The Pickwick Papers is now regarded as the first novel of Charles Dickens, the beginning of a long series of well-known works. When it was first published, however, the book was seen as a series of stories, and these appeared in nineteen separate parts, an obvious successor to the popular Sketches by Boz.
The main aspect that unites The Pickwick Papers as a single work, apart from the Pickwick Club members themselves, is the continuity of the tone and the mood it creates. This is lighthearted, humorous, and often whimsical, with an endless series of digressions that recall the eighteenth-century prose of Fielding and Sterne.
The peculiar atmosphere Dickens creates is built up by the accumulation of unnecessary detail and the leisurely pace at which he takes the story. Sam Weller, in particular, is a character whose primary function seems to be to relate long stories, replete with hundreds of details, using a thousand words where a more succinct narrator would have used fifty.
Dickens never wrote another work like The Pickwick Papers, despite its success. His later work generally has a much darker mood, with more pathos and sentiment alongside the humor. The tradition of The Pickwick Papers, with its eighteenth-century style prolixity, is carried on in the Victorian sporting novel, particularly by Robert Smith Surtees, who might be considered Dickens's heir in this respect.