That sort of half-sigh, which, accompanied by two or three slight nods of the head, is pity’s small change in general society.

Background.

itemThat sort of half-sigh, which, accompanied by two or three slight nods of the head, is pity’s small change in general society.” is a quotation from Nicholas Nickleby (Chapter 18).

item The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, more commonly referred to as Nicholas Nickleby, is the third novel by Charles Dickens, originally serialised between 1838 and 1839.

 

Context.

Description of an expression from Miss Knagg, who is talking with Kate Nickleby.

Taken from the following passage in Chapter 18 of Nicholas Nickleby :

Undoubtedly it was singular, that if Miss Knag did feel a strong interest in Kate Nickleby, it should not rather have been the interest of a maiden aunt or grandmother; that being the conclusion to which the difference in their respective ages would have naturally tended. But Miss Knag wore clothes of a very youthful pattern, and perhaps her feelings took the same shape.

‘Bless you!’ said Miss Knag, bestowing a kiss upon Kate at the conclusion of the second day’s work, ‘how very awkward you have been all day.’

‘I fear your kind and open communication, which has rendered me more painfully conscious of my own defects, has not improved me,’ sighed Kate.

‘No, no, I dare say not,’ rejoined Miss Knag, in a most uncommon flow of good humour. ‘But how much better that you should know it at first, and so be able to go on, straight and comfortable! Which way are you walking, my love?’

‘Towards the city,’ replied Kate.

‘The city!’ cried Miss Knag, regarding herself with great favour in the glass as she tied her bonnet. ‘Goodness gracious me! now do you really live in the city?’

‘Is it so very unusual for anybody to live there?’ asked Kate, half smiling.

‘I couldn’t have believed it possible that any young woman could have lived there, under any circumstances whatever, for three days together,’ replied Miss Knag.

‘Reduced—I should say poor people,’ answered Kate, correcting herself hastily, for she was afraid of appearing proud, ‘must live where they can.’

‘Ah! very true, so they must; very proper indeed!’ rejoined Miss Knag with that sort of half-sigh, which, accompanied by two or three slight nods of the head, is pity’s small change in general society; ‘and that’s what I very often tell my brother, when our servants go away ill, one after another, and he thinks the back-kitchen’s rather too damp for ’em to sleep in. These sort of people, I tell him, are glad to sleep anywhere! Heaven suits the back to the burden. What a nice thing it is to think that it should be so, isn’t it?’

‘Very,’ replied Kate.

 

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