Chapters XXXIII - XXXIV of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.
|Title page of Oliver Twist, illustrated|
by George Cruikshank.
As I write this it's snowing, but we've barely got a few millimetres (unlike some today!), whereas 180 years ago there were still blizzards and severe cold, disrupting transport, damaging crops, and causing much suffering to people and animals alike. Aside from the weather, February 1837 was the start of the serialisation of the second of Dickens' novels: Oliver Twist, which ran in Bentley's Miscellany (Pickwick Papers was serialised by Chapman & Hall) from February 1837 to April 1839. For those who may be interested in reading Oliver Twist alongside The Pickwick Papers (let's call it 'The Pickwick Read-Along with a Twist'!), here's the publication dates (also including Nicholas Nickleby, which crossed over with Oliver Twist when Pickwick Papers had finished):
- I – February 1837: chapters 1–2 | Pickwick Papers XII: chapters 33–34
- II – March 1837: chapters 3–4 | Pickwick Papers XIII: chapters 35–37
- III – April 1837: chapters 5–6 | Pickwick Papers XIV: chapters 38–40
- IV – May 1837: chapters 7–8 | No instalment of Pickwick Papers
- No instalment in June 1837 | Pickwick Papers XV: chapters 41–43
- V – July 1837: chapters 9-11 | Pickwick Papers XVI: chapters 44–46
- VI – August 1837: chapters 12–13 | Pickwick Papers XVII: chapters 47–49
- VII – September 1837: chapters 14–15 | Pickwick Papers XVIII: chapters 50–52
- No instalment for October 1837 | Pickwick Papers XIX: chapters 53–55
- VIII – November 1837: chapters 16–17 | Pickwick Papers XX: chapters 56–57 (final instalment)
- IX – December 1837: chapters 18–19
- X – January 1838: chapters 20–22
- XI – February 1838: chapters 23–25
- XII – March 1838: chapters 26–27 | Nicholas Nickleby I: chapters 1–4
- XIII – April 1838: chapters 28–30 | Nicholas Nickleby II: chapters 5–7
- XIV – May 1838: chapters 31–32 | Nicholas Nickleby III: chapters 8–10
- XV – June 1838: chapters 33–34 | Nicholas Nickleby IV: chapters 11–14
- XVI – July 1838: chapters 35–37 | Nicholas Nickleby V: chapters 15–17
- XVII – August 1838: chapters 38-part of 39 | Nicholas Nickleby VI: chapters 18–20
- No instalment for September 1838 | Nicholas Nickleby VII: chapters 21–23
- XVIII – October 1838: conclusion of chapter 39–41 | Nicholas Nickleby VIII: chapters 24–26
- XIX – November 1838: chapters 42–43 | Nicholas Nickleby IX: chapters 27–29
- XX – December 1838: chapters 44–46 | Nicholas Nickleby X: chapters 30–33
- XXI – January 1839: chapters 47–49 | Nicholas Nickleby XI: chapters 34–36
- XXII – February 1839: chapter 50 | Nicholas Nickleby XII: chapters 37–39
- XXIII – March 1839: chapter 51 | Nicholas Nickleby XIII: chapters 40–42
- XXIV – April 1839: chapters 52–53 | Nicholas Nickleby XIV: chapters 43–45
Nicholas Nickleby would run to September 1839.
Now, let's return to Mr. Pickwick. I've read this instalment of The Pickwick Papers a little earlier than usual because the eleventh instalment ended on somewhat of a cliff-hanger; we know that this is the month Mr. Pickwick is due in court...
Mr. Weller The Elder Delivers Some Critical Sentiments Respecting Literary Composition; and, Assisted by his Son Samuel, Pays a Small Instalment of Retaliation to the Account of the Reverend Gentleman with the Red Nose
|'The Valentine' by Phiz.|
Before we get to the dramas of the court, we begin on 13th February, the day before Pickwick's court appearance, with Sam Weller who is considering Valentine's Day during a wander to Leadenhall Market:
As he was sauntering away his spare time, and stopped to look at almost every object that met his gaze, it is by no means surprising that Mr. Weller should have paused before a small stationer’s and print-seller’s window; but without further explanation it does appear surprising that his eyes should have no sooner rested on certain pictures which were exposed for sale therein, than he gave a sudden start, smote his right leg with great vehemence, and exclaimed, with energy, ‘if it hadn’t been for this, I should ha’ forgot all about it, till it was too late!’
The particular picture on which Sam Weller’s eyes were fixed, as he said this, was a highly-coloured representation of a couple of human hearts skewered together with an arrow, cooking before a cheerful fire, while a male and female cannibal in modern attire, the gentleman being clad in a blue coat and white trousers, and the lady in a deep red pelisse with a parasol of the same, were approaching the meal with hungry eyes, up a serpentine gravel path leading thereunto. A decidedly indelicate young gentleman, in a pair of wings and nothing else, was depicted as superintending the cooking; a representation of the spire of the church in Langham Place, London, appeared in the distance; and the whole formed a ‘valentine,’ of which, as a written inscription in the window testified, there was a large assortment within, which the shopkeeper pledged himself to dispose of, to his countrymen generally, at the reduced rate of one-and-sixpence each.
‘I should ha’ forgot it; I should certainly ha’ forgot it!’ said Sam; so saying, he at once stepped into the stationer’s shop, and requested to be served with a sheet of the best gilt-edged letter-paper, and a hard-nibbed pen which could be warranted not to splutter. These articles having been promptly supplied, he walked on direct towards Leadenhall Market at a good round pace, very different from his recent lingering one. Looking round him, he there beheld a signboard on which the painter’s art had delineated something remotely resembling a cerulean elephant with an aquiline nose in lieu of trunk. Rightly conjecturing that this was the Blue Boar himself, he stepped into the house, and inquired concerning his parent.
His "parent" soon arrives and is unimpressed with the Valentine's card, which was to be given to Mary the housemaid. Nevertheless he writes it, however signs it"‘Your love-sick Pickwick.’" They then attend the United Grand Junction Ebenezer Temperance Association where they hear of the evils of alcohol, and in which they are joined by the Reverend Stiggins, or "the Reverend Gentleman with the red nose" as the chapter title promises:
‘Will you address the meeting, brother?’ said Mr. Humm, with a smile of invitation.
‘No, sir,’ rejoined Mr. Stiggins; ‘No, sir. I will not, sir.’
The meeting looked at each other with raised eyelids; and a murmur of astonishment ran through the room.
‘It’s my opinion, sir,’ said Mr. Stiggins, unbuttoning his coat, and speaking very loudly—‘it’s my opinion, sir, that this meeting is drunk, sir. Brother Tadger, sir!’ said Mr. Stiggins, suddenly increasing in ferocity, and turning sharp round on the little man in the drab shorts, ‘you are drunk, sir!’ With this, Mr. Stiggins, entertaining a praiseworthy desire to promote the sobriety of the meeting, and to exclude therefrom all improper characters, hit Brother Tadger on the summit of the nose with such unerring aim, that the drab shorts disappeared like a flash of lightning. Brother Tadger had been knocked, head first, down the ladder.
Upon this, the women set up a loud and dismal screaming; and rushing in small parties before their favourite brothers, flung their arms around them to preserve them from danger. An instance of affection, which had nearly proved fatal to Humm, who, being extremely popular, was all but suffocated, by the crowd of female devotees that hung about his neck, and heaped caresses upon him. The greater part of the lights were quickly put out, and nothing but noise and confusion resounded on all sides.
Sam Weller and his father wisely choose this point to leave.
Is Wholly Devoted to a Full and Faithful Report of the Memorable Trial of Bardell Against Pickwick
|'The Trial' by Phiz.|
Here we learn of the seriousness and absurdities of the 19th Century English courtroom, and, most importantly of all, we learn the fate of Mr. Pickwick. The chapter begins on a somewhat troubling note:
I wonder what the foreman of the jury, whoever he’ll be, has got for breakfast,’ said Mr. Snodgrass, by way of keeping up a conversation on the eventful morning of the fourteenth of February.
‘Ah!’ said Perker, ‘I hope he’s got a good one.’
Why so?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.
‘Highly important—very important, my dear Sir,’ replied Perker. ‘A good, contented, well-breakfasted juryman is a capital thing to get hold of. Discontented or hungry jurymen, my dear sir, always find for the plaintiff.’
‘Bless my heart,’ said Mr. Pickwick, looking very blank, ‘what do they do that for?’
‘Why, I don’t know,’ replied the little man coolly; ‘saves time, I suppose. If it’s near dinner-time, the foreman takes out his watch when the jury has retired, and says, “Dear me, gentlemen, ten minutes to five, I declare! I dine at five, gentlemen.” “So do I,” says everybody else, except two men who ought to have dined at three and seem more than half disposed to stand out in consequence. The foreman smiles, and puts up his watch:—“Well, gentlemen, what do we say, plaintiff or defendant, gentlemen? I rather think, so far as I am concerned, gentlemen,—I say, I rather think—but don’t let that influence you—I rather think the plaintiff’s the man.” Upon this, two or three other men are sure to say that they think so too—as of course they do; and then they get on very unanimously and comfortably. Ten minutes past nine!’ said the little man, looking at his watch. ‘Time we were off, my dear sir; breach of promise trial-court is generally full in such cases. You had better ring for a coach, my dear sir, or we shall be rather late.’
On they go and late they are not. The trial begins, Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz for the prosecution, Mr. Serjeant Snubbin for our defendant, Mr. Pickwick, and finally Mr. Justice Stareleigh as the judge:
Mr. Justice Stareleigh (who sat in the absence of the Chief Justice, occasioned by indisposition) was a most particularly short man, and so fat, that he seemed all face and waistcoat. He rolled in, upon two little turned legs, and having bobbed gravely to the Bar, who bobbed gravely to him, put his little legs underneath his table, and his little three-cornered hat upon it; and when Mr. Justice Stareleigh had done this, all you could see of him was two queer little eyes, one broad pink face, and somewhere about half of a big and very comical-looking wig.
Buzfuz presents Mrs. Bardell as a poor and innocent widow. On Pickwick: "‘Of this man Pickwick I will say little; the subject presents but few attractions; and I, gentlemen, am not the man, nor are you, gentlemen, the men, to delight in the contemplation of revolting heartlessness, and of systematic villainy.’" He goes on to prevent his 'damning' evidence:
Two letters have passed between these parties, letters which are admitted to be in the handwriting of the defendant, and which speak volumes, indeed. The letters, too, bespeak the character of the man. They are not open, fervent, eloquent epistles, breathing nothing but the language of affectionate attachment. They are covert, sly, underhanded communications, but, fortunately, far more conclusive than if couched in the most glowing language and the most poetic imagery—letters that must be viewed with a cautious and suspicious eye—letters that were evidently intended at the time, by Pickwick, to mislead and delude any third parties into whose hands they might fall. Let me read the first: “Garraways, twelve o’clock. Dear Mrs. B.—Chops and tomato sauce. Yours, Pickwick.” Gentlemen, what does this mean? Chops and tomato sauce. Yours, Pickwick! Chops! Gracious heavens! and tomato sauce! Gentlemen, is the happiness of a sensitive and confiding female to be trifled away, by such shallow artifices as these? The next has no date whatever, which is in itself suspicious. “Dear Mrs. B., I shall not be at home till to-morrow. Slow coach.” And then follows this very remarkable expression. “Don’t trouble yourself about the warming-pan.” The warming-pan! Why, gentlemen, who does trouble himself about a warming-pan? When was the peace of mind of man or woman broken or disturbed by a warming-pan, which is in itself a harmless, a useful, and I will add, gentlemen, a comforting article of domestic furniture? Why is Mrs. Bardell so earnestly entreated not to agitate herself about this warming-pan, unless (as is no doubt the case) it is a mere cover for hidden fire—a mere substitute for some endearing word or promise, agreeably to a preconcerted system of correspondence, artfully contrived by Pickwick with a view to his contemplated desertion, and which I am not in a condition to explain? And what does this allusion to the slow coach mean? For aught I know, it may be a reference to Pickwick himself, who has most unquestionably been a criminally slow coach during the whole of this transaction, but whose speed will now be very unexpectedly accelerated, and whose wheels, gentlemen, as he will find to his cost, will very soon be greased by you!’Witnesses are called, and when it comes to Mr. Winkle's turn he bungles it, and Snodgrass and Tupman make it yet worse. After further questioning, other witnesses and character statements, the verdict is reached:
‘Gentlemen,’ said the individual in black, ‘are you all agreed upon your verdict?’And together they leave. There ends the twelfth instalment.
‘We are,’ replied the foreman.
‘Do you find for the plaintiff, gentlemen, or for the defendant?’
For the plaintiff.’
‘With what damages, gentlemen?’
‘Seven hundred and fifty pounds.’
Mr. Pickwick took off his spectacles, carefully wiped the glasses, folded them into their case, and put them in his pocket; then, having drawn on his gloves with great nicety, and stared at the foreman all the while, he mechanically followed Mr. Perker and the blue bag out of court.
They stopped in a side room while Perker paid the court fees; and here, Mr. Pickwick was joined by his friends. Here, too, he encountered Messrs. Dodson & Fogg, rubbing their hands with every token of outward satisfaction.
‘Well, gentlemen,’ said Mr. Pickwick.
‘Well, Sir,’ said Dodson, for self and partner.
‘You imagine you’ll get your costs, don’t you, gentlemen?’ said Mr. Pickwick.
Fogg said they thought it rather probable. Dodson smiled, and said they’d try.
‘You may try, and try, and try again, Messrs. Dodson and Fogg,’ said Mr. Pickwick vehemently, ‘but not one farthing of costs or damages do you ever get from me, if I spend the rest of my existence in a debtor’s prison.’
‘Ha! ha!’ laughed Dodson. ‘You’ll think better of that, before next term, Mr. Pickwick.’
‘He, he, he! We’ll soon see about that, Mr. Pickwick,’ grinned Fogg.
Speechless with indignation, Mr. Pickwick allowed himself to be led by his solicitor and friends to the door, and there assisted into a hackney-coach, which had been fetched for the purpose, by the ever-watchful Sam Weller.