Page:Works of Charles Dickens, ed. Lang - Volume 1.djvu/565

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NOTES ON PICKWICK.

CHAPTER I.

"Speculation on the source of the Hampstead Ponds, with some observations on the theory of Tittlebats."

Physical science, which is now regarded with religious respect, was, in England, rather a joke than otherwise, ever since Charles II. puzzled the Royal Society with the problem of the fish and the water. As late as 1840 we find Lockhart, at a Glasgow meeting of the British Association, deliberating as to "whether the Chartist row or the scientific one were the greater humbug." As the Pickwick Papers went on, Mr. Pickwick, despairing, perhaps, like Socrates, of Natural Science, devoted himself to the study of man.


"The praise of mankind was his Swing."

Swing was the nom de guerre of the leader in rural stack-burnings, such as Tennyson describes.

CHAPTER II.

"How old is that horse, my friend?"

The structure of the cabs of the period enabled the fare to converse with the driver, who sat beside him. Remove the driver's perch from the side to the back, and you have the hansom.

Mr. Winkle's duel.

Duelling in the army was prohibited, and Courts of Honour were substituted about eight years after the publication of Pickwick (1844). The correctness of Mr. Winkle's conduct must gain general esteem.

CHAPTER IV.

"Damme, he's a natural curiosity."

This does not exaggerate the interesting peculiarity of the Fat Boy. To hypnotic science he would have been an invaluable subject, and it is singular that Mr. Pickwick did not make him the subject of a special communication to the Club.