Martin Chuzzlewit "Drink Fair, Whatever You Do!"

Charles Dickens

"Drink Fair, Whatever You Do!"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Dickens was often the conscience of Victorian England, and the theme of Martin Chuzzlewit is hypocrisy and selfishness, as exemplified by the various characters; the character of Mrs. Gamp, Sairey she calls herself, is no exception; nor is her erstwhile partner in sickroom care (one cannot call it nursing), Betsey Prig, an exception. On one occasion Mrs. Gamp invites Betsey Prig to tea, hoping to persuade Mrs. Prig to work with her in caring for Mr. Chuffey, a weak-minded man who will require someone's attention twenty-four hours of the day. Since Betsey Prig is difficult to deal with, and does not really like Mrs. Gamp, the latter is careful in her preparations. The little apartment is made neat as it can be, two whole pounds of highly pickled salmon are purchased, and the tea things are laid out carefully. The tea-pot contains spirits, rather than tea, and the two irascible women make frequent application to its contents. Betsey Prig is not much interested in Mrs. Gamp's proposal and reaches frequently for the tea-pot, too frequently to please her hostess. Mrs. Gamp is finally moved to remonstrate with her guest for taking more than her share:

Here Mrs. Prig, without any abatement of her offensive manner, again counterfeited abstraction of mind, and stretched out her hand to the tea-pot. It was more than Mrs. Gamp could bear. She stopped the hand of Mrs. Prig with her own, and said, with great feeling:
"No, Betsey! Drink fair, whatever you do!"
Mrs. Prig, thus baffled, threw herself back in her chair, and closing the same eye more emphatically, and folding her arms tighter, suffered her head to roll slowly from side to side, while she surveyed her friend with a contemptuous smile.