Having just finished Pride and Prejudice, our first romantic classic, I hardly expected to find anything in Oliver Twist that would rival the hearts and butterflies of the love stories told by Austen, but once again Dicken’s surprises me.
The beadle, Mr. Bumble, calls upon the matron of the workhouse, Mrs. Corney, with a spark of longing growing in his breast. Now, one might be unsure if the longing is for her, or for the position that he would acquire by becoming her espoused husband, but either way the love language between the two of them would send any heart a flutter.
Just listen to the way Mr. Bumble uses Mrs. Corney’s lovely feline companions to flatter her.
“You have a cat, ma’am, I see, ” said Mr. Bumble, glancing at one, . . ., “and kittens too, I declare!”
“I am so fond of them, Mr. Bumble, you can’t think,” replied the matron. . . .
“Very nice animals, ma’am,” replied Mr. Bumble, approvingly; “so very domestic.”
“Oh yes!” rejoined the matron, with enthusiasm; “so fond of their home too, that it’s quite a pleasure, I’m sure.”
“Mrs. Corney, ma’am,” said Mr. Bumble, slowly, and marking the time with his teaspoon, “I mean to say this, ma’am; that any cat, or kitten, that could live with you, ma’am, and not be fond of its home, must be a ass, ma’am.”
“Oh, Mr. Bumble!” remonstrated Mrs. Corney.
Wait. He doesn’t stop there.
“It’s of no use disguising facts, ma’am,” said Mr. Bumble, slowly flourishing the teaspoon with a kind of amorous dignity which made him doubly impressive; “I would drown it myself, with pleasure.”
Did he really just say that? Meeee-ooooow!