Martin Chuzzlewit "Let Us Be Moral. Let Us Contemplate Existence"

Charles Dickens

"Let Us Be Moral. Let Us Contemplate Existence"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The Pecksniff family removes to London, where they put up at the boarding house of Mrs. Todgers. After a highly patronizing visit to Tom Pinch's sister, Ruth, by the Pecksniffs, plans are formed at Todgers' to have the Pecksniff family dine with the resident commercial gentlemen on Sunday afternoon. The dinner is a great success, with speeches, songs, toasts, and a great deal of other drinking. After dinner the ladies retire, and the gentlemen continue drinking until it is time to rejoin them. During the ensuing jollity, Mr. Pecksniff, who contends that he has a mysterious chronic condition, collapses into the fireplace. He is dragged out and put to bed; when he calls for one last drink a young gentleman suggests water, the idea of which arouses Mr. Pecksniff's ire. As the guests leave, Mr. Pecksniff appears at the head of the stairs in a shaky condition and addresses the company. The "voice of the sluggard" is a quotation from Isaac Watts, later parodied by Lewis Carroll.

"My friends," cried Mr. Pecksniff, looking over the banisters, "let us improve our minds by mutual inquiry and discussion. Let us be moral. Let us contemplate existence. Where is Jinkins?"
"Here," cried that gentleman. "Go to bed again!"
"To bed!" said Mr. Pecksniff. "Bed! 'Tis the voice of the sluggard; I hear him complain; you have woke me too soon; I must slumber again. If any young orphan will repeat the remainder of that simple piece from Dr. Watts's collection, an eligible opportunity now offers."
Nobody volunteered.
"This is very soothing," said Mr. Pecksniff, after a pause. "Extremely so. Cool and refreshing; particularly to the legs! The legs of the human subject, my friends, are a beautiful production. Compare them with wooden legs, and observe the difference between the anatomy of nature and the anatomy of art. Do you know," said Mr. Pecksniff, leaning over the banisters, with an odd recollection of his familiar manner among new pupils at home, "that I should very much like to see Mrs. Todgers' notion of a wooden leg, if perfectly agreeable to herself."