriate way or other, and very expensive those wrestles with Barnard proved to be. By this time, the rooms were vastly different from what I had found them, and I enjoyed the honor of occupying a few prominent pages in the books of a neighboring upholsterer. I had got on so fast of late, that I had even started a boy in boots,—top bootsd,—in bondage and slavery to whom I might have been said to pass my days. For, after I had made the monster (out of the refuse of my washerwoman's family), and had clothed him with a blue coat, canary waistcoat, white cravat, creamy breeches, and the boots already mentioned, I had to find him a little to do and a great deal to eat; and with both of those horrible requirements he haunted my existence.

This avenging phantomd was ordered to be on duty at eight on Tuesday morning in the hall, (it was two feet square, as charged for floorcloth,) and Herbert suggested certain things for breakfast that he thought Joe would like. While I felt sincerely obliged to him for being so interested and considerate, I had an odd half-provoked sense of suspicion upon me, that if Joe had been coming to see him, he wouldn't have been quite so brisk about it.

However, I came into town on the Monday night to be ready for Joe, and I got up early in the morning, and caused the sitting-room and breakfast-table to assume their most splendid appearance. Unfortunately the morning was drizzly, and an angel could not have concealed the fact that Barnard was shedding sooty tears outside the window, like some weak giant of a Sweep.w

As the time approached I should have liked to run away, but the Avenger pursuant to orders was in the hall, and presently I heard Joe on the staircase. I knew it was Joe, by his clumsy manner of coming up stairs,—his state boots being always too big for him,—and by the time it took him to read the names on the other floors in the course of his ascent. When at last he stopped outside our door, I could hear his finger tracing over the painted letters of my name, and I afterwards distinctly heard him breathing in at the keyhole. Finally he gave a faint single rap, and Pepperw—such was the compromising name of the avenging boy—announced "Mr. Gargery!" I thought he never would have done wiping his feet, and that I must have gone out to lift him off the mat, but at last he came in.

"Joe, how are you, Joe?"

"Pip, how AIR you, Pip?"

X [d] I was bound to him by so many ties; no; with …

Writing & Reading

The verb "bound" reminds us that there are strongly positive bonds, such as those of "what larks" and Joe and Pip's early life together. Perhaps the most significant evidence of Pip's moral corruption is his treatment of Joe and embarrassment. In suppressing his past bonds with Joe, Pip denies what was most humane in himself and noble in Joe.

X [d] a boy in boots,—top boots

Class

Servants were often called not by their actual name but by their function. A "boots" in an inn cleaned the travelers' boots and shoes during the night. The OED lists this use in "Dickens Sketches by Boz 1st Ser. II. 218: "'I'm the boots as b'longs to the house.""…

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X [d] This avenging phantom

Mind

Brilliant comedy but even more brilliant psychology. Dickens's insights in his late great novels are so piercing as to approach the uncanny.  Pip has said above that "I had made the monster." He did so artfully. He knows at some level that he is himself merely a mannequin of a gentleman. At his psychological core he remains the boy Estella mocked for his hands, boots, and diction, …

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X [w] Sweep.

People

Chimney-sweep. 

X [w] Pepper

Writing & Reading

Is "to beat or thrash" in Shakespeare, according to John Camden Hotten's A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words (1860), and thus Pepper joins the Avenger, Trabb's Boy, and the other menacing boys and young men.