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The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (commonly known as The Pickwick Papers) is the first novel by Charles Dickens. After the publication the widow of illustrator Robert Seymour claimed that the idea for the novel was originally her husband's; however, in his preface to the 1867 edition, Dickens strenuously denied any specific input, writing that "Mr Seymour never originated or suggested an incident, a phrase, or a word, to be found in the book."

Dickens was asked to contribute to the project as an up and coming writer following the success of Sketches by Boz, published in 1836 (most of Dickens' novels were issued in shilling instalments before being published in the complete volume). Dickens increasingly took over the unsuccessful monthly publication after Seymour had committed suicide.

With the introduction of Sam Weller in chapter 10, the book became the first real publishing phenomenon, with bootleg copies, theatrical performances, Sam Weller joke books and other merchandise.

Plot summary

Written for publication as a serial, The Pickwick Papers is a sequence of loosely-related adventures. The novel's main character, Mr. Samuel Pickwick, Esquire, is a kind and wealthy old gentleman, and the founder and perpetual president of the Pickwick Club. To extend his researches into the quaint and curious phenomena of life, he suggests that he and three other "Pickwickians" (Mr. Nathaniel Winkle, Mr. Augustus Snodgrass, and Mr. Tracy Tupman) should make journeys to remote places from London and report on their findings to the members of the club. Their travels throughout the English countryside provide the chief theme of the novel.

Its main literary value and appeal is formed by its numerous memorable characters. Each character in The Pickwick Papers, as in many other Dickens novels, is drawn comically, often with exaggerated personalities. Alfred Jingle provides an aura of comic villainy. His misadventures repeatedly land the Pickwickians in trouble. These include Jingle's elopement with the spinster, Aunt Rachael of Dingley Dell manor, misadventures with Dr. Slammer, and others.

Other notable adventures include Mr. Pickwick's legal case against his landlady, Mrs Bardell, who (through an apparent misunderstanding on her part) is suing him for the breach of promise to marry her. Another is Mr. Pickwick's incarceration at Fleet prisonmarker for his stubborn refusal to pay the compensation to her; the unscrupulous Dodson and Fogg's law firm prosecuted poor Pickwick.
Mr. Pickwick addresses the Club:
Mr. Pickwick, Sam Weller, and Weller Senior also appear in Dickens's serial, Master Humphrey's Clock.


Central characters

  • Samuel Pickwick - the main protagonist and founder of the Pickwick Club. Following his description in the text, Pickwick is usually portrayed by illustrators as a round-faced, clean-shaven, portly gentleman wearing spectacles
  • Nathaniel Winkle - a young friend of Pickwick's and his travelling companion; he considers himself a sportsman, though no one has ever seen him in action
  • Augustus Snodgrass - another young friend and companion; he considers himself a poet, though he has never been known to write anything
Mr. Pickwick in Chase of his Hat:
  • Tracy Tupman - yet another; a fat and elderly man who nevertheless considers himself a romantic lover
  • Sam Weller - Mr. Pickwick's valet
  • Tony Weller - Sam's father, a coachman; does not really know if his name is written as Veller or Weller
  • Alfred Jingle - a strolling actor, and a charlatan

Supporting characters

  • Joe - the "fat boy" who consumes great quantities of food and constantly falls asleep in any situation at any time of day; Joe's sleep problem is the origin of the medical term Pickwickian syndrome which ultimately led to the subsequent description of Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome.
  • Job Trotter - Mr Jingle's wily servant, whose true slyness is only ever seen in the first few lines of a scene, before he adopts his usual pretence of meekness.
  • Mr. Wardle - owner of a farm in Dingley Dell. Pickwick's friend. Joe is his servant.
  • Rachael Wardle - the spinster aunt who tries in vain to elope with the unscrupulous Jingle
  • Mr. Perker - an attorney of Mr. Pickwick
  • Mary - "a well-shaped female servant" and Sam Weller's "Valentine"
  • Mrs. Bardell - Mr. Pickwick's widowed landlady
  • Emily Wardle - one of Mr. Wardle's daughters
  • Arabella Allen - a friend of Emily Wardle
  • Ben Allen - Arabella's brother, a dissipated medical student
  • Bob Sawyer - Ben Allen's friend and fellow student

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

The novel has been filmed at least three times:
The Dying Clown:
There have also been BBC radio and television adaptations. The first TV adaptation was by Constance Cox. In 1985 BBC released a 12-part 350-minute production starring Nigel Stock, Alan Parnaby, Clive Swift and Patrick Malahide

There was also a Londonmarker stage musical version entitled Pickwick, by Cyril Ornadel, Wolf Mankowitz, and Leslie Bricusse. It starred Harry Secombe, later to become more famous as Mr. Bumble in the film version of Oliver!. But Pickwick (the musical) was not a success in the United Statesmarker when it opened there in 1965, and the show was never filmed. It did feature the song If I Ruled the World, which became a modest hit.

Part of the Pickwick Papers featured in Charles Dickens' Ghost Stories, a 60 minute animation made by Emerald City Films (1987). Including The Ghost in the Wardrobe, The Mail Coach Ghosts, and The Goblin and the Gravedigger.


Dr. Slammers Defiance of Jingle:
The novel was published in 19 issues over 20 months; the last was double-length and cost two shillings. In mourning for his sister-in-law Mary Hogarth, Dickens missed a deadline and consequently there was no number issued in May 1837. Numbers were typically issued on the last day of its given month:
  • I - March 1836 (chapters 1-2);
  • II - April 1836 (chapters 3-5);
  • III - May 1836 (chapters 6-8);
  • IV - June 1836 (chapters 9-11);
  • V - July 1836 (chapters 12-14);
  • VI - August 1836 (chapters 15-17);
  • VII - September 1836 (chapters 18-20);
  • VIII - October 1836 (chapters 21-23);
  • IX - November 1836 (chapters 24-26);
  • X - December 1836 (chapters 27-28);
  • XI - January 1837 (chapters 29-31);
  • XII - February 1837 (chapters 32-33);
  • XIII - March 1837 (chapters 34-36);
  • XIV - April 1837 (chapters 37-39);
  • XV - June 1837 (chapters 40-42);
  • XVI - July 1837 (chapters 43-45);
  • XVII - August 1837 (chapters 46-48);
  • XVIII - September 1837 (chapters 49-51);
  • XIX-XX - October 1837 (chapters 52-56);
Mr. Winkle Soothes the Refractory
It is interesting to keep the number divisions and dates in mind while reading the novel, especially in the early parts. The Pickwick Papers, as Charles Dickens' first novel, is particularly chaotic: the first two numbers featured four illustrations by Robert Seymour and 24 pages of text. Seymour killed himself and was replaced by R.W. Buss for the third number; the format was changed to feature two illustrations and 32 pages of text per issue. Buss didn't work out as an illustrator and was replaced by H.K. "Phiz" Browne for the fourth issue; Phiz continued to work for Dickens for 23 years (he last illustrated A Tale of Two Cities in 1859).

As a testament to the book's popularity, many other artists, beyond the three official illustrators, created drawings without the approval of the author or publisher, sometimes for bootleg copies or hoping that "Extra Plates" for the original issue would be included in later issues. The artists included William Heath, Alfred H. Forrester ("Alfred Crowquill"), Thomas Onwhyn (who sometimes signed as "Sam Weller") and Thomas Sibson. In 1899 Joseph Grego collected 350 Pickwick Paper illustrations, including portraits based on stage adaptations, with other notes and commentary in Pictorial Pickwickiania

The Pic-Nic Papers

In 1841 the three-volume anthology titled The Pic-Nic Papers was published composed of miscellaneous pieces by various authors. It was originated by Dickens to benefit the widow and children of 28-year old publisher John Macrone, who died suddenly in 1837. Dickens had begun soliciting submissions in 1838, and he eventually contributed the "Introduction" and one short story "The Lamplighter's Story". Other contributors included William Harrison Ainsworth, Thomas Moore, Leitch Ritchie and Agnus Strickland. Macrone's widow eventually received 450 pounds from this charitable publication.


Mary Weller, Charles Dickens's nurse, recalling her famous charge's occupations as a child said : 'Little Charles was a terrible boy to read.' "In the young Charles Dickens's reading we have in some ways the very core of his novels...the young Charles came upon the great picaresque novels of the eighteenth century - Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle, Humphrey Clinker, Tom Jones, The Vicar of Wakefield, their French counterpart Gil Blas, and their great predecessor Don Quixote. Don Quixote's connection with Mr. Pickwick, as Dostoevsky saw, is basic. With Don Quixote, of course, goes Sancho Panza, who with the reinforcement of the faithful, shrewd, worldly servants of the young heroes Tom Jones, Peregrine Pickle, Roderick Random and the rest, goes to make up Sam Weller."


  1. The Pickwickian
  2. The first day's journey and the first evening's adventure; with their consequences
  3. A new acquaintance. The Stroller's Tale. A disagreeable interruption and an unpleasant encounter
  4. A field-day and bivouac. More new friends. An invitation to the country
  5. A short one. Showing, among other matters, how Pickwick undertook to drive and Mr. Winkle to ride; and how they both did it
  6. An old-fashioned card-party. The clergyman's verses. The story of the convict's return
  7. How Mr. Winkle, instead of shooting at the pigeon and killing the crow, shot at the cow and wounded the pigeon; how the Dingley Dell cricket club played All-Muggleton; and how the All-Muggleton dined at the Dingley Dell expense - with other interesting and instructive matters
  8. Strongly illustrative of the position that the course of true love is not a railway
  9. A discovery and a chase
  10. Clearing up all doubts (if any existed) of the disinterestedness of Mr. Jingle's character
  11. Involving another journey, and an antiquarian discovery. Regarding Mr. Pickwick's determination to be present at an election, and containing a manuscript of the old clergyman's
  12. Descriptive of a very important proceeding on the part of Mr. Pickwick, no less an epoch in his life than in his history
  13. Some account of Eatanswill, of the state of parties therein, and of the election of a member to serve in Parliament for that ancient, loyal, and patriotic borough
  14. Comprising a brief description of the company at the Peacock assembled, and a tale told by a bagman
  15. In which is given a faithful portraiture of two distinguished persons and an accurate description of a public breakfast in their house and grounds, which public breakfast leads to the recognition of an old acquaintance and the commencement of another chapter
  16. Too full of adventure to be briefly described
  17. Showing that an attack of rheumatism, in some cases, acts as a quickener to inventive genius
  18. Briefly illustrative of two points: first, the power of hysterics, and secondly, the force of circumstances
  19. A pleasant day, with an unpleasant termination
  20. Showing how Dodson and Fogg were men of business, and their clerks men of pleasure; and how an affecting interview took place between Mr. Weller and his long-lost parent; showing also what choice spirits assembled at the Magpie and Stump, and what a capital chapter the next one will be
  21. In which the old man lurches forth into his favourite theme and relates a story about a queer client
  22. Mr. Pickwick journeys to Ipswich and meets with a romantic adventure with a middle-aged lady in yellow curl-papers
  23. In which Mr. Samuel Weller begins to devote his energies to the return match between himself and Mr. Trotter
  24. Wherein Mr. Peter Magnus grows jealous, and the middle-aged lady apprehensive, which brings the Pickwickians within grasp of the law
  25. Showing, among a variety of pleasant matters, how majestic and impartial Mr. Nupkins was, and how Mr. Weller returned Mr. Job Trotter's shuttlecock as heavily as it came; with another matter, which will be found in its place
  26. Which contains a brief account of the progress of Bardell against Pickwick
  27. Samuel Weller makes a pilgrimage to Dorking and beholds his mother-in-law
  28. A good-humoured Christmas chapter, containing an account of a wedding, and some other sports beside, which, although in their way even as good customs as marriage itself, are not quite so religiously kept up in these degenerative times
  29. The story of the goblins who stole a sexton
  30. How the Pickwickians made and cultivated the acquaintance of a couple of nice young men belonging to one of the liberal professions, how they disported themselves on the ice, and how their first visit came to a conclusion
  31. Which is all about the law, and sundry great authorities learned therein
  32. Describes, far more fully than the court-newsman ever did, a bachelor's party given by Mr. Bob Sawyer at his lodgings in the borough
  33. Mr. Weller the elder delivers some critical sentiments respecting literary composition, and, assisted by his son Samuel, pays a small investment of retaliation to the account of the reverend gentleman with the red nose
  34. Is wholly devoted to a full and faithful report of the memorable trial of Bardell against Pickwick
  35. In which Mr. Pickwick thinks he had better go to Bath, and goes accordingly
  36. The chief features of which will be found to be an authentic version of the legend of Prince Bladud, and a most extraordinary calamity that befell Mr. Winkle
  37. Honourably accounts for Mr. Weller's absence by describing a soiree to which he was invited and went; also relates how he was entrusted by Mr. Pickwick with a private mission of delicacy and importance
  38. How Mr. Winkle, when he stepped out of the frying-pan, walked gently and comfortably into the fire
  39. Mr. Samuel Weller, being entrusted with a mission of love, proceeds to execute it; with what success will hereinafter appear
  40. Introduces Mr. Pickwick to a new and not-uninteresting scene in the great drama of life
  41. What befell Mr. Pickwick when he got into the Fleet; what prisoners he saw there; and how he passed the night
  42. Illustrative, like the preceding one, of the old proverb that adversity brings a man acquainted with strange bedfellows. Likewise containing Mr. Pickwick's extraordinary and startling announcement to Mr. Samuel Weller
  43. Showing how Mr. Weller got into difficulties
  44. Treats of divers little matters which occurred in the Fleet, and of Mr. Winkle's mysterious behaviour, and shows how the poor Chancery prisoner obtained his release at last
  45. Descriptive of an affecting interview between Mr. Samuel Weller and a family party. Mr. Pickwick makes a tour of the diminutive world he inhabits, and resolves to mix with it, in the future, as little as possible
  46. Records a touching act of delicate feeling, not unmixed with pleasantry, achieved and performed by Messrs. Dodson and Fogg
  47. Is chiefly devoted to matters of business and the temporal advantage of Dodson and Fogg. Mr. Winkle appears under extraordinary circumstances. Mr. Pickwick's benevolence proves stronger than his obstinacy
  48. Relates how Mr. Pickwick, with the assistance of Samuel Weller, essayed to soften the heart of Mr. Benjamin Allen and to mollify the wrath of Mr. Robert Sawyer
  49. Containing the story of the bagman's uncle
  50. How Mr. Pickwick sped upon his mission, and how he was reinforced in the outset by a most unexpected auxiliary
  51. In which Mr. Pickwick encounters an old Acquaintance - to which fortunate Circumstances the Reader is mainly indebted for Matter of thrilling Interest herein set down, concerning two great Public Men of Might and Power
  52. Involving a serious change in the Weller Family, and the untimely Downfall of the red-nosed Mr. Stiggins
  53. Comprising the final exit of Mr. Jingle and Job Trotter; with a great morning of business in Gray's Inn Square. Concluding with a double knock at Mr. Perker's door.
  54. Containing some particulars relative to the double knock, and other matters; among which certain interesting disclosures relative to Mr. Snodgrass and a young lady are by no means irrelevant to this history
  55. Mr. Solomon Pell, assisted by a select committee of coachmen, arranges the affairs of the elder Mr. Weller
  56. An important conference takes place between Mr. Pickwick and Samuel Weller, at which his parent assists. An old gentlemen in a snuff-coloured suit arrives unexpectedly
  57. In which the Pickwick Club is finally dissolved, and everything concluded to the satisfaction of everybody

See also


  1. Pictorial Pickwickiania .. see External Links
  2. The Pic-Nic Papers .. see External links
  3. Paul Schlicke. Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens. ISBN 0-19-866253-X - page 455-56
  4. The World of Charles Dickens Angus Wilson ISBN 0-14-00.3488-9

External links

Source editions online

Other online books


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