Background.

Subdue your appetites, my dears, and you’ve conquered human nature” is a quotation from Nicholas Nickleby (Chapter 5).

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.

itemQuotation said by Wackford Squeers, the cruel schoolmaster who runs Dotheboys Hall.

Taken from the following passage in Chapter 5 of Nicholas Nickleby:

Nicholas did not see that anybody was breakfasting, except Mr. Squeers; but he bowed with all becoming reverence, and looked as cheerful as he could.

‘Oh! that’s the milk and water, is it, William?’ said Squeers. ‘Very good; don’t forget the bread and butter presently.’

At this fresh mention of the bread and butter, the five little boys looked very eager, and followed the waiter out, with their eyes; meanwhile Mr Squeers tasted the milk and water.

‘Ah!’ said that gentleman, smacking his lips, ‘here’s richness! Think of the many beggars and orphans in the streets that would be glad of this, little boys. A shocking thing hunger, isn’t it, Mr. Nickleby?’

‘Very shocking, sir,’ said Nicholas.

‘When I say number one,’ pursued Mr. Squeers, putting the mug before the children, ‘the boy on the left hand nearest the window may take a drink; and when I say number two, the boy next him will go in, and so till we come to number five, which is the last boy. Are you ready?’

‘Yes, sir,’ cried all the little boys with great eagerness.

‘That’s right,’ said Squeers, calmly getting on with his breakfast; ‘keep ready till I tell you to begin. Subdue your appetites, my dears, and you’ve conquered human nature. This is the way we inculcate strength of mind, Mr. Nickleby,’ said the schoolmaster, turning to Nicholas, and speaking with his mouth very full of beef and toast.

Nicholas murmured something—he knew not what—in reply; and the little boys, dividing their gaze between the mug, the bread and butter (which had by this time arrived), and every morsel which Mr. Squeers took into his mouth, remained with strained eyes in torments of expectation.

‘Thank God for a good breakfast,’ said Squeers, when he had finished. ‘Number one may take a drink.’

 

 

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