Dick Swiveller

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Dick Swiveller by 'Kyd' (1910) Richard Swiveller Kyd 1910.jpg
Dick Swiveller by 'Kyd' (1910)

Richard 'Dick' Swiveller is a fictional character in the 1841 novel The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens. Initially a comical accessory to the antagonists in the novel, he undergoes a transformation, becoming a key helpmate bridging the depiction of the main characters that are either mostly villainous or goodly in nature. [1]

Contents

Character

Initially, Swiveller is the easily manipulated friend of Frederick Trent, the wastrel older brother of Nell Trent; the clerk of Sampson Brass until he is dismissed, and the guardian and eventual husband of the Marchioness. He delights in quoting and adapting literature to describe his experiences. Laid back in character. he seems to have few worries despite owing money to just about everybody.

Swiveller and the Marchioness play cards - illustration by Hablot Knight Browne (1840) The Marchioness playing cards.jpg
Swiveller and the Marchioness play cards - illustration by Hablot Knight Browne (1840)

Fred Trent wants Swiveller to marry Fred's sister Nell, so he'll have the supposed fortune of their grandfather. They have to wait, since Nell is too young to marry. When the destitute Nell and her grandfather leave London Swiveller is befriended by the villainous Quilp, who to keep him under his eye helps him gain employment as a clerk with the unscrupulous siblings Sally and Sampson Brass. While at the Brasses he meets their little half-starved servant who does not know her own name or age, whom he nicknames "the Marchioness". Swiveller says to her, "Why how thin you are? What do you mean by it?" He instantly rushes to the nearest public house and returns with a boy, "...who bore in one hand a plate of bread and beef, and in the other a great pot, filled with some very fragrant compound, which sent forth a grateful steam, and was indeed choice purl, made after a particular recipe which Mr Swiveller had imparted to the landlord, at a period when he was deep in his books and desirous to conciliate his friendship." [2] He teaches her to play cribbage and she later repays his kindness to her by nursing him through a fever. [3] [4]

Following Fred's departure from the story Swiveller becomes more independent and eventually is seen as a strong force for good. He becomes aware of the Brasses' villainy and, with the help of the Marchioness, exposes a plot to frame Kit Nubbles and secures his release from prison. Later he inherits money from his aunt, puts the Marchioness through school, renames her 'Sophronia Sphynx' and ultimately marries her. [5] [6] His transformation from an idle and vacant youth to a key helpmate bridges the depiction of the main characters that are either mostly villainous or goodly in nature.

Notable portrayals

Laurence Harvey as Swiveller and Diane Cilento as the Marchioness in 'The Small Servant' (1955) Laurence Harvey Diane Cilento The Small Servant Alcoa Hour 1955.jpg
Laurence Harvey as Swiveller and Diane Cilento as the Marchioness in 'The Small Servant' (1955)

Actors who played the character in early performances on stage include William J. Le Moyne and James Lewis.

Other actors to play the role in film and television include:

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References

  1. Dickens' Characters: Dick Swiveller, The Charles Dickens Page
  2. Dickens, Charles. The Old Curiosity Shop, Chapter 57
  3. Dickens, Charles. The Old Curiosity Shop, Chapter 62
  4. Dick Swiveller's Surprise, Victorian Web Database
  5. Characters in The Old Curiosity Shop: Dick Swiveller, The Charles Dickens Info page
  6. Dickens, Charles. The Old Curiosity Shop, Chapter 73