Pickwick, partings and prisons

Dear Charles,

It snowed here last night, so I woke up to a world missing both the colours of fall and the companionship of Mr. Pickwick and his friends. It’s really not fair – you keep introducing me to these characters who I like and whose fates you make me care about, and then I have to reach the end of the story and leave them within its pages. It’s a comfort, however, to know that you feel as strong a relationship to Mr. Pickwick and his friends as I do:

It is the fate of most men who mingle with the world, and attain even the prime of life, to make many real friends, and lose them in the course of nature. It is the fate of all authors or chroniclers to create imaginary friends, and lose them in the course of art.

I, at least, can go back and revisit Pickwick & co. whenever I want to, but it must’ve been hard to see your characters out there in the real world and know that you could no longer change their stories. Maybe that’s why you kept so busy; if you had three novels on the go, it wouldn’t be quite so painful to finish one of them when you still had the fates of other characters in your hands.

The grounds of the Fleet Prison

On a slightly more somber note, remember how I told you how amazed and happy I was to find so many similarities between your time and mine? Yeah, I’d like to amend that. Pickwick’s brief incarceration in the Fleet debtor’s prison made me very glad that some things, at least, have changed for the better. It must’ve been awful for you to see your father confined to a place like that, and the way you describe Mr. Pickwick’s experience inside sounds both frightening and miserable. I think it’s very telling that when the only three people in the world that Mr. Pickwick had grudges against are found inside (Mr. Jingle, Mr. Trotter and Mrs. Bardell), he does his utmost to get them all out again. It cheers me to no end, however, to know that you lived to see the passing of the Debtor’s Act of 1869, which (mostly) abolished the imprisonment of people for debt. I hope that your calling attention to the conditions and abuses inside played a part in its passing.

Of course, Pickwick’s sojourn in prison is only a small part of this second volume. I particularly enjoyed the various romantic escapades and clandestine weddings. As with Nicholas Nickleby, everyone seems to find an appropriate partner (and not a widow among ‘em), or reconcile themselves to bachelorhood. You seem to enjoy ending books with weddings; I’ll have to see if this trend continues in The Old Curiosity Shop and beyond.

I remain, more so than ever,

Affectionately yours,


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