Day 57, No. 57. Mr. Pickwick

Mr PickwickHAIRCUT 100: Day 57, No. 57. Sticking with my first love, early-Victorian literature, for one more day, Samuel Pickwick, Esquire: Chairman and Founder and of the Pickwick Club, a lovable innocent whose friendship with the streetwise Cockney Sam Weller is often compared to the relationship between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, serialised by Chapman & Hall (1836-37), was Dickens’ first novel after the success of Sketches by Boz. It is an essentially comic work, although it takes a decidedly darker turn in the Fleet Prison episode, foreshadowing the author’s later novels and signaling his own experience of debtor’s prison as a child, a fact he concealed from friends and family until later life. The serial was originally illustrated by Robert Seymour, with ‘Phiz’ (Hablot Knight Browne) taking over after the notoriously sensitive, near-bankrupt Seymour committed suicide after revising the illustrations for the second issue (Dickens had rejected the originals).

‘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.’

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