David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

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"What A World Of Gammon And Spinnage It Is"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: After completing his education at the Canterbury school which he had attended by the generosity of his aunt, David Copperfield goes to London. There he meets James Steerforth, an old schoolmate, and with him returns to Yarmouth to visit Peggotty, his mother's former maid, whose kindness had meant so much to him in earlier years. In Yarmouth with Steerforth one evening, Copperfield is introduced to a strange-looking woman named Miss Mowcher, a hairdresser, who presents a fascinating appearance because of her thick, shirt-limbed body and her unaffectedly charming ways. She tells him that his face is "like a peach," and "quite tempting," to which remark Copperfield responds as graciously as he can. Miss Mowcher pretends to be embarrassed at his compliments, which she calls "gammon and spinnage" (nonsense).

I said that I congratulated myself on having the honour to make hers, and that the happiness was mutual.
"Oh, my goodness, how polite we are!" exclaimed Miss Mowcher, making a preposterous attempt to cover her large face with her morsel of a hand. "What a world of gammon and spinnage it is, though, ain't it!"