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Charles Dickens > The Pickwick Papers > Chapter 1

The Pickwick Papers

Chapter 1


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.

'May 12, 1827. Joseph Smiggers, Esq., P.V.P.M.P.C. [Perpetual
Vice-President--Member Pickwick Club], presiding. The following
resolutions unanimously agreed to:--

'That this Association has heard read, with feelings of unmingled
satisfaction, and unqualified approval, the paper communicated by Samuel
Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C. [General Chairman--Member Pickwick Club],
entitled "Speculations on the Source of the Hampstead Ponds, with some
Observations on the Theory of Tittlebats;" and that this Association
does hereby return its warmest thanks to the said Samuel
Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C., for the same.

'That while this Association is deeply sensible of the advantages
which must accrue to the cause of science, from the production
to which they have just adverted--no less than from the unwearied
researches of Samuel Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C., in Hornsey,
Highgate, Brixton, and Camberwell--they cannot but entertain
a lively sense of the inestimable benefits which must inevitably
result from carrying the speculations of that learned man into a
wider field, from extending his travels, and, consequently,
enlarging his sphere of observation, to the advancement of
knowledge, and the diffusion of learning.

'That, with the view just mentioned, this Association has taken
into its serious consideration a proposal, emanating from the
aforesaid, Samuel Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C., and three other
Pickwickians hereinafter named, for forming a new branch of
United Pickwickians, under the title of The Corresponding
Society of the Pickwick Club.

'That the said proposal has received the sanction and approval
of this Association.
'That the Corresponding Society of the Pickwick Club is
therefore hereby constituted; and that Samuel Pickwick, Esq.,
G.C.M.P.C., Tracy Tupman, Esq., M.P.C., Augustus Snodgrass,
Esq., M.P.C., and Nathaniel Winkle, Esq., M.P.C., are hereby
nominated and appointed members of the same; and that they
be requested to forward, from time to time, authenticated
accounts of their journeys and investigations, of their observations
of character and manners, and of the whole of their
adventures, together with all tales and papers to which local
scenery or associations may give rise, to the Pickwick Club,
stationed in London.

'That this Association cordially recognises the principle of
every member of the Corresponding Society defraying his own
travelling expenses; and that it sees no objection whatever to the
members of the said society pursuing their inquiries for any
length of time they please, upon the same terms.

'That the members of the aforesaid Corresponding Society be,
and are hereby informed, that their proposal to pay the postage
of their letters, and the carriage of their parcels, has been
deliberated upon by this Association: that this Association
considers such proposal worthy of the great minds from which it
emanated, and that it hereby signifies its perfect acquiescence

A casual observer, adds the secretary, to whose notes we are
indebted for the following account--a casual observer might
possibly have remarked nothing extraordinary in the bald head,
and circular spectacles, which were intently turned towards his
(the secretary's) face, during the reading of the above resolutions:
to those who knew that the gigantic brain of Pickwick was
working beneath that forehead, and that the beaming eyes of
Pickwick were twinkling behind those glasses, the sight was
indeed an interesting one. There sat the man who had traced to
their source the mighty ponds of Hampstead, and agitated the
scientific world with his Theory of Tittlebats, as calm and
unmoved as the deep waters of the one on a frosty day, or as a
solitary specimen of the other in the inmost recesses of an earthen
jar. And how much more interesting did the spectacle become,
when, starting into full life and animation, as a simultaneous call
for 'Pickwick' burst from his followers, that illustrious man
slowly mounted into the Windsor chair, on which he had been
previously seated, and addressed the club himself had founded.
What a study for an artist did that exciting scene present! The
eloquent Pickwick, with one hand gracefully concealed behind
his coat tails, and the other waving in air to assist his glowing
declamation; his elevated position revealing those tights and
gaiters, which, had they clothed an ordinary man, might have
passed without observation, but which, when Pickwick clothed
them--if we may use the expression--inspired involuntary awe
and respect; surrounded by the men who had volunteered to
share the perils of his travels, and who were destined to participate
in the glories of his discoveries. On his right sat Mr. Tracy
Tupman--the too susceptible Tupman, who to the wisdom and
experience of maturer years superadded the enthusiasm and
ardour of a boy in the most interesting and pardonable of human
weaknesses--love. Time and feeding had expanded that once
romantic form; the black silk waistcoat had become more and
more developed; inch by inch had the gold watch-chain beneath
it disappeared from within the range of Tupman's vision; and
gradually had the capacious chin encroached upon the borders of
the white cravat: but the soul of Tupman had known no change
--admiration of the fair sex was still its ruling passion. On the
left of his great leader sat the poetic Snodgrass, and near him
again the sporting Winkle; the former poetically enveloped in a
mysterious blue cloak with a canine-skin collar, and the latter
communicating additional lustre to a new green shooting-coat,
plaid neckerchief, and closely-fitted drabs.

Mr. Pickwick's oration upon this occasion, together with the
debate thereon, is entered on the Transactions of the Club. Both
bear a strong affinity to the discussions of other celebrated
bodies; and, as it is always interesting to trace a resemblance
between the proceedings of great men, we transfer the entry to
these pages.

'Mr. Pickwick observed (says the secretary) that fame was dear
to the heart of every man. Poetic fame was dear to the heart of
his friend Snodgrass; the fame of conquest was equally dear to
his friend Tupman; and the desire of earning fame in the sports
of the field, the air, and the water was uppermost in the breast of
his friend Winkle. He (Mr. Pickwick) would not deny that he was
influenced by human passions and human feelings (cheers)--
possibly by human weaknesses (loud cries of "No"); but this he
would say, that if ever the fire of self-importance broke out in his
bosom, the desire to benefit the human race in preference
effectually quenched it. The praise of mankind was his swing;
philanthropy was his insurance office. (Vehement cheering.) He
had felt some pride--he acknowledged it freely, and let his
enemies make the most of it--he had felt some pride when he
presented his Tittlebatian Theory to the world; it might be
celebrated or it might not. (A cry of "It is," and great cheering.)
He would take the assertion of that honourable Pickwickian
whose voice he had just heard--it was celebrated; but if the fame
of that treatise were to extend to the farthest confines of the
known world, the pride with which he should reflect on the
authorship of that production would be as nothing compared
with the pride with which he looked around him, on this, the
proudest moment of his existence. (Cheers.) He was a humble
individual. ("No, no.") Still he could not but feel that they had
selected him for a service of great honour, and of some danger.
Travelling was in a troubled state, and the minds of coachmen
were unsettled. Let them look abroad and contemplate the scenes
which were enacting around them. Stage-coaches were upsetting
in all directions, horses were bolting, boats were overturning, and
boilers were bursting. (Cheers--a voice "No.") No! (Cheers.)
Let that honourable Pickwickian who cried "No" so loudly
come forward and deny it, if he could. (Cheers.) Who was it that
cried "No"? (Enthusiastic cheering.) Was it some vain and
disappointed man--he would not say haberdasher (loud cheers)
--who, jealous of the praise which had been--perhaps undeservedly--
bestowed on his (Mr. Pickwick's) researches, and smarting under
the censure which had been heaped upon his own feeble attempts at
rivalry, now took this vile and calumnious mode of---

'Mr. BLOTTON (of Aldgate) rose to order. Did the honourable
Pickwickian allude to him? (Cries of "Order," "Chair," "Yes,"
"No," "Go on," "Leave off," etc.)

'Mr. PICKWICK would not put up to be put down by clamour.
He had alluded to the honourable gentleman. (Great excitement.)

'Mr. BLOTTON would only say then, that he repelled the hon.
gent.'s false and scurrilous accusation, with profound contempt.
(Great cheering.) The hon. gent. was a humbug. (Immense confusion,
and loud cries of "Chair," and "Order.")

'Mr. A. SNODGRASS rose to order. He threw himself upon the
chair. (Hear.) He wished to know whether this disgraceful
contest between two members of that club should be allowed to
continue. (Hear, hear.)

'The CHAIRMAN was quite sure the hon. Pickwickian would
withdraw the expression he had just made use of.

'Mr. BLOTTON, with all possible respect for the chair, was quite
sure he would not.

'The CHAIRMAN felt it his imperative duty to demand of the
honourable gentleman, whether he had used the expression which
had just escaped him in a common sense.

'Mr. BLOTTON had no hesitation in saying that he had not--he
had used the word in its Pickwickian sense. (Hear, hear.) He was
bound to acknowledge that, personally, he entertained the
highest regard and esteem for the honourable gentleman; he had
merely considered him a humbug in a Pickwickian point of view.
(Hear, hear.)

'Mr. PICKWICK felt much gratified by the fair, candid, and full
explanation of his honourable friend. He begged it to be at once
understood, that his own observations had been merely intended
to bear a Pickwickian construction. (Cheers.)'

Here the entry terminates, as we have no doubt the debate did
also, after arriving at such a highly satisfactory and intelligible
point. We have no official statement of the facts which the reader
will find recorded in the next chapter, but they have been carefully
collated from letters and other MS. authorities, so unquestionably
genuine as to justify their narration in a connected form.

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