Analysis of a Scene XLII: Remembering Clive Swift in “The Pickwick Papers”

Clive Swift as the unlucky in love Tracy Tupman

Clive Swift as the unlucky in love Tracy Tupman

Admin and I were saddened to learn of the recent passing of Clive Swift at age 82.  He made such an indelible impression on us in his co-starring roles with Patrick Malahide, both as the hapless-in-love Tracy Tupman in “The Pickwick Papers” (1985) and Chisholm’s harried boss in “An Officer and a Car Salesman” (1988), that we felt we should remember him with an analysis of one of our favourite scenes from episode 3 of “The Pickwick Papers”.

Taking the romantic plunge

Taking the romantic plunge

First, a little background.  The Pickwick Club, consisting of Mr. Samuel Pickwick (Nigel Stock), Tracy Tupman (Clive Swift), Nathaniel Winkle (Jeremy Nicholas), and Augustus Snodgrass (Alan Parnaby) have just been on a shooting party with their friend, Mr. Wardle (Colin Douglas) at Dingley Dell.   However, while Mr. Winkle purports to be a great sportsman, in truth, guns make him very nervous – so nervous that he manages to wing Mr. Tupman with a stray shot.  The wound is entirely superficial, but Mr. Tupman milks it for maximum effect, using it to elicit sympathy – and a blossoming romantic interest! – from Mr. Wardle’s spinster sister, Miss Rachel (Freda Dowie).

Warning Miss Rachel of Tuppy's nefarious intentions

Warning Miss Rachel of Tuppy’s nefarious intentions

Of course, complications ensue.  Charming con man, sometime actor, and all-around rogue Mr. Alfred Jingle (Mr. Malahide) catches wind of the romance – and Old Mrs. Wardle’s objection to it – and decides to make a little mischief while enriching himself at the same time.   Despite Mr. Tupman’s perfect flood of romantic feelings and gallantry towards Miss Rachel, Jingle warns her that Mr. Tupman will soon begin cutting her dead, paying more attention to her much younger and prettier niece, Emily.  In fact – horror of horrors! – the only reason Mr. Tupman  got romantic in the first place is because he’s only interested in Miss Rachel’s money.  Indeed,  Mr. Tupman’s behaviour seems to bear this out.  He ignores Miss Rachel in favour of Emily, doting on the latter at dinner and asking her to play draughts while Miss Rachel fumes, ignored.  Whatever can have happened to change his mind??  Well, this scene is where we find out.

[Mr. Tupman leaves the parlour after playing draughts with Emily.  A puff of cigar smoke is our first indication that he’s meeting with Mr. Jingle.]

Tuppy wanders into the fog

Tuppy wanders into the fog

RF:  I do love that puff of cigar smoke signalling Jingle’s presence before we see him.  😀  I also suspect those are Mr. Wardle’s cigars that he’s been smoking.

Admin: It is great the way Mr. Tupman practically wanders into the smoke. It ushers a sense of foreboding, a bit like a ship sailing into the fog. No good can come of it.

"Oh, splendid. Capital. Couldn't act better myself."

“Oh, splendid. Capital. Couldn’t act better myself.”

RF:  I like your comparison to a ship sailing into the fog.  😀  That’s right, Tuppy is in deep and dangerous waters.

Tupman:  How did I do it?
Jingle:  Oh, splendid.  Capital.  Couldn’t act better myself.
Tupman:  Oh!

RF:  Pretty sure that Jingle could act better himself.  In fact, he’s doing so right now and Tuppy is falling for it hook, line, and sinker.  Jingle is certainly taking a lot of glee in how things are going, although he appeared to commiserate with Miss Rachel while Tuppy was playing draughts with Emily.  He’s playing both sides against each other and it’s working perfectly.

Putting on a show for Miss Rachel

Putting on a show for Miss Rachel

Admin: I will say Jingle’s acting in front of Mr. Tupman is considerably better than the performance he showered Miss Rachel with. But, Miss Rachel didn’t seem to notice that he looked like he was treading the boards before her.

RF:  Perhaps she was too caught up in the fact her life had suddenly become an over-the-top melodrama.  😉  I don’t think she’d ever been showered with so much attention before.

Admin:  Agreed. She’d had more excitement in those couple of days than she’d had in her entire life before.

Jingle:  You must repeat the part tomorrow.  Every evening till further notice.
Tupman [anxiously]:  Does Rachel still wish it?  I must continue to ignore her and feign a passion for Emily?
Jingle:  But of course!  She don’t like it, but must be done.  Avert suspicion — afraid of her brother.  [solicitously] Any message for her?

Tuppy: "Does Rachel still wish it? I must continue to ignore her and feign a passion for Emily?"<br> Jingle: "But of course! She don't like it, but must be done."

Tuppy: “Does Rachel still wish it? I must continue
to ignore her and feign a passion for Emily?”
Jingle: “But of course! She don’t like it, but must be done.”

RF:  It all seems so logical when Jingle says it (explaining the entire plan in three short phrases), and of course Tuppy thinks Jingle only wants to help him with his romance.  Naturally, Tuppy will do whatever it takes to win Miss Rachel’s hand, especially if he thinks the direction is coming from her.  He’s very trusting, so it never occurs to him to question what Jingle is saying.  And Jingle is every inch the loyal and helpful confidante, even offering to take a message to Miss Rachel – which we know he won’t.  His conspiratorial tone no doubt makes Tuppy feel like he’s participating in a grand romance.

Jingle: "Any message for her?"

Jingle: “Any message for her?”

Admin: Yes, it is a great little ruse. Jingle’s matter-of-fact manner only adds to the credibility of the whole thing. Mr. Wardle is indeed a blustery fellow, so it is only logical that Miss Rachel wants to avoid incurring his wrath. Oh, and poor Mr. Tupman. He clearly doesn’t see much of anything in Miss Emily as he dismissively admits to feigning a passion for her. Offering to take a message to Miss Rachel is a nice touch and makes it seem like Jingle really is simply the middle man in a scheme devised by Miss Rachel herself.

Tupman [whispering]:  Oh, my dear fellow, give her my best love.  Say anything that’s kind, but add that I applaud her wisdom and admire her discretion.  My dear friend, how can I repay you?
Jingle:  Don’t talk of it.  By the by, can’t spare me ten pounds, can you?  Very particular purpose.  Pay you three days.

Paying much more attention to his cigar than Tuppy's impassioned message

Paying much more attention to his cigar than
Tuppy’s impassioned message

RF:  Aw, poor Tuppy.  You can tell by the way he speaks so admiringly that he really does love Miss Rachel and thinks he’s doing what she wants.  Ironically, they seem very well suited for each other; they’re each probably the most realistic hope the other will have of finding romance at this stage in life.  I also like how Jingle first turns down Tuppy’s offer of repayment (“Don’t talk of it”) then immediately does a 180 and asks to borrow ten pounds.  😀  He slides it in there so smoothly and shamelessly that all Tuppy will remember (at first) is how kind he was.  Of course, Jingle avoids saying just what his “particular purpose” is.  But he’s very charming as he asks for the money and smiles so reassuringly that Tuppy can’t help but give in.  [SPOILER ALERT]  He’s never going to repay Tuppy.

RF:  I also just realized that Jingle has a wonderfully bored expression and is paying much more attention to his cigar than to Tuppy’s impassioned message to Miss Rachel.  😉

Jingle: "By the by, can't spare me ten pounds, can you? Very particular purpose."

Jingle: “By the by, can’t spare me ten pounds, can you?
Very particular purpose.”

Admin: Oh, I know, poor Tuppy is heading for a fall, and we can all see it. And, yes, he and Miss Rachel would have been happy with each other. They aren’t the most exciting couple, far from it, but they’d be well suited for one another. Ten pounds is a considerable sum considering the setting, so Jingle scored quite a hit. He really fleeces Tuppy there.

Tupman [hesitates]:  Of course, I…  Ten pounds, you say? [Pulls a coin pouch out of his pocket]
Jingle [holds out his hand expectantly]:  Remember, not a look.
Tupman:  Oh, not a wink!  [Counting coins]  One… two…
Jingle:  Not a syllable. 
Tupman:  … Three… Not a whisper!
Jingle:  All your attentions to the niece.  Rather rude than otherwise to the aunt.
Tupman:  … Eight… nine…
Jingle:  Only way of deceiving the old ones.

Taking all of Tuppy's cash

Taking all of Tuppy’s cash

RF:  I like how Jingle holds out his hand expectantly for the coins while ensuring Tuppy won’t blow the whole scheme until it’s far too late.  Not only that, we find out in the next scene that [SPOILER ALERT] Tuppy is unknowingly paying the way for Jingle to elope with Miss Rachel.  Jingle is just so pleased at how well everything is going he’s practically gloating,  but Tuppy is so caught up in everything and distracted that he has no idea.  Clearly, the likes of the Pickwickians and the Wardles are no match for Jingle’s deviousness.

Admin:  Rather sad too that he suggests Tuppy even go so far as to be a bit rude to Miss Rachel. How cruel. Yes, his conspiratorial nature can also be seen as gloating. He’s like a fox who has figured his way into the chicken coop.

Tupman:  I’ll take care.  But when shall I be able to cease this deception?
Jingle:  Ticklish business.  Suppertime tomorrow?  [Turns and bounds up the stairs.]
Tupman:  [Turns to watch Jingle go then suddenly realizes his coin purse is now entirely empty.]

Tuppy: "But when shall I be able to cease this deception?"<br> Jingle: "Ticklish business..."

Tuppy: “But when shall I be able to cease this deception?”
Jingle: “Ticklish business…”

RF:  Well, Jingle is actually right – the whole thing will be over by suppertime tomorrow, just not in the way that Tuppy thinks.  I also like the way he bounds up the stairs with so much energy; he’s now ten pounds richer and on his way to more money, whether he successfully elopes with Miss Rachel (doubtful he really intends to do this) or is simply paid off not to elope with her (his real objective).  Either way, Jingle is about four or five moves ahead of everyone else.  I also like the way Tuppy suddenly notices his coin purse is empty.  Jingle is so efficient at fleecing people that they don’t even realize what’s happened until it’s all over.

Jingle: "...Suppertime tomorrow?"

Jingle: “…Suppertime tomorrow?”

Admin: There is a spring in his step as he jauntily goes up the stairs. Mr. Tupman and Miss Rachel are so far out of their league that it makes Jingle seem all the more cruel. But, he’s so energetic and charming, you can’t really hate him for it. He is only playing on Miss Rachel’s vanity and Mr. Tupman’s naïvety. While that simply isn’t very nice, I have to admire his ability to quickly suss out those qualities and devise a hasty plan that capitalizes on them.

RF:  Very true that Jingle is playing off Miss Rachel’s vanity and Tuppy’s naïvety.  Part of Jingle’s genius is perceiving the elements of people’s characters that he can exploit for his own gain.

Wrap Up:

Suddenly noticing his purse is empty

Suddenly noticing his purse is empty

RF:  This is such a great scene.  We get glimpses of Tuppy’s utter sincerity – he really does seem to be genuinely smitten with Miss Rachel – as well as Jingle’s cleverness and cunning.  He’s definitely an opportunist and the Wardles and Pickwickians are just ripe for the plucking.  They’re all rather naïve so it’s really not fair, but at the same time, you have to think that their encounters with Jingle will be something they’ll dine out on for years afterwards.   As for Jingle, he seems to be enjoying the whole thing a great deal, maybe because it’s so easy.  There’s a certain amount of irony in the man who’s really after Miss Rachel’s money telling her that Tuppy is after her money.  But I have to agree with Admin that he’s so charming about it that it’s hard to hate him; it’s all due to Mr. Malahide’s wonderful performance.  And as for Tuppy, this is the most active his love life has ever been (and will ever be) in his entire existence.

"The Further Adventures of Jingle and Tuppy"

“The Further Adventures of Jingle and Tuppy”

Admin:  Yes, it is brilliant.  It is quickly paced and hits all the marks effectively.  We learn a lot in a short amount of time.  Mr. Swift’s Tupman is so sincere and sweet, and his esteem for Miss Rachel is genuinely touching.  He also truly believes that Jingle is a good and kind friend.  It is a very honest and lovely performance.  And, of course, Patrick Malahide’s wickedly playful Jingle is incredibly entertaining to watch.  Together they are comedy gold.  It is almost a pity they parted on bad terms because “The Further Adventures of Jingle and Tuppy” would have been great. 😀

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