First Installment of Pickwick Papers Appears on This Date

Mr. Pickwick Addresses the Club by Robert Seymour

The first installment of Charles Dickens’s first novel, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club on this date in 1836. Dickens was asked to write a series of “sketches” to go with illustrations by Robert Seymour, whose work was already well known. Seymour and Dickens disagreed about many aspects of the illustrations and the text; Seymour committed suicide before the second installment went to press. Scholars agree that Seymour’s suicide was not related to his work with Dickens, but was, instead, the culmination of years of struggle with mental health. Illustrator Hablot K. Browne, also known as “Phiz,” took over as illustrator for the fourth issue. He and Dickens would work together for 23 years.

In Chapter 10, Dickens introduced Sam Weller, the Cockney servant of Mr. Pickwick. Weller said things like: “It’s over and can’t be helped, as they always says in Turkey, ven they cuts the wrong man’s head off’ or “I hope our acquaintance may be a long ‘un, as the gen’l’m’n said to the fi’pun’note.” These quips are known as Wellerisms. Sales took off, and Dickens became an overnight sensation at the tender age of 24.

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