The posthumous papers of the Pickwick Club

by Charles Dickens

Paper Book, 1948




Oxford : University Press, 1948


Charles Dickens's satirical masterpiece, "The Pickwick Papers," catapulted the young writer into literary fame when it was first serialized in 1836-37. It recounts the rollicking adventures of the members of the Pickwick Club as they travel about England getting into all sorts of mischief. Laugh-out-loud funny and endlessly entertaining, the book also reveals Dickens's burgeoning interest in the parliamentary system, lawyers, the Poor Laws, and the ills of debtors' prisons. As G. K. Chesterton noted, "Before ÝDickens¨ wrote a single real story, he had a kind of vision . . . a map full of fantastic towns, thundering coaches, clamorous market-places, uproarious inns, strange and swaggering figures. That vision was Pickwick."

User reviews

LibraryThing member souloftherose
The Pickwick Papers was Dickens' first novel, written at the tender age of 24 and published in monthly instalments from 1836-1837. The story follows the 'perambulations, perils, travels, adventures and sporting transactions of the corresponding members' of The Pickwick Club as they travel across
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I found the funniest parts of the book to be the early chapters where Dickens seems to be concentrating more on pure humour/satire by creating brilliant caricatures and there were several incidents that had me laughing out loud whilst I was reading (fortunately I was reading at home). As the serial progresses Dickens seems to move away from this approach to create more rounded, sympathetic characters, particularly where Mr Pickwick himself is concerned and whilst that meant there were fewer laugh out loud moments it also meant I became fonder of the characters.

A note on my edition: My copy was the 2003 Penguin Classics edition and as well as including some very helpful notes on the text and an introduction, this edition also showed where each monthly part ended so I was able to read along as the original subscribers to the serial would have received it (yes, I am a Dickens geek). This edition also comes complete with the original illustrations by Seymour and Phiz which are absolutely superb and really add to the story.

All in all, I can't recommend this book enough and I'm only sorry it took me so long to get round to rereading it.
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LibraryThing member brenzi
Dickens’ Pickwick Papers is comprised of a series of adventures taken up by Samuel Pickwick, a wealthy retired businessman and a few of his cronies, in and around London. Originally published serially, Dickens ended most chapters with a hook for readers to hang on, as they awaited the next
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installment. Like all Dickens novels, it was the author’s uncanny ability to draw intricately detailed characters that come across as the essence of 19th century London.

Pickwick himself is a sweet, kind man who goes out of his way to help others and righteously stands up for principles he considers vital to humanity. He is sued for breach of contract by Mrs. Bardel when she falls into his lap and then Pickwick doesn’t marry her. He naively opts for debtor’s prison rather than pay the fees demanded by her unscrupulous lawyers when he loses the case. I’ve learned that Dickens had little use for lawyers and often skewered them and the law in general. He uses Pickwick’s three months in debtor’s prison to lambaste that system and the horrid conditions that prevailed.

By far my favorite character was Pickwick’s valet, Sam Weller, who serves his master and advises him with Cockney wisdom. He spouts, what I came to call “Sam-isms” for nearly every situation that arises and clearly reveals his philosophy of life.

”Hooroar for the principle, as the money-lender said ven he wouldn’t renew the bill.”

“’Vell sir,’ rejoined Sam, ‘I think I see your drift, it’s my pinion that you’re a-comin’ it a great deal too strong, as the mail-coachman said to the snowstorm, ven it overtook him.’”

“’Well, perhaps,’ said Sam, ‘you bought houses, wich is delicate English for goin’ mad, wich is a medical term for bein’ incurable.’”

“’I wouldn’t make too sure o’ that, Sir,’ urged Mr. Weller, shaking his head. ‘If you know’d who was near, sir, I rayther think you’d change your note; as the hawk remarked to himself vith a cheerful laugh, ven he heerd the robin-redbreast a-singin’ round the corner.’”

“’Don’t say nothin’ wotever about it, ma’am,’ replied Sam. I only assisted nature, ma’am; as the doctor said to the boy’s mother, after he’d bled him to death.’”

Sam’s witticisms are part of the overall humor that infuses the narrative and I found myself laughing out loud. It’s a feel good novel as we follow Pickwick and his friends on their merry adventures but it’s Sam who steals the show. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member Fluffyblue
It was with great sadness that I finished The Pickwick Papers. I enjoyed this book so much, it really was a joy to pick up every day. It made me laugh out loud so many times. I think my poor husband got fed up of me quoting parts of the books all of the time!

The characters were wonderful, of course
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particularly Pickwick and Sam Weller, but the side characters were all well set out as well, and just added to the whole fabulousness of the story.

This is a book I know I will turn to again and again and it has made me want to read more Dickens (and classics in general) faster than I am able to!
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LibraryThing member fatherofaeris
This was my first exposure to Dickens as an adult. I had recently read Stoker's Dracula which is a good example of the end of Victorian literature. Craving more of this era in literature and knowing that Dickens was the most highly acclaimed author of this period, I decided to read his first novel.
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It enthralled me. There are most likely tons of little quips and satirical stabs at society in this book that will go over my head because I have not lived through those times......but it was still a hell of a read and I enjoyed every moment. This is one of the oldest books that has ever made me laugh out loud. I will definitely be reading more of Mr. Dickens.
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LibraryThing member Eamonn12
So much has been written about this book, first published in 1837. It remains a favourite with Dickens readers and the 1959 Collins edition which I have just read has a succinct introduction which gives a reason for this popularity. Alec Waugh writes: "['The Pickwick Papers'] is the work of a very
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young man, a young man with a heaven sent gift of friendliness and laughter, who was saying, exactly as he wanted to say it, the thing that he was impelled to say. And he was never quite that again; he was never again wholly free from the influence of his popularity and success". I am a great admirer of Dickens, and from a very early age, but I admit the truth of Waugh's remarks. As he grew older (and so phenomenally successful) he began to 'sermonise' a lot and sprawl out his plots rather too much. He was a great editor who, himself needed an editor.

But that was later. This is his first, and it's a great book. A real 'pick-me-up'. So many parts still make me laugh, after so many readings: Mr Pickwick being discovered at night in the garden of the boarding school where he had been lured on a false errand; Then later ending up by mistake in an old lady's bedroom; and Mr Winkle agreeing to go horse riding, even though he had no experience in the equestrian arts ('What makes him go sideways?' said Mr Snodgrass [in the carriage] to Mr Winkle in the saddle. 'I can't imagine,' replied Mr Winkle. His horse was drifting up the street in most mysterious manner, side first…); and many more.

Mr Pickwick is of course the prototype of many subsequent portly, good humoured old gentlemen who come to the rescue of various characters in distress in his later novels. such as the Cheeryble brothers, in Nicholas Nickleby, and Oliver's long lost grandfather in Oliver Twist. But none of these descendants are really so full of joviality, generosity and pure goodwill as is Pickwick. He's a tonic.
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LibraryThing member satyridae
This book makes me want to outlaw the teaching of classics to schoolchildren and hide all the Dickens on a high shelf with the porn so that there's half a chance that kids might read it. This is hilarious stuff. Who knew that they got to be classics for a reason? I approached this book with no
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small amount of trepidation, and in next to no time was laughing out loud. It's one thing to be reading alone and smile at a funny bit, but to be laughing, no, whooping helplessly, is another thing entirely. DH was sure he hated Dickens, any and all Dickens, so I read to him some of the elder Weller's philosophy on marriage. He kept trying not to laugh, but it was hopeless. This is really funny stuff. And Dickens was a mere lad of 24 when he wrote it.
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LibraryThing member jonfaith
The Pickwick Papers promised heft. Weighing in at 900 pages and larded with indices and erudite observations, the project promised muscle training, if nothing else. The serial natural of the narrative and general zany approach was also apprehended. I simply wasn't prepared, however, for Sam Weller.
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Oh lord, he may be my favorite character in recent memory. I wasn't prepared for such. I was expecting tales of the idle and curious confronting rural and proltarian situations, if only for hilarity and general misunderstanding to ensue. I didn't expect the wit and loyalty of young Weller, especially as the novel takes a rather dark turn and visits the black humors of Dickens' past. Along the journey, politicans, journalists, bankers and lawyers submit to tar-and-feathering: we are all the better for such. There's a surfeit of humiliation, but few are actually mean, as such.

Yes, the final fifth met the approval standards of its period. There are a slew of marriage plots to be resolved. Somehow that struck me as an addendum for decorum's sake. The novel becomes a meditation on friendship; between Pickwick and Weller, Sam and his father, the reader and Dickens.

I'm looking forward to reading all of Dickens this year; The Pickwick Papers was a marvelous inaugeration.
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LibraryThing member pickwick817
This book describes the adventures of a newly retired wealthy businssman, Mr Pickwick. He, his fellow members of the Pickwick club, and his servant Sam set out in search of adventure. The book is very well written, quite funny, and was a very enjoyable read.
LibraryThing member atimco
Pickwick Papers is one of Charles Dickens' earliest works and so it's hard not to read it looking for the seeds of everything to come later in his body of writing. Absurdity, humor, tragedy, chicanery, romance, fancy, lawsuits, debtors' prison, and more are here in good measure to richly repay
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Dickens' readers.

At times the interposition of tragic or comedic vignettes seem a bit forced, like short stories Dickens edited in to fill space. Pickwick and the others interact with these tales very little, simply hearing them and then moving on with their adventures without commentary. Some are unrelievedly tragic; others are crazily hilarious and fanciful, like the armchair coming to life and telling his story.

But it's the characters that make this loosely connected string of stories so memorable. Samuel Weller is one of my favorite literary characters of all time. I think he must have inspired Tolkien's Sam Gamgee at some level; both are utterly devoted to their masters and have a sturdy, rustic self possession that is highly distinctive. And I can't think of Tony Weller without smiling. And of course, Mr. Pickwick himself. And Snodgrass, and Tupman, and Winkle, and Wardle, and Jingle, and Job, and all the rest of that merry bunch.

Quite simply, this is splendid fun.
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LibraryThing member rcorfield
This book was much, much better than I was expecting.

It's the first Dickens I've read and I can see now why he's so highly rated.

It was very readable, funny and evocative of the period it is set in. The characterisation is superb and despite it being over 800 pages long, it was at no point a chore
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to read. It's full of amusing situations & events and interesting details. I was expecting the language to be much more archaic than it turned out to be, which is one of the reasons as to why I found it an easy read.

I'm definitely going to try to read (at least one) more Dickens now.
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LibraryThing member Cecrow
Four well-to-do gentlemen of the upper class launch a club for pontificating, but find they've little to talk about. They endeavour to become more worldly by travelling about the countryside, where they tumble into one situation after another that's comprised of mistaken identities and various
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other misunderstandings. Exacerbating this is the pride of one or two in the party who can't admit when they aren't made of the stuff that's attributed to them (Chapter Nineteen's hunting party is the perfect example.) Some classics are just plain fun to read - Don Quixote, The Three Musketeers, Tristram Shandy, etc. The Pickwick Papers is one of these. Once you adapt to the language, there’s almost nothing but good times ahead except for the social satire of the Fleet episode.

Dickens' first novel, initially published as a monthly serial (I think most if not all of his novels were?), lacks much of a cohesive overarching plot. As explained in his introduction, he wasn't planning ahead for a finished product that would be read all at once. The result is a book that can easily be put aside at any time. It’s also a book that can easily be picked up again days or weeks later, resumed without much consequence, and still be just as enjoyable. I wish now that I'd written down every instance of Sam Weller saying something innocuous, then comparing it to another scenario that makes it hilarious. Pickwick is a unique treasure trove of light humour with an approach, tone and language that no modern novel can ever hope to emulate.
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LibraryThing member dsc73277
The only Dickens novel that I have never been able to finish.
LibraryThing member BookMarkMe
My first Dickens and a struggle to get into. I'll re-visit when I've developed my reading some more.
LibraryThing member readafew
This was a long read but continually improved to the end. I enjoyed this book even though it took me longer than normal to get through it. Dickens seemed to poke fun at everyone in this book, Lawyers, Doctors, Gentlemen, Politicians and many others.

The first half of the book Pickwick and friends
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are made out to be just bumbleing ignorant gentlemen whose escapades we are able to laugh at. By the end they are shown to be careing generous people we don't want to say goodbye to. I shall in the future read more of Dickens works.
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LibraryThing member Greatrakes
Mr Pickwick is undoubtedly a sentimental man and, as the book is a comedy, it has a happy ending for the members of the club, and an ambivalent one for the villains, but despite that, this book is less sentimental than most Dickens I have read. I suppose I think of Dickens as being the leading
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Victorian novelist, but this book was started before Victoria became Queen, and was set a decade before it was written, so it is clearly pre-Victorian - I'm not sure what that signifies!

Although the Pickwick Club is a populous body, the book is concerned with just a few members:
Samuel Pickwick - founder of the Pickwick Club,
Nathaniel Winkle - an inept sportsman,
Augustus Snodgrass - a poet with no known output,
Tracy Tupman - an inept Lothario.

They are taking time out (over a year) to travel and examine the world, before (in the case of Winkle and Sodgrasse) settling down to matrimony. Mr Pickwick, their quixotic leader, has taken early retirement. This gives the book the flavour of a nineteenth centre lads weekend away, stretched over many months, accentuated by the fact that it was published monthly, making it feel very episodic. The female characters seem to be victims or stooges - only Mrs Pott made a lasting impression on me and we get a male perspective on the world.

Sam Weller is my least favourite character, despite having some of the best lines, I hate subservient, but chirpy, Cockney Sparras, it has become such a cliche. There are some excellently done stereotypes, amongst others: solicitors, their clerks, barristers, doctors, politicians, journalists and preachers are hatcheted
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LibraryThing member bria.lynne
I believe this was my favorite book in ninth grade. Once through the first chapter I laughed through the whole book.
LibraryThing member Esquilinho
delightful.: Dickens's first, and most light-hearted, work. It's an episodic novel, originally published in monthly installments, about the adventures of Mr Pickwick, the wannabe-womaniser Mr Tupman, the poet Mr Snodgrass and Mr Winkle, who have all formed a club, the aim of which is simply to
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observe life. You can see the influence it had on much later works by the likes of P G Wodehouse, E F Benson etc. There are many funny scenes here, some involving broad slapstick, such as Mr Pickwick being dumped in a wheelbarrow in the village pond! There's even fore-runners of the bedroom farce, as in the episode when Mr Pickwick ends up, (purely by accident you understand), in the bedroom of a middle-aged lady at a hotel in Ipswich. Coming in and out of the story at intervals is the incorrigible chancer Mr Jingle, who makes a living trying to con money out of impressionable women. This also must be where the Dickensian image of Christmas first came from, with the Pickwickians going to spend a traditional Christmas at Dingley Dell. Dickens achieves the feat of creating a light-hearted comedy, which never descends into whimsy. It is a tale of stagecoaches (coming to the end of their natural life, as the railway was beginning to take off when Dickens wrote this), poor people living off oysters, with oyster-stalls along the streets (not then a rich man's delicacy), and vivid details of coaching inns and old London hostelries. It is an engaging tribute to the late Georgian era of Dickens's youth.
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LibraryThing member samfsmith
Dickens' first novel, and it shows a little in the beginning, I think. A very slow start. Throughout the novel there is the convention of the author speaking to the reader, commenting on the action. Quite old fashioned.

It's a series of anecdotes and tales, loosely linked, but it improves greatly as
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it progresses. I think Dickens was learning his craft, and getting better at it, as he went along.
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LibraryThing member extrajoker
first line: "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
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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."

*deep breath*

Despite its formidable opening (and no less daunting volume), this really is a fun (and funny) read, a sort of comedy of errors about the bookish, clueless Samuel Pickwick, Esq.
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LibraryThing member plattjerome
Dickens writes, "This edition of my books is (as the library edtion was) inscribed to my dear friend John Forster, biographer of Oliver Goldsmith in grateful remembrance of the many patient hours he devoted to the correction of the proof sheets of the original editions; and in affectionate
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acknowledgment of his counsel, sympathy, and faithful friendship, during my whole litrary life.
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LibraryThing member richardhobbs
First Edition in original parts (monthly magazine format). Missing some parts. 1836
LibraryThing member mattmcg
The best book ever about the immortality of donkeys and page-boys.
LibraryThing member jayne_charles
A sort of Victorian drop-your-trousers farce. I suspect if I had been reading this when it was first published, in instalments, some weeks I would have been waiting eagerly for the next bit, other times able to take it or leave it. The chapters with the two young doctors in left me cold, mostly,
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but really liked the early escapades involving Mr Pickwick (who in my imagination looks a little like Captain Mainwaring from Dad's Army); if there was ever the slightest possibility that by accident he could wander into the bedroom of a partly unclothed lady he woud always end up doing so. Brilliant.
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LibraryThing member cbfiske
I loved this book. It presented me with humor, both broad (Mr. Pickwick and the lady in the yellow curl papers) and more subtle ("Ode to an Expiring Frog" by Mrs. Leo Hunter, anyone?) and also managed to discuss with pathos more serious issues (debtors in Fleet Prison). The characters were
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memorable. To tell the truth, I now have a bit of a crush on Mr. Sam Weller. To top it all off the ending was happy. What could be better?
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LibraryThing member nicole_a_davis
Definitely not one of Dickens' best works. I actually could only get through about a third, maybe less, of it. It was a little bit too scattered--there's a cast of characters common to each chapter but no over-arching plot which I did not like.


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