Friday, 31 March 2017

Chapters XXXV - XXXVII of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.

Just over a year ago today I post a summary of the first instalment of The Pickwick Papers! It has been great fun reading a year in the life of Samuel Pickwick and his friends, but of course it's not over - this is the thirteenth instalment, and we still have seven to go.

180 years ago Britain was still in the middle of winter weather: from 1st March 1837 to 31st May 1837, the average temperature was 5.63 °C. It was an unusually cold winter and spring, and still today 1837's spring is the coldest spring on record (the coldest March, incidentally, was in 1674) with continuing blizzards and snow still covering the Campsie and Kilpatrick Hills around Glasgow. Today, however, it's all sun and mist here, though there is a touch of snow on top of the hills around the Scottish Borders, but really barely a dusting. But, enough of the weather, let's return to Mr. Pickwick and see how he's faring after being found liable to pay Mrs. Bardell in damages to the sum of £750.

Chapter XXXV
In Which Mr. Pickwick Thinks He Had Better Go To Bath; And Goes Accordingly

In the last chapter we saw Mr. Pickwick adamant he was not going to pay damages, and in Chapter 35 he's sticking to his guns: "‘Not one halfpenny,’ said Mr. Pickwick firmly; ‘not one halfpenny.’". So, instead, he goes to Bath in Somerset, and on the way, at White Horse Cellar (presumably Old White Horse Cellar, also known as Hatchetts White Horse Cellar in Piccadilly), he meets Captain Dowler, a rather "fierce gentleman", and through him Angelo Cyrus Bantam, the master of ceremonies at a hotel to which Bantam invites the Pickwickians. They attend a ball, which we can agree is somewhat pretentious, and Mr. Bantam points out some of the guests:
‘My dear Sir, I am highly honoured. Ba—ath is favoured. Mrs. Dowler, you embellish the rooms. I congratulate you on your feathers. Re-markable!’
‘Anybody here?’ inquired Dowler suspiciously.
‘Anybody! The elite of Ba—ath. Mr. Pickwick, do you see the old lady in the gauze turban?’
‘The fat old lady?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick innocently.
‘Hush, my dear sir—nobody’s fat or old in Ba—ath. That’s the Dowager Lady Snuphanuph.’
‘Is it, indeed?’ said Mr. Pickwick.
‘No less a person, I assure you,’ said the Master of the Ceremonies. ‘Hush. Draw a little nearer, Mr. Pickwick. You see the splendidly-dressed young man coming this way?’
‘The one with the long hair, and the particularly small forehead?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.
‘The same. The richest young man in Ba—ath at this moment. Young Lord Mutanhed.’
‘You don’t say so?’ said Mr. Pickwick.
‘Yes. You’ll hear his voice in a moment, Mr. Pickwick. He’ll speak to me. The other gentleman with him, in the red under-waistcoat and dark moustache, is the Honourable Mr. Crushton, his bosom friend. How do you do, my Lord?’
‘Veway hot, Bantam,’ said his Lordship.
‘It is very warm, my Lord,’ replied the M.C.
‘Confounded,’ assented the Honourable Mr. Crushton.
‘Have you seen his Lordship’s mail-cart, Bantam?’ inquired the Honourable Mr. Crushton, after a short pause, during which young Lord Mutanhed had been endeavouring to stare Mr. Pickwick out of countenance, and Mr. Crushton had been reflecting what subject his Lordship could talk about best.
‘Dear me, no,’ replied the M.C. ‘A mail-cart! What an excellent idea. Re-markable!’
‘Gwacious heavens!’ said his Lordship, ‘I thought evewebody had seen the new mail-cart; it’s the neatest, pwettiest, gwacefullest thing that ever wan upon wheels. Painted wed, with a cweam piebald.’
‘With a real box for the letters, and all complete,’ said the Honourable Mr. Crushton.
‘And a little seat in fwont, with an iwon wail, for the dwiver,’ added his Lordship. ‘I dwove it over to Bwistol the other morning, in a cwimson coat, with two servants widing a quarter of a mile behind; and confound me if the people didn’t wush out of their cottages, and awest my pwogwess, to know if I wasn’t the post. Glorwious—glorwious!’
At this anecdote his Lordship laughed very heartily, as did the listeners, of course. Then, drawing his arm through that of the obsequious Mr. Crushton, Lord Mutanhed walked away.
‘Delightful young man, his Lordship,’ said the Master of the Ceremonies.
‘So I should think,’ rejoined Mr. Pickwick drily.
Pickwick plays whist with a group of rather intimidating ladies, loses, and goes off to bed.

Chapter XXXVI
The Chief Features of which will be Found to be an Authentic Version of the Legend of Prince Bladud, and a Most Extraordinary Calamity that Befell Mr. Winkle

Pickwick decides upon a two or so months stay at Bath and it's arranged he will stay with the Dowlers. Much mineral water is consumed:
... Mr. Pickwick began to drink the waters with the utmost assiduity. Mr. Pickwick took them systematically. He drank a quarter of a pint before breakfast, and then walked up a hill; and another quarter of a pint after breakfast, and then walked down a hill; and, after every fresh quarter of a pint, Mr. Pickwick declared, in the most solemn and emphatic terms, that he felt a great deal better; whereat his friends were very much delighted, though they had not been previously aware that there was anything the matter with him.
One evening he reads 'The True Legend of Prince Bladud', a legendary king of the Britons first mentioned in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, though there is no evidence for his existence. The story begins,
‘For many hundred years before that time, there had been handed down, from age to age, an old legend, that the illustrious prince being afflicted with leprosy, on his return from reaping a rich harvest of knowledge in Athens, shunned the court of his royal father, and consorted moodily with husbandman and pigs. Among the herd (so said the legend) was a pig of grave and solemn countenance, with whom the prince had a fellow-feeling—for he too was wise—a pig of thoughtful and reserved demeanour; an animal superior to his fellows, whose grunt was terrible, and whose bite was sharp. The young prince sighed deeply as he looked upon the countenance of the majestic swine; he thought of his royal father, and his eyes were bedewed with tears.
‘This sagacious pig was fond of bathing in rich, moist mud. Not in summer, as common pigs do now, to cool themselves, and did even in those distant ages (which is a proof that the light of civilisation had already begun to dawn, though feebly), but in the cold, sharp days of winter. His coat was ever so sleek, and his complexion so clear, that the prince resolved to essay the purifying qualities of the same water that his friend resorted to. He made the trial. Beneath that black mud, bubbled the hot springs of Bath. He washed, and was cured. Hastening to his father’s court, he paid his best respects, and returning quickly hither, founded this city and its famous baths.
The story goes on to tell of how his father King Lud arranged a marriage for him, however he was in love with a woman in Athens. To punish him King Lud imprisons him but Bladud escapes, and he learns the woman he loves has married another. Heartbroken he flees the kingdom and ends up in Bath: it is his tears that are the source of the healing waters of the city:
‘“Oh!” said the unhappy Bladud, clasping his hands, and mournfully raising his eyes towards the sky, “would that my wanderings might end here! Would that these grateful tears with which I now mourn hope misplaced, and love despised, might flow in peace for ever!”
‘The wish was heard. It was in the time of the heathen deities, who used occasionally to take people at their words, with a promptness, in some cases, extremely awkward. The ground opened beneath the prince’s feet; he sank into the chasm; and instantaneously it closed upon his head for ever, save where his hot tears welled up through the earth, and where they have continued to gush forth ever since.
‘It is observable that, to this day, large numbers of elderly ladies and gentlemen who have been disappointed in procuring partners, and almost as many young ones who are anxious to obtain them, repair annually to Bath to drink the waters, from which they derive much strength and comfort. This is most complimentary to the virtue of Prince Bladud’s tears, and strongly corroborative of the veracity of this legend.’
Pickwick, after the story, retires and Mr. Dowler is left alone waiting up for his wife. When she arrives in the coach, the coachman bangs on the door and... it's all rather awkward, as the hammering wakens Mr. Winkle:
At length Mr. Winkle began to dream that he was at a club, and that the members being very refractory, the chairman was obliged to hammer the table a good deal to preserve order; then he had a confused notion of an auction room where there were no bidders, and the auctioneer was buying everything in; and ultimately he began to think it just within the bounds of possibility that somebody might be knocking at the street door. To make quite certain, however, he remained quiet in bed for ten minutes or so, and listened; and when he had counted two or three-and-thirty knocks, he felt quite satisfied, and gave himself a great deal of credit for being so wakeful.
‘Rap rap-rap rap-rap rap-ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, rap!’ went the knocker.
Mr. Winkle jumped out of bed, wondering very much what could possibly be the matter, and hastily putting on his stockings and slippers, folded his dressing-gown round him, lighted a flat candle from the rush-light that was burning in the fireplace, and hurried downstairs.
Dowler follows to let his wife in, and Mr. Winkle panics at the thought of being seen with Mrs. Dowler at such a late hour, and so runs and hides:
‘Watchman,’ shouted Dowler furiously, ‘stop him—hold him—keep him tight—shut him in, till I come down. I’ll cut his throat—give me a knife—from ear to ear, Mrs. Craddock—I will!’ And breaking from the shrieking landlady, and from Mr. Pickwick, the indignant husband seized a small supper-knife, and tore into the street.
But Mr. Winkle didn’t wait for him. He no sooner heard the horrible threat of the valorous Dowler, than he bounced out of the sedan, quite as quickly as he had bounced in, and throwing off his slippers into the road, took to his heels and tore round the crescent, hotly pursued by Dowler and the watchman. He kept ahead; the door was open as he came round the second time; he rushed in, slammed it in Dowler’s face, mounted to his bedroom, locked the door, piled a wash-hand-stand, chest of drawers, and a table against it, and packed up a few necessaries ready for flight with the first ray of morning.
Dowler came up to the outside of the door; avowed, through the keyhole, his steadfast determination of cutting Mr. Winkle’s throat next day; and, after a great confusion of voices in the drawing-room, amidst which that of Mr. Pickwick was distinctly heard endeavouring to make peace, the inmates dispersed to their several bed-chambers, and all was quiet once more.
It is not unlikely that the inquiry may be made, where Mr. Weller was, all this time? We will state where he was, in the next chapter.
Chapter XXXVII
Honourably Accounts for Mr. Weller’s Absence, by Describing a Soiree to which He Was Invited and Went; also Relates how He was Entrusted by Mr. Pickwick with a Private Mission of Delicacy and Importance.

Sam Weller, as it has been noted, has been absent a while, and we learn he was invited to a soiree by Mr. Bantam's footman John Smauker. The footmen, as Dickens described, have a rather inflated sense of importance, which Weller pokes gentle fun at, and the crowd enjoy their evening. On Weller's return, as the chapter title promises, Pickwick gives Weller a mission: we learn that Mr. Winkle has escaped the wrath of Dowler to Bristol:
‘... He must be found, Sam. Found and brought back to me.’
And s’pose he won’t come back, Sir?’ said Sam.
‘He must be made, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick.
‘Who’s to do it, Sir?’ inquired Sam, with a smile.
‘You,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.
‘Wery good, Sir.’
Pickwick completes his orders, and this thirteenth instalment ends with the words:
Sam gave a nod of intelligence, and withdrawing his head from the door, set forth on his pilgrimage with a light heart.
We must wait until April (happily only a day away!) to find out what happens in Bristol! 


  1. My review of the thirteenth installment.


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