April 23, 2016
It seems to me that we have become a society of Pecksniffs. Pecksniff was Dickens” character in Martin Chuzzlewit who was always canting. Here he is addressing his landlady, Mrs. Todgers (who had “affection beaming in one eye, and calculation out of the other”), to whom he is sexually attracted, on the subject of his and his late wife’s daughters:
“Those are her daughters,” said Mr. Pecksniff, pointing out the young ladies, with increased emotion.
Mrs. Todgers had no doubt of it.
“Mercy and Charity,” said Mr. Pecksniff, “Charity and Mercy. Not unholy names, I hope?”
“Mr. Pecksniff!” cried Mrs. Todgers, “what a ghastly smile? Are you ill, sir?”
He pressed his hand upon her arm, and answered in a solemn manner, and a faint voice, “Chronic.”
We are now chronically humanitarian in the same sense as Mr. Pecksniff was chronically ill. We are Pecksniffs without being funny. And to change author from Dickens to Shakespeare, we have forgotten Claudius” cri de coeur:
My words fly up, my thoughts remain below.
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.
So, to return to the words of Mr. Pecksniff, let us be moral. Let us contemplate existence.