- “Compeyson’s business was the swindling, handwriting forging, stolen bank-note passing, and such-like” is a quotation from Great Expectations (Chapter 42).
Abel Magwitch first meets Compeyson at Epsom Races, after a recent release from jail for vagrancy. Compeyson gives Magwitch money and shelter. However his real motive is to use Magwitch to assist him in his criminal plans.
Character Profile: Meriwether Compeyson.
Meriwether Compeyson is the main antagonist of the Charles Dickens novel, Great Expectations, whose criminal activities harmed two people, who in turn shaped much of protagonist Pip’s life. A middle-class swindler, Compeyson ropes Abel Magwitch into his schemes, but receives a lighter sentence as a result of his background. He abandons Miss Havisham at the altar, and later gets Magwitch arrested. After Magwitch returned to England, Compeyson died after drowning in the River Thames while fighting with Magwitch.
“At Epsom races, a matter of over twenty years ago, I got acquainted wi’ a man whose skull I’d crack wi’ this poker, like the claw of a lobster, if I’d got it on this hob. His right name was Compeyson; and that’s the man, dear boy, what you see me a pounding in the ditch, according to what you truly told your comrade arter I was gone last night.
“He set up fur a gentleman, this Compeyson, and he’d been to a public boarding-school and had learning. He was a smooth one to talk, and was a dab at the ways of gentlefolks. He was good-looking too. It was the night afore the great race, when I found him on the heath, in a booth that I know’d on. Him and some more was a sitting among the tables when I went in, and the landlord (which had a knowledge of me, and was a sporting one) called him out, and said, ‘I think this is a man that might suit you,’—meaning I was.
“Compeyson, he looks at me very noticing, and I look at him. He has a watch and a chain and a ring and a breast-pin and a handsome suit of clothes.
“‘To judge from appearances, you’re out of luck,’ says Compeyson to me.
“‘Yes, master, and I’ve never been in it much.’ (I had come out of Kingston Jail last on a vagrancy committal. Not but what it might have been for something else; but it warn’t.)
“‘Luck changes,’ says Compeyson; ‘perhaps yours is going to change.’
“I says, ‘I hope it may be so. There’s room.’
“‘What can you do?’ says Compeyson.
“‘Eat and drink,’ I says; ‘if you’ll find the materials.’
“Compeyson laughed, looked at me again very noticing, giv me five shillings, and appointed me for next night. Same place.
“I went to Compeyson next night, same place, and Compeyson took me on to be his man and pardner. And what was Compeyson’s business in which we was to go pardners? Compeyson’s business was the swindling, handwriting forging, stolen bank-note passing, and such-like. All sorts of traps as Compeyson could set with his head, and keep his own legs out of and get the profits from and let another man in for, was Compeyson’s business. He’d no more heart than a iron file, he was as cold as death, and he had the head of the Devil afore mentioned.
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