Dicken's first novel began as a romp, a series of amusing observations based on the travels of Mr Pickwick and his friends Nathaniel Winkle, Augustus Snodgrass, Tracy Tupman and valet Sam Weller. Their adventures increasingly highlight hypocrisy and avarice in the lives of everyday folk, beset by the doubtful actions of lawyers, politicians and local dignitaries. The reprehensible Alfred Jingle is often encountered in bizarre and awkward scenes, a lightning rod for the ills in society where marriage is not always accompanied by love, the victim not the guilty are imprisoned, and the poor are treated with barely concealed contempt. Pickwick's jovial stature allows Dickens a light touch on his social commentary and Pickwick Papers remains one of his most popular books.
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|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Judith John (Glossary) is a writer and editor specializing in literature and history. She has worked as an editor on major educational projects, including English A: Literature for the Pearson International Baccalaureate series. Judith’s major research interests include Romantic and Gothic literature, and Renaissance drama.
Date of Birth:February 7, 1812
Date of Death:June 18, 1870
Place of Birth:Portsmouth, England
Place of Death:Gad's Hill, Kent, England
Education:Home-schooling; attended Dame School at Chatham briefly and Wellington
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The first ray of light which illumines the gloom, and converts into a dazzling brilliancy that obscurity in which the earlier history of the public career of the immortal Pickwick would appear to be involved, is derived from the perusal of the following entry in the Transactions of the Pickwick Club, which the editor of these papers feels the highest pleasure in laying before his readers, as a proof of the careful attention, indefatigable assiduity, and nice discrimination, with which his search among the multifarious documents confided to him has been conducted.
"May 12, 1827. Joseph Smiggers, Esq., P.V.P.M.P.C., presiding. The following resolutions unanimously agreed to:
"That this Association has heard read, with feelings of unmingled satisfaction, and unqualified approval, the paper communicated by Samuel Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C., entitled Speculations on the Source of the Hampstead Ponds, with Some Observations on the Theory of Tittlebats; and that this Association does hereby return its warmest thanks to the said Samuel Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C., for the same.
"That while this Association is deeply sensible of the advantages which must accrue to the cause of science from the production to which they have just adverted — no less than from the unwearied researches of Samuel Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C., in Hornsey, Highgate, Brixton, and Camberwell — they cannot but entertain a lively sense of the inestimable benefits which must inevitably result from carrying the speculations of that learned man into a wider field, from extending his travels, and consequently enlarging his sphere of observation, to the advancement of knowledge, and the diffusion of learning.
"That, with the view just mentioned, this Association has taken into its serious consideration a proposal, emanating from the aforesaid Samuel Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C., and three other Pickwickians hereinafter named, for forming a new branch of United Pickwickians, under the title of the Corresponding Society of the Pickwick Club.
"That the said proposal has received the sanction and approval of this Association.
"That the Corresponding Society of the Pickwick Club is therefore hereby constituted; and that Samuel Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C., Tracy Tupman, Esq., M.P.C., Augustus Snodgrass, Esq., M.P.C., and Nathaniel Winkle, Esq., M.P.C., are hereby nominated and appointed members of the same; and that they be requested to forward, from time to time, authenticated accounts of their journeys and investigations, of their observations of character and manners, and of the whole of their adventures, together with all tales and papers to which local scenery or associations may give rise, to the Pickwick Club, stationed in London.
"That this Association cordially recognises the principle of every member of the Corresponding Society defraying his own travelling expenses; and that it sees no objection whatever to the members of the said society pursuing their inquiries for any length of time they please, upon the same terms.
"That the members of the aforesaid Corresponding Society be, and are, hereby informed, that their proposal to pay the postage of their letters, and the carriage of their parcels, has been deliberated upon by this Association: that this Association considers such proposal worthy of the great minds from which it emanated, and that it hereby signifies its perfect acquiescence therein."
A casual observer, adds the Secretary, J to whose notes we are indebted for the following account — a casual observer might possibly have remarked nothing extraordinary in the bald head, and circular spectacles, which were intently turned towards his (the Secretary's) face, during the reading of the above resolutions: to those who knew that the gigantic brain of Pickwick was working beneath that forehead, and that the beaming eyes of Pickwick were twinkling behind those glasses, the sight was indeed an interesting one. There sat the man who had traced to their source the mighty ponds of Hampstead, and agitated the scientific world with his Theory of Tittlebats, as calm and unmoved as the deep waters of the one on a frosty day, or as a solitary specimen of the other in the inmost recesses of an earthen jar. And how much more interesting did the spectacle become, when, starting into full life and animation, as a simultaneous call for "Pickwick" burst from his followers, that illustrious man slowly mounted into the Windsor chair, on which he had been previously seated, and addressed the club himself had founded. What a study for an artist did that exciting scene present! The eloquent Pickwick, with one hand gracefully concealed behind his coat-tails, and the other waving in air, to assist his glowing declamation; his elevated position revealing those tights and gaiters, which, had they clothed an ordinary man, might have passed without observation, but which, when Pickwick clothed them — if we may use the expression — inspired voluntary awe and respect; surrounded by the men who had volunteered to share the perils of his travels, and who were destined to participate in the glories of his discoveries. On his right hand sat Mr Tracy Tupman — the too susceptible Tupman, who to the wisdom and experience of maturer years superadded the enthusiasm and ardour of a boy, in the most interesting and pardonable of human weaknesses — love. Time and feeding had expanded that once romantic form; the black silk waistcoat had become more and more developed; inch by inch had the gold watch-chain beneath it disappeared from within the range of Tupman's vision; and gradually had the capacious chin encroached upon the borders of the white cravat: but the soul of Tupman had known no change — admiration of the fair sex was still its ruling passion. On the left of his great leader sat the poetic Snodgrass, and near him again the sporting Winkle, the former poetically enveloped in a mysterious blue coat with a canine-skin collar, and the latter communicating additional lustre to a new green shooting-coat, plaid neckerchief, and closely fitted drabs.
Mr Pickwick's oration upon this occasion, together with the debate thereon, is entered on the Transactions of the Club. Both bear a strong affinity to the discussions of other celebrated bodies; and, as it is always interesting to trace a resemblance between the proceedings of great men, we transfer the entry to these pages.
"Mr Pickwick observed (says the Secretary) that fame was dear to the heart of every man. Poetic fame was dear to the heart of his friend Snodgrass; the fame of conquest was equally dear to his friend Tupman; and the desire of earning fame in the sports of the field, the air, and the water, was uppermost in the breast of his friend Winkle. He (Mr Pickwick) would not deny that he was influenced by human passions, and human feelings (cheers) — possibly by human weaknesses — (loud cries of £No'); but this he would say, that if ever the fire of self-importance broke out in his bosom, the desire to benefit the human race in preference effectually quenched it. The praise of mankind was his Swing; philanthropy was his insurance office. (Vehement cheering.) He had felt some pride — he acknowledged it freely, and let his enemies make the most of it — he had felt some pride when he presented his Tittlebatian Theory to the world; it might be celebrated or it might not. (A cry of Tt is,' and great cheering.) He would take the assertion of that honourable Pickwickian whose voice he had just heard — it was celebrated; but if the fame of that treatise were to extend to the furthest confines of the known world, the pride with which he should reflect on the authorship of that production would be as nothing compared with the pride with which he looked around him on this, the proudest moment of his existence. (Cheers.) He was ft humble individual. ('No, no.') Still, he could not but feel that ¿hey had selected him for a service of great honour, and of some danger. Travelling was in a troubled state, and the minds of coachmen were unsettled. Let them look abroad and contemplate the scenes which were enacting around them. Stage-coaches were upsetting in all directions, horses were bolting, boats were overturning, and boilers were bursting. (Cheers — a voice 'No.') No! (Cheers.) Let that honourable Pickwickian who cried 'No' so loudly come forward and deny it, if he could. (Cheers.) Who was it that cried 'No'? (Enthusiastic cheering.) Was it some vain and disappointed man — he would not say haberdasher — (loud cheers) — who, jealous of the praise which had been — perhaps undeservedly — bestowed on his (Mr Pickwick's) researches, and smarting under the censure which had been heaped upon his own feeble attempts at rivalry, now took this vile and calumnious mode of —
"Mr Blotton (of Aldgate) rose to order. Did the honourable Pickwickian allude to him? (Cries of 'Order,' 'Chair,' 'Yes,' 'No,' 'Go on,' 'Leave off,' etc.)
"Mr Pickwick would not put up to be put down by clamour. He had alluded to the honourable gentleman. (Great excitement.)
"Mr Blotton would only say then, that he repelled the hon. gent.'s false and scurrilous accusation, with profound contempt. (Great cheering.) The hon. gent, was a humbug. (Immense confusion, and loud cries of 'Chair,' and 'Order.')
"Mr A. Snodgrass rose to order. He threw himself upon the chair. ('Hear.') He wished to know whether this disgraceful contest between two members of that club should be allowed to continue. ('Hear, hear.')
"The Chairman was quite sure the hon. Pickwickian would withdraw the expression he had just made use of.
"Mr Blotton, with all possible respect for the chair, was quite sure he would not.
"The Chairman felt it his imperative duty to demand of the honourable gentleman, whether he had used the expression which had just escaped him in a common sense.
"Mr Blotton had no hesitation in saying that he had not — he had used the word in its Pickwickian sense. ('Hear, hear.') He was bound to acknowledge that, personally, he entertained the highest regard and esteem for the honourable gentleman; he had merely considered him a humbug in a Pickwickian point of view. ('Hear, hear.')
"Mr Pickwick felt much gratified by the fair, candid, and full explanation of his honourable friend. He begged it to be at once understood, that his own observations had been merely intended to bear a Pickwickian construction. (Cheers.)"
Here the entry terminates, as we have no doubt the debate did also, after arriving at such a highly satisfactory and intelligible point. We have no official statement of the facts which the reader will find recorded in the next chapter, but they have been carefully collated from letters and other MS. authorities, so unquestionably genuine as to justify their narration in a connected form.
THE FIRST DAY'S JOURNEY, AND THE FIRST EVENING'S ADVENTURES; WITH THEIR CONSEQUENCES
That punctual servant of all work, the sun, had just risen, and begun to strike a light on the morning of the thirteenth of May, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven, when Mr Samuel Pickwick burst like another sun from his slumbers, threw open his chamber window, and looked out upon the world beneath. Goswell Street was at his feet, Goswell Street was on his right hand — as far as the eye could reach, Goswell Street extended on his left; and the opposite side of Goswell Street was over the way. "Such," thought Mr Pickwick, "are the narrow views of those philosophers who, content with examining the things that lie before them, look not to the truths which are hidden beyond. As well might I be content to gaze on Goswell Street for ever, without one effort to penetrate to the hidden countries which on every side surround it." And having given vent to this beautiful reflection, Mr Pickwick proceeded to put himself into his clothes, and his clothes into his portmanteau. Great men are seldom over scrupulous in the arrangement of their attire; the operation of shaving, dressing, and coffee-imbibing was soon performed: and in another hour, Mr Pickwick, with his portmanteau in his hand, his telescope in his greatcoat-pocket, and his notebook in his waistcoat, ready for the reception of any discoveries worthy of being noted down, had arrived at the coach-stand in St Martin's-le-Grand.
"Cab!" said Mr Pickwick.
"Here you are, sir," shouted a strange specimen of the human race, in a sackcloth coat, and apron of the same, who with a brass label and number round his neck, looked as if he were catalogued in some collection of rarities. This was the waterman. "Here you are, sir. Now, then, first cab!" And the first cab having been fetched from the public-house, where he had been smoking his first pipe, Mr Pickwick and his portmanteau were thrown into the vehicle.
"Golden Cross," said Mr Pickwick.
"Only a bob's vorth, Tommy," cried the driver, sulkily, for the information of his friend the waterman, as the cab drove off.
"How old is that horse, my friend?" inquired Mr Pickwick, rubbing his nose with the shilling he had reserved for the fare.
"Forty-two," replied the driver, eyeing him askant.
"What!" ejaculated Mr Pickwick, laying his hand upon his notebook. The driver reiterated his former statement. Mr Pickwick looked very hard at the man's face, but his features were immovable, so he noted down the fact forthwith.
"And how long do you keep him out at a time?" inquired Mr Pickwick, searching for further information.
"Two or three veeks," replied the man.
"Weeks!" said Mr Pickwick in astonishment — and out came the notebook again.
"He lives at Pentonwil when he's at home," observed the driver, coolly, "but we seldom takes him home, on account of his veakness."
"On account of his weakness!" reiterated the perplexed Mt Pickwick.
"He always falls down when he's took out o' the cab," continued the driver, "but when he's in it, we bears him up werry tight, and takes him in werry short, so as he can't werry well fall down; and we've got a pair o' precious large wheels on, so ven he does move, they run after him, and he must go on — he can't help it."
Mr Pickwick entered every word of this statement in his notebook, with the view of communicating it to the club, as a singular instance of the tenacity of life in horses, under trying circumstances. The entry was scarcely completed when they reached the Golden Cross. Down jumped the driver, and out got Mr Pickwick. Mr Tupman, Mr Snodgrass, and Mr Winkle, who had been anxiously waiting the arrival of their illustrious leader, crowded to welcome him.
"Here's your fare," said Mr Pickwick, holding out the shilling to the driver.
What was the learned man's astonishment, when that unaccountable person flung the money on the pavement, and requested in figurative terms to be allowed the pleasure of fighting him (Mr Pickwick) for the amount!
"You are mad," said Mr Snodgrass.
"Or drunk," said Mr Winkle.
"Or both," said Mr Tupman.
"Come on!" said the cab-driver, sparring away like clockwork. "Come on — all four on you."
"Here's a lark!" shouted half a dozen hackney-coachmen. "Go to vork, Sam" — and they crowded with great glee round the party.
"What's the row, Sam?" inquired one gentleman in black calico sleeves.
"Row!" replied the cabman, "what did he want my number for?"
"I didn't want your number," said the astonished Mr Pickwick.
"What did you take it for, then?" inquired the cabman.
"I didn't take it," said Mr Pickwick, indignantly.
"Would any body believe," continued the cab-driver, appealing to the crowd, "would any body believe as an informer 'ud go about in a man's cab, not only takin' down his number, but ev'ry word he says into the bargain" (a light flashed upon Mr Pickwick — it was the notebook).
"Did he though?" inquired another cabman.
"Yes, did he," replied the first; "and then arter aggerawatin' me to assault him, gets three witnesses here to prove it. But I'll giye it him, if I've six months for it. Come on!" and the cabman dashed his hat upon the ground, with a reckless disregard of his own private property, and knocked Mr Pickwick's spectacles off, and followed up the attack with a blow on Mr Pickwick's nose, and another on Mr Pickwick's chest, and a third in Mr Snodgrass's eye, and a fourth, by way of variety, in Mr Tupman's waistcoat, and then danced into the road, and then back again to the pavement, and finally dashed the whole temporary supply of breath out of Mr Winkle's body; and all in half a dozen seconds.
"Where's an officer?" said Mr Snodgrass.
"Put 'em under the pump," suggested a hot-pieman.
"You shall smart for this," gasped Mr Pickwick.
Excerpted from "The Pickwick Papers"
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