The Pickwick Papers

by Charles Dickens

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Why does Mr. Pickwick take notes in The Pickwick Papers?

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In The Pickwick Papers, Mr. Pickwick take notes because he is “a student of human nature.” As a member of the Corresponding Society of the Pickwick Club, he will incorporate these notes into accounts of his investigations, observations, and adventures. The accounts will then be shared with his fellow members of the Pickwick Club.

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In the first chapter of The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens’s narrator explains the charge that was given to Samuel Pickwick and three other members of the United Pickwickians, also called the Pickwick Club. The members are very pleased with the account that Mr. Pickwick, the club’s General Chairman, presents about his “unwearied researches,” in the form of a paper about the Hampstead Ponds. The club encourages him and his associates to travel to other parts of England and report on their findings. This group is designated the club’s Corresponding Society. The club is dedicated to the goal of making known “the speculations of that learned man” as part of the members’ commitment “to the advancement of knowledge, and the diffusion of learning.”

The four men in Corresponding Society are charged with occasionally forwarding to the club members who stay in London “authenticated accounts of their journeys and investigations.” Their observations during these adventures will address the “character and manners” of the people they meet as well as more generally describing in their “tales and papers … [the] “local scenery.”

In chapter 2, when Pickwick sets off on the first adventure, his note-book is one essential item he takes with him, along with his telescope and a portmanteau full of clothes. In the horse-drawn cab on his way to rendezvous with the others, he wastes no time beginning to ask questions and recording the answers in the note-book:

Mr. Pickwick entered every word of this statement in his note-book, with the view of communicating it to the club.

As he explains to a stranger he encounters, he is “an observer of human nature.” Unfortunately, the cab driver is highly suspicious and, accusing Pickwick of being an informer, violently attacks him and his colleagues.

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