Why I’m prevented from holding a pen

In Chapter 15 of Nicholas Nickleby, Fanny Squeers writes on behalf of her father to Ralph Nickleby:

She starts her letter:

My pa requests me to write to you, the doctors considering it doubtful whether he will ever recuvver the use of his legs which prevents his holding a pen.

I used to find that funny, but now that an attack of sciatica is preventing me from focussing on writing anything – blog posts or otherwise – I can now understand all too well why injury to one’s legs can prevent one from holding a pen.

On a brighter note, I am in Tokyo now (on a work trip), and have in prospect a weekend to myself to go as far as I can hobble. A trip to the Tokyo National Museum will be a day well spent, I think. I may even be inspired to hold a pen again – or, at least, type into my laptop.

In the meantime, here’s the rest of Fanny Squeers’ letter:

‘We are in a state of mind beyond everything, and my pa is one mask of brooses both blue and green likewise two forms are steepled in his Goar. We were kimpelled to have him carried down into the kitchen where he now lays. You will judge from this that he has been brought very low.

‘When your nevew that you recommended for a teacher had done this to my pa and jumped upon his body with his feet and also langwedge which I will not pollewt my pen with describing, he assaulted my ma with dreadful violence, dashed her to the earth, and drove her back comb several inches into her head. A very little more and it must have entered her skull. We have a medical certifiket that if it had, the tortershell would have affected the brain.

‘Me and my brother were then the victims of his feury since which we have suffered very much which leads us to the arrowing belief that we have received some injury in our insides, especially as no marks of violence are visible externally. I am screaming out loud all the time I write and so is my brother which takes off my attention rather and I hope will excuse mistakes.

‘The monster having sasiated his thirst for blood ran away, taking with him a boy of desperate character that he had excited to rebellyon, and a garnet ring belonging to my ma, and not having been apprehended by the constables is supposed to have been took up by some stage-coach. My pa begs that if he comes to you the ring may be returned, and that you will let the thief and assassin go, as if we prosecuted him he would only be transported, and if he is let go he is sure to be hung before long which will save us trouble and be much more satisfactory. Hoping to hear from you when convenient

‘I remain ‘Yours and cetrer ‘FANNY SQUEERS.

‘P.S. I pity his ignorance and despise him.’

6 responses to this post.

  1. I have a terrific tremor in my right hand (old age although a brain tumor is not ruled out) and although I can still hold a pen (when my gout is in check) I have a great deal of trouble trying to write legibly. Luckily I only write with fountain pens so I don’t have to press down (although, would that help control the tremors?). Speaking of Japan: you should see me with chopsticks (I learned to eat with my left hand but have not been able to even approach a beginner’s level with the chopsticks left handed, so I tend to drop those succulent little morsels just before they reach my lips or, when the tremors are really bad, I sometimes catapult a slab of squid across the table … watch out!

    Daughter lived in Japan. Her advice: if the fish in your soup are still swimming, eat them head first.


    • Hello Mike, I am very sorry to hear of this: naturally, I am wishing you all the very best. It certainly puts my sciatica into perspective, painful though it still is.

      I find to my surprise that i am managing with chopsticks, although I must look so clumsy using them that only the innate politeness of my Japanese colleagues prevents them from bursting out laughing. I haven’t found any fish swimming in my soup so far … but I’ll certainly keep your daughter’s advice in mind if I ever do. In teh meantime, I find I have developed quite a taste for raw fish!

      I suppose I should add to my list of literary resolutions “Get yourself acquainted with Japanese literature”. Diving straight into Tale of Genji may be a bit adventurous, but it has to be done, I guess!

      All the very best, Himadri


      • Genji is certainly worth reading but you might be more interested in the advances in literature made as Japan opened more and more to Western thought. Remember, Japan until quite recently championed the collective rather than the individual. Contemporary Japanese literature is also quite good and a lot of fun: most readers swoon over Haruki Murakami (my advice is to read him somewhat in order of publication so as to see his growth).

  2. Posted by kaggsysbookishramblings on March 25, 2016 at 7:44 am

    Hope the pain is not too much to impair your trip – enjoy!


    • Thanks for that. I am still hobbling along with my walking stick, and looking a most comical figure. That walking stick was a joke present from my children when i turned 50, but it’s proving most valuable.

      But pain or not, I am heading to the Tokyo National Museum tomorrow: this is not an opportunity I’m letting slip!

      All the best, Himadri


  3. The Tokyo National Museum is a good place to spend many days. Unbelievable.

    But Tokyo is so rich in – everything, really.

    I hope the pain subsides and work gives you plenty of time for Tokyo. I hope your hosts are as helpful as mine were when I worked there for a month.


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