by Charles Dickens
Bleak House Respect and Reputation Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Sir Leicester receives the gout as a troublesome demon, but still a demon of the patrician order. All the Dedlocks, in the direct male line, through a course of time during and beyond which the memory of man goeth not to the contrary, have had the gout. It can be proved, sir. Other men's fathers may have died of the rheumatism or may have taken base contagion from the tainted blood of the sick vulgar, but the Dedlock family have communicated something exclusive even to the levelling process of dying by dying of their own family gout. It has come down through the illustrious line like the plate, or the pictures, or the place in Lincolnshire. It is among their dignities. Sir Leicester is perhaps not wholly without an impression, though he has never resolved it into words, that the angel of death in the discharge of his necessary duties may observe to the shades of the aristocracy, "My lords and gentlemen, I have the honour to present to you another Dedlock certified to have arrived per the family gout." (16.2)
You've got to love a guy who is so into getting the respect he deserves that he even classifies diseases into those that are appropriate or inappropriate to a man of his social stature. That's either totally ridiculous or kind of secretly awesome.
Mrs. Woodcourt, after expatiating to us on the fame of her great kinsman, said that no doubt wherever her son Allan went he would remember his pedigree and would on no account form an alliance below it. She told him that there were many handsome English ladies in India who went out on speculation, and that there were some to be picked up with property, but that neither charms nor wealth would suffice for the descendant from such a line without birth, which must ever be the first consideration. She talked so much about birth that for a moment I half fancied, and with pain-- But what an idle fancy to suppose that she could think or care what MINE was! (17.112)
So can we talk about the horror that is this woman? And that she's going to be Esther's mother-in-law? To sit there and constantly talk about how important birth is to the Woodcourt family and how high-born they are – seriously, even if Esther weren't totally into Woodcourt, this would be pretty shockingly rude.
"Ha'n't you no relations, now," asks Grandfather Smallweed with a twinkle in his eyes, "who would pay off this little principal or who would lend you a good name or two that I could persuade my friend in the city to make you a further advance upon? Two good names would be sufficient for my friend in the city. Ha'n't you no such relations, Mr. George?"
Mr. George, still composedly smoking, replies, "If I had, I shouldn't trouble them. I have been trouble enough to my belongings in my day. It MAY be a very good sort of penitence in a vagabond, who has wasted the best time of his life, to go back then to decent people that he never was a credit to and live upon them, but it's not my sort. The best kind of amends then for having gone away is to keep away, in my opinion." (21.18-19)
George's credit rating suffers because he can't (or doesn't) give any references. Back in the day, before social security numbers, credit scores, and background checks, there really wasn't much to go on to evaluate someone's credit risk. It was usually just reputation-based – and you can imagine how accurate an assessment that would be. Obviously moneylenders are almost always horrible, evil characters in Victorian novels, but you can sympathize a little with how unsupported they were in their business, and the kind of financial risk out there in the days before modern banking products. OK, that's it for our finance lesson.