The Pickwick Papers: The Lighter Side of Charles Dickens

pickwick

The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens, 1836

Dear readers, I must confess that I am far behind on my blogging. Seven books behind, to be exact. It can be quite difficult to find the time to take photos for each post, especially in winter when daylight is limited. I have a number of posts written in advance that are just waiting for pictures. I truly thought that I had written a post for The Pickwick Papers. . .but I can’t find it. It’s been a while since I read the book. So, here are my thoughts on The Pickwick Papers, as I remember them.

The Pickwick Papers launched Dickens’ career. Everybody in immediately-pre-Victorian England just loved them. However, he went on to write many novels that earned more critical acclaim. So, I probably could have skipped Pickwick and satisfied myself with the 5 other Dicken’s novels on my list, right? Wrong! The Pickwick Papers is an influential novel. Victorian authors read it and referenced it. My heart swells with gratification when I read a reference to an earlier novel and I totally get the reference. Conversely, I get enraged when I don’t know the reference. Look at my reading list! I should know every literary  reference. All of them!

Anyway, I am reading Vanity Fair now. Thackeray has been lambasted for his copious obscure references. In one chapter he briefly alludes to a character from The Pickwick Papers. Instead of being confused and annoyed, I found the reference sweet and touching, because I, like Thackeray, have affection for that character. Also, the sisters in Little Women read The Pickwick Papers and it it’s good enough for Jo March, it’s good enough for me.

I’ve written a lot already and you’re probably still wondering what The Pickwick Papers is about. Samuel Pickwick is a jolly, but distinguished (by his own estimation) old gentleman who leads a gentlemen’s club called “The Pickwick Club.’  He leads a small group of gentlemen around the country on academic expeditions. Knowledge is the stated purpose of their expeditions, but they mostly seem to ride about in carriages, drinking and getting into trouble.

Eventually, Mr. Pickwick hires a cockney manservant, Samuel Weller, who is one of my favorite characters I’ve encountered during this project. He has a quaint way of expressing himself, but is quite down to earth. So, he’s both pragmatic and hilarious. Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller have a very Bertie and Jeeves relationship. Pickwick gets into trouble; Sam Weller gets him out of it.

The book is a bit too long, but I really enjoyed it overall. It’s quite lighthearted and entertaining for Dickens who later moved on to more serious subjects than the follies and foibles of self-important English gentlemen.

Here’s a quote for you to appreciate:

‘The gout, Sir,’ replied Mr. Weller, ‘the gout is a complaint as arises from too much ease and comfort. If ever you’re attacked with the gout, sir, jist you marry a widder as has got a good loud woice, with a decent notion of usin’ it, and you’ll never have the gout agin. It’s a capital prescription, sir. I takes it reg’lar, and I can warrant it to drive away any illness as is caused by too much jollity.’ Having imparted this valuable secret, Mr. Weller drained his glass once more, produced a laboured wink, sighed deeply, and slowly retired.

 

You might like The Pickwick Papers if:

  • you like P. G. Wodehouse.
  • you like the British trope of the valet who is wiser than his “betters.”

 

You might not like The Pickwick Papers if:

  • you’re not an Anglophile.
  • you don’t have the attention span for Victorian Literature.

Final Thoughts:

It’s rare and refreshing for a British author to treat a servant character with respect and admiration. Dickens himself in other books can be uncomfortably condescending. I  l liked it. That’s all.

 

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