Martin Chuzzlewit "Leave The Bottle On The Chimley-piece"

Charles Dickens

"Leave The Bottle On The Chimley-piece"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Charles Dickens, in many respects the conscience of Victorian England, relates in Martin Chuzzlewit the selfishness, sham, and hypocrisy of much of life. The story of the brothers Chuzzlewit, Martin and Anthony, and Old Martin's grandson, Young Martin, and Anthony's son, Jonas, is noted for some of Dickens' best characters. Among these is a Mrs. Gamp, available for birthing babies, tending the sick, and laying out corpses. Fond of the bottle and of talking of her friend Mrs. Harris, whom no one else knows, she puts on the proper face and proper air for whatever position comes her way. At the laying out of Anthony Chuzzlewit, she says of whiskey:

. . . "If it wasn't for the nerve a little sip of liquor gives me (I never was able to do more than taste it), I never could go through with what I sometimes has to do. 'Mrs. Harris,' I says, at the very last case as ever I acted in, which it was but a young person, 'Mrs. Harris,' I says, 'leave the bottle on the chimley-piece, and don't ask me to take none, but let me put my lips to it when I am so dispoged, and then I will do what I am engaged to do, according to the best of my ability.' . . ."