Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Pickwick Papers or The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club by Charles Dickens

"The first ray of light which illumines the gloom, and converts into a dazzling brillancy that obscurity in which the earlier history of the public career of the immortal Pickwick would appear to be involved, is derived from the perusal of the following entry in the Transactions of the Pickwick Club, which the editor of these papers feels the highest pleasure in laying before his readers, as a proof of the careful attention, indefatigable assiduity, and nice discrimination, with which his search among the multifarious documents confided to him has been conducted."

It's hardly believable but O's 2 year read-along of the Pickwick Papers has finally come to a close and I have her to thank for finally being able to finish this 800-page marvel.  We read it in installments mirroring its original release which was an enlightening experience in itself. Looking back, I enjoyed reading only 2 to 3 chapters at a time, but the space between them, for me, was too long.  It's not that I necessarily forgot what had happened, but I found that when I picked it up again, I was somewhat disengaged with the characters.  It was almost like starting a book over and over again and never really getting traction.  If I was to do it over, I'd read a chapter per week instead of three at once and that way hopefully remain more present in the story.

Mr. Pickwick slides on the ice
source Wikimedia Commons
And the book itself ..... ?  I quite enjoyed Mr. Pickwick and his marvellous, and at times unbelievable, adventures.  At the beginning of the book, Mr. Pickwick, founder and president of the Pickwick Club, decides that he and fellow members, Nathaniel Winkle, Augustus Snodgrass, and Tracy Tupman, will leave London and travel the countryside to discover the wonderful qualities of life, each reporting to the others what they find. Their adventures lead them to saving ladies in distress, getting embroiled in circumstances they only want to avoid, courting offers of marriage, unwanted offers of marriage, interaction with criminals, jail and even love itself. Dickens imbues this novel with his own brand of humour by having an old confirmed bachelor find himself in all sorts of uncomfortable circumstances.  From finding himself unexpectedly sleeping in a lady's bed, to being sued for breach of promise of marriage, poor Pickwick finds his dignified sensibilities tried by unexpected challenges yet he always manages to respond in a measured and honourable manner that increased our respect for this lovable character.

Mr. Pickwick's first interview
with Sergeant Snubbin
source Wikimedia Commons

In Chapter XVI, Pickwick attempts to catch a swindler, Jingle, who is slipperier than an eel.  Jingle plans to run away with an heires and by hiding in the bushes outside the girls' boarding school, Pickwick attempts to subvert the scheme and expose the criminal.  But through various misadventures and bumbles, he manages to find himself locked in a cupboard by the headmistress and the ladies of the establishment. Rescued by Sam Weller, his valet, and his friend, Mr. Wardle, Pickwick rains imprecations upon the head of the absent Jingle.


Even more amusing, was the incident of the mistaken beds.  Late at night at an inn, Pickwick returns downstairs to retrieve his watch and upon returning, enters the wrong room!  He is just settled into bed when a lady enters and begins her own toilette. Horrified, Pickwick reveals his presence and attempts to assure her of his mistake and innocence, but the woman is frightened senseless, and Pickwick makes a quick exit. Not wanting another repeat of the disturbing and undignified experience, Pickwick plans to sleep in the hall, but is once again rescued by Sam.  The novel has so many amusing anecdotes, that is has to be read to enjoy them all.  And I finally managed it!

Mr. Pickwick, picnics
source Wikimedia Commons
At the time of the writing of this first novel, Dickens was working as a roving journalist and a reporter of Parlimentary news.  After his successful Sketches by Boz, Dickens was called in to write copy for certain illustrated sporting plates created by illustrator Robert Seymour.  Dickens soon began to write the instalments before the plates were produced, therefore changing the illustrative focus of the project to storytelling and he never looked back.  We all know of his illustrious writing career following The Pickwick Papers and I still have to read quite a few Dickens' novels yet, as I've only completed The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, A Tale of Two Cities, Dombey and Son, A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, and, a long time ago, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.  So many great novels of his still to go.  Perhaps a project for 2018 ......???





24 comments:

  1. Excellent! Pickwick was one of the most light and enjoyable of the Dickens' novels that I read a while ago. I read them in one go, not as a serial and I've wondered how that would have worked out. From your reflections, I'm rather glad I didn't. I need to get my books "done" in a reasonable time.

    I'm planning on starting a Dickens re-read starting in January and doing one of his books every 6-8 weeks or so until I've worked my way through them again. Most of his stuff anyway, some of the travelogues I'm skipping...

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    1. While I didn't like the pacing I chose, Dickens also tends to annoy me if I read him too fast, so I think for me, too slow as opposed to too fast is better.

      I'd like to read a Dickens or two next year so I'll keep an eye out for your schedule and perhaps read along with you, if I have the time. Sounds like you're a Dickens fan. Me? Not so much, which is why I always like a partner to help me along ... ;-)

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    2. Yes, I'm a huge Dickens fan. I read several of his novels when in bibleschool and the pathos and drama spoke to my 20something heart like no author had to date. Even the books of his that I'll end up rating 3 stars I'll still enjoy reading.

      When I was doing a classic a month a couple of years ago, we'd divvy the book up into weekly reads and go from there. That way you had all month to read it and not have to exclusively read it. Let me know if there are any particular titles you're (semi)interested in and I can let you know when I'm coming up to them. I'll probably stick them in alphabetical order and read them that way. Some of his bigger works have been split into Part I and Part II's, so we can always take even longer if you feel the need.

      Anyway, that's all in the future :-)

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    3. I'm trying to stay open-minded when reading him, but for some reason he can tend to bug me. That said, I have enjoyed most of his novels. The only one I don't think I could read again is Dombey and Son; but I did like David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol, Martin Chuzzlewit, and A Tale of Two Cities.

      As for ones I'd like to read? Well, Bleak House is probably at the top of the list followed by Great Expectations. Then Nicholas Nickleby, Little Dorrit and Our Mutual Friend. I'd add Oliver Twist too, but for some reason, I'm scared of it. So if any of those are coming up for you, please let me know. I actually feel myself in a Dickens frame of mind. Wow!

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  2. Congrats...there were not many of us who stuck with this. Glad you stayed the course with us.

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    1. You were especially awesome in that you did the monthly postings! I've been terrible with doing that lately ..... poor Plato has stalled and is not getting any respect from me. ;-) In any case, it was great to read it in a group! Here's to the next read-along!

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  3. boy, you're a good writer, Cleo... doing my own blog has opened my eyes a bit to what actually goes into a good blog; this entry of yours is excellent, imo... oh, i recommend Nicholas Nickleby; well, i liked it, anyway...

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    1. Wow, Mudpuddle, thanks so much for the compliment. I am so unpracticed with all my time off, I really struggled with this post. And I usually struggle with reviewing Dickens in any case. You'll notice I've read 6 novels and only reviewed 2 of them.

      I love your blog and I'm so glad you started one. It not only gives me a list of more obscure reads, it makes me laugh. It will probably help me to live longer, ha, ha! ;-)

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  4. Yay! I completed mine as well, but must really get around to writing a review soooooon! I am glad we did it in the style we did, if nothing else, it was an interesting experience and I can understand why when starting a fresh installment, there was some sort of disengagement. I however thoroughly enjoyed this read along, the longest ever attempted by me. Excellent review!

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    1. It was a fun time had by all, it seems. I simply must get back into reading; it's so enjoyable and I really miss all my reading friends. I've started Murder in the Cathedral. Surprisingly Greek sounding. Eliot is quite a master.

      Thanks for your kind comment! :-)

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  5. Congrats for finally completing it, Cleo!
    I have joined the readalong at first, but like you, I found that after putting it down for sometime, I could not relate to it again when tackling it the next time. So finally I decided to just read it by my own pace. But it is entertaining and hilarious; the incident of mistaken bedroom is so funny, that I laughed out loud to my mother's amazement!

    Making a project of reading Dickens for 2018 is a good idea! I even make it a yearly event every December called Dickens in December (I'm reading Bleak House at this moment). Maybe next year we can read Dickens together, although maybe not the same title (or even the same title?...)

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    1. Hey Fanda! Thanks! I WANT to do your Dickens in December but I'm often trying to finish off the million books I'm in the middle of reading by the end of the year and can't add another. HOWEVER, I'm going to try a different plan of attack for reading next year, so hopefully I can make time for it. I'm so glad you encourage people to focus on Dickens at one point in the year; he's such a great classics author --- everyone should read at least one of his novels!

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  6. Congrats on finishing the readalong!! Pickwick is still on my TBR list... I was on a Dickens streak many, many years ago, and I feel bad I haven't returned to him since, except in TV/movies. ;)

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    1. I start and stall with Dickens too. I'm actually surprised I have an inclination to read one of his novels again after finishing this one just recently. I'm just going to go with it though! :-)

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  7. I'm a big fan of Mr. P and his guardian Sam Weller--I've read the book at least 4-5 times and it's always a treat. The illustrations are superb too.

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    1. Wow, I think you get the award for most times read, Jane! I love the illustrations particularly and I do hope to read it at least once more!

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  8. I'm envious. I've started the book several times but never got past the not-so-fatal duel scene. Because of your fine posting, I'll try again soon. I might even it make it all the way next time.

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  9. Thanks so much for joining in and I'm glad you enjoyed it. I loved it, but I think fortnightly instalments would have been better (for us, anyway, most likely not for Dickens!). It was fun and absolutely mad at times :)

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    1. Thanks so much for hosting, O! I can't believe I actually made it through with everything going on. I agree, fortnightly installments would have been better, but it was still nice to experience what Dickens readers at the time would have experienced. Can't wait for the next read-along!

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    2. I was just saying to Mudpuddle on my blog I'd be thinking of hosting one for 2019. 2018 might be a bit too soon after this, I think... :)

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    3. I agree. Another would be fun after a little break. :-)

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  10. This is one of the few Dickens’ books I haven’t read but I’ve never been inclined to...although I watched Little Women with my 12 yr old the other day & I thought I really should try to tackle Pickwick. They seemed to enjoy it so much!
    Have a great Christmas & May your health improve & 2018 be a great year for you in every way. X

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    1. Hey Carol, I hope Christmas and the new year will be filled with love and happiness for you and your family. Thanks for your kind wishes, they are much appreciated! And Pickwick should be read once, definitely ..... but once might be enough :-) ....... Take care! X

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