The Pickwick Papers

Wed, 2009-07-08 10:18

I finished reading The Pickwick Papers last night. I have to say, it was one of my least favorite Dickens novels so far. I really don't think Dickens did a good job of delineating the characters (e.g., I couldn't tell you the difference between Mr. Winkle, Mr. Snodgrass, and Mr. Tupman). Sam Weller is, of course, an excellent character, and the best feature of the book.

It took me outrageously long to read this, since I didn't like it very much, so I wasn't drawn to it, and I restarted at least once. As I continue with my Dickens project, I really hope I have better luck with his other novels.

So far, I've read the grey ones:

  • Dombey and Son (1.95)
  • David Copperfield (1.91)
  • Bleak House (1.91)
  • Nicholas Nickleby (1.86)
  • Martin Chuzzlewit (1.85)
  • Little Dorrit (1.85)
  • Our Mutual Friends (1.83)
  • Pickwick Papers (1.72)
  • Barnaby Rudge (1.41)
  • The Old Curiosity Shop (1.19)
  • Great Expectations (1.01)
  • Oliver Twist (0.91)
  • A Tale of Two Cities (0.78)
  • Hard Times (0.58)

The numbers are proportional to the length of the book (they should be
approximately the number of characters in the novel, in millions).

What should I read next? I think Bleak House, since I've been wanting to read that for some time, but I'm going to take a break, and maybe start it in the fall. I've got a stack of other things to read, and I do seem to be able to get some reading done in the summer while I'm not working.

The Pickwick Papers contains what seems to me Dickens' closest approach to an erotic passage that I've come across, at the end of chapter 25:

'Get your hat, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'It's below stairs, Sir,' said Sam, and he ran down after it.

Now, there was nobody in the kitchen, but the pretty housemaid; and as
Sam's hat was mislaid, he had to look for it, and the pretty housemaid
lighted him. They had to look all over the place for the hat. The pretty
housemaid, in her anxiety to find it, went down on her knees, and turned
over all the things that were heaped together in a little corner by the
door. It was an awkward corner. You couldn't get at it without shutting
the door first.

'Here it is,' said the pretty housemaid. 'This is it, ain't it?'

'Let me look,' said Sam.

The pretty housemaid had stood the candle on the floor; and, as it gave
a very dim light, Sam was obliged to go down on HIS knees before he
could see whether it really was his own hat or not. It was a remarkably
small corner, and so--it was nobody's fault but the man's who built
the house--Sam and the pretty housemaid were necessarily very close
together.

'Yes, this is it,' said Sam. 'Good-bye!'

'Good-bye!' said the pretty housemaid.

'Good-bye!' said Sam; and as he said it, he dropped the hat that had
cost so much trouble in looking for.

'How awkward you are,' said the pretty housemaid. 'You'll lose it again,
if you don't take care.'

So just to prevent his losing it again, she put it on for him.

Whether it was that the pretty housemaid's face looked prettier still,
when it was raised towards Sam's, or whether it was the accidental
consequence of their being so near to each other, is matter of
uncertainty to this day; but Sam kissed her.

'You don't mean to say you did that on purpose,' said the pretty
housemaid, blushing.

'No, I didn't then,' said Sam; 'but I will now.'

So he kissed her again. 'Sam!' said Mr. Pickwick, calling over the
banisters.

'Coming, Sir,' replied Sam, running upstairs.

'How long you have been!' said Mr. Pickwick.

'There was something behind the door, Sir, which perwented our getting
it open, for ever so long, Sir,' replied Sam.

And this was the first passage of Mr. Weller's first love.

As Dickens is a very colorful author, and often writes about the simple joys and pleasures of life, I'm sure he had such thoughts on his mind often, but, writing for a very wide and general audience, he had to restrain himself. This is as far in a certain direction as I've ever seen him go.