Mr. Pickwick's Birthday


ONE hundred years ago, March 1836, a thin green paper-covered pamphlet called No. 1 of the Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club was offered to a quite indifferent London reading public. Humble and meek in its beginning, acclaimed by no reviews, the good taste of the man in the street soon rescued it and its successors, and they were read as no books have ever been read before or since. They were read so diligently, in fact, that the critics were somewhat alienated; for, while they recognize that this is the ultimate function of a book, the extent to which Dickens is read has always struck the professional littérateur as slightly vulgar.

To the great army of readers, my own generation — at least the stratum to which I belonged — brought heavy reënforcements. We not only read Dickens, we lived him. Across our dinner tables we flung the speeches of Jingle and Micawber and Mr. F.’s aunt as the current coin of conversation. We acted him at Sunday School pantomimes. And when we went away to war we chose Pickwick as the one book to put in our knapsacks, and were perfectly content to go without a marshal’s baton there.

The fictional incidents of the Pickwick Papers occur supposedly between May 12, 1827, and August 8, 1828. This is on the authority of Mr. Percy Fitzgerald (The History of Pickwick), who worked the chronology out in great detail from internal evidence in the text.

The actual writing was begun probably in January 1836. The first announcement by the publishers was made in February 1836; the first advertisement appeared in the Times for March 26, 1836, and announced, ‘On the 31st of March will be published,’ and so forth. Dickens was to be paid fourteen guineas a number, which he described as ‘emolument too tempting to resist.’

The work passed through a preliminary period of neglect. It is said that only about four hundred copies of the first number were sold. And that is a high estimate: Mr. Arthur Waugh, the present chairman of Chapman and Hall, says that fifteen hundred copies of the first few numbers were put out for sale, but the average sale had not exceeded fifty copies per number.

And then there came the sweep of overwhelming success — with the appearance of Sam Weller in the fourth number.

Dickens’s honorarium was increased to £25 a number. His publishers gave him two additional bonuses of £500 and £750, respectively, at the end of the first year and the completion of the publication. In all, Dickens is said to have received about £3000 instead of the first agreed £280. The publishers, it is estimated, made a profit of £14,000 on Pickwick.

Dickens’s life just then was very full. ‘The first number [of Pickwick] had not yet appeared when his Sketches by Boz came forth in two duodecimos with some capital cuts by Cruikshank. . . . The Sketches were much more talked about than the first two or three numbers of Pickwick.‘ (Quoted from Forster’s Life.)

On April 2, 1836, Dickens married Catherine Hogarth; the honeymoon was spent at the village of Chalk, near Rochester, which was the scene of the early chapters of Pickwick. He drew £29 on advance from Chapman and Hall to defray the expenses of his honeymoon.

When Pickwick was begun Dickens was living in Furnival’s Inn in Holborn.

On January 6, 1837, his first son was born, and early in March of that year he moved, almost around the corner from Furnival’s Inn, to 48 Doughty Street, which is now the Dickens House, and headquarters of the Dickens Society.

Halfway through the publication of the series came the deepest personal tragedy of Dickens’s life — the death of his sister-in-law Mary Hogarth. He interrupted the writing of Pickwick for two months. Mr. Alexander Woollcott has a treasured possession — a pocketknife with Charles Dickens’s initials on it: it was a present from Mary Hogarth, and to the day of his death it never left his person. He carried it in his waistcoat pocket when he gave his readings, and it was found on him when he died. The most precious Pickwick in parts is the one which he dedicated to Mary Hogarth in his own hand (the Elkins copy).

Besides such deeply emotional interruptions there were a number of petty annoyances associated with the publication — notably changes of illustrators, and the Seymour controversy, to which I shall refer later.

The last number was issued in November 1837. The occasion was celebrated by a dinner with Dickens in the chair, Talfourd, to whom Pickwick was dedicated, in the vice-chair, and ‘everybody in hearty good humor with every other body.’


The identification of the originals of the Pickwick characters has evoked a great deal of ingenuity.

The name ‘Pickwick’ itself came from the proprietor of the White Hart Inn at Bath. On the front of the Great Pump Room Hotel at Bath to-day is a bronze tablet which reads: —


Moses Pickwick also owned the coaches running from London to Bath, and the conversation between Sam Weller and Mr. Pickwick, as they are preparing to mount the coach for Bath, makes it almost a certainty where Dickens appropriated this particular cognomen. In 1835, a year before Pickwick was begun, Dickens was in Bath and Bristol, reporting on an election in which Lord John Russell was involved. He stayed at the Bush Inn, Mr. Winkle’s domicile during his unhappy seclusion in Bristol. Undoubtedly the election scenes suggested the groundwork for the election at Eatanswill, so much so that some have supposed that Exeter was the scene intended, although the text plainly says the Pickwickians took the Norwich coach.

Fitzgerald writes that when the name occurred to him Dickens rushed off in triumph to the publishers, calling out, ‘ I have got it — Pickwick!’

A descendant of the Pickwicks, we are told, changed his name to Sainsbury, a far meeker manner of dealing with authors than that employed to-day by any person whose name some luckless scrivener happens to light upon.

The original of Sam Weller can hardly be ascribed to any one individual. Many Pickwickians who had a favorite boots somewhere in the United Kingdom used to write in to claim the honor, irrespective of whether Dickens had ever seen him or not.

Sam Weller’s speech, so far as it follows the habit of saying ‘ as the so-andso said when so-and-so,’ is ascribed to Sam Vale, a popular actor who played Simon Splatterdash, a servant part in a farce called The Boarding House. The lines frequently ran like this: —

‘Let every one take care of themselves, as the jackass said when he danced among the chickens.

‘I am down upon you,’ as the extinguisher said to the rushlight.

‘Come on,’ as the man said to the tight boot.

‘Where shall we fly?’ as the bullet said to the trigger.

‘Sharp work for the eyes,’ as the devil said when a broad-wheeled wagon went over his nose.

‘Why, here we are all mustered,’ as the roast beef said to the Welsh rabbit.

‘Nibbled to death with ducks,’ as the worm said to the fisherman.

Sam’s most famous line has been corrupted into ‘Life is not all beer and skittles.’ I would wager that few people who use it could tell even vaguely offhand what it means. Sam used it in reference to the prisoners at the Fleet. ‘It’s a reg’lar holiday to them,’ he said, ‘all porter and skittles.’ Skittles was one of the games (ninepins, practically) played in the yard of the Fleet. To C. S. Calverley, the composer of the Pickwick Examination Paper, is ascribed the first use of ‘ beer and skittles’ in the poem ‘Contentment.’

Weller senior was immediately recognized by householders on the road from London to Rochester as ‘Old Chumley,’ naturally a stagecoach driver.

Mrs. Leo Hunter was suggested — all this, remember, is conjecture — by an enormously rich lion-hunting lady of Portland Place. Sergeant Buzfuz was Sergeant Bompas, Q. C.

The Judge, Mr. Justice Stareleigh, was modeled on Mr. Justice Gazelee. He was very crotchety and excitable on the bench. He was the judge about whom the story was told that he carried his methods of cross-examination of witnesses to his own dinner table, where once he had a young counsel to dinner and asked him if he would have venison. The counsel replied he thought he would take some boiled chicken, to which the judge replied, ‘That is not an answer to my question, sir.’ Mr. Justice Gazelee resigned in 1837, the year in which the ‘Trial’ appeared.

The Fat Boy was the son of James Budden, who kept the Red Lion Inn at Chatham. Dr. Slammer of the 97th has been the subject of considerable research. There was a Dr. Sam Piper who was a character at Chatham in 1836. He was peppery and blasphemous, and when Pickwick was published seems to have recognized himself to the extent that he considered calling out the author and on second thoughts prosecuting him for libel.

Jingle is associated with Charles Mathews, the elder, who used to tell tall tales in a staccato fashion, one being of a lady in India who was burned to death and her husband called in the native servants to ‘sweep her up.’ Tracy Tupman was modeled upon a Mr. Winter, a stout buck who was very susceptible and elegant in his attentions to the ladies.


For one who is leisurely and sentimentally inclined about Dickens, there could be no more amusing and instructive way of spending a summer fortnight in England than in making the Pickwickian pilgrimage and visiting the spots mentioned in the Papers.

My wife and I have taken many of these journeys, and last summer made the complete round again. Pickwick is still honored in his own country — the old inns are there, all keeping the tradition roaring, the streets, the houses, bearing memorial plaques. Best to go by automobile, although every town can be reached by train within an hour or two from London, and return trains in the evening are convenient. The food is solid, the beverages good (no ice), but do not be beguiled into staying the night in any of the historic inns, on the grounds that they are quaint (except Bath).

In following the path of the Pickwickians we are directed very specifically by Dickens himself. Except in a few instances, he does not resort to fictitious titles for cities, inns, or streets.

London is the hub from which all the Pickwickian journeys radiate.

Mr. Pickwick’s London lodgings were in Goswell Street, and he took the famous cab and the famous cab horse from thence to the Golden Cross. Goswell Street still remains, fallen upon evil days, — now called Goswell Road, — for devoted Pickwickians to goggle at. It is in the neighborhood of Islington.

The London of Mr. Pickwick’s day is not easy to visualize. Trafalgar Square and the Nelson Column did not exist. Buckingham Palace would have been unrecognizable; it was not used as a royal residence until 1837, when Queen Victoria chose it as her town residence. The Mall had not been parked as an avenue to connect the two landmarks, the Palace and the Square. The Thames flowed unrestrained at the foot of the Temple gardens; the embankment dates from 1864-1870. The Houses of Parliament, as we know them now, were not completed until 1857; the old houses were burned down in 1834. The National Gallery was erected in 1832-1838.

The Inn of the Golden Cross, from which the ‘Commodore,’ the coach to Rochester, regularly departed, no longer stands, but, since it occupied the site where Nelson’s monument now rises, there will be no difficulty in placing it. Across the river is the Borough.

In the Borough, especially, there still remain some half-dozen old inns, which have preserved their external features unchanged. . . . Great, rambling, queer old places they are, with galleries, and passages, and staircases, wide enough and antiquated enough to furnish materials for a hundred ghost stories.

To one of them, the White Hart, we go in imagination, and with Mr. Wardle and Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Perker we have the supreme adventure of meeting Sam Weller.

In imagination only can we go to the White Hart. It had a long career. It is mentioned in the second part of Henry Sixth: Cade says, ‘Hath my sword therefore broke through London gates, that you should leave me at the White Hart in Southwark?’

But that long career is ended. There is no White Hart in Southwark. The original was destroyed by the fire of 1676 and rebuilt in the form described in Pickwick. But in 1889 this inn was demolished. The only relic from it is a baluster from ‘the old clumsy balustrade,’ and this now reposes in the Dickens House. But near by where it stood is the George Inn, which should be visited by all Pickwickian pilgrims. You go over London Bridge and turn into the High Street. With little trouble you should find the entrance to the courtyard of the George. The open balcony might have been the one drawn by ‘Phiz’ in the famous plate of the meeting of Wardle, Pickwick, and Perker with Sam Weller.

The George has traditions, too. Thinking that perhaps there was some mistake because the George looked so much like the picture of the White Hart, I asked the proprietress if any White Hart Inn was near by. She replied in the negative. I then suggested, as the English legal cross-examination has it, that perhaps the George used to be called the White Hart.

I struck fire there. With a toss of her head, ‘There has been a George here for five hundred years,’ she boomed.

The George well repays a visit on its own account. Nowhere else in England, that I know of, do you find an old coaching inn with a balcony. From the George, Dr. Johnson probably took coach when he visited Mr. Thrale at Streatham, and the George has appeared in a novel of its own, The Amateur Gentleman, by Jeffery Farnol. You will want to sit in the picturesque coffeeroom, and remember David Copperfield.

No true Pickwickian, I am sure, will fail to visit the Dickens House at 48 Doughty Street. In the basement is a reproduction of the kitchen at Dingley Dell. Here also you may see a Pope Joan board, the round game that was played at the card party. The house is crowded with mementoes and has a complete and valuable library.

A visit to the South Kensington Museum to see the most complete collection of Dickens manuscripts in the world should also be a feature of the Pickwickian’s London tour.

In Holborn, a large red brick building occupied by the Prudential Insurance Company is on the site of Furnival’s Inn where Dickens had chambers from 1834 to 1837 and where he began to write Pickwick Papers. Mr. Grewgious, in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, found accommodations for Rosa at Furnival’s Inn.

Not far down the street is the site of the Black Bull in Holborn where Mrs. Gamp and Betsey Prig nursed Mr. Lewsome. Across the street is Staple Inn, a lovely bit of Old London. It is still accurately described in Edwin Drood:

A little nook composed of two irregular quadrangles, called Staple Inn. It is one of those nooks the turning into which out of the clashing street imparts to the relieved pedestrian the sensation of having put cotton in his ears and velvet soles on his boots.

Out north are the Hampstead Ponds, which appear on the very first page, being the subject of a paper communicated by Samuel Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C., entitled ‘Speculations on the Source of the Hampstead Ponds, with Some Observations on the Theory of Tittlebats.’

In Hampstead Lane we shall pass the Spaniards inn on the right. It was here that Mrs. Bardell, Mrs. Raddle, and other friends, spent the afternoon when they were found by Mr. Jackson, clerk of Dodson and Fogg, and conveyed to the Fleet Prison for costs in the action of Bardell versus Pickwick. Hampstead Heath opens out just beyond the Spaniards. Not far away is Jack Straw’s Castle, where frequently Dickens and Forster forgathered for a red-hot chop and a glass of good wine.

Dulwich, in a different direction from Hampstead Heath, was the spot chosen for Mr. Pickwick’s residence in retirement. ‘The house,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘. . . has a large garden and is situated in one of the most pleasant spots near London.’ A Pickwick Villa is pointed out by the elderly inhabitants of Dulwich.

The Dulwich picture gallery is open for inspection—whether the same one in which Mr. Pickwick could ‘still be frequently seen contemplating the pictures’ I do not know. At Dulwich Church, Mr. Snodgrass was married to Emily.


‘I have at this moment got Pickwick, and his friends, on the Rochester coach,’ wrote Dickens to Catherine Hogarth, March 18, 1836, ‘and they are going on swimmingly, in company with a very different character from any I have yet described, who I flatter myself will make a decided hit. I want to get them from the Ball, to their Inn, before I go to bed — and I think that will take me until one or two o’clock, at the earliest. The Publishers will be here in the morning, so you will readily suppose I have no alternative but to stick at my desk.‘

Of all the Pickwick shrines, the most important is undoubtedly Rochester. And of all the jaunts from London it is the one that may most profitably be made by automobile.

Leaving London at 11 A.M. we arrive at Rochester, on modern traveling schedules, at 12.30 P.M. Before we enter Rochester, though, we should take a short turning (this is the reason the automobile is more convenient for this trip) and visit Gadshill, Dickens’s last home, in which he died. It is now used as a girls’ school, but is usually open to visitors. Gadshill is the same one mentioned in Henry IV where Falstaff had his adventure, and at the Sir John Falstaff Tavern we may obtain strength and sustenance in the form of good Kentish beer.

Mr. Pickwick notes that the principal productions of Rochester are ‘soldiers, sailors, Jews, chalk, shrimps, officers and dockyard men.’ It was still true at my last visit.

Yes, the Bull Inn is still there: ‘Good house — nice beds — Wright’s next house, dear — very dear — half a crown in the bill if you look at the waiter — charge you more if you dine at a friend’s than they would if you dined in the coffee-room — rum fellows — very.’ (Wright’s Crown Inn is no more.)

Everything is ‘intact.’ There is the very staircase where Jingle was the recipient of Dr. Slammer’s defiance. The ballroom, equally ‘intact,’ corresponds exactly to the description: —

It was a long room, with crimsoncovered benches, and wax candles in glass chandeliers. The musicians were securely confined in an elevated den, and quadrilles were being systematically got through by two or three sets of dancers. Two cardtables were made up in the adjoining cardroom, and two pair of old ladies, and a corresponding number of stout gentlemen, were executing whist therein.

In M. Maurois’s little study of Dickens, he describes a scene which he says is often to be observed in English music halls, especially in the provinces: the actor is announced as a Dickens impersonator and solicits votes from the audience for the character they wish impersonated. The cry goes up, ‘Micawber,’ and Micawber he does. Then Sir Mulberry Hawk, and Pecksniff, and so on. And M. Maurois reflects on the impossibility of such a situation anywhere else on earth for any other author. Could it happen in France for Balzac, in Russia for Dostoievsky, or in America for Hawthorne?

I was never lucky enough to witness such a performance, but we came near it at ‘The Den’ in Eatanswill.

We had thrown historical principles to the winds (of which there are many on the western coast of England in the summer) and definitely identified ‘The Den ’ in a quiet lane in Norwich. (Most commentators agree that Sudbury is Eatanswill.) My wife began idly to declaim ‘The Ode to an Expiring Frog.’ Startled, I turned and saw that she had on the gilt helmet of Mrs. Leo Hunter (the secret of the one piece of baggage she had brought from London).

’Can I view thee panting, lying . . .‘

Her voice, when she is nervous, has a carrying quality. The lane had been completely deserted when she began. But at the first syllable two figures appeared around the corner, with the suddenness of popped grains of corn. Strays began moving in, and when they beheld the helmet they motioned wildly and the shock troops came on a run.

The line, —

‘On thy stomach, without sighing,‘

brought a faint cheer.

‘Say, have fiends in shape of boys,’

went on the brave voice.

The heads of fiends in shape of boys, and fiends in shape of little girls, appeared over the top of walls, crawled through fences, and dropped from the boughs of trees.

‘With wild halloo, and brutal noise . . .
With a dog,
Expiring frog?’

The crowd was milling and muttering hoarsely. Just then a constable heaved in sight. And what a constable! He might have stepped from any English detective novel. He had a notebook; he frowned. He said, ‘Wot’s this all abaht?’

Things looked bad. We have never spent the night in an English jail, but we knew the procedure full well; had we patronized the only intelligent department of English literature for the last three decades in vain? Scotland Yard would be summoned, and the C. I. D. would send one of its crack men straightaway.

With the sweetest of smiles, my wife decided that honesty is the best policy.

‘I have been reciting Mrs. Leo Hunter’s “Ode to an Expiring Frog,”’ she said. ‘The lane seemed empty when we began.’

The words fell upon the sullen throng like drops of glistening cool dew.

The constable pushed back his cap and smiled.

‘’Fraid we could n’t understand the accent, sir,’ he said.

‘I do readings from Pickwick myself, sir,’ he added. ‘The trial scene, you know, from the author’s prepared stige directions.’

‘Yore best is Bill Sikes and Nawncy, though, Sam,’ ventured an ancient.

‘Sharp’s here,’ said a voice. ‘He’ll do Old Joe Bagstock.’

He did, with great gusto.

We had Dick Swiveller and the Marchioness after that, from a very small, thin, dirty little boy, and then Wilkins Micawber, from a very large, fat, dirty old man, and then the discomfiture of Uriah Heep, and then — well, more were offered, but we made our excuses, distributed a small sum to be used after closing time was over, and, seeking the seclusion that the taxi granted, we drove triumphantly away.

Ipswich (do not call it ‘Issitch’ in an excess of British zeal: plain Ipswich) is notable, in the Pickwickian sense, for the Great White Horse Inn, where Mr. Pickwick got lost, entered the wrong bedroom, and found too late that it was occupied also by the lady in the yellow curl papers.

The Great White Horse still stands, still rendered conspicuous ‘by a stone statue of some rampacious animal with flowing mane and tail, distantly resembling an insane cart-horse, which is elevated above the principal door.’ The Inn itself, as every visitor avers, corresponds exactly to Dickens’s description: ‘Never were such labyrinths of uncarpeted passages, such clusters of mouldy, ill-lighted rooms, such huge numbers of small dens for eating or sleeping in, beneath any one roof, as are collected together between the four walls of the Great White Horse at Ipswich.’ No wonder, as everyone says delightedly, Mr. Pickwick got lost.

At the Great White Horse is the very room where the adventure of the lady with the yellow curl papers occurred. It is No. 36, and is invested with every verisimilitude. ‘There were two beds, whose situation he perfectly remembered, and the fire still burning.’


Around the origin of Pickwick has grown up one of the famous literary controversies — the great Seymour question.

In the preface to the 1847 edition of The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club Dickens wrote: —

I was a young man of three-and-twenty, when the present publishers, attracted by some pieces I was at that time writing in the Morning Chronicle newspaper . . . waited upon me to propose a something that should be published in shilling numbers — then only known to me, or I believe, to anybody else, by a dim recollection of certain interminable novels in that form. . . .

The idea propounded to me was that the monthly something should be a vehicle for certain plates to be executed by MR. SEYMOUR, and there was a notion, either on the part of that admirable humorous artist, or my visitor, that a ‘NIMROD Club,’ the members of which were to go out shooting, fishing, and so forth, and getting themselves into difficulties through their want of dexterity, would be the best means of introducing these. I objected, on consideration, that although born and partly bred in the country, I was no great sportsman, except in regard of all kinds of locomotion; that the idea was not novel, and had been already much used; that it would be infinitely better for the plates to arise naturally out of the text; and that I should like to take my own way, with a freer range of English scenes and people, and was afraid I should ultimately do so in any case, whatever course I might prescribe to myself at starting. My views being deferred to, I thought of Mr. Pickwick, and wrote the first number; from the proof sheets of which, MR. SEYMOUR made his drawing of the Club and that happy portrait of its founder, by which he is always recognized, and which may be said to have made him a reality. I connected Mr. Pickwick with a Club, because of the original suggestion, and I put in Mr. Winkle expressly for the use of MR. SEYMOUR. . . .

Robert Seymour, at the time, was thirty-six years old. London born, he was a well-known cartoonist who portrayed English life in the manner familiar to us all, especially in the work of Cruikshank. His favorite subjects were sporting scenes. He was a man of unstable temper and subject to fits of despondency.

On the eve of the publication of the second number, he committed suicide. He attached a string to a fowling piece and in the summerhouse of his home at Islington shot himself in the head.

Three of his drawings appeared in the second number.

His death naturally placed Dickens and the publishers in a quandary. They cast around hurriedly for an artist. They engaged first R. W. Buss, who was, however, dismissed, and for the fourth and subsequent numbers Dickens and his publishers secured Hablot K. Browne, who drew under the pseudonym of ‘Phiz.’ ‘Phiz’s’ great quality was that he was ‘a marvel of pliability’ and ‘amenable to discipline.’ (These expressions are quoted from J. W. T. Ley’s The Dickens Circle.)

The implication is plain that Seymour was not so pliable and amenable. Dickens and Seymour had a conference the night before Seymour shot himself — between the time of the issue of the first number and the issue of the second. It may be assumed that they discussed the future developments of the story. It may be even assumed that they discussed them as collaborators, and from internal evidence which I shall discuss later Seymour may have suggested that more sporting scenes be introduced. This, however, is pure speculation.

There is, indeed, a distinct feeling of relief when ‘Phiz’ comes on the scene.

Dickens is absolutely free to direct things as he likes.

Then Pickwick took the town, and soon the world, by storm. The sales jumped from the ordinary four or five hundred to thousands. Pickwick Clubs were formed all over the kingdom. Pickwick chintzes figured in the linen drapers’ windows, Weller corduroys in breeches makers’, Boz cabs appeared on the streets, Pickwick canes, Pickwick gaiters, Pickwick hats — there is still a Pickwick cigar which had its origin in those days, although I do not know how direct is the succession from that first product to its modern representative.

Miss Mitford’s evidence is entertaining: —

So you never heard of the Pickwick Papers! Well, they publish a number once a month, and print 2o,000. It is fun — London life — but without anything unpleasant. ... I did think there had not been a place where English is spoken, to which Boz had not penetrated. All the boys and girls talk his fun — the boy in the streets; and yet those who are of the highest taste like it the most. Sir Benjamin Brodie takes it to read in his carriage between patient and patient; and Lord Denman studies Pickwick on the Bench while the jury are deliberating.

It was quite natural, in the face of all this exclamatory praise, for the family of Seymour to claim for him some of the credit. Mrs. Seymour stated that the central idea and the central characters of this acclaimed masterpiece were not of Dickens’s invention but Seymour’s. Whether Dickens replied publicly at the time, I do not know. The preface of 1847, written ten years after the event, is his definite answer.

But there was a sequel. In 1854 Mrs. Seymour published a pamphlet reviewing the entire controversy, and in 1866 Seymour’s son repeated the claims, even attempting a suit for recovery of profits. Dickens, always sensitive to criticism, was thoroughly incensed, and answered the claims again in a letter in the Athenœum on March 31, 1866.

The matter stands in Dickens’s explanation that Seymour had an idea for a book concerning a club of sportsmen. Dickens vetoed this except that he retained the idea of a club and one sportsman (Mr. Winkle). He got nothing else from Seymour, and Seymour’s drawings were made from his text. Mr. Chapman, the publisher, gave the artist the hint for the general outward appearance of Mr. Pickwick.

This explanation has been accepted practically without qualification by all the orthodox biographers and critics. Except in one case, it has never been challenged. That challenge, however, is very pointed. It was made by Dr. Samuel W. Lambert, in a brilliant little book, When Mr. Pickwick Went Fishing. Dr. Lambert became doubtful of the minor part Robert Seymour played in the inspiration for Pickwick when he acquired a book entitled Maxims and Hints for an Angler, and so forth, by Richard Penn. The book was published in 1833 (three years antedating Pickwick) and was illustrated by Robert Seymour. One of the characters represented repeatedly is exactly a forecast of the subsequent Mr. Pickwick.

The internal evidence Dr. Lambert adduces is striking. First, on the cover of all the original parts of the Pickwick Papers is a picture of Mr. Pickwick in a punt. He is fast asleep, but he has evidently been fishing. ‘The scene is set on the Thames just off the bridge and church at Putney.’ Above, Mr. Winkle shoots at a sparrow. The sides of the design show numerous sporting implements, including fishing rods, landing nets, and so forth.

In the entire book neither this incident of Mr. Pickwick asleep while fishing nor that of Mr. Winkle shooting sparrows was ever touched upon. Yet the pictures continued to ornament the covers until the end.

Is it not a fair inference that Robert Seymour drew them without reference to the text, but with the understanding that the incidents they portrayed would find a place? In other words, that it was not so plain to all the parties concerned that the plates should grow naturally out of the text, and that, as a matter of fact, Seymour had decided to have quite a hand in the direction of the incidents?

Again, in the first picture of the meeting of the club and the representation of its founder, notice the assortment of fishing tackle in the foreground. It has nothing to do with the meeting of a literary and archæological club, but substantiates the idea that Mr. Pickwick was to be a fisherman. Again, here is plain evidence that Seymour intended to have a hand in things; that the pictures did not grow out of the text, but were freely elaborated by the artist.

But all this, of course, Dickens specifically denied.

On Dickens’s side must be reckoned the letter he wrote to Seymour, between the publication of the first and second issues, which plainly indicates that Dickens was exercising his prerogative of supervising the drawings. It was in response to this letter, evidently, that Seymour visited Dickens, the only time they ever met, ‘the night but one ’ before Seymour’s death: —

I had intended to write you to say how much gratified I feel by the pains you have bestowed on our mutual friend, Mr. Pickwick, and how much the result of your labours has surpassed my expectations. . .
. I have now another reason for troubling you. It is this. I am extremely anxious about ‘The Stroller’s Tale,’ the more especially as many literary friends, on whose judgment I place great reliance, think it will create considerable sensation. I have seen your designs for an etching to accompany it. I think it extremely good, but still is not quite my idea; and as I feel so very solicitous to have it as complete as possible, I shall feel personally obliged if you will make another drawing. It will give me great pleasure to see you, as well as the drawing, when it is completed. With this view I have asked Chapman and Hall to take a glass of grog with me on Sunday evening (the only night I am disengaged), when I hope you will be able to look in. . . .
I shall be happy to hear from you that I may expect to see you on Sunday evening.
Dear Sir, very truly Yours,

The explanation of the matter I conceive to be somewhat complicated, but one perfectly natural to anyone familiar with the artistic temperament and the processes of creation. Dickens, like all creative artists, derived his inspiration from thousands of sources, — of most of which he was not aware, — hints in conversation, bits of reading, flashes in the street and tavern. He took these into the warm recesses of his mind, and fused them into something that was unquestionably, no matter what their origin, his alone. And in the course of time he came to consider that every particle of the process of creation, including the inciting hints, was his.

This does not mean that Dickens deliberately misrepresented things in the preface of 1847 or in the Athenœum article of 1866. He wrote them, respectively, eleven years and thirty years after the event. It is not surprising that a man who had a universe of creative work to look back upon should fail to remember the exact circumstances of his inspiration when he was unknown and untried.