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Charles Dickens at 200

Dickens' First Novel

Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club cover Pickwick Paper cover

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Charles Dickens was commissioned by London publisher William Hall to contribute text to accompany a series of comic sketches
by the artist Robert Seymour, famous for his prints of inept amateur sportsmen. After Seymour's suicide in 1836, Dickens developed the narrative into his first novel, commonly known as The Pickwick Papers, although its extensive full title is: The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, containing a Faithful Record of the Perambulations, Perils, Travels, Adventures and Sporting Transactions of the Corresponding Members, edited by Boz (Charles Dickens' pseudonym, derived from his brother's nickname). The novel is a sequence of loosely-related adventures and travels in the English countryside by members of the Pickwick Club. The main appeal for readers is the exaggerated characters, including Samuel Pickwick and his valet, Sam Weller. The generally humorous tone and social satire foreshadow the style and major themes of Dickens' subsequent work.

The novel was published by Chapman & Hall in twenty monthly numbers, from April 1836 to November 1837. The first two parts include illustrations by Seymour; the rest of the images were done by H.K. Browne, who became Dickens' chief illustrator. Each installment is stitched and bound in printed, illustrated blue paper wrappers. Publishers took advantage of the wrappers to advertise a wide range of other works, printed by themselves or other firms.

The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club
London: Chapman & Hall, 1836-1837. 20 parts.

PRESENTED BY HELEN DUNBAR HOLMES, CLASS OF 1909

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