Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Samuel Pickwick, Esq., is the founder and perpetual president of the justly famous Pickwick Club. To extend his own researches into the quaint and curious phenomena of life, he suggests that he and three other Pickwickians should make journeys to places remote from London and report on their findings to the stay-at-home members of the club. The first destination decided upon is Rochester. As Mr. Pickwick, Mr. Tracy Tupman, Mr. Nathaniel Winkle, and Mr. Augustus Snodgrass go to their coach, they are waylaid by a rough gang of cab drivers. Fortunately, the men are rescued by a stranger who is poorly dressed but of the friendliest nature. The stranger, who introduces himself as Alfred Jingle, also appears to be going to Rochester, and the party mounts the coach together.
After they arrive at their destination, Mr. Jingle arouses Mr. Tupman’s curiosity by telling him that there is to be a ball at the inn that evening and that many lovely young ladies will be present. Because, says Mr. Jingle, his luggage has gone astray, he has no evening clothes, and so it will be impossible for him to attend the affair. This is a regrettable circumstance because he had hoped to introduce Mr. Tupman to the many young ladies of wealth and fashion who will be present. Eager to meet these young ladies, Mr. Tupman borrows Mr. Winkle’s suit for the stranger. At the ball, Mr. Jingle, observing a middle-aged lady being assiduously attended by a doctor, goes up to her and starts...
(The entire section is 1661 words.)
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Chapters 1-2 Summary
On May 12, 1827, the members of the Pickwick Club gather to hear Mr. Samuel Pickwick present a paper, “Speculations on the Source of the Hampstead Ponds, with Some Observations on the Theory of Tittlebats.” These observations are met with great applause, and it is moved that a Corresponding Society of the Pickwick Club be formed. The members will be Samuel Pickwick, founder of the Club; Tracy Tupman, a great fan of the ladies; Augustus Snodgrass, a poet of little note; and Nathaniel Winkle, a sportsman. It is further moved that these four gentlemen shall pay all their own expenses and report at times to the Club on their travels, all costs of postage being paid by the four gentlemen. Mr. Pickwick rises to the occasion and accepts the Club’s designation despite the current dangers for travelers in England. Some member of the Club objects to this. Mr. Pickwick takes offense and implied insult to the objector. It is discovered that it is Mr. Blotton of Aldgate who has disagreed with Mr. Pickwick, though he resents Mr. Pickwick’s accusation and calls Mr. Pickwick a humbug. The Chairman asks Mr. Blotton if he meant the term “humbug” in the common sense. Mr. Blotton replies that he meant it in the Pickwickian sense. All are satisfied and the meeting comes to a close.
Mr. Pickwick arises the next morning and takes a cab to meet the other members. The driver regales him with ludicrous facts about his horse, which Mr. Pickwick writes down. When they arrive at their destination, the driver accuses Mr. Pickwick of being an informer. The three other members join the fight, which is soon broken up by a stranger. This stranger suggests that they go for a drink to recover, which in the end is paid for by Mr. Pickwick.
On the way to Rochester, the stranger joins the four Pickwickians and tells them of his many (though doubtful) adventures. When they arrive at the inn, the members invite the stranger to dine with them. At the dinner, Pickwick, Snodgrass, and Winkle become drunk and fall asleep. Mr. Tupman wants to go to a ball being held in the inn. The stranger agrees to go with him, but he must borrow an appropriate coat, which is bright blue and bears the Pickwick Club badge. Tupman lends him one of Winkle’s. At the ball, the stranger cuts in to dance with an elderly widow, offending her partner, Dr. Slammer of the 97th. When Dr. Slammer presents the stranger with his card, the stranger refuses to give one in return. Dr....
(The entire section is 571 words.)
Chapters 3-5 Summary
When Winkle and Snodgrass return to the inn, they find the other members of the club joined by another stranger, who is a friend of the stranger’s from the day before. His name is Dismal Jemmy and is an actor in the area. He tells a story of a Stroller, a traveling actor, who takes the role of a clown. Because of his heavy drinking, the stroller is slowly dying. He invites Dismal Jemmy to visit him at his home. Dismal Jemmy does and meets the clown’s wife and small child. The stroller is slipping into delirium, but Dismal Jemmy returns and stays by his side until he dies. Before anyone can ask questions about the story, Doctor Slammer and his guests arrive. He is startled to recognize both Winkle and the stranger who insulted him. After some discussion and more insults, Doctor Slammer and his companions leave. Mr. Pickwick attempts to follow them to demand satisfaction, but his friends restrain him.
The next morning, the company joins the citizens at a military display. Mr. Tupman disappears but Pickwick, Snodgrass, and Winkle find places close to the front. They are pushed from behind and soon find themselves facing the soldiers’ guns. Although the guns are loaded with blanks, the club members try to find some place of safety, only to be caught between the opposing sides. They manage to scurry to the sides (not without some injuries) and find Tupman in a carriage filled with the Wardle family. Mr. Wardle is joined by his maiden sister, Rachael; his daughters, Isabella and Emily; Mr. Trundle; and Joe, a fat boy who is constantly falling asleep. The Pickwickians join the Wardles for the remaining part of the show. Miss Rachael and Tupman flirt with each other, much to the amusement of the two girls. Mr. Wardle invites the members of the Pickwick Club to come to his home, Manor Farm in Dingley Dell, the following day. The companions readily accept the invitation.
The next morning, Dismal Jemmy asks Mr. Pickwick if he may forward another account to him to be read to the Pickwick Club, and Pickwick agrees. The four members prepare to leave for Dingley Dell but are dismayed to find that they are to drive a chaise that will carry only three of them; a horse is provided for the extra person. Winkle is said to be a sportsman, so they decide he should ride the horse. In actuality, Winkle has no idea how to ride a horse. Pickwick is elected to drive the chaise, and he likewise has no experience. As they take off, Winkle’s...
(The entire section is 586 words.)
Chapters 6-8 Summary
The members of the Pickwick Club are welcomed to a game of cards at Manor House, as are several other guests. In attendance is Mr. Wardle’s deaf, old mother, whose hearing improves once cards are mentioned. The clergyman tells the tale “The Convict’s Return,” which is about members of his local parish. A woman, much abused by her husband, is a faithful attendant at the church with her young son. She devotes herself to prayer and reading the Bible. After several years, the son, now a young man, does not show up with her at church. He has taken to running with a wild crowd, and it is not long before he is convicted of robbery. He is initially sentenced to death but the sentence is commuted to transportation overseas for fourteen years. His mother visits him in prison faithfully in the time leading to his exile, but one day she does not appear. She has fallen ill. The clergyman gives her message to her son of her forgiveness and love. Not long after the young convict takes ship for foreign lands, the woman dies. The young convict returns after serving out his sentence but finds no sign of his mother; a new family is living in his old home. When he stops on a bank, he spots an old man whom he recognizes as his father. He starts to attack him but stops himself because this is his father. The old man bursts a blood vessel while screaming at his son and dies. The clergyman says the young convict is now buried in the churchyard, having been his servant for three years after his return from exile.
The next morning, Mr. Wardle invites the four Pickwickians to go hunting. Mr. Winkle, who is reported to be an expert hunter, manages to miss the birds at which he is aiming. Instead, he hits Mr. Tupman in the arm. Tupman is carried home and is greeted by the outcries of the maiden aunt, Rachael. Tupman assures her that he is alive. Mr. Wardle then suggests that the rest of them leave Tupman in the care of the ladies and go to a nearby cricket match between the local Dingley Dells and the All-Muggletons. On arriving at the game, the members of the Pickwick Club meet the stranger from their first coach ride. His name is Arthur Jingle, and he supports the All-Muggleton team. After the match, the gentlemen attend a dinner.
As the other members are out hunting, Tupman professes his love to Miss Rachael, and she returns his feelings. Joe the fat boy discovers them, and he tells old Mrs. Wardle. Jingle overhears this conversation and...
(The entire section is 516 words.)
Chapters 9-11 Summary
The party sits down to supper, but soon someone notices that Jingle and Miss Rachael are missing. A man comes running in with the news that he saw them down the road, eloping. Tupman is upset; he realizes that Jingle cheated him. Wardle also feels put out by Joe, thinking the fat boy deliberately misled him into thinking that it was Tupman in whom Rachael was interested. Wardle and Pickwick take off after the couple, but their carriage overturns and is damaged. Jingle stops to laugh at them but refuses to help them. Wardle tells Pickwick there is nothing left to do but walk if they intend to stop Jingle and Rachael from procuring a marriage license.
At an inn in London, Sam Weller, the boot man, is attending to Jingle’s and Rachael’s shoes. Sam directs Jingle to the nearest license bureau to secure a marriage license for the next day. Rachael does not want so long. She is afraid her brother will arrive and stop her marriage. Jingle takes off to get the license. In the meantime, Wardle and Pickwick arrive at the inn with Wardle’s attorney, Mr. Perker. Sam leads them up to the room where Rachael is waiting—just as Jingle returns with the license. Rachael cries as Wardle berates Jingle for encouraging his sister to run off with him. Mr. Perker points out that Rachael is of age and cannot be forced to leave against her will. Speaking privately, Wardle offers to pay Jingle to leave his sister alone. He points out that Rachael, who is fifty years old, will have no money until their mother dies. Old Mrs. Wardle comes from a very long-living family, Wardle tells Jingle, so he cannot expect to get Rachael’s money any time soon. Jingle agrees to leave for one hundred and twenty pounds. Rachael is beside herself to find that Jingle has jilted her. Everyone returns to Dingley Dell the next day.
When Pickwick and Wardle return to Manor Farm, they discover that Tupman has gone, leaving behind a note that sounds ominously suicidal. The Pickwickians leave at once to find Tupman at a nearby ale house; he looks anything but depressed. At the inn, Pickwick finds a curiously engraved stone. He thinks it must be of great historical significance, so he buys it from the innkeeper and proposes to the other club members that they return home as soon as possible to examine this strange specimen. In his room at night, Pickwick reads the manuscript given him by the old clergyman from Dingley Dell. It contains a story of a madman who...
(The entire section is 482 words.)
Chapters 12-14 Summary
Mr. Pickwick rents rooms from the widow Mrs. Bardell, who has a young son. Although Mr. Pickwick is only a lodger, he is definitely the ruler of the home. One day he sends the young Bardell boy off on an errand and has a conversation with Mrs. Bardell that will have repercussions in Mr. Pickwick’s future. He asks her if she thinks it is as easy for two to live as cheaply as one. Mrs. Bardell jumps to the conclusion that Mr. Pickwick is leading up to a proposal of marriage. Mr. Pickwick says he has someone in mind who will be a helpmate for Mrs. Bardell and a companion to her son. He is shocked when Mrs. Bardell throws herself on him. He tries to push her off but she faints in his arms just as the Bardell boy and the three other Pickwickians arrive. The boy attacks him, thinking the older man has caused his mother’s unconscious state. Mr. Pickwick manages to have Mrs. Bardell carried downstairs while he explains to his friend that he was talking to her about hiring a man servant—Sam Weller, who is outside the door. Mr. Pickwick explains the conditions of employment to Sam, who readily accepts and is prepared to start that evening.
Mr. Pickwick and his companions journey to Eatanswill (a pseudonym Mr. Pickwick used to avoid any negative opinions about the real town) during the period of its local elections. The town is full of voters and the party is split. Mr. Perker, Pickwick’s attorney, is a member of the party supporting Mr. Slumkey, so the Pickwickians decide they must support him as well. They learn of the dishonesty of the entire voting process; some voters are even being held hostage. In the end, Mr. Slumkey is elected.
While Pickwick and Winkle stay at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Potts (with Winkle paying particular attention to Mrs. Pott), Tupman and Snodgrass stay at the Peacock Inn, where they are entertained by a story told by a bagman: Tom Smart stops at an inn run by a widow. At the bar, he sees a tall stranger, who strikes him as suspicious. After several drinks, Tom goes to bed, where he is surprised to find an old chair take the form of an old man. This chair/old man tells him that the tall stranger, whose name is Jinkins, was courting the widow but is in fact already married. The chair says there is a letter in Jinkins’s pocket, which relates this information. The next morning, Tom takes the letter from Jinkins’s pocket while Jinkins is asleep and relates this information to the widow, proposing to...
(The entire section is 462 words.)
Chapters 15-17 Summary
Mr. Pickwick receives an invitation from Mrs. Leo Hunter to attend a fancy-dress ball at her home. Mr. Pickwick is concerned that he has no costume, but he is told that because he is the celebrated Mr. Pickwick, it is unnecessary for him to come in masquerade. Pickwick and Tupman have a heated debate about Tupman’s costume as a bandit. Mr. Pickwick says Tupman is too old and too fat. Tupman takes offence and dresses as a bandit anyway. The rest of the Pickwickians finds costumes purported to be “classical” but are in reality nothing of the sort; they merely have a great deal of spangles. At the ball, the Pickwickians are shocked to find Alfred Jingle, who is going by the name Charles Fitz-Marshall. Pickwick resolves to track Jingle down to prevent him from deceiving anyone else.
At Bury St. Edmonds, Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller learn that Alfred Jingle (under the name of Charles Fitz-Marshall) is staying there. Sam meets Jingle’s servant, Job Trotter, who tells him Jingle is preparing to elope with a young lady at a local academy that very night. Sam takes Job to repeat the story to Mr. Pickwick. Job talks the reluctant Pickwick into intervening out of his desire to stop Jingle from hurting anyone else. Job tells Pickwick to sneak into the academy that night and tell the headmistress. Job says he will meet Pickwick there. That night, Sam pushes Pickwick over the wall into the back garden. Pickwick sits in hiding during a thunderstorm until all the young ladies have gone to sleep. Unfortunately, he has been heard by the teachers and students. He explains that he wants to see Miss Tompkins, the headmistress, who tells him that she has never heard of either Charles Fitz-Marshall or Alfred Jingle. Pickwick sends for Sam to verify his intention. Sam arrives with Mr. Wardle and Mr. Trundle, who have come to the area for some hunting. Pickwick realizes he has been tricked, and both Jingle and Job Trotter have managed to escape.
The next day, Pickwick is struck with an attack of rheumatism since staying out in the thunderstorm. While he is bedridden, he entertains Mr. Wardle and Mr. Trundle with a story called “The Parish Clerk: A Tale of True Love.” Nathanial Pipkin, the parish clerk, falls in love with Mariah Lobbs, the daughter of the well-to-do saddler. Although Mariah encourages Nathaniel, Mr. Lobbs does not approve of such a poor suitor for his daughter. When Nathaniel asks for his daughter’s hand in marriage,...
(The entire section is 459 words.)
Chapters 18-20 Summary
While Pickwick stays in Bury St. Edmonds, Winkle remains in Eatanswill, where he continues to entertain Mrs. Pott. One day Mr. Pott bursts in and throws a newspaper at Winkle, calling him a serpent. A poem in the paper hints that Mrs. Pott has “strayed” with Winkle. When Mrs. Pott comes in and learns of her public disgrace, she throws a fit and her husband tries to calm her. When Mrs. Pott is finally subdued, a letter arrives requesting that Tupman and Winkle join Pickwick at Bury St. Edmonds.
Mr. Tupman is caught off guard when he sees Mr. Wardle, who tells him that Rachael has gone to live with some other relatives. Mr. Snodgrass is startled to learn that there is to be wedding at Manor Farm; he is relieved to hear that it is Mr. Trundle and Isabella who are to be wed. Mr. Wardle invites the Pickwickians for Christmas.
While Pickwick berates his companions for constantly falling into difficulties because of women, he receives a letter from the lawyers Dodson and Fogg. It informs him that Mrs. Bardell is bringing a suit of fifteen hundred pounds against him for breach of promise of marriage. Pickwick is completely nonplussed how she could have thought he was proposing to her, but the other members of the club agree that the situation looked suspicious when they entered the room to find Mrs. Bardell in Mr. Pickwick’s arms. Pickwick resolves to go to London to investigate the matter.
The Pickwickians (minus Mr. Snodgrass) join Mr. Wardle for a day of hunting on the grounds of Captain Boldwig. Pickwick is still lame, so Sam carries him along in a wheelbarrow, from which Mr. Pickwick chides Winkle and Tupman on the dangerous way they are carrying their guns. As the company stops for a picnic lunch, Mr. Pickwick drinks too much punch and falls asleep in the wheelbarrow. The others decide to leave him until they return that way and go off to continue their hunt. Captain Boldwig comes along and spots Pickwick, assuming he is a trespasser. He orders his servant to wheel Mr. Pickwick to the pound in the village, where Pickwick is locked up. When he awakens, he is startled to see the villagers laughing at him. Mr. Wardle and the others are surprised to find that him gone when they return for him, but they eventually locate him. Mr. Pickwick threatens to sue for false imprisonment—until it is pointed out that they were indeed trespassing.
Mr. Pickwick, accompanied by Sam Weller, goes to see Dodson and...
(The entire section is 515 words.)
Chapters 21-23 Summary
As Mr. Pickwick and Sam sit in Mr. Perker’s law offices, an old man regales them with tales of lonely men who die and haunt the next tenants of their dwellings. He tells “The Tale of the Queer Client”: A man named Heyling has been imprisoned in the Marshalsea debtor’s prison. His wife and child come to visit him every day. Heyling sees his family suffering and starving, forced to move to ever cheaper lodgings. One day his wife comes alone; their son has died. Soon, she also dies in Heyling’s arms. As her body is carried out of the prison, Heyling vows to avenge the deaths of his family, which were caused by the cold-heartedness of his wife’s father. When he is released, Heyling visits his father-in-law just in time to stand by and let the old man’s son drown. He haunts the old man until his father-in-law is as lonely and bereft as he has been. Then Heyling confronts the old man, stating his intentions to pay him back for the deaths of his wife and child. The old man dies, and Heyling disappears.
Mr. Pickwick and Sam leave the next day on the coach, which is driven by Mr. Tony Weller, Sam’s father. Another passenger, Peter Magnus, is amazed at the coincidences that he sees between his journey and Mr. Pickwick’s. When the coach arrives at the Great White Horse Inn, Magnus tells Pickwick that he is there to meet a lady to whom he means to propose. Pickwick wants to escape Magnus’s meanderings, so he goes to his room in the very large and convoluted inn.
Just as Pickwick is ready to go to bed, he remembers that he left his watch on the table downstairs. After some difficulty finding the way down to the ground level, Pickwick retrieves his watch, but he gets lost on his way back to his room. He enters what he believes is his chamber and prepares for bed until the door is opened by a middle-aged woman in yellow curl papers. Pickwick is uncertain how to proceed but eventually announces his presence. The woman screams and orders him out of the room; Pickwick is eager to go. He finds Sam in the hall and has his servant escort him pack to his proper bedchamber.
Pickwick and Sam continue to Ipswich in search of Alfred Jingle. After bidding his father good-bye, Sam Weller strolls along the street, examining the sights and the ladies. He is surprised to see Job Trotter, who tells him that Alfred Jingle is once again in the process of attempting to seduce a wealthy woman.
(The entire section is 446 words.)
Chapters 24-26 Summary
The next morning, Peter Magnus asks Pickwick if he has ever proposed marriage to a woman. Pickwick strenuously denies having done so (thinking of Mrs. Bardell’s breach-of-promise lawsuit). He gives Magnus some advice on the act of proposal, which Magnus accepts and puts into practice with success. When he introduces Pickwick to his new fiancée, Miss Witherfield, Pickwick is surprised to find the woman in whose bedchamber he had found himself the night before. Miss Witherfield is equally shocked, which arouses Magnus’s suspicions. He eventually comes to the conclusion that Pickwick made inappropriate advances upon Miss Witherfield. Pickwick and Magnus get into a fierce argument, and they are soon joined by Tupman. Miss Witherfield runs to the Ipswich magistrate and has Pickwick and Tupman arrested on charges of intending to duel. The local constables come to the inn to take Pickwick and Tupman into custody, much to the Pickwickians’ dismay. As the two “duelists” are put into the transporting vehicle, Sam Weller arrives after unsuccessfully capturing Jingle. He sees his employer being arrested and begins to battle the officers, but he is also apprehended.
Nupkins, the magistrate, sets bail for Pickwick and Tupman at fifty pounds each, to be paid by a member of the town. Pickwick protests that they are strangers in Ipswich and so do not know anyone who would be willing to pay the bail. Sam discovers that Jingle is in Ipswich to take advantage of the magistrate’s daughter. He informs Nupkins of this. Nupkins dismisses the charges against Pickwick and Tupman and invites the Pickwickians to his home to confront Jingle and Job Trotter. While Pickwick is confronting Jingle, Sam visits with the servants and confronts Job Trotter. Pickwick tells Jingle that he is content only to expose Jingle’s plans. Jingle and Trotter leave, though Sam resents not being allowed to take care of Trotter. As Sam goes back into the kitchen to retrieve his hat, he encounters the housemaid and manages to kiss her twice.
On his return to London, Pickwick sends Sam to his old lodgings at Mrs. Bardell’s to inform her that he will no longer reside there and to pay the rent. He also wants Sam to arrange to have his belongings removed as well as to find out if Mrs. Bardell is still proceeding with her lawsuit. Sam arrives at Mrs. Bardell’s to find her being comforted by several friends. He gives her Pickwick’s message and the rent. He...
(The entire section is 460 words.)
Chapters 27-29 Summary
With two days left before the Pickwickians are to leave for Dingley Dell, Sam Weller decides he should visit his father. With Mr. Pickwick’s ready permission, Sam goes to the Marquis of Denby public house and finds his stepmother (“mother-in-law”) in the company of Mr. Stiggins, the red-nosed reverend who serves as her spiritual adviser. His red nose indicates that he drinks heavily, contrary to his preaching. Mrs. Weller does not appreciate Sam’s disrespect toward Mr. Stiggins or his flirtations with her. She has already given up her husband, Sam’s father, as a lost cause. Sam stays overnight and leaves in the morning, advising his father to get rid of Mr. Stiggins, but Mr. Weller tells his son that he does not understand the nature of marriage—he is at the mercy of his wife in this matter.
The Pickwickians and Sam Weller travel down to Dingley Dell in a coach loaded with a large cod and several barrels of oysters. Joe the Fat Boy meets them. He loads their belongings into the cart but suggests that they might want to walk, remembering their loss of the carriage on their previous visit. They arrive at Manor Farm and are greeted warmly by the Wardles, who have gathered for Christmas and for Isabella’s wedding to Mr. Trundle. Sam is impressed by Joe’s immensity, and Mr. Snodgrass is impressed once again with Emily Wardle. There is also a “black-eyed young lady” by the name of Arabella Allen. The festivities begin the next day with the wedding, where Pickwick astonishes his friends by attending dressed for dancing.
The next day, the preparations for Christmas begin. There is more dancing and romance, and the group settles down to listen to Mr. Wardle tell the tale of a sexton who was carried off by goblins: Gabriel Grub is a sexton and a grave digger. He has a reputation for being surly and misanthropic. On Christmas Eve, as he is digging a grave, a goblin appears and snatches him down through the earth into the goblins’ cavern, where he is tormented and shown visions of people who have every right to be miserable but who manage to find happiness in their lives. He awakens to find himself beside the grave. He then disappears for ten years. When he returns as an old man, his attitude has changed dramatically and his heart has become warmer toward his fellow man.
(The entire section is 407 words.)
Chapters 30-32 Summary
Two medical students arrive at Manor Farm the day after Christmas: Benjamin Allen (Arabella Allen’s brother) and Bob Sawyer. Ben has come to escort Arabella home, which saddens Mr. Winkle very much. Before dinner, the two students discuss dissections they are currently working on, much to the disgust of Mr. Pickwick, who warns them to stop before the ladies arrive.
Mr. Wardle invites everyone to go ice skating. Bob Sawyer asks Mr. Winkle if he knows how to skate. Winkle replies that he does, though he is out of practice and has no skates. The house is stocked with more than enough skates to go around, so Mr. Wardle leads the way to a frozen pond. Mr. Winkle is completely unable to remain upright on the skates, even with Sam Weller helping him. He eventually falls with a crash. Mr. Pickwick orders someone to take off Winkle’s skates and march him off the ice. Pickwick confronts Winkle as a “humbug” (imposter). Pickwick demonstrates his own skating skills until he falls through the ice. Soaking wet and in danger of freezing, he is ordered to run as fast as he can back to the house. Once he has reached his own room, he covers himself with blankets while Sam makes up a large fire and plies him with punch. The next day the party breaks up, as Arabella and her brother, along with Bob Sawyer, leave Dingley Dell. Bob Sawyer invites Pickwick to visit him at his lodgings in London, which are near Pickwick’s own.
Mr. Jackson, a clerk from the firm of Dodson and Fogg, appears at the George and Vulture, where Pickwick is now living and where he is entertaining his fellow Pickwickians. Jackson presents subpoenas to Winkle, Tupman, and Snodgrass, announcing that the trial is set for February 14th; Sam sees the irony that such a case is tried on Valentine’s Day. Pickwick hurries off with Sam to see Mr. Perker, who tells Pickwick that he has hired Serjeant Snubbin to help with his case. Pickwick goes with Perker to see Serjeant Snubbin, who does not seem optimistic. Perker tells him that Mr. Phunky will be assisting him. The party then goes to visit Mr. Phunky.
Bob Sawyer and Ben Allen are preparing for their party with Mr. Pickwick and company when Bob’s landlady appears, demanding rent. Bob makes excuses and promises, but the landlady leaves unsatisfied. The Pickwickians, along with the other guests, appear and the party commences. After a great deal of drinking, the landlady appears and demands that all the...
(The entire section is 436 words.)
Chapters 33-34 Summary
Sam Weller receives a message from his father to come see him at once. On the way, Sam sees a Valentine’s Day display in a stationer’s window, which reminds him that the following day is Valentine’s Day. He stops and buys some gilt-edged paper and a pen, and then he proceeds to the Blue Boar Inn. While he waits for his father, Sam begins to write a letter to Mary, the Nupkins’s maid. Mr. Weller arrives. When he sees what Sam is doing, he warns him against writing a valentine to any woman—using himself as an example of what bad may come of it. Mr. Weller tells Sam that it would be a heavy trial to him to see Sam married. Sam reads his valentine letter to his father, who offers suggestions throughout. Rather than signing his own name, which he claims is not done, Sam signs it “Pickwick.” Mr. Weller offers useless advice for Mr. Pickwick; he assumes that all trials are criminal and will take place at the Old Bailey.
Mr. Weller has hatched a plan to get rid of Reverend Stiggins, the red-nosed man who is making his married life more torment than it would be otherwise. He takes Sam to the local temperance meeting. Observing the crowd, Mr. Weller is alarmed at the large amount of tea drunk by the ladies. The meeting begins with reports of “converts to Temperance.” Reverend Stiggins arrives clearly drunk, but the crowd ignores this. Stiggins accuses the meeting of being drunk and hits Brother Tadger, an attendee, on the nose. Mr. Weller sends Sam to fetch a watchman and attacks Reverend Stiggins, who is subsequently expelled from the temperance society.
The Pickwickians and Mr. Perker arrive at court, where Pickwick is amazed at the variety of people crowding the courtroom. The trial begins as Mrs. Bardell’s attorney, Serjeant Buzfuz, speaks of the grievous injury sustained by his client. He tells of the great trust Mrs. Bardell had in advertising a room for rent to a single gentleman. He presents Pickwick as a serpent lying in wait to pounce on the unsuspecting widow. Buzfuz turns Pickwick’s notes detailing instructions to his landlady into messages with hidden meanings.
Mrs. Bardell’s friends are called as witnesses against Pickwick. Winkle gives testimony about his walking into the room to find Pickwick holding Mrs. Bardell in his arms. Tupman and Snodgrass are also called, and Buzfuz manages to twist all their testimonies to make them seem damning to Pickwick. As Sam Weller testifies, his...
(The entire section is 488 words.)
Chapters 35-37 Summary
In the days following the trial, Mr. Pickwick assures Mr. Perker that he will not pay damages to Mrs. Bardell. He will continue on with his life until he is dragged off to debtor’s prison, which Perker tells him may be in two months. Pickwick decides that he and the other Pickwickians will go to Bath.
The members of the Pickwick Club meet Mr. Dowler, who is accompanying them to Bath, along with his wife. At Bath, Mr. Dowler introduces his friend, Angelo Cyrus Bantam, to Pickwick. Bantam is the Grand Master of Ceremonies at Bath. The Pickwickians wander around Bath until that evening’s assembly. Sam meets a footman, who shows interest in Sam and hopes to meet him again.
A varied crowd attends the assembly that evening. Bantam points out to Pickwick some of the personages in the room. Pickwick is forced into playing cards with a group of ladies. At the end of a long evening, Pickwick and his companions retire for the night.
The members of the Pickwick Club rent the upper floor of a house for the two months they plan to be in Bath, and they are joined by Mr. and Mrs. Dowler. Pickwick “takes the waters,” declaring each time that he feels better than he ever has before. One late evening, Pickwick is working when he finds a story hidden in the desk drawer. It claims to tell the true story of Prince Bladud and the founding of the city of Bath: King Lud arranges a marriage for his son, Bladud, who has unfortunately fallen in love with the daughter of an Athenian nobleman. Bladud is imprisoned for his rebellion in this matter, but he manages to escape. He learns on his way that the Athenian lady whom he loved has married another. Grief-stricken, Prince Bladud wanders until he reaches the area where Bath is now located. He prays that the tears he sheds might flow in peace forever. The wish is granted, and thus the city of Bath is founded.
Mr. Dowler is waiting up for his wife to return from a party. He is the only person still awake in the house, and he grows weary and falls asleep. At three o’clock, Mrs. Dowler finally returns home, but no one hears her knocking. Mr. Winkle finally awakens and, still wearing only his nightgown, opens the door for her and steps out. However, the wind blows the door closed behind him, locking both him and Mrs. Dowler outside. Finally Mrs. Craddock hears the knocking and arouses Mr. Dowler. He discovers his wife and Winkle outside and assumes they are running away...
(The entire section is 509 words.)
Chapters 38-40 Summary
Mr. Winkle fears that Mr. Dowler would seek a duel with him—and that he might end up killing Mr. Dowler—so he escapes to Bristol. Seeking a place to live, he walks into an apothecary shop and discovers Bob Sawyer, who is living now in Bristol with Ben Allen. Bob’s business is slow, but he deceives the community into thinking he is constantly busy.
Ben tells Winkle that he is trying to match Bob and his sister, Arabella, which Winkle does not like to hear. Ben confesses that Arabella resists his efforts, and he suspects that she has a prior attachment. Winkle hopes it might be he in whom she is interested. Ben has secluded his sister nearby in the home of an old aunt.
Winkle, Ben, and Bob drink to their unexpected reunion with predictable results. Winkle is surprised to find Dowler in Bristol. He has come to apologize to Mr. Winkle for his misunderstanding. That night, Sam Weller also arrives in Bristol to take Winkle back to London. Winkle, however, convinces Sam to stay with him to help him discover the location of Arabella Allen.
Sam keeps a close eye on Mr. Winkle and informs Mr. Pickwick of his location by letter. Pickwick comes to Bristol to investigate the situation. Winkle explains that he intends to find Arabella and declare his love. It is agreed that Sam should be sent in search of Arabella while Pickwick and Winkle talk to Bob Sawyer.
In his search, Sam comes across a surly groom who gives him no information. As Sam waits until something happens, he sees a maid come out to shake the carpets. He is surprised to discover that it is Mary, Mr. Nupkins’s former servant. Sam tells her he has come to Bristol in search of her—and he learns from Mary that Arabella is staying in the house next door. Because Arabella goes out only in the evening, Sam proposes to return at that time to give her the message from Winkle. He comes back and arranges a meeting between Arabella and Winkle the next evening. Pickwick presents himself as chaperone for the sake of Arabella’s reputation.
As Winkle, Sam, and Pickwick meet Arabella in the dark of the evening, a scientific gentleman in a nearby house observes a light outside and concludes it is a phenomenon of nature that will make him famous. It is, however, only the three Pickwickians, who are thought to be thieves and run off into the night.
The Pickwickians return to London, and within a few days, Mr. Pickwick is arrested for...
(The entire section is 471 words.)
Chapters 41-43 Summary
The prison warden gives Mr. Pickwick, accompanied by Sam Weller, a tour of Fleet Prison. Pickwick is appalled by the filthy living conditions of the inmates, mistaking rooms for coal bins. He becomes disheartened when he sees entire families with young children within the prison walls. He retires to his room, which has the rusty bedstead he rented from the warden from the night. He bids Sam find himself room in some inn nearby and return in the morning so that they can decide how best to retrieve Pickwick’s goods from the George and Vulture. After Sam leaves, Pickwick prepares for bed. He puts his nightcap on his head, thankful that he thought of sticking it in his pocket at the last minute. He is awakened a half hour later by some drunken men, two of whom are named Smangle and Mivin. They persuade Pickwick to give them some money to buy liquor and cigars. Pickwick finally returns to bed, trying to ignore the talking of his roommates.
The next morning, Pickwick finds Roker, the warden, and inquires about a permanent room. Roker takes him to a cell where there are three other inmates, one of whom is a drunken clergyman. Pickwick finds this situation totally unacceptable and talks to Roker about the possibility of another place. Roker tells him that one of the current residents has a room he might rent to someone. Pickwick finds the room acceptable and arranges to rent some furnishings. He asks Roker about the possibility of arranging to have someone with access to the outside run errands for him. Roker tells him there are some available people in the poor section of Fleet Prison. Pickwick offers to go himself, wanting to see this part of his new home. He finds that it is indeed inhabited by the very poorest and is shocked to discover that Alfred Jingle and Job Trotter are incarcerated here. Touched at the low depths to which his former nemesis has sunk, he slips them some money and returns to his room to find Sam there. He informs his servant that he is releasing him for the time being. Sam objects to this, but when Pickwick insists, he rushes from the room.
Sam consults his father as to how he may help Mr. Pickwick. Mr. Weller has no ideas, but Sam comes up with a plan. He borrows twenty-five pounds from his father and then has Mr. Weller demand repayment. When Sam refuses, Mr. Weller (at Sam’s suggestion) hires his friend Solomon Pell, an unscrupulous lawyer, to bring charges against Sam. He is found guilty and...
(The entire section is 463 words.)
Chapters 44-46 Summary
Pickwick is so touched by Sam’s willingness to be imprisoned so he can continue to serve his master that he does not protest. He does, however, want to know who Sam’s debtor is so he may pay him off. Sam says the person does not deserve to be paid off and refuses to tell. Sam finds a place to sleep in the room of a cobbler, who sleeps under the table that reminds him of his four-poster bed. Winkle, Snodgrass, and Tupman arrive. They are horrified by Pickwick’s surroundings. Winkle is upset that Sam has also made himself a prisoner; he had intended to have Sam run an errand but now he must go himself. Sam noticeably trembles at this news, but he will not divulge his secret to Pickwick.
Pickwick learns that the Chancery prisoner, in whose case he has taken an interest, is in serious ill health. He goes to visit him and finds him near death. He stays by his side, listening to him talk of his twenty years in Fleet Prison, before he quiets. He is so deathlike already that they do not notice when he dies.
Mr. Weller brings his wife and Reverend Stiggins to visit Sam, but Stiggins only drinks and Mrs. Weller cries. Pickwick takes Sam to see Jingle and Job Trotter, whom Sam discovers are in a better section and with better food, thanks to Pickwick. As Pickwick further travels around the prison, he becomes so overwrought by the conditions that he goes to his own room and stays there for three months.
Mrs. Bardell, some of her friends, and her son Tommy go the Hampstead for tea at the Spaniards Inn. While there, Mr. Jackson of Dodson and Fogg arrives, telling Mrs. Bardell that she is wanted by her lawyers on urgent business. It is decided that Mrs. Bardell and Tommy will go with Mr. Jackson and the others will follow. Instead of taking Mrs. Bardell to the law offices, Mr. Jackson drops her off at a strange door, which he announces is Fleet Prison. Dodson and Fogg had taken her case on speculation, meaning that they would be paid following the trial, but Mrs. Bardell has not paid them because Pickwick did not pay damages. Therefore, Mrs. Bardell has been sent to the debtor’s prison for non-payment of debt. As she enters, Pickwick and Sam see and recognize her. Sam lifts his hat, but Pickwick turns his back on her. Mrs. Bardell faints dead away.
(The entire section is 419 words.)
Chapters 47-49 Summary
Job Trotter leaves Fleet Prison to tell Mr. Perker that Mrs. Bardell has been imprisoned for court costs. Perker arrives at the prison and tells Pickwick that he is the only person who can release Mrs. Bardell. Pickwick refuses to even consider doing so. Perker shows him a letter in which Mrs. Bardell clears Pickwick of all wrongdoing and states that Dodson and Fogg created the case.
Sam interrupts, telling Pickwick that a lady is there to see him. Fearing that it is Mrs. Bardell, Pickwick refuses to see her, but Sam persists. Mr. Winkle arrives with Arabella Allen, whom he now introduces as his wife. He explains that Ben Allen does not know they have been married, and Arabella pleads with Mr. Pickwick to reunite her with her brother. Mr. Winkle also asks that Pickwick inform his father of the news of his marriage; he knows it will be viewed more positively if it comes from Pickwick, who has stood in the stead of Winkle’s father. Pickwick breaks down and agrees. He sends Job Trotter to obtain his release from prison, and then he arranges with Perker for Jingle’s release. He walks out of Fleet Prison, saddened by the misery he is leaving behind.
Bob Sawyer has grown tired of the apothecary profession, so Ben Allen proposes that he marry his sister Arabella, who has a good bit of money that will come to her when she comes of age or when she is married. Ben’s aunt arrives unexpectedly with the news that Arabella has married. Both Ben and Bob are furious. Mr. Pickwick and Sam show up, intent on calming the nerves of the new Mrs. Winkle’s brother. After some convincing and even more wine, Bob and Ben are pacified, and Ben agrees to go with Mr. Pickwick to discuss the marriage with Winkle’s father.
As Pickwick gets settled at a nearby inn, he encounters the bagman from Eatanswill, who proposes to tell a story about his uncle: Jack Martin (the bagman’s uncle) was a debt collector who traveled from London up through Edinburgh to Glasgow and back. On one trip, he drinks quite a bit and finds himself among some old mail coaches. He climbs inside one and falls asleep. When he awakens, he finds himself back in the past. He travels in one of the coaches with a beautiful lady and the son of the Marquess of Filletoville, who has kidnapped her. Jack Martin, at a stop along the way, finds himself in a swordfight with the villain and another accomplice. He rescues the damsel in distress and promises to love only her...
(The entire section is 462 words.)
Chapters 50-52 Summary
As Pickwick, Ben, and Sam set off to see Mr. Winkle’s father, Bob Sawyer arrives and announces that he is going along. He is leaving his apothecary business to take care of itself, much to the consternation of Pickwick, who fears for the community, which is being left without a means to obtain medicine. As the carriage travels along, Bob becomes increasingly loud, clearly under the influence of the contents of the bottle he has brought along. Pickwick ascertains that it is milk punch, and he and Ben decide it would serve Bob right if they drank it all, which they do. Soon Ben and Pickwick also become tipsy. They decide to stop for lunch and refill the bottle. Several times along the way this process is repeated, and both Ben and Pickwick are fast asleep when they arrive at their destination.
At the inn, they learn that Mr. Winkle, Senior, lives not far away. They freshen up (and try to help Bob return to sobriety) and journey to Mr. Winkle’s home. They are shown into the parlor, where Pickwick presents his letter to Mr. Winkle, who reads the news of his son’s marriage while Ben goes to sleep. Mr. Winkle does not respond to the announcement of his son’s marriage except to state that he will not give his blessing because his son made his choice without his father’s approval. Pickwick and the others return to the inn, irate at Mr. Winkle’s hardheartedness.
Mr. Pickwick and his companions awaken the next morning to find it raining. They decide to wait to leave until the weather clears. When the weather does not change, they decide to go ahead and make the journey despite the inconvenience. They stop at an inn for the night, where they are surprised to encounter Mr. Pott from Eatanswill, the publisher of the Gazette. He tells them he is on his way to observe the Buff Ball of his opposition. That evening, Mr. Slurk of the Independent, Mr. Pott’s adversary, also arrives, and the two newspapermen get involved in a violent quarrel. Sam restrains them.
When Sam returns home, Mary tells him that a letter arrived for him soon after he left. The letter is from Sam’s father. It says Mrs. Weller caught cold sitting out late listening to one of her preachers, and she ultimately died. He asks Sam to come to comfort him. Sam leaves immediately, promising Mary that he won’t be gone more than a day or two. Sam finds his father in relatively good spirits except for feeling annoyed by widows who...
(The entire section is 515 words.)
Chapters 53-55 Summary
Arabella learns from Mr. Pickwick that Mr. Winkle, Senior, was not moved by his appeal to accept his son’s marriage. She is upset that she is the cause of an estrangement between father and son, but Pickwick tells her that in time Mr. Winkle, Senior, may come around. Arabella is worried that her father-in-law will cut off financial assistance to his son, but Pickwick assures her that, if he does, some other friend (hinting at himself) will come to Winkle’s aid.
Pickwick bids good-bye to Jingle and Job Trotter, the latter choosing to go with his friend to the West Indies rather than stay in England and take the job Perker offered him. Perker is skeptical that the two former rascals will do well out in the colonies, but Pickwick has more faith.
Dodson and Fogg arrive to accept the damages Pickwick has agreed to pay to Mrs. Bardell. As they leave, Pickwick finally releases his anger, shouting after the lawyers that they are pettifogging robbers. Dodson and Fogg warn him that they will have the law after him, but Pickwick feels much better now that he has stated his mind.
Mr. Wardle arrives with the news that Mr. Snodgrass and his daughter, Emily, are in love; they have been writing to each other since Christmas. Wardle does not approve of the match and has brought Emily with him. However, Snodgrass is downstairs with Emily. Joe the Fat Boy interrupts them. Snodgrass tries to leave by another door but finds himself in a locked room. Joe tries to warn Pickwick that Snodgrass is in the next room, but Pickwick thinks the boy is delirious. Snodgrass bursts in and declares his love for Emily. Wardle finally comes to terms with this and welcomes Snodgrass as his son-in-law.
Mr. Weller tells Sam that he found his wife’s will in the teapot where she used to keep some money. Because the only beneficiaries are Sam and himself, Mr. Weller is going to throw the will in the fire. Sam stops him, telling that the will needs to be probated. They go to the law offices of Solomon Pell, who testifies to the legality of the will. Sam is to receive two hundred pounds, which has been invested in city funds; Sam is content to leave it there. Mr. Weller, however, wants to liquidate his inheritance, which requires a trip to Wilkins Flasher. Mr. Weller then receives his inheritance of eleven hundred and eighty pounds.
(The entire section is 414 words.)
Chapters 56-57 Summary
Mr. Pickwick contemplates the changes in his life that have arisen from the marriages of his friends Winkle and Snodgrass. He also realizes that Sam and Mary are in love. Their marriage will result in Sam’s also leaving him, but he realizes that life must go on and he must not stand in the way. As he is thinking these things, Mr. Weller and Sam arrive. Mr. Weller has something to ask Mr. Pickwick but cannot bring himself to say it, so he has deputized his son to do so. Sam explains that his father has withdrawn his inheritance and would like to give it to Mr. Pickwick for safekeeping. This will also partially replace the losses in Mr. Pickwick’s fortune from paying the damages to Mrs. Bardell. After giving Mr. Pickwick a purse containing the money, Mr. Weller runs out of the room. Pickwick sends Sam to fetch him and tells Mr. Weller that he cannot accept the money. Mr. Weller, however, replies that he is afraid he will lose the money if it is left in his keeping. At this confession, Pickwick agrees to keep it until Mr. Weller needs it.
Pickwick sends Sam out of the room and tells Mr. Weller that Sam and Mary are in love and would most likely marry if they had Mr. Weller’s blessing. Mr. Weller is surprised, but he gives his consent because Mary is not a widow and, thus, not a danger. Mr. Pickwick tells Sam he is releasing him from his service so he can get married. Sam refuses, saying that cannot leave Pickwick and Mary would not want him to do so.
An old man dressed in snuff-colored clothing arrives at Arabella’s room and asks her if she indeed married Nathaniel Winkle without his father’s consent. Arabella begins to cry, at which point Nathaniel Winkle returns and exclaims at the appearance of his father talking to his wife. Mr. Winkle, Senior, having now met Arabella, gives his full blessing to his son.
Mr. Pickwick and Sam disappear during the day for the next several days, which perplexes their friends. Pickwick soon announces that he is dissolving the Pickwick Club and buying a house outside of London. He requests that Snodgrass and Emily be married there. They do so as soon as Pickwick moves in, with Isabella and Mr. Trundle attending even though Isabella is expecting a child. Mr. and Mrs. Winkle build a house not far away, and Mr. and Mrs. Snodgrass move to Dingley Dell. Mr. Tupman remains single and moves to Richmond. Sam and Mary marry after two years, and Pickwick hires Mary to be his...
(The entire section is 483 words.)