The Pickwick Papers, Week 2 ~ and a Week 1 Wrap-up

Wherein we glance back at the first week of the #DickensClub Reading of The Pickwick Papers (week nine of the Dickens Chronological Reading Club 2022-23); With General Memoranda, a summary of reading and discussion, and a look ahead to week two.

“Mr. Pickwick in Chase of his Hat,” by Robert Seymour

“In short, the Dickens novel was popular, not because it was an unreal world, but because it was a real world; a world in which the soul could live. The modern ‘shocker’ at its very best is an interlude in life. But in the days when Dickens’s work was coming out in serial, people talked about it as if real life were itself the interlude between one issue of ‘Pickwick’ and another.”

~G.K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens, The Last of the Great Men

Friends, what are we making of Pickwick so far? Judging by the comments, we have a wealth of things to discuss already, and we’ve only just begun!

General Mems

If you’re counting, this coming week will be week 10 of the #DickensClub as a whole (and Day 63), and Week 2 of The Pickwick Papers (our second read). My introduction to The Pickwick Papers can be found here. Please feel free to comment below this post for the second week’s chapters, or to use the hashtag #DickensClub if you’re commenting on twitter.

No matter where you’re at in the reading process, a huge “thank you” for reading along with us! Always and forever, a heartfelt thanks to the joyously Dickensian account, the Dickens Fellowship for retweeting these and keeping us all in sync, and to The Circumlocution Office for providing such an online resource for us!

A very warm welcome to our newest members, Priscilla T. and Kendall M.! Thank you so much for joining us! And for any newer members or those who might be interested in joining: the schedule is in my intro post here. If you have been reading along with us but are not yet on the Member List, I would love to add you! Please feel free to message me here on the site, or on twitter.

Manor Farm at Dingley Dell, by Frederick E. Banbery

Week One Pickwick Summary (Chapters 1-8)

This week, we met the Pickwickians: Mr. Samuel Pickwick, Nathaniel Winkle, Augustus Snodgrass, and Tracy Tupman. We were privileged to glimpse the transactions of a meeting of May 1827 of that glorious Club, wherein the Corresponding Society was instituted, its members “requested to forward, from time to time, authenticated accounts of their journeys and investigations, of their observations of character and manners, and of the whole of their adventures, together with all tales and papers to which local scenery or associations may give rise, to the Pickwick Club, stationed in London.”

“Wardle and His Friends Under the Influence of the Salmon,” by Phiz

From their first adventure with the cab driver who called the noble members “informers!” ~ due to Mr. Pickwick’s notation of various bits of interest on the journey ~ they were assisted by the charismatic Mr. Jingle who shows up on the scene and afterwards entertains the Pickwickians with his many conquests and adventures ~ only to create new ones for them. In wearing Mr. Winkle’s suit (with the Pickwickian emblem) to a ball, unknown to that unfortunate gentleman, Mr. Jingle provokes a duel with Dr. Slammer, who calls Mr. Winkle out, to the distress of that amiable sportsman, whose friend, Mr. Snodgrass, innocently evades every attempt of Winkle’s to appeal to go and get help. The situation is resolved when Dr. Slammer realizes that Winkle is not the one he had challenged at the ball, and all ends harmoniously….

Until more adventures ensue as the Pickwickians get in the way of a military demonstration; how could they resist the experience of the “grand review” which “was to take place upon the Lines”? Thankfully, the near-disaster brings them into contact with the kindly Wardles and the unforgettable “fat boy.”

“The Break-Down,” by Phiz

In the midst of it all, they hear “The Stroller’s Tale,” and the clergyman’s story of “The Convict’s Return.”

They have an adventurous journey on the way to Manor Farm at Dingley Dell to visit their new friends, the Wardles. And there, Mr. Winkle’s reputation as sportsman is further damaged when, in his attempt to shoot a rook, he instead wounds his friend Tupman.

“Mr. Tupman had saved the lives of innumerable unoffending birds by receiving a portion of the charge in his left arm.”

This accident, however, allows for greater attentions from Rachael Wardle, the spinster aunt, by whom the romantic Mr. Tupman is smitten, and so it is not entirely a misfire. But their wooing is discovered by the fat boy, whose relaying of this shocking news to old Mrs. Wardle is overheard by the cunning Mr. Jingle. Mr. Jingle, attracted by the spinster aunt’s money, has designs of his own, and plants the seed of doubt about Mr. Tupman’s sincerity in Rachael Wardle’s mind…

by Phiz

Discussion Wrap-up

Notes, Quotes, and for Further Reference…

One of our new members, Steve, is “looking forward to ‘a wery, wery good time'” and has offered to post some photos of London which will be familiar to us in our reading! (Yes, please!) Another new member, Priscilla, has shared some absolutely dynamite quotes, and we both loved the hat chase scene!

Dana has been thoroughly enjoying Simon Prebble’s marvelous reading of Pickwick ~ a must-listen, if you love audiobooks! Boze is awaiting a physical copy of Pickwick (go, USPS!) and mentioned how “haunting” it was to visit the room where Mary Hogarth died in Dickens’ home in Doughty Street.

Chris posted Peter Ackroyd’s introductions to both Sketches and Pickwick for further reference/interest. Kendall, a new member, was thinking back to the question asked in last week’s intro, about whether Dickens (due to the enormity of his workload and personal time commitments) ever slept, recalling this same question during his classes, and he shared with us a fascinating article on the subject:

Darkness and Light, Tragedy and Comedy, “Irony of Circumstance”

I’ve been looking at the many references to light, and the sun, particularly at chapter openings, and am noting how many references there are to light, breadth, expansiveness in relation to our fearless leader, Mr. Pickwick:

“Interesting that both of the first 2 chapters start out with the image of light/the rising sun. (And how, during Winkle’s near-duel, he notices the sun going down, and considers that he himself is about to go down with it…) But the light references are mostly related to Pickwick himself. Similarly, this wonderful passage, as Pickwick, arriving in Rochester with his friends and Jingle, descends into a drink-heavy stupor: ‘Like a gas lamp in the street, with the wind in the pipe, he had exhibited for a moment an unnatural brilliancy: then sunk so low as to be scarcely discernible: after a short interval he had burst out again, to enlighten for a moment, then flickered with an uncertain, staggering sort of light, and then gone out altogether.'”

Lenny has been looking at Pickwick, thus far, as “an extension of the SKETCHES,” especially with that light-dark “juxtaposition” ~ “light being something like pure comedy and the dark represented by something we could call pure tragedy.”

He relates some of the near-misses (re: near-tragedies) to the tragi-comedy of Chaplin, specifically, The Gold Rush. His comments are in “gallery mode”; click to see each enlarged:

I agreed that it seems we, along with the Pickwickians, are getting an education by such interpolations as “The Stroller’s Tale,” and that it is “a great example of where the comedy turns to tragedy/education for the Pickwickians…perhaps one of the first real moments of expanding their view of the world, at least in this adventure. It will be interesting to discover/rediscover how their ‘education’ (again, another sort of Pilgrim’s Progress?) …well, progresses, and concludes.”

Lenny elaborates on the parallels to this type of comedy/tragedy in The Gold Rush, specifically on “the shoe/shoe string/spaghetti episode: the Tramp and his friend are starving, literally, and they decide to eat their shoes”:

“This is, at first, truly comic, the audience laughs, but then the laughter begins to quiet as the realization that the moment is really awful: they are eating shoes, the Tramp trying to make the best of it, but his friend is really suffering through the entire ordeal. We only have to look at his facial expressions to sense the agony he’s feeling! And they are freezing in their little cabin, to boot. At some point in this sketch harsh reality begins to seep in. Tragedy is just around the corner. Possible cannibalism is next! The chances are they will die either of starvation or hypothermia.”

The Pickwickians, like Chaplin, Lenny notes, have both the “subtle” and “not so subtle” moments of comedy-tragedy; he uses the example of “the fat boy,” and how we laugh with him, but that we also feel sorry for him and wonder if he has a genuine disorder that causes such moments of humor for those of us who observe his unique ability to fall asleep anywhere. Then, Lenny writes, “Tupman is shot, coaches and carriages are continually overturning and crashing, horses threaten to break loose or maim. At the outset this is comic stuff, but how many coaches need to crash before tragedy rears its ugly head?”

Frederick E. Banbery

Then Lenny, in trying to classify the many types of comedy we’re encountering here ~ “comedy of incident, comedy inherent in dialogue, comedy in Boz’s description of dress, even a slice of Romantic Comedy” ~ focuses in on what he calls the “irony of circumstance,” particularly noting the near-shot to Winkle whom Dr. Slammer has called out to a duel, thinking him the “Stranger” of the ballroom. But, “it is Tupman,” writes Lenny, “who, ultimately is responsible for the clothing that the Stranger wears at the dance. In effect, he has ‘appropriated’ Mr. Winkle’s uniform for the Stranger and in some way is liable for the huge mistaken events that have taken place. His good friend is nearly shot by the impetuous Slammer! How might Tupman ‘pay’ for his mistake?”

But Chris and I both hadn’t thought of the ironic sort of comeuppance that follows, as Lenny writes about in the other mishap (Winkle trying to shoot the rook, and instead shooting his friend):

“Here’s the deal: Because of Tupman, Winkle is almost shot by Slammer. Winkle, is obviously confused and angered (briefly) by Tupman’s ‘use’ of his clothes at the dance, and shoots Tupman! Ok, its an accidental shooting, but the ‘irony of circumstance’ really shows Winkle getting ‘even’ by maiming Tupman. Tupman, then, becomes the victim, but also the apparent ‘winner’ by engaging the sympathies and caring of the lovely Miss Rachel…. Comic Irony of Circumstance? Double irony? Triple irony?”

Classifying Pickwick; “Minor” Characters; Things to Look Out For

Meanwhile, Chris has been reading a lot of criticism on Pickwick. Here’s her comment in “gallery mode”; click each to see enlarged:

I agreed about the “host of minor characters”:

Rach M comment

I found the passage I was looking for:

“There is one instance, and I think only one, of an exception to this generalization; there is one figure in our popular literature which would really be recognized by the populace. Ordinary men would understand you if you referred currently to Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would no doubt be justified in rearing his head to the stars, remembering that Sherlock Holmes is the only really familiar figure in modern fiction. But let him droop that head again with a gentle sadness, remembering that if Sherlock Holmes is the only familiar figure in modern fiction, Sherlock Holmes is also the only familiar figure in the Sherlock Holmes tales. Not many people could say offhand what was the name of the owner of Silver Blaze, or whether Mrs. Watson was dark or fair. But if Dickens had written the Sherlock Holmes stories, every character in them would have been equally arresting and memorable. A Sherlock Holmes would have cooked the dinner for Sherlock Holmes; a Sherlock Holmes would have driven his cab. If Dickens brought in a man merely to carry a letter, he had time for a touch or two, and made him a giant. Dickens not only conquered the world, he conquered it with minor characters.”

~G.K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens, The Last of the Great Men

More Echoes of the Sketches in Pickwick; the “Mock Battle”

Then, Chris beautifully summarizes some areas where we see direct parallels between the Sketches and Pickwick:

“I notice how closely in style it follows in terms of topics and general action, yet how it builds upon it in terms of extended story, descriptive passages and character development. With a little more room to maneuver Boz can let his imagination and his language flow. We still have the mixture of light and dark episodes with the aptly-termed Interpolated Tales (The Stroller’s Tale, The Convict’s Return) momentarily interrupting the flow of the general action. Some similarities: The altercation with the cabman echos ‘Seven Dials’, ‘Omnibuses’, & ‘The Last Cab-driver, and the First Omnibus Cad’; Mr Jingle is one of Boz’s ‘Shabby-genteel People’; the duel between Dr Slammer and Mr Winkle is reminiscent of ‘The Great Winglebury Duel’; ‘The Stroller’s Tale’ is ‘The Drunkard’s Death’ revisited while ‘The Convict’s Return’ is another take on ‘A Visit to Newgate’, ‘Criminal Courts’, ‘Meditations of Monmouth Street’, & ‘The Black Veil’.”

Chris M comment

She also gives a definition of what this mysterious “in the Pickwickian sense” refers to, when deflecting accusations of giving offense, such as in using the word “humbug,” and comparing it to our own use of “political correctness.”

Then, both Chris and Lenny allude to the “mock battle” (Chris) that the Pickwickians end up in the middle of. “It’s all so sanitized,” writes Chris, “as opposed to actual war. Yet how easy it is for civilians to get caught in the middle as Messrs Pickwick & Winkle & Snodgrass do.” Lenny agrees: it “actually exists as a metaphor for what tragically happens during a war–with the myriad of collateral damages wrecked on the populous of the country being invaded. Oh God, how that is so true, tragically, in Ukraine today.” It is a comic incident, but, as Lenny had commented above in the Chaplin comparisons, could easily have turned to tragedy.

A “Unifying Theme,” Old Mrs. Wardle, and the Right Sort of Merriment

Dickens alludes to Mr. Pickwick’s expansive and “comprehensive mind” with a twinkle in the eye, but the immortal Mr. Pickwick really does point us in the right direction when it comes to close observation of the too-often unobserved and unnoticed ~ observations of which Dickens himself was the master.

Chris gives us her favorite quote, suggesting it as a “unifying theme” of Pickwick:

Chris M comment

And then, I can’t help but end with Chris’ delightful comparison of Old Mrs. Wardle to her own mother, and the “right sort of merriment” ~ in the truest “Pickwickian sense”:

Chris M comment

A Look-ahead to Week Two of The Pickwick Papers

This week is a longer one, since we had an uneven number of installments for our six-week schedule. We’ll be reading Chapters 9-20 (which constituted the serial numbers IV-VII, published in June, July, August, and September of 1836).

You can read the text in full at The Circumlocution Office if you prefer the online format or don’t have a copy. There are also a number of places (including Gutenberg) where it can be downloaded for free.


  1. This is a bit of an aside, but as I listen to Prebble’s reading of Pickwick, I am constantly struck by the influence of this book on Susanna Clark’s JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL. (Yes, Prebble read that, too.) It’s as if Clark took Dickens’ “voice” for Pickwick, his pacing, his diction, even his penchant for little stories-within-stories (“the Convict’s Return), and translated them into her alternative (and sometimes darker) history of a Magical England during the Napoleonic Wars and Regency. But all told with precisely the same tone of benevolent humor.

    Must say, too, I’m one of those people whose ear is glued to CNN during this awful period of war in Ukraine, and so my daily dose of Pickwick is a necessary and much-relished balm. What would we do without pleasures such as this?

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    1. I COMPLETELY agree about the Clarkean parallel! Most compare Clarke’s S & N to Jane Austen, but her humor and style are far more influenced by early Dickens, it seems to me.

      Yes, during this sad time for the world, I too am so grateful for some Pickwickian light!


  2. There were so many lovely moments in these opening chapters: Jingle, Mr. Winkle’s dissipation, the theft of the coat, the old lady with the horn in her ear, the maiming of Tupman, the mist rising over the morning fields…

    Reading the book again, I was struck by the similarities in tone to the first half of Fellowship of the Ring – my favorite stretch of The Lord of the Rings, where the hobbits are strolling across country and visiting various homes and pubs. There’s a moment where Pickwick is seated beside a fire enjoying snatches of story and song that felt straight out of Tolkien. I looked it up and apparently Tolkien hated The Pickwick Papers (he famously tried to have Dickens removed from the English literature curriculum), but he HAD read it. It would be a fantastic irony if this book which he hated so much burrowed its way into his subconscious and inadvertently furnished the plot architecture for the hobbits’ journey.

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    1. I agree, these chapters have such gems!! 😂 The way Jingle puts Dr Slammer off at the ball is simply juicy…and Winkle’s covert appeal to Snodgrass about the duel…😂

      I also love Fellowship the best of LotR! But I had totally forgotten this thing about JRRT and Pickwick…what a loveable curmudgeon. It is true, though, these Pickwickians are so….Hobbity! So consummately English 😊😁 he couldn’t get away from the influence….?

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  3. Another “in-between reading” report: Pickwick’s journey is the everyman journey – from infant to adult; from innocence to knowing awareness. I am not the first to make this comparison.* In his book “Charles Dickens: The World of His Novels”, J. Hillis Miller discusses Pickwick’s journey through his adventures. He begins, says Miller, as an observer or scientist, watching and examining dispassionately, not interacting:

    “Pickwick goes forth to encounter experience with an apparently unshakable calm because . . . he does not expect that what he sees will involve or change himself. His researches will not, he thinks, tell him anything about his own intimate life and destiny. Nothing of his own security or complacency is at stake. His discoveries will involve no risk. They will be safely useless . . . because he believes that nothing he meets will really surprise him.” (7-8) AND “Parallel to the naïveté and detachment of the scientist who expects all the evidence to confirm his hypotheses is the naïveté of the innocent man who expects everyone to be good and to tell the truth.” (8)

    So when Pickwick meets with things, situations or people that don’t conform to these notions or when circumstances force him to become engaged (as in the interpolated tales he hears/reads, or in his altercation with the cabman, or being caught in the middle of the Bivouac, or chasing after his hat, or dealing with unruly horses & chaise carts, or Mr Jingle et al) “Pickwick is wholly unable to understand what is happening within him and without. His astonishment is an instantaneous and absolute transformation of his subjective state . . . [which] is caused not so much by the physical danger to him of what he sees [or hears or reads or experiences] as by its complete unpredictability.” (9) Thus Pickwick is frequently bewildered, amazed, astounded, “wholly bereft of speech”, etc. When he is forced to interact with the reality of the world “he exists as his action, and as the frenzied emotion which goes with it. [He] is inextricably merged with the confusion and excitement which he had at first merely watched from a distance. . . . he is literally bowled over and momentarily annihilated by his shattering contact with the world.” (19) In other words, he becomes wholly absorbed in the action, in the moment, or as my kids would say, he “becomes the ball”.

    In an earlier post I quoted Mr Pickwick’s thoughts on how philosophers “look not to the truths which are hidden beyond” their “narrow views”. Miller argues that this is exactly what Pickwick must learn, and DOES learn, to do through his adventures – “Pickwick only truly understands the world when he becomes involved in it.” (29) Miller argues, “The true dramatic center of ’Pickwick Papers’ . . . is Pickwick’s gradual discovery of the real nature of the world. . . . [his] adventures . . . and especially the stories he hears, introduce him to a world without Providence, a world of dog-eat-dog aggression, a world in which people are driven by fortuitous circumstances . . . Pickwick discovers that the reigning principles of large portions of the world are disorder and injustice . . .[and] that much of the world is indifferent or even a positive threat to his life and to his goodness.” (27-29)

    How Mr Pickwick becomes aware of and learns to deal with this new awareness is what we find in these Papers. Perhaps one of the reasons why this novel has stood the test of time is because Mr Pickwick’s journey is the journey we all are pursuing. And perhaps when we laugh at Mr Pickwick & friends we’re really laughing at ourselves, which is a really good & healthy thing to do!

    *See also, “Mr Pickwick’s Innocence”, Rogers, Philip, Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Jun., 1972), pp. 21-37; “The Education of Mr. Pickwick”, Kincaid, James R. Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Sep., 1969), pp. 127-141

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    1. Thank you for these thoughts and quotes, Chris! I loved the way you summed up the reflection here, and it so relates to the progress/education of Pickwick, and the Reader: “How Mr Pickwick becomes aware of and learns to deal with this new awareness is what we find in these Papers. Perhaps one of the reasons why this novel has stood the test of time is because Mr Pickwick’s journey is the journey we all are pursuing. And perhaps when we laugh at Mr Pickwick & friends we’re really laughing at ourselves, which is a really good & healthy thing to do!”

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    2. Chris: this quote from Miller really parallels the response I’m beginning to have with PICKWICK, so I’m going to requote parts of your quote from Miller and play off from that:

      “Pickwick only truly understands the world when he becomes involved in it.” (29) Miller argues, “The true dramatic center of ’Pickwick Papers’ . . . is Pickwick’s gradual discovery of the real nature of the world. . . . [his] adventures . . . and especially the stories he hears, introduce him to a world without Providence, a world of dog-eat-dog aggression, a world in which people are driven by fortuitous circumstances . . . Pickwick discovers that the reigning principles of large portions of the world are disorder and injustice . . .[and] that much of the world is indifferent or even a positive threat to his life and to his goodness.”

      First of all, I’ll say that through our readings of the “Sketches,” this is pretty much the world view we get from Boz. As I’ve mentioned before, Dickens as Boz recreates the London World as he sees it, and then we, as readers, become active observers of that world. Of course, the individual stories create their own world within that larger world, and have their own peculiarities and tone–ranging from the very tragic to the very comic, but still the reader gets an overall sense of the ENVIRONMENT which is Dickens’ subject matter. Although learning/educations is sometimes the theme within these individual stories, I believe the real “education” belongs to the readers of these stories as Boz relates so much about the “facts” of life that the ordinary reader–locked in his own world–will probably not be aware of.

      And this writer’s and reader’s engagement with the world carries right over into PICKWICK. In fact, I was astounded when, SO early in PICKWICK our “hero” would be faced with a “real world” incident. I’m speaking of the episode with the cab driver where, Pickwick, in all his innocence, pulls out his notebook and begins to take down details of the driver’s dress, demeanor, and speech. Little does this scribe know that he’s gradually raising the ire of the driver to the point, that, when the cab arrives at its destination, the driver will begin to pummel Pickwick with blows on his head and body! And this set to is just the beginning, for other cabbies begin to join the fray verbally, an escalation that spreads to a crowd of onlookers and to the very members of the club who are awaiting Pickwick’s arrival. My God, what a crazy and terrible indoctrination into real world experience. As in Chaplin’s films (my touchstone, here) the comedy expands rapidly toward possible tragedy–until, of all things, a “stranger” intervenes and ushers Pickwick and his fellows through the chaos and to relative safety. I say “relative,” here because this “stranger”–as he is known here–is none other than Alfred Jingle, soon to be one of Pickwick’s main nemeses in the narrative which follows.

      As I look back on this early episode and the ones that follow up through chapter 20, I begin to realize why I feel there is a certain “edginess” in this novel. There is comedy, but often I feel it is always prone to some kind of crazy, potentially tragic expansion. And it is this possible expansion that promotes the anxiety that I always feel as the novel moves from episode to episode. As Miller states, and as Chris so wonderfully confirms, it’s a “world of dog-eat-dog aggression” that seems in PICKWICK to break out at the most surprising times. In this regard, I’m praying that Mr. Pickwick will process the meanings of these incidents and be prepared for whatever “worse” things happen.

      Big thanks, again, to Chris for her wonderful research and analysis!

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      1. Quick thought, based on Lenny’s discussion of Pickwick’s first real-world incident of being pummeled by the cab driver – Pickwick is often described by critics as innocent, childlike – so this 1st incident is like that of a baby (Pickwick) being born (embarking on his adventures) and, at least in a proverbial sense, being spanked (pummeled) as a means of opening it’s lungs to take it’s first breath.

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      2. In reply to Chris below, I bet those blows to the chest knocked most of the “wind” out of Mr. Pickwick’s lungs. Ugh! A pretty violent way to “wake up” after one’s “birth.” UGH again!

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  4. So, friends, as we get into this Week Two section of the reading, and especially Chapter 10 (part of the fourth serial “number”), one cannot help but ask what is, perhaps, THE most CRUCIAL question facing our noble Club this week, to which nothing, perhaps, short of “divine intervention” can be offered as a satisfactory answer:



  5. Love the description of the old inns at the opening of Ch 10 (Sam’s entrance!): “In the Borough especially, there still remain some half dozen old inns, which have preserved their external features unchanged, and which have escaped alike the rage for public improvement, and the encroachments of private speculation. Great, rambling, queer, old places they are, with galleries, and passages, and staircases, wide enough and antiquated enough to furnish materials for a hundred ghost stories, supposing we should ever be reduced to the lamentable necessity of inventing any, and that the world should exist long enough to exhaust the innumerable veracious legends connected with old London Bridge, and its adjacent neighborhood on the Surrey side.”

    Fascinating history on the old White Hart Inn:

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    1. Wren: this quote reminds me of Daniel’s interest in the “romantic” in Dickens work. This is definitely a nostalgic piece that would excite Dicken’s readers of Gothic fiction that has a romantic (as in romantic poetry) cast. In a few years, this description could come out of a Bronte novel like JANE EYRE or, in casting back further, to a detail from Byron in one of his gothic/romantic poems. Here is a writing that would bring a smile to Daniel’s face. (I hope he’s still with us in our reading group!)

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  6. I just tweeted a photo at #DickensClub that I took at the site of the Golden Cross today. I don’t think I’ll make it to Rochester though for any other pics this week – but for next week’s summary I might just make it to Borough 😉

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    1. Fun fact: Charles Dickens took his first step in London on that exact same spot. From the first para of chapter 2 of Claire Tomalin’s ‘Charles Dickens: A Life’:
      “1822: The Dover-to-London mail coach…arrived at the end of it’s route outside the Golden Cross Inn, Charing Cross, close to the Navy Pay Office in Somerset House, where John Dickens worked. It was a summer evening, and a hackney cab cost money, so father and son are likely to have walked north together to their new home in Camden Town, through streets now observed for the first time by a child eager to learn his surroundings.”

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    1. Wow, Rach, that’s amazing! I’ll be on the lookout for one of those! How about a Weller Rose, or Winkle hydrangea. I’m looking for those, too! One never knows!!!

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      1. Haha, I agree, Lenny… wouldn’t that be marvelous? I proposed in a response on twitter that there really should be a Sam-Weller-Something! maybe pink-striped, like his waistcoat!

        The Dickens Fellowship responded by reminding me that there is, literally, a “Charles Dickens Rose” but I’m not sure if it can be purchased in the US!

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  7. Yep, we love pin wheel Petunias. That’s a wonderful color. I’m on the lookout for sure. We’ll just rename it with a special “sign”!

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  8. This was a big chunk of reading, but so enjoyable! So much happens, so many situations, characters and locations. I really want to talk about everything, but I’ll endeavor to be brief.

    Mr Jingle proves to be slippery and cunning, always one step ahead with all his bases covered (pays off turnpike man & post boys to delay Wardle & Pickwick). I’m pretty sure getting caught at the White Hart Inn was not a complete oversight on his part. He was hedging his bets knowing, as Mr Perker so aptly puts it, “that fifty pounds and liberty, would be better than Miss Wardle and expectation”. He haggles for £120, not a bad sum for a few days’ work. Jingle & his man, Job Trotter, evade Pickwick again in Bury St Edmunds, this time getting the better of Sam as well. I’m always surprised that Sam is so gullible and that Job plays him so easily. Perhaps the “innocence” of Mr Pickwick had momentarily rubbed off on him. It won’t happen again.

    But, poor Rachael! Disgraced and humiliated such that “she’s gone away . . . [and is] living at a relation’s, far enough off. She couldn’t bear to see the girls”, her nieces. She remains a ninny in her family’s eyes, inspiring her brother to comment to Mr Tupman: “For her sake, I wish you’d had her; for your own, I’m very glad you have not.” Women in general don’t fare well in this very masculine book (Marcus, 39). “‘Women, after all, gentlemen,’ said the enthusiastic Mr Snodgrass, ‘are the great props and comforts of our existence.’” Indeed, women are simply here – in this book and perhaps in Dickens’s and/or the Victorian mind – to support, enhance, cheer, console, or somehow add to the comfort of men. Yet in this book, and perhaps in Dickens’s and/or the Victorian mind, women almost always fail to do or be so; more often they are shrewish, predatory or, as Marcus puts it “throughout its pages men are persecuted by women” (40). In this section of reading we have: Miss Rachael Wardle, the Madman’s wife, Mrs Bardell, Mrs Pott & her bodyguard/maid, the Bagman’s buxom widow, Mrs Leo Hunter, the ladies of Miss Tomkins’ establishment, Maria Lobbs & friends, and Mr Tony Weller’s views on his second wife. All of these women are either simple-minded, disappointments or have bamboozle their men. Leaving aside the very large issue of Victorian attitudes toward women, when one is left with little resource or choice, one tends to either submit to circumstances or to find alternative means of survival. What else can Rachael, Mrs Bardell, the buxom widow or Maria Lobbs do to find husbands? What else can the Madman’s wife do but die? How else can Mrs Pott and Mrs Leo Hunter live with their single minded, simple minded husbands? What employment options does Miss Tomkins have other than to teach other women to be as simple as she? Tony Weller’s second wife – well, we’ll leave that for another post. Mr Pickwick’s lament – “‘Does it not . . . bespeak the indiscretion, or, worse than that, the blackness of heart . . . of my followers, that, beneath whatever roof they locate, they disturb the peace of mind and happiness of some confiding female?’” – rings hollow not only because it comes simultaneously with Dodson & Fogg’s notice of the breach of promise suit, but because, generally speaking – and I say this in a purely Pickwickian sense – that is what men do!

    Mrs Bardell must be mentioned at greater length here. Clearly this conversation at cross purposes – Mr Pickwick believes he is seeking Mrs Bardell’s opinion about hiring a manservant; she believes he is proposing marriage – has big implications for Mr Pickwick. The responsibility for the misunderstanding lies squarely on Mr P’s shoulders for not prefacing his statements with something like “Mrs Bardell, I’m considering hiring a man-servant.” He’s basically thinking out loud and fails to consider that his listener can have no idea of his topic or his train of thought. This speaks to Pickwick’s lack of awareness and insularity – he fails to consider the perspective or others, especially women (see above). To him Mrs Bardell is simply his landlady – “Who ever heard me address her in any way but that in which a lodger would address his landlady?” – whereas to her “Mr Pickwick’s will was law” and “she had long worshipped Mr Pickwick at a distance”. And so he end up literally entangled with her, as witnessed by his friends, and we shall have to wait to see how this all unravels.

    So, while Mrs Bardell is engaged by mistake, Sam is engaged on purpose – and for good purpose! He will serve, guide, and protect Mr Pickwick – and us. Monod sees Sam as “a twofold person; he can hardly be separated from his father, Tony Weller, when one comes to examine the elements of his charm and the sources of his comic power” (111). He continues, “the Wellers’ value and charm . . . derive largely from their never being at a loss: whatever the situation, whatever the surroundings, the Wellers are always perfectly at ease. . . . it is a delight to see difficulties piling up around them, because it is known in advance that their aplomb and ingenuity will pull them through. . . . they delight the reader equally by their authority and dogmatism. On no subject are they unprepared to pronounce themselves vigorously and categorically” (112). Marcus agrees, adding that the Wellers “are geniuses . . . tutelary spirits who watch over Pickwick and keep him in touch with the solid earth. Through them Pickwick and all that he stands for become and remain credible. . . . [Sam’s] comic intelligence, juxtaposing contraries, arouses us to an awareness that life is more than any single side of an opposition. . . . the Wellers natively and spontaneously possess this awareness” (52). With joy do we read, watch and see how Sam’s, and Tony’s, tutelage plays out.

    The Eatanswill election, Mrs Leo Hunter’s breakfast, Job Trotter’s hoodwinking Sam and Mr P’s garden adventure, Mrs Pott’s hysterics, the shooting party & Mr P’s wheelbarrow ride, our introduction to Dodson and Fogg, and a couple more interpolated tales – already so many thrills and spills and yet the adventure continues!

    Sources – Steven Marcus, “Dickens from Pickwick to Dombey”; Sylvere Monod, “Dickens the Novelist”

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      1. Thank you for that comment!! I’ve seen the 1985 miniseries but was really intrigued seeing a couple of stills from the ’52 film, and now I want to find it! 🙂


    1. Chris et al: note the “hidden” meanings of Place name here. It generally has implications for the early stages of this novel. Eatanswill = EAT AND SWILL! There is a ton of this going on, not just in this community during the “election “process,” but throughout first 20 chapters of the novel. Such overindulgence of both eating and alcohol drinking!

      I know this imbibing and gluttony is part of the “goodtime had by all” party theme and the general comic “feel” of PICKWICK–but I’m also questioning its endless repetition, especially in light of the interpolated tales , many of which designate the tragic results of too much alcohol consumption! And ironically, it seems to have dire results among the Pickwickians, also.

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  9. Fellow Inimitables/Pickwickians/Wellerians!

    Such rich, deep, wide reflections from all. I am most grateful.

    I’m wondering if anyone can help me to understand Dickens’ method in creating Jingle’s strangely staccatoed speech

    I have a few notions, but would love to hear anyone’s thoughts.

    I love the phrase that Chesterton used: “a world in which the soul could live.” A truly real world, spacious enough for the spirit, for the soul.

    Dickensian Wren: Whence the phrase “Brighten it, brighten it, brighten it!”?

    I have an idle sort of question to pose: Could the Pickwick Club only exist for men of leisure?!? Delightedly, they all seem to have too much time on their hands!!!

    I second the motion for a “Weller Rose.” AMEN!

    Blessings, All,


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    1. Daniel – I found several articles offering suggestions for sources for Mr Jingle, but David Paroissien’s 1-page explanation sums them all up nicely. I’ve copied it here:

      “MR. JINGLE: ANOTHER BELL” by David Paroissien
      Dickens Studies Newsletter, Vol. 8, No. 3 (September 1977), p. 79

      Speculation over possible sources for Alfred Jingle’s idiosyncratic speech provided a lively topic in the correspondence columns of the Times Literary Supplement in 1934. W. D. H. Rouse began the controversy by suggesting Robert Surtees’ gentleman in green in “Jorrocks’ Jaunts”, 1831-34 (19 April); R. H. Case pointed to Major Overall in Theodore Hook’s novel, ”Maxwell”, 1830 (26 April); W. S. Mackie advanced another possibility, Frederic Reynold’s Latitat, from his comedy, “How to Grow Rich”, 1793 (14 June); while Lascelles Abercrombie (3 May) surpassed the suggestions for earlier sources by proposing that Hook, Surtees, and Dickens were all familiar with Thomas Holcroft’s celebrated character, Goldfinch, from his play, “The Road to Ruin”, 1792. “To be sure! – Know the odds!” – commented Goldfinch in his broken sentences, and Abercrombie evidently took his advice by supporting his case with an alternative proposition: that the “Goldfinch style of lingo reverberated into cockney speech and became a popular jocosity, which may have remained long enough to be heard and recorded independently” by all three.

      Similarities, we know, are not necessarily sources; in the face of such riches, therefore, one’s best recourse is to put forward another one for consideration: “Mysterious affair – person lately going about – first houses – most fashionable parties – nobody knows – Duke of Dashwell’s yesterday. Duke not like to make a disturbance – as – royalty present.”

      This additional example of “Jinglese” occurs in “Paul Clifford” (1830), a work for which Dickens expressed public admiration, calling it in his 1841 Preface to “Oliver Twist” an “admirable and most powerful novel.” Although in the absence of proof, one can only conjecture that Dickens had read Bulwer-Lytton’s popular novel before writing “Pickwick Papers”, there is an additional reason to consider this as a further possible source. The passage quoted, ostensibly a newspaper account of a great dinner-party at the Duke of Dashwell’s, describes one of the exploits of Augustus Tomlinson, whom Paul Clifford encountered at Bridewell. To relieve the boredom of prison life, Tomlinson entertained Paul with a history of his past misdeeds. Tomlinson, like Jingle, was a Casanova who lived by his wits; also like Jingle, he
      boasted of his sexual adventures in search of wealthy old maids, recounting, among his anecdotes, one occasion when he made love to a “nymph” in the borrowed clothes of
      his master.

      As Alec Waugh observed in his essay on Jingle in “A Pickwick Portrait Gallery” (ed. Walter Dexter, London, 1936), “Though he is watered down for Victorian consumption, he is the adventurer who makes his living out of women this fact is never stated, it is as clear to the reader as if the long score of his conquests had been recited” (p. 102). By contrast, Bulwer is less reticent, though his account of Tomlinson’s affairs, together with the single telegraphic paragraph, may well constitute another tintinabulation of the various bells ringing in Dickens’s mind when he conceived the personality and speech of Mr. Jingle.

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  10. I love the Ode to August at the beginning of chapter 16 ~ “Orchards and corn-fields ring with the hum of labour; trees bend beneath the thick clusters of rich fruit which bow their branches to the ground; and the corn, piled in graceful sheaves, or waving in every light breath that sweeps above it, as if it wooed the sickle, tinges the landscape with a golden hue. A mellow softness appears to hang over the whole earth…”

    Then, in Sam giving us a little bit of his background, I can’t help but “hear” an echo of Sancho Panza, in hoping his Don Quixote will one day bestow upon him the governorship of the mysteriously elusive island: “I wos a carrier’s boy at startin’: then a vagginer’s, then a helper, then a boots. Now I’m a gen’l’m’n’s servant. I shall be a gen’l’m’n myself one of these days, perhaps, with a pipe in my mouth, and a summer-house in the back garden. Who knows? I shouldn’t be surprised, for one.”

    Of course, Sam is too brilliant and common-sensical for his fantasy to be more than a flight of good-humor and whimsy ~ and entertainment for his already-beloved master ~ but still…I couldn’t help but think it. And certainly, he Must be surprised by the turn his fortunes have taken!

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  11. Rachel/Wren: I love your classification of this passage as an “Ode.” Its language/imagery definitely points to the great odes of Keats (“To Autumn” for example) but is likewise reminiscent of the nature poetry of Wordsworth (“Prelude” etc.) and his sister Dorothy’s prose in HOME AT GRASMERE.

    I tend to associate these periodic idyllic pastoral segments in PICKWICK with Mr. Pickwick’s innocence and longing for a time of tranquility. In his “quest” for knowledge he experiences these moments of solitude which, hopefully, he can appreciate to some extent–given the hectic life which he and his friends are involved in. But in a narrative sense, these momentary passages are almost always interrupted by some event or series of events that take Pickwick and his friends out of the natural, sweet, calming ideal into the harsh reality of life in the messy, untranquil real world. Thus, I’m tempted to say that these “romantic” passages also serve as harbingers of something more dire–a challenging event or series of events–just around the corner.

    However, I believe there really is something Wordsworthian in Dickens vision that lies behind the “dog-eat-dog” world that Chris spoke of in her earlier passage, where she quoted from J. H. Miller. Dickens: A “romantic” want-to-be trapped in an industrial urban world that he can only barely see through to the splendors of nature.

    There is a duality of vision, here, that we can identify early in this novel, but to what extent will it continue through the remaining chapters in the PICKWICK PAPERS and into the other novels? This will be an interesting question to pursue!

    Here you are Daniel, it’s the realization of your abiding interest. The “romantic” dialogue should continue, eh?

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  12. The more we get through the early chapters of PICKWICK, up to about a third of the novel, the more we can begin to see certain ideas, motifs, descriptions, and circumstances that repeat themselves. Much has been said, already, about the appearances of Jingle and his strange linguistic peculiarities, the sadness of the various interpolated tales, and the presence of pastoral details. And Chris has really helped us SEE more clearly the repetitive patterns that define women in the scope of this novel. But there is another pattern that I’m slowly beginning to discern, and that is the ways in which the novel repeatedly finds Mr. Pickwick in embarrassing, threatening (sometimes) and unflattering circumstances.

    This pattern seems to begin in smaller and almost incidental events–sometimes physically hurtful, oftentimes psychologically demeaning, but always seeming to undermine our hero’s dignity. But further, these circumstances become more complex and trying as the novel approaches chapter 20, and in their details, hint at more dire and similar events to come.

    This pattern begins at the very first of the novel during a meeting of the Pickwick club where our hero (their “leader”) is called a “humbug” in front of the rest of the members. It’s a very slight and somewhat comic incident, but still creates a bit of anxiety and commotion during the meeting. And the insult is hurled directly at Mr. Pickwick by Mr Blotton. Is this a challenge to Mr. P’s authority, or simply a sly comment to arouse, briefly the frustration of Pickwick? The key element, though, is its PUBLIC nature. And the slight embarrassment it causes.

    The next incident of this kind, happens with Mr. Pickwick’s confrontation with the cab driver. The cabbie feels insulted and is paranoid that his fare is going to report him to the authorities. A fight ensues and Pickwick, as I have said before, gets pretty badly beaten up. Here the hurt is both physical and psychological–as much of the confrontation takes place in front of a growing audience of other cab drivers and passing spectators. I can’t even imagine the humiliation that our hero feels!

    But this pattern gains complexity and approaches something like an ordeal when Mr. Pickwick is discovered lurking about Miss Tomkins’ School/boarding house. He’s trying to prevent the elopement of one of her students with Alfred Jingle, and has no idea of how he’s been set up or what, actually, he’s getting himself in to. In fact, he’s totally out of his element, here, and will suffer over QUITE a period of time before the entire absurd episode is set to rights:

    “‘Ladies—dear ladies,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

    ‘Oh. he says we’re dear,’ cried the oldest and ugliest teacher. ‘Oh, the wretch!’

    ‘Ladies,’ roared Mr. Pickwick, rendered desperate by the danger of his situation. ‘Hear me. I am no robber. I want the lady of the house.’

    ‘Oh, what a ferocious monster!’ screamed another teacher. ‘He wants Miss Tomkins.’

    Here there was a general scream.

    ‘Ring the alarm bell, somebody!’ cried a dozen voices.

    ‘Don’t—don’t,’ shouted Mr. Pickwick. ‘Look at me. Do I look like a robber! My dear ladies—you may bind me hand and leg, or lock me up in a closet, if you like. Only hear what I have got to say—only hear me.’

    ‘How did you come in our garden?’ faltered the housemaid.

    ‘Call the lady of the house, and I’ll tell her everything,’ said Mr. Pickwick, exerting his lungs to the utmost pitch. ‘Call her—only be quiet, and call her, and you shall hear everything.’

    It might have been Mr. Pickwick’s appearance, or it might have been his manner, or it might have been the temptation—irresistible to a female mind—of hearing something at present enveloped in mystery, that reduced the more reasonable portion of the establishment (some four individuals) to a state of comparative quiet. By them it was proposed, as a test of Mr. Pickwick’s sincerity, that he should immediately submit to personal restraint; and that gentleman having consented to hold a conference with Miss Tomkins, from the interior of a closet in which the day boarders hung their bonnets and sandwich-bags, he at once stepped into it, of his own accord, and was securely locked in. This revived the others; and Miss Tomkins having been brought to, and brought down, the conference began.

    ‘What did you do in my garden, man?’ said Miss Tomkins, in a faint voice.”

    And so this “ordeal,” as I’ve called it will continue. All of this incident has been carefully choreographed by Jingle and Trotter to humiliate Pickwick and throw him off their track. There is nothing incidental, here. It’s just plane malice. But poor Mr. P and his ego!!! He will suffer numerous insults and random hysterical statements by the various teachers and students at this residence and undergo the demanding questioning of Mrs. Tomkins! More “public” shaming–if you will!

    The final humiliation in this segment of reading, takes place after the shooting party which consists mainly of the two shooters==Mr. Wardel and Mr. Winkle. Pickwick, because he is lame, decides to accompany the hunters in a wheel-barrow pushed by Sam. (This by the way, is a wonderful metaphor suggesting Sam’s role in life vis-a-vis Pickwick). The shooting party stops for lunch where they eat and drink–but unfortunately Pickwick has imbibed too much “cold punch” and falls asleep. He is rolled to a grassy area where he is left behind by the others as they move out on another quest. The result is pure disaster. He is found by Captain Boldwig and taken to the village Pound where he is left to the mercy of the nasty townspeople! Here is what follows:

    “Meanwhile Mr. Pickwick had been wheeled to the Pound, and safely deposited therein, fast asleep in the wheel-barrow, to the immeasurable delight and satisfaction not only of all the boys in the village, but three-fourths of the whole population, who had gathered round, in expectation of his waking. If their most intense gratification had been awakened by seeing him wheeled in, how many hundredfold was their joy increased when, after a few indistinct cries of ‘Sam!’ he sat up in the barrow, and gazed with indescribable astonishment on the faces before him.

    A general shout was of course the signal of his having woke up; and his involuntary inquiry of ‘What’s the matter?’ occasioned another, louder than the first, if possible.

    ‘Here’s a game!’ roared the populace.

    ‘Where am I?’ exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.

    ‘In the pound,’ replied the mob.

    ‘How came I here? What was I doing? Where was I brought from?’

    Boldwig! Captain Boldwig!’ was the only reply.

    ‘Let me out,’ cried Mr. Pickwick. ‘Where’s my servant? Where are my friends?’

    ‘You ain’t got no friends. Hurrah!’ Then there came a turnip, then a potato, and then an egg; with a few other little tokens of the playful disposition of the many-headed.”

    My gosh! What could be worse? In this place he is a sitting duck for the fun seekers and nasties of the town. Here, though, Pickwick MUST take responsibility for what he’s gotten himself in to. Too much food, too much drink. His overindulgence has left him in an entirely humiliating situation–enough to drive even the sanest of persons crazy with embarrassment!

    In all of these instances, the writing is inventive and brilliant. And we can feel, as the novel progresses, the growing intensity of each of these predicaments. Moreover, there is also the sense of advancing ENTRAPMENT! Note how, in the last two instances, Pickwick has been “captured” and held captive by the people he has encountered. First in a closet at Mrs. Tomkins’ and then in something like an open jail called the “Pound.” Can we go so far as to say he’s slowly “developing” a tendency to be incarcerated!!!

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  13. Love this, Lenny! I particularly loved your words about the image of Sam pushing his master in the cart as Illustrative of their relationship as a whole. One of the governesses at the boarding house had said something similar, in response to the idea that Mr Pickwick keeps a manservant: “It’s my opinion…that his man-servant keeps him.” (!!) Indeed he does.

    I think it does go back to the Chaplinesque parallels, albeit from a gentleman’s perspective, rather than from a “Tramp” ~ he so often gets himself into these scrapes, has things to learn and overcome, but ultimately his goodwill and innate generosity of heart win the day. It IS a kind of Don Quixote…only, with the Don, aren’t we brokenhearted to see the Don lose something of his “fantasy” about the world…? One needs to be educated about the harsh realities of life, but if only one can also retain the spirit of romance, as the Tramp does…and as we hope Pickwick always will, whatever his trials and incarcerations…

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    1. Yes, the Tramp and Pickwick come from two different worlds Mr. P is wealthy, has the means for a modern-day “personal assistant” whereas the Tramp, in all his guises in many of his “stories,” has virtually nothing but the ragged clothes on his back and often remains that way. For all his poverty, though, the Tramp has pretensions for a better life than he has, hence the signifying clothes he does wear. Both Pickwick and the Tramp get into terrible “scrapes” as you call them, but ultimately survive. Yet the contrasts in their economic and social means make all the difference. Pickwick has his wealth and friends to fall back on, whereas the Tramp’s “safety net” varies from nil to a lot from film to film…. In THE GOLD RUSH he becomes wealthy! In CITY LIGHTS: nada!

      Of course, we’re comparing apples and oranges. We see different aspects of the tramp f rom film to film, whereas we visualize Pickwick from episode to episode in only one novel.

      Yes, “goodwill” and ” generosity of the heart” make up both their personalities. The best example in Chaplin’s case is the Tramp’s character in CITY LIGHTS. And, incidentally, it could be that it is here where he is most Quixote like. His Dulcinea is the “Blind Girl.” Speaking of the Don, he really IS the most “extreme” character of the three. He’s WAY out there, mentally, and has to be reeled in constantly by Sancho or he’d never survive his crazy exploits. I’m never sure about his “learning curve”–if there actually is one. But he does have a “good heart” and survives maybe with that in tact. All three characters are “romantics” in their own ways. All three exhibit uncanny amounts of resilience! They survive in that dog-eat-dog world.

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