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Title: Master Humphry’s Clock
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Master Humphrey’s Clock was a weekly periodical edited and written entirely by Charles Dickens and published from 4 April 1840 to 4 December 1841. It began with a frame story in which Master Humphrey tells about himself and his small circle of friends (which includes Mr. Pickwick), and their penchant for telling stories. Several short stories were included, followed by the novels The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge. It is generally thought that Dickens originally intended The Old Curiosity Shop as a short story like the others that had appeared in Master Humphrey’s Clock, but after a few chapters decided to extend it into a novel. Master Humphrey appears as the first-person narrator in the first three chapters of The Old Curiosity Shop but then disappears, stating, “And now that I have carried this history so far in my own character and introduced these personages to the reader, I shall for the convenience of the narrative detach myself from its further course, and leave those who have prominent and necessary parts in it to speak and act for themselves.”
Master Humphrey is a lonely man who lives in London. He keeps old manuscripts in an antique longcase clock by the chimney-corner. One day, he decides that he would start a little club, called Master Humphrey’s Clock, where the members would read out their manuscripts to the others. The members include Master Humphrey; a deaf gentleman, Jack Redburn; retired merchant Owen Miles; and Mr. Pickwick from The Pickwick Papers. A mirror club in the kitchen, Mr. Weller’s Watch, run by Mr. Weller, has members including Humphrey’s maid, the barber and Sam Weller.
Master Humphrey’s Clock appeared after The Old Curiosity Shop, to introduce Barnaby Rudge. After Barnaby Rudge, Master Humphrey is left by himself by the chimney corner in a train of thoughts. Here, the deaf gentleman continues the narration. Later, the deaf gentleman and his friends return to Humphrey’s house to find him dead. Humphrey has left money for the barber and the maid (no doubt by traces of love that they would be married). Redburn and the deaf gentleman look after the house and the club closes for good.
In the portion of Master Humphrey’s Clock which succeeds The Old Curiosity Shop, Master Humphrey reveals to his friends that he is the character referred to as the ‘single gentleman’ in that story.
Although it pains me, and in a sane world this wouldn’t be a negative, I could only give this short book 3 stars. Isn’t that just terrible?!?
It wasn’t really bad, mind you, just that the short stories mostly centered around the ghostly and/or supernatural that Dickens liked and that I don’t care for in my classic historical novels. The other downside was that everything with Pickwick felt extremely forced. Like Dickens was trying to emotionally manipulate his readers by introducing a beloved character from another book so they would love this current book. Then the whole “I’m from this other book” thing also felt forced.
I know that Dickens was a manipulator (he would have been at the forefront of the SJW movement today, for sure and lying through his teeth about any and all) but most of the time I like it in his stories. I like having my emotions pushed around. This time though, it felt very cheesy. More like he was clapping 2 coconuts together and telling me he was riding a horse while he obviously wasn’t.
Recommended for those who really like Dickens and are completionists. Not really recommended for the casual Dickens fan. (does such a mythical being even exist? I have my doubts!)