Mrs. Badgery

Wilkie Collins’s ‘Mrs Badgery’, rarely seen since its first publication in Dickens’s Household Words magazine in September 1857, is an enchanting little chip off the block. Like a lot of British short stories, it is absurd, very funny, and in uproarious bad taste. British writers have often enjoyed stories of making a home, and also the theatrical trappings of grief. (George Bernard Shaw commented on the national enthusiasm for requiems.) Here they collide, with richly enjoyable results.

The narrator is clearly stuck with Mrs Badgery forever. In time, he might even regard her as a picturesque addition to his home, like an indoor and rather saline water feature.

— Philip Hensher

Is there any law in England which will protect me from Mrs Badgery?

I am a bachelor, and Mrs Badgery is a widow. Let nobody rashly imagine that I am about to relate a common-place grievance, because I have suffered that first sentence to escape my pen. My objection to Mrs Badgery is, not that she is too fond of me, but that she is too fond of the memory of her late husband. She has not attempted to marry me; she would not think of marrying me, even if I asked her. Understand, therefore, if you please, at the outset, that my grievance in relation to this widow lady is a grievance of an entirely new kind.

Let me begin again. I am a bachelor of a certain age. I have a large circle of acquaintance; but I solemnly declare that the late Mr Badgery was never numbered on the list of my friends. I never heard of him in my life; I never knew that he had left a relict; I never set eyes on Mrs Badgery until one fatal morning when I went to see if the fixtures were all right in my new house.

My new house is in the suburbs of London. I looked at it, liked it, took it. Three times I visited it before I sent my furniture in. Once with a friend, once with a surveyor, once by myself, to throw a sharp eye, as I have already intimated, over the fixtures. The third visit marked the fatal occasion on which I first saw Mrs Badgery. A deep interest attaches to this event, and I shall go into details in describing it.

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