Obrazy na stronie

began to attract great attention, and to call forth much admiration. The press was all but unanimous in praising 'Samivel' as an entirely original character, whom none but a great genius could have created; and all of a sudden, in consequence of 'Samivel's' popularity, the 'Pickwick Papers rose to an unheard-of popularity. The back numbers of the work were ordered to a large extent, and of course all idea of discontinuing it was abandoned.

"No one can read these interesting incidents without being struck with the fact that the future literary career of Mr. Dickens should have been for a brief season placed in circumstances of so much risk of proving a failure; for there can be no doubt that, had the publication of his serial been discontinued at this particular period, there was little or no probability that other publishers would have undertaken the risk of any other literary venture of his. And he might consequently have lived and died, great as his gifts and genius were, without being known in the world of literature. How true it is that there is a tide in the affairs of men !

"By the time the 'Pickwick Papers' had reached their twelfth number, that being half of the numbers of which it was originally intended the work should consist, Messrs. Chapman & Hall were so gratified with the signal success to which it had now attained, that they sent Mr. Dickens a check for £500, as a practical expression of their satisfaction with the sale. The work continued steadily to increase in circulation until its completion, when the sale had all but reached 40,000 copies. In the interval between the twelfth and concluding number, Messrs. Chapman & Hall sent Mr. Dickens several checks, amounting in all to £3,000, in addition to the fifteen guineas per number which they had engaged at the beginning to give him. It was understood at the time that Messrs. Chapman & Hall made a clear profit of nearly £20,000 by the sale of the 'Pickwick Papers,' after paying Mr. Dickens in round numbers £3,500.

[ocr errors]

Probably," concludes Mr. Grant, "there are few instances on record in the annals of literature in which an author rose

so rapidly to popularity and attained so great a height in it as Mr. Dickens. His popularity was all the more remarkable because it was reached while yet a mere youth. He was incomparably the most popular author of his day before he had attained his twenty-sixth year; and what is even more extraordinary still, he retained the distinction of being the most brilliant author of the age until the very hour of his death a period of no less than thirty-five years."

Since the illustrious author's decease even the book-binders who had the charge of “Pickwick” have been claiming the honor of stitching the sheets together, and giving their recollections to the newspapers. It having been stated in the "Daily Telegraph " newspaper that "it was a question between Messrs. Chapman & Hall and their binder, Mr. Bone," “whether a greater or less number than seven hundred copies should be stitched in wrappers; instead of hundreds, it soon became necessary to provide for the sale of thousands; and the green covers of 'Pickwick' were seen all over the country,” a Mr. Joseph Aked, of Green Street, Leicester Square, on the following day sent this correction to the same journal :

"SIR,In your sketch of the Life and Death of Mr. Charles Dickens, in yesterday's 'Telegraph,' you state that the first order given to the binder for Part I. of the 'Pickwick' was seven hundred copies, and it was a question between Messrs. Chapman & Hall, and Mr. Bone, the binder, whether a greater or less number than seven hundred should be stitched in wrapper.

"The first order for Part I. of the 'Pickwick' was for four hundred copies only, and the order was given to myself to execute (not to Mr. Bone) by Messrs. Chapman & Hall, the publishers, who in those days did not consult the binder about the number of copies they would require. Also the first number, stitched and put in the green cover, was done by myself, my work-people having left off work for the day.

"Before the completion of the work the sale amounted to nearly 40,000, the orders being given to myself and to Mr. Bone."

Readers of "Pickwick" found the style so fresh and novel, so totally unlike the forced fun and unreal laughter of the other light reading of their time, that the smallest scrap from any portion of the work was deemed worthy of frequent quotation a gem in itself. We have seen a little book very rare, and not to be found in the British Museum — of which thousands and thousands of copies must have been sold by Mr. Park, of Long Lane, and Mr. Catnach, of Seven Dials, bearing the title of "Beauties of Pickwick."


The famed Pickwick cigar — the "Penny Pickwick " of our childhood — is too well known to need any comment. It was a "brand" originally made by a manufacturer in Leman Street, Minories, and sold in boxes and papers decorated with Mr. Pickwick, hat off, bowing to you in the politest manner, and offering for your notice a long scroll, setting forth the excellence of the cigar a small cheroot, and containing about one half of the tobacco used in a cigar of this kind sold at 2d. At the present day "Pickwicks” are patronized almost entirely by cab-drivers.

Then there were "Pickwick" hats, with narrow brims curved up at the sides, as in the figure of the immortal possessor of that name; "Pickwick " canes, with tassels; and "Pickwick " coats, with brass and horn buttons, and the cloth invariably dark green or dark plum. The name "Pickwick " is said to have been taken from the hamlet or cluster of houses which formed the last resting-stage for coaches going to Bath, which town, it will be remembered, was the scene of Sam Weller's chaffing of "Blazes," the red-breeched footman.

A writer, whose name we have forgotten, remarked that "Pickwick "" was made up of "two pounds of Smollett, three ounces of Sterne, a handful of Hook, a dash of the grammatical Pierce Egan — incidents at pleasure, served with an original sauce piquante." And Lady Chatterton, in one of her works, remarked: "Mr. Davy, who accompanied Colonel Chesney up the Euphrates, has recently been in the service of Mohammed Ali Pacha. 'Pickwick' happening to reach Davy while he was at Damascus, he read a part of it to the Pacha,

who was so delighted with it, that Davy was on one occasion summoned to him in the middle of the night, to finish the reading of some part in which they had been interrupted. Mr. Davy read in Egypt upon another occasion, some passages from these unrivaled papers to a blind Englishman, who was in such ecstasy with what he had heard, that he exclaimed he was almost thankful he could not see he was in a foreign country, for that, while he listened, he felt completely as though he were again in England."


Moncrieff, the famous author of "Tom and Jerry,” and a hundred farces and light comedies, dramatized “Pickwick " long before it was finished, for the Strand Theatre, where it was performed under the title of "Sam Weller; or the Pickwickians;" Mr. W. J. Hammond sustaining the character of Sam Weller. The termination of the drama was very different to that given in the book itself, as will be readily seen. The adapter caused Mrs. Bardell to be tried and found guilty of attempted bigamy, her husband being Alfred Jingle. Messrs. Dodson & Fogg, the Freeman Court sharks, were sent to Newgate for conspiracy, and only released upon payment of the sum of £300 or thereabouts, which Mr. Pickwick, on receiving, very generously handed to Jingle to start afresh in the world—the curtain falling with a herald entering and announcing the accession of Queen Victoria, which occurred about this time!

Another version was acted with indifferent success, at the Adelphi, Yates representing Mr. Pickwick, and John Reeve Sam Weller. In February, 1838, Mr. G. W. M. Reynolds started a monthly "Pickwick Abroad; or, A Tour in France," illustrated by Alfred Crowquill. As a curiosity, it deserves to be read, if only to see the immense difference existing between the two books.


A great deal has been said as to the origin of “ Pickwick," and in the chapter devoted to a consideration of this favorite work the present writer has stated from whence the name, at least, was taken. He did not, however, for the moment remember a conversation upon the subject which he had with a friend not long since, which conversation was shortly followed by a letter from him upon this same topic. The letter runs thus :

"When I stated to you that Dickens took his ideal of novelwriting from the works of Mr. Pierce Egan, I had nothing but internal evidence to go upon. When he began to write, the most popular fictions were the descriptions of 'Life in London' connected with the names of 'Tom' and 'Jerry.' The grand object of Dickens, as a novelist, has been to depict not so much human life as human life in London, and this he has done after a fashion which he learned from the Life in London' of Mr. Pierce Egan. If you remember that once famous book, you will call to mind how he takes his heroes the everlasting Tom and Jerry now to a fencing-saloon, now to a dancing-house, now to a chop-house, now to a spunginghouse. The object is not to evolve the characters of Tom and Jerry, but to introduce them in new scene after new scene. And so you will find with Dickens. He invents new characters, but he never invents them without at the same time inventing new situations and surroundings of London life. Other novelists would not object to invent new characters appearing in the same position of life as the characters in some preceding novel, and trusting for novelty to the newness of the surroundings and the situation. Dickens insists upon putting the new characters into a new and unexpected trade-dollmaking, perhaps, or news-vending-and he has always in view some new phase of London life which he is far more anxious to exhibit than the characters without which it is impossible to bring the phase into prominence. If you look to his writings, or if you talk to him, you will find that his first

« PoprzedniaDalej »