Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens
Barnaby Rudge

I do adore Dickens' books, but am always conscious there are only a set few to read, so ones I haven't yet read I can tend to delay reading just so I know I have a 'new' one (new to me) in hand to read! I therefore re-read lots of his books in order to save 'new' ones for myself, and also because every time I re-read them I find new things to focus on as they are such a vast treasure trove of characters and storylines. So I'd never read Barnaby Rudge before, and so far have only read it once but I really enjoyed it.

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I do adore Dickens’ books, but am always conscious there are only a set few to read, so ones I haven’t yet read I can tend to delay reading just so I know I have a ‘new’ one (new to me) in hand to read! I therefore re-read lots of his books in order to save ‘new’ ones for myself, and also because every time I re-read them I find new things to focus on as they are such a vast treasure trove of characters and storylines. So I’d never read Barnaby Rudge before, and so far have only read it once but I really enjoyed it. 

It was a very dramatic book to read, I found it upsetting at times with the violence of the mob who are in essence just regular people which makes it extra distressing to contemplate their violence, and I have to remind myself that the Gordon Riots are a part of history and actually happened, which made it even more upsetting to contemplate. I particularly found it hard-going to read of The Warren being burnt down and the other violence committed by the mob, I found I had to keep taking a break from the book as Dickens’ description of it is so vivid with the sheer violence and damage to the property, the senseless waste and destruction, and the almost inhuman and deranged behaviour of the mob, how they become like monsters driven by hatred and without reason or the ability to stop, and how powerless the authorities seemed too. It was very strong and powerful writing. There are lots of dramatic happenings in the story too, which made it quite exhausting to read for the first time not knowing what was coming next. There are several memorable characters too, I really liked and admired Haredale in particular and was so sad at his ending, and Mr Chester stays in my mind as being one of Dickens’ wonderful sneaky manipulative men with some memorable sayings, he is a conniving and selfish man but I still quite liked him and the politely cutting sarcastic things he said, I think he’s up there with some of Dickens’ most memorable characters. I also loved Grip the raven! I did feel at times, though, that it almost felt a little like two different books bolted together, like he’d got the murder and the mysterious stranger etc all unfolding, which was a great story, and then tagged on his writings about the Gordon Riots. The riots were interesting, and dramatic to read about, and as they are about opposing religious sides and Mr Chester and Haredale are on different religious sides this adds to their antagonism so does tie into that storyline, though there are plenty of other things that made them angry at one another, but I kind of felt that the riots could have been left out and the book would still have been fine with just the murder mystery. I did become extremely interested in the Gordon Riots though and have read lots more about them, and Dickens’ writing about them was amazing, but I just had a nagging feeling that the two stories didn’t need to be put together and that the joining of them felt a little bit forced, eg when he wrote The Tale of Two Cities, the historical facts of the French Revolution seemed to be entwined in the story better and flow better than the historical facts of the Gordon Riots. I did love the murder mystery story in this Barnaby Rudge book though, and it made me think wistfully again of what the Edwin Drood book could have been like if it had been finished as he obviously wrote a good murder mystery with twists and turns. However, I’m not sure if it was stated, or I missed, the reason why Rudge had murdered Reuben Haredale and the gardener. I was also intrigued by the title of ‘Barnaby Rudge’, as he seems only one of several important characters, and it also seemed to be that there were other more crucial characters than him. I did miss Dickens’ usual humour in this book, particularly during the historical sections, but it was a good read, and there feels (as with all Dickens’ books) so much happening at the end that it is quite exhausting! I have yet to re-read Barnaby Rudge so I’m sure I’ll discover more and more that I missed on my first reading, and will no doubt also be re-writing this review as so much more will have appeared to me.

This book has an interesting beginning, as it seems a bit of a mystery story. It’s set in 1775. The murder of a local man is being re-told in the Maypole pub on the anniversary of the event, the murder was of Reuben Haredale, master of The Warren house. His steward, Rudge, and his gardener had also both disappeared and were both suspected of the murder, but then Rudge’s body was found in a stretch of water in the grounds (however, I’m already intrigued to learn that it was difficult to identify the body due to the length of time that had passed but that it was identified as Rudge by his clothes and watch and a ring, although he wasn’t fully clothed. So I’m wondering if this was actually really the gardener’s body, and Rudge was the murderer and had dressed the gardener in his clothes and watch and ring in order to escape detection!). The Warren is now owned by Geoffrey Haredale, who is Reuben’s younger brother, he lives there with Emma Haredale, Reuben’s daughter, so Geoffrey’s niece. The murder mystery story is told in the Maypole, as it is every year on the anniversary of the murder on 19th March. This time the group listening in the pub includes a mysterious stranger with a scar on his cheekbone, this stranger then races off to London late at night and in bad weather. He comes across the locksmith, Gabriel Varden, on the road, and almost seems to think Varden would recognise him, telling him he would have come close to dying if he had recognised him (this is all deliciously mysterious!). When the stranger gets to London, he knocks down and then robs Edward Chester, who was also at the Maypole that night, and who loves Emma Haredale. Edward is found by Barnaby Rudge, who may have also witnessed the robbery and seen the thief. Edward is taken to Barnaby’s mother’s house to recover. Barnaby is the son of the dead steward Rudge (so is this mysterious stranger/thief actually Rudge, and did Barnaby realise this was his father?), Barnaby is mentally deficient, and he talks to Varden of having dreams of being watched and followed. He owns Grip, a tame and intelligent raven. 

When Varden visits Edward in the evening, Mrs Rudge seems agitated when there is a knock at the window, Varden sees it is the stranger/thief from the other night but Mrs Rudge appears to know him, she is terrified and prevents Varden from capturing him saying “he carries other lives beside his own”, she says his shadow has been upon the house and at last has come in body, but refuses to explain more about the man to Varden and begs him not to talk of the man to anyone else. 

Edward’s father, Mr Chester, and Geoffrey Haredale meet and vow to work together to break up Edward’s and Emma’s relationship, though the two men seem to hate each other. Edward is turned away from Haredale’s house and he tackles his father accusing him of causing this, he offers to train and study to make his own way in life independently for the next five years and then to talk to his father again about Emma (I like Edward, he seems such a moral man, he doesn’t go into a tantrum with his father as he realises this wouldn’t benefit him no matter how strongly he feels, instead he controls his emotions and recognises he is currently unskilled and fit for no trade and has a privileged and luxurious life which he is slightly ashamed of and willing to give up for Emma, but also sensibly realises this will take time and sacrifice and patience on his part and is willing to work for this rather than expecting it to come to him immediately). Mr Chester explains that all their fortune was lost about 19 years ago, that their present life of luxury is due to debt, and that he is relying on Edward to marry a woman of fortune to rectify this. He also says he objects to Emma as she is Catholic and her father was murdered and she was looked at by a jury, he says due to this ‘indelicacy’, she “ought to have been put to death by the state” (!!), as well as her having no money. (Mr Chester is obviously a selfish and manipulative man, but I do find him extremely amusing in his very polite way of speaking, I wonder if he could turn out to be one of Dickens’ memorable characters, he ‘works’ people, getting them to do what he wants by charming them or staying polite when they get frustrated, he is a liar and will say anything to get what he wants, shamelessly manipulating and misleading people, he’s quite shocking really but I’m prevented from despising him by how funny and charming he is and by his turn of phrase, he’s entertaining to read, a fascinating character). 

The mysterious stranger/thief follows Mrs Rudge home and demands food and money and warmth from her fire. Barnaby comes home and the stranger hides in the closet and studies Barnaby and when Barnaby sleeps he sneaks out, but not before telling Mrs Rudge that he now has power over her with Barnaby’s existence that he knew nothing of till then (so I presume further proof that this man is Rudge, Barnaby’s father), he also admits he’d have killed Barnaby when he came to the rescue of Edward if he hadn’t dodged away quickly. 

Simon Tappertit is apprentice to Varden, he loves Varden’s daughter, Dolly. Dolly is also loved by Joe Willett, son of the owner of The Maypole, but Joe dares not declare this love. Tappertit is a conniving and secretive and high-minded fellow, jealous of Joe and sneering of his employer, Varden. He is the leader of The Apprentice Knights, who meet secretly at blind Stagg’s place to abuse their employers and devise plots for their downfall. The mysterious stranger/thief stumbles across Stagg’s place and seeks shelter there. 

Varden’s wife, Martha, is a self-absorbed and demanding and unreasonable and illogical woman, always twisting a situation to make herself seem hard-done-to. She is aided and abetted in this by her servant, Miggs, who is her devoted slave and self-declared hater of men. 

Dolly is asked by Edward to take a letter to Emma, and does this with the agreement of her parents, and brings back a reply from Emma to Edward. On her walk back from The Warren, Hugh, a gypsy stableboy from The Maypole, accosts Dolly and manhandles her and kisses her. Joe arrives unexpectedly, Dolly is too scared of Hugh to tell of what he has done, but she realises the letter from Emma is missing and a piece of her jewellery, presumably both stolen by Hugh. Hugh later goes to Mr Chester to report back to him and give him Emma’s letter, which he destroys (so Hugh was obviously put up to this action by Mr Chester!). Mr Chester then goes to the Vardens and charms Mrs Varden into promising not to aid his son’s and Emma’s relationship any more, even lying about Edward and making out he’s already engaged to someone else. 

Mrs Rudge goes to Haredale and says they are leaving town (Haredale seems a fair and kindly man who has supported Mrs Rudge since she was widowed, providing her with a home and an annuity, and who seems to genuinely care for his niece’s welfare and only wants to separate her from Edward due to his suspicions of Mr Chester as they appear to have had dealings in the past). Haredale shares his concern about Mrs Rudge with Varden, who tells him about the mysterious stranger at Mrs Rudge’s door. Haredale goes to Mrs Rudge’s house but finds Mr Chester there who tells Haredale that Mrs Rudge and Barnaby have left, he admits he paid them to leave as he knew they aided Edward’s and Emma’s relationship. 

Mr Chester meets with Emma to try and convince her that Edward is not being true to her and is promised to another. The hatred between Mr Chester and Haredale appears to be due to Mr Chester marrying the woman that Haredale loved. 

Hugh comes to Mr Chester again, who seems to realise something about Hugh’s appearance (does he recognise someone else in Hugh’s features, possibly suspect who his parents might be?). 

Joe Willett is finally goaded beyond endurance by his father and leaves to be a soldier, after declaring his love to Dolly (she seems silly and vain!) and being rejected by her. 

Edward tries to talk to his father about his broken heart over Emma’s rejection of him and his belief that her opinion of him has been influenced by bad tales of him from others, though Mr Chester says it is because she learnt he was not rich. Edward tells his father he won’t marry a rich woman, as his father has planned. He is then banned from the house by his father and made out to the neighbourhood to be dishonorable, while Mr Chester is praised for his calmness and good temper in spite of this ‘sorrow’. 

Five years pass, it is now 1780. The story begins again on the anniversary of the murder, 19th March, and one of the locals of The Maypole believes he saw the ghost of the murdered man that evening in the churchyard (I presume he means the ghost of Rudge who ‘drowned’, not the ghost of Haredale’s brother, and that this was actually Rudge, not his ghost). Willet decides to tell Haredale of this tale, who surprisingly seems to take it quite seriously and begs him not to let Emma know, he then leaves home to go travelling, due to (as is believed by Dolly) this ghost story. 

Varden seems trusted by Haredale and he knows Haredale is still looking for Mrs Rudge and Barnaby, although he urges Haredale to leave this hunt to time and Heaven’s pleasure but Haredale saye he’s lately been haunted by this purpose and intends to spend each night in Mrs Rudge’s old home. He tells Varden where he will be in case of emergency, but asks him not to come to him or to tell anyone where he is, and says Emma believes he is out of London. Varden is very puzzled by this and even doubts Haredale’s sanity. Haredale asks Varden to again describe the mysterious stranger at Mrs Rudge’s door, and asks whether he was like any man he had known at any time.

Lord George Gordon and his secretary, Gashford, arrive at The Maypole, they and their Protestant Association supporters are protesting against a bill proposed by Parliament to reduce the restrictions and punishments on Catholics, who they call “un-English Papists”. At that time, Catholics were punished for bringing their children up in their religion, for teaching or preaching their religion, and for joining the army or holding other responsible jobs or owning property, and the proposed bill was to remove these restrictions and particularly to allow them to join the army. Gashford is a sly man creeping and fawning to Lord George and using him to further himself rather than particularly believing in his aims. The Apprentice Knights, now called The United Bulldogs, have joined The Protestant Association, as has Hugh who has also associated himself with Tappertit, as has Martha Varden, as has Dennis the Hangman who is another character introduced at this point though he keeps his job secret. 

Mr Chester is now Sir John and is an MP, and still employs Hugh to find out things for him and report back, he often gleans information from Hugh without Hugh realising he is being questioned, and he also fosters a hatred in Hugh of Haredale. Hugh is overawed by Mr Chester’s intelligence and is intimidated by him and the power he has over him, Mr Chester often threatens Hugh with what he knows about him and states he can have Hugh hanged if he wishes to. 

Mr Chester is Protestant, and while he supports Lord George’s aims privately he does not want to publicly support “a very extravagant madman” but urges Hugh to do so instead. Mr Chester hopes they will form a riotous demonstration that may harm Haredale as an active Catholic. Haredale bumps into Mr Chester and Gashford, Haredale and Gashford know each other from the past as all three were at boarding school together. Haredale accuses Gashford of switching sides to suit himself, and lists to both men the difficulties faced by Catholics due to the Protestant Association. Mr Chester states he does not belong to the Protestant Association but does oppose the relief of Catholics. Haredale sees through this, telling Mr Chester “men of your capacity plot in secrecy and safety, and leave exposed posts to the duller wits”. Lord George joins them and Haredale tries to appeal to him for the rights of Catholics, but Lord George refuses to listen. Haredale then describes Gashford to him as a thief in his boyhood “a servile, false, and truckling knave…(who) crawled and crept through life, wounding the hands he licked, and biting those he fawned upon …(who) never knew what honour, truth or courage meant” and who took his benefactor’s daughter’s virtue and married her to break her heart and treated her with cruelty (phew, these are strong words!). When Haredale leaves them, he is followed by a crowd of the Protestant Association and a stone is thrown at him, he accuses Gashford of throwing this stone and attacks him, demanding of Mr Chester and Lord George to not be cowards and to draw their swords (does he mean to be as seconds for Gashford in a duel?), but is urged, by John Grueby, a member of the Association, to leave due to the numbers in the crowd against him and that he is injured from the stone. Gashford goes to Hugh and Dennis, it was Hugh who threw the stone, he is urged to bide his time and be patient and not be violent too soon but to wait until more men and strength are behind them. Gashford urges them that when this time comes they are to punish and destroy Haredale. 

Varden is a volunteer sergeant with the Royal East London Volunteers (does this mean he will fight for Parliament to bring down the rioters?), although Martha questions why he does this, she calls it un-Christian, though Varden says it is to defend them and his homeland against foreign armies. Dolly is working at The Warren, has lots of men falling in love with her and still sounds a tease, although she is secretly tearful when Varden talks of Joe Willet being gone and his regret that Joe didn’t come to him for guidance. 

Mrs Rudge and Barnaby and Grip are living quietly and anonymously eking out a living in a remote village, although Barnaby is craving a more exciting life and a way to earn money for his mother. However, blind Stagg comes to their door sent by the mysterious stranger demanding money from them telling Mrs Rudge she can easily appeal to her rich friends for this money and threatening to take Barnaby away and bring him up himself if she doesn’t comply (I wonder how he found them, maybe by following the trail of Grip whose talking talents they often used to earn money?). Barnaby is fascinated by Stagg’s talk of adventures and money, and is keen to follow him. Mrs Rudge flees the village with Barnaby, and decides to lose themselves in the great populence of London before deciding on their next step. However, they arrive in London on the day of Lord George’s march on the Houses of Parliament, and Barnaby is encouraged to join the march by Hugh, much to his mother’s horror and without understanding the reasons or aims of the march himself. (I find I am becoming less keen to read now as the book goes on, I think perhaps this is because the riot is approaching which I can tell I am reluctant to read about, anticipating the violence and loss of life, and perhaps also as Dickens is now dealing less with the earlier characters who had such great lines, I realise I haven’t jotted down any quotes for quite some chapters, and is more detailing Lord George and Gashford and Hugh). The military is brought in to disperse the crowd/mob from the Houses of Parliament, a soldier is knocked off his horse by Hugh or Barnaby (or is this Hugh using Barnaby’s flagpole as a weapon?), they escape as the police promise to call off the military if the mob disperses. Gashford finds Hugh and Barnaby and Dennis, and goads them into more violence, and the mob destroys a Catholic church. 

Tappertit returns to the Vardens to find them waiting up for him, Varden hopes he wasn’t involved in the riots as otherwise he will be arrested and hanged, Tappertit admits he was involved and shows no remorse. Varden suggests sending him away to Martha’s relatives at Canterbury in order to save him from arrest, as he has been with them since a boy and Varden feels responsible for him. Tappertit scorns this aid and says he will stay true to the cause, he offers a piece of paper to Martha stating that this property is a staunch friend to the cause, and advises them to chalk the words ‘No Popery’ on their door for the next week, and then runs away. Varden destroys the piece of paper, and Martha feels regretful that she has previously supported the cause. 

The mob continues for a week, as Tappertit predicted to the Vardens, rampaging through the city and plundering churches and properties, all to seemingly no resistance from the authorities (are they scared to antagonise the mob further?, hope it’ll just break up of its own accord?, uncertain about how to act? Dickens analyses what makes up a mob, the people, their aims, their keenness for mischief, their poverty, their disillusionment, etc.). Some rioters are arrested and it is announced that Haredale is to appear as witness against them, at which Gashford reminds Hugh and Dennis of their promise of vengeance towards Haredale. The mob head to The Warren, first destroying The Maypole and traumatising and tying up Mr Willet. They then totally destroy The Warren. Emma and Dolly were inside The Warren (has Hugh snatched them?). 

A stranger (is this the mysterious stranger/thief again?) turns up at The Maypole wanting to follow the mob to The Warren but he is seemingly turned crazy by the sound of The Warren’s bell tolling. Willet, although he seems shell-shocked and numb by the attack and destruction of the Maypole, described this man as a ghost. Haredale goes to The Warren, it is totally destroyed without roof or walls and with broken staircases. He calls out for anyone who is hidden there, servants or Emma, but finds no-one. He hears a noise and springs upon Rudge, and accuses him of being the murderer of his brother and servant, he takes him to London and gets him locked in Newgate (omg, this is so dramatic!). 

Emma and Dolly have been confined in a carriage by Hugh and Dennis and Tappertit. They are taken to a house in London, and it appears Dolly is destined to marry Tappertit, though Hugh obviously has other ideas for her, and Emma is to marry Gashford (it is almost too exhausting to read at this point with so much going on). 

Barnaby is captured and imprisoned in Newgate, with Grip (yet more drama and tension!). 

The mob have fostered panic in the citizens, and threatened and scared them enough to ensure no help or aid is offered to Catholics and they are refused protection against their houses being burnt and refused transport to leave London with their belongings (I find it distressing to read about such a terrible reaction and prejudice against Catholics, fellow human beings, it’s so awful, and also frightening how the mob has become law and answers to no-one, and how ineffective the authorities are against them, being so ill-prepared and unsure of how to act). 

While in prison, Rudge seems haunted by guilt and is regretful of the murders he committed, explaining to Stagg how he always saw the image of Reuben Haredale before him no matter where he went, and always felt drawn to be close to that area even though he knew it was risky to be there, and that he was unable to go to Mrs Rudge’s house as he knew Haredale was waiting there for him. He seems close to repentance but then Stagg offers him a chance of freedom by suggesting he blackmail Mrs Rudge into saying he’s not her husband, in return for the release of her son. Rudge reveals that he told Mrs Rudge at the time what he’d done and she told him to flee, that she disowned him but allowed him to escape justice and caused Haredale to suffer 28 years being judged by gossipy locals to be guilty of murder. When Rudge is exercising in the yard of Newgate Prison, he meets Barnaby and tells him he is his father, at which news Barnaby hugs him. 

There is a soldier with one arm at the jail (something about him makes me wonder if this is Joe Willet?) who listens to what Barnaby says, he goes to the mob and tells them Barnaby is imprisoned, at which Hugh and Dennis vow to burn every prison and set the prisoners free. The mob drags Varden to the prison to make him open the lock he built there. He had tried to defend himself and his house, but Miggs had betrayed him. Although Varden is threatened and beaten, he refuses to do as they demand. The one-armed soldier drags Varden off, threatening to make him do it (is this Joe Willet secretly rescuing him?). The prison keeper also refuses to help the mob, his possessions and furniture are taken and burned (the mob are completely out of control now, this is scary to read!). The prison is eventually stormed and the prisoners released, including Rudge and Barnaby. 

Joe Willet is the one-armed soldier (yay!). He and Edward, with help from John Grueby who was earlier sacked by Lord George and now acts as spy for the other side, rescue Haredale from the mob, who have spotted him and have him cornered. 

Dennis betrays Hugh to the soldiers, as he didn’t agree with Hugh releasing the prisoners that were due to be hanged. He also alerts the soldiers to Barnaby and Rudge and Stagg, and the three are arrested and Stagg is shot dead while running away. 

Joe and Edward and Haredale rescue Emma and Dolly, and apprehend Gashford who is there trying to steal away Emma and dispose of Dolly. Tappertit is lying there injured. 

After four days of fighting with 72 houses and 4 jails destroyed, the riots are ended after the military shoot on the mob, killing and wounding many (I have to remind myself these facts are real, and this riot in London really happened and these people turned into this mob and caused all this destruction and violence). 40,000 people followed and supported Lord George. He is imprisoned in the Tower charged with High Treason. 

Mrs Rudge speaks to Rudge while visiting Barnaby in jail, and appeals to him to confess and repent for his crimes and to hope for Barnaby’s release, but he says he hates both her and Barnaby and his only comfort will be that they suffer as he does. 

Hugh and Dennis share a cell, and Dennis realises that he hanged Hugh’s mother, he remembers that she said she left her gypsy clan for a gentleman and had a son by him but refused to name the gentleman, and that another of her gypsy clan was also hanged by Dennis and named the gentleman as Mr Chester (eeek! Mr Chester is Hugh’s father, what a twist, I didn’t see that coming!). Varden goes to Mr Chester with this info and asks him to speak to Hugh and Dennis, and to try to save his son, Hugh, which Mr Chester refuses to do, denying all knowledge of knowing Hugh’s mother. 

Dolly goes to Joe and asks for his forgiveness and to be his wife, and vows to be a better person, and they are later happily married with lots of children and run The Maypole pub and farm (I am glad she becomes more sensible and realises what she has in Joe, that she appreciates Joe’s worth and recognises that he is a better person than she is), and the King sends Joe a silver snuff-box as a mark of his conduct in the riots. Mr Willet lives in a cottage nearby with a huge fireplace where he talks to his old friends from The Maypole, and even has a fictitious maypole erected, though he never recovers fully from his shocked and numb mental condition affected by the rioters. 

Haredale gives his blessing to Emma and Edward, and apologises for standing in their way before. Edward returns to the West Indies with Emma, where he had prospered. 

Hugh and Dennis are hanged. Edward buries Hugh in an unnamed grave, he had tried to visit him as his brother before he died but Hugh had refused to see him. 

Barnaby is saved from being hanged through successful appeals from Varden. 

Martha Varden is a different woman since the riots (hurrah!). 

Haredale is a sad and aged and lonely man after Emma goes abroad with Edward. He decides to view the ruins of The Warren again, although his sad look and restless night’s sleep make the staff of the inn he stays at fear he may be contemplating suicide. At The Warren he sees Mr Chester, who calls out to Haredale though he tries to retreat without talking to him. Mr Chester says he feels sorry for Haredale for the loss of his house. Haredale accuses Mr Chester of bringing this about using Hugh, naming him as his son, and Gashford as his agents in this. He also accuses Mr Chester of sending Mrs Rudge and Barnaby away, and of spreading rumours that Haredale benefitted from his brother’s death, as well as referring to Mr Chester stealing the woman that Haredale loved. Haredale says “In every action of my life, from that first hope which you converted into grief and desolation, you have stood like an adverse fate between me and peace. In all, you have ever been the same cold blooded, hollow, false, unworthy villain” (phew, such anger and bitter words! I thought Dickens was tying up all the loose ends with happy conclusions, but wow, this bitterness is still to be dealt with!). Mr Chester accuses Haredale of conspiring with him to prevent Emma and Edward’s marriage, and then seeking to redeem himself by supporting it. Haredale and Mr Chester fight with swords (!!). Haredale kills Mr Chester, who, even at the end, is aware of his appearance, and alters his final expression from hatred to calmness. Haredale flees England and goes to live in a strict monastery abroad (I am so sad about this, I really really wanted Haredale to have a happy ending, such a shock that he killed Mr Chester, I didn’t see that coming at all, I wish he could have had a happier ending and not killed Mr Chester and gone to live in a monastery, it feels so unfair after everything he has been through, it is so sad he ends as such an unhappy lonely figure.). 

Lord George is found not guilty of High Treason and is released from the Tower, he converts to Judaism, however he continues to speak out about matters he feels strongly about and his words about the Queen of France causes him to be imprisoned again where he dies of jail fever (I am presuming this is true, as Lord George really did exist). Gashford survives for a while trading on Lord George’s secrets, then becomes a government spy, and finally commits suicide. Tappertit had both legs amputated due to his injuries from the riots, he was imprisoned but released, becomes destitute and is helped by Varden to form a shoe-shining business which becomes successful and (ironically!) employs two apprentices, and he marries. Miggs continues single and bitter, she appeals to Varden to become again the companion to his wife but is turned away, and she becomes a turnkey at a female prison. Barnaby seems clearer mentally after his experience and has a better memory and firmer purpose and is more rational and is generally very happy, though has a dark cloud on him from that time, he and his mother live and work on Maypole farm and he takes on Hugh’s dog (yay!). Grip was silent for a year after his time in Newgate with Barnaby, but then suddenly recovers his voice and constantly talks after that (I am so relieved that Grip survives, I was worried several times that he wouldn’t).

As ever, there are some wonderful phrases from Dickens in the book:

‘Father Time is not always a hard parent and… often lays his hand lightly upon those who have used him well, making them old men and women inexorably enough but leaving their hearts and spirits young and in full vigour. With such people the grey head is but the impression of the old fellow’s hand in giving them his blessing, and every wrinkle but a notch in the quiet calendar of a well-spent life’ (how beautiful that is)

‘…a lady of what is commonly called an uncertain temper – a phrase which being interpreted signifies a temper tolerably certain to make everybody more or less uncomfortable’ (so funny, I love it! This is the description of Martha Varden).

‘… held the male sex to be utterly contemptible and unworthy of notice, to be fickle, false, base, sottish, inclined to perjury, and wholly undeserving… to wish with great emphasis that the whole race of women could but die off, in order that the men might be brought to know the real value of the blessings by which they set so little store’ (so very funny! This is Miggs).

‘Chroniclers are privileged to enter where they list, to come and go through keyholes, to ride upon the wind, to overcome in their soarings up and down all obstacles of distance, time, and place’ (what a magical and enticing description of being an author!).

“There are tales among us, that you have sold yourself to the devil”, “We all have, have we not?… If we were fewer in number, perhaps he would give better wages” (such a great line!).

‘Some of the shops… still adhered to the old practice of hanging out a sign, and the creaking and swinging of these boards in their iron frames on windy nights formed a strange and mournful concert’ (such an atmospheric description).

‘Misfortunes, saith the adage, never come singly. There is little doubt that troubles are exceedingly gregarious in their nature, and flying in flocks are apt to perch capriciously, crowding on the heads of some poor wights until there is not an inch of room left on their unlucky crowns, and taking no more notice of others who offer as good resting places for the soles of their feet than if they had no existence.’ (how true does that seem sometimes, and so beautifully described)

“Wine in moderation… has a thousand pleasant influences. It brightens the eye, improves the voice, imparts a new vivacity to one’s thoughts and conversation” (an observation to be remembered!).

“The birds were all at roost, the daisies on the green had closed their fairy hoods, the honeysuckle twining round the porch exhaled its perfume in a twofold degree, as though it lost its coyness at that silent time and loved to shed its fragrance on the night, the ivy scarcely stirred its deep green leaves” (so beautiful).

“It pursues him through his dreams, gnaws at the heart of all his fancied pleasures, robs the banquet of its taste, music of its sweetness, makes happiness itself unhappy, and yet is no bodily sensation but a phantom without shape or form or visible presence, pervading everything but having no existence, recognisable everywhere but nowhere seen or touched or met with face to face, until the sleep is past and waking agony returns” (this is about the pain of guilt and is very powerful. And occurs to me, could perfectly describe the pain of grief too).

“… he lived in domestic happiness, only chequered by those little storms which serve to clear the atmosphere of wedlock and brighten its horizon” (so sarcastic, I love it! This is Tappertit and his wife).

And finally, breakfast at the Vardens consists of beef and ham and buttered slices of Yorkshire cake (parkin?), and ale in a Toby jug which is shaped apparently like Varden (I love this!).

Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens available on Amazon
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