Doctor Marigold by Charles Dickens

“I am Cheap Jack, and my own father’s name was Willum Marigold.”

And so we are introduced to Doctor Marigold, bestowed with such an unusual first name for a Cheap Jack in honour of the doctor who delivered him.  I did not imagine him in the appearance of the rather dandified peasant-gypsy looking gentleman on the cover to the left, but I suppose that’s beside the point.  In any case, Doctor Marigold, as you know, is a Cheap Jack. For those who don’t know what a Cheap Jack is (I raise my hand), it’s a hawker who deals in bargain merchandise, anything from plates to frying pans to razors to watches to rolling pins and everything in between.  Marigold has followed his father’s trade like a good son.

Doctor Marigold 1868
E.G. Dalziel
source Victoria Web

Soon Marigold marries a woman who is not a bad wife by his estimation, but whoa, does she have a temper!  She berates and torments her husband, and later beats their daughter, Sophy, while Marigold stands and watches.  Why doesn’t he intervene?  Because it causes more of a ruckus than observing, and then people suspect that he is beating his wife.  Wimp.

Sophy grows up especially attached to her father and fearful of her mother — no kidding.  Yet with their vagrant lifestyle, she becomes ill and passes away.  One fateful day, the now childless couple come across a mother beating her tearfully pleading daughter, and with a shrill scream his wife tears away and drowns herself in the river.  Good riddance.

Lonely Marigold now roams the country alone, until one day he comes across a deaf and dumb child whom he purchases and calls Sophy.  They are devoted to each other for years, until, when she reaches sixteen, he decides to have her educated and puts her in an institution for two years.  When he returns she is thrilled to see him, but as they resume their lives, he learns that she has acquired a suitor.  Old generous Marigold decides he cannot stand in the way of their love —- although Sophy is willing to give it up to stay with her father —- and allows them to marry.  The couple then move to China and five or so years later return with Marigold’s granddaughter for a reunion.

E.A. Abbey
source Victoria Web

Again, Dickens is somewhat of a trial to read.  On one hand, his stories engage you for being overly maudlin and nauseatingly sentimental but I can never shake the feeling that he seems to think that as long as he uses affected emotional scenes and obscurely clever sentences, he can win adherents with such contrived effort.  I find it almost insulting. However, as much as the first part of the story really irritated me, I must admit, I somewhat fell for it in the end. Perhaps Dickens achieved his desired effect after all.

This short story, so far is my least favourite of my Deal Me In Challenges.  We’ll see what next week brings.

Deal Me In Challenge #7 – Three of Clubs

10 thoughts on “Doctor Marigold by Charles Dickens

  1. I've onlyread a few of Dickens's short stories and this one isn't one of them. From your descriptions, I imagine the characters aren't too different from ones we'd run into in his novels. From my experience, I'd guess CD should stick to longer works, but on those occasions I've read his short stories it was always an odd feeling knowing I was reading dickens yet knowing also that I'd be done in one sitting… 🙂

  2. Yes, an odd feeling indeed! This one was like eating icing off a cake and then being surprised when there was no cake underneath. Because it is so short, it's worth a read, as long as you're not expecting much.

  3. Hmm. I hadn't even heard of this Dickens story. It does not sound like one of his best, but imagine even the worst Dickens is worth reading. He was one entertaining writer. But I agree that some of his maudlin sentimentality can get on my nerves. Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop was a little much. : )

  4. Ooo, I haven't read The Old Curiosity Shop yet, but I have heard comments about Little Nell. Lucy, in A Tale of Two Cities, irritated me but by my third read, I got used to her.

    I'm trying to put some distance between me and Dickens. I started to read his books with a group in order (coming in when they were already a few books into it), but I found the more often I read him, the more I began to develop a distaste for his writing. So I'm trying to take him in measured doses. I think there's a Bleak House read-along coming up, so I'm excited about that. I've discovered that I MUCH prefer Trollope to Dickens. Trollope's characters are more real …… they are not overdone but he imbues them with such life and character. The struggles they face are realistic, as are their reactions to them. Yes, he's my new favourite!

  5. I think there are seasons to read different authors. I loved Dickens in college and as a teenager but haven't read him much since. I've never even heard of this book. I'm going to go find it.

  6. I definitely think your impressions as a teen can change as you mature, but now that I'm no longer a teen, I don't think my impression will change with Dickens. I'm hoping to massage it into a more positive view however, but at times, he really annoys me. I'll keep plugging away though. I do still want to finish all of his novels.

  7. A short-story challenge! Why was I not made aware of this! 🙁

    Charles Dickens continues to be a thorn in my side but this one sounds pretty good. Perhaps his short stories will appeal to me more since I find his bloated and verbose style to be most aggravating.

  8. This is the Deal Me in Challenge! Which is supposed to be short stories, but I'm doing short stories, poetry, essays and children's classics.

    Ah, I'm not sure if you'd like this one but it's short. I'd be interested to hear what you think.

  9. I've never even heard of this! Not read many short stories by Dickens. On the whole I like his novels, but they are very hit and miss. One of my favourite books ever is by Dickens, as is one of my least favourite ever! 🙂

  10. Okay, you must tell me what those books are now that you've whetted my curiousity!

    I really liked Martin Chuzzlewit ….. I think that's my favourite so far, and I do like A Tale of Two Cities. But I haven't read some of his biggies: Bleak House and Great Expectations, so one of those might take top billing.

    I think that because I'm reading so much Trollope, that I've been comparing them and I do find that Dickens comes up wanting overall. He seems to try to hard to be ….. well, to be Dickens, whereas Trollope seems more natural.

Thanks for visiting. I'd love to hear from you and have you join in the discussion!