'We must purchase our tickets,' said Mr Tupman.‘We call a dragon of chastity, a female who is affectedly and ferociously chary of her person, especially when such demonstration is made without any other cause than conceit or vanity’ [John Bellenden Ker, An Essay on the Archaeology of our Popular Phrases (1837) 2:201]. The joke here is that Jingle cannot lose his bet: the Victorian gold sovereign coin has a woman on both sides: the Queen’s head on the front, and St George fighting the Dragon on the obverse.
'Not worth while splitting a guinea,' said the stranger, 'toss who shall pay for both—I call; you spin—first time—woman—woman—bewitching woman,' and down came the sovereign with the dragon (called by courtesy a woman) uppermost. [Pickwick, ch. 2]
Wednesday, 18 July 2012
Penniless con-man Jingle wishes to accompany Pickwick into an exclusive Rochester ball, hoping to seduce an heiress. But tickets cost half a guinea.