Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Pickwick Papers Read-Along Check-In #5: July 2016

 Though I dutifully (and enjoyably, as always) read chapters 12-14 last week,
I am just now getting to my posting for them! 
Don't forget that this Read-Along is hosted by Behold the Stars!
I adore the fact that we are rereading this work in the exact way it was published 
(2-3 chapters per month) 180 years ago! Cool!
You can read all previous posts and further information about this event here.
You can also check out O's review here.
Her review provides me with much more understanding of Dickens' referents, etc.
And with no further ado...we proceed!

The Pickwickians (sans Mr. Tupman who remained back at Manor Farm) rescued
Miss Rachael from the hands of 'Jingle' and all returned to Manor Farm, 
only to find that Mr. Tupman had left, though he was thoughtful enough 
to leave a quite melodramatic note, listing his new location. :)
(These guys are all too funny!)
The four adventurers are soon reunited!

We find Mr. Pickwick pacing "to and fro with hurried steps" in "his rooms" as he obviously awaits someone's arrival, "popp[ing] his head out of the window at intervals of about three minutes each" and "constantly referr[ing] to his watch." We learn he has sent "the boy" on an errand and anxiously awaits his return. As he speaks with his landlady, Mrs. Bardell, she vastly misinterprets his determination, impatient attitude, and intent as he asks,
'Do you think it a much greater expense to keep two people than to keep one?' 
'That depends...upon the person, you know, Mr. Pickwick; 
and whether it's a saving and careful person, sir.'
'That's very true...but the person I have in my eye (here he looked very hard at Mrs. Bardell) I think possesses these qualities; and has, moreover, a considerable knowledge of the world, and a great deal of sharpness, Mrs. Bardell; which may be of material use to me.' (151)
As Pickwick continues to talk about her own son now having a companion and she herself having some company, she believes that this man whom she has 
"long worshipped...at a distance" is finally 
proposing marriage! In the aftermath of her excitement and Mr. Pickwick's confusion and befuddlement, she 
faints right into the man's arms! This, just as 
'Master Bardell' (the son/boy) enters the room, 
ushering in Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and 
Mr. Snodgrass. Immediately perceiving his mother as 
victim of an attack, 'Master Bardell' commences to 
kick Mr. Pickwick with all his might!

They finally manage to control the boy and lead Mrs. Bardell down the stairs, as Pickwick muses...
'I cannot conceive what has been the matter with that woman. I merely announced to her my intention of keeping a man-servant, when she fell into the extraordinary paroxysm in which you found her. Very extraordinary thing.'
'Very,' said his three friends.
'Placed me in such an extremely awkward situation,' continued Mr. Pickwick.
'Very,' was the reply of his followers, as they coughed slightly, and looked dubiously at each other.
Their behaviour was not lost upon Mr. Pickwick. He remarked their incredulity.
They evidently suspected him. (153-154)
It is then that a man has appears "in the passage," and it is none other than Mr. Samuel Weller, whom they had met at the White Hart Inn where Jingle had taken Miss Rachael. And this man accepts the position as Mr. Pickwick's man-servant immediately. I am thinking to myself that he may have bitten off a bit more than he can chew, since it's rather obvious he will be serving all four of these men when they travel, not just Pickwick. But he seems happy with the arrangement! For now, anyway! :) The next morning, he comments,
'I wonder whether I'm meant to be a footman, or a groom, 
or a gamekeeper, or a seedsman.
I looks like a sort of compo of every one of 'em. 
Never mind; there's change of air, plenty to see, 
                                                                      and little to do; and all this suits my complaint uncommon; 
                                                                so long life to the Pickwicks, says I!' (156)

Their next adventure takes these four Pickwickians to the Borough of Eatanswill for the local Parliamentary elections. (Now, immediately upon seeing this name, I am thinking "Eat and Swill," since that it how it sounds when you say it aloud. And we are given this long-winded explanation that those who were writing this using the original Pickwickian papers, were unable to ever locate any evidence of this Borough's existence! lol) So, this sounds much like the U.S. political scene today: there were two parties, the 'Blues' and the 'Buffs,' and virtually "everything in Eatanswill was made a party question." In other words, there were always divisions about any and all issues, strictly along party lines. (Yep! Definitely sounds familiar, doesn't it?) Upon their arrival, these four are rather confused as to which party they should show loyalty. At one point the crowd sets up a roar "like that of a whole menagerie when the elephant has rung the bell for cold meat." :)

Pickwick declares allegiance to the 'Blues,' same as his friend Mr. Perker, and they are given lodgings, though in two different locations, due to limited availability of beds at the inn. They learn that one party has sequestered (perhaps held captive would be a more accurate description) 33 voters in the coach-house and one party has bribed the women 45 women with new green parasols, and each of them has supposedly "secured all [the votes of] their husbands, and half their brothers" for the respective party as a consequence of gifting such "finery." Some of them have a plot afoot to actually drug some of the men by adding laudanum to their drinks, leaving them unconscious and thereby unable to vote until 12 hours after the election! Sheesh! You would think the person elected would serve as the King of England, wouldn't you? They will stop at nothing to win! It is at this point that Sam Weller tells Pickwick of his father's experience driving a coach down here. He was hired by one of the parties to bring down a coachload of voters from London, then bribed by the other party to make sure his coach tipped over at just the right time as to deposit all these voters in the canal. And that's exactly what happened! (Sam tells this story as if it is unbelievable that such an accident should have been foreseen by the man in advance... I'm thinking to myself, "Yeah, right!" That old guy, Sam's father had accepted their money and followed through by tipping the coach's occupants into the canal! lol)  These men believe their own election "contest excites great interest in the metropolis" of London! Pickwick confirms this. Of Mr. Pott, we learn,
All men whom mighty genius has raised to a proud eminence in the world, 
have usually some little weakness which appears the more conspicuous from the contrast 
it presents to their general character. If Mr. Pott had a weakness, it was, perhaps, 
that he was rather too submissive to the somewhat contemptuous control and sway of his wife. 
We do not feel justified in laying any particular stress upon the fact, because on the present  occasion all Mrs. Pott's winning ways were brought into requisition 
to receive the two gentleman. (163)
I laughed as I read this, because, of course, by mentioning this they are "laying...particular stress upon the fact"! :) Mr. Pickwick and Winkle are introduced as the house guests. (I was rather wondering at this juncture what had become of Weller, the new "man-servant.") I love the interplay of Mr. and Mrs. Pott. She will say to him, "P. my dear" and he will respond "My life." Too funny! 

Mr. Pott insists on sharing various "leaders" he had written for the Gazette for 1828, and Pickwick agrees that he "should like to hear them very much, indeed." Though they find no direct comments from Pickwick in his notebook later regarding these "leaders," Mr. Winkle had 
recorded the fact that his eyes were closed, as if with excess of pleasure, 
during the whole time of their perusal. (165)
Again, I am laughing! Definitely sounds as if Pickwick slept through the "perusal" of these "leaders" by Pott, doesn't it? :) Mrs. Pott confides to Mr. Winkle 
Mr. Pickwick was 'a delightful old dear.' These terms convey a familiarity of expression, 
in which few of those who were intimately acquainted with that colossal-minded man, 
would have presumed to indulge. We have preserved them, nevertheless, as affording at once a touching and a convincing proof of the estimation in which he was held by every class of society,
and the ease with which he made his way to their hearts and feelings. (165)
Okay, I admit, I am laughing and shaking my head, what an ego! ;) 

Mr. Snodgrass and Tupman are esconced at the Peacock and in the common room they are treated to "The Bagman's Story" as told them by a fellow traveler. "Tom Smart, of the great house of Bilson and Slum, Cateaton Street, City" was out on a "little neck-or-nothing sort of gig, with a clay-coloured body and red wheels," pulled by a "vixenish, ill-tempered, fast-going bay mare, that looked like a cross between a butcher's horse and a two-penny post-office pony" late one windy and very rainy night when he comes to a house for the night. Inside, of course (*wink wink*) is the widow who owns the house. The only thing wrong with this picture? This widow happens to have a suitor who has established himself in the house and is expected to marry the widow and thereby have the house for his own. Now, Tom, decides he wants this house, and the widow for his very own. It is during that night as he tries to sleep that the chair in his room comes to life, as an old man, and speaks to him, telling him the location of an unknown letter describing the suitor as a married man who had abandoned his family. Needless to say, the widow disowned the suitor, Tom tossed him out of the house a half hour later, and married the widow a month later. 
'Will you allow me to ask you," said the inquisitive old gentleman, 'what became of the chair.?'
'Why,' replied the one-eyed bagman, 'it was observed to creak very much on the day of the wedding; 
but Tom Smart couldn't say for certain whether it was with pleasure or bodily infirmity. 
He rather thought it was the latter, though, for it never spoke afterwards.' 
'Everybody believe the story, didn't they?' said the dirty-faced man, re-filling his pipe.
'Except Tom's enemies,' replied the bagman. 'Some of 'em said Tom invented it altogether; 
and others said he was drunk, and fancied it, and got hold of the wrong trousers 
by mistake before he went to bed. But nobody ever minded what they said.' 
'Tom said it was all true?' 
'Every word.'
'And your uncle?'
'Every letter.'
'They must have been very nice men, both of 'em,' said the dirty-faced man.
'Yes, they were,' replied the bagman; 'very nice men indeed!' (192)

So this installment ends with a parable.
I felt like Dickens was very sarcastic about how gullible people can be...
several times over during these three chapters!

More absurdity and enjoyment!!

I'm not sure I would enjoy this book as much if 
I was reading it straight through,
but it most certainly works for me reading 
the installments one month apart
just as it was released 180 years ago!
And I never tire of reading from my great bargain 
copy of The Oxford Illustrated Dickens edition
acquired for less then $5 from Half-Price Books
It is brand new, never been read before!
This one will definitely be a keeper for me, 
to remind me of this enjoyable read-along!

Happy Reading, Y'all!  


  1. I did actually read PP straight through a few years ago and I HATED it. HATED. But someone mentioned they knew someone who was reading it by instalment as we're doing and it really works far better for me.

    Eat and Swill - didn't pick up on that! I did like that episode if only to draw some comparisons to our times. :)

    1. Ah, I was right! :) Reading by installment is definitely preferable, IMHO! Yep! Eat and Swill! :) The episode was okay. I typically do not take pleasure in politics, but I did think their drugging, bribing, and locking up of voters was funny...

    2. Wonderful review. Glad I wasn't the only one late. (Only late to post our review of course.)

    3. Yep! July and August are both busy on my current job! But we both made it!