Background.

Sketches by Boz
  • He was as empty-headed as the great bell of St. Paul’s; always dressed according to the caricatures published in the monthly fashion; and spelt Character with a K” is a quotation from Sketches by Boz, Tales, Chapter 1 (The Boarding-House).

Context.

Quotation describing Mr. Simpson, one of the lodgers at a boarding house run by Mrs. Tibbs in Great Coram Street in the Bloomsbury area of London.

Mrs. Tibbs has taken six lodgers into her establishment. One group are three single men, Mr. Simpson, Mr. Septimus Hicks and a Mr. Calton. A second group is a middle-aged widow, Mrs. Maplesone, and her two daughters, Matilda and Julia. Both are in their twenties, and also both single.

Sketch produced by George Cruikshank for The Boarding-House, Chapter I, published in the 1836 collected work Sketches by Boz.

Source.

Taken from the following passage in the sketch The Boarding-House.

The Miss Maplesones and their accomplished parent arrived in the course of the afternoon in a hackney-coach, and accompanied by a most astonishing number of packages.  Trunks, bonnet-boxes, muff-boxes and parasols, guitar-cases, and parcels of all imaginable shapes, done up in brown paper, and fastened with pins, filled the passage.  Then, there was such a running up and down with the luggage, such scampering for warm water for the ladies to wash in, and such a bustle, and confusion, and heating of servants, and curling-irons, as had never been known in Great Coram-street before.  Little Mrs. Tibbs was quite in her element, bustling about, talking incessantly, and distributing towels and soap, like a head nurse in a hospital.  The house was not restored to its usual state of quiet repose, until the ladies were safely shut up in their respective bedrooms, engaged in the important occupation of dressing for dinner.

‘Are these gals ’andsome?’ inquired Mr. Simpson of Mr. Septimus Hicks, another of the boarders, as they were amusing themselves in the drawing-room, before dinner, by lolling on sofas, and contemplating their pumps.

‘Don’t know,’ replied Mr. Septimus Hicks, who was a tallish, white-faced young man, with spectacles, and a black ribbon round his neck instead of a neckerchief—a most interesting person; a poetical walker of the hospitals, and a ‘very talented young man.’  He was fond of ‘lugging’ into conversation all sorts of quotations from Don Juan, without fettering himself by the propriety of their application; in which particular he was remarkably independent.  The other, Mr. Simpson, was one of those young men, who are in society what walking gentlemen are on the stage, only infinitely worse skilled in his vocation than the most indifferent artist.  He was as empty-headed as the great bell of St. Paul’s; always dressed according to the caricatures published in the monthly fashion; and spelt Character with a K.

‘I saw a devilish number of parcels in the passage when I came home,’ simpered Mr. Simpson.

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He was as empty-headed as the great bell of St. Paul’s; always dressed according to the caricatures published in the monthly fashion; and spelt Character with a K.
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