Thursday, March 31, 2016

Pickwick Papers Read-Along Check-in #1: March 2016

As you may already be aware, Behold the Stars is hosting 
a Read-Along for Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers
All my updates/postings will be listed on my page here.
And you can get the details and register for the event here.
This first reading installment included only the first two chapters. 
To the left is the cover image on the library copy 
that I currently have checked out. 
I do realize that I'll not be able to keep this same copy 
throughout all 21 months of this read-along event.
At some point in the future, once my renewals have been exhausted on this copy, I will need to decide whether to purchase a copy of my own or just return this one and check it out again. 
But that is a small matter. 
More important is the fact that I have read this month's installment and was very...surprised! Pleasantly so!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading these 32 pages!
So far this book has made me laugh out loud quite often! 
My husband even wanted to know what I was
reading that would make me laugh so much!
This edition is part of The Oxford Illustrated Dickens series and includes a 5-page introduction written by Bernard Darwin in March 1947. Within the first paragraph he states
There are qualities in which some of Dickens's later books 
excelled Pickwick, but they are those in which other writers 
equalled or excelled Dickens. Pickwick is richest in the qualities 
in which Dickens excelled all the other writers... (v)
He elaborates upon the fact that this one book is considered by many to be totally unique and different from all other Dickens's books--literally in a class by itself in comparison. 
In what may seem amazing to us now, 
Dickens was not even the publisher's first choice for this project, 
but thank goodness two others did not accept the offer, 
and Pickwick was born! 
This book is known for its "absence of plot," so 
I am expecting an emphasis on the characterization or 
           what I would call "a slice of life" throughout this book. 
                                            I like that prospect!
Darwin finishes this descriptive critique with accolades to Dickens's ability to develop minor characters who 
"impress themselves for ever on the memory."
After reading Darwin's Introduction, I feel as if 
this book is definitely 'in my wheelhouse'!
Dickens himself 'hooks' me in the Preface when he states
...the universal diffusion of common means of decency and health is as much the right of the poorest of the poor, as it is indispensable to the safety of the rich, and of the State... (xiv)

Chapter 1 opens with Samuel Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C. (General Chairman--Member, Pickwick Club) presenting his paper entitled 'Speculations on the Source of the Hampstead Ponds, with some Observations on the Theory of Tittlebats'! *At this point I'm thinking to myself, "Ah...farcical!" That was at the end of the third paragraph and as I continued reading, that first reaction was confirmed...repeatedly! :)* The minutes show that the officer presiding over this particular meeting was Joseph Smiggers, Esq., P.V.P.M.P.C. (Perpetual Vice-President--Member Pickwick Club)! Ha! Ha! Perpetual. Vice. President. And that name! Smiggers! Ha! Ha! I still laugh when I reread it! Or rather, I 'snigger'! Points for honesty in that 'official' title. Mr. Pickwick has proposed a 'committee' as such be formed. Smiggers announces:
'That the said proposal has received the sanction and approval of this Association.
That the Corresponding Society of the Pickwick Club is therefore hereby constituted; 
and that Samuel Pickwick, Esq, G.C.M.P.C., Tracy Tupman, Esq., M.P.C. [M.P.C. = Member Pickwick Club], Augustus Snodgrass, Esq., M.P.C., and Nathaniel Winkle, Esq., M.P.C., 
are hereby nominated and appointed members of the same; and that they be requested to forward, from time to time, authenticated accounts of their journeys and investigations, 
of their observations of character and manners, and of the whole of their adventures, 
together with all tales and papers to which local scenery or associations may give rise, 
to the Pickwick Club, stationed in London.' (2)
Here, I believe in this paragraph, is probably a more than adequate summary of what we will read about in the remaining 799 pages of this book! At this point I'm just hoping it doesn't become totally absurd and nonsensical. As the club members are calling out "Pickwick," 
"that illustrious man slowly mounted into the Windsor chair, on which 
he had been previously seated, and addressed the club himself had founded." (3)
Ah, well, that might explain a lot! Pickwick himself founded this "illustrious" society! 
I can only believe this is a means for satisfying his oversized ego! So, of course his own proposal to his own buddies was sanctioned and approved! ;) I'm already enjoying this! The meeting proceeds with audience cheers and hoots and hollers as Pickwick speaks and when one member, Mr. Blotton, calls him a                                  "humbug," the man explains that 

                     "he had used the word in its 
  Pickwickian sense...he had merely 
considered him a humbug in a 
Pickwickian point of view."  (5)
Ah! Well then, that was sure a relief as Mr. Pickwick reportedly 
felt much gratified by the fair, candid, and full explanation of his honourable friend. (5)
Wha...?? Oh, well, that must just be the "Pickwickian" way! 

Chapter 2 sees our esteemed previously named four esquires begin their journey the very next day. Pickwick begins his copious note-taking while riding in the cab and speaking with driver about the horse, which is supposedly 42 years old and out working 2-3 weeks at a time due to his "weakness" of falling down when not being braced and held upright by the harness apparatus! Once they reach Golden Cross, the cab driver accuses Pickwick of being an "informer" and attacks him, arousing the crowd that gathers regarding "informers." A stranger intervenes, dragging Pickwick away and ending the confrontation. As it turns out, this man is headed to the same destination as our four adventurers, so they end up traveling together. And this "loquacious" stranger provides plenty of entertainment...he NEVER shuts up! And his speech pattern is consistently sentence fragments strung together in a very choppy manner, so I can see how listeners would need to concentrate to understand him. 

Although this 'Mr. Jingle' (as he is identified only in asides) claims to have luggage being shipped, "packing cases, nailed up--big as houses--heavy, heavy, damned heavy," he seems to have a penchant for leaving the other four to pay for things and his clothing is obviously ill-fitting and rather dirty. He strikes up a conversation with Mr. Pickwick once the coach is moving...
'I am ruminating,' said Mr. Pickwick, "on the strange mutability of human affairs.'
...'Philosopher, sir?'
'An observer of human nature, sir,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Ah, so am I. Most people are when they've little to do and less to get.' (13)
It was at this point that I seriously began to question this stranger's true motivation for hanging out with the Pickwickians. And I am wondering even more so that none of these four esquires is questioning his presence. The stranger joins them for drinks and keeps guzzling down the wine, also refilling everyone else's glasses. With the others asleep, the stranger talks Mr. Tupman into attending an Assembly being held in their lodging. It is a ball to raise money for charity. Tupman finally agrees and allows the stranger to 'borrow' some decent clothing. However, this kindness results in Mr. Winkle being called out to a dual the very next day by an 'injured party,' from the night before. Winkle is identified by his "bright blue dress coat, with a gilt button with P.C. on it." P.C. of course representing Pickwick Club! 
This all seems so downright silly as I review it, but it works for me!
It is entertaining and it makes me laugh!
So glad to have discovered this read-along!
If you haven't read this one, are you convinced to give it a try?
Details and registration here.
Behold the Stars' posting for this first check-in is here.


  1. I'm glad you're enjoying it. I found the first chapter a little hard-going at first, but I actually ended up re-reading it, and it is very funny. All so very serious :) I'm really looking forward to the next three chapters!

    1. I actually re-read the first chapter a total of three times. Each at a different "sitting" and that helped me get into the language, etc. before continuing on. Yes, all so very serious! ;)

  2. I too had difficulty getting into the first chapter. I love the comical tone.