Background.

Dombey and Son

Context.

Quotation said by the character Jack Bunsby. Bunsby is a seafaring friend of Captain Edward Cuttle, who likes to dispense advice, particularly in times of trouble. He is captain of the ship Cautious Clara.

In Chapter 23 of Dombey and Son Florence Dombey is worried about the lack of news from the ship carrying Walter Gay. Concerned about his whereabouts she goes to visit his uncle Solomon (Sol) Gills. Gills is anxious and gets advice from his seafaring friend Captain Cuttle who seeks a second opinion from his friend Jack Bunsby.

Illustration by Phiz from Chapter 23 of Dombey and Son showing Captain’s Bunsby and Cuttle, along with Florence Dombey, Susan Nipper, and Sol Gills.

Source.

Taken from the following passage in Chapter 23 (Florence solitary, and the Midshipman mysterious) of Dombey and Son:

Bunsby, whose eye continued to be addressed to somewhere about the half-way house between London and Gravesend, two or three times put out his rough right arm, as seeking to wind it for inspiration round the fair form of Miss Nipper; but that young female having withdrawn herself, in displeasure, to the opposite side of the table, the soft heart of the Commander of the Cautious Clara met with no response to its impulses. After sundry failures in this wise, the Commander, addressing himself to nobody, thus spake; or rather the voice within him said of its own accord, and quite independent of himself, as if he were possessed by a gruff spirit:

‘My name’s Jack Bunsby!’

‘He was christened John,’ cried the delighted Captain Cuttle. ‘Hear him!’

‘And what I says,’ pursued the voice, after some deliberation, ‘I stands to.’

The Captain, with Florence on his arm, nodded at the auditory, and seemed to say, ‘Now he’s coming out. This is what I meant when I brought him.’

‘Whereby,’ proceeded the voice, ‘why not? If so, what odds? Can any man say otherwise? No. Awast then!’

When it had pursued its train of argument to this point, the voice stopped, and rested. It then proceeded very slowly, thus:

‘Do I believe that this here Son and Heir’s gone down, my lads? Mayhap.

Do I say so? Which? If a skipper stands out by Sen’ George’s Channel, making for the Downs, what’s right ahead of him? The Goodwins. He isn’t forced to run upon the Goodwins, but he may. The bearings of this observation lays in the application on it. That ain’t no part of my duty. Awast then, keep a bright look-out for’ard, and good luck to you!’

The voice here went out of the back parlour and into the street, taking the Commander of the Cautious Clara with it, and accompanying him on board again with all convenient expedition, where he immediately turned in, and refreshed his mind with a nap.

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The bearings of this observation lays in the application on it.
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