The clerk had the same air of knowing something to everybody else’s disadvantage.‘ is a quotation from Great Expectations (Chapter 20).

This quote is a description of Mr. John Wemmick. Wemmick is the clerk to lawyer Mr. Jaggers. He becomes a friend to Pip after he moves to London.


Taken from the following passage in Chapter 20 of Great Expectations:

Mr. Jaggers’s room was lighted by a skylight only, and was a most dismal place; the skylight, eccentrically pitched like a broken head, and the distorted adjoining houses looking as if they had twisted themselves to peep down at me through it. There were not so many papers about, as I should have expected to see; and there were some odd objects about, that I should not have expected to see,—such as an old rusty pistol, a sword in a scabbard, several strange-looking boxes and packages, and two dreadful casts on a shelf, of faces peculiarly swollen, and twitchy about the nose. Mr. Jaggers’s own high-backed chair was of deadly black horsehair, with rows of brass nails round it, like a coffin; and I fancied I could see how he leaned back in it, and bit his forefinger at the clients. The room was but small, and the clients seemed to have had a habit of backing up against the wall; the wall, especially opposite to Mr. Jaggers’s chair, being greasy with shoulders. I recalled, too, that the one-eyed gentleman had shuffled forth against the wall when I was the innocent cause of his being turned out.

I sat down in the cliental chair placed over against Mr. Jaggers’s chair, and became fascinated by the dismal atmosphere of the place. I called to mind that the clerk had the same air of knowing something to everybody else’s disadvantage, as his master had. I wondered how many other clerks there were up-stairs, and whether they all claimed to have the same detrimental mastery of their fellow-creatures. I wondered what was the history of all the odd litter about the room, and how it came there. I wondered whether the two swollen faces were of Mr. Jaggers’s family, and, if he were so unfortunate as to have had a pair of such ill-looking relations, why he stuck them on that dusty perch for the blacks and flies to settle on, instead of giving them a place at home. Of course I had no experience of a London summer day, and my spirits may have been oppressed by the hot exhausted air, and by the dust and grit that lay thick on everything. But I sat wondering and waiting in Mr. Jaggers’s close room, until I really could not bear the two casts on the shelf above Mr. Jaggers’s chair, and got up and went out.


John Wemmick.

John Wemmick is Mr. Jaggers’ secretive chief clerk, who becomes a friend to Pip after he moves to London. Pip describes Wemmick as ‘a dry man, rather short in stature, with a square wooden face, whose expression seemed to have been imperfectly chipped out with a dull-edged chisel‘. Wemmick appears to have a split personality. In the employ of Jaggers, he adopts an uncaring attitude towards clients whilst in private he is more joyous, particularly around his fiancé, Miss Skiffins, who he marries. Wemmick owns a house in Walworth which is modelled as a castle, complete with a drawbridge, cannon, and moat. During a visit to the office of Jaggers, Pip notes that his personality ‘was as dry and distant to me as if there were twin Wemmicks, and this was the wrong one‘ (Chapter 48).

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The clerk had the same air of knowing something to everybody else’s disadvantage.