Friends of the Dickens Forum,
Robert Tracy <[log in to unmask]
wishes us to remember the tone and subjects of Robert Surtees as
providing Seymour and Dickens a subject for their work. Much has
been done by the editors of the Pilgrim letters and , notably, by
Kathleen Chittick (in *Dickens and the 1830s*) to trace ideas and
themes which mutatis mutandis were used by Dickens in his early
days. Think of some of the writers: Pierce Egan, John Poole,
Oliver Goldsmith--the latter credited for suggesting certain
developments in the development of Pickwick--, who were much in
the air when Dickens began to write. But here is Tracy on
[log in to unmask]"
Dear Colleagues: Dickens and Seymour must have been living like hermits, if
either if them thought Seymour's idea for an illustrated series of episodes
depicting the inexpert sporting adventures of a retired London business man
was in any way new and original. R.W. Surtees had been publishing JORROCK'S
JAUNTS AND JOLLITIES, illustrated by John Leech, in the SPORTING MAGAZINE
since 1831. Not much fishing in JORROCK'S adventures, but lots of riding
to hounds. Surtees theme was "cits,"London grocers and business men,
invading the hunting field and so joining the "swells" who considered
hunting a gentleman's sport. Jorrock is shrewd, sometimes aggressive, but
he often gets the better of the swell. The swells read Surtees because they
enjoyed the occasional awkwardness of their inferiors and the excitement of
Surtees's hunts; the "cits" read him because they like to see the cit win
out. If anybody borrowed/stole any ideas, it was Seymour, not Dickens. But
clearly Seymour was laboring under some private grief.
On Sun, Jun 14, 2015 at 8:11 PM, Patrick McCarthy <[log in to unmask]
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 seem 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
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.