"One thing, however, that I can do for you," says Tremlow; "and that is, work for you." Veneering blesses him again (p. 107) — the caption in the Chapman and Hall Household Edition text is the same as that in the New York Harper and Brothers volume. Hamilton Veneering, a noveau riche leader in fashionable London society whom we first encounter in Book One, Chapter 2, is about to embark upon a political career by buying a seat in the House of Commons; he will pay five thousand pounds down for the office of Member of Parliament for a small borough aptly named "Pocket-Breeches," and become (as Twemlow puts it) a member of "the best club in London." However, Melvin Twemlow, another member of upper-middle-class London society, does not agree to approach his cousin, Lord Snigsworth, on Veneering's behalf because Twemlow is afraid of jeopardising the continuance of the modest annuity that the peer has granted him. Despite his being a recipient of that aristocrat's largesse, and therefore something of a sycophant, Twemlow becomes significant later in Book Two as a confidant of confidence artist Sophronia Lammle — and later defends Eugene's marrying Lizzie Hexam. The scene is Twemlow's lodgings in Duke Street, Saint James's, in James Mahoney's eighteenth illustration for Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, Household Edition, 1875. Wood engraving by the Dalziels, 9.4 cm high x 12.5 cm wide.

Passage Realised

"Between such old and intimate friends as ourselves," pursues Veneering, "there should in such a case be no reserve. Promise me that if I ask you to do anything for me which you don't like to do, or feel the slightest difficulty in doing, you will freely tell me so."

This, Twemlow is so kind as to promise, with every appearance of most heartily intending to keep his word.

"Would you have any objection to write down to Snigsworthy Park, and ask this favour of Lord Snigsworth? Of course if it were granted I should know that I owed it solely to you; while at the same time you would put it to Lord Snigsworth entirely upon public grounds. Would you have any objection?"

Says Twemlow, with his hand to his forehead, "You have exacted a promise from me."

"I have, my dear Twemlow."

"And you expect me to keep it honourably."

"I do, my dear Twemlow."

"On the whole, then; — observe me," urges Twemlow with great nicety, as if; in the case of its having been off the whole, he would have done it directly — "on the whole, I must beg you to excuse me from addressing any communication to Lord Snigsworth."

"Bless you, bless you!" says Veneering; horribly disappointed, but grasping him by both hands again, in a particularly fervent manner.

It is not to be wondered at that poor Twemlow should decline to inflict a letter on his noble cousin (who has gout in the temper), inasmuch as his noble cousin, who allows him a small annuity on which he lives, takes it out of him, as the phrase goes, in extreme severity; putting him, when he visits at Snigsworthy Park, under a kind of martial law; ordaining that he shall hang his hat on a particular peg, sit on a particular chair, talk on particular subjects to particular people, and perform particular exercises: such as sounding the praises of the Family Varnish (not to say Pictures), and abstaining from the choicest of the Family Wines unless expressly invited to partake.

"One thing, however, I can do for you," says Twemlow; "and that is, work for you."

Veneering blesses him again.

"I'll go," says Twemlow, in a rising hurry of spirits, "to the club; — let us see now; what o'clock is it?"

"Twenty minutes to eleven."

"I'll be," says Twemlow, "at the club by ten minutes to twelve, and I'll never leave it all day."

Veneering feels that his friends are rallying round him, and says, "Thank you, thank you. I knew I could rely upon you." — Book Two, "Birds of a Feather," Chapter 3, "A Piece of Work," p. 106.

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL.]


The woodcut for Book Two, "Birds of a Feather," Chapter Three, "A Piece of Work," introduces Melvin Tremlow, a hanger-on in polite society, and reintroduces Hamilton Veneering, whose periodic dinner parties bring together a number of upper-middle class characters who act as a sort of chorus. Such a stuffy social gathering appears in Marcus Stone's serial illustration for Book Two, Ch. 4, Cupid Prompted, in Part Seven (November 1864). Much earlier, when readers first encounter the Veneerings, Sol Eytinge, Junior, in the Diamond Edition provides a similar view of "society" in The Veneering Dinner (Book One, Chapter 2), at which Lightwood had announced the drowning death of John Harmon. Mahoney had no model for this illustration of Veneering's behind-the-scenes maneuvering to become a public figure, which will, as W. S. Gilbert's Judge remarks in The Judge's Song from the political and legal satire Trial by Jury (1875), be "managed by a job" rather than effected through democratic procedure.

Since Twemlow has just had a hair treatment with an egg compound, he is readily identifiable as the middle-aged man in the smoking jacket with his hair standing on end. After this interview, he hastens to his club, where he recommends Veneering to every member whom he encounters as "Coming in for Pocket-Breaches," but obtains no material assistance for Veneering. In the Mahoney illustration, the hopeful politician, having placed his hat and cane upon the table (right), has taken a seat near Twemlow, positioned by the fireplace, and seems to be supplicating him for assistance, if one may judge by his gesture. Twemlow attends to his own comfort before all else, if one may judge by his slippered feet on the fender and large, stuffed chair.

Pertinent Illustrations in the original and Diamond Editions, 1864-1867

Left: Marcus Stone's November 1864 depiction of an upper-middle-class society gathering, Cupid Prompted. Right: American Sol Eytinge, Junior's characterisation of that same stratum of society, The Veneering Dinner (1867). [Click on​images to enlarge them.]

Above: Marcus Stone's August 1864 illustration of the dinner dance at the Podsnaps' birthday celebration for their daughter at which the Veneerings are guests, Podsnappery. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]


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Last modified 6 December 2015