A poor man and his beer

A further thought. This is one of only two confirmed instances in which Dickens has written a second article for the issue alongside the ATOTC volume (the second instance not occurring till 24 September). Does anyone have any thoughts about the relationship between “A Poor man and his beer” and the first three chapters of ATOTC, given their shared appearance in No. 1?

The description of “rude carts, bespattered with rustic mire, snuffed about by pigs” in chapter one for instance, corresponds to the long discussion of pigs and the pig club in the later article; while the imagery of the unfortunate captive in chapter three,  “Got out at
last, with earth hanging about his face and hair,” is recalled later in “Poor man” when the narrator notices “the scrapers at the club-house door. The amount of the soil of England which every member brought there on his feet, was indeed surprising; and even I, who am professedly a salad-eater, could have grown a salad for my dinner, in the earth on any member’s frock or hat.”

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About Pete Orford

I'm an English lecturer at the University of Buckingham, with a research background in both Dickens and Shakespeare; I am also a father of three, with a research background in dinosaurs and moshi monsters. I'm Chief Investigator for The Drood Inquiry (www.droodinquiry.com).

2 thoughts on “A poor man and his beer

  1. There is a connection Peter but I am not so sure that that it is as you describe. There was a lot of strain on Dickens at the time he was compiling the new magazine and I think he was concerned about a great many things especially with his past and how it projected into his future.
    The Poor Man and his Beer appears to be a report on one attempt to improve the lot of the poor, who are to be recalled to (a better) life by improving their everyday life and hopefully providing a conduit through which they would become more educated.
    Watching the struggle the club members had with the simple act of signing their names seems to have depressed him. The earth on the scraper and clothes is possibly a metaphor for shaking off the problems which ignorance brings and Dickens realising that it is a long ,maybe impossible, job
    just as Jarvis visuallises the difficulties in bringing his “recall” back to life.

  2. Interesting thoughts Mr Booley. There’s certainly food for thought of the general tone of an article on the poor with the early indications we get in the first installment of ATOTC of the social injustice and unrest in France (although obviously we can look throughout Dickens’s work for commentary on the lot of the poor!).

    Of course, the significance of the phrase recalled to life may well have more to do with the rebirth of Dickens’s journal, from Household Words to All the Year Round.

    On an non-ATOTC related note, following your comment on the names of the club members, the aliases Dickens gives to them are rather interesting (Nightingale, Thrush etc). The poor are discussed here as rather a collective mass, and even when their names are given, they are generically grouped as birds. Dickens seems to focus on the crowd rather than see them as individuals; its a curiously patronising moment from the champion of the masses.

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