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Pickwick Papers

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Anyone here read this one? I'm chugging my way through this as a kind of bedtime read, one chapter a day - it's a long book! Only about a third of the way through so far.

 

Initially I thought it felt very like a "novel" that was produced in parts, with fairly artificial divisions between episodes. But as it goes on, I find I'm more and more hooked on the ongoing experiences of Mr Pickwick.

 

A bit random, but does anyone else think Tolkien's Samwise Gamgee is a bit derivative of Sam Weller, Mr Pickwick's man-servant? Or does using the name Sam make it homage, and therefore okay? ;-)

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Anyone here read this one? I'm chugging my way through this as a kind of bedtime read, one chapter a day - it's a long book! Only about a third of the way through so far.

 

Initially I thought it felt very like a "novel" that was produced in parts, with fairly artificial divisions between episodes. But as it goes on, I find I'm more and more hooked on the ongoing experiences of Mr Pickwick.

 

A bit random, but does anyone else think Tolkien's Samwise Gamgee is a bit derivative of Sam Weller, Mr Pickwick's man-servant? Or does using the name Sam make it homage, and therefore okay? ;-)

 

Well, what a coincidence! Only a week ago I'd taken down off the shelf a two-volume edition of The Pickwick Papers which I'd be given as a child. I'd never progressed beyond the mid-part of the first volume. I remembered the rascally Jingle and his quick-fire manner of speech and the fat boy at Dingley Dell etc, so this time I thought I'd delve straight in to the second volume which includes the Bardell v. Pickwick case. I miss out the 'incidental tales'-boring! Samuel Weller famously brings the pages alive and apparently the circulation figures shot up when that character was introduced. I hope to finish it but it won't be soon.

 

(Haven't read any Tolkien, sorry).

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I love The Pickwick Papers! Out of all Dickens' novels, this is the most unadulterated fun, and it really is extremely funny at points.

 

As Dickens' first novel it certainly reflects someone learning their trade and evolving from the newspaper sketches he originally wrote. You're right, waawo, that it seems to be made up from many individual pieces, but gradually an overarching plot falls together, and of course the wonderful characters give us that all-important continuity.

 

It's a good-natured romp where darkness is rarely allowed to show its face, unlike his other books. In fact, that's one of the reasons I like the incidental tales you dislike, chuntzy - removed from the main narrative they seem to give Dickens the chance to do something less sunny, as if we see the urge within him which he's desperately trying to exclude in case it scuppers his mission. 'The Goblins who Stole a Sexton' is an obvious forerunner for A Christmas Carol, for instance, and carries what I always feel is an effective contrast to the frivolity.

 

I don't think Tolkien had Sam Weller in mind when he created Sam, waawo. There are some similarities, but overall Weller is much sharper and more self-possessed than Gamgee from the outset. Frodo's Sam has to find himself along the way whereas Mr Pickwick very much needs Weller's worldly-wise ways in a fashion that Frodo doesn't. It's fundamentally a different character dynamic between them.

 

I can still barely hold back a tear at Mrs Leo Hunter's affecting masterpiece, published in a lady's magazine, dontcha know - 'Ode to an Expiring Frog':

 

Can I view thee panting, lying

On thy stomach, without sighing;

Can I unmoved see thee dying

On a log

Expiring frog!

 

Say, have fiends in shape of boys,

With wild halloo, and brutal noise,

Hunted thee from marshy joys,

With a dog,

Expiring frog!

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It's a good-natured romp where darkness is rarely allowed to show its face....removed from the main narrative they seem to give Dickens the chance to do something less sunny...
Well, yes. Last night I read Chapter 21, which includes THE OLD MAN'S TALE ABOUT THE QUEER CLIENT (about a young child and its mother dying whilst the father is in debtor's prison), not a lot of sunshine there!

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Well, yes. Last night I read Chapter 21, which includes THE OLD MAN'S TALE ABOUT THE QUEER CLIENT (about a young child and its mother dying whilst the father is in debtor's prison), not a lot of sunshine there!

Absolutely - and all the more evidence to my mind that those tales plumb the darker depths of Dickens' own mind, given his traumatic childhood experiences of his father being in the Marshalsea prison.

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I don't think Tolkien had Sam Weller in mind when he created Sam, waawo. There are some similarities, but overall Weller is much sharper and more self-possessed than Gamgee from the outset. Frodo's Sam has to find himself along the way whereas Mr Pickwick very much needs Weller's worldly-wise ways in a fashion that Frodo doesn't. It's fundamentally a different character dynamic between them.
The similarity struck me especially when Sam Weller prevents Pickwick striking the lawyer. Having said that, I haven't actually read LotR for a good while - so maybe the question I should have posed is, "Is Peter Jackson's Samwise Gamgee a little derivative of Sam Weller?" :-$

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...overall Weller is much sharper and more self-possessed than Gamgee...from the outset...
I've just remembered - as I picked up the book tonight - how Sam was hoodwinked by Mr Trotter. That didn't seem in character at all. But I'm just getting to the 'rematch' now, so I don't know how it plays out yet...

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I think the acid test here - which is entirely hypothetical and therefore impossible - is whether people would have come up with this link if Tolkien had made him Jimwise Gamgee. I think the master/servant deal and the same names entice people to think that way, but I doubt anyone would have thought of the analogy if the names weren't the same.

 

They both help their 'masters', but the relationships are different, not least because of the age difference. Sam and Frodo are close in a very different way - hence the appearance of a lot of rather unfortunate homo-erotic 'fan' fiction relating to it.

 

I don't think this is different for the books or the films - though in the case of the films I think you could more definitively rule out Jackson being influenced by Dickens.

 

It's quite some years since I read both, so if you find other interesting evidence as you progress do share it, waawo! I'm not convinced yet, but who knows!

 

Now all we need is a passage from Alfred Jingle:

 

"Distraught - lost it I did - plain as day on finger, then gone! Calamitous event! Police called - next to useless. Precious!"

 

;)

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"Distraught - lost it I did - plain as day on finger, then gone! Calamitous event! Police called - next to useless. Precious!"

 

;)

Ha, brilliant! :)

 

I love that Dickens uses Dodson & Fogg to mock the no-win no-fee culture ("when they do it all on speculation!"), there really is nothing new!

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I love that Dickens uses Dodson & Fogg to mock the no-win no-fee culture ("when they do it all on speculation!"), there really is nothing new!

The social and institutional satire in Dickens is one of the things I really love. So much old literature still resonates with us because human nature doesn't change, but it's fascinating to see how even the institutions and professions are still very similar. Banking too, as with Mr Merdle in Little Dorrit.

 

I can't remember much now about what Dodson & Fogg got up to, but I suspect it was rather less richly comical than the rest of the book. Lawyers rarely gave Dickens much to laugh about.

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I can't remember much now about what Dodson & Fogg got up to
Hm, bullying, unethical and generally caddish behaviour. The very essence of sharp practice!

 

I've just read The Goblins Who Stole A Sexton - fascinating to see genesis of A Christmas Carol right there, in the way the series of visions are presented to Gabriel Grub.

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I've just read The Goblins Who Stole A Sexton - fascinating to see genesis of A Christmas Carol right there, in the way the series of visions are presented to Gabriel Grub.

Isn't it! I think as such a highly imaginative writer he sometimes felt constrained by the requirements of reality in his straight novels (though even there they often seem to inhabit a parallel world at one remove from our own). It's as if he saw the wonderful potential in this idea and was desperate to do it justice at greater length.

 

There's also, of course, his other ghost stories, including the much more spooky The Signal-Man, which is very good.

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I've only ever really read bits and pieces of Dickens, including a couple of novels - but "read all of Dickens" has been on my bucket-list (urgh!) for a long time, I wish I'd started earlier...

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"read all of Dickens" has been on my bucket-list (urgh!) for a long time, I wish I'd started earlier...

It's advisable to start that task around the age of 13.

 

;)

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It's advisable to start that task around the age of 13.
Oddly enough, one of the novels I have read is Hard Times - at school, I probably was around 13 at the time. I don't remember much of it now, but I do remember it seeming like a slog. It was a long, long time before I read anything else by Dickens... :-$

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Oddly enough, one of the novels I have read is Hard Times - at school, I probably was around 13 at the time. I don't remember much of it now, but I do remember it seeming like a slog. It was a long, long time before I read anything else by Dickens... :-$

Hard Times isn't a great one to start with - though people often do because it's shorter than most! It's not very typical of Dickens' writing in many respects - not least the very limited comical aspects.

 

You'll find some good suggestions on other Dickens novels in this thread, waawo - where I see I've made some similar points about The Pickwick Papers, including Ode to an Expiring Frog! (It never fails to make me chuckle, though...)

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Hard Times isn't a great one to start with - though people often do because it's shorter than most! It's not very typical of Dickens' writing in many respects - not least the very limited comical aspects.
I still recall thinking - from the depths of my teenage wisdom - how teachers of the day (I was going to say "modern day teachers", but this was of course almost thirty years ago) should be careful when making points about the endless drudgery of lessons given by Mr Gradgrind...

 

You'll find some good suggestions on other Dickens novels in this thread, waawo - where I see I've made some similar points about The Pickwick Papers, including Ode to an Expiring Frog! (It never fails to make me chuckle, though...)
Great, will have a read tonight. I've got a vague idea of reading the novels in order, so Oliver Twist next. Of course, my faithful Kindle tells me I'm only 52% done with Pickwick Papers...

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Was interested in your discussion about The Pickwick Papers so decided to get a Kindle copy (can't get Kindle from the UK) to have a look to see what they were all about. I got a synopsis from Google as the analysis at the front of the book was so long I thought I'd never get to the book itself.....and then there was a prologue. The printed pages from Google are easier to refer to than trying to go back and forth on the Kindle. So far I've only got to the fight with the cab driver who thought Mr. P was an informer because of his note taking. I like the way it's written, almost tongue in cheek. Will carry on to find out what they all get into in the succeeding chapters. :)

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so decided to get a...copy...to have a look to see what they were all about.[/Quote]Hooray!

 

So far I've only got to the fight with the cab driver who thought Mr. P was an informer because of his note taking....Will carry on to find out what they all get into in the succeeding chapters. :)
I found it much funnier once I felt I knew the characters better; in fact, so much so, I might have to backtrack and read the early chapters again...

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I've listened to a few Dickens novels as unabridged audiobooks from Audible and enjoyed them very much. The enthusiasm on this thread has inspired me to add The Pickwick Papers to my wishlist on there and I'll download it when my next credit arrives. Thanks all!

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The enthusiasm on this thread has inspired me to add The Pickwick Papers to my wishlist on there and I'll download it when my next credit arrives. Thanks all!

Brilliant! That's what BGO's all about - glad you and momac have been inspired.

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Brilliant! That's what BGO's all about - glad you and momac have been inspired.

 

Found myself chuckling when the 'duel' scene got sorted without anyone getting shot!

:D

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Found myself chuckling when the 'duel' scene got sorted without anyone getting shot!
Lovely little scene, almost Shakespearean in its construction, the misunderstanding and escalation - and such an "english politeness" about the aftermath!

 

...but it's fascinating to see how even the institutions and professions are still very similar.
This bit especially made me laugh about the ongoing similarities, this doesn't sound much different from your average court centre today:

 

There were already a pretty large sprinkling of spectators in the gallery, and a numerous muster of gentlemen in wigs, in the barristers' seats, who presented, as a body, all that pleasing and extensive variety of nose and whisker for which the Bar of England is so justly celebrated. Such of the gentlemen as had a brief to carry, carried it in as conspicuous a manner as possible, and occasionally scratched their noses therewith, to impress the fact more strongly on the observation of the spectators. Other gentlemen, who had no briefs to show, carried under their arms goodly octavos, with a red label behind, and that under-done-pie-crust-coloured cover, which is technically known as 'law calf.' Others, who had neither briefs nor books, thrust their hands into their pockets, and looked as wise as they conveniently could; others, again, moved here and there with great restlessness and earnestness of manner, content to awaken thereby the admiration and astonishment of the uninitiated strangers. The whole, to the great wonderment of Mr. Pickwick, were divided into little groups, who were chatting and discussing the news of the day in the most unfeeling manner possible—just as if no trial at all were coming on.

 

And finally, (hidden as I don't want to give away the plot to people coming along behind),

I read the court-case scene last night, where Mr P loses - I'm dying to find out just how his determination not to pay damages is going to work out!

 

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For anyone else who wants to see what all the fuss is about without downloading anything, Project Gutenberg's version of The Pickwick Papers, formatted for web browsers, is here... Obviously there are free versions available for many different ereaders too :)

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Great example of the kind of thing that I'm coming to love about Dickens: in this extract from PP, Sam Weller has just received a letter:

 

As Sam said this, he did what a great many people do when they are uncertain about the writer of a note—looked at the seal, and then at the front, and then at the back, and then at the sides, and then at the superscription; and, as a last resource, thought perhaps he might as well look at the inside, and try to find out from that.

 

This doesn't move the story on at all, isn't exactly necessary - but is a great little piece of observation.

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