Summary and Analysis
This section starts with an essay describing the appearance and use of the second-floor arch of a London house where, among other things, the undertaker's men rest the coffin of a deceased person in the household. The subject of this essay leads to Thackeray's revelation that old Mr. Sedley is dying. Before he dies he tells Amelia that he and her mother have been unkind and unjust to her. She prays with him.
After Sedley dies, old Osborne points out his own success and tells Georgy, "He was a better man than I was, this day twenty years-a better man I should say by ten thousand pound."
Old Osborne, at first inclined to underrate Dobbin, begins to hear of his fame from members of his own society. Sir William, Dobbin's father, praises him. Dobbin's name appears in parties of nobility. Then Osborne discovers that Dobbin has in part supported Amelia and Georgy. Dobbin says it was his responsibility that George married Amelia and he felt obligated. Osborne says he is an honest fellow. They discuss Georgy, who is so much like his father. Old Osborne is softening. He sends a card for Mr. Joseph Sedley and defends Dobbin when his daughter Jane belittles him. He asks about Amelia and says he will be reconciled to her, but Mr. Sedley's illness and death prevent. Meanwhile Osborne changes his will, and before he can be reconciled to Amelia, he dies.
Frederick Bullock fears that Osborne has left half his property to his grandson, and he has, with prevision for Amelia and a legacy for Dobbin. Amelia is guardian of Georgy; Dobbin is executor. Amelia is grateful to Dobbin, but grateful only, for the reconciliation which he has effected.
After Amelia has money, the servants respect her; people who never thought of her before visit her now and patronize her, especially Mrs. Frederick Bullock, her sister-in-law. Amelia does not enjoy these people.
The house at Russell Square is dismantled and things put in storage until Georgy's majority. When Joseph, Amelia and Georgy, and Dobbin go to the continent, Joseph eats and sleeps, Amelia sketches Dobbin and Georgy act as her attendants. Amelia hears good music for the first time, likes Mozart, and wonders if it's wicked to be so happy. She begins to appreciate Dobbin, who is the first gentleman she has known despite his large feet and hands.
The author claims to have seen the party at Pumpernickel, to have witnessed Amelia's delight in the opera, Jos interest in nobility, and to have admired Amelia himself. Joseph, greatly impressed by Lord Tapeworm and his doctor and the mineral springs, decides to stay at Pumpernickel. He thinks he will grow young and thin. Lord Tapeworm believes he has impressed Amelia, whereas he has only bewildered her. The group is presented at Court. The duchy stretches about ten miles but managed with in its small area to offer "famous" theatre, marriage "fêtes" on a grand scale, and moderate despotism; even factional politics was thoroughly entrenched in Pumpernickel — "the society was divided in its allegiance to those two great nations [the French and the English]." In short a variety of experiences, frequently available only in much larger places, was available in the small duchy of Pumpernickel.
Amelia entertains, speaks French, sings, and charms the German ladies. Jos is enamored of Fanny de Butterbrod, a canoness and countess, but during the festival of a royal marriage, Becky shows up She spies Joseph, flatters him, asks him to visit her.
Some of Thackeray's figures are: ". . . whilst the sands of life were running out in the old man's glass upstairs . . . The velvet-footed butler brought them their wine . . . She [Amelia] walks into the room as silently as a sunbeam."
The following passage has beautiful description: "At this time of summer evening, the cows are trooping down from the hills, lowing and with their bells tinkling, to the old town, with its old moats, and gates, and spires, and chestnut trees, with long blue shadows stretching over the grass; the sky and the river below flame in crimson and gold; and the moon is already out, looking pale towards the sunset. The sun sinks behind the great castle-crested mountains, the night falls suddenly, the river grows darker and darker, lights quiver in it from the windows in the old ramparts, and twinkle peacefully in the villages under the hills on the opposite shore."
Grandfather Osborne tries to mold little George in the shape of Vanity Fair when he measures grandfather Sedley's goodness by the amount of money he has had. Bullock shows his greed when his first interest at his father-in-law's death is how much money Georgy has inherited.
The lawyers of Vanity Fair smile, but they note their visits in their bills. The people of Vanity Fair now see Amelia, whereas they didn't before:
. . . in this vast town one has not the time to go and seek one's friends; if they drop out of the rank they disappear, and we march on without them. Who is ever missed in Vanity Fair?
Mrs. Frederick Bullock patronizes Amelia and entertains her "with faint fashionable fiddlefaddle and feeble Court slipslop." Joseph, of Vanity Fair himself, likes this Court gossip, but Dobbin is bored. He can't stand the woman with her "twopenny gentility."
Thackeray here offers this definition of gentlemen:
. . . men whose aims are generous, whose truth is constant, and not only constant in its kind, but elevated in its degree; whose want of meanness makes them simple: who can look the world honestly in the face with an equal manly sympathy for the great and the small.
William Dobbin qualifies as a gentleman, with the following, basic to his philosophy:
. . . beauty of art or nature made him thankful as well as happy; and that the pleasure to be had in listening to fine music, as in looking at the stars in the sky, or at a beautiful landscape or picture, was a benefit for which we might thank Heaven as sincerely as for any other worldly blessing.
Thackeray's humor shows in these examples: Marshal Tiptoff, "died in this year full of honours, and of an aspic of plovers' eggs . . ." Although the duchy of Pumpernickel is only ten miles long, Joseph is much excited over its nobility, particularly over Lord Tapeworm. "Mr. Jos had the honor of leading out the Countess of Schlüsselback, an old lady with a humpback, but with sixteen good quarters of nobility, and related to half the royal houses of Germany." Another jibe at Vanity Fair comes in this description of a palace:
. . . the delighted people are permitted to march through room after room of the grand ducal palace, and admire the slippery floor, the rich hangings, and the spittoons at the doors of all the innumberable chambers . . . The army consisted of a magnificent band that also did duty on the stage . . .
Georgy shows an endearing quality when he climbs the pole, wins a prize sausage, and then gives it to a peasant who has nearly grasped it.