Page:Works of Charles Dickens, ed. Lang - Volume 1.djvu/15

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Not many things in literary history are better known than the origin of Pickwick. Charles Dickens, at the age of twenty-four, had written nothing worth mentioning for publication, except the set of papers, mainly contributed to the Evening Chronicle, called Sketches by Boz. Meanwhile, Messrs. Chapman and Hall had been in communication, through Mr. Charles Whitehead, with Dickens, whom they wished to secure as a contributor to a "Library of Fiction." They had also dealings with Mr. Seymour, an artist whose forte was the designing of "cockney sporting plates." Such things were then popular, and may still be seen on the walls of smokingrooms in country houses. The vein probably worked itself out in Leech's Mr. Jorrocks and Mr. Briggs. Seymour wanted to go on drawing this sort of caricature; Mr. Chapman wanted it to be accompanied by letter-press, and his partner, Mr. Hall, conveyed this desire to Dickens. There was to be "a monthly something," containing the adventures of a cockney sporting club. Dickens was, as he said, no sportsman, and preferred to let his pen run at its pleasure among "English scenes and people." Seymour's original cover of the Pickwick Papers shows Mr. Pickwick asleep in a punt after luncheon;