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Martin Chuzzlewit (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 25 Nov 1999


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Product details

  • Paperback: 864 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (25 Nov. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140436146
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140436143
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 451,734 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Martin Chuzzlewit is a dramatic serial on Masterpiece Theatre, a PBS television series presented by WGBH-TV, Boston, made possible by a grant from Mobil Corporation.

Book Description

Martin Chuzzlewit is a comic masterpiece which courted controversy on publication with its scathing portrayal of nineteenth-century America --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
As no lady or gentleman, with any claims to polite breeding, can possibly sympathise with the Chuzzlewit Family without being first assured of the extreme antiquity of the race, it is a great satisfaction to know that it undoubtedly descended in a direct line from Adam and Eve; and was, in the very earliest times, closely connected with the agricultural interest. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 31 May 2000
Format: Paperback
Martin Chuzzlewit is a gigantic sprawling Victorian novel about relationships. In typical Dickensian fashion it is both serious and comic as it deals with various relationships between family members (in particular Martin Chuzzlewit senior and his grandson, Martin junior), friends, acquaintances and enemies. There are a great many brilliant characters in this novel, though I would especially single out Seth Pecksniff, the worst, the most hypocritical and vile villain imaginable, and Tom Pinch, a better man and friend than anyone could ever ask to meet.
Although the plot does tend to ramble at times, in the last quarter of the novel where the focus switches to the actions of Jonas Chuzzlewit, it moves along at a fair old clip.
This might not be Dickens' greatest novel (I would place at least four or five of the others before it) but it is, nonetheless, a minor comic masterpiece that has a great deal of wisdom and sheer pleasure to offer any reader. And oh! what characters you're guaranteed to meet on the way!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Casley TOP 500 REVIEWER on 25 Oct. 2003
Format: Paperback
Dickens included experiences of his recent first tour of America in this novel, poking generous fun at the pretensions of the "U-nited States", whilst making equal mischief with his English characters too.
It's already been said how rambling this novel can be, but in many ways Dickens wrote it as ideas came into his head with only a mild inkling as to how it would all end. And although his characters tend to be wholly righteous or wholly evil, this does at least allow for excellent comedy, for it is by emphasising the extreme aspects of character at the expense of a more well-rounded disposition that we can laugh at some aspects of ourselves.
A good read.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 April 1998
Format: Hardcover
Martin Chuzzlewit is a funny, memorable, and insightful book. The engravings in the Oxford Illustrated edition are a charming addition to this story of hypocrisy, family intrigue, selfishness, loyalty, and friendship. Dickens's use of language is precise and often stinging. The book is laced with humor in the service of more profound goals. If you buy the Oxford Illustrated edition, skip the critical essay at the start of the volume, as it gives away some plot elements best left for the reader to discover. (Read the essay AFTER you have finished the book, if you like, or just ignore it.) My 9 rating reflects the combination of humor, satire, memorable characters (most especially the resolutely jolly Mark Tapley and the hypocritical Mr. Pecksniff), and a thoroughly entertaining plot.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Ian Nixon on 10 April 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was the third Dickens book I've read over the last few months. Having not read any Dickens since my schooldays (and then only A Christmas Carol)I have been astonished at the wit, irony and humour which are contained in even the darkest passages of all the books I've read so far. I expected to find them hard going and a bit longwinded but nothing could be further from the truth. The narrative moves at pace and the plots are imaginative and gripping. I wish I'd started reading Dickens years ago and now intend to continue to do so. I've now read Hard Times, The Old Curiosity Shop, Martin Chuzzlewit and Great Expectations. Dickens descriptions of characters are sometimes 'laugh-out-loud' amusing. Not at all what I expected from a mid-nineteenth author. In addition many topics, eg pollution, were as relevant then as they are today. A total joy all round.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Paul J. Bradshaw on 26 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback
Dickens is unquestionably one of the best writers in the history of English literature, combining compelling plots with laugh-out-loud humour and a savage satirical eye. Having read most of his books, I have to say Martin Chuzzlewit is one of the best - second only, in fact, to the awesome Tale of Two Cities.

This is despite the book having possibly the worst beginning of the lot - if you can get past the initial 8 pages, where not one character appears, you'll find several dozen well worth the wait. This includes the usual memorable characters - drunken Mrs Gamp and her imaginary friend; the older-than-his-years Mr Bailey; and Mark Tapley, who finds no credit in being happy unless he is surrounded by the most miserable of circumstances; not to mention Pecksniff, Charity and Mercy.

But what is most notable in the book is its picture of a self-mythologising America, a country where "they're so fond of Liberty that they buy her and sell her and carry her to market with 'em. They've such a passion for Liberty, that they can't help taking liberties with her," a country which holds itself up as an example to the rest of the world, and where any criticism of an individual American is held to be a criticism of its "institutions" and defended as such. It's a picture that has many echoes more than 150 years on, perhaps demonstrating how long the legend of 'America' has been in development.

The story is about greed, and the plot is comedy. The observation is sharp as ever, focusing on hypocrisy, selfishness, and including a fascinating portrait of guilt. It's one of the best books ever, hilarious at points, and wickedly true. Just read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ali Waterson on 23 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
This is I suppose a pivotal book in Dickens' development, because amidst all the rich mulch of sentimentality and wonderful comedy you can find the dark seeds of all his later triumphs growing vigorously. And it is rightly loved for Todgers, Mrs Gamp, the Moulds, young Bailey, the Anglo-Bengalee, Jonas and the murder, and so much more. But it's a bit ruined by the American episodes, which are like a completely different and inferior book - so jarringly different, indeed, that on my 1981 copy the jacket doesn't even mention them. America is portrayed entirely from the point of view of an unadmitted outsider; the satire is thin and infinitely repetitious. When Martin and Mark hastily beat a retreat to England (Chapter 35) - to the fervently-described "home" - you can sense the author's spirits recovering like the sparkling waters in the port. The pair sit down in a pub, and Dickens describes the room: "one of those unaccountable little rooms which are never seen anywhere but in a tavern, and are supposed to have got into taverns by reason of the facilities afforded to the architect for getting drunk while engaged in their construction". This is the kind of lively comedy that is entirely missing from the American pages; because it's dependent (like any stand-up routine today) on the audience's laughing familiarity with the thing described. But transatlantic travel (or at any rate, the return passage) was still so rare that Dickens couldn't reasonably expect any of his audience to have any inwardness with American scenes.Read more ›
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