Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*London. Great Britain’s capital city is the headquarters of the Pickwick Club. Dickens’s acute sense of place enhances his descriptions of the great city, particularly the labyrinthine streets and lanes and inns—such as the White Hart Inn, where Sam Weller first appears and identifies the unscrupulous rogue Alfred Jingle. The various characters’ lodgings, such as Mr. Pickwick’s rooms at Mrs. Bardell’s, Mr. Weller, Sr.’s domicile in Dorking, and the rooms of Bob Sawyer, highlight class distinctions.
*Fleet Street Prison
*Fleet Street Prison. London institution in which Mr. Pickwick is incarcerated after losing a trumped-up breach of promise suit to Mrs. Bardell. The prison scenes contribute to the thematic concerns of spurious litigation and social abuses and highlight Dickens’s own remembered horror and shame over the period in his youth when his father was imprisoned for debt.
As Mr. Pickwick travels about and attempts to uphold the law and bring justice to all those who deserve it, he is manipulated into a legal situation from which his pride will not permit him to extract himself. It is only in the depths of the Fleet, where his kindness and sympathy know no bounds, that Mr. Pickwick is able to put aside his pride and set himself free in order to save Sam Weller and Mrs. Bardell, who have joined him there. The suggestion is clear: The welfare of others is easily considered when one’s own...
(The entire section is 606 words.)
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Dexter, Walter. Pickwick’s Pilgrimages. New York: Haskell House Publishers, 1992. A study of the actual places Mr. Pickwick visited in Dickens’ novel. The actual conditions he and his companions would have encountered illuminate the story. Particularly good descriptions of Rochester, Ipswich, Bath, Bristol, and Tewkesbury.
Dexter, Walter, and J. W. T. Ley. The Origin of Pickwick. Folcroft, Pa.: Folcroft Library Editions, 1974. A study of some of Dickens’ early sketches that were used, Pickwick Papers. Examines the publishing history of the early numbers of Pickwick Papers and Dickens’ early illustrators.
Fitzgerald, Percy. Bozland: Dickens’ Places and People. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Gryphon Books, 1971. A consideration of people and places in Dickens, with emphasis on Pickwickian inns and actual towns and locales depicted in Pickwick Papers. Examines Mr. Pickwick’s relationship to lawyers in the light of actual legal practice during Dickens’ time.
Lockwood, Frank. The Law and Lawyers of Pickwick. New York: Haskell House, 1972. A late Victorian study of the legal mores depicted in Pickwick Papers. Mr. Pickwick’s trial took place in 1827, a time before the legal reforms of 1843, which the author examines in relationship to the novel.
Noyes, Alfred, et al. A Pickwick Portrait Gallery. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1970. A series of insightful character analyses of various members of the Pickwick Club by outstanding writers and critics of the first half of the twentieth century. Particularly good for Samuel Pickwick, Samuel Waller, and Mrs. Bardell.