2 of Earth - Dick Swiveller
with Sampson & Sally Brass
Sampson Brass; The Marchioness;
Dick Swiveller; Sally Brass.
The Old Curiosity Shop
Richard “Dick” Swiveller is that rare thing in a Dickens novel – a personality who, throughout the book's course of events, develops and matures. Introduced as a comic character by Little Nell's dubious brother Fred, the flamboyant and poetical Dick Swiveller seems at first to be either merely jocular or perhaps a little shady. Living beyond his means, and depending on his rich aunt's mercy, Dick is actually a romantic and carefree lad who fantasizes that he is rich. He refers to his hovel as “apartments”, imagines his bed is a bookcase, and dines luxuriously in different restaurants throughout London although he has very little money.
This jejune young man, however, who “can be merry but can't be wise”, turns out to have a wealth of merit, mettle, and emotion. When he meets and befriends the Marchioness – the meek and misused servant girl of his cold employers, Sampson and Sally Brass – Dick reveals a hitherto untapped resource of concern and affection. His perspective on the Brass family changes, and he comes to see them for what they are – cowardly and conniving minions to the unremittingly evil Daniel Quilp.
The mistreated Marchioness is small and sickly. She appears to be an orphan – some conjecture the unfortunate bastard offspring of the manly Sally Brass and the dwarfish hunchback Quilp. She lives in the basement and cowers behind doors. This is how she overhears of Sampson and Sally's scheme to frame Kit Nubbles for theft. Dick, enchanted by the girl, gives her the name “The Marchioness”, and also “Sophronia Sphynx” - the Christian name being Greek for “judicious of mind” and the surname based on the mythical Greek creature, with the head of a human and the body of a lion, guardians of temple entrances and keepers of the riddle. Dick takes the uneducated girl under his wing and eventually marries her. He also exonerates Kit Nubbles by disclosing the Brass's criminations against the innocent boy, thereby becoming something of The Old Curiosity Shop's hero.
Dickens paints Sally Brass as “not of the loving kind”; more accurately, she may not be of the conventional loving kind, but rather of the sapphic loving kind. Of the siblings, she wears the pants, playing Delilah to Sampson's Samson. In The Old Curiosity Shop, Dick Swiveller plays a pivotal role; here, on the first personified card of the Earth suit, he seems to almost gambol between the Brass' attempted double-crossings. His about-face - from comedy to pathos - and his coupling with the elfin Marchioness, is symbolic of his turn in this novel of fable and rite of passage. As his name suggests, he is something of a double for the magician Dickens, who seemingly pulls this character from out of a hat.
Shorthand : something afoot - the fluctuations of fortune - overheard news - miscommunications - journeys of discovery - double dealings - double duty - brass tacks - light-heartedness - newfound pleasure - redoubled wisdom - good riddance to bad riddles - inconsistencies - injustices unearthed - sibling rivalry - not getting unhinged - turning to good account - unforeseen developments - juggling matters - the art of misdirection - unmasking the two-faced - sortilege.