The Pickwick Papers, Week 3 ~ and a Week 2 Wrap-up

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

“First Appearance of Mr. Samuel Weller,” by Phiz

As if we weren’t having enough much-needed fun already, Dickens takes us to a whole new level this week in The Pickwick Papers, starting with the fourth number of June 1836 ~ or, as Dr. Christian Lehmann had called it, “the most significant month in Charles Dickens’ life.”

Of course, this can be mostly attributed to the one whom John Forster called the “pre-eminent achievement” of Pickwick: Sam Weller.

But first…

General Mems

If you’re counting, this coming week will be week 11 of the #DickensClub as a whole (and today Day 70), and Week 3 of The Pickwick Papers (our second read). Please feel free to comment below this post for the third week’s chapters, or to use the hashtag #DickensClub if you’re commenting on twitter.

Rach M. comment

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!

For any newer members or those who might be interested in joining: the schedule is in my intro post here, and my introduction to The Pickwick Papers can be found 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.

Week Two Pickwick Summary (Chapters 9-20) ~ With a Special Aside for the White Hart Inn, Mr. Weller, and his “Wellerisms”

We begin Chapter 9 at a revelation: Mr. Jingle and Miss Wardle, the spinster aunt, have run off together! A lively chase follows, in which we have another “break-down” of a carriage, and an escape for the amorous pair while Mr. Wardle and Pickwick suffer the taunts of Jingle and are helpless to overtake him.

We begin Chapter 10 in one of “some half dozen old inns…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…”

This particular one that we are entering is the White Hart Inn, and there is a fascinating page on its history and the old location in Southwark. It has a connection to Shakespeare’s Henry VI, 2, and also served as a theatrical venue; at least, before the fire ten years after the Great Fire of London of 1666.

by Frederick E. Banbery

Here at the White Hart, of course, we meet one of the great literary characters, Sam Weller. The Pickwick-and-Sam duo is one of the preeminent examples of the great master-servant or “buddy” relationships, along with Frodo and Sam, Wooster and Jeeves, Don Quixote and Sancho, Lord Peter Wimsey and Bunter, and many others. We also meet our first “Wellerism”: “Who’s number twenty-two, that’s to put all the others out? No, no; reg’lar rotation, as Jack Ketch said, wen he tied the men up.” (Jack Ketch, often synonymous with death, was the infamous executioner during the time of Charles II.)

From Merriam-Webster:

The Charles Dickens Page cites the OED defining a “Wellerism” as:

“A form of humorous comparison in which a familiar saying or proverb is identified with something said by a person in a specified but inapposite situation.”

The Charles Dickens Page gives a great listing of Wellerisms here:

Sam, observant, clever, and idiosyncratic, assists Mr. Wardle and Mr. Pickwick to the discovery of Jingle (who has gone out for a marriage license) and the hysterical Miss Wardle. Mr. Wardle pays Jingle off with the help of the lawyer, Mr. Perker, and the latter escapes with taunts about “Tuppy.”

On this passage, Chris writes:

“I’m pretty sure getting caught at the White Hart Inn was not a complete oversight on his [Jingle’s] 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.”

~Chris M.

“Mr. Pickwick was a philosopher, but philosophers are only men in armour, after all. The shaft had reached him, penetrated through his philosophical harness, to his very heart.”

“Mrs. Bardell Faints in Mr. Pickwick’s Arms,” by Phiz

After a disturbed evening reading “The Madman’s Manuscript,” Mr. Pickwick seeks advice from his landlady, Mrs. Bardell, related to the keeping of a manservant (Sam Weller), but he doesn’t make the subject of his inquiries plain to the hopeful Mrs. Bardell, who mistakes his questions for marital overtures, and ends up fainting in his arms, just as Pickwick’s friends arrive to witness the tableau. Little does Mr. Pickwick know what trouble this will cost him…

But at least he now has a faithful manservant by his side in the newly-employed Sam.

“‘Take the bill down,’ said Sam, emphatically. ‘I’m let to a single gentleman, and the terms is agreed upon.'”

Lenny H. comment

Sam travels with the company to Eatenswill (see Lenny’s comment to the right about the name!), where they are witnesses to a local election, and find themselves invited to a costume party given by Mrs. Leo Hunter, famous author of “Ode to an Expiring Frog,” where they again encounter Mr. Jingle under an assumed name, who quickly escapes them ~ again.

“The Unexpected Breaking-Up of the Seminary for Young Ladies,” by Phiz

Even the common-sensical Sam, however, is taken in by the first con of Jingle’s man, Job Trotter. Trotter gets Pickwick and Sam involved in a scheme to save the honor of a lady (whom Jingle is supposedly ready to elope and ensnare) by having the two worthies meet him in the back garden of a ladies’ boarding house to try and thwart Jingle’s plan. It is all a prank, however, to take revenge and poke fun at Mr. Pickwick, and all that Pickwick accomplishes is to scare a houseful of ladies at night, and embarrass himself in the process.

“Thus, for the second time, did Mr. Pickwick’s innate good-feeling involve him in an enterprise from which he would most willingly have stood aloof.”

With the assistance of Sam and Mr. Wardle, the situation is rectified, but after some marital melodrama involving Winkle and Mrs. Potts, our Pickwickian friends end up reading with horror the letter from lawyers Dodson and Fogg, about the action in Bardell against Pickwick, for “breach of promise of marriage,” due to the misunderstandings of the conversation and tableau mentioned above, and the “dreadful conjunction of appearances” lamented by Mr. Pickwick.

“We are all the victims of circumstances, and I the greatest.”

~Mr. Pickwick

On their next shooting party with Mr. Wardle, the Pickwickians (with the exception of Snodgrass), accompanied by Sam Weller who pushes the wounded Pickwick in the wheelbarrow, find themselves drinking a bit too much cold punch. Pickwick, left to sleep in the wheelbarrow while the others continue their sport, finds himself, upon waking, at the Pound, having been brought there by Captain Boldwig, on whose grounds the Pickwickians have been trespassing. Pickwick is saved again by Sam, and Mr. Wardle.

Not long after, we meet Dodson and Fogg, the unscrupulous lawyers who nearly provoke Pickwick to a rash act, but for the intervention of Sam. (Does anyone else start to get nervous whenever Pickwick is alone, without Sam in close proximity…?)

Illustrated by Cecil Aldin. London Chapman & Hall 1910.

Needing to cool off, the master and manservant step in for a drink at a local pub, where they meet “the old ‘un,” Sam Weller’s remarkable parent, who, in hearing of their recent encounters with Jingle and Trotter, reveals that he knows where those two can be found (Ipswich), and Pickwick and Sam plan to accompany him there in the following days.

Meanwhile, we continue to pub-crawl with Pickwick and Sam, as they follow the directions to Mr. Perker’s clerk, Mr. Lowten, to the Magpie and Stump, where they are about to hear a curious tale from one of Mr. Lowten’s companions, to be revealed in the next chapter.

Discussion Wrap-up

The 1952 Adaptation; Links and Further Research; Pictures from London

This was, as Chris says, “a big chunk of reading”! Certainly the biggest chunk we’ll have during the whole journey with Pickwick.

And we had a lively discussion with a variety of levels of engagement, from the whimsical and delighted appreciation of Pickwickian joys, to the exploration of various darker themes, to the sharing of information on London, old and new.

The “Adaptation Stationmaster” mentioned the 1952 adaptation of Pickwick ~ and I’ve been really wanting to see that version. Any additional thoughts, from those who’ve seen it?

Steve R. shared with us some pictures of the Golden Cross Inn, and it’s connection to Dickens’ own experience of London. Shown here in gallery mode; click on each to see enlarged:

Phyllis O. comment

Phyllis has shared a link to a labor of love on her own journey and research into Dickens’ novels, and I for one am eager to learn more! Here is the link to her piece on Pickwick.

The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, to honor it with its full title, also displays some meta-fictional playfulness that goes beyond the typical Victorian narrator who is so eager to get his point across that he peeks through the gap in the narrative curtains and speaks directly to the reader. In Pickwick, Dickens creates what I see as a self-portrait of him at his best, this coming near the book’s conclusion…”

~Phyllis O.

Rach M. comment

I shared a link that our member Sarah put me on to, a delightful article about Pickwick‘s influence in bringing Dickens fans together. (And here we are, #DickensClub, carrying on the noble tradition!)

Chris has also shared an excerpt on Dickens’ “unstable reputation,” from a recent work on Dickens by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst. (The longer work, The Turning Point: 1851–A Year that Changed Charles Dickens and the World, is one I’d pre-ordered, and it finally arrived!)

Whimsy, Wellers, and Pickwickian Hobbits

My own engagement this week, so delighting in the entrance of Sam, was far more along the whimsical lines. Here are somewhat less-than-profound comments on the discovery of Pickwick crocuses, ghostly and romantic inns of Old London, and the envy of Mr. Pickwick “caught in the arms of Sam”:

And speaking of Sam: “whatever the situation,” writes Chris, “whatever the surroundings, the Wellers are always perfectly at ease.” One does start to breathe a sigh of relief whenever Sam shows up on the scene! Chris writes:

Chris M. comment; with: Sources – Steven Marcus, “Dickens from Pickwick to Dombey”; Sylvere Monod, “Dickens the Novelist”

Boze has been delighting in these early scenes, and compares these Pickwickian rambles to those of Tolkien’s hobbits in the early journey segments of The Fellowship of the Ring ~ portions that Boze and I both have a special fondness for ~ in spite of our beloved Professor’s dislike of Pickwick. (Tolkien could be such a lovable curmudgeon!)

Boze H. comment


Daniel M. comment

Daniel has been asking some wonderful questions for the group, prompting fantastic research from Chris particularly, who has been our Researcher Extraordinaire!

On his question about “Dickens’ method in creating Jingle’s strangely staccatoed speech pattern,” Chris writes:

“Innocence to Knowing Awareness”

Chris M. comment

In Chris’ immensely enriching “in-between readings” of Dickens’ critics, with biographical notes and reflections, she writes at length on J.H. Miller and seeing Pickwick’s journey as one from “innocence to knowing awareness.”

Lenny responds to this, expressing his surprise at how quickly our “hero” is brought face-to-face with “a real-world incident” in his dangerous encounter with the cab-driver.

“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.'”

And Lenny compares it to the world view as we encountered in Sketches by Boz, and I’ve highlighted a passage to note, on the continuing theme of education and discovery, our own sort of “Pilgrim’s Progress”:

“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.”

~Lenny H.

Pickwickian Women

It’s worth revisiting at length Chris’ assessment of the women in Pickwick here:

“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.”

~Chris M.

Ode to August; a “Duality of Vision”

Lenny and I talked about Dickens’ “ode” to August at the beginning of the sixteenth chapter, but Lenny is tempted to see the the romantic, Wordsworthian passages as “the harbingers of something more dire”:

Lenny continues about this “duality of vision”:

“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!”

~Lenny H.

Chaplinesque Humor, Unflattering Circumstances, and a “Tendency to be Incarcerated”

The women do have a rough go of it, but at least the men are, generally, just as ridiculous.

Both Chris and Lenny have expressed the “anxiety” felt about many scenes whose comic-tragic mingling could so easily slide into deep tragedy. Lenny writes about the humiliations suffered by Pickwick again and again, where his “overindulgence” leads to “entrapment” and a “tendency to be incarcerated” (here edited in gallery mode):

I loved the comments, particularly about 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 continue the earlier thread about 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…”

~Rach M.

Lenny responds:

“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.”

~Lenny H.

Romantic Adventures; “Pleasures Such as This”

Chesterton alludes to Pickwick as being a fairy tale, and perhaps that is one way we could classify it: a “Romance”? The characters strive to keep the spirit of optimism and adventure, even when one has had to learn some hard lessons about the harshness of the world.

Chris compares it to our own journey:

Chris M. comment

I’ll end with Dana’s lovely comments on Simon Prebble’s masterful reading of Pickwick, and the importance of having a worldview like Dickens’ in such times of world trouble and tragedy. (And when are we not in such times…?)

Dana R. comment

A Look-ahead to Week Three of The Pickwick Papers (15-21 March)

This week, we’ll be reading Chapters 21-29, which constitute the serial “numbers” VIII-X (published October, November, and December 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.

Can’t wait to “see” you all for more comments this week! Have a beautiful one, fellow Dickensians and Pickwickians, and sending you all a Weller Rose.


  1. Reading this week’s portion of Pickwick, one gets the sense that Dickens was beginning to grasp the full scope of his comedic and literary powers. Chapters nine through twenty furnish some of the most indelible moments in the novel – in all of Dickens, really – the midnight raid on the boarding school; Pickwick drinking cold punch in the wheel-barrow; Jingles bargaining for 120 pounds; the ode to an expiring frog; Sam and his father. In Dickens’ comic plots one can see echoes of all the literature that preceded it: obviously Shakespeare – what is Jingles here but a funhouse-mirror version of Iago from Othello? – but also Chaucer, Boccaccio, the Thousand and One Nights, the novels of Smollett and Fielding, all synthesized by his peculiar genius into something new and strange, uniquely English and uniquely Dickensian. He hadn’t yet fully harnessed the narrative gift that would make him one of the great plotters, but here in Pickwick he shows himself to be a master of pastiche. Reading it, you get the sense that you’ve reached a hinge-point in English storytelling: you’re seeing the culmination of all the works that inspired him, and the inspiration for all literature to come.

    On a more personal note, I remember seeing a lecture by the writer Tony Kushner in which he said Goethe warned aspiring writers not to read Shakespeare more than once a year, or they would be so distressed by his genius that they would be tempted to give up in despair. That’s how I feel reading Dickens – his gifts are so immense, his characters so rich and eccentric, his descriptive powers so vivid and indelible… He’s like the sun by whose light all of us are warmed. I’m glad you’re leading this two-year’s journey into Dickens (and putting so much thought and effort into it) because it gives me a chance to rediscover Dickens, perhaps to steal some of his plots, and to despair melodramatically at his genius like a fainting lady. Last night I ordered a nice edition of Bleak House; I feel like a traveller making preparations for a long journey.

    Some of my other favorite moments from this week’s reading:

    “When you have parted with a man, at two o’clock in the morning, on terms of the utmost good fellowship, and he meets you again, at half past nine, and greets you as a serpent, it is not unreasonable to conclude that something of an unpleasant nature has occurred meanwhile.”

    Mr Tupman: “Who is Slumkey?”
    Mr Pickwick: “I don’t know. It’s always best on these occasions to do what the mob do.”
    Mr Snodgrass: “But suppose there are two mobs?”
    Mr Pickwick: “Shout with the largest!”

    P. S. Have you read Ray Bradbury’s story “Any Friend of Nicholas Nickleby’s Is a Friend of Mine”? If not, I’ll send you a copy. You’ll love it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh Boze, this made my morning bright ✨ and resounding YES to this: Dickens is “like the sun by whose light all of us are warmed.” (!!!!!!) And Jingle as “a funhouse-mirror version of Iago from Othello”!!! YES again!

      Love the passages you highlight here. Of course, I loved every moment with Sam, and always have a smile on my face (and honestly, a sigh of relief) whenever he comes into “view.” Also, I was remembering the line that Dr Christian said was the one that made him start to love Pickwick:

      “We cannot state the precise nature of the thoughts which passed through Mr. Trotter’s mind, because we don’t know what they were.”

      That brings me back to Dana R’s comments, about the Clarkean humor…or rather, Susanna Clarke’s *Dickensian* humor. The influence is staggeringly wonderful.

      So glad you’re enjoying the journey my friend, and SO glad you’re here too… don’t despair about Dickens! 😂 and steal away ~ sounds like you’ll be in good company (ahem, Susanna Clarke)…

      Please do send that Bradbury story when you have a moment!! I’ve not read it ~ but any story with a title like that is already a friend of mine 💙


    2. I love Dickens, but I don’t really feel that way when reading him. I guess it’s because I don’t necessarily want my writing style to be like his, awesome as I find it to be. For one thing, he tended to write a lot about social causes he cared about and wasn’t shy about demonizing the opposition. I’m not really interested in writing about that and if I were, I’d want to give my enemies every advantage, so it’d really mean something when I demonstrated how wrong they are.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wren/Rach: What a lovely wrap-up. You’ve outdone yourself several times over–and more! I’ve read it through once, but the size and depth of the commentary requires more readings and more thought. You’ve done Charlie and Mr. Pickwick up proud. And yourself, too. Oh boy, Wonderful stuff and looking forward to more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, Lenny! I’m smiling ear to ear!!! 😀 Thank you! Anything for Charlie and Pickwick (and Sam), eh? And I agree, there is SO much to talk about and reflect on, that we could spend months just on Pickwick. Your insights have given me so much food for thought & are sheer delight! Can’t wait for more this week, too…


  3. Rach: BTW, are you surprised by the comments so far??? I’m just blown away by them! Mighty rich stuff the group has come up with. Naturally, the novels will excite and create insights, but the commentary on the “Sketches” was extraordinary. Not sure what the criticism is like out there on the sketches, but we bit out some pretty big chunks as far as meaning goes! They were like reading tough nut little poems; compact and explosive…. Maybe like a short Carlos Williams, or Pound or Dickinson. He (CD) was a young writer when turning out the sketches, but he really had the chops!

    We are also talking about two “Charlies” here….(Dickens and Chaplin)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lenny, yes!! I’m absolutely blown away by the comments! It really is unbelievable how much we’ve been tackling thematically, and I agree, particularly with the Sketches, which probably hasn’t had as much ink spilled about it (by far) as his other works. Love this: “they were like reading tough nut little poems; compact and explosive”!


  4. Good Lord, it’s happened again!

    Pickwick once more suffers public humiliation as he’s carried through the street in the Sedan Chair toward the Magistrate’s office after word has gotten out regarding his possible duel with Mr. Peter Magnus. As I wrote in my earlier post last week, this train of embarrassing situations gradually becomes more DIRE! In this new catastrophe, the ante seems to be of a higher cost as it involves Pickwick being faced with legal consequences. The testimony of a woman (Miss Witherfield) is involved as she’s gone before the Magistrate to speak of what she says is an impending duel between the two men. A duel being fought over her!!! The Magistrate, himself, seems furious with the thought that blood might be shed in his jurisdiction and sends his “henchmen” out to arrest Mr. Pickwick. We could say in a comical way, Mr. P has gotten himself into quite a pickle. The drama throughout is played as a classic farce–but with serious and upsetting circumstances. Here is one of many telling passages:

    “The shopkeepers of the town, although they had a very indistinct notion of the nature of the offence, could not but be much edified and gratified by this spectacle. Here was the strong arm of the law, coming down with twenty gold-beater force, upon two offenders from the metropolis itself; the mighty engine was directed by their own magistrate, and worked by their own officers; and both the criminals, by their united efforts, were securely shut up, in the narrow compass of one sedan-chair. Many were the expressions of approval and admiration which greeted Mr. Grummer, as he headed the cavalcade, staff in hand; loud and long were the shouts raised by the unsoaped; and amidst these united testimonials of public approbation, the procession moved slowly and majestically along.”

    As I mentioned last week, as this series of similar humiliating events gathers momentum, they begin to take place in enclosures, where Mr. Pickwick becomes “trapped” by circumstances and the powers that be. At the closet in the girl’s school, and in the Pound, the situations seem comically benign. But they are symbolic of some kind of drastic and growing trend of incarceration. Now, the symbolic and threatening consequences take a different tone. He and Tupman are thrown together in the very small confines of the “chair” and CARRIED my these minions of the law to the magistrate. In effect, the two Pickwickians are locked into a kind of medieval “Paddy Wagon” where they are–for the most part–lacking any control over their predicament.

    But there are even wider consequences because Pickwick’s predicament has now expanded to include Mr. Tupman, and as the caravan continues through the street, begins to involve the other Pickwickians as well as the combustible Mr. Weller. Mr. Pickwick’s pickle, has grown in size and now amounts to a debacle! The chances for violence are many, and Sam is the one who is most likely to incite it. It’s all comically played out, and there seem to be no lasting injuries to the various parties involved in the mayhem, and the process eventually arrives at the Magistrates’ “office.” This is broad comedy approaching farce, but it does involve our dear friend in his most serious predicament yet, and perhaps, as I’ve mentioned earlier, is probably a foreshadowing of events to come!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Another installment of In-Between-Reading —

    G.K. Chesterton was among the first to critique each of Dickens’s works. His 1911 “Appreciations and Criticisms of The Works of Charles Dickens” is still an engaging and insightful. “Pickwick” he says, “constitute[s] first and foremost a kind of wild promise, a pre-natal vision of all the children of Dickens. He had not yet settled down into the plain, professional habit of picking out a plot and characters, of attending to one thing at a time, of writing a separate, sensible novel and sending it off to his publishers. He is still in the youthful whirl of the kind of world the he would like to create. He had not yet really settled what story he will write, but only what sort of story he will write. He tries to tell ten stories at once; he pours into the pot all the chaotic fancies and crude experiences of his boyhood; he sticks in irrelevant short stories shamelessly, as into a scrap-book; he adopts designs and abandons them, begins episodes and leaves them unfinished; but from the first page to the last there is a nameless and elemental ecstasy – that of the man who is doing the kind of thing that he can do. Dickens . . . came at last to some degree of care and self-restraint. He learned how to make his “dramatis personae” assist his drama; he learned how to write stories which were full of rambling and perversity, but which were stories. But before he wrote a single real story, he had a kind of vision. It was a vision of the Dickens world . . . [and] [t]hat vision was ‘Pickwick’.”

    Setting aside all the wonderful aspects of “Pickwick” – the characters, the situations, the humor, the tales – it’s interesting to me as both a student of Dickens and of the craft of writing to see so plainly this transition from journalist-sketch writer to novelist. Due in part to its singular and unorthodox beginning and its serial format, reading “Pickwick” is reading a work in progress. We can trace Dickens’s development, his subtle and not so subtle changes. As we enter the middle portion of “Pickwick” we can see his chapters becoming more streamlined in terms of content, story lines are beginning to gel – some are discarded in favor of others (an indication of Dickens’s awareness of his readers) – characters are evolving. For example, the one major change Dickens makes is to drop what Virgil Grillo calls the “limited external narrator”, that is “the editor of these papers” who introduced himself in the very first paragraph. This persona Grillo argues was too restrictive equally to the Papers, to Mr. Pickwick, and to Dickens the author. Grillo agrees with Chesterfield, as do I, that as the writing of “Pickwick” progressed both Dickens as a writer and “Pickwick” as a work “became systematically and progressively more powerful and masterly.”

    Having found his craft Dickens is gathering his tools, manipulating and working them to see how they feel and how best to use them – he is finding his footing and taking charge of his craft though still experimenting. Of particular note is that during the writing of this middle portion of “Pickwick” Dickens was also writing the first chapters of “Oliver Twist” – a decidedly different, yet in some ways similar, story as we shall see going forward. These pages and we are witness to Dickens movement from apprentice to journeyman.

    G.K. Chesterton, ““Appreciations and Criticisms of The Works of Charles Dickens”
    Virgil Grillo, “Charles Dickens’ Sketches by Boz: End in the Beginning”

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    1. Wow, Chris, you have made, in this wonderful three-paragraph essay, what Wordsworth would call a TIMELY UTTERANCE! So well stated and maybe what many of us (if not all) in the “club” are beginning to realize. Something has “changed” with the end of the first third of the novel. And you and Chesterton put it so well. There IS more control over the subject matter and narrative flow that seems more novel-like (whatever, these days, THAT might be). I feel likeDickens’ reading of Fielding’s novels might have helped him in this regard. If Fielding’s novels are Dickens’ greatest influences (although as “sketches by Boze”–above–has beautifully put it, PICKWICK is an intelligent [to some extent “unconscious”?] synthesis of major classical works that our author would have known and probably studied), then they might have given him ideas about how to “control” his narrative. In this sense, we can see PICKWICK gravitating away from the QUIXOTE model and more toward Fielding’s model of narration. At the same time, there are a whole slew of precise and “polished” novels he could be looking at for useful frames of reference–like those of Scott, Radcliffe, and Austen.

      I think the crucial paragraph that you give in your analysis really hits the nail on the head; here it is–

      “As we enter the middle portion of “Pickwick” we can see his chapters becoming more streamlined in terms of content, story lines are beginning to gel – some are discarded in favor of others (an indication of Dickens’s awareness of his readers) – characters are evolving. For example, the one major change Dickens makes is to drop what Virgil Grillo calls the “limited external narrator”, that is “the editor of these papers” who introduced himself in the very first paragraph.

      I’m tempted to say, following up on your reasoning that he writes himself into a more sophisticated “long form” narrative. I’m not sure, precisely when or how this happens….You intimate that this is a gradual process, and that he begins to drop “story lines” that are less congenial to the narrative and that he is now beginning to perceive a more resolute direction for. (Good God, what a strange sentence!) And I felt this too–while I was writing my statement above regarding the repeating sketches involving the various and growing public humiliations that Mr. Pickwick suffers. There is a long chain of them that stretch to the very beginning of the novel. At SOME point, Dickens decided that this particular “motif” would be one of the organizing principles of the novel. Since he begins the narrative with two of these “embarrassments,” I’m tempted to think that a germ for what might happen to Mr. Pickwick in his adventures has already been planted, but that he wasn’t quite sure how far to go with it and how to bring it off. The plan of narration he’s chosen is PICARESQUE–a la QUIXOTE and TOM JONES, so that the idea of travel and movement would allow him, while he composes, quite a bit of latitude where he can integrate these upsetting moments into the text. BUT AT SOME POINT, Dickens realizes that he’s moving toward a major catastrophic event involving Mr. Pickwick, Mrs. Bardell and the law. This, then, would be one of the crucial narrative strands that could pull things together and make a seemingly random narrative appear less so. And, as you suggest, there are other unifying factors as well. The introduction of Sam Weller is crucial to this building unity, as well as the continuity involving the Pickwick-Wardel friendship–which REALLY peaks at the Christmas party.

      You also mention “the limited external narrator” that Grillo speaks of and that is “lost” during these middle chapters. The idea of Boz/Dickens as an editor of these manuscripts authored by the various club members is referred to less and less as the novel develops. But there still is, though, an authorial first-person plural “we” narrator (as in Fielding’s novels) who does address the reader directly; a prime example of this occurrence begins Chapter 28 with an exposition on the delights of Christmas, as a way of introducing the marvelous events that follow. But I’m getting way ahead of myself, here, so I won’t discuss its significance. I’m sure everyone will have something to say about this key event in the novel.

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  6. I thought I’d continue with my statement in my last paragraph above by noting the narrator’s change in “voice” that Chris talked about in her earlier “essay.” As she noted, the “editor of these papers” narrator has gradually been “lost” by Dickens, perhaps because it was “becoming too restrictive.” In turn it has been replaced at first by a more omniscient 3rd person narrator who seems to be telling from a newer perspective the story of the Pickwickians and their various experiences. However, it’s strange that Dickens STILL decides to keep very briefly with the idea that he is working from the club’s various writings. In the opening sentence of Chapter 28, He begins with a “lyrical” lead-in to the departure of our friends to Dingly Dell and the Christmas festivities that await them. But here’s a puzzler, he STILL manages to get in the idea that he is continuing to edit their “recorded” manuscripts based on their travels and accomplishments:

    “As brisk as bees, if not altogether as light as fairies, did the four Pickwickians assemble on the morning of the twenty-second day of December, in the year of grace in which these, their faithfully-recorded adventures, were undertaken and accomplished. ”

    For some reason, Dickens continues to assert (although very mildly) that he’s working from other materials and not “making up” the story’s episodes–that the “Pickwick Papers” are still his guide for this interesting narrative. Yet, after penning this information based on the “Papers” he–the narrator–proceeds to move into a discussion, even a kind of “elegy,” testifying to the wonders of Christmas Past. This writing takes us FAR away from the matter at hand, the Journey of the “club” members to Mr. Wardles’, and into a fairly long sentimental digression. I may be wrong, but I don’t recall anything quite like this in the novel up to this point. The writer is suddenly shifting to the editorial “we”–away from the editorial curator and disseminator of others’ materials. And this is precisely what Chris is aiming at, I think. Now, Dickens, by adopting this new “voice” can editorialize in more ways than if he were to hold himself to the particulars of the club’s information. Let’s see what he does, here:

    “We write these words now, many miles distant from the spot at which, year after year, we met on that day, a merry and joyous circle. Many of the hearts that throbbed so gaily then, have ceased to beat; many of the looks that shone so brightly then, have ceased to glow; the hands we grasped, have grown cold; the eyes we sought, have hid their lustre in the grave; and yet the old house, the room, the merry voices and smiling faces, the jest, the laugh, the most minute and trivial circumstances connected with those happy meetings, crowd upon our mind at each recurrence of the season, as if the last assemblage had been but yesterday! Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fireside and his quiet home!

    Certainly, he is not working in this paragraph from the written materials from the club. In fact, he seems to be sharing with us his OWN experiences of Christmas and Christmasses past. There is no mention of Mr. Pickwick nor any of his friends. In a strange way, The narrator with his “we” voice is narrowing the gap between himself and his readers. In a way, he is almost inserting himself as a character into this story. Almost!

    Ok then, but then there is still another shift–almost as though, while he’s been reminiscing to us while sitting next to him, he realizes that he’s gotten off track, and suddenly gets back to the task at hand. But rather than just “speak” to us, he tells us that he needs to continue WRITING his story:

    “But we are so taken up and occupied with the good qualities of this saint Christmas, that we are keeping Mr. Pickwick and his friends waiting in the cold on the outside of the Muggleton coach, which they have just attained, well wrapped up in great-coats, shawls, and comforters. The portmanteaus and carpet-bags have been stowed away….”

    And so we are now, with the entire cast, off and running (finally) to Mr. Wardle’s. We are snuggled up inside the coach with our friends and get to experience the trip with them. But whoa, this is not all. There is still another remarkable narrative shift to come, and this time it is one of tense. We move, almost seamlessly from past tense of this recent paragraph, to the PRESENT tense of the next. It’s all so slyly done:

    “And now the bugle plays a lively air as the coach rattles through the ill-paved streets of a country town; and the coachman, undoing the buckle which keeps his ribands together, prepares to throw them off the moment he stops. Mr. Pickwick emerges from his coat collar, and looks about him with great curiosity; perceiving which, the coachman informs Mr. Pickwick of the name of the town, and tells him it was market-day yesterday, both of which pieces of information Mr. Pickwick retails to his fellow-passengers; whereupon they emerge from their coat collars too, and look about them also. Mr. Winkle, who sits at the extreme edge, with one leg dangling in the air, is nearly precipitated into the street, as the coach twists round the sharp corner by the cheesemonger’s shop, and turns into the market-place; and before Mr. Snodgrass, who sits next to him, has recovered from his alarm….”

    Now we readers are getting almost a filmed view of our cast. We are not in the past, recalling what they did, but actually watching them as the trip unfolds before us. “plays,” “rattles,” looks, sits–all takes us closer to the action. We have a cameras’ eye view of things happening now!

    Again, I go back to what Chris mentioned in her remarks a few days ago. She says, oh so beautifully: “Dickens is gathering his tools, manipulating and working them to see how they feel and how best to use them” My belief is that that is exactly what we are seeing in these beginning paragraphs of Chapter 28 of THE PICKWICK PAPERS.

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    1. So nicely articulated, Lenny! So many changes in narration-view, but yet seamlessly. (Haha, my fingers had typed “seemlessly” which perhaps isn’t too far off either as we don’t seem to notice the change!)

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  7. Aww Chris, thanks so much! But your fine essay provided the groundwork and the inspiration for what I’ve written. You’ve done a lot of invaluable research whereas I’ve just been reading the novel and coming up with a lot of things you suggest. I’m hoping some other folks will soon come in and add to the dialogue’s richness. There is SO much to say about these “turning-point” chapters. In fact, the “Grave-digger’s” story happens at the half-way point of the novel. We’ve reached, I guess you could say, the juncture where “Boze” has said, earlier, the various “synthesizing agents” have been working to the fullest.

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  8. Chris:

    You say earlier that Dickens is “taking charge of his craft though still experimenting” during the composition of PICKWICK. It occurred to me with these intricate changes in narrative voice and subtle shifts in tense that he’s testing (experimenting with) out these writing methods–and doing so successfully!

    How cool would it have been to discuss with him these narrative “choices” and ask him how he thought they worked out!

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  9. What marvelous insight and discussions…just in terms of considering the “tense” used and the particular lens the narrator is using here (because I DON’T want it to end) I look forward to getting to the finale, which gives us a kind of view of things as they are/will be at a much later time. Which, for Dickens, would be writing into the future, wouldn’t it? We’re writing in the mid-1830s here, and am I forgetting, or didn’t he mention that the establishment of the Corresponding Society of the Club (that meeting from the opening) was in 1827? It was practically only yesterday; but a lot has happened, and if we look too far into the future (and the papers being “posthumous”), surely we’re looking well beyond the 1830s, when these are being written/published?

    I haven’t had enough coffee yet this morning, and it has been a heck of a week, so I’m a little behind and likely not making sense, but…curiouser & curiouser! (Alice in Wonderland)

    And agreed that here Dickens is toying around with plot, structure, and narrative voice; it’s as though the “writing lab” (to borrow Lenny’s wonderful phrase) of Sketches, is continuing here at a higher level.

    Delighting in some of these exquisite descriptions…e.g. Mr Weller, Sr. at the opening of Chapter 23:

    “It is very possible that at some earlier period of his career, Mr. Weller’s profile might have presented a bold and determined outline. His face, however, had expanded under the influence of good living, and a disposition remarkable for resignation; and its bold fleshy curves had so far extended beyond the limits originally assigned them, that unless you took a full view of his countenance in front, it was difficult to distinguish more than the extreme tip of a very rubicund nose. His chin, from the same cause, had acquired the grave and imposing form which is generally described by prefixing the word ‘double’ to that expressive feature; and his complexion exhibited that peculiarly mottled combination of colours which is only to be seen in gentlemen of his profession, and in underdone roast beef.”


    I also added to my notes: “the unsoaped of Ipswich” 😉 and: “Your Wash-up”!! (Here we have a regular Dogberry & Verges in the magistrate & his fellows, Grummer & Jinks.)

    Another note:

    ‘‘’Who is it?’ cried Sam again.

    “Once more was a joint reply returned; and, though the words were inaudible, Sam saw by the motion of the two pairs of lips that they had uttered the magic word ‘Pickwick.’

    “This was enough. In another minute Mr. Weller had made his way through the crowd, stopped the chairmen, and confronted the portly Grummer.”

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Everybody Needs A Sam 🙂

    And on this note, I find I want to go back to that slightly unusual and oddly touching moment when Mr P gets lost in the hotel in Ipswich and ends up in the middle-aged lady’s room, after which, still lost, he is encountered (thank God, always a relief) by Sam.

    “‘Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, as he got into bed, ‘I have made one of the most extraordinary mistakes to-night, that ever were heard of.’

    “‘Wery likely, Sir,’ replied Mr. Weller drily.

    “‘But of this I am determined, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘that if I were to stop in this house for six months, I would never trust myself about it, alone, again.’

    “‘That’s the wery prudentest resolution as you could come to, Sir,’ replied Mr. Weller. ‘You rayther want somebody to look arter you, Sir, when your judgment goes out a wisitin’.’

    “‘What do you mean by that, Sam?’ said Mr. Pickwick. He raised himself in bed, and extended his hand, as if he were about to say something more; but suddenly checking himself, turned round, and bade his valet ‘Good-night.’

    “‘Good-night, Sir,’ replied Mr. Weller. He paused when he got outside the door—shook his head—walked on—stopped—snuffed the candle—shook his head again—and finally proceeded slowly to his chamber, apparently buried in the profoundest meditation.”

    It’s a sweet moment, and we rather wonder at what Sam is *meditating* on. It’s as though Sam is reluctant to leave him even for a moment. But it’s more than that: I think it’s a moment of realization for him that is far greater. As though he is observing just how much affection he has for Pickwick, and concern for the often innocent helplessness that Mr P exhibits, and the realization that he’s not going to be able to leave him, ever. So, he’s really perhaps reflecting that his course has now been set, and he’s in it for life if you will, til death do they part…

    That’s my take on it, anyway.

    I hope to check in again later today after catching up a bit. It’s been a wild & whirling week 🙂

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  10. Rach: This is an extremely important paragraph you’ve just written:

    “And on this note, I find I want to go back to that slightly unusual and oddly touching moment when Mr P gets lost in the hotel in Ipswich and ends up in the middle-aged lady’s room, after which, still lost, he is encountered (thank God, always a relief) by Sam.’

    It’s my belief, that this moment in the novel, coupled with the wheel-barrow metaphor during the hunt with Winkle and Mr. Wardle, are the primary metaphors for the entire novel. Sam puts the LAME Mr. Pickwick in the barrow, and wheels him alongside Wardle and Winkle as they go on the hunt. Pickwick is terribly worried about the erratic hunting “technique” of Mr. Winkle who seems to have no control over his weapon or what he is doing as a hunter. (In the metaphorical sense, Winkle represents, here, life’s dangers and ups and downs.) Mr. Pickwick is very much aware of this and frequently asks Sam to stop or to try to maneuver the wheel-barrow so as to avoid possible injury by Winkle. So, to pick up on what you are suggesting, the whole hunting “journey” is really the journey of life, from that point on, and reflects the different roles Mr. Pickwick and Sam have in their relationship. Sam will “carry”–as a kind of guardian angel– Pickwick through his life and try to help him avoid the situations that will threaten him. Sam becomes the protector and Pickwick the “boss” who needs protecting. But Mr. Pickwick will provide for Sam whatever he needs to maintain a happy and wholesome life,. In this way, Mr. P and Same “protect” and “save” each other!

    Now to the next key metaphor which you’ve discussed. The Labyrinthine hotel passages are a great representation of Pickwick’s life of twists and turns and his frequency of getting lost–generally–but also refer in two ways specifically to Pickwick’s predicament presently and in the near future. Presently, he has “lost his way” and will unfortunately end up in the wrong room with Miss Witherfield, and this comic “confrontation” will lead to Mr. Pickwick’s arrest and his long and strangely symbolic meeting with the magistrate. But to digress a bit. In the first instance, it is Sam who will come to Pickwick’s rescue. That’s as it should be in both metaphoric terms and real terms. But secondly, the entire passage, from Pickwick’s losing his way in the labyrinth to Sam’s rescue to the “visit” to the magistrate, is really a preview of what eventually will happen to Pickwick in the case that has been brought against him by his landlady.

    But to more important matters: I’m so sorry Rach that you had another yucky week. Hopefully, in your best Pickwickian style, you will “survive” and flourish during these coming days and weeks!

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  11. Rach & Lenny — Mr Pickwick at Ipswich – Here we get Sam’s articulation of his mission, assignment, duty, burden, promise (I’m not sure which word is accurate) relative to Mr Pickwick: “You rayther want somebody to look arter you, sir, wen your judgment goes out a wisitin’.” This is what Sam has done and will continue to do for his Master; and he will do it well. You two have hit upon this quite rightly!

    Regarding the interpolated tales – 2 this section, “The Queer Client” and “The Goblins” – Mr Pickwick hears or reads them, but we get little or none of his reaction to them. Does he think about them? How do they affect him? And how do they fit into his journey from innocence to knowledge? I’m searching for insight here, but so far have found little scholarship that answers these questions. I’ll keep looking. Any insight our Reading Club may have will be appreciated. I certainly understand they present the dark side of humanity to Mr Pickwick, giving him pause I should think, and even if he doesn’t consciously consider them he must unconsciously be troubled by how these dark tales relate to “life”, even if he considers them too fantastic. Maybe they are laying the groundwork for him, preparing his mind for pitfalls he may encounter. At any rate, I find the lack of reaction to them as odd. No doubt, “The Story of the Goblins who stole a Sexton” is the germ of “A Christmas Carol”; and Gabriel Grub combined with Nicodemus Dumps of “The Bloomsbury Christening” sketch are prototypes for Ebenezer Scrooge.

    I thought it interesting that Mr Magnus asks Mr Pickwick’s advice on proposing, and even more so that Mr Pickwick vehemently denies ever having done so. In his mind and intention he has NOT; in Mrs Bardell’s, well, therein lies the dilemma as we shall see. Be that as it may, Mr Pickwick’s suggestion for how to propose is really very sweet, even though it enlightens us as to his simple and sentimental view of women. But it worked for Mr Magnus, though I think any approach would have done the trick. But what happens? Does Miss Witherfield ever become Mrs Magnus? Do they resolve their misunderstanding or do they go their separate ways? Mr Magnus has been in this sort of situation before: “I know what it is to be jilted, sir; I have endured that sort of thing three or four times,” he tells Mr Pickwick. So one has to wonder – did the ladies really, actually, jilt him, or did he find something about the ladies to take issue with as he’s done here with Miss Witherfield? Inquiring minds want to know!

    And then, thank goodness for Mr Jingle’s schemes because this latest one gets Mr Pickwick, et al., out of their latest troubles with Mr Nubbles and the law. On their return to London, Mr Pickwick does NOT return to Goswell Street, rather he wisely sends Sam to tie up his affairs and to get whatever information he can from Mrs Bardell regarding her suit – the most important of which is that Dodson & Fogg have taken her case on speculation.

    In these chapters we get Tony Weller’s notion regarding “widders” -“Widders are ‘ceptions to every rule.” – this will be important later. His own second wife is the primary example, but let’s not forget that Mrs Bardell is a widow also. I think the point is that widows, unlike unmarried ladies of a certain age (e.g., Rachael Wardle and Miss Witherfield), have experience of men and thus know how to manipulate them in ways single women just can not comprehend.

    Sam meets his “mother-in-law”, the “widder” who is now Mrs Weller, the Second, and her friend, Mr Stiggins before heading to Dingley Dell for Christmas. We begin to understand Tony’s animosity towards these two, especially toward Mr Stiggins. This homecoming is contrasted with the delights of Dingley Dell and the Christmas festivities held there.

    Oh, my, what delight to read about the fun these folks have! All our Christmases should be like this! The joy just jumps off the page!

    Most of this I wrote before reading the wonderful comments above. I need to digest them a bit, but there is a lot of food for thought. Thank you all for this. And, please, everyone have a wonder first week of Spring!

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    1. Yes Chris, the Christmas at Mr. Wardle’s is just a wonderful read! It’s so appropriate, then, that Wardle tells the Grub/Goblin story. Another admonitory exemplum a la the “Sketches.”


  12. Thank you, Chris and Lenny, for such wonderful thoughts and suggestions here! I wish I’d been to continue this conversation yesterday, and here we are about time for our wrap-up already, but I’ll try to draw these questions/suggestions into the wrap-up so that we can continue them moving forward.

    Lenny, LOVE what you say about Pickwick and Sam saving each other!

    Chris, I’ve often had that same reflection about the lack of mentioning any reaction to the interpolated tales, and I think that is a great one to ponder.


  13. …and thank you for your Spring wishes, Chris!! I hope you both have a marvelous start to Spring! I’m just delighting in all of these cherry and plum blossoms, and, as it is a quieter week this week, I have a lot of hopes for a project in the garden…


  14. A final comment before I return to finish pulling our thoughts together for the wrap-up. I didn’t mention it above, but regarding my thoughts about the sweet scene at the inn where Pickwick is lost, and its being a turning point for Sam: I was reminded just a little bit of that important moment from the 1980-81 stage adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby (which thank God they’ve recorded on video ~ have you seen it?) with Roger Rees and David Threlfall as Nickleby and Smike. It is the moment (not to say too much, for those who haven’t read Nickleby yet) where Smike follows Nicholas and begs to accompany him “to the world’s end, to the churchyard grave,” or words to that effect. The moment is presented in the stage adaptation in a more striking way than I recall it being presented in the novel. Nicholas already has great affection for Smike; has stood up for him, etc. But in that moment, Roger portrays the gravity of the decision so beautifully ~ we sense in his face both the love, but also the responsibility that this decision will entail. I imagine that, in his own unique way, Sam’s reflections are similar after he parts with Pickwick. Sam is already devoted to Pickwick, and has saved him several times; but here, the almost-saying something on both sides, and the quiet, unarticulated reflections all suggest that it really has hit Sam now, what this means: it is a turning point in his life, and he realizes that he won’t be able to leave him. The love and the responsibility go hand-in-hand.

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