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The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit

The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens
By: (1812-1870)

Dickens thought it was “in a hundred points, immeasurably the best” of his stories. Yet it was also one of his greatest flops. Compared to his other novels, The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit was a dismal failure in terms of sales and the main reason for Dickens falling out with his long term publisher Chapman & Hall. They invoked a penalty clause and demanded that he pay back a portion of the advance which he refused. Martin Chuzzlewit was also dimly received in Dickens friendly America. Its vitriolic satire of American customs and manners was met with astonished rage on the other side of the Atlantic and Dickens began to receive masses of hate mail from offended Americans.

The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, His Relatives, Friends and Enemies, comprising All His Wills and Ways... The Whole Forming a Complete Key to the House of Chuzzlewit is the original title, in typical elaborate Dickensian overkill. In fact, in his almost apologetic preface to the first edition, he justifies it. He declares, “What is exaggeration to one class of minds and perceptions is plain truth to another...” and goes on to testify that some of the events and characters in his works are based on reality and not wholly imagined.

Martin Chuzzlewit is the tale of a most unprepossessing set of Chuzzlewits. Martin senior, a miserly millionaire has adopted a young girl with the idea of having free help around the house. His grandson falls in love with this hapless orphan whose employment and connection to the house is to last only as long as the old man lives. Young Martin rebels and leaves the house to seek employment with a crooked and greedy architect, Seth Pecksniff (one of Dickens' most memorable villains) Meanwhile, more Chuzzlewits emerge in the form of Anthony and his son Jonas who have concocted a nefarious Ponzi scheme. Young Martin travels to America and almost dies in a malaria ridden swamp. This is the turning point of Martin's life and he becomes a changed man. The rest of the story follows quintessential Dickensian twists and turns.

Some of the most hilarious passages in English literature are contained in Martin Chuzzelwit. It also features two of Dickens' wickedest villains, Pecksniff and Jonas Chuzzlewit. In Tom Pinch and Mark Tapley, the reader finds much to commend, while Sairey Gamp is one of Dickens' most famous female villains.

Martin Chuzzlewit is one of the best of Dickens and indeed a great addition to your bookshelf!

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Reviews (Rated: 3 Stars - 1 review)

Reviewer: - February 27, 2015
Subject: Review
I'm a huge fan of Charles Dickens, but this was very hard to follow. The narrator did a very nice job and she is easy to listen to. Mr. Dickens uses too many names for one person throughout this whole book so I spent more time trying to figure out who was who then anything else. Good book just confusing.

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