Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Pickwick Papers Read-Along Check-in #3: May 2016

 This event is the brainchild of Behold the Stars
We are reading The Pickwick Papers exactly as others did 180 years ago!
This was published in a serial format, so every month another 2-3 chapters
were published and readers had to wait until next month for the next installment.
It is fun to think that we are replicating history in this regard and 
that I will have finally read a Dickens book! 
Here is my Read-Along page where you can view the reading schedule 
as well as read a bit about my reticence with regard to Dickens. 
I do realize that this book is not especially typical for this author. 
In fact, I believe it safe to say it is considered 
to be rather an outlier among his published works.
Which is sad, since I am immensely enjoying his humor!

I believe I have mentioned before that 
I truly appreciate this Oxford Illustrated edition 
I checked out from the library. 
I highly recommend it! 
This month we are reading Chapters VI-VIII.
We find our four gentlemen, Messrs. Pickwick, 
Snodgrass, Tupman, and Winkle, being introduced and introduced to all those already esconced at Manor Farm. 
It seems to be quite a diverse crew, headed by the matriarch 
and owner of Manor Farm, Mr. Wardle's mother. 
Although she is unable to hear much of anything, 
talk of card playing gets her full attention! 

As they play, I was reminded of playing euchre with my ex-husband. I despised playing with him as my partner, and learned early on not to do so. I would always try to have someone else as my partner, 'cause he just didn't care. He. Would. Play. Anything! Seriously, anything! While I didn't care about winning/losing, I did want to play the best game I could play, given my cards and the order of play. So I could rather relate to the fat gentleman's frustrations with Mr. Miller. Though these Pickwickians evidently take their card-playing quite seriously!
The rubber was conducted with all the gravity of deportment and sedateness of demeanour 
which befit the pursuit entitled 'whist'--a solemn observance, to which, as it appears to us, 
the title of 'game' has been very irreverently and ignonimously applied...Mr. Miller...
not being quite so much absorbed as he ought to have been, contrived to commit 
various high crimes and misdemeanors, which excited 
the wrath of the fat gentleman to a very great extent... (69)
I was literally laughing out loud as I read this passage! Dickens' use of such pretentious language is so funny! 

At one point, the clergyman, by popular request, tells of "the convict's return." There was a man who was mean and nasty with absolutely no friends.
...I do firmly and in my soul believe, that the man systematically tried for many years to break her [his wife's] heart; but she bore it all for her child's sake, and, however strange it may seem to many, for his father's too; for brute as he was and cruelly as he had treated her, she had loved him once; and the recollection of what he had been to her, awakened feelings of forebearance and meekness under suffering in her bosom, to which all God's creatures, but women, are strangers. (74)
Mrs. Edmunds and her son regularly attended church, though they were "both poorly dressed--much more so that many of their neighbours who were in a lower station--they were always neat and clean." The boy is convicted of crimes and imprisoned and the mother dies not long after this event. Some 17 years later the "convict" returns to a different village, with no one he can recognize. As he walks through the churchyard...
The man's heart swelled as he crossed the stile. The tall old elms, through whose branches the declining sun cast her and there a rich ray of light upon the shady path, awakened the associations of his earliest days. He pictured himself as he was then, clinging to his mother's hand, and walking peacefully to church. He remembered how he used to look up into her pale face; and how her eyes would sometimes fill with tears as she gazed upon his features--tears which fell hot upon his forehead as she stooped to kiss him, and made him weep, too, although he little knew then what bitter tears hers were. (78)
Dickens could certainly write! 
The last soft light of the setting sun had fallen on the earth, casting a rich glow on the yellow corn sheaves, and lengthening the shadows of the orchard trees, as he stood before the old house--
the home of his infancy--to which his heart had yearned with an intensity of affection 
not to be described, through long and weary years of captivity and sorrow.  (81)
Though he did see his father and initially grabbed him by the throat, "his arm fell powerless by his side." For he was, after all, his father. The old man did end up dying then and there from a "ruptured blood vessel," however. He worked for the clergyman for three years before dying and being buried in the corner of the churchyard, with no one other than the clergyman being aware of his identity. This is the second rather morbid story Dickens has inserted into this rather nonsensical absurdity of a book. I kinda wonder why, except perhaps to insert some bit of 'reality,' morbid as it may be? 

Upon rising the next morning at Manor Farm, 
The rich, sweet smell of the hayricks rose to his chamber window; the hundred perfumes of the little flower-garden beneath scented the air around; the deep-green meadows shone in the morning dew that glistened on every leaf as it trembled in the gentle air: and the birds sang as if every sparkling drop were a fountain of inspiration to them. Mr. Pickwick fell into an enchanting and delicious reverie. (82)
At this point I grew quite nostalgic for my own version of country life from the past! On this same morning, we find all four gentlemen called out to accompany their he prepares to go "rook-shooting" with none other than Mr. Winkle! Winkle again! When Mr. Pickwick is asked to confirm Winkle as "a very good shot," he replies
I've heard him say he's a capital one, but I never saw him aim at anything." (83)
I'm thinking to myself, "Uh-oh..." Later, at his host's urging, 
Mr. Winkle...took up the spare gun with an expression of countenance which a metaphysical rook, impressed with a foreboding of his approaching death by violence, may be supposed to assume. It might have been keenness, but it looked remarkably like misery. (83-84)
Ha! I sense disaster in the offing... Winkle finally shoots, and
There was a scream as of an individual--not a rook--in corporeal anguish. Mr. Tupman had saved the lives of innumerable unoffending birds by receiving a portion of the charge in his left arm. 
To describe the confusion that ensued would be impossible. (85)
But then of course Dickens does just that! We get all the details in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, including how Mr. Tupman "opened first one eye, and then the other, and then fell back and shut them both..." Ha! The drama!! 

The boys all head into town for a grand cricket match, sans Mr. Tupman, of course, who was unable to accompany them due to his shooting wound, and the ministrations of the spinster aunt which he wouldn't miss for the world... And whom do they run into but "Jingle--Alfred Jingle, Esq., of No hall, Nowhere!" Again! I'm convinced this Jingle will be wherever the Pickwickians are forever into the future--he is a moocher extraordinaire who has found his 'marks'! :) These men proved to be some real party animals, toasting each other seemingly for hours, etc. It is during this time that Mr. Tupman sets his sights on one female of the group:
The young ladies were pretty, their manners winning, 
their dispositions unexceptionable; 
but there was a dignity in the air, 
a touch-me-not-ishness in the walk, 
a majesty in the eye of the spinster aunt, to which, 
at their time of life, they could lay no claim, 
which distinguished her from any female 
on whom Mr. Tupman had ever gazed. 
That there was something kindred in their nature, 
something congenial in their souls, 
something mysteriously sympathetic in their bosoms, 
was evident. (96)
However, Mr. Tupman decided he must know,  
...had her agitation arisen from an amiable and 
feminine sensibility which would have been 
equally irrepressible in any case;
or had it been called forth by a more ardent 
and passionate feeling, which he, 
of all men living, could alone awaken? (96)
Oh, yeah...I'm laughing out loud again! 

That was SOME "salmon'!
Finally, at about 1AM the males return to 'the fold'/Forest Manor--"under the influence of the 'salmon,'" so they say! This, following the Fat Boy's discovery of Mr. Tupman and the spinster aunt in a rather compromising position on the arbour seat in the garden! Mr. Jingle impresses all the females by being charming and ingratiating, particularly in contrast to the drunken obnoxious behaviors of his 'friends,' who had not had nearly as much to drink as had he. (This Jingle could obviously hold his liquor, huh?) :) And he is the first down to breakfast the next morning, entertaining all the 'girls,' much to Mr. Tupman's chagrin! Once the old lady is made aware of Miss Rachael's (her own daughter's) misbehavior with Mr. Tupman, she is appalled and angry! As Mr. Jingle overhears this conversation, he resolves to use it to his advantage to win over the spinster aunt, Miss Rachael, just as he had decided to do upon meeting her the prior evening, especially as he "had more than a strong suspicion that she possess that most desirable of all requisites, a small independence." Ah, yes, this guy's a real swindler, just as I had suspected! He is a sly rascal who lies to them both in order to extract his own 'rewards,' not the least of which is the ten pounds he 'borrows' from Mr. Tupman, promising to repay him in three days' time. Uh-huh...sure...

Ah, to what hilarity and drama will we be treated in the 
next three chapters IX-XII next month? 

I'm assured to laugh, at least once in reading three more chapters! 


  1. I loved the card game too - that was genius, Dickens at his best! And the 'salmon incident' too - loved it :) This was a great instalment, really looking forward to the fourth :D

    1. You were so wise to cite the cliffhanger Dickens provides at the very end of Chapter VIII! It was quite effective, IMHO! I am so excited because I have located a used copy of the Oxford Illustrated edition, a duplicate of the one I had initially checked out from the library for under $5! I'll pick it up tomorrow and should be set for the remainder of the read-along! :) Thanks for stopping by!