Great Expectations

Moths, and all sorts of ugly creatures hover about a lighted candle. Can the candle help it?” is a quotation from Great Expectations (Chapter 38).

Great Expectations is Charles Dickens‘s thirteenth novel first published between 1860 and 1861.



Quote said by Estella to Pip. At a dance, Pip express his concerns to Estella about the advances of the scoundrel Bentley Drummle towards her, using the phrase “hovering about you all night”. Estella, as ever cold-hearted towards Pip, dismisses this by replying that it is not her fault by using this analogy of hovering moths (and all sorts of ugly creatures) being attracted to the light of a candle but the candle has not asked for it. Pip, who has admired Estella since he first met her, replies that she appears to be encouraging Bentley’s advances.

Taken from the following passage in Chapter 38 of Great Expectations:

At a certain Assembly Ball at Richmond (there used to be Assembly Balls at most places then), where Estella had outshone all other beauties, this blundering Drummle so hung about her, and with so much toleration on her part, that I resolved to speak to her concerning him. I took the next opportunity; which was when she was waiting for Mrs. Blandley to take her home, and was sitting apart among some flowers, ready to go. I was with her, for I almost always accompanied them to and from such places.

“Are you tired, Estella?”

“Rather, Pip.”

“You should be.”

“Say rather, I should not be; for I have my letter to Satis House to write, before I go to sleep.”

“Recounting to-night’s triumph?” said I. “Surely a very poor one, Estella.”

“What do you mean? I didn’t know there had been any.”

“Estella,” said I, “do look at that fellow in the corner yonder, who is looking over here at us.”

“Why should I look at him?” returned Estella, with her eyes on me instead. “What is there in that fellow in the corner yonder,—to use your words,—that I need look at?”

“Indeed, that is the very question I want to ask you,” said I. “For he has been hovering about you all night.”

Moths, and all sorts of ugly creatures,” replied Estella, with a glance towards him, “hover about a lighted candle. Can the candle help it?

“No,” I returned; “but cannot the Estella help it?”

“Well!” said she, laughing, after a moment, “perhaps. Yes. Anything you like.”

“But, Estella, do hear me speak. It makes me wretched that you should encourage a man so generally despised as Drummle. You know he is despised.”

“Well?” said she.

“You know he is as ungainly within as without. A deficient, ill-tempered, lowering, stupid fellow.”

“Well?” said she.

“You know he has nothing to recommend him but money and a ridiculous roll of addle-headed predecessors; now, don’t you?”

“Well?” said she again; and each time she said it, she opened her lovely eyes the wider.



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