Pondering Pickwick

Dear Mr. Dickens,

It’s a blustery, grey Thanksgiving Monday as I write to you – the perfect day to be curled up on the couch with a cat on my lap and the first volume of The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club nearly finished. It seems like a good juncture to pause and write to you: Mr. Jingle, the source of much consternation, embarrassment and anger, has been exposed as a fraud in Ipswich (although less dramatically then either I or Mr. Pickwick would have wished), and Mr. Pickwick himself is preparing to return to his friends at Dingley Dell while anticipating his upcoming lawsuit brought against him by his former landlady.

You can see how Mrs. Bardell might interpret this as a marriage proposal…

I was anticipating this book to be more along the lines of your Sketches, as a collection of unrelated short stories, but there is a central cast of characters, and one episode flows into the next in a loosely connected narrative. It reminds me of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford (or perhaps her book should remind me of Pickwick, since hers was published after yours, and in a magazine for which you were the editor! It’s a small world, indeed).

I should stop being so surprised every time I read a description of a person or place and burst out laughing, since it happens so often – I really need to get over my original perception of you as some stuffy, serious dead guy. But while I’m really enjoying Pickwick, I have to ask you why you interrupt the narrative every so often to have one of your characters suddenly launch into a story of their own? It’s not that they’re badly written, but they do pull the reader out of the comfortable world you’ve created, and it’s difficult to see a purpose in them, other than as little nuggets of morality, since they don’t impact the course of the main narrative. It’s like finding a piece of bacon in a pumpkin pie – bacon is great, but in context a bit off-putting (or maybe I’ve just stumbled across the next great culinary fad).

Anyway, I shall continue to follow the delightful Mr. Pickwick and his friends, and until we next chat I shall remain

Your affectionately,

Melissa

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