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Samuel Weller
The popularity of The Pickwick Papers increased dramatically with the introduction, in chapter 10, of Pickwick's servant Samuel Weller, who councils his master with charming Cockney wisdom.

The colorful dialogue of Sam Weller and his father, Tony, in Pickwick Papers is peppered with what have become known as Wellerisms. Learn more and see a list of Wellerisms found in Pickwick Papers.

Rochester-Chatham Map

Rochester/Chatham Map
Many of the locations in Pickwick Papers are featured on my map of Dickens' Rochester/Chatham.

Pickwick locations in Britain

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A Father's Adwise...

Tony Weller by Kyd'I've only this here one little bit of adwice to give you. If ever you gets to up'ards o' fifty, and feels disposed to go a-marryin' anybody--no matter who--jist you shut yourself up in your own room, if you've got one, and pison yourself off hand. Hangin's wulgar, so don't you have nothin' to say to that. Pison yourself, Samivel, my boy, pison yourself, and you'll be glad on it arterwards.'
-Tony Weller

Dickens' life during the serialization of The Pickwick Papers
Mar 1836 - Oct 1837

Dickens' age: 24-25

March 1836

April 1836

Marries Catherine Hogarth

Original Pickwick Papers illustrator Robert Seymour commits suicide. Hablot Browne replaces him.

November 1836

Dickens agrees to edit Bentley's Miscellany, resigns as reporter for the Morning Chronicle.

January 1837

Son Charles Culliford (Charley) Dickens Born

February 1837

First Installment of Oliver Twist published in Bentley's Miscellany

March 1837

Moves from chambers at Furnival's Inn to a house at 48 Doughty Street

May 1837

Catherine's sister Mary Hogarth dies

June 1837

Grieving for his beloved sister-in-law Dickens misses deadlines for the only time in his life. Monthly issues of Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist are not published.

October 1837

Coaching Inns
The Pickwick Papers, which Dickens sets in the late 1820's, has Samuel Pickwick and his fellow travelers tour southern England by coach. This manner of travel began to disappear in the next decade as the railway covered Britain. Coaching inns mentioned in the novel:

White Hart Inn - The Borough (demolished 1889)
The Leather Bottle Inn - Cobham
Great White Horse - Ipswich
Blue Boar - Leadenhall Market
White Hart Hotel - Bath
Bell - Berkeley Heath
Old Royal Hotel - Birmingham
Hop Pole - Tewkesbury
Bush Tavern - Bristol
The Angel - Bury St. Edmunds
Golden Cross Hotel - Charing Cross, London
The Bull Inn - Rochester

Pickwick and Don Quixote
Comparisons have been made between the idealistic Mr. Pickwick and his faithful servant Samuel Weller and Cervante's Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

Buy Dickens at Huckleberry and Hodge

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The Pickwick Papers

The Pickwick Papers - Published in monthly parts Mar 1836 - Oct 1837
Read it online | Shop for the Book | Shop for the Video | Illustrations | Locations

Pickwick addresses the Club When artist Robert Seymour proposed to publishers Chapman and Hall a series of engravings featuring Cockney sporting life, with accompanying text published in monthly installments, they readily accepted and set about the task of finding a writer. The publishers were turned down by several writers and finally asked 24-year-old Charles Dickens to provide the text. Dickens accepted and argued successfully that the text should be foremost and the engravings should complement the story. Seymour, an established artist but without recent success, was troubled with the direction the upstart writer was taking his project and with Dickens' suggestions of changes to the illustrations.

On completion of the engravings for the second monthly part Seymour, who had a history of mental health problems, committed suicide.

See the announcement of Seymour's death in the second number of Pickwick

Chapman and Hall decided to continue with the project and, after trying artist R. W. Buss, whose work was deemed unsatisfactory, hired 20-year-old Hablot Knight Browne as illustrator. Browne, who took the nickname "Phiz" to complement Dickens' "Boz", went on to illustrate Dickens' work for the next 23 years. Pickwick CoverDickens took an active role in redesigning the project, the format was changed from 24 pages of text and four illustrations to 32 pages of text and two illustrations. Dickens also abandoned the original concept of the "sporting club", which had been Seymour's idea (Dickens noted that despite spending a portion of his childhood in the country, that he was no sportsman) and began to tie the sketches together into a more cohesive novel.

The novel, a still somewhat loose collection of the adventures of Samuel Pickwick and his friends, was a huge success. Chapman and Hall printed only 1000 copies of the first monthly installment, at the end of serialization 40,000 copies were being printed. Pickwick had taken Britain, and later the world, by storm and had successfully launched Dickens to celebrity status.

Principal Characters:
Character descriptions contain spoilers
Samuel Pickwick
Nathaniel Winkle
Augustus Snodgrass
Tracy Tupman
Alfred Jingle
Job Trotter
Mr. Wardle
Rachael Wardle
Old Mrs Wardle
Isabella Wardle
Emily Wardle
Joe (The Fat Boy)
Arabella Allen
Samuel Weller
Tony Weller
Reverend Stiggins
Dr. Slammer
Martha Bardell
Mr Lowton
Mr Pott
Mr Slurk
Dodson and Fogg
Peter Magnus
Miss Witherfield
Serjeant Buzfuz
Benjamin Allen
Bob Sawyer
Solomon Pell
Samuel Slumkey
Horatian Fizkin
Angelo Cyrus Bantam
Mary Ann Raddle
Tom Roker
Elizabeth Cluppins
Susan Weller
Winkle Sr
Jemmy Hutley (Dismal Jemmy)

Pickwick Links:
The Dickens Page
The Victorian Web
Wellerisms in Dramatizations of Pickwick Papers
Hidden London - Pickwick
Wikipedia - Pickwick Papers

Mr. Pickwick in the Fleet

When Mr. Pickwick's landlady, Mrs. Bardell, brings a breach of promise suit against him and wins, the innocent Pickwick refuses to pay the damages, opting instead to be consigned to the Fleet debtor's prison. Mr. Pickwick sitting for his portraitUpon entering the Fleet he undergoes an initiation known as "sitting for your portrait" where all of the turnkeys (jailers) study Mr. Pickwick's appearance to differentiate him from visitors to the prison who are allowed to come and go during the day.
Pickwick is appalled at conditions in the prison but is later told by a fellow prisoner that "money was, in the Fleet, just what money was out of it" and is able to purchase a furnished private room where he remains for three months.
Imprisonment for debt is a theme Dickens uses frequently, his father having been imprisoned in the Marshalsea debtor's prison when Dickens was a child.

V as W...and Vise Versa

Sam Weller by Kyd If you've read Dickens you have unquestionably come across the extraordinary curiosity of cockney characters interchanging V and W. Thus we have ven for when, vich for which, wery for very, and dewote for devote. Nowhere is this phenomenon more obvious than in the dialogue of Sam Weller and his father Tony in Pickwick Papers.

'What's your name, sir?' inquired the judge.
'Sam Weller, my Lord,' replied that gentleman.
'Do you spell it with a "V" or a "W"?' inquired the judge.
'That depends upon the taste and fancy of the speller, my Lord,' replied Sam; 'I never had occasion to spell it more than once or twice in my life, but I spells it with a "V." '

Learn more about this at John Wells's phonetic blog
Excerpts from The Pickwick Papers

Equestrian Journey to Dingley Dell
Samuel Pickwick and his fellow travelers, Tracy Tupman, Nathaniel Winkle, and Augustus Snodgrass, are traveling from Rochester to their friend Mr. Wardles residence at Manor Farm, Dingley Dell, a journey of about 15 miles. The travelers' inexperience at handling horses is evident in this comic adventure.

Mr Pickwick Meets the Lady in Yellow Curl Papers
In one of the funniest episodes in the novel, Samuel Pickwick and his servant, Sam Weller, have traveled to Ipswich in search of the rascal Alfred Jingle, taking rooms in the Great White Horse Inn. Mr Pickwick is ready to retire for the night when he realizes he has left his watch on the dinner table downstairs and determines to go and get it.

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