Study Guide

Our Mutual Friend Book 1, Part 2, Chapter 5

By Charles Dickens

Book 1, Part 2, Chapter 5

Boffin's Bower

  • We look in on a poor man with a wooden leg who hangs out in front of a fancy house in London. He has a stall that he uses for selling little bits of poetry and music that he makes up on the spot. He has been at this corner so long that he refers to himself as a member of the rich household he camps out in front of. For this reason, he always refers to the house as "Our House," although he's never seen the inside of it. The dude has a peg leg and is name is Silas Wegg (how's that for poem fodder?).
  • A clumsy old man walks up to Wegg and calls him "Sir." Usually, you wouldn't say "sir" to a poor peddler like Wegg, so we know this man doesn't understand customs.
  • The guy's name is Nicodemus Boffin, and he wants to hire Wegg to read to him. The old man is illiterate because he's spent his life as a servant. Turns out that this is the same old servant who inherited Old Man Harmon's money after John Harmon drowned. So now he's old, rich, and illiterate, and he wants to get some education by having Wegg read to him.
  • Wegg accepts the appointment after some serious haggling, which Boffin gives in to easily. The man cares about being read to, not about money.
  • Later that night, Wegg packs up his things and heads to Mr. Boffin's house. Before he gets down to business with Boffin, though, he asks for a few drinks and some supper. This dude knows how to get the most out of a deal, that's for sure.
  • From the moment that Wegg starts reading, Mr. Boffin is spellbound. They're reading about the rulers of the Roman Empire, and Boffin takes everything he hears as historical truth, even though a lot of it is pure legend.