What role does Constable play with Phipps in Jack Maggs?

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Edward Constable plays the role of messenger for Henry Phipps in Jack Maggs. He delivers things to Henry on behalf of Jack Maggs. You could also contend that Constable plays a romantic role. The narrator lets it be known that Constable had known Henry "in the most personal and private sense.”

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In Peter Carey’s pastiche to Great Expectations, Edward Constable plays the role of go-between with Henry Phipps. He’s how Jack Maggs communicates with his purported son.

In one scene, Constable delivers some items to Henry for Jack. He gives him a mirror, lemons, and a letter. Henry is not impressed. He tells Constable, “I am not fond of him.” He lets it be known that he thinks Jack is “vile.”

However, I don’t think you should feel too bad for Constable’s sticky situation. After all, it was Constable who offered to help locate Henry for Jack. As Constable tells Jack, “I can find your man, if you should like me to.”

There’s another role Constable might play. If you read between the lines or think about how Constable speaks about Henry and Jack, then you could claim Constable plays a romantic role with both Henry and Jack. The narrator says about Constable,

He knew it unwise, but he had a passion to unburden himself, to disclose that he too had known Henry Phipps, known him in the most personal and private sense. He had been flattered and led astray by that gentleman.

The words “personal” and “private” might make you pause. It could make you wonder if Henry and Constable had a physical relationship. Remember, Constable is referred to as a “specific type of gentleman.” He hangs out at special kinds of clubs.

Constable also tells Jack, “I am fond of you.” When Jack tells Constable that Henry is his son, Constable is confused. “Your son?” he asks. “You do mean son? A type of son, being like a son?” That exchange links to the history of gay culture and Ancient Greece, where young males would frequently pair off with older males for security and mentoring.

While Constable plays the role of a messenger for Henry, he also might play a more covertly or coded romantic role for Henry and Jack.

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