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Patrick McCarthy <[log in to unmask]>
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Charles Dickens Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 14 Jun 2015 20:11:28 -0700
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Friends of the Dickens Forum,

     The major focus of the present discussion is what is called 
"Dickens Bashing"  and also the
extent accusations against him, for example on  the originality of his 
Mr. Pickwick, his treatment
of Catherine after the failure of his marriage, and the Ellen Turner 
affair affect our larger sense of the
man Dickens.  We seems now to be focusing on the Seymour-Pickwick matter.

     Rob Lapides is not alone in thinking that whatever the precise 
extent of his debt
to Robert Seymour (Walter Smith concurs) the issue "in no way lessons 
Dickens's amazing
achievement in  *Pickwick Papers*" and does not "harm his reputation as 
a writer."

     John Danza <[log in to unmask]> has researched the question of 
what went
on in those months of 1836 when *Pickwick Papers* was a-borning. He says 
credit for thinking
of the club and "hatch[ing] the project" belongs to Seymour, right 
enough;  Dickens ran with the idea.
When Dickens claimed about a decade later in the preface to the Cheap 
Edition,, "I thought of
Mr. Pickwick, and wrote the first number," he wrote a "famously 
tantalising sentence."  For surely
Mr. Pickwick's birth was a complicated affair.

     Yes, tantalising it is, Michael Slater, as you said in in your 
wonderfully detailed and accurate biography of Dickens.
To read your entries on "Seymour, Robert" is to get as full an account 
as we have.   We add only (thanks to a
reminder from Tony Pointon)  that in his last statement Seymour wrote 
that no one was to be blamed
for his suicide but himself.

     As a group, we do not want to get into a tit-for-tat dispute about 
the facts of the matter.   Interpretations
are subtle  and it is easy to get caught up in varying interpretations.  
Dickens surely took over the enterprise,
but what was his effect on Seymour?   His letter to the artist in these 
crucial months asking him to alter
one of the illustrations can be read as innocuous or as a bumptious 
demand from a fledging writer to an
established illustrator.   Tone, how the letter was intended to be read 
and how it was read, is crucial.

     John Danza thinks the controversy could have been muted: "Dickens 
would not have been harmed in
the least to give Seymour the credit for the idea [of Mr. Pickwick] 
since Dickens wrote all the words and
Seymour was involved in the project for all of a couple of months."

     As so, it would seem, the matter rests.

  P. McCarthy