You can't imagine how surprised I was a few days ago when I updated my reading status on Goodreads and found we were 87% (depending on your edition) through The Pickwick Papers! 87%... When I came up with this idea almost two years ago the frame of this read-along seemed so long, almost comfortingly long, and the end of it was so far away although I intended to stick with it I somehow never envisaged finishing it. Yet here we are, 87% of the way through, and after this there's only four more instalments. How time flies!
180 years ago, when the once pre-Victorians were all of a sudden Victorians (they'd been Victorians for just over a month now), Queen Victoria moved into Buckingham Palace making this the official London residence of the monarch (it was previously St. James' Palace, which is now the London residence of the Princess Royal). There was a General Election (once again William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne secured the majority for the Whigs), London's Euston railway station was opened, and, of course, the sixteen instalment of The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club was published.
Treats of Divers Little Matters which Occurred in The Fleet, and of Mr. Winkle’s Mysterious Behaviour; and Shows how the Poor Chancery Prisoner Obtained his Release at Last
We left the Pickwickians with not only Mr. Samuel Pickwick in gaol but also Sam Weller, who had chosen to join him by deliberately borrowing money borrowing money from his father, not paying it back, being taken to court by his father, and imprisoned along with his dear friend and employer. The chapter begins,
The chapter begins,
After Tony departs Pickwick appears and a moment later so does Mr. Jingle:
Mrs. Bardell has shaped a good section of Pickwick Papers however she's yet another character we haven't seen in person for quite some time. Until this chapter.
Mr. Pickwick felt a great deal too much touched by the warmth of Sam’s attachment, to be able to exhibit any manifestation of anger or displeasure at the precipitate course he had adopted, in voluntarily consigning himself to a debtor’s prison for an indefinite period. The only point on which he persevered in demanding an explanation, was, the name of Sam’s detaining creditor; but this Mr. Weller as perseveringly withheld.Sam is unrelenting, and so we move forward to a new character, a cobbler called Smangle in the Fleet Prison over a disagreement with an inheritance. Our old friends Tupman, Snodgrass, and Winkle appear (we haven't seen them for quite some time, months in fact), and their mood is accordingly sombre: "The triumvirate were much affected. Mr. Tupman shook his head deploringly, Mr. Snodgrass drew forth his handkerchief, with undisguised emotion; and Mr. Winkle retired to the window, and sniffed aloud." They eat (and drink of course) together and Mr. Winkle is particularly distracted. They depart, and Tom Roker appears to tell Mr. Pickwick a fellow prisoner is on the point of death. Pickwick goes to comfort him, and the man passes away. The chapter ends on a bleak note - of the prisoner Dickens writes, "But he had grown so like death in life, that they knew not when he died."
Descriptive of an Affecting Interview between Mr. Samuel Weller and a Family Party. Mr. Pickwick Makes a Tour of the Diminutive World he Inhabits, and Resolves to Mix With it, in Future, as Little as Possible
|'The Red-Nosed Man Discourseth' by Phiz.|
A few mornings after his incarceration, Mr. Samuel Weller, having arranged his master’s room with all possible care, and seen him comfortably seated over his books and papers, withdrew to employ himself for an hour or two to come, as he best could. It was a fine morning, and it occurred to Sam that a pint of porter in the open air would lighten his next quarter of an hour or so, as well as any little amusement in which he could indulge.
Having arrived at this conclusion, he betook himself to the tap. Having purchased the beer, and obtained, moreover, the day-but-one-before-yesterday’s paper, he repaired to the skittle-ground, and seating himself on a bench, proceeded to enjoy himself in a very sedate and methodical manner.
First of all, he took a refreshing draught of the beer, and then he looked up at a window, and bestowed a platonic wink on a young lady who was peeling potatoes thereat. Then he opened the paper, and folded it so as to get the police reports outwards; and this being a vexatious and difficult thing to do, when there is any wind stirring, he took another draught of the beer when he had accomplished it. Then, he read two lines of the paper, and stopped short to look at a couple of men who were finishing a game at rackets, which, being concluded, he cried out ‘wery good,’ in an approving manner, and looked round upon the spectators, to ascertain whether their sentiments coincided with his own. This involved the necessity of looking up at the windows also; and as the young lady was still there, it was an act of common politeness to wink again, and to drink to her good health in dumb show, in another draught of the beer, which Sam did; and having frowned hideously upon a small boy who had noted this latter proceeding with open eyes, he threw one leg over the other, and, holding the newspaper in both hands, began to read in real earnest.
He had hardly composed himself into the needful state of abstraction, when he thought he heard his own name proclaimed in some distant passage. Nor was he mistaken, for it quickly passed from mouth to mouth, and in a few seconds the air teemed with shouts of ‘Weller!’The shout is to alert him that his father has arrived, accompanied by his wife and the Reverend Stiggins (someone else we haven't seen for quite a while). Sam shares a plan to help Pickwick escape:
‘Sammy,’ whispered Mr. Weller, looking cautiously round; ‘my duty to your gov’nor, and tell him if he thinks better o’ this here bis’ness, to com-moonicate vith me. Me and a cab’net-maker has dewised a plan for gettin’ him out. A pianner, Samivel—a pianner!’ said Mr. Weller, striking his son on the chest with the back of his hand, and falling back a step or two.
‘Wot do you mean?’ said Sam.
‘A pianner-forty, Samivel,’ rejoined Mr. Weller, in a still more mysterious manner, ‘as he can have on hire; vun as von’t play, Sammy.’
‘And wot ‘ud be the good o’ that?’ said Sam.
‘Let him send to my friend, the cabinet-maker, to fetch it back, Sammy,’ replied Mr. Weller. ‘Are you avake, now?’
‘No,’ rejoined Sam.
‘There ain’t no vurks in it,’ whispered his father. ‘It ‘ull hold him easy, vith his hat and shoes on, and breathe through the legs, vich his holler. Have a passage ready taken for ‘Merriker. The ‘Merrikin gov’ment will never give him up, ven vunce they find as he’s got money to spend, Sammy. Let the gov’nor stop there, till Mrs. Bardell’s dead, or Mr. Dodson and Fogg’s hung (wich last ewent I think is the most likely to happen first, Sammy), and then let him come back and write a book about the ‘Merrikins as’ll pay all his expenses and more, if he blows ‘em up enough.’
Mr. Weller delivered this hurried abstract of his plot with great vehemence of whisper; and then, as if fearful of weakening the effect of the tremendous communication by any further dialogue, he gave the coachman’s salute, and vanished.It's a plan worthy of Baldrick, perhaps!
After Tony departs Pickwick appears and a moment later so does Mr. Jingle:
He looked less miserable than before, being clad in a half-worn suit of clothes, which, with Mr. Pickwick’s assistance, had been released from the pawnbroker’s. He wore clean linen too, and had had his hair cut. He was very pale and thin, however; and as he crept slowly up, leaning on a stick, it was easy to see that he had suffered severely from illness and want, and was still very weak. He took off his hat as Mr. Pickwick saluted him, and seemed much humbled and abashed at the sight of Sam Weller.
Following close at his heels, came Mr. Job Trotter, in the catalogue of whose vices, want of faith and attachment to his companion could at all events find no place. He was still ragged and squalid, but his face was not quite so hollow as on his first meeting with Mr. Pickwick, a few days before. As he took off his hat to our benevolent old friend, he murmured some broken expressions of gratitude, and muttered something about having been saved from starving.Pickwick departs with Jingle and Sam stays with Job, and throughout the rest of the chapter Pickwick takes in his miserable surroundings. The chapter ends,
... Mr. Pickwick wandered along all the galleries, up and down all the staircases, and once again round the whole area of the yard. The great body of the prison population appeared to be Mivins, and Smangle, and the parson, and the butcher, and the leg, over and over, and over again. There were the same squalor, the same turmoil and noise, the same general characteristics, in every corner; in the best and the worst alike. The whole place seemed restless and troubled; and the people were crowding and flitting to and fro, like the shadows in an uneasy dream.
‘I have seen enough,’ said Mr. Pickwick, as he threw himself into a chair in his little apartment. ‘My head aches with these scenes, and my heart too. Henceforth I will be a prisoner in my own room.’
And Mr. Pickwick steadfastly adhered to this determination. For three long months he remained shut up, all day; only stealing out at night to breathe the air, when the greater part of his fellow-prisoners were in bed or carousing in their rooms. His health was beginning to suffer from the closeness of the confinement, but neither the often-repeated entreaties of Perker and his friends, nor the still more frequently-repeated warnings and admonitions of Mr. Samuel Weller, could induce him to alter one jot of his inflexible resolution.
Records a Touching Act of Delicate Feeling, Not Unmixed with Pleasantry, Achieved and Performed by Messrs. Dodson and Fogg
|Mrs. Bardell encounters Mr. Pickwick|
in prison' by Phiz.
It was within a week of the close of the month of July, that a hackney cabriolet, number unrecorded, was seen to proceed at a rapid pace up Goswell Street; three people were squeezed into it besides the driver, who sat in his own particular little dickey at the side; over the apron were hung two shawls, belonging to two small vixenish-looking ladies under the apron; between whom, compressed into a very small compass, was stowed away, a gentleman of heavy and subdued demeanour, who, whenever he ventured to make an observation, was snapped up short by one of the vixenish ladies before-mentioned. Lastly, the two vixenish ladies and the heavy gentleman were giving the driver contradictory directions, all tending to the one point, that he should stop at Mrs. Bardell’s door; which the heavy gentleman, in direct opposition to, and defiance of, the vixenish ladies, contended was a green door and not a yellow one.The three are Mr. and Mrs. Raddle, and Mrs. Cluppins, gone to their Mrs. Bardell's; and from there to Hampstead where who should appear but Mr. Jackson of Dodson and Fogg's, requesting that she accompany him back to see Mr. Dodson. The matter involves a cognovit: the Legal Dictionary defines this -
A creditor may ask the borrower to sign a cognovit note when credit is extended. If the debtor falls into arrears the creditor can obtain a judgment against the person without notification to the debtor. There is usually little the debtor can do to attack the judgment when it is discovered. The Supreme Court has held that cognovit notes are not necessarily illegal but most states have outlawed their use in consumer transactions.As she hasn't complied, she is imprisoned in the Fleet along with Pickwick and Sam! The instalment ends,
‘Don’t bother the woman,’ said the turnkey to Weller; ‘she’s just come in.’
‘A prisoner!’ said Sam, quickly replacing his hat. ‘Who’s the plaintives? What for? Speak up, old feller.’
‘Dodson and Fogg,’ replied the man; ‘execution on cognovit for costs.’
‘Here, Job, Job!’ shouted Sam, dashing into the passage. ‘Run to Mr. Perker’s, Job. I want him directly. I see some good in this. Here’s a game. Hooray! vere’s the gov’nor?’
But there was no reply to these inquiries, for Job had started furiously off, the instant he received his commission, and Mrs. Bardell had fainted in real downright earnest.We have to wait until next month to find out what happens, and fortunately that's only a few more days!