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 manner of answering Buzfuz’s questions amuses the audience. Because Sam’s testimony resists being twisted by Buzfuz, Sam is dismissed.

The jury finds in favor of Mrs. Bardell, with damages set at seven hundred fifty pounds (half of what she had requested). Pickwick refuses to pay even if he must spend the rest of his life in debtor’s prison.