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The Pickwick Papers

The Pickwick Papers was Dickens’ first novel and was serialised under the title The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club between April 1836 and November 1837 when its author was only in his mid-twenties. Unlike some of his later works it is extremely episodic and comic. It always shows its origins in a periodical with its cliff-hangers and the way Dickens changes the story and various characters’ position in the novel as it grows and according to their popularity (such the Wellers).

Mr Samuel Pickwick is the founder and chairman of the absurd Pickwick Club which consists Tupman, Snodgrass and Winkle who go through various highly amusing and often quite ridiculous adventures that are scantily interconnected and never amount to a complex sequence of events until perhaps Pickwick’s disastrous misunderstanding with Mrs Bardell.

The story instead progresses near-randomly through trips to Rochester (and the meeting with the awful Jingle who challenges Winkle to a duel), Dingley Dell, Eatanswill and Bury St Edmunds. In these stages of the novel the only elements holding the plot together are the troublesome rascal Jingle and his servant Trotter who recur often.

Later, Pickwick ends up rather unfortunately in the Fleet Prison and various romances ensue for the main characters to general amusement for the reader if never a sense of great import or substance. Although the book begins Dickens’ lengthy concern about prisons and the evil of lawyers, it is less dark and full of mystery than later works.

You can read The Pickwick Papers here...