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LawrenceBoythorn

Another unforgettable character from Charles Dickens's Bleak House is Lawrence Boythorn, the superlative man. John Jarndyce describes him in Chapter 9 when a letter arrives announcing Boythorn's imminent visit:

"I went to school with this fellow, Lawrence Boythorn," said Mr. Jarndyce, tapping the letter as he laid it on the table, "more than five and forty years ago. He was then the most impetuous boy in the world, and he is now the most impetuous man. He was then the loudest boy in the world, and he is now the loudest man. He was then the heartiest and sturdiest boy in the world, and he is now the heartiest and sturdiest man. He is a tremendous fellow."

When Boythorn appears he more than lives up to the description. He arrives late and explains:

"We have been misdirected, Jarndyce, by a most abandoned ruffian, who told us to take the turning to the right instead of to the left. He is the most intolerable scoundrel on the face of the earth. His father must have been a most consummate villain, ever to have such a son. I would have had that fellow shot without the least remorse!"

Boythorn does have a gentle side. He keeps a tiny canary, and when asked about it replies, as recorded by narrator Esther Summerson:

"By heaven, he is the most astonishing bird in Europe!" replied the other. "He is the most wonderful creature! I wouldn't take ten thousand guineas for that bird. I have left an annuity for his sole support in case he should outlive me. He is, in sense and attachment, a phenomenon. And his father before him was one of the most astonishing birds that ever lived!"

The subject of this laudation was a very little canary, who was so tame that he was brought down by Mr. Boythorn's man, on his forefinger, and after taking a gentle flight round the room, alighted on his master's head. To hear Mr. Boythorn presently expressing the most implacable and passionate sentiments, with this fragile mite of a creature quietly perched on his forehead, was to have a good illustration of his character, I thought.

"By my soul, Jarndyce," he said, very gently holding up a bit of bread to the canary to peck at, "if I were in your place I would seize every master in Chancery by the throat tomorrow morning and shake him until his money rolled out of his pockets and his bones rattled in his skin. I would have a settlement out of somebody, by fair means or by foul. If you would empower me to do it, I would do it for you with the greatest satisfaction!" (All this time the very small canary was eating out of his hand.)

(cf. JohnJarndyce (15 Jul 2007), HaroldSkimpole (22 Jul 2007), ...)


TopicLiterature - TopicHumor - Datetag20070809


(correlates: DickensianGirls, JohnJarndyce, True Gentleman, ...)