Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The Pickwick Papers chapters 33-34

It is now the 13th of February, the day before Mr Pickwick’s trial, and Sam receives a note from his father saying he wants to see him in the Blue Boar at 6pm.  As Sam is early he wanders along the streets pausing at a stationer’s to look in the window.  Seeing some pictures on display he says, “If it hadn’t been for this, I should ha’ forgot all about it, until it was too late.”  The picture was a valentine so Sam goes into the shop and buys some gilt-edged letter paper and a hard-nibbed pen and continues on his way to the Blue Boar.  As he has plenty of time he asks for some brandy and water and an inkstand and proceeds to write his own valentine.  Mr Weller is not impressed by this, saying he thought that Sam should have enough sense not to get involved with women and that “it would be a trial to see Sam married.”  Sam is unsure how he should sign his valentine, but his father advises he should sign it “Pickvick” as “it’s a werry good name, and a easy one to spell.”  Sam addresses the valentine to “Mary, Housemaid, at Mr Nupkin’s Mayor’s, Ipswich, Suffolk.”  I wonder if this is going to cause more trouble for Mr Pickwick?
The remainder of the chapter is taken up with a description of a meeting of the Brick Lane Branch of the United Grand Junction Ebenezer Temperance Association which Sam and his father attend.  This meeting was held in an upstairs room accessed by a ladder and seemed to involve a lot of tea drinking and the reporting of converts to the temperance movement.  After some time, the chairman announces to the gathering that Brother Stiggins has arrived below.  This is the deputy shepherd, otherwise known as the red-nosed man who visits Mrs Weller.  “The little door flew open, and brother Tadger appeared, closely followed by the reverend Mr Stiggins, who no sooner entered, than there was a great clapping of hands, and stamping of feet, and flourishing of handkerchiefs; to all of which manifestations of delight, Brother Stiggins returned no other acknowledgement  than staring with a wild eye, and a fixed smile, at the extreme top of the wick of the candle on the table: swaying his body to and fro, meanwhile, in a very unsteady and uncertain manner.”  Mr Stiggins suggests loudly that the meeting is drunk and pushes Brother Tadger who falls down the ladder.  As the meeting deteriorates into chaos Mr Weller starts taking off his coat while telling Sam to go out and find a watchman.  Mr Weller then attacks Mr Stiggins until he is eventually dragged away by Sam while Mr Stiggins is removed to strong lodgings for the night.

Chapter 34 “is wholly devoted to a full and faithful Report of the memorable Trial of Bardell against Pickwick.”  The chapter begins with a description of the court and the swearing in of the jury.  A chemist complains that he cannot serve on the jury as he has no-one to leave in charge of his business except a boy who does not know the difference between Epsom salts and syrup of senna!  Mr Pickwick is represented by Serjeant Snubbin and Mr Phunky and Mrs Bardell by Serjeant Buzfuz and Mr Skimpton.

Serjeant Buzfuz opens the case by saying, “You have heard from my learned friend, gentlemen, that this is an action for a breach of promise of marriage, in which the damages are laid at £1,500.  But you have not hear from my learned friend, inasmuch as it did not come within my learned friend’s province to tell you, what are the facts and circumstances of the case.  Those facts and circumstances, gentlemen, you shall hear detailed by me, and proved by the unimpeachable female whom I will place in that box before you.”  Serjeant Buzfuz goes on to describe how Mrs Bardell has been left a widow after her husband “was knocked on the head with a quart-pot in a public-house cellar” leaving Mrs Bardell to bring up her son on her own.  His description of Mr Pickwick suggests that he is guilty of “systematic villany”.  He concludes by saying that he will show the jury that Mr Pickwick offered Mrs Bardell marriage and that he was discovered holding her in his arms.  He offers two notes as evidence.  In one of these, Mr Pickwick writes to Mrs Bardell “Dear Mrs B, I shall not be at home till to-morrow.  Slow coach.”  Followed by “Don’t trouble yourself about the warming-pan.”  Serjeant Buzfuz makes a lot out of this note ending his submission by saying that “Pickwick still rears his head with unblushing effrontery, and gazes without a sigh on the ruin he has made.  Damages, gentlemen – heavy damages – is the only punishment with which you can visit him; the only recompense you can award to my client.”
Witnesses are then called including the four Pickwickians who do not help Mr Pickwick’s case.  Mr Winkle describes how he found Mrs Bardell in Mr Pickwick’s arms. The author writes, “Lawyers hold that there are two kinds of particularly bad witnesses: a reluctant witness, and a too-willing witness; it was Mr Winkle’s fate to figure in both characters.” Mr Winkle goes on to describe another occasion when Mr Pickwick’s behaviour was less than gentlemanly – the time he found himself in a lady’s bedroom at midnight. 

Sam is called too and describes the occasion when he visited Mrs Bardell to pay the rent.  Two of her friends were there discussing the case.  Sam reports that they said it was very generous of the lawyers Dodson and Fogg to take on the case “on spec and to charge nothing at all for costs, unless they got ‘em out of Mr Pickwick.”  This sounds very similar to the modern day practice of firms advertising “no win, no fee”.
The jury reached their decision in a very short time finding Mr Pickwick guilty with damages set at £750.  Mr Pickwick is adamant that he is going to contest the case and will not pay a farthing of damages or costs. Mr Weller’s final comment to his son was “Oh, Sammy, Sammy, vy worn’t there a alleybi!”






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