“The Old Curiosity Shop” by Charles Dickens (Part 1)

the old curiosity shop


Introductory notes:

Since “The Old Curiosity Shop” is 559 pages long, I have decided to divide the summary of this long book into several parts. Not only this will significantly help me summing this book up when it ends (don’t know when), this makes me much easier to mark my reading progress; where it goes, how many twists and turns in it, and such.

The novel is really, I must say, a grand work. This means that it requires me to put a lot of focus on the story since so many minor characters coming along the reading process that may confuse me if I don’t read in high concentration.

Part 1:

“The glare and hurry of broad noon are not adapted to idle pursuits like mine; a glimpse of passing faces caught by the light of a street-lamp or a shop window is often better for my purpose than their full revelation in the daylight; and, if I must add the truth, night is kinder in this respect than day, which too often destroys an air-built castle at the moment of its completion, without the least ceremony or remorse.”

An anonymous old man has this habit of roaming at nights, wandering through the streets in the City, absorbing the beauty of the nights has to offer. One night, he finds an oddity when which he meets a pretty little girl begging to be directed to a certain address.

Her innocence and trust makes this old man helps her getting the place she wants to reach. An old man with long grey hair welcomes the pair as they get to the place, which is a receptacle for old, used, curious things. For instance, “fantastic cravings brought from monkish cloisters, rusty weapons of various kinds, and distorted figures in china and wood and iron and ivory”.

This girl is later called as Nelly or Nell by her grandfather, the owner of the place.The anonymous old man briefly tells their acquaintanceship and advises Nell’s grandfather to take care of her more carefully. But the tone and the reception from her grandfather intrigues the visitor.

Nell immediately prepares for the supper, which further gives a question mark for the visitor. He can’t help but telling the truth on his prejudice that the grandfather may have misused Nell. To this, he shortly denies that. Nell is the poor child who has lost her mother and Nell does that with all of her heart.

While the conversation hasn’t been concluded, a knock at the door is audible. “A shock-headed, shambling, awkward lad with an uncommonly wide mouth, very red cheeks, a turned-up nose” shows up. This poor Kit is the family’s servant since he often uses “master” whichever he addresses to Nell’s grandfather.

What occurs that night completely disturb the visitor’s mind. After almost one week, he visits the house, wanting to meet Nell after battling against his hesitations by walking past the house and taking several turns. He shows up eventually and what he finds in the warehouse brings more curiosity.

Nell’s grandfather is now with a young man, about 21 years old, handsome and well-built, at the back part of the warehouse and there seems a tension between the two for they raise their voices in some parts of the conversation.

Fred Trent, Nell’s brother, argue with his grandfather about the property in the warehouse and the fate of his sister which becomes worse with the coming of Fred’s friend, Dick Swiveller. Fred and his fellow believe that his grandfather is a rich person but opts to live like a poor one with Nelly. This has often been refuted by the poor old man but falls deaf to the ears of Fred and Dick.

In the midst of the tensed talks, Nell emerges followed by “an elderly man of remarkably hard features and forbidding aspect, and so low in stature as to be quite a dwarf, though his head and face were large enough for the body of a giant”. His name is Daniel Quilp, who seems a very familiar face to either Nell and her grandfather.

There’s no more the visitor can do at the moment for he sees Nell seems content and even busies herself by providing a writing lesson for Kit.





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