Mr. Nadgett Breathes, as Usual, an Atmosphere of Mystery (Part 14, Chapter 38), and elaborated by seventies illustrator Fred Barnard in the The Household Edition illustration Mr. Nadgett produces the result of his private enquiries (Chapter 38).The conversation between the swindler and the putative murderer occurs in the Charles Dickens Library Edition volume (9 high by 14.3 cm wide, vignetted), which occupies its own page, facing page 609 in Chapter 38, might be better characterized as Jonas Chuzzlewit and Tigg Montague since the confidence man has now reversed his surname and his Christian name.by Harry Furniss in The Charles Dickens Library Edition, Volume 7 (1910) — from Chapter 38, "Secret Service."The object of detective Nagett's investigations is not the large-scale swindler Montagu Tigg — the self-styled Director of the Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Insurance Company — but the surly, avaricious Jonas Chuzzlewit. The passage describing his particular interest in Jonas faces the illustration in which Jonas almost snarls at the financier as Tigg (now, "Mr. Montagu") brushes his unruly hair while Mr. Nadgett warms himself by the fire in this lavishly decorated room that is an extension of Tigg's flamboyant personality. The hyperbolic figures of Jonas and Montague are Furniss's revisions of their less dramatic counterparts in the February 1844 serial illustration
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"I give you my honour — Montague began.
"Oh! confound your honour," interrupted Jonas, who became more coarse and quarrelsome as the other remonstrated, which may have been a part of Mr. Montague's intention: "I want a little more control over the money. You may have all the honour, if you like; I'll never bring you to book for that. But I'm not a-going to stand it, as it is now. If you should take it into your honourable head to go abroad with the bank, I don't see much to prevent you. Well! That won't do. I've had some very good dinners here, but they'd come too dear on such terms: and therefore that won't do."
"I am unfortunate to find you in this humour," said Tigg, with a remarkable kind of smile: "for I was going to propose to you — for your own advantage; solely for your own advantage — that you should venture a little more with us."
"Was you, by G—?" said Jonas, with a short laugh.
"Yes. And to suggest," pursued Montague, "that surely you have friends; indeed, I know you have; who would answer our purpose admirably, and whom we should be delighted to receive."
"How kind of you! You'd be delighted to receive 'em, would you?" said Jonas, bantering.
"I give you my sacred honour, quite transported. As your friends, observe!"
"Exactly," said Jonas; "as my friends, of course. You'll be very much delighted when you get 'em, I have no doubt. And it'll be all to my advantage, won't it?"
"It will be very much to your advantage," answered Montague, poising a brush in each hand, and looking steadily upon him. "It will be very much to your advantage, I assure you."
"And you can tell me how," said Jonas, "can't you?"
"Shall I tell you how?" returned the other.
"I think you had better," said Jonas. "Strange things have been done in the Insurance way before now, by strange sorts of men, and I mean to take care of myself.
"Chuzzlewit!" replied Montague, leaning forward, with his arms upon his knees, and looking full into his face. "Strange things have been done, and are done every day; not only in our way, but in a variety of other ways; and no one suspects them. But ours, as you say, my good friend, is a strange way; and we strangely happen, sometimes, to come into the knowledge of very strange events."
He beckoned to Jonas to bring his chair nearer; and looking slightly round, as if to remind him of the presence of Nadgett, whispered in his ear.
From red to white; from white to red again; from red to yellow; then to a cold, dull, awful, sweat-bedabbled blue. In that short whisper, all these changes fell upon the face of Jonas Chuzzlewit; and when at last he laid his hand upon the whisperer's mouth, appalled, lest any syllable of what he said should reach the ears of the third person present, it was as bloodless and as heavy as the hand of Death.
He drew his chair away, and sat a spectacle of terror, misery, and rage. He was afraid to speak, or look, or move, or sit still. Abject, crouching, and miserable, he was a greater degradation to the form he bore, than if he had been a loathsome wound from head to heel.
His companion leisurely resumed his dressing, and completed it, glancing sometimes with a smile at the transformation he had effected, but never speaking once.
You'll not object," he said, when he was quite equipped, "to venture further with us, Chuzzlewit, my friend?"
His pale lips faintly stammered out a "No." — Chapter 38, "Secret Service," p. 617-618.
Commentary: Miserable Jonas, Secretive Nadgett, and Merry Montague
Over the course of a number of illustrated editions of The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit (1844) one several representations of this crucial scene in the Jonas Chuzzlewit/Montague Tigg plot, Dickens's exposé on the life-insurance and investment sector, rampant with fraud and corporate collapses due to the nefarious activities of such confidence men as the chameleon-like indigent Montague Tigg who has transformed himself into a captain of industry, Tigg Montague. To assure himself of Jonas's compliance in his scheme to defraud thousands of investors, the Director of the Anglo-Bengalee has hired a private detective, convincingly realised by Sol Eytinge, Jr. in the 1867 Diamond Edition. Fred Barnard in the 1872 transatlantic Household Editiondescribes the confidential meeting that precedes Tigg's blackmailing Jonas with the secret knowledge that he poisoned his father in order to inherit the family business. The original illustration in the 1843-44 serial by Hablot Knight Browne shows a much deflated Jonas after Tigg has whispered the secret that would be Jonas's undoing, whereas Furniss has attempted to capture the moments just prior to the revelation. Nadgett in both the Phiz and Furniss plates keeps out of the way, but overhears everything that the pair say as he carefully observes the guilty partner's reaction.
The Furniss illustration juxtaposes the savage, angular Jonas Chuzzlewit in a business suit and the cheerful, self-confident Tigg in a floral dressing-gown. Whereas Jonas is downcast in the original Phiz steel-engraving for February 1844 as the tranquil Tigg, in shirt-sleeves, matter-of-factly brushes his hair before a mirror on his dresser; Jonas, meanwhile, has just learned what confidential information about him Tigg has acquired from Nadgett (before the fireplace). Revising the Phiz original, Furniss moves the reader in for a close-up and sharpens the contrast between the principal figures, making Tigg ebullient as he sits (rather than stands) at his dressing-table and Jonas angry as he sits, confronting him rather than turning away. The monocled financier sees right through the surly Jonas, knowing his vulnerability. The confidence man here is about to spring his trap and bring Jonas firmly within his grip.
Relevant Illustrations, 1843-1872
Left: Hablot Knight Browne's version of the interview between Tigg Montague and Jonas Chuzzlewit, realizing the moment when the swindler utters the word "poison," Mr. Nadgett Breathes, as Usual, an Atmosphere of Mystery (Chapter 38, February 1844). Centre: Felix Octavius Carr Darley's companion study of Seth Pecksniff and Montague Tigg in the opening chapters, when the military-looking sharper is continually cadging loans for Chevy Slyme, And was straightway let down stairs (Frontispiece, Vol. 1, 1862). Right: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s perceptive portrait of the shabby, secretive, and observative private detective, Mr. Nadgett (Chapter 27, 1867). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: Fred Barnard's realisation of the scene prior to Jonas's arrival, when he delivers his confidential report on Jonas as a poisoner to his client, Mr. Nadgett produces the result of his private inquiries(1872). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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Last modified 1February 2016