Background.

Martin ChuzzlewitIt was difficult to enjoy her society without becoming conscious of a smell of spirits.‘ is a quotation from Martin Chuzzlewit (Chapter 19).

Martin Chuzzlewit is the sixth novel by Charles Dickens originally published between 1843 and 1844.

Context.

Description of Sarah (Sairey) Gamp. Mrs Gamp is a nurse and midwife, happy to offer her services in return for a drink.

Taken from the following passage in Chapter 19 of the novel Martin Chuzzlewit:

She was a fat old woman, this Mrs Gamp, with a husky voice and a moist eye, which she had a remarkable power of turning up, and only showing the white of it. Having very little neck, it cost her some trouble to look over herself, if one may say so, at those to whom she talked. She wore a very rusty black gown, rather the worse for snuff, and a shawl and bonnet to correspond. In these dilapidated articles of dress she had, on principle, arrayed herself, time out of mind, on such occasions as the present; for this at once expressed a decent amount of veneration for the deceased, and invited the next of kin to present her with a fresher suit of weeds; an appeal so frequently successful, that the very fetch and ghost of Mrs Gamp, bonnet and all, might be seen hanging up, any hour in the day, in at least a dozen of the second-hand clothes shops about Holborn. The face of Mrs Gamp—the nose in particular—was somewhat red and swollen, and it was difficult to enjoy her society without becoming conscious of a smell of spirits. Like most persons who have attained to great eminence in their profession, she took to hers very kindly; insomuch that, setting aside her natural predilections as a woman, she went to a lying-in or a laying-out with equal zest and relish.

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