Master humphreys clock, p.1

Master Humphrey's Clock, page 1


Master Humphreys Clock

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Master Humphreys Clock

  Transcribed from the 1914 Chapman & Hall edition of “The Mystery of EdwinDrood and Master Humphrey’s Clock” by David Price, email [email protected]


  [Picture: Charles Dickens]




  Let me have _my_ Pleasures of Memory in connection with this book, bydedicating it to a Poet whose writings (as all the world knows) arereplete with generous and earnest feeling; and to a man whose daily life(as all the world does not know) is one of active sympathy with thepoorest and humblest of his kind.

  Your faithful friend, CHARLES DICKENS.


  4_th_ _April_, 1840.

  Master Humphrey earnestly hopes, (and is almost tempted to believe,) thatall degrees of readers, young or old, rich or poor, sad or merry, easy ofamusement or difficult to entertain, may find something agreeable in theface of his old clock. That, when they have made its acquaintance, itsvoice may sound cheerfully in their ears, and be suggestive of none butpleasant thoughts. That they may come to have favourite and familiarassociations connected with its name, and to look for it as for a welcomefriend.

  From week to week, then, Master Humphrey will set his clock, trustingthat while it counts the hours, it will sometimes cheat them of theirheaviness, and that while it marks the thread of Time, it will scatter afew slight flowers in the Old Mower’s path.

  Until the specified period arrives, and he can enter freely upon thatconfidence with his readers which he is impatient to maintain, he mayonly bid them a short farewell, and look forward to their next meeting.


  WHEN the Author commenced this Work, he proposed to himself threeobjects—

  First. To establish a periodical, which should enable him to present,under one general head, and not as separate and distinct publications,certain fictions that he had it in contemplation to write.

  Secondly. To produce these Tales in weekly numbers, hoping that toshorten the intervals of communication between himself and his readers,would be to knit more closely the pleasant relations they had held, forForty Months.

  Thirdly. In the execution of this weekly task, to have as much regard asits exigencies would permit, to each story as a whole, and to thepossibility of its publication at some distant day, apart from themachinery in which it had its origin.

  The characters of Master Humphrey and his three friends, and the littlefancy of the clock, were the results of these considerations. When hesought to interest his readers in those who talked, and read, andlistened, he revived Mr. Pickwick and his humble friends; not with anyintention of re-opening an exhausted and abandoned mine, but to connectthem in the thoughts of those whose favourites they had been, with thetranquil enjoyments of Master Humphrey.

  It was never the intention of the Author to make the Members of MasterHumphrey’s clock, active agents in the stories they are supposed torelate. Having brought himself in the commencement of his undertaking tofeel an interest in these quiet creatures, and to imagine them in theirchamber of meeting, eager listeners to all he had to tell, the Authorhoped—as authors will—to succeed in awakening some of his own emotion inthe bosoms of his readers. Imagining Master Humphrey in his chimneycorner, resuming night after night the narrative,—say, of the _OldCuriosity Shop_—picturing to himself the various sensations of hishearers—thinking how Jack Redburn might incline to poor Kit, and perhapslean too favourably even towards the lighter vices of Mr. RichardSwiveller—how the deaf gentleman would have his favourite and Mr. Mileshis—and how all these gentle spirits would trace some faint reflexion intheir past lives in the varying currents of the tale—he has insensiblyfallen into the belief that they are present to his readers as they areto him, and has forgotten that, like one whose vision is disordered, hemay be conjuring up bright figures when there is nothing but empty space.

  The short papers which are to be found at the beginning of the volumewere indispensable to the form of publication and the limited extent ofeach number, as no story of length or interest could be begun until “TheClock was wound up and fairly going.”

  The Author would fain hope that there are not many who would disturbMaster Humphrey and his friends in their seclusion; who would have themforego their present enjoyments, to exchange those confidences with eachother, the absence of which is the foundation of their mutual trust. Forwhen their occupation is gone, when their tales are ended, and but theirpersonal histories remain, the chimney corner will be growing cold, andthe clock will be about to stop for ever.

  One other word in his own person, and he returns to the more gratefultask of speaking for those imaginary people whose little world lieswithin these pages.

  It may be some consolation to those well-disposed ladies and gentlemenwho, in the interval between the conclusion of his last work and thecommencement of this, originated a report that he had gone raving mad, toknow that it spread as rapidly as could be desired, and was made thesubject of considerable dispute; not as regarded the fact, for that wasas thoroughly established as the duel between Sir Peter Teazle andCharles Surface in the _School for Scandal_; but with reference to theunfortunate lunatic’s place of confinement; one party insistingpositively on Bedlam, another inclining favourably towards St. Luke’s,and a third swearing strongly by the asylum at Hanwell; while each backedits case by circumstantial evidence of the same excellent nature as thatbrought to bear by Sir Benjamin Backbite on the pistol shot which struckagainst the little bronze bust of Shakespeare over the fireplace, grazedout of the window at a right angle, and wounded the postman, who wascoming to the door with a double letter from Northamptonshire.

  It will be a great affliction to these ladies and gentlemen to learn—andhe is so unwilling to give pain, that he would not whisper thecircumstance on any account, did he not feel in a manner bound to do so,in gratitude to those amongst his friends who were at the trouble ofbeing angry at the absurdity that their inventions made the Author’s homeunusually merry, and gave rise to an extraordinary number of jests, ofwhich he will only add, in the words of the good Vicar of Wakefield, “Icannot say whether we had more wit among us than usual; but I am sure wehad more laughing.”


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