Chapters VI - VIII of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.

In May 1836 the third instalment of The Pickwick Papers came out, and, following the death of Robert Seymour in April 1836 this instalment was illustrated by Robert William Buss. I've found six of his illustrations (included in this post), however only two were used by the publisher. Furthermore, Charles Dickens didn't like Buss' etchings (it must be said Buss was not trained in etching on steel), so the poor chap was dropped. Adding insult to a humiliating injury, when the instalments were reissued after a sudden surge in readership, Buss' illustrations were dropped entirely and replaced by George Hablot Browne's (a.k.a. Phiz), to which poor Buss remarked,
I am, after all, sometimes amused to think how in time to come futile bibliomaniacs will rave over a scarce copy of Pickwick having in it my two unfortunate etchings.
I'll say a little more on Buss later, but for now I will use for this post his two illustrations and include the rest at the end of the post. Now, to Chapter VI:

Chapter VI
An Old-Fashioned Card-Party. The Clergyman's Verses. 
The Story of the Convict's Return.

[N.B. There are no illustrations either by Phiz or Buss for the 6th chapter as far as I can find]

We left the Pickwickians in Chapter V having just arrived at Dingley Dell after a somewhat tumultuous journey. They cleaned themselves up, enjoyed a cherry brandy, and were welcomed by Mr. Wardle. Chapter VI begins with the Pickwickians meeting the other guests, Mr. Pickwick enjoying observing the guests, and speculating -
... upon the characters and pursuits, of the persons by whom he was surrounded—a habit in which he, in common with many other great men, delighted to indulge.
First, "A very old lady, in a lofty cap and faded silk gown" - she is Wardle's mother (a deaf and somewhat cantankerous old woman) - then the aunt and the two young ladies we met in the previous instalment, a clergyman and his wife, and
A little hard-headed, Ripstone pippin-faced man, was conversing with a fat old gentleman in one corner; and two or three more old gentlemen, and two or three more old ladies, sat bolt upright and motionless on their chairs, staring very hard at Mr. Pickwick and his fellow-voyagers.
They settle into a game of cards, and then the clergyman recites a poem on ivy - 'The Ivy Green'. I'll quote the first of three verses (it can be read in full on Poetry Foundation) -
Oh, a dainty plant is the Ivy green,
That creepeth o'er ruins old!
Of right choice food are his meals, I ween,
In his cell so lone and cold.
The wall must be crumbled, the stone decayed,
To pleasure his dainty whim;
And the mouldering dust that years have made,
Is a merry meal for him.
Creeping where no life is seen,
A rare old plant is the Ivy green.
Mr. Snodgrass, of course, jots it all down. And after, Mr. Pickwick, certain the old gentleman has some interesting stories to tell, tries to draw him out a little more.
Excuse me, sir, for making the remark on so short an acquaintance; but a gentleman like yourself cannot fail, I should think, to have observed many scenes and incidents worth recording, in the course of your experience as a minister of the Gospel.
Mr. Wardle, further encouraging him, mentions a John Edmunds. Who is John Edmunds? His tale is told in this chapter under the title 'The Convict's Return'. In this we hear the sad story of Edmunds who was sentenced to fourteen years for theft. On his return home he found his mother had died and his father in the workhouse:
His dress denoted him an inmate of the workhouse: he had the appearance of being very old, but it looked more the effect of dissipation or disease, than the length of years.
The two get into a furious argument and the old man ruptured a blood vessel and promptly died. Chapter VI concludes,
'In that corner of the churchyard,' said the old gentleman, after a silence of a few moments, 'in that corner of the churchyard of which I have before spoken, there lies buried a man who was in my employment for three years after this event, and who was truly contrite, penitent, and humbled, if ever man was. No one save myself knew in that man's lifetime who he was, or whence he came—it was John Edmunds, the returned convict.'
It may be interesting at this point to note that workhouses may have been very much on the mind of the readers of The Pickwick Papers. In April 1836 the workhouse in Heckingham (Norfolk) had been deliberately burned down as a protest - it was known to be corrupt and disorderly (more information can be found here including a report by Dr. James Kay).

Chapter VII
How Mr. Winkle, Instead of Shooting at the Pigeon and Killing the Crow, Shot at the Crow and Wounded the Pigeon; How the Dingley Dell Cricket Club Played All-Muggleton, and How All-Muggleton Dined at the Dingley Dell Expense; With Other Interesting and Instructive Matters.

"The Cricket Match: Dingley Dell Against All-Muddleton"
by Robert Buss.
As in previous chapters, Pickwick awakes in Chapter VII early to a bright morning -
The fatiguing adventures of the day or the somniferous influence of the clergyman's tale operated so strongly on the drowsy tendencies of Mr. Pickwick, that in less than five minutes after he had been shown to his comfortable bedroom he fell into a sound and dreamless sleep, from which he was only awakened by the morning sun darting his bright beams reproachfully into the apartment. Mr. Pickwick was no sluggard, and he sprang like an ardent warrior from his tent-bedstead.
Here, I must quote in full, a beautiful description of late spring -
The rich, sweet smell of the hay-ricks rose to his chamber window; the hundred perfumes of the little flower-garden beneath scented the air around; the deep-green meadows shone in the morning dew that glistened on every leaf as it trembled in the gentle air; and the birds sang as if every sparkling drop were to them a fountain of inspiration. Mr. Pickwick fell into an enchanting and delicious reverie.
His reverie is interrupted by Mr. Wardle intent on going rook-shooting. It is not a success, and "Mr. Tupman had saved the lives of innumerable unoffending birds by receiving a portion of the charge in his left arm." He is carried back to the house and cared for by the initially hysterical aunt Rachael as the rest of the Pickwickians leave to attend a cricket match where they once again encounter the stranger from Chapter II. At least we learn his name -
'Jingle,' said that versatile gentleman, taking the hint at once. 'Jingle—Alfred Jingle, Esq., of No Hall, Nowhere.'
The match takes place and the All-Muggleton team win decisively (very decisively) and the Dingley Dell team buy them dinner, drinking ensues, and by the end of Chapter VII they're all singing,
'We won't go home till morning,
We won't go home till morning,
We won't go home till morning,
Till daylight doth appear.'

Chapter VIII
Strongly Illustrative of the Position, That the Course of True Love Is Not a Railway

"The Fat Boy Awake on this Occasion Only"
by Robert Buss.
But what of Tupman? Our romantic hero, having been shot in the arm, remains in the care of Rachael:
The quiet seclusion of Dingley Dell, the presence of so many of the gentler sex, and the solicitude and anxiety they evinced in his behalf, were all favourable to the growth and development of those softer feelings which nature had implanted deep in the bosom of Mr. Tracy Tupman, and which now appeared destined to centre in one lovely object. The young ladies were pretty, their manners winning, their dispositions unexceptionable; but there was a dignity in the air, a touch-me-not-ishness in the walk, a majesty in the eye, of the spinster aunt, to which, at their time of life, they could lay no claim, which distinguished her from any female on whom Mr. Tupman had ever gazed. That there was something kindred in their nature, something congenial in their souls, something mysteriously sympathetic in their bosoms, was evident.
In short, the two go for a walk to the bower, on which climb "honeysuckle, jessamine, and creeping plants—one of those sweet retreats which humane men erect for the accommodation of spiders. He declares his love for her and kisses her, but -
There was the fat boy, perfectly motionless, with his large circular eyes staring into the arbour, but without the slightest expression on his face that the most expert physiognomist could have referred to astonishment, curiosity, or any other known passion that agitates the human breast. Mr. Tupman gazed on the fat boy, and the fat boy stared at him; and the longer Mr. Tupman observed the utter vacancy of the fat boy's countenance, the more convinced he became that he either did not know, or did not understand, anything that had been going forward. 
"The Fat Boy Awake",
Phiz's illustration of the unfortunate moment.
The fat boy, as Robet Buss observed in his illustration, was awake on this occasion only. They are called to supper, and a high spirited supper it is - Dickens dryly observes,
'It wasn't the wine,' murmured Mr. Snodgrass, in a broken voice. 'It was the salmon.' (Somehow or other, it never is the wine, in these cases.)
After supper Joe (the Fat Boy) reports to old Mrs. Wardle what has transpired. She is horrified, hilariously so, but we quickly learn that Mr. Jingle has designs on Rachael himself. He tells Mrs. Wardle Tupman is only interested in Rachael for her money (which is true of Jingle, at least), then tells Tupman to drop it all - they have been discovered and Rachael does not wish to pursue their little romance for the moment. He agrees to pass on the message of his undying love and resolve to wait for her (which we know won't be passed on), and then asks to borrow £10. Once more he warns Tupman,
'Be careful,' said Mr. Jingle—'not a look.'
'Not a wink,' said Mr. Tupman.
'Not a syllable.'
'Not a whisper.'
'All your attentions to the niece—rather rude, than otherwise, to the aunt—only way of deceiving the old ones.'
'I'll take care,' said Mr. Tupman aloud.
'And I'll take care,' said Mr. Jingle internally; and they entered the house.
"Wardle and his friends under the influence of
the salmon" by Phiz.
The chapter concludes,
The scene of that afternoon was repeated that evening, and on the three afternoons and evenings next ensuing. On the fourth, the host was in high spirits, for he had satisfied himself that there was no ground for the charge against Mr. Tupman. So was Mr. Tupman, for Mr. Jingle had told him that his affair would soon be brought to a crisis. So was Mr. Pickwick, for he was seldom otherwise. So was not Mr. Snodgrass, for he had grown jealous of Mr. Tupman. So was the old lady, for she had been winning at whist. So were Mr. Jingle and Miss Wardle, for reasons of sufficient importance in this eventful history to be narrated in another chapter.
Well there's a cliff-hanger! What will transpire between Miss Wardle and Mr. Jingle, and why did Jingle need that £10? I look forward to June's instalment!

And until then, here are those Buss illustrations not included in The Pickwick Papers. There were found in Pictorial Pickwickiana: Charles Dickens and his illustrators by Joseph Grego (1899).

A suggested design for the title page
of The Pickwick Papers by Robert Buss.
"Mr. Pickwick at the Review" by Robert Buss
for the second instalment.
"The Breakdown" for the next instalment,
Chapter IX.
"Mr. Pickwick and his friends under the influence
of Salmon" by Robert Buss for Chapter VIII.

Finally on the subject of Buss - decades later just before his death in 1875 (five years after the death of Dickens) he painted his now famous "Dickens' Dream". Jane R. Cohen wrote of it,
... at last, he had illustrated many of the author’s major characters. In this creative way, Buss tried to overcome, if not obliterate, the painful reality of his short-lived association with Dickens.


I'm now very much looking forward to June! Is everyone still enjoying this? Please let me know your thoughts :)


  1. Your Pickwick postings are such a pleasure to read! I'm tempted to abandon Hemingway and pursue Dickens, but I must -- for a while -- hold the temptation at arm's length. So, instead, I follow Pickwick et al via your superb renderings. Thanks!

    1. No problem, glad you're enjoying them :)

  2. Here is my review of Chapters VI-VII for May! I LOVE your sense of humor in citing "Somehow or other, it never is the wine, in these cases." Isn't that the truth? :) Love your history of the illustrations and such! How interesting! I also selected many of the same quotes. Great minds... ;)

    1. Indeed :D I'll go look at your post, thanks for linking it! :)

  3. Hi everyone - sorry I haven't commented on this before, but I have been extremely busy over the last few weeks. One thing I want to correct, though, is the idea that Dickens didn't like Buss's illustrations and that this is why Buss was dropped. The reality was that Buss was betrayed by Pickwick's publishers Chapman and Hall: they persuaded him to take on the task of being the replacement for Seymour, but he had never etched in his life. To be expected to produce expert etchings in a few weeks was an impossible task. He was assured that allowances would be made for the fact that he was a novice - and so he took on the job. But in the end, no allowance was made, and he was fired.

    On the Death and Mr Pickwick page, I recently posted about Buss's visit to the art supplies shop to get etching equipment - and it is one of my favourite posts, because you will see some wonderfully preserved paintboxes from that era. Here is the link:

    Best wishes

    Stephen Jarvis

    1. Thanks for clearing that up, I did think Dickens was the issue and didn't know the publishers made a false promise. Such a shame, I really do feel sorry for poor Buss.

      Thanks also for the link, and yes they are very well preserved. I do find them a little sad to look at as well!

  4. It struck me, as I was reading the section where Mr Jingle apparently reluctantly divulges to Rachael Wardle that Tupman has designs on her money, that his behaviour in this wonderfully written scene was very much like that of Iago in Othello. Perhaps Jingle, as a strolling actor, was so aware of the malevolent influence of that famous literary creation that the temptation to adopt that character in this scene was too much for him to resist.

    1. Yes I see that now you mention it - very interesting, thanks!

  5. So I know most of you probably already know this, but it just hit me this month, and it made me happy. In the beginning of Little Women, the March girls are enacting The Pickwick Papers in their attic.

    My review of Chapters 6-8.

    1. Of course, I'd forgotten all about that! :)

  6. Perhaps a bit of a stretch to mention this but I wonder did Agatha Christie ever read the novel as while reading the rook shooting episode, I was thinking of her Poirot story The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor where a rook rifle plays a key role.

    1. I haven't read ANY Agatha Christie. I'll have to check that one out, thanks for mentioning it :)

  7. I am enjoying The Pickwick Papers but feel that it is a bit disjointed compared to Dicken's other novels. Hopefully this will improve as the book progresses.

    Here is my review of Chapters 6-8

    1. It is rather disjointed and I'm not sure that *will* improve I'm afraid! This is why I thought the long read-along would be best - I found it a bit of a nightmare to sit and read in one go (well, I read it over the period of three or four weeks!).

      Thanks for the link, I shall read it this evening :)


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