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Patrick McCarthy <[log in to unmask]>
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Charles Dickens Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 26 Apr 2015 16:51:13 -0700
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Friends of the Dickens Forum,

     Stephen Jarvis <stephenjarvis@ hotmail.com>  would like another word on
the first sentence of *Pickwick Papers*:         (pjm)
> I am of course aware of Marcus's work on Pickwick, and admire it - indeed my forthcoming book even has a Marcus quote at the start. Though one should also note that the sentence  has additional subtleties which, as I recall, Marcus misses. (Its use of polysyllables satirises  'penny-a-liner' journalism, which was in turn influenced by the style of Edward Gibbon.) But for all that - it's a truly dreadful opening sentence. If Dickens had submitted work like that to a modern-day literary agent or publisher, Pickwick wouldn't have got out of the slush pile.
> All the best
> Stephen Jarvis
>> Date: Sat, 25 Apr 2015 11:07:34 -0700
>> From: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Marcus on the Opening of *Pickwick*
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Friends of the Dickens Forum,
>>       For some of us to think of *Pickwick Papers* is to recall the
>> splendid work of Steven Marcus
>> in *Dickens from Pickwick to Dombey* (1965).  Here, Robert Newsom, who
>> began his study
>> of Dickens under Marcus, reminds us of a later essay of Marcus which
>> here provides him
>> with an illuminating and pertinent quotation:
>>           (pjm)
>>       ----------
>>> I cannot read Stephen Jarvis's judgement on *Pickwick*'s first sentence
>>> ("that tedious opening sentence - one of the worst I have ever read - which
>>> even today puts people off Pickwick") without recalling Steven Marcus's
>>> discussion of it some years ago. Marcus begins by quoting it in full before
>>> unpacking it:
>>>        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
>>> 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.
>>> It opens with a title followed by a single epic sentence, a paragraph long,
>>> that closes in a dying fall. It is a parody, which later on and at length
>>> we learn is in part not a parody. It begins at the beginning, with the
>>> "creation" itself, with the Logos appearing out of "obscurity" — that is,
>>> the "earlier history … of the immortal Pickwick" — and into the light of
>>> creation. But it also dramatizes the fundamental activity of the Logos; it
>>> dramatizes the notion of cosmic creation as a word — which is how God, as
>>> the Logos, created the world: *fiat lux*, said God, when he was speaking
>>> Latin, and so it was. And here too, in this novel, we begin the creation
>>> with a word, with language; with Dickens' language on the one hand and the
>>> word "Pickwickians" on the other. Mr. Pickwick and Dickens are each of them
>>> the Logos as well, emerging brightly out of their immanence and creating.
>>> And each of them is in his separate, distinctive way the Word made flesh —
>>> as are those documents and papers mentioned by the "editor," which do not
>>> exist, or do not exist just yet, but will become another incarnation of
>>> language, a novel, a printed book. Thus we begin with a comic, cosmic
>>> creation in the form of the Logos, the word.
>>> Steven Marcus, “Language into Structure: Pickwick revisited,” *Daedelus*
>>> (1972), 186-87.
>>> On Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 11:13 AM, Patrick McCarthy <
>>> [log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>>> Friends of the Dickens Forum,
>>>>       Stephen Jarvis <[log in to unmask]> picks up the thread about
>>>> *Pickwick*
>>>> and its appeal to readers before and after Weller:
>>>> ------
>>>>    As Val Lester says, the illustrations were certainly of huge importance
>>>> in establishing Pickwick's
>>>> phenomenal success - Sam Weller wasn't just a list of Wellerisms, the
>>>> pictures gave a sense of
>>>> a PERSON being there, almost in the flesh, someone actually using the
>>>> remarkable expressions.
>>>> In spreading the news about the arrival of Weller on the scene, William
>>>> Jerdan was of immense
>>>> importance too. In today's jargon, Jerdan would be a "super-connector",
>>>> someone who knows
>>>> lots of very well-connected people: by telling his associates about Weller
>>>> and Pickwick, Jerdan
>>>> created conditions in which there could be exponential growth in sales.
>>>> Another factor is that anyone picking up that fourth number, in which
>>>> Weller made his first
>>>> appearance, would be greeted with a far more exciting opener than the
>>>> previous numbers had.
>>>> The first number began with that tedious opening sentence - one of the
>>>> worst I have ever
>>>> read - which even today puts people off Pickwick. The second number began
>>>> with the mystifying
>>>> Stroller's Tale, which would lead readers to ask "What on earth is this?"
>>>> or "What relevance does
>>>> it have?" The third has a bit better opening, with the domestic scenes at
>>>> Dingley Dell, but it's all
>>>> a bit "genteel", and not something to set readers' pulses racing. But then
>>>> suddenly the fourth
>>>> number - wham! This opens with an elopement and an exciting coach chase.
>>>> And this is before
>>>> Weller appears!
>>>> All the best,
>>>> Stephen Jarvis
>>>> ----------------------------
>>>> Date: Thu, 23 Apr 2015 10:45:11 -0700 From: [log in to unmask]
>>>> Subject: Phiz's Son, *Pickwick's* Popularity and Sam Weller To:
>>>> [log in to unmask]
>>>>    Friends of the Dickens Forum Here is word from Phiz's son reaching back
>>>> to early *Pickwick* days.
>>>> it is Valerie Lester <[log in to unmask]> who is our source: (pjm)
>>>> -----
>>>> Dear Friends of the Dickens Forum,
>>>> Here’s another little story about the first appearance of Sam Weller.
>>>> Edgar Browne, Phiz’s son, writes in his book, Phiz and Dickens: “Some
>>>> years ago, one pouring wet
>>>> day, I took refuge in a little curiosity shop near Leicester Square. The
>>>> proprietor, partly to pass the
>>>> time, and partly to magnify himself a little, told me that he was a kind
>>>> of literary character having
>>>> stitched the first numbers of Pickwick, which he considered a failure,
>>>> till the fourth number; then
>>>> the sales went up with such a bound that he had to employ hands to carry
>>>> out his contract. ‘It was
>>>> Sam Weller that did it,’ he said; then after a pause, ‘and the
>>>> illustrations.’”
>>>> So, Phiz and Sam Weller burst on the scene together in Part IV — and
>>>> together they caught the
>>>> public’s fancy.
>>>> Valerie Browne Lester