Read PICKWICKIAN ORIGINALS of Pickwickian Manners and Customs , free online book, by Percy Fitzgerald, on ReadCentral.com.

There is a shrewd remark of the late Bishop Norwich, Dean Stanley’s father, that to catch and describe the tone and feeling of a place gives a better idea of it than any minute or accurate description. “Some books,” he says, “give one ideas of places without descriptions; there is something which suggests more vivid and agreeable images than distinct words. Would Gil Blas for instance? It opens with a scene of history, chivalry, Spain, orange trees, fountains, guitars, muleteers; there is the picturesque and the sense of the picturesque, as distinct as the actual object.” Now this exactly applies to “Pickwick,” which brings up before us Rochester, Ipswich, Muggleton, Birmingham, and a dozen other places to the tourist. The night of the arrival at Birmingham for instance, and the going out after dinner to call on Mr. Winkle, sen., is strangely vivid.

So real is our Pickwickian Odyssey that it can be followed in all its stages as in a diary. To put it all in “ship shape” as it were and enhance this practical feeling I have drawn out the route in a little map. It is wonderful how much the party saw and how much ground they covered, and it is not a far-fetched idea that were a similar party in our day, good humoured, venturesome and accessible, to visit old-fashioned, out of the way towns, and look out for fun, acquaintances and characters, they might have a good deal of the amusement and adventure that the Pickwickians enjoyed.

The Pickwickians first went to Rochester, Chatham, Dingley Dell, and perhaps to Gravesend. Mr. Pickwick with Wardle then pursued Jingle to town, returning thence to the Dell, which he at once left for Cobham, where he found his friend Tupman. The party then returned to town. Next we have the first visit to Ipswich called Eatanswill from which town Mr. Pickwick and Sam posted to Bury St. Edmunds; thence to London. Next came their third expedition to Dingley Dell for the Christmas festivities. Then the second visit to Ipswich. Then the journey to Bath, and that from Bath to Bristol. Later a second journey to Bristol another from Bristol to Birmingham, and from Birmingham to London, Mr. Pickwick’s final junketing before retiring to Dulwich.

Yet another interesting side of the Pickwick story is its almost biographical character. Boz seems to take us with him from his very boyhood. During the old days when his father was at Chatham he had seen all the Rochester incidents, sat by the old Castle and Bridge, noted with admiring awe the dockyard people, the Balls at “The Bull,” the Reviews on the Lines. The officers like Dr. Slammer, all the figures fat boy included were drawn from this stage of his life. The Golden Cross, which figures also in Copperfield, he had constantly stopped at. He knew, too, the inns in the Boro’. The large legal element and its odd incidents and characters he had learned and studied during his brief apprenticeship to the Law. The interior economy of the Fleet Prison he had learned from his family’s disastrous experiences; the turnkeys, and blighted inhabitants he had certainly taken from life. But he shifted the scene from the Marshalsea to the King’s Bench Prison the former place would have been too painful a reminiscence for his father. To his reporting expeditions we owe the Election scenes at Ipswich, and to another visit for the same object, his Bath experiences. Much of the vividness and reality of his touchings, particularly in the case of Rochester and its doings, is the magnifying, searching power resulting from a life of sorrow in childhood, family troubles working on a keen, sensitive nature; these made him appreciate and meditate on all that was going on about him, as a sort of relief and relaxation. All the London scenes the meetings at taverns were personal experiences. Among his friends were medical students and many odd beings. We can trace his extraordinary appreciation of Christmas and its genial, softening festivities which clung to him till it altogether faded out, to the same sense of relief; it furnished an opportunity of forgetting for a time (at least), the dismal, gloomy home.

Boz, if he drew his characters from life, did not draw wholesale; he would take only a portion of a character that pleased him and work it up in combination with another distinct character. It was thus he dealt with Leigh Hunt, borrowing his amusing, airy frivolity, and combining it with the meanness and heartlessness of Skimpole. I have always fancied that Dowler in “Pickwick” was founded after this composite principle on his true-hearted but imperious friend, Forster. Forster was indeed also a perfect reproduction of Dr. Johnson and had the despotic intolerance in conversation certainly of that great man. Like him “if his pistol missed fire, he knocked you down with the butt end of it.” He could be as amiable and tender-hearted as “old Sam” himself. Listening to Dowler at the coach office in Piccadilly we who knew Forster well seemed to hear his very voice. “It was a stern-eyed man of about five-and-forty, who had large black whiskers. He was buttoned up to the chin in a brown coat and had a large seal-skin cap and a cloak beside him. He looked up from his breakfast as Mr. Pickwick entered with a fierce and peremptory air, which was very dignified, and which seemed to say that he rather expected somebody wanted to take advantage of him, but it wouldn’t do” . . . “Are you going to Bath?” said the strange man. “I am, sir,” replied Mr. Pickwick. “And these other gentleman?” “They are going also,” said Mr. Pickwick. “Not inside I’ll be damned if you’re going inside,” said the strange man. “Not all of us,” said Mr. Pickwick. “No not all of you,” said the strange man, emphatically. “We take two places. If they try and squeeze six people into an infernal box that only holds four I’ll take a post-chaise and bring an action. It won’t do,” etc. This recalls the pleasant story about Forster and the cabman who summoned him. The latter was adjudged to be in the wrong and said he knew it, but “that he was determined to show him up, he were such a harbitrary cove.” None enjoyed this story more than Forster himself, and I have heard him say to a lady humorously, “Now you must. You know I am ‘such a harbitrary cove.’” Dear good old Forster!

I must confess all Pickwickians would like to know biographical details, as one might call them, about the personages engaged in the trial. I need not repeat that Judge Stareleigh was drawn from Mr. Justice Gazalee, or that Buzfuz was founded on Mr. Serjeant Bompas, or Bumpus. Charles Carpenter Bompas was his full designation. He was made a Serjeant in 1827, the very year of the memorable trial. He obtained a Patent of Precedence in 1834. “Buzfuz’s son” Mr. W. Bompas, Q.C., who will pardon the freedom of the designation was born in the year of the celebrated trial. He was the youngest son and had a very distinguished career both at College and at the Bar, being a “leader” on his circuit, revising barrister, bencher, recorder, and was last year appointed a County Court judge.

Who were Serjeant Snubbin, Skimpin, and Phunkey? No traditions have come to us as to these gentlemen. Skimpin may have been Wilkins, and Snubbin a Serjeant Arabin, a contemporary of Buzfuz. But we are altogether in the dark.

We should have liked also to have some “prehistoric peeps” at the previous biography of Mr. Pickwick before the story began. We have but a couple of indications of his calling: the allusion by Perker at the close of the story “The agent at Liverpool said he had been obliged to you many times when you were in business.” He was therefore a merchant or in trade. Snubbin at the trial stated that “Mr. Pickwick had retired from business and was a gentleman of considerable independent property.”

In the original announcement of the “Pickwick Papers” there are some scraps of information about Mr. Pickwick and the Club itself. This curious little screed shows that the programme was much larger than the one carried out:

“On the 31st of March, 1836, will be published, to be continued Monthly, price One Shilling, the First Number of

THE POSTHUMOUS PAPERS
OF
THE PICKWICK CLUB;
containing a faithful record of the
PERAMBULATIONS, PERILS, TRAVELS,
ADVENTURES, AND SPORTING TRANSACTIONS
OF THE CORRESPONDING MEMBERS.

EDITED BY “BOZ.”

And each Monthly Part embellished with
four illustrations by Seymour.

“The Pickwick Club, so renowned in the annals of Huggin Lane, and so closely entwined with the thousand interesting associations connected with Lothbury and Cateaton Street, was founded in the year one thousand eight hundred and twenty-two, by Samuel Pickwick the great traveller whose fondness for the useful arts prompted his celebrated journey to Birmingham in the depth of winter; and whose taste for the beauties of nature even led him to penetrate to the very borders of Wales in the height of summer.

“This remarkable man would appear to have infused a considerable portion of his restless and inquiring spirit into the breasts of other members of the Club, and to have awakened in their minds the same insatiable thirst for travel which so eminently characterized his own. The whole surface of Middlesex, a part of Surrey, a portion of Essex, and several square miles of Kent were in their turns examined and reported on. In a rapid steamer they smoothly navigated the placid Thames; and in an open boat they fearlessly crossed the turbid Medway. High-roads and by-roads, towns and villages, public conveyances and their passengers, first-rate inns and road-side public houses, races, fairs, regattas elections, meetings, market days all the scenes that can possibly occur to enliven a country place, and at which different traits of character may be observed and recognized, were alike visited and beheld by the ardent Pickwick and his enthusiastic followers.

“The Pickwick Travels, the Pickwick Diary, the Pickwick Correspondence in short, the whole of the Pickwick Papers’ were carefully preserved, and duly registered by the secretary, from time to time, in the voluminous Transactions of the Pickwick Club. These Transactions have been purchased from the patriotic secretary, at an immense expense, and placed in the hands of ‘Boz,’ the author of “Sketches Illustrative of Every Day Life and Every Day People” a gentleman whom the publishers consider highly qualified for the task of arranging these important documents, and placing them before the public in an attractive form. He is at present deeply immersed in his arduous labours, the first fruits of which will appear on the 31st March.

“Seymour has devoted himself, heart and graver, to the task of illustrating the beauties of Pickwick. It was reserved to Gibbon to paint, in colours that will never fade, the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire to Hume to chronicle the strife and turmoil of the two proud houses that divided England against herself to Napier to pen, in burning words, the History of the War in the Peninsula the deeds and actions of the gifted Pickwick yet remain for ‘Boz’ and Seymour to hand down to posterity.

“From the present appearance of these important documents and the
probable extent of the selections from them, it is presumed that the
series will be completed in about twenty numbers.”

From this it will be seen that it was intended to exhibit all the humours of the social amusements with which the public regaled itself. Mr. Pickwick and friends were to be shown on board a steamer; at races, fairs, regattas, market days, meetings “at all the scenes that can possibly occur to enliven a country place, and at which different traits of character may be observed and recognized.” This was a very scientific and well drawn scheme; and it was, on the whole, most faithfully and even brilliantly carried out. But with infinite art Boz emancipated himself from the formal hide-bound trammels of Syntax tours and the like, when it was reckoned that the hero and his friends would be exhibited like “Bob Logic” and “Tom and Jerry” in a regular series of public places. “Mr. Pickwick has an Adventure at Vauxhall,” “Mr. Pickwick Goes to Margate,” etc.: we had a narrow escape, it would seem, of this conventional sort of thing, and no doubt it was this the publishers looked for. But “Boz” asserted his supremacy, and made the narrative the chief element.

It was interesting thus to know that Mr. Pickwick had visited the borders of Wales I suppose, Chester but what was his celebrated journey to Birmingham, prompted by his “fondness for the useful arts”? This could hardly refer to his visit to Mr. Winkle, sen. The Club, it will be seen, was founded in 1822, and its place of meeting would appear to have been this Huggin Lane, City, “so intimately associated with Lothbury and Cateaton Street.” The picture of the meeting of the Club shows us that it consisted of the ominous number of thirteen. There is not room for more. They seem like a set of well-to-do retired tradesmen; the faces are such as we should see on the stage in a piece of low comedy: for the one on the left Mr. Edward Terry might have sat. The secretary sits at the bottom of the table, with his back to us, and the chairman, with capacious stomach, at the top. Blotton, whom Mr. Pickwick rather unhandsomely described as a “vain and disappointed haberdasher,” may have followed this business. He is an ill-looking fellow enough, with black, bushy whiskers. The Pickwickians are decidedly the most gentlemanly of the party. But why was it necessary for Mr. Pickwick to stand upon a chair? This, however, may have been a custom of the day at free and easy meetings.

“Posthumous papers” moreover, did not correctly describe the character of the Book, for the narrative did not profess to be founded on documents at all. He was, however, committed to this title by his early announcement, and indeed intended to carry out a device of using Snodgrass’s “Note Books,” whose duty it was during the course of the adventures to take down diligently all that he observed. But this cumbrous fiction was discarded after a couple of numbers. “Posthumous papers” had been used some ten years before, in another work.

Almost every page save perhaps a dismal story or two in the 609 pages of Pickwick is good; but there are two or three passages which are obscure, if not forced in humour. Witness Mr. Bantam’s recognition of Mr. Pickwick, as the gentleman residing on Clapham Green not yet Common “who lost the use of his limbs from imprudently taking cold after port wine, who could not be moved in consequence of acute suffering, and who had the water from the King’s Bath bottled at 103 degrees, and sent by waggon to his bedroom in Town; when he bathed, sneezed, and same day recovered.” This is grotesque enough and farcical, but without much meaning. On another occasion we are told that Tupman was casting certain “Anti-Pickwickian glances” at the servant maids, which is unmeaning. No doubt, Un-Pickwickian was intended.

Why is there no “Pickwick Club” in London? It might be worth trying, and would be more successful than even the Johnson Club. There is surely genuine “stuff” to work on. Our friends in America, who are Pickwickian quand meme, have established the “All-Around Dickens Club.” The members seem to be ladies, though there are a number of honorary members of the other sex, which include members of “Boz’s” own family, with Mr. Kitton, Mr. W. Hughes, Mr. Charles Kent, myself, and some more. The device of the club is “Boz’s” own book-plate, and the “flower” of the club is his favourite geranium. The President is Mrs. Adelaide Garland; and some very interesting papers, to judge from their titles, have been read, such as “Bath and its Associations with Landor,” “The City of Bristol with its Literary Associations,” “The Excursion to the Tea Gardens of Hampstead,” prefaced by a description of the historic old inn, “Poem by Charles Kent,” “Dickens at Gad’s Hill,” “A Description of Birmingham, its Institutions, and Dickens’ Interest therein”; with a “Reading of Mr. Pickwick’s Mission to Birmingham, Coventry and the adjacent Warwickshire Country,” etc. There is also a very clever series of examination questions by the President in imitation of Calverley’s.

“Had Mr. Pickwick loved?” Mr. Lang asks; “it is natural to believe that he had never proposed, never. His heart, however bruised, was neither broken nor embittered.” His temperament was certainly affectionate if not absolutely amatory: he certainly never missed an opportunity where a kiss was practicable.

But stay! has anyone noted that on the wall of his room at Dulwich, there hangs the portrait of a lady just over this might seem to mean something. But on looking close, we see it is the dear filial old fellow’s mother. A striking likeness, and she has spectacles like her celebrated son.

As all papers connected with the Pickwick era are scarce and meagre for the reason that no one was then thinking of “Boz”; any that have come down to us are specially interesting. Here are a few “pieces,” which will be welcomed by all Pickwickians. The first is a letter of our author to his publishers.

“Furnival’s Inn,
“Friday Morning.

“DEAR SIR, I am very glad to find I shall have the pleasure of celebrating Mr. Pickwick’s success with you on Sunday. When you have sufficiently recovered from the fatigues of publication, will you just let me know from your books how we stand. Drawing 10 pounds one day, and 20 pounds another, and so forth, I have become rather mystified, and jumbled up our accounts in my brain, in a very incomprehensible state.

“Faithfully yours,
“CHARLES DICKENS.”

This must have been written at the conclusion of the story in 1837, and is in a very modest tone considering how triumphant had been the success. Connected with this is a paper of yet more interest, a receipt for payment for one of the early numbers.

{Manuscript of a letter by Dickens: p88.jpg}

For this Pickwickian Banquet, he had reluctantly to give up one at the home of his new friend Forster. In an unpublished letter, he writes to him as “Dear Sir” the beginning of a four-and-thirty years’ friendship “I have been so much engaged in the pleasing occupation of moving.” He was unable to go to his new friend to dinner because he had been “long engaged to the Pickwick publishers to a dinner in honour of that hero, which comes off to-morrow.”

In an interesting letter of Dickens’ Pickwickian ones are rare sold at Hodgson’s rooms, July, 1895, he writes: “Mr. Seymour shot himself before the second number of the Pickwick papers, not the third as you would have it, was published. While he lay dead, it was necessary the search should be made in his working room for the plates to the second number, the day for publication of which was drawing near. The plates were found unfinished, with their faces turned to the wall.” This scrap brought 12 pounds 10s. Apropos of prices, who that was present will forget the scene at Christie’s when the six “Pickwick Ladles” were sold? These were quaint things, like enlarged Apostle Spoons, and the figures well modelled. They had been made specially, and presented to “Boz” on the conclusion of his story, by his publishers. The Pickwick Ladle brought 69 pounds. Jingle, 30 pounds. Winkle, 23 pounds. Sam, 64 pounds. Old Weller, 51 pounds; and the Fat Boy, 35 pounds 14s., or over 280 pounds in all. Nay, the leather case was put up, and brought three guineas. We recall Andrew Halliday displaying one to us, with a sort of triumph. Charles Dickens, the younger, got two, I think; Messrs. Agnew the others.