Mr. and Mrs. Mantalini in Ralph Nickleby's Office

Mr. and Mrs. Mantalini in Ralph Nickleby's Office

Phiz (Hablot K. Browne)

Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby

1839

Steel engraving

Source: J. A. Hammerton, The Dickens Picture-Book, p. 160.

Mr. Mantalini waited, with much decorum, to hear the amount of the proposed stipend, but when it reached his ears, he cast his hat and cane upon the floor, and drawing out his pocket-handkerchief, gave vent to his feelings in a dismal moan.

"Demnition!" cried Mr, Mantalini, suddenly skipping out of his chair, and as suddenly skipping into it again, to the great discomposure of his lady's nerves. "But no. It is a demd horrid dream. It is not reality. No!" [Ch. 34, "Wherein Mr. Ralph Nickleby is visited by Persons with whom the Reader has been already made acquainted," Part 11, February 1839]

The slapstick domestic comedy of the Mantalinis combines with the melodramatic plot involving the wealthy Ralph Nickleby, from whom they hope to borrow enough money to regain control over the dress-making business from Miss Knag. Ralph learns through the Mantalinis of Nicholas's having confronted Sir Mulberry Hawk to defend his sister's honour. The moment realized, then, should be that in which the operatically overwrought Mantalini bewails his fate, his hat and cane lying upon the floor exactly as described in the letterpress. Already, however, Ralph has begun to respond to Mrs. Manatalini, who leans forward, about to implore Ralph's assistance. Phiz shows Newmann Noggs (upper right), overhearing the conversation.

Image scan and text by Philip V. Allingham.

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