Charles Dickens: a bicentennial fanfare

Charles Dickens was born on 7 February 1812.  To mark the bicentennial, here’s Simon Callow’s superb appreciation of the novelist, from last Saturday’s ‘My Hero’ feature in The Guardian:

You start with the work, of course. In my case The Pickwick Papers, thrust into my hands at the age of 13. It danced before my eyes, a great hokey-cokey of eccentrics, conmen, phony politicians, amorous widows and wily, witty servants, somehow catching an essence of what it is to be English, celebrating companionship, generosity, good nature, in the figure of Samuel Pickwick, Esqone of the great embodiments in literature of benevolence. This quality mattered a great deal to me then, and it does now.

A tear sprang to my eyes when I read the book’s great closing words: “Some men, like bats or owls, have better eyes for the darkness than for the light. We, who have no such optical powers, are better pleased to take our last parting look at the visionary companions of many solitary hours, when the brief sunshine of the world is blazing full upon them.” When I first read it, I had no idea how hard-won that sunny vision had been for its 25-year-old author. Only 12 years before, he had been a drudge in a shoe-polish factory, living on his own, his family in debtors’ jail; he felt abandoned, humiliated, hungry, heart-broken, close to annihilation. By a supreme effort of will, the moment he was liberated from the factory, he turned away from the dark feelings that threatened to engulf him and threw himself into life with a blazing enthusiasm, becoming a beacon of energy and fun. The rest of his life was a negotiation between those high spirits and the dejection with which he had been acquainted so early.

This alone would not be enough to make him my hero, though it is a heroic effort, this attempt to keep faith with life. The reason I love him so deeply is that, having experienced the lower depths, he never ceased, till the day he died, to commit himself, both in his work and in his life, to trying to right the wrongs inflicted by society, above all, perhaps by giving the dispossessed a voice. From the moment he started to write, he spoke for the people, and the people loved him for it, as do I.

Recently, in the Telegraph, David Lodge chose the opening to Bleak House as his favourite passage from Dickens.  It’s mine, too.  Lodge said, ‘This is one of the finest openings to a novel ever written. On one level it is a vividly realistic picture of London and the river Thames in filthy weather, but Dickens’s metaphorical imagination and prophetic style makes the mud (accumulating at compound interest) and all-pervasive fog symbols of the greed and injustice endemic in the social system over which the Lord High Chancellor presides’.

London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, 40 feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes – gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another’s umbrellas in a general infection of ill temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ‘prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon and hanging in the misty clouds.

Gas looming through the fog in divers places in the streets, much as the sun may, from the spongey fields, be seen to loom by husbandman and ploughboy. Most of the shops lighted two hours before their time – as the gas seems to know, for it has a haggard and unwilling look.

The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation, Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln’s Inn Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.

(The image above is by Nick Gommon, a black and white shot titled ‘A Dickens View’ which could be straight from the 19th century but was actually taken one foggy, cold morning from London Bridge in February 2011. It won first prize in a ‘My View of London’ competition.)

Lower Fore Street, a cobblestoned street in Lambeth, pictured in 1865

The opening of chapter 3 of Little Dorrit (when the story moves from Marseilles to London) evokes a similar atmospheric sense of London’s streets:

It was a Sunday evening in London, gloomy, close, and stale. Maddening church bells of all degrees of dissonance, sharp and flat, cracked and clear, fast and slow, made the brick-and-mortar echoes hideous. Melancholy streets, in a penitential garb of soot, steeped the souls of the people who were condemned to look at them out of windows, in dire despondency. In every thoroughfare, up almost every alley, and down almost every turning, some doleful bell was throbbing, jerking, tolling, as if the Plague were in the city and the dead-carts were going round. Everything was bolted and barred that could by possibility furnish relief to an overworked people. No pictures, no unfamiliar animals, no rare plants or flowers, no natural or artificial wonders of the ancient world—all taboo with that enlightened strictness, that the ugly South Sea gods in the British Museum might have supposed themselves at home again. Nothing to see but streets, streets, streets. Nothing to breathe but streets, streets, streets. Nothing to change the brooding mind, or raise it up. Nothing for the spent toiler to do, but to compare the monotony of his seventh day with the monotony of his six days, think what a weary life he led, and make the best of it—or the worst, according to the probabilities.

From Gustav Dore’s ‘London’

I’ve always enjoyed the passages in Dombey and Son that describe the rapid expansion of the railways in the 1830s, especially this one, from chapter 6 which depicts the building of the  London and Birmingham Railway line through Camden Town between 1833 and 1837:

The first shock of a great earthquake had, just at that period, rent the whole neighbourhood to its centre. Traces of its course were visible on every side. Houses were knocked down; streets broken through and stopped; deep pits and trenches dug in the ground; enormous heaps of earth and clay thrown up; buildings that were undermined and shaking, propped by great beams of wood. Here, a chaos of carts, overthrown and jumbled together, lay topsy-turvy at the bottom of a steep unnatural hill; there, confused treasures of iron soaked and rusted in something that had accidentally become a pond. Everywhere were bridges that led nowhere; thoroughfares that were wholly impassable; Babel towers of chimneys, wanting half their height; temporary wooden houses and enclosures, in the most unlikely situations; carcases of ragged tenements, and fragments of unfinished walls and arches, and piles of scaffolding, and wildernesses of bricks, and giant forms of cranes, and tripods straddling above nothing. There were a hundred thousand shapes and substances of incompleteness, wildly mingled out of their places, upside down, burrowing in the earth, aspiring in the air, mouldering in the water, and unintelligible as any dream. Hot springs and fiery eruptions, the usual attendants upon earthquakes, lent their contributions of confusion to the scene. Boiling water hissed and heaved within dilapidated walls; whence, also, the glare and roar of flames came issuing forth; and mounds of ashes blocked up rights of way, and wholly changed the law and custom of the neighbourhood.

In short, the yet unfinished and unopened Railroad was in progress; and, from the very core of all this dire disorder, trailed smoothly away, upon its mighty course of civilisation and improvement.

But as yet, the neighbourhood was shy to own the Railroad. One or two bold speculators had projected streets; and one had built a little, but had stopped among the mud and ashes to consider farther of it. A bran-new Tavern, redolent of fresh mortar and size, and fronting nothing at all, had taken for its sign The Railway Arms; but that might be rash enterprise — and then it hoped to sell drink to the workmen. So, the Excavators’ House of Call had sprung up from a beer-shop; and the old-established Ham and Beef Shop had become the Railway Eating House, with a roast leg of pork daily, through interested motives of a similar immediate and popular description. Lodging-house keepers were favourable in like manner; and for the like reasons were not to be trusted. The general belief was very slow. There were frowzy fields, and cow-houses, and dunghills, and dustheaps, and ditches, and gardens, and summer-houses, and carpet-beating grounds, at the very door of the Railway. Little tumuli of oyster shells in the oyster season, and of lobster shells in the lobster season, and of broken crockery and faded cabbage leaves in all seasons, encroached upon its high places. Posts, and rails, and old cautions to trespassers, and backs of mean houses, and patches of wretched vegetation, stared it out of countenance. Nothing was the better for it, or thought of being so. If the miserable waste ground lying near it could have laughed, it would have laughed it to scorn, like many of the miserable neighbours.

Another arresting opening passage is this one, from Hard Times:

‘Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!’

The scene was a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a school-room, and the speaker’s square forefinger emphasized his observations by underscoring every sentence with a line on the schoolmaster’s sleeve. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s square wall of a forehead, which had his eyebrows for its base, while his eyes found commodious cellarage in two dark caves, overshadowed by the wall. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s mouth, which was wide, thin, and hard set. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s voice, which was inflexible, dry, and dictatorial. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s hair, which bristled on the skirts of his bald head, a plantation of firs to keep the wind from its shining surface, all covered with knobs, like the crust of a plum pie, as if the head had scarcely warehouse-room for the hard facts stored inside. The speaker’s obstinate carriage, square coat, square legs, square shoulders, – nay, his very neckcloth, trained to take him by the throat with an unaccommodating grasp, like a stubborn fact, as it was, – all helped the emphasis.

‘In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!’

The speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person present, all backed a little, and swept with their eyes the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim.

Our Mutual Friend is rich in social satire that rests on detailed observation.  This is how the aptly-named Veneerings are introduced in chapter 2:

Mr and Mrs Veneering were bran-new people in a bran-new house in a bran-new quarter of London. Everything about the Veneerings was spick and span new. All their furniture was new, all their friends were new, all their servants were new, their plate was new, their carriage was new, their harness was new, their horses were new, their pictures were new, they themselves were new, they were as newly married as was lawfully compatible with their having a bran-new baby, and if they had set up a great-grandfather, he would have come home in matting from the Pantechnicon, without a scratch upon him, French polished to the crown of his head.

For, in the Veneering establishment, from the hall-chairs with the new coat of arms, to the grand pianoforte with the new action, and upstairs again to the new fire-escape, all things were in a state of high varnish and polish. And what was observable in the furniture, was observable in the Veneerings – the surface smelt a little too much of the workshop and was a trifle sticky.

There was an innocent piece of dinner-furniture that went upon easy castors and was kept over a livery stable-yard in Duke Street, Saint James’s, when not in use, to whom the Veneerings were a source of blind confusion. The name of this article was Twemlow. Being first cousin to Lord Snigsworth, he was in frequent requisition, and at many houses might be said to represent the dining-table in its normal state. Mr and Mrs Veneering, for example, arranging a dinner, habitually started with Twemlow, and then put leaves in him, or added guests to him. Sometimes, the table consisted of Twemlow and half a dozen leaves; sometimes, of Twemlow and a dozen leaves; sometimes, Twemlow was pulled out to his utmost extent of twenty leaves. Mr and Mrs Veneering on occasions of ceremony faced each other in the centre of the board, and thus the parallel still held; for, it always happened that the more Twemlow was pulled out, the further he found himself from the centre, and nearer to the sideboard at one end of the room, or the window-curtains at the other.

Great Expectations is replete with favourite passages, but let’s finish with that novel’s beautifully-written conclusion:

I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her.

See also

Great Expectations: what is a person’s worth?

I was dismayed by the recent BBC TV adaptation of Great Expectations (and by the almost uniform acclaim that it received), but unsure how much my memory of the work was influenced by the David Lean film version, so I decided to read the book again.  It proved to be a welcome return to a novel that had a profound effect on me as a child, with its central question as to how far the pursuit of status and wealth lead to loss of humanity: as Pip ascends he falls, and as he falls he rises.

I had  great expectations of the BBC series, following as it did a recent sequence of superb BBC Dickens adaptations: Andrew Davies’  superb Bleak House (2005),  Little Dorrit (2008 – Andrew Davies again), and Julian Farino’s Our Mutual Friend (1998). But this Great Expectations was a travesty, totally lacking the sense of Pip’s journey to moral awareness, as well as the one thing that makes any Dickens novel memorable and great – comedy and character.  Pip is not a prig, but this was how he was presented in the TV adaptation, seemingly ignoring the fact that the novel is narrated by an older Pip looking back and reflecting subtly and frankly on his earlier fears, ambitions and limitations.

Clearly, when you’re restricted to a three hour dramatisation you can’t include everything. But to leave out the humour, to distort key characters and to omit or leave undeveloped other important characters, such as Biddy or Wemmick, was lamentable.  Gillian Anderson’s portrayal of Miss Havisham was just plain daft, her youthful appearance making nonsense of the chronology of the novel.  The repeated club scenes and the brothel scene took one paragraph from the novel – that has Pip and Herbert joining the Finches in Covent Garden with a very subtle hint of a brothel – and over-egged it.

Dickens dreams of his characters – Robert Buss, 1870

Dickens gave us characters drawn from across the whole social gamut, and was the great delineator of the gulf that separated those at either end of the spectrum. Dickens’ great theme in Great Expectations (or at least, one of them) is the dream of social betterment (a dream that is revealed as a mirage).  Pip’s desire for self-improvement is the main source of the novel’s title: because he believes in the possibility of advancement, he has ‘great expectations’ about his future.  Advancement may be obtained through money or by learning;  but affection, loyalty, and conscience prove more important than social advancement, wealth or class.

Pip desires educational improvement: it’s a  desire deeply connected to his social ambition and longing to marry Estella. A full education (as well as money) is a requirement of being a gentleman. As long as he is an ignorant country boy, he has no hope of social advancement. There’s a hilarious scene early in the novel which reveals Pip’s understanding of this fact as a child. He learns to read at Mr. Wopsle’s aunt’s dame school, where Biddy is an assistant:

The Educational scheme or Course established by Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt may be resolved into the following synopsis. The pupils ate apples and put straws down one another’s backs, until Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt collected her energies, and made an indiscriminate totter at them with a birch-rod. After receiving the charge with every mark of derision, the pupils formed in line and buzzingly passed a ragged book from hand to hand. The book had an alphabet in it, some figures and tables, and a little spelling,— that is to say, it had had once. As soon as this volume began to circulate, Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt fell into a state of coma, arising either from sleep or a rheumatic paroxysm. The pupils then entered among themselves upon a competitive examination on the subject of Boots, with the view of ascertaining who could tread the hardest upon whose toes. This mental exercise lasted until Biddy made a rush at them and distributed three defaced Bibles (shaped as if they had been unskilfully cut off the chump end of something), more illegibly printed at the best than any curiosities of literature I have since met with, speckled all over with ironmould, and having various specimens of the insect world smashed between their leaves. This part of the Course was usually lightened by several single combats between Biddy and refractory students. When the fights were over, Biddy gave out the number of a page, and then we all read aloud what we could,— or what we couldn’t — in a frightful chorus; Biddy leading with a high, shrill, monotonous voice, and none of us having the least notion of, or reverence for, what we were reading about. When this horrible din had lasted a certain time, it mechanically awoke Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt, who staggered at a boy fortuitously, and pulled his ears. This was understood to terminate the Course for the evening, and we emerged into the air with shrieks of intellectual victory.

Later, as he begins to make his way, Pip takes lessons from Matthew Pocket; and later on Pip tells of hours, days spent in extensive reading.  Ultimately, though, Pip learns by absorbing lessons from his relationships with Joe, Biddy, and Magwitch, that social and educational improvement are irrelevant to one’s real worth.  Wealth is not a ticket to happiness; conscience and affection are far more valuable than erudition and social standing.  Joe provides a lesson along these lines early in the narrative, though Pip fails at this point to understand.  He’s just admitted to Joe (the only person with whom he can be so honest) that he lied to everyone about the nature of his first meeting with Miss Havisham:

I told Joe … that I wished I was not common, and that the lies had come of it somehow, though I didn’t know how. This was a case of metaphysics, at least as difficult for Joe to deal with as for me. But Joe took the case altogether out of the region of metaphysics, and by that means vanquished it.

“There’s one thing you may be sure of, Pip,” said Joe, after some rumination, “namely, that lies is lies. Howsever they come, they didn’t ought to come, and they come from the father of lies, and work round to the same. Don’t you tell no more of ’em, Pip. That ain’t the way to get out of being common, old chap. And as to being common, I don’t make it out at all clear. You are oncommon in some things. You’re oncommon small. Likewise you’re a oncommon scholar.”

Joe offers a further lesson as he and Pip part at the end of the visit to London that has so embarrassed the young man:

“Pip, dear old chap, life is made of ever so many partings welded together, as I may say, and one man’s a blacksmith, and one’s a whitesmith, and one’s a goldsmith, and one’s a coppersmith. Diwisions among such must come, and must be met as they come. If there’s been any fault at all to-day, it’s mine. You and me is not two figures to be together in London; nor yet anywheres else but what is private, and beknown, and understood among friends. It ain’t that I am proud, but that I want to be right, as you shall never see me no more in these clothes. I’m wrong in these clothes. I’m wrong out of the forge, the kitchen, or off th’meshes.”

I had not been mistaken in my fancy that there was a simple dignity in him. The fashion of his dress could no more come in its way when he spoke these words, than it could come in its way in Heaven.

Reading these passages again, imbued with the sense of class and the perils of getting too far above yourself, I recalled how, in my teens, these ideas spoke powerfully to me as a boy from a working class background who had passed the 11 plus to go to a Direct Grant grammar.  This was a school which took fee-paying boys from privileged backgrounds, whose rugby team competed in a league with public schools, and where you would be caned if you played football in the lunch hour.

Coincidentally, while I was engaged in re-reading Great Expectations, BBC 4 broadcast a documentary about grammar schools that focussed on their heyday – the period from the 1950s to the 1970s, during which they were opened up to youngsters like me from working class homes, and before the introduction nationally of comprehensive schools.  What was remarkable about this film was the way in which Dickens’ theme in Great Expectations resonated throughout.  Remarkable, too, was the fact that just about everyone who told their personal story ended up at some point in tears.  For some, tears came with the memory of a teacher who had shown faith in their potential, for some recalling  sacrifices made by parents, while for others it was the memory of tensions and conflict with parents or peers who resented their advancement or could see no point in it.

That was my story, for sure. Later, at university and doing a course in sociology, echoes of Great Expectations came back to me when we studied the research that explored the tensions of between class, culture and school.  One such study was Education and the Working Class by Brian Jackson and Dennis Marsden. First published in 1962, it took a sample of 88 working-class children educated in Huddersfield and revealed how they were caught between two cultures – home and school.  Meanwhile, there was Basil Bernstein’s work on language that underlined the point that the working class pupil is culturally different – but not deficient.

In Great Expectations, Dickens puts into Biddy’s words an awareness of these cultural differences:

I took Biddy into our little garden by the side of the lane, and, after throwing out in a general way for the elevation of her spirits, that I should never forget her, said I had a favor to ask of her.

“And it is, Biddy,” said I, “that you will not omit any opportunity of helping Joe on, a little.”

“How helping him on?” asked Biddy, with a steady sort of glance.

“Well! Joe is a dear good fellow,— in fact, I think he is the dearest fellow that ever lived,— but he is rather backward in some things. For instance, Biddy, in his learning and his manners.”

Although I was looking at Biddy as I spoke, and although she opened her eyes very wide when I had spoken, she did not look at me.

“O, his manners! won’t his manners do then?” asked Biddy, plucking a black-currant leaf.

“My dear Biddy, they do very well here —”

“O! they do very well here?” interrupted Biddy, looking closely at the leaf in her hand.

“Hear me out,— but if I were to remove Joe into a higher sphere, as I shall hope to remove him when I fully come into my property, they would hardly do him justice.”

“And don’t you think he knows that?” asked Biddy.

It was such a very provoking question (for it had never in the most distant manner occurred to me), that I said, snappishly,—

“Biddy, what do you mean?”

Biddy, having rubbed the leaf to pieces between her hands,— and the smell of a black-currant bush has ever since recalled to me that evening in the little garden by the side of the lane,— said, “Have you never considered that he may be proud?”

“Proud?” I repeated, with disdainful emphasis.

“O! there are many kinds of pride,” said Biddy, looking full at me and shaking her head; “pride is not all of one kind —”

“Well? What are you stopping for?” said I.

“Not all of one kind,” resumed Biddy. “He may be too proud to let any one take him out of a place that he is competent to fill, and fills well and with respect. To tell you the truth, I think he is; though it sounds bold in me to say so, for you must know him far better than I do.”

By the end of the novel, Pip has discovered the true worth of Joe and Biddy. Even the taint of crime and prison which Pip has been desperate to escape cannot hide Magwitch’s inner nobility, and Pip is able to ignore his social status as a criminal and offer him gratitude and succour. Pip has learned to trust his conscience and to a see the real worth of a person, irrespective of wealth, learning or social standing.  He has discover that the Victorian idea of a ‘gentleman’ is built on sand.

First publication of Great Expectations in All The Year Round, 1860

Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations was published in thirty-six weekly instalments in Dickens’s journal All the Year Round between 1860 and 1861. The first part appeared on December 1st 1860 (above).

I first saw David Lean’s atmospheric 1946 adaptation when it was shown by the film society at my grammar school (what is a good education worth!)  And did I find that the pictures in my mind were from that film or Dickens’ novel?   Well, the critic Roger Ebert writes:

Great Expectations’ has been called the greatest of all the Dickens films …[it] does what few movies based on great books can do: creates pictures on the screen that do not clash with the images already existing in our minds. Lean brings Dickens’ classic set-pieces to life as if he’d been reading over our shoulder: Pip’s encounter with the convict Magwitch in the churchyard, Pip’s first meeting with the mad Miss Havisham, and the ghoulish atmosphere in the law offices of Mr. Jaggers, whose walls are decorated with the death masks of clients he has lost to the gallows.

Certainly those were the images I had in my mind.  The film is memorable for its opening sequence on the marshes, enhanced by beautiful black and white cinematography by Guy Green.  In the TV version I had missed the scene where Miss Havisham, supported by Pip, marches around the table on which her mouldering wedding banquet is still laid out, stabbing each place setting with her stick.  That’s in the film – and in the book, too:

“This,” said she, pointing to the long table with her stick, “is where I will be laid when I am dead. They shall come and look at me here.”

With some vague misgiving that she might get upon the table then and there and die at once, the complete realization of the ghastly waxwork at the Fair, I shrank under her touch.

“What do you think that is?” she asked me, again pointing with her stick; “that, where those cobwebs are?”

“I can’t guess what it is, ma’am.”

“It’s a great cake. A bride-cake. Mine!”

She looked all round the room in a glaring manner, and then said, leaning on me while her hand twitched my shoulder, “Come, come, come! Walk me, walk me!” […]

“Matthew will come and see me at last,” said Miss Havisham, sternly, when I am laid on that table. That will be his place,— there,” striking the table with her stick, “at my head! And yours will be there! And your husband’s there! And Sarah Pocket’s there! And Georgiana’s there! Now you all know where to take your stations when you come to feast upon me. And now go!”

At the mention of each name, she had struck the table with her stick in a new place. She now said, “Walk me, walk me!” and we went on again.

The best of Lean’s film is in the first hour, but later on the film takes great liberties with the story with, for example, Estella never marrying the odious Drummle, Miss Havisham’s death occurring much earlier, and culminating in a happy ending quite different even to Dickens’ revised version.

This is the opening sequence of David Lean’s film:

‘Which I mean to say, Pip old chap.  What larks!’

See also