The Virtual Corkscrew Museum's Weekly Newspaper

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Number 545

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Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

Dickens Characters - Picnic Corkscrews

Charles Dickens was appararently quite fascinated by the corkscrew. He made sure many of his characters in his works used one or behaved like one. Here are some examples:

The life and adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1838-39). "...the decanter of port being nearly out, brother Ned pulled the bell, which was instantly answered by the apoplectic butler. 'David,' said brother Ned. ' Sir,' replied the butler. ' A magnum of the double-diamond, David, to drink the health of Mr. Linkinwater.' Instantly, by a feat of dexterity, which was the admiration of all the company, and had been, annually, for some years past, the apoplectic butler, bringing his left hand from behind the small of his back, produced the bottle with the corkscrew already inserted; uncorked it at a jerk; and placed the magnum and the cork before his master with the dignity of conscious cleverness

The life and adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1838-39). "Mobbs can't think. She is sorry to find he is discontented, which is sinful and horrid, and hopes Mr. Squeers will flog him into a happier state of mind; with which view, she has also stopped his halfpenny a week pocket-money, and given a double-bladed knife with a corkscrew in it to the Missionaries, which she had bought on purpose for him."

The life and adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1838-39). 'Very good,' said the old gentleman, raising his voice, 'then bring in the bottled lightning, a clean tumbler, and a corkscrew.'

The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-41). Mr. Richard Swiveller, wending homewards from the Wilderness (for such was the appropriate. name of Quilp's choice retreat), after a sinuous and corkscrew fashion...

Our Mutual Friend (1864-1865) "The visitor first held the bottle against the light of the candle, and next examined the top of the cork. Satisfied that it had not been tampered with, he slowly took from his breastpocket a rusty clasp-knife, and, with a corkscrew in the handle, opened the wine. That done, he looked at the cork, unscrewed it from the corkscrew, laid each separately on the table, and, with the end of the sailor's knot of his neckerchief, dusted the inside of the neck of the bottle."

The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870). "The host had gone below to the cellar, and had brought up bottles of ruby, straw-colored, and golden drinks, which had ripened long ago in lands where no fogs are, and had since lain slumbering in the shade. Sparkling and tingling after so long a nap, they pushed at their corks to help the corkscrew (like prisoners helping rioters to force their gates), and danced out gayly."

Sketches by Boz (1836). "'How are you?' said little Kitterbell, in a greater bustle than ever, bolting out of the little back parlour with a corkscrew in his hand, and various particles of sawdust, looking like so many inverted commas, on his inexpressibles."

The life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-44). "Their young friend Bailey sympathised in these feelings to the fullest extent, and, abating nothing of his patronage, gave them every encouragement in his power: favouring them, when the general attention was diverted from his proceedings, with mnany nods and winks and other tokens of recognition, and occasionally touching his nose with a corkscrew, as if to express the Bacchanalian character of the meeting." and "I admire at your good fortune, cap'en. You might loan me a cork-screw at the same time, and half-a-dozen glasses if you liked."

All the Year Round (1889). "Confound it, madam! who are you?" he sluttered. Then he drew a long breath. " Oh—h ! Cork-screw curls ! Cousin Lavinia ! "

American Notes (1842). "The drivers on these roads who certainly get over the ground in a manner which is quite miraculous, so twist and turn the team about in forcing a passage, corkscrew fashion, through the bogs and swamps..."

Bleak House (1852-1853). "All through dinner; which was long, in consequence of such accidents as the dish of potatoes being mislaid in the coal skuttle, and the handle of the corkscrew coming off, and striking the young woman in the chin; Mrs. Jellyby preserved the evenness of her disposition."

A Christmas Carol (1847). "And when old Fezziwig and Mrs. Fezziwig had gone all through the dance-advance and retire, hold hands with your partner, bow and courtesy, corkscrew, thread-the-needle, and back again to your place."

Christmas Stories: The Battle of Life (1846). "All this she delivered by way of soliloquy, gradually rising higher and higher on tiptoe, in her impatience to hear the news, and making a corkscrew of her apron, and a bottle of her mouth."

David Copperfield (1849-50). "I went on, by passing the wine faster and faster yet, and continually starting up with a corkscrew to open more wine, long before any was needed." ...and later... "...only Steerforth was with me, helping me to undress, and where I was by turns telling him that Agnes was my sister, and adjuring him to bring the corkscrew, that I might open another bottle of wine." ...and another... "I should say Mister, but I know you'll excuse the abit I've got into-you're so insinuating, that you draw me like a corkscrew!"

Dombey and Son (1846-1848). "...above the archway of the door, there was a monstrous fantasy of rusty iron curling and twisting like a petrifaction of an arbor over the threshold, budding in spikes and corkscrew points..." and "The gentleman was still twirling a theme, which seemed to go round and round and round, and in and in and in, and to involve itself like a corkscrew twirled upon a table..."

From a November 19, 1865 letter to Archibald Michie. "You should have seen him as I saw him, when he was inventing an immense corkscrew with which infailibly to extract gold from any Diggings in those parts. He had only to find the spot where gold lay hidder; the corkscrew would then be worked by twelve men shipped to the Anipodes for the purpose, and all turning to with a will (unless they had run away: when the corkscrew bit thoroughly..."

Little Dorrit (1855-57). "He soon returned, with the bottle of wine: which, according to the custom of the place, originating in a scarcity of corkscrews among the Collegians (in common with a scarcity of much else), was already opened for use."

Mugby Junction(1866). "He looks arter the sawdust department in a back room, and is sometimes, when we are very hard put to it, let in behind the counter with a corkscrew..." and "Sniff, bore away by his servile disposition, had drored up his leg with a higher and a higher relish, and was now discovered to be waving his cork-screw over his head." and "I cannot say ; but his cork-screw alone remains to bear witness to the servility of his disposition. "

A Tale of Two Cities (1859 ). "They fished with a spade, at first. Presently the honoured parent appeared to be adjusting some instrument like a great corkscrew."

Sketches by Box: The Young Ladies' Young Gentleman (1836). "We dined rather more comfortably than people usually do under such circumstances, nothing having been left behind but the corkscrew and the bread."

Bentley's Miscellany (1838). "Mr. Hippsley here attempted to draw a bottle of wine ; but his hand coming in contact with the cork-screw, a severe spasm seemed to pass through his frame."

From Houshold Words edited by Dickens (1850). "Humble and Crick, meantime, silently took out their several implements, and arranged them for use. They had with them a powerful jemmy (a stout crow-bar), a centre-bit, screw-driver, chisel, files, a pair of iron pincers of a peculiar shape (made to pass through a hole and tnrn a corner), and a large knife, with several tools in it, such as a small saw, two gimlets, a hook, a pick, and a cork-screw.

From Houshold Words edited by Dickens (1856). "The personal effects found on Mr. Nobble were few; and, denoted a leaning, more to order's, than to treason's side. They consisted of six one pound notes, a short letter, and a picnic knife. This knife, besides being a horse-pick, a toothpick, a gimlet, a cork-screw, a punch, a tweezer, a file, a wrench, and a screw-driver, was knobbed at the end with a silver crown, which made it also a clandestine constable's staff."

Lundberg Brothers

During the past several years, a number of corkscrews have been offered on auction sites by seller "Lundbergbro" in California. Although they are not described as "antique", the descriptions are vague enough that a collector might consider them as such. Some recent offerings include the titles "French Ivory & Sterling Walker Patent Corkscrew", "French Ivory & Gold Leaf Corkscrew Wine Bottle Opener", "Carved Dragon Finger Walker Pat. Corkscrew Coat of Arms", and "Gold Ebony Hidden Corkscrew Cane Walking Stick 'MK'". You need to know that these are not old although they may contain old parts.

The makers admit on their website: "Lundbergs have been building custom corkscrews for 14 years. We have made well over 300 corkscrews to date, selling to private dealers / collectors and online." and "We recycle & repair broken antique corkscrews." You can see some examples on their site at:

The Weekly Screw is concerned that such corkscrews may turn up in the aftermarket offered as antiques. We bring this the attention of our readers as a caution - BUYER BEWARE!

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©2009 Don Bull, Editor


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