Background.

Mr Jackson struck his forefinger several times against the left side of his nose, to intimate that he was not there to disclose the secrets of the prison house.” is a quotation from The Pickwick Papers (Chapter 31).

The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, more commonly now known as simply The Pickwick Papers was Charles Dickens‘s first novel, published between 1836 and 1837.

 

Context.

Description of Mr. Jackson, a clerk at the office of the law firm Dodson and Fogg.

Taken from the following passage in Chapter 31 of The Pickwick Papers:

The man in the brown coat, with the cabalistic documents in his pocket, was no other than our old acquaintance Mr. Jackson, of the house of Dodson & Fogg, Freeman’s Court, Cornhill. Instead of returning to the office whence he came, however, he bent his steps direct to Sun Court, and walking straight into the George and Vulture, demanded to know whether one Mr. Pickwick was within.

‘Call Mr. Pickwick’s servant, Tom,’ said the barmaid of the George and Vulture.

‘Don’t trouble yourself,’ said Mr. Jackson. ‘I’ve come on business. If you’ll show me Mr. Pickwick’s room I’ll step up myself.’

‘What name, Sir?’ said the waiter.

‘Jackson,’ replied the clerk.

The waiter stepped upstairs to announce Mr. Jackson; but Mr. Jackson saved him the trouble by following close at his heels, and walking into the apartment before he could articulate a syllable.

Mr. Pickwick had, that day, invited his three friends to dinner; they were all seated round the fire, drinking their wine, when Mr. Jackson presented himself, as above described.

‘How de do, sir?’ said Mr. Jackson, nodding to Mr. Pickwick.

That gentleman bowed, and looked somewhat surprised, for the physiognomy of Mr. Jackson dwelt not in his recollection.

‘I have called from Dodson and Fogg’s,’ said Mr. Jackson, in an explanatory tone.

Mr. Pickwick roused at the name. ‘I refer you to my attorney, Sir; Mr. Perker, of Gray’s Inn,’ said he. ‘Waiter, show this gentleman out.’

‘Beg your pardon, Mr. Pickwick,’ said Jackson, deliberately depositing his hat on the floor, and drawing from his pocket the strip of parchment. ‘But personal service, by clerk or agent, in these cases, you know, Mr. Pickwick—nothing like caution, sir, in all legal forms—eh?’

Here Mr. Jackson cast his eye on the parchment; and, resting his hands on the table, and looking round with a winning and persuasive smile, said, ‘Now, come; don’t let’s have no words about such a little matter as this. Which of you gentlemen’s name’s Snodgrass?’

At this inquiry, Mr. Snodgrass gave such a very undisguised and palpable start, that no further reply was needed.

‘Ah! I thought so,’ said Mr. Jackson, more affably than before. ‘I’ve a little something to trouble you with, Sir.’

‘Me!’exclaimed Mr. Snodgrass.

‘It’s only a subpoena in Bardell and Pickwick on behalf of the plaintiff,’ replied Jackson, singling out one of the slips of paper, and producing a shilling from his waistcoat pocket. ‘It’ll come on, in the settens after Term: fourteenth of Febooary, we expect; we’ve marked it a special jury cause, and it’s only ten down the paper. That’s yours, Mr. Snodgrass.’ As Jackson said this, he presented the parchment before the eyes of Mr. Snodgrass, and slipped the paper and the shilling into his hand.

Mr. Tupman had witnessed this process in silent astonishment, when Jackson, turning sharply upon him, said—

‘I think I ain’t mistaken when I say your name’s Tupman, am I?’

Mr. Tupman looked at Mr. Pickwick; but, perceiving no encouragement in that gentleman’s widely-opened eyes to deny his name, said—

‘Yes, my name is Tupman, Sir.’

‘And that other gentleman’s Mr. Winkle, I think?’ said Jackson. Mr. Winkle faltered out a reply in the affirmative; and both gentlemen were forthwith invested with a slip of paper, and a shilling each, by the dexterous Mr. Jackson.

‘Now,’ said Jackson, ‘I’m afraid you’ll think me rather troublesome, but I want somebody else, if it ain’t inconvenient. I have Samuel Weller’s name here, Mr. Pickwick.’

‘Send my servant here, waiter,’ said Mr. Pickwick. The waiter retired, considerably astonished, and Mr. Pickwick motioned Jackson to a seat.

There was a painful pause, which was at length broken by the innocent defendant. ‘I suppose, Sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick, his indignation rising while he spoke—’I suppose, Sir, that it is the intention of your employers to seek to criminate me upon the testimony of my own friends?’

Mr. Jackson struck his forefinger several times against the left side of his nose, to intimate that he was not there to disclose the secrets of the prison house, and playfully rejoined—

‘Not knowin’, can’t say.’

 

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