Thursday, June 30, 2016

Pickwick Papers Read-Along Check-in #4: June 2016

In case you haven't discovered it yet, Behold the Stars is hosting a
180th Anniversary Read-Along of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.
This book was published in a serial format, 2-3 chapters per month.
And that is exactly how we are reading it, just as it was published 180 years ago!
Cool, huh? I am really enjoying this. It is a fun ride!
And though I do understand it is not typical Dickens fare, I am still thrilled
that I will have actually read a Charles Dickens book!
Here is the reading schedule, as well as prior posts, 
and a bit of background regarding my own reticence to read Dickens.
For June we read Chapters 9-11. 
I always laugh or at least chuckle aloud at least several times during each chapter I read. 
I love a book that can entertain me with humor! 
I can use such books to offset all the more intense, dramatic reads!

So...this is the fourth installment of this Read-Along, 
which means my library book had to be returned, 
since I had used the two renewals. 
I really wanted to just purchase a copy since I knew 
I would be reading it for more than a year! 
I took a chance and called Half Price Books and they had 
a copy of the Oxford Illustrated edition for only $4.99 
AND there was a 20% off discount in effect, 
so I paid just a bit more than $4.00 for a copy 
that has never even been read--brand-new and unused! 
Whoo! Whoo! 
My book bargain of the month, I'd say! :)

If you'll recall we left our Pickwickian buddies at Manor Farm.
Mr. Jingle had just swindled Mr. Tupman out of ten pounds...and something else... :)

Just as Mr. Wardle and all the guests are seating themselves for supper, the servants announce that Mr. Jingle and Miss Rachael have run off together. Wardle is livid and must be restrained from attacking poor Joe, whom he feels has betrayed him, and immediately sets out to give chase to the couple. 
'Don't let him go alone!' screamed the females. 'He'll kill somebody!' 
'I'll go with him,' said Mr. Pickwick. (111)
I had to chuckle to myself, thinking this really was a sacrifice for Pickwick--he does love to eat, but he willingly sacrificed his supper to accompany Wardle. That is devotion! 

They ride through the night, chasing after the elusive couple and finally catch site of the "chaise and four" and Wardle keeps yelling at the coachmen to ride hard and fast, promising to pay the boys "two guineas apiece" if they catch up to that chaise...but as they draw near...their own chaise crashes. 
...Mr. Jingle was contemplating the wreck from [his] 
coach window, with evident satisfaction...
'Hallo!' shouted the shamelss Jingle, 'anybody damaged?--elderly gentlemen--no light weights--dangerous work--very.'
'You're a rascal!' roared Wardle.
'Ha! ha!' replied Jingle; and then he added, 
with a knowing wink, and a jerk of the thumb 
towards the interior of the chaise--'I say--she's very well--desires her compliments--begs you won't trouble yourself--love to Tuppy--won't you get up behind?--drive on, boys.' (116)
Ah...he is a scoundrel, is he not? :)
Nothing in the whole adventure, not even the upset, had disturbed the calm and equable current
of Mr. Pickwick's temper. The villainy, however, which could first borrow money of his faithful follower, and then abbreviate his name to 'Tuppy', was more than he could patiently bear. 
He drew his breath hard, and coloured up to the very tips of his spectacles, as he said, 
slowly and emphatically--
"If I ever meet that man again, I'll--' (117) 
But Wardle is determined to stop them before they can get to London and obtain a marriage license, so he steps off to walk the 6 miles to the next stage. Did I mention it was pouring rain? Yep! Quite a nice stroll, that! But at least the sun has risen and they can walk in the daylight! And, yes, they haven't eaten last night's supper, nor have they slept! :)

I love the title of Chapter X, "Clearing up all Doubts (if any existed) of the Disinterestedness of Mr. Jingle's Character!" Huh. :) In the first five paragraphs Dickens demonstrates his marvelously 'visual' descriptive skills. For example, while giving a bit of history of inns, 
It was in the yard of one of these inns--of no less celebrated 
a one than the White Hart--that a man was busily employed 
in brushing the dirt off a pair of boots...He was habited in a coarse-striped waistcoat, with balck calico sleeves 
and blue glass buttons; drab breeches and leggings. 
A bright red handkerchief was wound in a very loose and unstudied style round his neck, and an old white hat 
was carelessly thrown on one side of his head. 
There were two rows of boots before him, one cleaned and 
the other, and at every addition he made to the clean row, 
he paused from his work, and contemplated its results 
with evident satisfaction.  (118)
This is the person of Mr. Samuel Weller. It would appear that Mr. Weller has learned many skills in his tenure as shoe-shiner at the White Hart Inn! Mr. Wardle and Mr. Pickwick have brought "legal counsel" with them, and he must assert himself constantly by interrupting the other two gentlemen's attempts to get information from Sam, who is, remarkably, able to list all those "in the house" by their footware! It is by the brown Muggleton lady's shoes that Wardle confirms his sister, Miss Rachael, is here. Mr. Jingle is identified by "Wellingtons a good deal worn," who, Sam informs them, has has gone off to the "Doctors' Commons" for a "licence." At this revelation, they follow Sam to the appropriate room and rush in, just as Mr. Jingle is entering through another door, with marriage licence in hand... 
I prefer this color illustration,
though, of course, all are
black and white in the book. 

Wardle yells threats at Mr. Jingle, as well as ringing the service bell. He immediately orders for a hackney-coach to be brought 'round so he can 'rescue' his sister, Miss Rachael. 
'Cert'nly sir,' replied Sam, who had answered Wardle's 
violent ringing of the bell with a degree of celerity which 
must have appeared marvellous to anybody who didn't know 
that his eye had been applied to the outside 
of the keyhole during the whole interview. (127)
Ah, yes, he definitely has additional skills to shoe-shining! Of course, Miss Rachael keeps shrieking and 'nearly fainting' during this whole event, but particularly following this exchange:
'Leave the room, sir--no business here--lady's free to act 
as she pleases--more than one-and-twenty.'
'More than one-and-twenty!' ejaculated Wardle, contemptuously. 'More than one-and-forty!'
'I an't,' said the spinster aunt, her indignation getting the better of her determination to faint.
'You are,' said Wardle, 'you're fifty if you're an hour.'
Here the spinster aunt uttered a loud shriek, and became senseless.
'A glass of water,' said the humane Pickwick, summoning the landlady.
'A glass of water!' said the passionate Wardle. 'Bring a bucket, and throw it all on her; 
it'll do her good, and she richly deserves it.' (127) really! Who can blame the poor old dear. I imagine no male probably ever pays attention to her, so of course she was 'swept off her feet'! It's understandable! 

Once Jingle has been paid off, as he is leaving,
...the unabashed Jingle [says] 'Bye bye, Pickwick.'
If any dispassionate spectator could have beheld the countenance of the illustrious man, 
whose name forms the leading  feature of the title of this work, during the latter part of this conversation, he would have been almost induced to wonder that the indignant fire 
which flashed from his eyes, did not melt the glasses of his spectacles--so majestic was his wrath. His nostrils dilated, and his fists clenched involuntarily, as he heard himself addressed 
by the villain. But he restrained himself again--he did not pulverise him. (130)
Majestic wrath? Ha! Ha! But seriously, I am uncertain poor Pickwick could "pulverise" anyone! Though he did end up hurling the inkstand at Jingle as he was leaving the room, leaving an inkstain on the wall. Sam restrained Pickwick as he attempted to give chase to the villain. This paragraph made me laugh! Another brilliant illustration of Dickens' descriptive skills...and humor! 

Oh, the drama with which Chapter XI begins! Pickwick and Wardle return to Manor Farm with Miss Rachael in tow, but it seems Tracy Tupman (or "Tuppy," per Mr. Jingle) has left Manor Farm, but not without leaving a note behind. 
'Any letter, addressed to me at the Leather Bottle, Cobham, Kent, will be forwarded--
supposing I still exist. I hasten from the sight of that world, which has become odious to me. Should I hasten from it altogether, pity--forgive me. Life, my dear Pickwick, 
has become insupportable to me. The spirit which burns within us, is a porter's knot, 
on which to rest the heavy load of worldly cares and troubles; and when that spirit fails us, 
the burden is too heavy to be borne. We sink beneath it. 
You may tell Rachael--Ah, that name!-- (133)
I chuckled all the way through this letter! They immediately depart to rejoin Mr. Tupman and continue on their adventures. 

It is while in another village that Pickwick discovers 
a strange and curious inscription of unquestionable antiquity, which had wholly escaped 
the observation of the many learned men who had preceded him. 
He could hardly trust the evidence of his senses. (138)
Again we have Dickens inserted a 'story,' this given to him by a clergyman, entitled A Madman's Manuscript, involving a girl sacrificed into marriage to a rich 'madman', simply to relieve the poverty of her "white-headed" father and her "haughty brothers." The man does try to kill his wife, with a razor, and manages to very nearly choke his brother-in-law to death, running away in that last minute and awakens in a cell. Can we say "unreliable narrator"? Anyone?!? And now...back to the momentous Pickwickian discovery! It is a carved stone Pickwick spied mostly buried by one cottage's front door in the last village of their journey before returning to London. Pickwick, not being the least bit modest, the opposite in fact endeavors to publish his finding in any way possible, though the 'carver' himself admits he was basically just goofing off and playing around when he carved this stone. There is no secret code, etc., as Pickwick had expected... However, the truth doesn't forego any argumentative conversations, no ongoing and strong and, Pickwick wins out in the end even if he is fraudulently proclaiming this to be a great discovery!
And to this day the stone remains, an illegible monument of Mr. Pickwick's greatness,
and a lasting trophy to the littleness of his enemies. (149)
This last chapter ended with an appropriate proclamation of Pickwick's "greatness" as he continues to discuss and publicize information regarding his "antiquarian discover"!

Again, this book is so absurd as to be entertaining and funny!

I am enjoying this read-along so very much!

Have you ever read this one, or any other Dickens?

I would love to know a favorite 
I might pick up to read
following The Pickwick Club!

Happy reading, y'all!

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