Page:Works of Charles Dickens, ed. Lang - Volume 1.djvu/16

This page has been validated.

he seems to "have a bite." But Mr. Pickwick, of course, was no angler, even of the sort which fishes in punts. Dickens's ideas were accepted; he "thought of Mr. Pickwick," whose type was fixed by Seymour; he threw in the Club and Mr. Winkle, and wrote Number I. for March 31, 1836. Between Numbers II. and III. Seymour died, by his own hand. He was engaged in illustrating the Tale of Dismal Jemmy. Buss then drew for one number, but, happily, was superseded by Mr. Hablot K. Browne (Phiz), whose style was, in many points, much in harmony with that of Dickens. Every one has heard how Thackeray proposed himself as artist.

The beginning of Pickwick was thus fortuitous. It was written from number to number, with the Printer's Devil at the door. Dickens was married, settled, and lost his dear friend, his wife's sister Mary, while the story went on. The old parable of the sad face behind the jester's mask was once more made real. A work thus begun, and thus carried out, interrupted, too, in the manner of Smollett and Fielding, by episodic stories, could not have a regular plan, a pre ordained plot, or a very consistent development of character. Dickens meant the book, from the first, for a picaresque tale, after the manner of Le Sage and Smollett. What he intended it to be, that he made it, and Pickwick is one in a legitimate and historic genre of novels. The Club is allowed to drop out of view; Mr. Pickwick's character acquires a sort of seriousness, and gains on the author. The hero ceases to be a scientific butt, and becomes the sane, benevolent, and chivalrous Don Quixote of England, with his Sancho Weller.

People say that Dickens "could not draw a gentleman." Except in the heraldic sense, Mr. Pickwick is as much a gentleman as the Baron Bradwardine. He is courteous, gallant, considerate, generous, kind, charitable, and courageous.