The grocer and his people were so frank and fresh that the polished hearts with which they fastened their aprons behind might have been their own, worn outside for general inspection, and for Christmas daws to peck at if they chose.
(Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol)

What is the general inspection? Was there something like an inspector to go around and check if they wear their apron?

What does "for christmas daws to peck at it if they chose" mean?

  • Let me repeat myself: Please give a title that includes the problem, not a generic “I need help” or “I don’t understand this”. Use the edit button to clarify. Thanks!
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    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 12:14
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  • Please include the clause before this one.
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 12:38
  • hearts is here the antecedent noun. Their own [hearts]. An ellipsis.
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 12:42

1 Answer 1


General inspection does not refer to some inspector walking around, but simply means for all to see.

General here has the same meaning as in general public, and inspection just means the act of looking at something.

According to some sources, this is a reference to Shakespeare's Othello:

But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at: I am not what I am.

In this pdf we find the following explanation for the daws and the meaning of wearing one's heart "outside":

Daws, aka Jackdaws, are a kind of bird, related to crows.
The line in Othello, and here [in A Christmas Carol], refers to honesty and openness - the wearing of one’s true character in the open for everyone to see.

Basically, Charles Dickens is describing that the grocer and his people were very pure of heart. They used shiny heart-shaped fastenings on their apron, and Dickens sees in those polished hearts a symbol of them showing very honestly who they are: very frank and fresh people.

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