I was doing a bit of nosing through your biography, and I read that Nicholas Nickleby was your first ‘romance,’ and I had to pause for a second. A romance? Really? I’m almost half way through volume two, and we’ve only just learned Nick’s love interest’s name (but ha! I knew the lady from the agency would return! You never introduce an interesting character just for the fun of it). But he’s only actually seen her three times! Generally, though, there’s just so much going on, not only with Nicholas, but with your cornucopia of secondary characters, that classifying this gorgeously meandering novel as a ‘romance’ seems rather… restrictive.
That’s not to say that you don’t examine relationships extensively (and humorously). Thinking back on it, this book is bursting at the seams with all the couples Nicholas encounters. The Squeerses, the Mantalinis, the Browdies, the Crummleses, the Kenwigses, the Lillyvicks, are all held up for inspection as examples of wedded bliss… or agony, not unlike the examples of various couples in your Sketches. Even Mrs. Nickleby gets to be wooed by her mad neighbor (he’s an odd fish, and I wager he’ll be back, if my note above holds). It’s interesting that they’re all so very different, and none of them are perfect. You certainly do have an uncanny knack for capturing humanity and all its foibles.
And then we’ve got Kate’s rather more sinister suitors, although they seem to have faded into the background, at least for the time being (I hope Mulberry Hawk returns, however, because he’s such a wonderfully selfish character). And now even the lovely Miss Bray is threatened with a terrible marriage. Is this all one big object lesson for our hero?
Maybe then, this is less of a boy-meets-girl story as it is one epic examination of love, the choices people make, and how those partnerships play out. Having seen all these examples, it’s now finally up to Nicholas to chart his own course on these treacherous waters. Will he rescue Miss Bray from her dire fate? I suspect so, but I also suspect the journey will not be an easy one. And so on that note I shall bid you a fond farewell and find out how this romance ends.