Chapters LVI - LVII of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.
|Mr. Pickwick by Kyd.|
This morning at 9 o'clock I finished The Pickwick Papers, a 21 month long read-along I planned in December 2015 almost two years ago that seemed so preposterously long I spent most of it thinking I'd never finish it! But here we are, on the final instalment, and it is very short - just 20 pages to round up and finish the novel.
An Important Conference Takes Place Between Mr. Pickwick and Samuel Weller, at which his Parent Assists—an Old Gentleman in a Snuff-Coloured Suit Arrives Unexpectedly.
Tony Weller, who has recently inherited a small fortune, goes to see Mr. Pickwick accompanied by Sam, and there is not a small degree of awkwardness:
‘Glad to see you back again, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘How do you do, Mr. Weller?’
‘Wery hearty, thank’ee, sir,’ replied the widower; ‘hope I see you well, sir.’
‘Quite, I thank you,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.
‘I wanted to have a little bit o’ conwersation with you, sir,’ said Mr. Weller, ‘if you could spare me five minits or so, sir.’
‘Certainly,’ replied Mr. Pickwick. ‘Sam, give your father a chair.’
‘Thank’ee, Samivel, I’ve got a cheer here,’ said Mr. Weller, bringing one forward as he spoke; ‘uncommon fine day it’s been, sir,’ added the old gentleman, laying his hat on the floor as he sat himself down.
‘Remarkably so, indeed,’ replied Mr. Pickwick. ‘Very seasonable.’
‘Seasonablest veather I ever see, sir,’ rejoined Mr. Weller. Here, the old gentleman was seized with a violent fit of coughing, which, being terminated, he nodded his head and winked and made several supplicatory and threatening gestures to his son, all of which Sam Weller steadily abstained from seeing.
Eventually Tony outs with it: he wishes Pickwick to keep the money on his behalf, to which Pickwick agrees before sending Sam out. They then discuss Sam's prospects and, specifically, using the money to set him up in business allowing him to marry Mary, the maid he is so fond of. When told of the plan however Sam is reluctant, not wishing to leave Pickwick's service.
Meanwhile, "an Old Gentleman in a Snuff-Coloured Suit" appears on the scene wishing to see Arabella: it is Mr. Winkle's father, and after a brief discussion he reveals he is finally reconciled to their marriage. Hurrah!
In Which The Pickwick Club Is Finally Dissolved, And Everything Concluded To The Satisfaction Of Everybody
In the final chapter of the instalment, and indeed the novel, Dickens devotes the time to a round up. It begins,
For a whole week after the happy arrival of Mr. Winkle from Birmingham, Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller were from home all day long, only returning just in time for dinner, and then wearing an air of mystery and importance quite foreign to their natures. It was evident that very grave and eventful proceedings were on foot; but various surmises were afloat, respecting their precise character. Some (among whom was Mr. Tupman) were disposed to think that Mr. Pickwick contemplated a matrimonial alliance; but this idea the ladies most strenuously repudiated. Others rather inclined to the belief that he had projected some distant tour, and was at present occupied in effecting the preliminary arrangements; but this again was stoutly denied by Sam himself, who had unequivocally stated, when cross-examined by Mary, that no new journeys were to be undertaken. At length, when the brains of the whole party had been racked for six long days, by unavailing speculation, it was unanimously resolved that Mr. Pickwick should be called upon to explain his conduct, and to state distinctly why he had thus absented himself from the society of his admiring friends.
The reason is that Pickwick is moving from to Dulwich and the Pickwick Club is thus at an end:
'I have communicated, both personally and by letter, with the club,’ resumed Mr. Pickwick, ‘acquainting them with my intention. During our long absence, it has suffered much from internal dissensions; and the withdrawal of my name, coupled with this and other circumstances, has occasioned its dissolution. The Pickwick Club exists no longer.
‘I shall never regret,’ said Mr. Pickwick in a low voice, ‘I shall never regret having devoted the greater part of two years to mixing with different varieties and shades of human character, frivolous as my pursuit of novelty may have appeared to many. Nearly the whole of my previous life having been devoted to business and the pursuit of wealth, numerous scenes of which I had no previous conception have dawned upon me—I hope to the enlargement of my mind, and the improvement of my understanding. If I have done but little good, I trust I have done less harm, and that none of my adventures will be other than a source of amusing and pleasant recollection to me in the decline of life. God bless you all!’
With these words, Mr. Pickwick filled and drained a bumper with a trembling hand; and his eyes moistened as his friends rose with one accord, and pledged him from their hearts.
They then prepare for the marriage of Emily and Snodgrass, which is a great success, and we catch our last real glimpse of Mr. Samuel Pickwick:
... Mr. Pickwick, having said grace, pauses for an instant and looks round him. As he does so, the tears roll down his cheeks, in the fullness of his joy.
Let us leave our old friend in one of those moments of unmixed happiness, of which, if we seek them, there are ever some, to cheer our transitory existence here. There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast. Some men, like bats or owls, have better eyes for the darkness than for the light. We, who have no such optical powers, are better pleased to take our last parting look at the visionary companions of many solitary hours, when the brief sunshine of the world is blazing full upon them.
And from here, Dickens gives a summary of the futures of some of the leading characters: Winkle, who moves with Arabella less than half a mile from Pickwick, works for his father, Emily and Snodgrass settle at Dingley Dell where Snodgrass becomes a poet - "a great poet among his friends and acquaintance, although we do not find that he has ever written anything to encourage the belief", and Tupman lives in Richmond as a bachelor. Bob Sawyer and Ben Allen go to India, Mrs. Bardell continues to be a landlady and, disappointingly, Messrs. Dodson & Fogg continue to be successful. Sam finally marries Mary and they have two boys, Tony Weller retires, and Jingle and Trotter become "worthy members of society". As for Mr. Pickwick -
Mr. Pickwick is somewhat infirm now; but he retains all his former juvenility of spirit, and may still be frequently seen, contemplating the pictures in the Dulwich Gallery, or enjoying a walk about the pleasant neighbourhood on a fine day. He is known by all the poor people about, who never fail to take their hats off, as he passes, with great respect. The children idolise him, and so indeed does the whole neighbourhood. Every year he repairs to a large family merry-making at Mr. Wardle’s; on this, as on all other occasions, he is invariably attended by the faithful Sam, between whom and his master there exists a steady and reciprocal attachment which nothing but death will terminate.
There ends The Pickwick Papers.
And that is that. Next month (so I know those who hung on to the end have finished) I'll write a summary post. For now, I don't mind admitting I'm rather sad to be bidding goodbye to our dear friend Samuel Pickwick.