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Summary Chapter 19

CHAPTER 19

Jonas, not wanting to be accused of being stingy about funeral costs, tells Pecksniff not to spare any expense. Pecksniff has been to the undertaker, and that gentleman has referred him to Mrs. Gamp. Mrs. Gamp is a person who tends to births (as a mid-wife) and is a watcher of the dead.

Mrs. Gamp, having been summoned to a birthing crisis to advise another mid-wife, is asleep. Pecksniff uses the doorknocker. It fails to rouse her, but it draws out all the neighborhood women. They tell him to knock at her window. Pecksniff follows their advice and successfully rouses Mrs. Gamp. Meanwhile, the neighborhood women critique Pecksniff’s appearance and wish he hadn’t bothered Mrs. Gamp. When Mrs. Gamp learns she is being summoned to a death, she asks whether it is one of several people that she knows. Pecksniff denies that he was sent by or knows any of these people. He tells her he was referred by the undertaker. The neighbors, who consider births more important than deaths, think Pecksniff has no business being there and start insulting his appearance. He is very glad to leave.

Mrs. Gamp says that a taste of liquor always gives her the nerve to stay up with the dead. Though she only claims to have a “taste”, her red nose indicates that she partakes more generously. When they arrive at the house, the undertaker remarks on what an excellent man Mr. Jonas is—ordering only the best for his father. He also comments on the well-known reputation of the deceased in the city.

Mrs. Gamp goes to the chamber where Mr. Chuzzlewit’s body is lain out. Chuffey is with him. Pecksniff joins Jonas, who says he is inviting the doctor to the funeral so that he can tell everyone how hopeless his father’s case was—that it couldn’t be helped. Mrs. Gamp comes out, complaining that Chuffey is bothering her. Pecksniff goes to fetch Chuffey. Chuffey wails that Anthony died before him. His master had always been kind to him. They had gone to school together, and he reminisces about a trip they had made. Pecksniff leads him away, leaving behind some spirits that Mrs. Gamp helps herself to.

For a whole week, they brood. Jonas doesn’t want Pecksniff to leave him. He is aware of the body upstairs. He fears that every shadow and sound is his father’s ghost looking over his shoulder. Pecksniff orders a good feast and tries to console Jonas. Mrs. Gamp, Mr. Mould, and the funeral staff enjoy the feast.

Mr. Mould reflects to Mrs. Gamp that people spend more money on deaths than births because they are trying to mend their hearts. Jonas has given his father an elaborate funeral procession. The doctor belabors the story of Anthony’s death, never reaching the end of it. Chuffey embarrasses everyone with his emotional display. They find him disgraceful. First, he ignores his handkerchief and uses his knuckles. Then he grieves loudly at the funeral. Everyone reproaches him. Jonas tells them to leave him alone. Chuffey isn’t in his right mind. Jonas will take care of him, just as his father asked him to. Everyone admires Mr. Jonas more. Chuffey retires to the carriage.

Jonas starts returning to his former self once the funeral occurs and the body is out of the house. Mrs. Gamp returns home, only to be summoned to a birth of twins. Mr. Mould dines with his family. The doctor goes to a wedding. It rains on the newly covered grave of Anthony Chuzzlewit.

Charles Dickens