"This is all very well, Mr. Nickleby, and very proper, so far as it goes" [Page 89] by Charles Stanley Reinhart (1875), in Charles Dickens's The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Harper & Bros. New York Household Edition, for Chapter XVI. 10.5 x 13.5 cm (4 ⅛ by 5 ¼ inches), framed. Running head: "Concerning the Duties of a Secretary" (18). [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Passage Illustrated: Nicholas describes the position of private secretary

"A secretary’s duties are rather difficult to define, perhaps," said Nicholas, considering. ‘They include, I presume, correspondence?"

"Good,’ interposed Mr. Gregsbury.

"The arrangement of papers and documents?’

"Very good."

"Occasionally, perhaps, the writing from your dictation; and possibly, sir," said Nicholas, with a half-smile, ‘the copying of your speech for some public journal, when you have made one of more than usual importance."

"Certainly," rejoined Mr. Gregsbury. "What else?"

"Really," said Nicholas, after a moment’s reflection, "I am not able, at this instant, to recapitulate any other duty of a secretary, beyond the general one of making himself as agreeable and useful to his employer as he can, consistently with his own respectability, and without overstepping that line of duties which he undertakes to perform, and which the designation of his office is usually understood to imply."

Mr. Gregsbury looked fixedly at Nicholas for a short time, and then glancing warily round the room, said in a suppressed voice:

"This is all very well, Mr. — what is your name?"


"This is all very well, Mr. Nickleby, and very proper, so far as it goes — so far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough. There are other duties, Mr Nickleby, which a secretary to a parliamentary gentleman must never lose sight of. I should require to be crammed, sir."

"I beg your pardon," interposed Nicholas, doubtful whether he had heard aright.

"— To be crammed, sir," repeated Mr. Gregsbury.

"May I beg your pardon again, if I inquire what you mean, sir?" said Nicholas.

"My meaning, sir, is perfectly plain," replied Mr. Gregsbury with a solemn aspect. "My secretary would have to make himself master of the foreign policy of the world, as it is mirrored in the newspapers; to run his eye over all accounts of public meetings, all leading articles, and accounts of the proceedings of public bodies; and to make notes of anything which it appeared to him might be made a point of, in any little speech upon the question of some petition lying on the table, or anything of that kind. Do you understand?"

"I think I do, sir," replied Nicholas. [Chapter XVI, "Nicholas seeks to employ himself in a New Capacity, and being unsuccessful, accepts an engagement as Tutor in a Private Family," 88-89]

Related material by other illustrators (1838 through 1910)

Scanned image, colour correction, sizing, caption, and commentary 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 in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


Barnard, J. "Fred" (il.). Charles Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby, with fifty-nine illustrations. The Works of Charles Dickens: The Household Edition. 22 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1875. Volume 15. Rpt. 1890.

Dickens, Charles. The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. With fifty-two illustrations by C. S. Reinhart. The Household Edition. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1875.

__________. "Nicholas Nickleby." Scenes and Characters from the Works of Charles Dickens, being eight hundred and sixty-six drawings by Fred Barnard et al.. Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1908.

Schweitzer, Maria. "Jean Margaret Davenport." Ambassadors of Empire: Child Performers and Anglo-American Audiences, 1800s-1880s. Accessed 19 April 2021. Posted 7 January 2015. .

Created 25 July 2021