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The Pickwick Papers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Original Pickwick cover issued in 1837 with Dickens' autograph — most of Dickens' novels were issued in shilling installments before being published in the complete volume
Original Pickwick cover issued in 1837 with Dickens' autograph — most of Dickens' novels were issued in shilling installments before being published in the complete volume

The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, better known as The Pickwick Papers, is the first novel by Charles Dickens. It was originally an idea by Robert Seymour, the illustrator, to which Dickens was asked to contribute as an up and coming writer following the success of Sketches by Boz, published in 1836. Dickens, supremely confident as ever, increasingly took over the unsuccessful monthly publication after Seymour had committed suicide. With the introduction of Sam Weller the book became the first real publishing phenomenon, with bootleg copies, theatrical performances, Sam Weller joke books and other merchandise. The name Pickwick is likely to have come from that of a nearby farm, Pickwick Lodge Farm. Pickwick is the part of Corsham which is on the A4, once the main road from London to Bristol.

Plot summary

The novel's main character, Mr. Samuel Pickwick, is a kind old gentleman, the founder of the Pickwick Club. He is usually portrayed by illustrators as a round-faced, clean-shaved, portly gentleman wearing spectacles. Mr. Pickwick travels with his friends, Mr. Nathaniel Winkle, Mr. Augustus Snodgrass, and Mr. Tracy Tupman, and their adventures are the chief theme of the novel.

One memorable adventure is Mr. Pickwick's legal case against his landlady, Mrs Bardell, who is suing him for the breach of promise to marry her. Another is Mr. Pickwick's incarceration at the Fleet for his stubborn refusal to pay the compensation to her (the unscrupulous Dodson and Fogg's law firm prosecuted poor Pickwick).

Written for publication as a serial, The Pickwick Papers consists of a sequence of loosely-related adventures. Its main literary value and appeal is formed by its numerous unforgettable heroes. Each personage in The Pickwick Papers (just as in many other Dickens' novels) is drawn comically, often with exaggerated features of character.

Outside The Pickwick Papers, Mr. , Sam Weller, and Weller Senior also make an appearance in Dickens's serial, Master Humphrey's Clock.

Characters in "The Pickwick Papers"

  • Mr. Samuel Pickwick
The main protagonist and founder of the Pickwick Club
  • Mr. Nathaniel Winkle
Traveling companion and friend of Pickwick's; a reluctant sportsman
  • Mr. Augustus Snodgrass
Another companion and friend; an amiable poet
  • Mr. Tracy Tupman
Yet another; a very flirtatious man
  • Mrs. Bardell
Pickwick's landlady
  • Sam Weller
Mr. Pickwick's valet
  • Weller Senior
Sam's father; does not really know if his name is written as Veller or Weller
  • Mr. Alfred Jingle
A strolling player, and a charlatan
  • Joe
The "fat boy" who consumes great quantities of food and constantly falls asleep in any situation at any time of day; Joe's sleep problem is the origin of the medical term Pickwikian syndrome which went on to lead to the subsequent description of Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome.
  • Mr. Wardle
Owner of a farm in Dingley Dell. Pickwick's friend. Joe is his servant.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

The novel has been filmed at least three times:

  • 1913 - a silent short starring John Bunny as Pickwick and H. P. Owen as Sam Weller
  • 1921 - The Adventures of Mr Pickwick, silent, starring Frederick Volpe and Hubert Woodward
  • 1952 - starring James Hayter and Harry Fowler (the first and only sound version, so far)

There have also been BBC radio and television adaptations. The first TV adaptation was by Constance Cox.

There was also a London stage musical version entitled Pickwick, by Cyril Ornadel, Wolf Mankowitz, and Leslie Bricusse. It starred Harry Secombe, later to become more famous as Mr. Bumble in the film version of Oliver!. But Pickwick (the musical) was not a success in the United States when it opened there in 1965, and the show was never filmed. It did feature the song If I Ruled the World, which became a modest hit.


The novel was published in 19 issues over 20 months; the last was double-length and cost two shillings. In bereavement for his sister-in-law Mary Hogarth, Dickens missed a deadline and consequently there was no number issued in May 1837. Numbers were typically issued on the last day of its given month:

  • I - March 1836 (chapters 1-2);
  • II - April 1836 (chapters 3-5);
  • III - May 1836 (chapters 6-8);
  • IV - June 1836 (chapters 9-11);
  • V - July 1836 (chapters 12-14);
  • VI - August 1836 (chapters 15-17);
  • VII - September 1836 (chapters 18-20);
  • VIII - October 1836 (chapters 21-23);
  • IX - November 1836 (chapters 24-26);
  • X - December 1836 (chapters 27-28);
  • XI - January 1837 (chapters 29-31);
  • XII - February 1837 (chapters 32-33);
  • XIII - March 1837 (chapters 34-36);
  • XIV - April 1837 (chapters 37-39);
  • XV - June 1837 (chapters 40-42);
  • XVI - July 1837 (chapters 43-45);
  • XVII - August 1837 (chapters 46-48);
  • XVIII - September 1837 (chapters 49-51);
  • XIX-XX - October 1837 (chapters 52-56);

It is interesting to keep the number divisions and dates in mind while reading the novel, especially in the early parts. The Pickwick Papers, as Charles Dickens' first novel, is particularly chaotic: the first two numbers featured four illustrations by Robert Seymour and 24 pages of text. Seymour killed himself and was replaced by R.W. Buss for the third number; the format was changed to feature two illustrations and 32 pages of text per issue. Buss didn't work out as an illustrator and was replaced by H.K. "Phiz" Browne for the fourth issue; Phiz continued to work for Dickens for 23 years (he last illustrated A Tale of Two Cities in 1859).


  1. The Pickwickians
  2. The first day's journey and the first evening's adventure; with their consequences
  3. A new acquaintance. The Stroller's Tale. A disagreeable interruption and an unpleasant encounter
  4. A field-day and bivouac. More new friends. An invitation to the country
  5. A short one. Showing, among other matters, how Pickwick undertook to drive and Mr. Winkle to ride; and how they both did it
  6. An old-fashioned card-party. The clergyman's verses. The story of the convict's return
  7. How Mr. Winkle, instead of shooting at the pigeon and killing the crow, shot at the cow and wounded the pigeon; how the Dingley Dell cricket club played All-Muggleton; and how the All-Muggleton dined at the Dingley Dell expense - with other interesting and instructive matters
  8. Strongly illustrative of the position that the course of true love is not a railway
  9. A discovery and a chase
  10. Clearing up all doubts (if any existed) of the disinterestedness of Mr. Jingle's character
  11. Involving another journey, and an antiquarian discovery. Regarding Mr. Pickwick's determination to be present at an election, and containing a manuscript of the old clergyman's
  12. Descriptive of a very important proceeding on the part of Mr. Pickwick, no less an epoch in his life than in his history
  13. Some account of Eatanswill, of the state of parties therein, and of the election of a member to serve in Parliament for that ancient, loyal, and patriotic borough
  14. Comprising a brief description of the company at the Peacock assembled, and a tale told by a bagman
  15. In which is given a faithful portraiture of two distinguished persons and an accurate description of a public breakfast in their house and grounds, which public breakfast leads to the recognition of an old acquaintance and the commencement of another chapter
  16. Too full of adventure to be briefly described
  17. Showing that an attack of rheumatism, in some cases, acts as a quickener to inventive genius
  18. Briefly illustrative of two points: first, the power of hysterics, and secondly, the force of circumstances
  19. A pleasant day, with an unpleasant termination
  20. Showing how Dodson and Fogg were men of business, and their clerks men of pleasure; and how an affecting interview took place between Mr. Weller and his long-lost parent; showing also what choice spirits assembled at the Magpie and Stump, and what a capital chapter the next one will be
  21. In which the old man lurches forth into his favourite theme and relates a story about a queer client
  22. Mr. Pickwick journeys to Ipswich and meets with a romantic adventure with a middle-aged lady in yellow curl-papers
  23. In which Mr. Samuel Weller begins to devote his energies to the returen match between himself and Mr. Trotter
  24. Wherein Mr. Peter Magnus grows jealous, and the middle-aged lady apprehensive, which brings the Pickwickians within grasp of the law
  25. Showing, among a variety of pleasant matters, how majestic and impartial Mr. Nupkins was, and how Mr. Weller returned Mr. Job Trotter's shuttlecock as heavily as it came; with another matter, which will be found in its place
  26. Which contains a brief account of the progress of Bardell against Pickwick
  27. Samuel Weller makes a pilgrimage to Dorking and beholds his mother-in-law
  28. A good-humored Christmas chapter, containing an account of a wedding, and some other sports beside, which, although in their way even as good customs as marriage itself, are not quite so religiously kept up in these degenerative times
  29. The story of the goblins who stole a sexton
  30. How the Pickwickians made and cultivated the acquaintance of a couple of nice young men belonging to one of the liberal professions, how they disported themselves on the ice, and how their first visit came to a conclusion
  31. Which is all about the law, and sundry great authorities learned therein
  32. Describes, far more fully than the court-newsman ever did, a bachelor's party given by Mr. Bob Sawyer at his lodgings in the borough
  33. Mr. Weller the elder delivers some critical sentiments respecting literary composition, and, assisted by his son Samuel, pays a small investment of retaliation to the account of the reverend gentleman with the red nose
  34. Is wholly devoted to a full and faithful report of the memorable trial of Bardell against Pickwick
  35. In which Mr. Pickwick thinks he had better go to Bath, and goes accordingly
  36. The chief features of which will be found to be an authentic version of the legend of Prince Bladud, and a most extraordinary calamity that befell Mr. Winkle
  37. Honourably accounts for Mr. Weller's absence by describing a soiree to which he was invited and went; also relates how he was entrusted by Mr. Pickwick with a private mission of delicacy and importance
  38. How Mr. Winkle, when he stepped out of the frying-pan, walked gently and comfortably into the fire
  39. Mr. Samuel Weller, being entrusted with a mission of love, proceeds to execute it; with what success will herinafter appear
  40. Introduces Mr. Pickwick to a new and not-unintersting scene in the great drama of life
  41. What befell Mr. Pickwick when he got into the Fleet; what prisoners he saw there; and how he passed the night
  42. Illustrative, like the preceding one, of the old proverb that adversity brings a man acquainted with strange bedfellows. Likewise containing Mr. Pickwick's extraordinary and startling announcement to Mr. Samuel Weller
  43. Showing how Mr. Weller got into difficulties
  44. Treats of divers little matters which occurred in the Fleet, and of Mr. Winkle's mysterious behaviour, and shows how the poor Chancery prisoner obtained his release at last
  45. Descriptive of an affecting interview between Mr. Samuel Weller and a family party. Mr. Pickwick makes a tour of the diminutive world he inhabits, and resolves to mix with it, in the future, as little as possible
  46. Records a touching act of delicate feeling, not unmixed with pleasantry, achieved and performed by Messrs. Dodson and Fogg
  47. Is chiefly devoted to matters of business and the temporal advantage of Dodson and Fogg. Mr. Winkle appears under extraordinary circumstances. Mr. Pickwick's benevolence proves stronger than his obstinacy
  48. Relates how Mr. Pickwick, with the assistance of Samuel Weller, essayed to soften the heart of Mr. Benjamin Allen and to mollify the wrath of Mr. Robert Sawyer
  49. Containing the story of the bagman's uncle
  50. How Mr. Pickwick sped upon his mission, and how he was reinforced in the outset by a most unexpected auxiliary
  51. In which Mr. Pickwick encounters an old Acquaintance - to which fortunate Circumstances the Reader is mainly indebted for Matter of thrilling Interest herein set down, concerning two great Public Men of Might and Power
  52. Involving a serious change in the Weller Family, and the untimely Downfall of the red-nosed Mr. Stiggins
  53. Comprising the final exit of Mr. Jingle and Job Trotter; with a great morning of business in Gray's Inn Square. Concluding with a double knock at Mr. Perker's door.
  54. Containing some particulars relative to the double knock, and other matters; among which certain interesting disclosures relative to Mr. Snodgrass and a young lady are by no means irrelevant to this history
  55. Mr. Solomon Pell, assisted by a select committee of coachmen, arranges the affairs of the elder Mr. Weller
  56. An important conference takes place between Mr. Pickwick and Samuel Weller, at which his parent assists. An old gentlemen in a snuff-coloured suit arrives unexpectedly
  57. In which the Pickwick Club is finally dissolved, and everything concluded to the satisfaction of all.

See also

  • Pickwickian syndrome

External links

Wikisource has original text related to this article:
The Pickwick Papers

Online editions

  • The Pickwick Papers - Google Books
  • The Pickwick Papers, available freely at Project Gutenberg
  • [1] - The Mr Pickwick pub - biggest english pub in Switzerland with live music and all sporting events
  • The Pickwick Papers - Searchable HTML version.
  • The Pickwick Papers - Easy to read HTML version
  • The Pickwick Papers - Plain Text Version
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