Thursday, January 30, 2020

19. The Pickwick Papers

The Pickwick Papers. Charles Dickens. 1837. 801 pages. [Source: Bought] [Classics; Adult fiction; Travel]

First sentence: 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.

Premise/plot: Samuel Pickwick, Tracy Tupman, Augustus Snodgrass, Nathaniel Winkle are the primary members of the Corresponding Society of the Pickwick Club. These fellows set off to have grand adventures (and some misadventures) as they travel throughout England; their goal is to be entertaining and share stories. Did they succeed?! Well. It depends on YOUR attention span and what YOU find funny.  (There's definitely some slapstick humor going on which doesn't necessarily translate well into print. But it isn't only of the slapstick sort. Far from it. At least one story has a gothic feel to it. Really there is something for everybody--if you're patient enough to read it all to find those enjoyable bits.)

I think one thing that would be unanimous is that Sam Weller (and his father to some extent) make this novel BETTER. 

There are snippets of plot lines. For example, the plot line of Pickwick getting sued by his (former) landlady. Or the plot line where his buddies go courting. But essentially the plot is very light. There are more characters introduced throughout this chunkster than actual plot lines. Which isn't necessarily a horrible thing--if you're patient and this is the only book within reach. Either/or.

My thoughts: I gave this one four stars the first time I read it. And according to that review, I did enjoy it and find it worth my time. This time around--the second time--I'm going to be generous and give it three stars. Yes, it's "lost" a star. But really considering how many times I was absolutely bored without a grin in sight versus the time I was entertained, three stars is generous. 

I will say this. What I enjoyed, I actually enjoyed. There were scenes that were fantastic. But as for the rest--it was meh at best. I do think the more I've read Dickens, the more I've come to expect from him.

‘I am ruminating,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘on the strange mutability of human affairs.’
He had judged of his friend’s feelings by his own. 

‘Ah! poetry makes life what light and music do the stage — strip the one of the false embellishments, and the other of its illusions, and what is there real in either to live or care for?’
‘Ah! people need to rise early, to see the sun in all his splendour, for his brightness seldom lasts the day through. The morning of day and the morning of life are but too much alike.’ ‘You speak truly, sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick.
Mr. Pickwick ran to his assistance, but the faster Mr. Pickwick ran forward, the faster the horse ran backward.
‘I, sir,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, ‘am delighted to view any sports which may be safely indulged in, and in which the impotent effects of unskilful people do not endanger human life.’
‘It wasn’t the wine,’ murmured Mr. Snodgrass, in a broken voice. ‘It was the salmon.’ (Somehow or other, it never is the wine, in these cases.)
Every one has experienced that disagreeable state of mind, in which a sensation of bodily weariness in vain contends against an inability to sleep.
‘Mrs. Bardell,’ said Mr. Pickwick, at the expiration of a few minutes. ‘Sir,’ said Mrs. Bardell again. ‘Do you think it a much greater expense to keep two people, than to keep one?’ ‘That depends a good deal upon the person, you know, Mr. Pickwick; and whether it’s a saving and careful person, sir.’ ‘That’s very true,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘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.’ ‘I do,’ said Mr. Pickwick, growing energetic, as was his wont in speaking of a subject which interested him— ‘I do, indeed; and to tell you the truth, Mrs. Bardell, I have made up my mind.’ ‘Dear me, sir,’exclaimed Mrs. Bardell. ‘Well,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘what do you think?’ ‘Oh, Mr. Pickwick,’ said Mrs. Bardell, trembling with agitation, ‘you’re very kind, sir.’ ‘It’ll save you a good deal of trouble, won’t it?’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘Oh, I never thought anything of the trouble, sir,’ replied Mrs. Bardell; ‘and, of course, I should take more trouble to please you then, than ever; but it is so kind of you, Mr. Pickwick, to have so much consideration for my loneliness.’ ‘I cannot conceive,’ said Mr. Pickwick when his friend returned— ‘I cannot conceive what has been the matter with that woman. I had 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.’   
‘Hush. Don’t ask any questions. It’s always best on these occasions to do what the mob do.’ ‘But suppose there are two mobs?’ suggested Mr. Snodgrass. ‘Shout with the largest,’ replied Mr. Pickwick. Volumes could not have said more.
That statement, Sir, may be true, or it may be false; it may be credible, or it may be incredible; but, if it be true, and if it be credible, I do not hesitate to say, Sir, that our grounds of action, Sir, are strong, and not to be shaken.
Magnus is my name. It’s rather a good name, I think, sir.’ ‘A very good name, indeed,’ said Mr. Pickwick, wholly unable to repress a smile. There — Peter Magnus — sounds well, I think, sir.’ ‘Very,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘Curious circumstance about those initials, sir,’ said Mr. Magnus. ‘You will observe — P.M. — post meridian. In hasty notes to intimate acquaintance, I sometimes sign myself “Afternoon.” It amuses my friends very much, Mr. Pickwick.’
The more stairs Mr. Pickwick went down, the more stairs there seemed to be to descend, and again and again, when Mr. Pickwick got into some narrow passage, and began to congratulate himself on having gained the ground-floor, did another flight of stairs appear before his astonished eyes.
 words ran high, and voices higher;
  ‘There is no deception now, Mr. Weller. Tears,’ said Job, with a look of momentary slyness— ‘tears are not the only proofs of distress, nor the best ones.’ ‘No, they ain’t,’ replied Sam expressively. ‘They may be put on, Mr. Weller,’ said Job. ‘I know they may,’ said Sam; ‘some people, indeed, has ‘em always ready laid on, and can pull out the plug wenever they likes.’

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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