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message 1: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3454 comments Mod
Chapter 50

Well, Hello Curiosities

When I look at my copy of The Pickwick Papers I realize how close we are to the end. In fact, this will be my last opportunity to write summaries for you concerning the adventures of our Pickwickian friends. There are still many loose threads floating about, but I am confident that Dickens will be able to draw most of them into a suitable conclusion. Let’s see what awaits us this week ...

The first thing I noticed is how Dickens ties Chapter 49 to Chapter 50. Chapter 49 ends in a cloud of coach dust, more than a touch of romance, and a good dose of mystery and wonder. Now, in Chapter 50, we begin with a coach ride with much more substantial beings that we were recently acquainted with as we leave the world of imagination and story-telling and enter into the world of Sam, Pickwick, Bob Sawyer and Benjamin Allen who are aboard a coach and ready to move on. As soon as the group finds itself on the open road Bob becomes fully animated and, much like a frat boy on his first bus ride in college, pulls pranks aplenty. As Ben Allen comments about the people who see them pass “They’re not used to see this sort of thing, every day, I dare say.” Pickwick is worried that Sawyer may be out of line “in some remote degree” but Ben assures Pickwick that all is well. In any case, Sam seems to be enjoying himself so with an exchange of hats with Sawyer, sandwiches in hand, a flag waving and perhaps a wee drop of spirits to help enjoy the ride, the coach rumbles on with Pickwick finally uncorking a bottle himself. I think the adage “if you can’t beat them, then join them” would summarize the coach ride after that.

While the tone and temper of the first section of this chapter is one of merriment, Dickens brings the reader up short in the next paragraphs as he moves the readers from joy into a much more somber place. As their coach enters the industrial town of Birmingham we enter a world far from Dingley Dell and Bath and the coaching byways of England and into a “murky atmosphere ...brick-dust, the deep-red glow of furnace fires ... volumes of dense smoke ... the glare of distant lights [where] ponderous wagons .. laden with clashing rods of iron ... approach ... the great working town of Birmingham.” Strange and foreign, Dickens introduces us to a place that is far removed from any previous setting in the novel. Birmingham is a place of discordant sound where the “whirl of wheels and the noise of machinery ... the din of hammers, the rushing of the steam, and the dead heavy clanking of engines” reigns supreme. Have we entered Hell?


Thoughts


Dickens is clearly demanding that his readers change their emotions, their sense of place, and their orientation. The only place that I can think of that even remotely complements this place was the Fleet. Why do you think Dickens has again created such a setting in the novel?

How effective is this description of Birmingham in comparison to that of the Fleet?


Mr Pickwick has made this journey in order to deliver a letter to Mr. Winkle senior. It appears that Winkle junior was placed under the tutelage of Mr Pickwick. When Pickwick, Sawyer, and Ben Allen approach the Winkle house they find “[t]he steps were very white, the bricks were very red and the house was very clean.” The appearance of the house is in direct contrast to the described grit of the city, and so we know that Winkle senior must be wealthy, fussy and demanding, as so he turns out to be. After Pickwick introduces himself and gets through some frosty preliminaries, Pickwick gives Winkle senior a letter from his son whose contents are the news of Winkle’s attachment and marriage. There is much to enjoy in this scene as we have Bob Sawyer flirting with a maid while Ben Allen falls asleep. On the other hand, there is much to be concerned with as Winkle, with no emotion, reads the letter “with all the carefulness and precision of a man of business” and then pens a reply. Pickwick is shocked at Winkle senior’s lack of emotion and response. Winkle senior, for his part, simply says he is “a man of business” and asks his maid to show Mr Pickwick, Mr Allen, and Mr Sawyer out.

I think it fair to say that Pickwick, Allen, and Sawyer were upset by, if not in total shock, at the attitude and deportment of Winkle senior. How shocked, you ask? Well, Dickens writes that “the whole party went silent and supperless to bed.” Now, how many times before have we ever seen so many people lose their appetite at the same time in this novel?


Thoughts

We see in this chapter that the setting is reflective of the person and the person reflective of the place. This has been seen before with the bonhomie of Dingley Dell and its inhabitants, the Fleet and its prisoners, and even the courthouse scene in Bardell verses Pickwick. Which of these settings (or another you noticed) did you find most effective and why?


message 2: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3454 comments Mod
Chapter 51

I’m really not too sure what to make of this chapter. As I went through it in the preparation of this summary I could see and enjoy the broad, obvious humour, and it certainly allowed Hablot Browne the opportunity to do a grand illustration, but for the life of me I could not connect much of it to our evolving story. We have discussed earlier the format of this text ... is it a picaresque novel, an episodic novel, a novel, or something else? Ultimately, it is a wonderful text to read and that should be enough. Still, I just do not feel this chapter fits comfortably within the larger context of the text.


Thoughts

At this point in the text we have read 50 chapters. How would you classify the style of the text at this point?


In any case, the morning after the unsuccessful visit to Mr Winkle senior finds Pickwick and our travellers like the weather outside ... “dark and gloomy.” Sawyer, Allen, Sam and Pickwick read and re-read last evening’s paper, pace the floors of the hotel, and stare out its windows. Finally, Pickwick decides they need to get on their way and orders the coach. The coach stops for a change at Coventry and Sam and Bob Sawyer discuss post boys and donkeys and the like which helps pass the time as the group continue their soggy way back towards London. They get too soggy to complete their homeward journey and decide to stay at a hotel, enjoy a meal (remember they have not eaten much since yesterday in Birmingham) stoke up the hotel’s fireplace to get warm and dry, and plan to complete their journey to London tomorrow. As coincidence would have it our friend from an earlier chapter, Mr Pott, editor of the Eastanwill Gazette, is staying at the inn as well. We learn from Pott that the rival Eastanwill Independent is still being published and is still a ”slime journal” since it is not blue. The Gazette, on the other hand, according to Port, is a miracle of research based on the Encyclopedia Britannica. Later in the evening As Pickwick and friends dine a stranger arrives at the inn. Dickens makes sure we know this because he mentions the name stranger four times. He turns out to be a man by the name of Slurk who works for the Eatanswill Independent. Cue the fireworks!

Slurk and Pott huff and puff and slander each other and the room soon heats up, not due to the inn’s fire, but rather from the heat of the newspaper rivals. Soon a fight breaks out with Slurk wielding his carpet bag and Potts jousting with a fire shovel. Pickwick, for his part, is reduced to speaking like Mr Jingle: “ for Heaven’s sake - help - Sam - here - pray, gentlemen! - interfere, somebody.” Next, Pickwick strives to separate the combatants only to be hit by both the carpet bag and the fire shovel. Sam comes to the rescue of Pickwick while Sawyer and Allen draw and ready their tortoise-shell lancets in the hopes that they will be able to bleed someone soon. Slurk and Potts decide that combat in their respective newspapers would be a better route to heroism and fame than a physical confrontation and so they head off in separate coaches the next morning. Our own travellers turn their sights to London.

Thoughts

The scene of the battling newspapermen, Pickwick receiving blows, and Sam coming to the rescue is delightful. Does it, however, add much, if anything, to the narrative?

Poor Pickwick. He seems to attract the strangest people to himself, often to his own discomfort or distress. Do you think such interactions between Pickwick and many of those he meets are simply added for humour and interest or do you think there is a more significant underlying purpose? What might that purpose be?

To what extent have you found that as we progress through the novel the tone and mood of the story has shifted to one that is more serious and somber?


message 3: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3454 comments Mod
Chapter 52

We have now made our way with Mr Pickwick back to London where Ben Allen and Bob Sawyer are dropped off before Sam and Mr Pickwick make their way to the George and Vulture. There, Sam has the good fortune to meet with the housemaid Mary again, and they engage in some good-hearted but I also suspect serious-intended flirtation. Mary tells Sam that he had received a letter which she has kept for him and so “after many pretty little coquettish”actions she produces the letter from “behind the nicest little muslin tucker possible.” After Sam refreshes himself with a kiss from Mary, he reads the letter from his father, the contents of which contain the news that his mother-in-law has passed away. I will not attempt to give an accurate analysis or translation of the letter as it must rate close to James Joyce’s Ulysses or even Finnigan’s Wake it its linguistic complexity. Sam requests a couple of days leave from Mr Pickwick and heads off to be with his father.


Thoughts

So far, with the exception of Mr Pickwick in the Fleet, The Pickwick Papers has been relatively free of sorrow. To what extent do you agree me? If not, where have you found sorrow for our Pickwickian adventurers?

Mr Weller is sad about the loss of his wife and we learn that she was a person who had some savings. We also learn that before she passed she told Tony Weller that she should have been more attentive to him, that religion turned her from some of her domestic “dooties at home” and that “vile she [went] to church” she should have been more aware of “self-indulgence.” Now, I know Dickens has been switching the “v’s” and “w’s” to establish dialect, but one has to love the fact that the word “while” becomes the dialect word “vile” to describe and be linked with the church. Vile church. Hmmm... could Dickens have actually planned this pairing of words, or was it just a fortunate coincidence? In any case, I can see Dickens smile as he wrote those words.

It appears that Tony Weller may not have to wait long for another lady to come his way in the courting department as he gets some extra attention from a “buxom female” who looks “affectionately at the elder Mr Weller.” It seems that to avoid future encounters with too many women Tony Weller tells his son that he will continue “on the box” and thus keep moving around the countryside. We learn that the late Mrs Weller has left some money to Sam and Tony Weller and so both father and son now have some financial security.

Ah, it is said that money is the root of all evil, and guess who shows up at the Weller door with great expectations of also being a beneficiary? Yes, indeed, it is our our friend Mr Stiggins who is told by Weller that Mrs Weller has “left the fold nothin’, nor the shepherd nothin’, nor the animals nothin, ... nor the dogs even.” An astonished Stiggins gasps “Nothing for me, Mr Samuel?” Yes, money does tend to bring out the worst in some people. Stiggins now suggests that he could take care of Tony Weller’s property. Dickens makes it very clear how detestable Stiggins really is, and, by implication, how misguided many Evangelical preachers were. As our chapter ends we have the pleasure to read how Sam’s father “fell to kicking him most furiously.” And so ends the story of Mr Stiggins.

Thoughts

There is one short phrase I would like to draw your attention to in this chapter. We read that Mr Stiggins took down a tumbler “and with great deliberation put four lumps of sugar in it.” I suggest that this comment may well be another criticism of the hypocrisy of Stiggins. Here is my reasoning. At the time of the writing of this novel (1836-37) the Slavery Abolition Act had been in effect since 1833. In the forefront of this movement was William Wilberforce who had reasoned that by taxing sugar it would help force the British possessions in the Caribbean to decrease the production of sugar, and thus lower the need for slaves to work the fields. Further, Wilberforce encouraged those against slavery to use as little sugar as possible, or even better, to refuse sugar when offered it for beverages and the such. This was, in some ways, like what we would call today public shaming. Thus the phrase of Stiggins taking “four lumps of sugar” would be read by the Victorian public as another example of his hypocritical nature.

Our focus on the many forms and foibles of love and marriage continues in this chapter. I was surprised with the kindness that Mrs Weller showed towards Sam and her late husband, I laughed at Tony Weller’s plans to avoid anther marriage by keeping “in the box” of his coaching occupation, and I was heartened with the growing attachment between Sam and Mary. Which of the great variety of relationships found in the novel have you enjoyed to most?

Finally, we are rapidly approaching the end of The Pickwick Papers. Do you think our hero, Mr Pickwick, will himself find love in the novel?


message 4: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 1120 comments That's a very interesting observation, Peter, about the four lumps of sugar and the Slavery Abolition Act. I would not have known of that, and so I read that part several times and I can see how Dickens used that as a negative character reference.

I'm not too familiar with old drink ingredients, but four lumps of sugar into something called "pine-apple rum" tends to make my cheeks pucker as I read that.


message 5: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4856 comments Mod
Peter, I used that four-lumps-of-sugar bit in class today and impressed my students ;-) Thanks a lot!


message 6: by Suki (new)

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 29 comments Well, I am finally caught up with the reading schedule, and very curious to see how everything will turn out. I wonder what happened to Messrs Snodgrass and Tupman-- they seem to be the forgotten Pickwickians. Will we see them again or are they gone for good?

I loved the description of the city of Birmingham-- for me, it was one of the most vivid in the book. It made me think of the movie Metropolis, for some reason.

Peter, your observation about the meaning behind Stiggins' four lumps of sugar and what it said about his character was fascinating, and it makes me wonder if there is more subtext in the story that a Victorian-era reader would have picked up on right away, but which just sailed right past me.


message 7: by Peter (last edited May 09, 2018 07:26AM) (new)

Peter | 3454 comments Mod
Suki wrote: "Well, I am finally caught up with the reading schedule, and very curious to see how everything will turn out. I wonder what happened to Messrs Snodgrass and Tupman-- they seem to be the forgotten P..."

Hi Suki

I think there are always sub-texts that float through literature that readers of a different era -and indeed their own time period - will not identify with. Just think - cultural references, geographical references, historical references, linguistic meanings and a host of others are constantly at work within a novel. Indeed, authors may “use them” without realizing it as well. Actually, my use of the word “references” is misleading.

Consider a writer from Canada. You and I would pick up meanings that our Pickwickian friends could well miss. Then, more specifically, if the writer were from Calgary you would pick up a phrase, reference, or such I would not and could not attach any meaning to. Here in Victoria we have phrases that many in Vancouver would be unfamiliar with because of our geography. It’s fascinating really to consider what exists on a written page to discover.

For me, when I read the names and streets and districts in a Dickens novel I realize those places were mentioned by Dickens to signify class, poverty and proximity to other places that a Victorian citizen would be able to de-code with ease. Today, however, those same places (if they still exist in name) many we’ll be culturally very different in significance.

Ah, the endless quest ...


message 8: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4856 comments Mod
Yes, an endless quest, indeed, but an intriguing one. I have quite some things to say about these chapters, but I will be away for a couple of days and re-join you on Friday or Saturday, my friends! Enjoy discussing this wonderful novel!


message 9: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod


Mr. Bob Sawyer's Mode of Travelling

Chapter 50

Phiz - 1837

Commentary:

Having finally gone bankrupt in his apothecary business in Bristol — no surprise, given his heavy drinking in chapter 35 — Bob Sawyer now decides to accompany Mr. Pickwick and Ben Allen on their mission to Birmingham to inform Winkle's father about his son's recent marriage to Ben's sister, Arabella. As in the text, The chaise has advanced to the high road outside Bristol, and Bob, wearing a rough coat and shawl — and Sam Weller's hat — under the influence of morning potations is playing the clown. Presumably, the "small leathern knapsack" that Sawyer brought with him is in the dickey with kindred spirit Sam. The "moment" realised is, in fact, an extensive passage describing the riotous conduct of the jovial former medical student and Bristol chemist riding on the top of the chaise or two-person carriage:

Text illustrated:

Here a prolonged imitation of a key–bugle broke upon the ear, succeeded by cheers and screams, all of which evidently proceeded from the throat and lungs of the quietest creature breathing, or in plainer designation, of Mr. Bob Sawyer himself.

Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Ben Allen looked expressively at each other, and the former gentleman taking off his hat, and leaning out of the coach window until nearly the whole of his waistcoat was outside it, was at length enabled to catch a glimpse of his facetious friend.

Mr. Bob Sawyer was seated, not in the dickey, but on the roof of the chaise, with his legs as far asunder as they would conveniently go, wearing Mr. Samuel Weller's hat on one side of his head, and bearing, in one hand, a most enormous sandwich, while, in the other, he supported a goodly–sized case–bottle, to both of which he applied himself with intense relish, varying the monotony of the occupation by an occasional howl, or the interchange of some lively badinage with any passing stranger. The crimson flag was carefully tied in an erect position to the rail of the dickey; and Mr. Samuel Weller, decorated with Bob Sawyer's hat, was seated in the centre thereof, discussing a twin sandwich, with an animated countenance, the expression of which betokened his entire and perfect approval of the whole arrangement.

This was enough to irritate a gentleman with Mr. Pickwick's sense of propriety, but it was not the whole extent of the aggravation, for a stage–coach full, inside and out, was meeting them at the moment, and the astonishment of the passengers was very palpably evinced. The congratulations of an Irish family, too, who were keeping up with the chaise, and begging all the time, were of rather a boisterous description, especially those of its male head, who appeared to consider the display as part and parcel of some political or other procession of triumph.

"Mr. Sawyer!" cried Mr. Pickwick, in a state of great excitement, "Mr. Sawyer, Sir!"

"Hallo!" responded that gentleman, looking over the side of the chaise with all the coolness in life.

"Are you mad, sir?" demanded Mr. Pickwick.

"Not a bit of it," replied Bob; "only cheerful."

"Cheerful, sir!" ejaculated Mr. Pickwick. "Take down that scandalous red handkerchief, I beg. I insist, Sir. Sam, take it down."

Before Sam could interpose, Mr. Bob Sawyer gracefully struck his colours, and having put them in his pocket, nodded in a courteous manner to Mr. Pickwick, wiped the mouth of the case–bottle, and applied it to his own, thereby informing him, without any unnecessary waste of words, that he devoted that draught to wishing him all manner of happiness and prosperity. Having done this, Bob replaced the cork with great care, and looking benignantly down on Mr. Pickwick, took a large bite out of the sandwich, and smiled.

"Come," said Mr. Pickwick, whose momentary anger was not quite proof against Bob’s immovable self–possession, "pray let us have no more of this absurdity."

"No, no," replied Bob, once more exchanging hats with Mr. Weller; "I didn't mean to do it, only I got so enlivened with the ride that I couldn't help it."

"Think of the look of the thing," expostulated Mr. Pickwick; "have some regard to appearances."

"Oh, certainly," said Bob, "it's not the sort of thing at all. All over, governor."


The illustration admirably conveys, as Michael Steig suggests, the textual scene's broad, physical comedy, which depends for its full effect upon the reader's prior acquaintance with the antics of the irrepressible Bob Sawyer contrasting Mr. Pickwick's manifest concern with maintaining appropriate (i. e., respectable, middle class) appearances. Riding atop the coach, which he strides as if it were a horse, Bob momentarily becomes a lord of misrule, affronting the staid Pickwick's conventional middle-class sense of propriety with his "great variety of practical jokes" . The illustration conveys a sense of the scene's comic vitality while capturing all the textual elements: the "volatile" Bob Sawyer on top of the coach, the reproving Pickwick leaning out the chaise's window, the convivial Sam in the boot, and — realised with exuberant vigour and charming detail — the ragged but ebullient family of Irish "tinkers." Under Phiz's hand, these leprechaun-like beggars (elaborated and individualised) seem both to race alongside the coach and dance. Bob Sawyer's business partner, Benjamin Allen, travelling inside with Pickwick, is not evident, but Phiz has included in the upper left a fully laden coach approaching from the opposite direction, its passengers obviously enjoying (rather than astonished at) the humorous spectacle as much as the readers of the October 1837 installment. Deconstructing the moment realised as an exhibition of the class differences upon which the novel rarely touches (since all The characters, from medical students, lawyers, and businessmen, to incarcerated debtors, the coach-driver and publican Tony Weller and his son, a "boots," are members of the broad and burgeoning middle class), Steig remarks:

A different kind of thematic emphasis occurs in "Mr. Bob Sawyer's mode of travelling" (ch. 49) where the seedy Sawyer and his friend Ben Allen first come into contact with Pickwick. At this point the hero's transformation from bumbling fool into fountainhead of benevolence and wisdom is virtually complete, and yet suddenly we are given a violently comic episode in which Pickwick reverts to some of his early qualities, followed in the next plate by an even more broadly slapstick episode. If we accept the principle that the novel is moving toward the establishment of a pastoral Pickwickian patriarchy for Winkle, Snodgrass, Sam, and their wives, the medical students introduced at this point represent the eruption of characteristics which the novel increasingly has either overcome or denied: self-interest, self-dramatization, lack of self-control, overindulgence in corporeal (if not carnal) pleasures, and even (in Ben and Bob's eagerness to "bleed" someone) indifference to others' physical sufferings. Browne's illustration even more than Dickens' text vividly expresses the subversiveness of these figures.

There are no details in the plate which are not in the text, but the "Irish family," whose "congratulations" are of a "rather boisterous description," is interpreted as a group of tinkers &mdash two parents, seven children, and a dog — the father, the eldest boy, and one of the girls all saluting in direct imitation of Bob's gestures with bottle and sandwich. Pickwick's indignation is, in the text, to be converted with the help of a bottle of punch into a passive participation in the merriment; but in the etching he is caught at the moment when he is at the height of bourgeois respectability, in contrast to Bob, Sam Weller, and the Irish family. Phiz has thus apparently taken a generalized reference in the text and made it into the novel's only concrete reference to the lowest classes, implying that they are both a potential threat and a source of vitality beyond the range of Pickwick's comprehension. [Steig 36-37]



message 10: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod


Mr. Bob Sawyer was seated: not in the dickey, but on the roof of the chaise

Chapter 50

Phiz - 1874 Household Edition

Text Illustrated:

"Mr. Sawyer!" cried Mr. Pickwick, in a state of great excitement, "Mr. Sawyer, Sir!"

"Hallo!" responded that gentleman, looking over the side of the chaise with all the coolness in life.

"Are you mad, sir?" demanded Mr. Pickwick.

"Not a bit of it," replied Bob; "only cheerful."

"Cheerful, sir!" ejaculated Mr. Pickwick. "Take down that scandalous red handkerchief, I beg. I insist, Sir. Sam, take it down."

Before Sam could interpose, Mr. Bob Sawyer gracefully struck his colours, and having put them in his pocket, nodded in a courteous manner to Mr. Pickwick, wiped the mouth of the case–bottle, and applied it to his own, thereby informing him, without any unnecessary waste of words, that he devoted that draught to wishing him all manner of happiness and prosperity. Having done this, Bob replaced the cork with great care, and looking benignantly down on Mr. Pickwick, took a large bite out of the sandwich, and smiled.



message 11: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod


Suddenly aware that he was in the presence of a stranger, Mr. Ben Allen advanced

Chapter 50

Phiz - 1874 Household edition

Text Illustrated:

‘Mr. Pickwick, sir, how do you do?’ said Winkle the elder, putting down the candlestick and proffering his hand. ‘Hope I see you well, sir. Glad to see you. Be seated, Mr. Pickwick, I beg, Sir. This gentleman is—’

‘My friend, Mr. Sawyer,’ interposed Mr. Pickwick, ‘your son’s friend.’

‘Oh,’ said Mr. Winkle the elder, looking rather grimly at Bob. ‘I hope you are well, sir.’

‘Right as a trivet, sir,’ replied Bob Sawyer.

‘This other gentleman,’ cried Mr. Pickwick, ‘is, as you will see when you have read the letter with which I am intrusted, a very near relative, or I should rather say a very particular friend of your son’s. His name is Allen.’

‘That gentleman?’ inquired Mr. Winkle, pointing with the card towards Ben Allen, who had fallen asleep in an attitude which left nothing of him visible but his spine and his coat collar.

Mr. Pickwick was on the point of replying to the question, and reciting Mr. Benjamin Allen’s name and honourable distinctions at full length, when the sprightly Mr. Bob Sawyer, with a view of rousing his friend to a sense of his situation, inflicted a startling pinch upon the fleshly part of his arm, which caused him to jump up with a shriek. Suddenly aware that he was in the presence of a stranger, Mr. Ben Allen advanced and, shaking Mr. Winkle most affectionately by both hands for about five minutes, murmured, in some half-intelligible fragments of sentences, the great delight he felt in seeing him, and a hospitable inquiry whether he felt disposed to take anything after his walk, or would prefer waiting ‘till dinner-time;’ which done, he sat down and gazed about him with a petrified stare, as if he had not the remotest idea where he was, which indeed he had not.



message 12: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod


The Rival Editors

Chapter 51

Phiz - 1837

Commentary:

A reprise of the party animosity at the Eatanswill election, which Pickwick attended in ch. 13, appears in this altercation and subsequent physical battle between the editors of the Tory ("Blue") and Whig ("Buff") journals for the town, Pott and Slurk, who by chance arrive by separate carriages at The Saracen's Head, Towchester, just after heavy rain has forced the Pickwick party travelling from Birmingham to London to pull in for a change of horses and some refreshment. Everyone involved has gone into the kitchen because that is the only room at the inn with a roaring fire. Although Dickens accords the medical students some prominence in the scene as they hope to bleed the antagonists, in Phiz's illustration Bob Sawyer and Ben Allen are incidental to the action, Bob being the cigar-smoker carrying a basin and lancet (left). Ineffectually, the landlady (right) is endeavouring to clean up the mess the adversaries have made in her kitchen, domestic chaos being signified by overturned chair and two overturned stools. The landlord (rear, centre) raises his hands in dismay at the damage. The centre of the action is, of course, the hapless Mr. Pickwick, being assaulted by the political adversaries.

Text illustrated:

"I consider you, sir,' said Mr. Pott, moved by this sarcasm, "I consider you a viper. I look upon you, sir, as a man who has placed himself beyond the pale of society, by his most audacious, disgraceful, and abominable public conduct. I view you, sir, personally and politically, in no other light than as a most unparalleled and unmitigated viper."

The indignant Independent did not wait to hear the end of this personal denunciation; for, catching up his carpet-bag, which was well stuffed with movables, he swung it in the air as Pott turned away, and, letting it fall with a circular sweep on his head, just at that particular angle of the bag where a good thick hairbrush happened to be packed, caused a sharp crash to be heard throughout the kitchen, and brought him at once to the ground.

"Gentlemen," cried Mr. Pickwick, as Pott started up and seized the fire-shovel — "gentlemen! Consider, for Heaven's sake — help — Sam — here — pray, gentlemen — interfere, somebody."

Uttering these incoherent exclamations, Mr. Pickwick rushed between the infuriated combatants just in time to receive the carpet-bag on one side of his body, and the fire-shovel on the other. Whether the representatives of the public feeling of Eatanswill were blinded by animosity, or (being both acute reasoners) saw the advantage of having a third party between them to bear all the blows, certain it is that they paid not the slightest attention to Mr. Pickwick, but defying each other with great spirit, plied the carpet-bag and the fire-shovel most fearlessly. Mr. Pickwick would unquestionably have suffered severely for his humane interference, if Mr. Weller, attracted by his master's cries, had not rushed in at the moment, and, snatching up a meal — sack, effectually stopped the conflict by drawing it over the head and shoulders of the mighty Pott, and clasping him tight round the shoulders.


Michael Steig briefly notes how Samuel Pickwick in league with the proletarian Samuel Weller, the two extremes, as it were, of the broad middle class rout the forces of misrule — ironically identified with Britain's warring political factions — whereas in the first October illustration, "Bob Sawyer's Mode of Travelling," anarchic forces (as embodied in the Dionysiac Bob) have temporarily gotten the better of Pickwick, and of the episodic storyline:

The accompanying plate, "The Rival Editors" (ch. 51), finds both Pickwick and Sam on the side of order, interfering in the absurd conflict between the editors and ignoring the medical students who circle them, brandishing their scalpels. This is the last broadly comic episode in the novel, and can be seen as a resolution, a laying to rest of the early Pickwick, as he and Sam have the advantage over the ridiculous comic characters, and only the medical students suggest any continuation of Misrule (a term I have taken from traditional Christmas festivities. . . ).

From his superior position on the china hutch Sam Weller comes to the aid of his master by placing a meal sack over the head of The Eatanswill Gazette editor Pott, who favours the "Blues" or Tories. Effectively, then, Pickwick has nothing to fear from Pott's fire-shovel, but is still being buffeted by the carpet-bag wielded by the recently arrived Slurk, editor of the Eatanswill Independent, the "Buff" or Liberal-leaning periodical for an East Anglian town, probably based on Sudbury, which Dickens visited as a young reporter covering a byelection in 1834.

Details



The Buff editor Pott



The Blue Editor Slurk


message 13: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod


Snatching up a meal-sack, effectually stopped the conflict by drawing it over the head and shoulders of the mighty Potter

Chapter 51

Phiz . Household Edition (1874)

Text Illustrated:

‘Gentlemen,’ cried Mr. Pickwick, as Pott started up and seized the fire-shovel—‘gentlemen! Consider, for Heaven’s sake—help—Sam—here—pray, gentlemen—interfere, somebody.’

Uttering these incoherent exclamations, Mr. Pickwick rushed between the infuriated combatants just in time to receive the carpet-bag on one side of his body, and the fire-shovel on the other. Whether the representatives of the public feeling of Eatanswill were blinded by animosity, or (being both acute reasoners) saw the advantage of having a third party between them to bear all the blows, certain it is that they paid not the slightest attention to Mr. Pickwick, but defying each other with great spirit, plied the carpet-bag and the fire-shovel most fearlessly. Mr. Pickwick would unquestionably have suffered severely for his humane interference, if Mr. Weller, attracted by his master’s cries, had not rushed in at the moment, and, snatching up a meal-sack, effectually stopped the conflict by drawing it over the head and shoulders of the mighty Pott, and clasping him tight round the shoulders.

‘Take away that ‘ere bag from the t’other madman,’ said Sam to Ben Allen and Bob Sawyer, who had done nothing but dodge round the group, each with a tortoise-shell lancet in his hand, ready to bleed the first man stunned. ‘Give it up, you wretched little creetur, or I’ll smother you in it.’

Awed by these threats, and quite out of breath, the Independent suffered himself to be disarmed; and Mr. Weller, removing the extinguisher from Pott, set him free with a caution.



message 14: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod


Tony Weller ejects Mr. Stiggins

Chapter 52

Phiz - 1837

Commentary:

In the final installment — Parts 19 and 20, which appeared in the November 1837 double number — Phiz has elected to depict a series of comic moments that are not associated with the titular character at all. These choices imply that Dickens had come to trust Phiz's sense as to what topics were most suitable for illustration. In "Tony Weller ejects Mr. Stiggins," for example, the writer and illustrator act, as it were, as co-presenters of the comic comeuppance of the hypocritical dissenting minister and "shepherd" of the Emanuel Chapel at Dorking, Surrey. At the borough's venerable Marquis of Granby public house on a tranquil, tree-lined street, coachman and publican Tony Weller, incensed with Stiggins's hypocrisy and manifest greed, gives the alcoholic "pastor" a drubbing and then immerses him in the pub's horse-trough, as a mock baptism, perhaps. The scene depicted occurs shortly after the sudden death of Sam Weller's "mother-in-law" (stepmother), a devoted member of Stiggins's congregation; vulture-like Stiggins hovers over Tony in hopes of securing a bequest, despite the fact that he was inadvertently the cause of her death, for his prolonged, sermonical rant while she was sitting on the grass in the rain listening to him for hours occasioned her catching a severe cold.

Sam, having repaired to his father's pub as soon as he received a letter at London's George and Vulture announcing her demise, in the background of the illustration cheers on his incensed father. The coachman's assault seems to be triggered by the alcoholic preacher's helping himself to pineapple rum, sugar, and water on the strength of some sort of financial commitment to the Emanuel he feels sure that Tony's wife, Susan, just buried, has made in her will. Suddenly throwing the hot liquor in Stiggins's face, Tony proceeds to kick him vigorously from the bar, through the passage, and out into the street. Thus, the illustration culminates this operation of comic nemesis.

Text illustrated:

Sam dutifully adjusted the hat with the long hatband more firmly on his father's head, and the old gentleman, resuming his kicking with greater agility than before, tumbled with Mr. Stiggins through the bar, and through the passage, out at the front door, and so into the street — the kicking continuing the whole way, and increasing in vehemence, rather than diminishing, every time the top-boot was lifted.

It was a beautiful and exhilarating sight to see the red-nosed man writhing in Mr. Weller's grasp, and his whole frame quivering with anguish as kick followed kick in rapid succession; it was a still more exciting spectacle to behold Mr. Weller, after a powerful struggle, immersing Mr. Stiggins's head in a horse- trough full of water, and holding it there, until he was half suffocated.

"There!" said Mr. Weller, throwing all his energy into one most complicated kick, as he at length permitted Mr. Stiggins to withdraw his head from the trough, "send any vun o' them lazy shepherds here, and I'll pound him to a jelly first, and drownd him artervards! Sammy, help me in, and fill me a small glass of brandy. I'm out o' breath, my boy."


(Ironically, although his Christianity was compatible with middle-of-the-road Anglicanism throughout his life, in the next decade the author was a regular member of a Unitarian congregation in London.)

The sign above the entrance to the pub in Phiz's illustration designates Tony Weller as the publican, reinforcing his connection to the real Moses Pickwick, a tavern-keeper who also operated a stagecoach business from Bath. Gargoyles supporting the ornamental lintel smile appreciatively at the unfolding drama and rough justice Tony, their owner, exacts. The streaming funereal hatband, Stiggins's hat on the ground, and the overturned wicker basket (right) suggest the energy of Tony's attack. The illustration provides details about the setting — especially about the architectural features of the pub's facade — that the bare text alone does not, so that author and illustrator become, in effect, joint originators of this delightful scene of physical comedy and poetic justice. The red-nosed "shepherd" (a complete mockery of the "Good Shepherd" of the Gospels) appears to be almost comatose as he feebly grips the trough and positions his spindly legs to push himself back. Although the text focuses on Tony's feelings and actions, the plate encompasses Stiggins's condition, Sam's ebullient response, and the most minute details of the physical setting that Dickens seems to have relied upon Phiz to express, including the pub's bay window of leaded panes and even a straw broom (left) to clean the sidewalk in front of the establishment. This latter detail may betoken Tony's settling his unfinished business with the predatory Stiggins, a catharsis for the long-suffering coachman and the reader alike. Thus, through his vivid realisation of Dickens's scene and his elaboration of the text Phiz enforces the reader's sympathy for the widower and contempt for the hypocritical pastor, who physically is no match for the massive coachman who has had to restrain his indignation far too long. In this respect, the illustration also prepares the reader for Pickwick's denunciation of the lawyers Dodson and Fogg as "as a well-matched pair of mean, rascally, pettifogging robbers" in Perker's law offices.


message 15: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod


It was a still more exciting spectacle to behold Mr. Weller . . . . . immersing Mr. Stiggins's head in a horse-trough full of water, and holding it there until he was half suffocated

Chapter 52

Phiz - 1874 Household Edition

Commentary:

The scene depicted twice by Phiz (1837 and 1873) and by the American satirical cartoonist Thomas Nast occurs shortly after the sudden death of Sam Weller's "mother-in-law" (stepmother), a devoted member of Reverend Stiggins's congregation of gullible females; vulture-like, Stiggins hovers over Tony in hopes of securing a bequest, despite the fact that he was inadvertently the cause of her death, for his prolonged, sermonical rant while she was sitting on the grass in the rain listening to him for hours occasioned her catching a severe cold.

Sam, having repaired to his father's pub as soon as he received a letter at London's George and Vulture announcing her demise, in the background of the illustration cheers on his incensed father. The coachman's assault seems to be triggered by the alcoholic preacher's helping himself to pineapple rum, sugar, and water on the strength of some sort of financial commitment to the Emanuel that he feels sure that Tony's wife, Susan, just buried, has made in her will. Suddenly throwing the hot liquor in Stiggins's face, Tony proceeds to eject him forcefully from the bar, through the passage, and out into the street, this being the scene that Nast has vigorously realised as Stiggins is airborn and Tony has but one foot on the ground, while Sam complacently observes the action inside The Marquis of Granby. Thus, the three illustrations culminate this operation of comic nemesis.

Text illustrated:

. . . when Stiggins stopped for breath [in the midst of his consuming his customary grog composed of sugar pine-apple rum, and hot water), [Tony Weller] darted upon him, and snatching the tumbler from his hand, threw the remainder of the rum-and-water in his face, and the glass itself into the grate. Then, seizing the reverend gentleman firmly by the collar, he suddenly fell to kicking him most furiously, accompanying every application of his top-boot to Mr. Stiggins's person, with sundry violent and incoherent anathemas upon his limbs, eyes, and body.

"Sammy," said Mr. Weller, "put my hat on tight for me."

Sam dutifully adjusted the hat with the long hatband more firmly on his father's head, and the old gentleman, resuming his kicking with greater agility than before, tumbled with Mr. Stiggins through the bar, and through the passage, out at the front door, and so into the street — the kicking continuing the whole way, and increasing in vehemence, rather than diminishing, every time the top-boot was lifted.

It was a beautiful and exhilarating sight to see the red-nosed man writhing in Mr. Weller's grasp, and his whole frame quivering with anguish as kick followed kick in rapid succession; it was a still more exciting spectacle to behold Mr. Weller, after a powerful struggle, immersing Mr. Stiggins's head in a horse- trough full of water, and holding it there, until he was half suffocated.

"There!" said Mr. Weller, throwing all his energy into one most complicated kick, as he at length permitted Mr. Stiggins to withdraw his head from the trough, "send any vun o' them lazy shepherds here, and I'll pound him to a jelly first, and drownd him artervards! Sammy, help me in, and fill me a small glass of brandy. I'm out o' breath, my boy." [The Household Edition, ch. 52}


With the background of the public-house's interior lightly sketched in, Nast focuses the reader's attention on the sharply contrasting figures of the thin, air born victim and the rotund assailant, his strength of emotion suggested by his funereal hatband and topcoat billowing out behind him. That the reader should not be concerned about "the reverend" gentleman's physical well-being Nast telegraphs through the nonchalant figure of the normative observer, Sam Weller. The same stylistic feature, the suggesting of Tony Weller's emotional state through his hatband and flying tails of the topcoat, occurs in Phiz's original treatment of this subject. However, in the original serial engraving the juxtaposition of the figures is the reverse of the 1873 woodcut, with Sam on the left and Tony and his victim facing right. In abbreviating the height of the illustration for the woodcut, unfortunately Phiz had to eliminate the sign for "The Marquis of Granby" and even the placard bearing the name of the licensee above the doorway. A curious detail is the inclusion of both Phiz illustrations of Stiggins's signature black hat and umbrella, which Nast depicts in the very act of flight; logically, both of these objects associated with the dissenting minister should not be in the exterior scene.


message 16: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6425 comments Mod


Resumes his kicking with greater agility than before

Chapter 52

Thomas Nast - 1874 Household Edition

Text Illustrated:

The elder Mr. Weller, who still continued to make various strange and uncouth attempts to appear asleep, offered not a single word during these proceedings; but when Stiggins stopped for breath, he darted upon him, and snatching the tumbler from his hand, threw the remainder of the rum-and-water in his face, and the glass itself into the grate. Then, seizing the reverend gentleman firmly by the collar, he suddenly fell to kicking him most furiously, accompanying every application of his top-boot to Mr. Stiggins’s person, with sundry violent and incoherent anathemas upon his limbs, eyes, and body.

‘Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller, ‘put my hat on tight for me.’

Sam dutifully adjusted the hat with the long hatband more firmly on his father’s head, and the old gentleman, resuming his kicking with greater agility than before, tumbled with Mr. Stiggins through the bar, and through the passage, out at the front door, and so into the street—the kicking continuing the whole way, and increasing in vehemence, rather than diminishing, every time the top-boot was lifted.

It was a beautiful and exhilarating sight to see the red-nosed man writhing in Mr. Weller’s grasp, and his whole frame quivering with anguish as kick followed kick in rapid succession; it was a still more exciting spectacle to behold Mr. Weller, after a powerful struggle, immersing Mr. Stiggins’s head in a horse-trough full of water, and holding it there, until he was half suffocated.

‘There!’ said Mr. Weller, throwing all his energy into one most complicated kick, as he at length permitted Mr. Stiggins to withdraw his head from the trough, ‘send any vun o’ them lazy shepherds here, and I’ll pound him to a jelly first, and drownd him artervards! Sammy, help me in, and fill me a small glass of brandy. I’m out o’ breath, my boy.’



message 17: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3454 comments Mod
Kim

Well, “fill me a small glass of brandy. I’m out o’ breath, my [friend]”

Thank you for the illustrations. For humour, these chapters have more going on in them and are more entertaining than any previous chapters. Bob Sawyer on the loose, Sam as a referee and saviour of Mr Pickwick during a brawl and Stiggins getting a licking and dunking are all wonderful fun to read about. We have noted than in the latter stages of the novel there appears a more somber tone, but with these illustrations we are also reminded of the broad physical humour that exists. Phiz, as always, captures the swirl of characters and events perfectly.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the bird cage in message 13.


message 18: by Suki (new)

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 29 comments Kim wrote: "Tony Weller ejects Mr. Stiggins

Chapter 52

Phiz - 1837

Commentary:

In the final installment — Parts 19 and 20, which appeared in the November 1837 double number — Phiz has elected to depict a s..."


(Message 14)
This is very possibly my favorite scene and picture from the entire story. Stiggins has always been so condescending to Tony Weller (in Weller's own establishment, no less!), and such a hypocrite, it is really nice to see him taken down.


message 19: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4856 comments Mod
The final exorcism of Stiggins, with all its elements of broad physical humour, anticipates the downfall of Pecksniff, who is of a similar cut, and it surely does us readers a world of good to see a pompous hypocrite demasked. In his later novels, Dickens is probably a bit more pessimistic about the sending-up of hypocrites, e.g. there is nothing particularly disgraceful that happens to Chadband. But then, another hypocrite like Fascination Fledgeby gets a very special punishment meted out by a very special little woman.

Mrs. Weller's untimely demise was the last really sombre tone in the novel up to now, and it really went against the grain with me because in Pickwick we had a lot of the sort of humour that seems to have no really dark side. Other forms of humour have that side, esp. in Dickens, but in most of the Pickwick instalments, I thought the humour very benign and genial, although sometimes a bit on the broad side.

On the other hand, Mrs. Weller's death establishes a certain parallel between Mr. Pickwick and the coachman: Both of them were, to some extent, under the shadow of a man-woman-relationship, and interestingly in both cases, these women were widows. Both of them also come out of their dark experience with a firm resolution to shun the company of single women or widows; remember how Mr. Pickwick made sure not to linger as soon as Arabella's aunt evinced signs of fascination with our hero?

What is remarkable about Mrs. Weller is that at the close of her life she suddenly realizes that she did not treat her husband very well - although Mr. Weller's way of life might probably also beg the question whether he is exactly the kind of husband every woman dreams of. When she says that she should have taken more care about the house instead of going to the preacher's meetings, we again have Dickens's very conservative, Victorian, stance on woman's position in society in the background. Reading Mrs. Weller's parting words made me think of the thoughtless Mrs. Jellyby, who is also accused of neglecting her family.


message 20: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1342 comments Midterms here, so got behind in my reading. But I'm glad Peter pointed out the sugar reference. The campaign against sugar wasn't subtle. I've been teaching Coleridge this week, and here's what he wrote about slavery in 1802: "The merchant finds no argument against it in his ledger: the citizen at the crowded feast is not nauseated by the stench and filth of the slave-vessel — the fine lady's nerves are not shattered by the shrieks! She sips a beverage sweetened with human blood..."

By the way, the one other good besides sugar that Coleridge recommends boycotting in this speech? Rum.


message 21: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3454 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "Midterms here, so got behind in my reading. But I'm glad Peter pointed out the sugar reference. The campaign against sugar wasn't subtle. I've been teaching Coleridge this week, and here's what he ..."

Hi Julie

Thanks for the Coleridge reference. I was unaware of it. Rather blunt, but no doubt effective.

Peter


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