Friday, 13 July 2012


The Grandson has a name - Sam! Or in full Samuel.
This is a very fine name indeed and, in addition to all his natural advantages, young Sam has the best literary antecedents in Sam Johnson and Sam Beckett, not to mention Dr Seuss's Sam I Am - and Dickens's Sam Weller...
When Sam Weller made his debut in chapter 10 of the Pickwick Papers, he caused a sensation, transforming a serial publication that had till then been selling steadily into a bestseller on an unprecedented scale, with pirated editions and all manner of unauthorised Sam Weller spin-offs proliferating. Here is Sam in full flow in his first speech of any length, warning Mr Pickwick against marriage licence touts:
'My father, Sir, wos a coachman. A widower he wos, and fat enough for anything--uncommon fat, to be sure. His missus dies, and leaves him four hundred pound. Down he goes to the Commons, to see the lawyer and draw the blunt--very smart--top boots on --nosegay in his button-hole--broad-brimmed tile--green shawl --quite the gen'l'm'n. Goes through the archvay, thinking how he should inwest the money--up comes the touter, touches his hat--"Licence, Sir, licence?"--"What's that?" says my father.-- "Licence, Sir," says he.--"What licence?" says my father.-- "Marriage licence," says the touter.--"Dash my veskit," says my father, "I never thought o' that."--"I think you wants one, Sir," says the touter. My father pulls up, and thinks a bit--"No," says he, "damme, I'm too old, b'sides, I'm a many sizes too large," says he.--"Not a bit on it, Sir," says the touter.--"Think not?" says my father.--"I'm sure not," says he; "we married a gen'l'm'n twice your size, last Monday."--"Did you, though?" said my father.--"To be sure, we did," says the touter, "you're a babby to him--this way, sir--this way!"--and sure enough my father walks arter him, like a tame monkey behind a horgan, into a little back office, vere a teller sat among dirty papers, and tin boxes, making believe he was busy. "Pray take a seat, vile I makes out the affidavit, Sir," says the lawyer.--"Thank'ee, Sir," says my father, and down he sat, and stared with all his eyes, and his mouth vide open, at the names on the boxes. "What's your name, Sir," says the lawyer.--"Tony Weller," says my father.--"Parish?" says the lawyer. "Belle Savage," says my father; for he stopped there wen he drove up, and he know'd nothing about parishes, he didn't.--"And what's the lady's name?" says the lawyer. My father was struck all of a heap. "Blessed if I know," says he.-- "Not know!" says the lawyer.--"No more nor you do," says my father; "can't I put that in arterwards?"--"Impossible!" says the lawyer.--"Wery well," says my father, after he'd thought a moment, "put down Mrs. Clarke."--"What Clarke?" says the lawyer, dipping his pen in the ink.--"Susan Clarke, Markis o' Granby, Dorking," says my father; "she'll have me, if I ask. I des-say--I never said nothing to her, but she'll have me, I know." The licence was made out, and she DID have him, and what's more she's got him now; and I never had any of the four hundred pound, worse luck. Beg your pardon, sir,' said Sam, when he had concluded, 'but wen I gets on this here grievance, I runs on like a new barrow with the wheel greased.' Having said which, and having paused for an instant to see whether he was wanted for anything more, Sam left the room.'
Sam's father, Tony, becomes a great comic character in his own right, full of wise advice for his 'Samivel'. His marriage comes under strain when Mrs Weller falls under the spell of the Rev. Stiggins of the Brick Lane Temperance Association, whom Tony eventually exposes as a flagrant hypocrite. Here are Mr Weller Sr's rueful words on the subject of matrimony, in which he employs the turn of phrase ('as the .... said when he ...') that become known as a 'Wellerism':
'When you're a married man, Samivel, you'll understand a good many things as you don't understand now; but whether it's worth while going through so much to learn so little, as the charity-boy said when he got to the end of the alphabet, is a matter o' taste.'
I shall try very hard never to call the grandson 'Samivel'.


  1. Fans of Sam Weller might like to know that he appears briefly in Master Humphrey’s Clock. At the end of Chapter Three he delivers a splendid diatribe against the new-fangled railways. ‘ “I consider,.” said Mr Weller, “that the rail is unconstitootional and an inwaser of priwileges, and I should wery much like to know what that ‘ere old Carter as once stood up for our liberties and wun ‘em too, - I should like to know wot he vould say, if he wos alive now to Englishmen being locked up vith widders, or vith anybody again their wills… as to the comfort, vere’s the comfort o’ sittin’ in a harm-cheer lookin’ at brick walls or heaps o’ mud, never comin’ to a public house, never seein’ a glass o’ ale, never goin’ through a [turn]pike, never meetin’ no change o’ no kind (horses or otherwise), but alvays comin’ to a place the very picter o’ the last …” If you don’t know the passage, it’s well worth looking up.’

  2. Oh thanks Ingoldsby! I never knew that - I shall have a look...