Background.

Dombey and Son
  • A very ugly old woman, with red rims round her eyes, and a mouth that mumbled and chattered of itself when she was not speaking” is a quotation from Dombey and Son (Chapter 6).

Context.

Description of the character Mrs. Brown, an old impoverished woman and the mother of Alice Marwood, a former mistress of James Carker who turned to theft and prostitution after he abandoned her.

In Chapter 6 of Dombey and Son, Florence Dombey, Paul Dombey Junior, Susan Nipper, and Polly Toodle have set off for Stagg’s Garden, in London’s Camden Town area. Polly separates from the group, but the remaining three are dispersed further when someone shouts that a bull is charging through the street. Florence finds herself separated and lost from the other three when she is helped by an elderly woman who introduces herself as Good Mrs. Brown. However Mrs. Brown has other motives, taking Florence to a room where she steals her expensive clothing, leaving her in the street, lost and wearing only cheap rags.

Source.

Taken from the following passage in Chapter 6 (Paul’s Second Deprivation) of Dombey and Son:

Surprises, like misfortunes, rarely come alone. The astonished Susan Nipper and her two young charges were rescued by the bystanders from under the very wheels of a passing carriage before they knew what had happened; and at that moment (it was market day) a thundering alarm of ‘Mad Bull!’ was raised.

With a wild confusion before her, of people running up and down, and shouting, and wheels running over them, and boys fighting, and mad bulls coming up, and the nurse in the midst of all these dangers being torn to pieces, Florence screamed and ran. She ran till she was exhausted, urging Susan to do the same; and then, stopping and wringing her hands as she remembered they had left the other nurse behind, found, with a sensation of terror not to be described, that she was quite alone.

‘Susan! Susan!’ cried Florence, clapping her hands in the very ecstasy of her alarm. ‘Oh, where are they? where are they?’

‘Where are they?’ said an old woman, coming hobbling across as fast as she could from the opposite side of the way. ‘Why did you run away from ’em?’

‘I was frightened,’ answered Florence. ‘I didn’t know what I did. I thought they were with me. Where are they?’

The old woman took her by the wrist, and said, ‘I’ll show you.’

She was a very ugly old woman, with red rims round her eyes, and a mouth that mumbled and chattered of itself when she was not speaking. She was miserably dressed, and carried some skins over her arm. She seemed to have followed Florence some little way at all events, for she had lost her breath; and this made her uglier still, as she stood trying to regain it: working her shrivelled yellow face and throat into all sorts of contortions.

Florence was afraid of her, and looked, hesitating, up the street, of which she had almost reached the bottom. It was a solitary place—more a back road than a street—and there was no one in it but her-self and the old woman.

‘You needn’t be frightened now,’ said the old woman, still holding her tight. ‘Come along with me.’

‘I—I don’t know you. What’s your name?’ asked Florence.

‘Mrs Brown,’ said the old woman. ‘Good Mrs Brown.’

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A very ugly old woman, with red rims round her eyes, and a mouth that mumbled and chattered of itself when she was not speaking.
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