Chapters I & II of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.


Here it is! The first instalment of The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, or as it is best known, The Pickwick Papers. Imagine: it's March 1836, one hundred and eighty years ago: William IV is on the throne (and has been since 1831) and William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne (a Whig) is in office for the second time (and has been since 1835). The London and Greenwich Railway, the first railway in London, has been open a mere month, Mrs. Beeton (of Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management) has only just been born, the aforementioned Melbourne controversially appointed Renn Dickson Hampden as Regius Professor of Divinity (a professorship at the University of Oxford), and Charles Darwin had very recently (in January) just landed in Australia on HMS Beagle. Finally, a few days from now, the 31st March 1836 saw the first instalment of Charles Dickens' first novel: The Pickwick Papers.

Chapter I
The Pickwickians
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.
'Mr Pickwick Addresses the Club'
Original illustration by Robert Seymour (1836)
for Chapter I of The Pickwick Papers.
There begins The Pickwick Papers and this twenty month read-along. The date - May 12, 1827 (only nine years ago), and the scene - an eminently serious meeting in which our man Samuel Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C., has delivered his "Speculations on the Source of the Hampstead Ponds, with some Observations on the Theory of Tittlebats" (a "tittlebat", incidentally, is the three-spined stickleback). The formation of the 'The Corresponding Society of the Pickwick Club' is then agreed: the other members aside from Samuel Pickwick are Tracy Tupman, Esq., M.P.C., Augustus Snodgrass, Esq., M.P.C., and Nathaniel Winkle, Esq., M.P.C. This is a travelling club to advance their knowledge, and members are 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.
Excitement grows, and -
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! 
(And there to the right is the artist's impression by Robert Seymour, who, it's sad to say, I'll have reason to write about a little more about next month.)

To Pickwick's right, Tupman, the tubby chap whose "admiration for the fair sex was still [his soul's] ruling passion". To his left, the poetic Snodgrass, and nearby, the sporty Winkle. Dickens writes,
'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. 
An argument then breaks out between Pickwick and a Mr. Blotton (duly recorded in the minutes), and Mr. Blotton goes as far as to call Mr. Pickwick "a humbug", but then he backs off - he only used it "in its Pickwickian sense". Chapter I ends,
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.
Chapter II
The first Day's Journey, and the first Evening's adventures;
with their consequences.

'The Pugnacious Cabman' by Robert Seymour
for Chapter II of The Pickwick Papers.
Here the Pickwickian adventures really starts. The chapter begins,
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.
Pickwick dresses, leaves the house, and hails a cab where he meets the first curious character of the journey, the cab man, "a strange specimen of the human race, in a sackcloth coat, and apron of the same..." Pickwick learns the horse pulling the cab is 42 (42!) and is more or less held up by the cab itself. He duly jots the information down before he is joined by Snodgrass, Winkle, and Tupman, and to the astonishment of all it appears the cabby would sooner fight Pickwick for the money owed! He has assumed Pickwick is an informer. Happily they are rescued by a stranger who then joins them on their way to Rochester (Kent). They arrive at Rochester (having discussed a variety of matters, philosophy, the revolution, dogs, ladies...), and encounter Rochester Castle:
'Ah! fine place,' said the stranger, 'glorious pile—frowning walls—tottering arches—dark nooks—crumbling staircases—old cathedral too—earthy smell—pilgrims' feet wore away the old steps—little Saxon doors—confessionals like money-takers' boxes at theatres—queer customers those monks—popes, and lord treasurers, and all sorts of old fellows, with great red faces, and broken noses, turning up every day—buff jerkins too—match-locks—sarcophagus—fine place—old legends too—strange stories: capital;' and the stranger continued to soliloquise until they reached the Bull Inn, in the High Street, where the coach stopped.
In Rochester they stay at this very fashionable inn and end up going to a ball. All drink, some more heavily than others (our mysterious stranger and Tupman eventually pass out, before which poor Tupman is described as "'Rather fat—grown-up Bacchus"), and we meet the next curious character - "Doctor Slammer, surgeon to the 97th", about to dance with a lady until the stranger cuts in:
The stranger was young, and the widow was flattered. The doctor's attentions were unheeded by the widow; and the doctor's indignation was wholly lost on his imperturbable rival. Doctor Slammer was paralysed. He, Doctor Slammer, of the 97th, to be extinguished in a moment, by a man whom nobody had ever seen before, and whom nobody knew even now! Doctor Slammer—Doctor Slammer of the 97th rejected! Impossible! It could not be! 
Naturally he vows revenge, but here's the rub: our stranger had borrowed Winkle's coat, and the next day Doctor Slammer looks for the offender and sees Winkle in the same coat, and thus mistakes Winkle for the stranger. A duel is declared, and Winkle dare not refuse it. With heavy hearts Winkle and Snodgrass go to the assigned place, but fortunately Doctor Slammer realises his mistake. Chapter II ends,
By this time they had reached the road. Cordial farewells were exchanged, and the party separated. Doctor Slammer and his friends repaired to the barracks, and Mr. Winkle, accompanied by Mr. Snodgrass, returned to their inn.
And there ends this month's instalment of The Pickwick Papers. Next month, Chapter III, IV, and V. For now, do please let me know your thoughts if you're reading along with me (or not!), and here are the remaining two illustrations of Chapter II by Robert Seymour:

'The Sagacious Dog'
'Dr. Slammer's Defiance of Jingle'
For more Pickwick Papers, Stephen Jarvis (author of Death and Mr. Pickwick, 2015) is sharing all things Pickwick-related on his Facebook page, and today I discovered a Twitter account of the great Samuel Pickwick! 

Comments

  1. I got out my copy and am ready to read!

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  2. Rather silly, great fun, good so far. My thoughts on Ch. 1 & 2.
    http://100greatestnovelsofalltimequest.blogspot.com/2016/03/the-pickwick-papers-by-charles-dickens.html

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    1. Glad you're enjoying it :) I'll read your post this evening!

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  3. Thanks for briefing the significant events in England during 1836. It was nice to recollect the first installment. I am enjoying it.

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    1. Good :) I thought it would be interesting to look (however briefly) at what was happening at the time - it may become important at some point... :)

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  4. I haven't decided yet if I'll do posts, but if I do, I think I'm going to try to group more of the chapters together. I'm not really expecting to get anything really deep out of this book, but I did find myself chuckling through some of these chapters. I'm rather annoyed by "the stranger". I would have though there would have been a proper introduction before the gang began to trust him, but I suppose the fact there wasn't gives us some insight into the Pickwick members.

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    1. I'll look forward to your posts, but obviously no one should feel obliged to do monthly posts - I'm doing them because I'm hosting the challenge and it's a good way to get people's thoughts. If I wasn't hosting the challenge I wouldn't do monthly posts :)

      Yes, "the stranger" is rather odd! I'm sure the Pickwick gang would have known his name by now! :)

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  5. Read my first two chapters! :) I'm enjoying it... it's rather humorous. :)

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    1. It is, I agree :) Glad you're enjoying it!

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  6. I have read the first two chapters and I am enjoying it so far. The first chapter was ok but was not that memorable and opened with one of the longest sentences that I have ever read.

    Chapter two was much more interesting with the interesting stranger causing a kerfuffle and almost getting one of our characters shot in a duel. Even though his proposes opponent wanted to call it off when he discovered that he was not the person that he thought he was I still though that it might go a head but luckily for Mr Winkle it does not but he was a typically proud characters to put himself through a duel even if he had nothing at all to do with it!

    Mr Pickwick himself seems to be rather above everything and everbody doesn't he. It will also be interesting when Dr Slammer recognises Mr Tupman, if that indeed happens.

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    1. I found the first chapter rather challenging (a kind way of saying "dull"!), but it does certainly pick up.

      And yes, Pickwick himself is rather lofty! :)

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  7. My first thoughts here: https://eigermonchjungfrau.wordpress.com/2016/03/28/tall-lady-eating-sandwiches-the-pickwick-papers-installment-1/

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    1. Thanks for sharing, I'll go read :)

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  8. I'm currently planning on monthly posts, as I think it's the best way for me to keep on track. We'll see as it goes on, but I've put up my first one.

    Thanks again for hosting - I'm sure I would never have made it past the first chapter if not for the RAL!

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    1. No problem - I don't think I would be re-reading it were it not for this very appealing schedule :)

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  9. Sorry, I don't have time to post my thoughts, but I have read ch. 1 & 2 from early March. And I liked it! It was a tough job not to continue to the next chapter... I think this will be the most fun readalong I've ever joined! ;)

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    1. Glad you liked it, and very happy you're enjoying the read-along! :D

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  10. I appreciate your historical notes at the beginning of your review. I am so enjoying this book! Here is my posting: http://books-n-music.blogspot.com/2016/03/pickwick-papers-read-along-check-in-1.html. I hope to read everyone's over the weekend! Thank you for hosting!

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    1. You're welcome :) I'll go read your post!

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  11. Here's a piece of historical background which most people do not know: Jingle's story about the lady's head being knocked off is based upon a real incident - a young woman was on the coach bound for Rochester, sitting on top, but luggage had been carelessly stacked behind her, which prevented her from leaning backwards, as the coach went under the arch. The result was a horrific accident as her head struck the arch, and the injuries she received led to her death a few days later.

    Another piece of historical background is relevant to explaining Mr Winkle's appearance in the book. At the time, there was an upsurge in lower-class men buying sporting guns. Such people were known as 'cockney sportsman', but cockney here does not mean a person from the east end of London. In 1836, a 'cockney' was a pretentious, affected person - and so a cockney sportsman was someone who was aping the pursuits of a country gentleman.

    And Snodgrass was almost certainly based on a gin-guzzling poet called Thomas Campbell, who wore a blue cloak, and who had previously been depicted by Robert Seymour.

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    1. Actually, I have just realised that I have named Jingle there, when in this part of the book he is still referred to as 'the stranger'! However, Dickens made a similar mistake: he added a footnote in a later edition of Pickwick, which refers to 'Jingle', even though the character had not been named yet. Jingle's speech-pattern, as I have explained elsewhere, is thought to be based on the speech of a character called Commodore Cosmogony, who appeared in a one-man show performed by an actor Dickens admired, Charles Mathews. However, Mathews was not the first to use the pattern.

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    2. That's all very interesting, thank you for all that detail!

      Oh, and I've seen a few people mention Jingle so far - my edition doesn't have footnotes but I know a few others have.

      I'll have to look up Thomas Campbell.

      Again, thank you, very much appreciated!

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    3. You're welcome. Campbell is pretty much forgotten these days, but he was famous in his own time. There is even a statue of him in Glasgow. There isn't really an 'original' as such for Mr Tupman, but his dress seems to be based on that of the well-known dandy Beau Brummell. The name of Mr Pickwick, incidentally, is derived from a coaching proprietor, Moses Pickwick, who ran two pubs, one in the centre of Bath, and one about ten miles outside Bath, at a village which was also called Pickwick. This latter pub, the Hare and Hounds, survives to this day, and I know, from personal experience, that they serve an excellent burger! All the best Stephen.

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    4. I am reading "The Oxford Illustrated Dickens" edition and Jingle is named in a footnote and one of the illustrations. I was confused when everyone kept saying the stranger wasn't named! ;)

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    5. Yes, that must have been confusing, Lynn. The character stayed as "the stranger", until Dickens happened to see a play about about an impoverished poet who wrote advertising poems for a blacking factory - the poet's name was Jingle, and Dickens appropriated it for the character.

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  12. I have joined the read-along and enjoyed the first instalment. I read this book many years ago when I was at university but hope to get more out of it this time around. I have posted a comment on my blog Island Bookshelf which can be found at http://islandbookshelf.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. Thanks for the link, I'll go look :)

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  13. I think people might find this interesting. On Sunday, an important discovery was made which is directly relevant to the reading we have just done. You can read about it on the Death and Mr Pickwick facebook page here:

    https://www.facebook.com/deathandmrpickwick/photos/a.584149448385578.1073741827.512473502219840/826773900789797/?type=3&theater

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    1. That's very interesting indeed - what a find! Thanks for sharing :)

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  14. I did end up writing on the first two chapters, but as might be predicted, I've since dropped out of the challenge. Gave me a taste though! Thanks, o xx

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    1. I'll read your post this afternoon - thanks for sharing (and now I know where you're blogging again!) :D

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    2. Oh what a shame! And the part immediately afterwards, on the dying clown, is immensely significant. Take a look at this article on the phenomenon of the 'Scary clown', which mentions Pickwick: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-history-and-psychology-of-clowns-being-scary-20394516/?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=socialmedia

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    3. Thanks Stephen for that link - I touched upon the clown and Joseph Grimaldi in my second post on chapters 3 - 5 here, but I think you might do a better job of explaining it if you have any thoughts :)

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    4. Thanks o! & Jarvis, it's no reflection on Dickens. I'm just terrible at sticking to reading challenges. I love Dickens!! :P :)

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    5. (LOL. I called you Jarvis rather than Stephen. Because it sounds quite Dickens!) :)

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