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» » The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, Fiction, Literary
The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, Fiction, Literary


Charles Dickens


The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, Fiction, Literary


Literature & Fiction

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Aegypan (February 1, 2004)




History and Criticism



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The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, Fiction, Literary by Charles Dickens

The first ray of light which illumines the gloom, and converts into a dazzling brilliancy that obscurity in which the earlier history of the public career of the immortal Pickwick would appear to be involved, is derived from the perusal of the following entry in the Transactions of the Pickwick Club, which the editor of these papers feels the highest pleasure in laying before his readers, as a proof of the careful attention, indefatigable assiduity, and nice discrimination, with which his search among the multifarious documents confided to him has been conducted. "May 12, 1827. Joseph Smiggers, Esq., P.V.P.M.P.C. (that is, the Perpetual Vice-President -- Member Pickwick Club), presiding. The following resolutions unanimously agreed to: -- "That this Association has heard read, with feelings of unmingled satisfaction, and unqualified approval, the paper communicated by Samuel Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C. (the General Chairman -- Member Pickwick Club), entitled 'Speculations on the Source of the Hampstead Ponds, with some Observations on the Theory of Tittlebats;' and that this Association does hereby return its warmest thanks to the said Samuel Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C., for the same. . . ."

This was my second time reading Dickens' first novel. I can't say I enjoyed it as much as many of his other works. The writing was, of course, good (Dickens), but after a while the abundance of little humorous stories got old. At times I did think of Monty Python skits and laughed to myself. After reading Ackroyd's biography on Dickens (highly recommended) I decided to reread all of Dickens' work in order of publication, and so I needed to complete this book first. I'm glad I did since I was able to appreciate the writing more the second time around. This Everyman's Library version of the book is, like all their other publications, well done with added information about the author and certainly legible print (very important if you don't have perfect young eyes).
So, I just can't get enough of Charles Dickens. He speaks to my soul, somehow. And I am not alone - there's a reason so many of his books are true, timeless classics. Add this one to the list. The principle thing his books drive home to me is how people really haven't changed over the 170 years or so since this book was written. You can learn a lot about human nature - good and bad, from Mr. Dickens' insight into the human soul.
I first read the Pickwick Papers as a teenager nearly 40 years ago, and enjoyed it greatly then. But I either didn't then appreciate, or (more likely) had forgotten, just how funny and droll the work is. The side characters (greedy, manipulative lawyers, pompous village magistrates, vain local newspaper editors, etc.) are all nicely lampooned. The book paints an instructive picture of life in 1830's England -- hardly alien to us, but quite a different world (stagecoaches, debtors' prisons). Reading the PP is a commitment -- it's over 700 pages -- but worth the effort. The "plot" (I use the term extremely lightly) moves along nicely, and the writing is disturbingly good, particularly when one considers that Dickens started the work in his mid-20's. Of course, who am I to judge Dickens?
A wonderful read. It is conveniently divided into chapters of roughly the same length. I read about 50 pages a day and was able to read it within two weeks. I highly recommend you watch the 1980s BBC production in 12 episodes after reading the book. It’s available for free on Kindle Fire. Who can possibly dislike such unforgettable characters as Mr. Pickwick, Wardle’s nearly deaf mother, the conniving strolling actor Mr. Jingle (who speaks in an odd oratorical fashion), and the inimitable Sam Weller, with his cockney accent and words of unintended wisdom? A delight from beginning to end which will hopefully enrich your life as much as it has mine. The illustrations are from the original edition.
I have a list of 'indispensables'. and this is on it.

The story does have a plot line running through it, but it is also like a news digest. There are bits and pieces that are well worth following for their own sake.

...and of course Dickens' delicious prose is enjoyable. His description of a man at a military review chasing his hat that has been blown off by the wind. The obligatory ghost story where the young man says (shakily) to the ghost "You know, I don't understand why you ghosts persist in staying where you were so miserable! Why not go somewhere pleasant?" And the ghost saying "I never thought of that! I am much obliged!" and vanishing, with the young man calling after it, "You would make us all very grateful if you would spread the word."

It also contains, toward the end, one of the most moving tales of retribution, mercy and kindness, with a speech by Mr. Pickwick's barrister on the subject of mercy.

A fun, touching, sometimes uproarious book.
This book is delightful, 58 chapters of adventure featuring Mr Samuel Pickwick, retired man of business, and friends, as they drink, explore, laugh and cry over a period of two years in mid 1830's England.

This book was the first Dickens and originally published in monthly installments. The chapters are loosely tied together through the characters of the book but most stand alone. We have stories of Goblin's, shyster lawyers, drinking in vast quantities, short stories within chapters, a stay in a Debtors Prison and vast amounts of humanity.

The episodes where Pickwick prefers a Debtors Prison to paying a disgraceful Court decision are sobering. It's staggering that people were just left to die in prison because of civil debt.

Generally, however humour is the driver and this book is very funny. I imagine P G Wodehouse must have had a great working knowledge of this book because his Bertie & Jeeves tales are Pickwick taken to the nth degree.

I can say honestly that not once in 700 pages did my interest flag; reading from beginning to end was a wonderful experience.
I keep trying to get people to tell me which is Dickens' best, so I won't have to read all the others. But no one helps much. Some group on the Internet said it was Bleak House, but I think that is the least favorite of the five I've read in the past year.

Based on the five books I've read so far, it appears that Dickens' stories are all pretty much the same. There's always orphans, much benighted, but stout hearted, moral and persistent. There's usually some kind of deformed villain, a ne'er-do-well sponger, a kindly old gentleman or two, an eccentric spinster, and likely a few other character types. Oh yeah, many, but not all, lawyers are conniving and grasping.

Anyway, The Old Curiosity Shop has all this in spades. It's the story of Little Nell and her grandfather, more-or-less. Also the story of Kit. There's lots of pathos, but, what's rather fun, lots of Dickens' wry humorous portrayal of the frailties of humanity. Dickens blathers incessantly, but it's such entertaining blather that one can never tire of it. I wonder why it took me so many decades to discover Dickens?

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