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:
> 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 PICKWICKIANS
> 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
>> 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
>> So, Phiz and Sam Weller burst on the scene together in Part IV — and
>> together they caught the
>> public’s fancy.
>> Valerie Browne Lester