A Read-Along of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens for 2016.


March 2016 is the 180th anniversary of the first installment of The Pickwick Papers (also known as The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club), the first novel of Charles Dickens. It's a novel that divides readers, especially Dickens fans: some love it and believe it to be a comic masterpiece, others hate it, finding it laborious and overdone. When I first read it a few years ago I fell into the latter camp, but I took inspiration from someone who told me their friend had read it as it was meant to be read: in time with the publication schedule. By reading it this way, this will be the longest read-along I've seen in the blogging world - it'll take from March 2016 to November 2017! So I don't expect this to be the most popular of read-alongs, but I do intend myself to read it in this way for the 180th anniversary and I'd love for you to join me!

This is the schedule:
I – March 2016 (chapters 1–2)
II – April 2016 (chapters 3–5)
III – May 2016 (chapters 6–8)
IV – June 2016 (chapters 9-11)
V – July 2016 (chapters 12–14)
VI – August 2016 (chapters 15–17)
VII – September 2016 (chapters 18–20)
VIII – October 2016 (chapters 21–23)
IX – November 2016 (chapters 24–26)
X – December 2016 (chapters 27–29)
XI – January 2017 (chapters 30–32)
XII – February 2017 (chapters 33–34)
XIII – March 2017 (chapters 35–37)
XIV – April 2017 (chapters 38–40)
XV – June 2017 (chapters 41–43)
XVI – July 2017 (chapters 44–46)
XVII – August 2017 (chapters 47-49)
XVIII – September 2017 (chapters 50–52)
XIX – October 2017 (chapters 53–55)
XX - November 2017 (chapters 56–57)
N.B. There's no Pickwick Papers for May 2017: in May 1837 Charles Dickens missed a deadline as he was in mourning for his sister-in-law Mary Hogarth (this was the only deadline Dickens ever missed for any of his works).

As I say, I don't expect many will go for this, but I can't resist reading a Dickens novel as it would have been in the 1830s! So, if you are interested let me know in the comments. I'll be posting once a month from March so there'll be monthly check-ins (should you wish to). And I'll post a reminder of this in February.

I hope there'll be one or two who'll be up for this :)




Comments

  1. Wow ... really 'long period reading' (^_^)
    I would like to joining - although I still did not know how my schedule for next year, but count me in, I really want to try

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    1. Cool, well I'll post a reminder in Feb - I hope you join :)

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  2. Perhaps I'll be the only one who absolutely LOVES your reading schedule. As you know, I/we have some chunksters coming up for 2016, so a slllloooowww read of The Pickwick Papers is perfect for me. I tried it once before and only made it ⅓ of the way through. It's on my Classics Club list though, so it will be beneficial to be able to check it off before my time is up.

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  3. Excellent idea. At some point (long after the first third!) it will take real strength of character not to chuck the schedule and race ahead.

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    1. I know, I'm really bad at read-alongs - I rarely stick to schedule. But I really did not enjoy PP first time around so I hope by sticking to this I'll enjoy it more. I have hope! Plus I'm hosting it so I *have* to!

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  4. I enjoyed the Emma read along very much. I will think about doing this. I need to find a copy of it. Will let you know. Sounds fun.

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  5. I enjoy Dickens but have put this one off. If I wasn't about to tackle Dombey & Son 'd be tempted to join in. I'll keep your schedule in mind for when/if I get to it.

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    1. Great - and actually I was planning on reading D&S quite soon. Hopefully before March, but not necessarily... :)

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  6. Maybe... maybe. I just got ahold of a beautiful old copy of it at a used book sale recently so now I feel like I should tackle it again. I'll have to think about it. :)

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  7. I hate readalongs. But I have loved Mr Pickwick since I have been given an abridged version in French (I am French) when I was seven or eight. Therefore, I shall be reading with you. :)

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    1. Excellent, thank you for joining! I actually love read-alongs, but as I said to Tom I do suck at them usually! :)

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  8. I have never read Pickwick and the schedule you've suggested would work well for me so count me in!

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  9. YES YES YES YES and YES. I loved the first half of this book (that's all I read though) so YES YES YES and YES

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    1. Yay! I remember when you read the first half - if I remember correctly you were loving it then ran out of steam and got fed up with it? Same thing happened to me :)

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  10. This sounds like a great opportunity to finally read Pickwick!

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    1. Great! Though it may be a few years before you *finish* Pickwick ;)

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  11. Awww... I should have said "no" for this, but reading Dickens along the year? Who could ever resist the temptation?? It's just me, I guess... LOL, or no? :D
    Anyway, I'm in!

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    1. Excellent, I'm glad you're joining - I know you're good on Dickens so it'll be good to read whatever you post along the way :)

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  12. I love the schedule and reading it as it was meant to be originally read...that is innovative? How can I resist? I am in! :)

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    1. Yes, it is rather innovative - I wish I could take the credit for it, but as I say it's a friend of a friend who came up with it :) Glad you're joining!

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  13. This is definitely a reading challenge that I can do. The timeline is very reasonable. I can catch up during holidays. I don't have to feel rushed. I tried reading The Pickwick Papers once before and almost finished but I think I had unreasonable expectations going into the book. I feel ready now to give it another go.

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  14. I love this idea. The Pickwick Papers is sitting on my shelf untouched and is demanding to be read. I was hoping it would be the book chosen for the Classics Club Spin but alas no such luck. I'll definitely be joining in.

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    1. I'm glad it wasn't your spin :) Thanks for joining!

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  15. I would love to join in. I've never read The Pickwick Papers, and this is a schedule that will work for me. Thank you for hosting!

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    1. No problem, thank you for joining!

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  16. Well, count me in! I've only read A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens and I'm eager to read something else. Doing it as his original readers had will be funny, and I think will give plenty of time for reflections and thoughts.

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    1. It will I hope, and also I think though it's not desperately long it can be quite arduous, so I hope this will be a more enjoyable way of doing it :)

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  17. I'm joining. I bought a book Christmas Eve. Thanks for hosting.

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    1. You're welcome, I'm glad you're joining :)

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  18. Intriguing! This schedule might actually be something I can accomplish during the semester! Sign me up.

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  19. Good afternoon from a new blog dedicated to reading the classics. Your "challenge" interests me, and I have highlighted my participation in a sidebar posting. I look forward to returning to the travels with Pickwick. The discussions should be an extra bonus.
    Warmest Regards from http://invitationtotheclassics.blogspot.com/

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  20. Willing to give it a go! http://figandthistle.com/2016/01/04/2015-reads-bout-of-books-and-2016-reading-challenges/

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    1. Brilliant, thanks for joining!

      I'm so surprised people were interested in this - I thought I'd be lucky to gather two! :)

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    1. Great! I'll be posting a reminder late Feb :)

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  22. Hi - You can definitely count me in! I should perhaps introduce myself. I am Stephen Jarvis, the author of a novel you might have heard about, Death and Mr Pickwick, which was published last year by Random House in the UK and by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the USA. The novel tells the story behind the creation of The Pickwick Papers - and, in my view, Pickwick has the most fascinating backstory of any work of fiction. It cried out to be made into a novel itself...so that's what I did! You can find out more at www.deathandmrpickwick.com There is also a very active facebook page for the novel at www.facebook.com/deathandmrpickwick and there's a real sense of an international 'fan community' for the novel building up on the page. I hope you will take a look, and scroll down through some of the posts, and you'll see what I mean. I shall also definitely give this readalong publicity on the page, and I am sure some fans of Death and Mr Pickwick will sign up for it. I should emphasise, by the way, that you need no previous knowledge of The Pickwick Papers in order to enjoy Death and Mr Pickwick. Indeed, I think reading Death and Mr Pickwick could be a perfect preparation for reading The Pickwick Papers, because I think you will come to understand the huge significance of Pickwick, which these days is one of Dickens's least-read novels, alas.

    Death and Mr Pickwick has also received some very good reviews. For instance, here are some recommendations it received, which I posted on the facebook page:

    https://www.facebook.com/deathandmrpickwick/photos/a.584149448385578.1073741827.512473502219840/762937620506759/?type=3&theater

    https://www.facebook.com/deathandmrpickwick/photos/a.584149448385578.1073741827.512473502219840/759588984174956/?type=3&theater

    https://www.facebook.com/deathandmrpickwick/photos/a.584149448385578.1073741827.512473502219840/766307410169780/?type=3&theater

    Best wishes

    Stephen Jarvis

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    1. Thanks Stephen - I have indeed heard of your book and it sounds very intriguing - I'll be sure to check it out :)

      Thanks for joining and sharing with your fans :)

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    2. Delighted that you will be checking out Death and Mr Pickwick! I hope that you (and your subscribers) will also take a look at the www.facebook.com/deathandmrpickwick page. The great thing about facebook is that it has a visual dimension - and today, for instance, I have posted about the appearance of Mr Pickwick in comic book form, including guest appearances in superhero comics! Best wishes Stephen

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  23. Count me in! I would love to do this.

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    1. Excellent, thanks for joining! :)

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  24. I like Dickenson but guess have not read a ton for simply pleasure-I'm getting back in setting a rhythm fir reading and find joy in other's enthusiasm- help keep me on track? I like the idea of reading as he wrote/published it!

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    1. Yes, I wish I could take credit for the idea but as I say it was a friend of a friend who came up with it. I haven't read much Dickens in a while, so I hope this will be fun and everyone enjoys it :)

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  25. Here's a piece of news which might be of interest. The facebook page for Death and Mr Pickwick has now been up and running for over a year, with a huge amount of material posted by myself and others - pictures by Dickensian illustrators, reports of excursions to places connected to the novel, historical investigations and much more - forming a daily commentary on both Death and Mr Pickwick and The Pickwick Papers. I am collecting the daily posts into e-flipbooks, forming The Chronicles of Death and Mr Pickwick, which makes them much easier to read than facebook, and volume one is now online, covering the first six months of posts. To access it, go to www.deathandmrpickwick.com and click on the 'Further Reading' tab. You'll see there a link to the flipbook. You then expand the flipbook to full-screen by clicking on the symbol on the right, and use the arrows to flip the pages. You can also zoom, and switch to a single-page, double-page or multi-page format.

    Best wishes

    Stephen

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    1. Thanks for that info Stephen, I'll go check all that out :)

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  26. Hi - It's Stephen Jarvis again. You might be interested in the news that my novel Death and Mr Pickwick, about the origins of The Pickwick Papers, has just been nominated for one of the world's most prestigious literary prizes, the Walter Scott Prize. You can read about the nomination here:

    http://www.walterscottprize.co.uk/2016-longlist-announced/

    As I have said before, you do not need to have read The Pickwick Papers before reading Death and Mr Pickwick.

    Best wishes

    Stephen

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  27. Regarding the readalong: I think people should be aware that the opening lines of The Pickwick Papers are usually considered to be very poor. The opener could indeed instantly put people off reading the novel - I am sure it put readers off in 1836! - but I would urge you to persist. It gets better! MUCH better! There is a motivation for the style of Dickens's writing at the start - he is mocking the very wordy journalism of the so-called penny-a-liners, who were paid according to the column-inches that they produced, so they had an incentive to use lengthy, latinate words. But even so, it is a VERY risky strategy to use at the start of a book, when the objective is usually to grab the attention of readers. If Dickens had submitted a manuscript with this opening to a modern-day publisher or literary agent, I think Pickwick would have been consigned to the slush pile! Best wishes Stephen

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    1. Thanks for that. Funnily enough I read the opening lines last night and I did sigh and wonder what I'd started... :)

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    2. Do persist! Pickwick has flaws, but the book overall is so good that you eventually forgive them. Another layer of meaning to the opening, incidentally, is that it can be seen as echoing the Book of Genesis - it is Dickens's version of 'Let there be there light'. And you will see that Mr Pickwick is often associated with light - he is described as 'beaming' or as 'another sun'. Also, I hope that you are reading an edition with the original illustrations - a crucial part of the Pickwick experience. The opening illustration, Mr Pickwick addresses the Club, by Robert Seymour, was for a long time the most famous book illustration in the world - it has been called the 'Mona Lisa' of book illustrations.

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    3. Sadly I'm not reading an illustrated edition but I do have the pictures to include in the posts I write.

      Thanks again for the tips! :)

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  28. One other tip on Pickwick. People may be surprised that the novel doesn't really have a plot. People nowadays often say that this is a weakness - but I think it is one of Pickwick's greatest strengths. The Pickwick Papers is probably the most re-read novel in history. I have heard of people re-reading it ten, twenty or even fifty times. Indeed, the literary critic Harold Bloom is rumoured to have read Pickwick a hundred times. I think one of the reasons for Pickwick being so re-readable is that you wonder what it all amounts to - and there is a kind of psychological urge to search for a "meaningful whole" for the book. Hence, you re-read it, in an attempt to find that whole. And remember this: The Pickwick Papers was the most famous novel in the world for almost a century. When Dickens died, Pickwick was proclaimed as his masterpiece in The Times obituary. Indeed, the other day, I found a picture of Dickens's son which was headed "His father wrote Pickwick" - implying that Pickwick was seen as THE great representative novel by Dickens, not Oliver Twist or Great Expectations or any of the others that Dickens wrote. So I hope people will persist with the book! All the best Stephen

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    1. Thanks again Stephen. That was my problem when I first read it - feeling a lack of plot. With that in mind, and reading it in this way, I do think I'll enjoy it more. I hadn't realised Pickwick was thought of as the representative novel - how interesting! I'm surprised, but perhaps I won't be by the time we finish :) And I'm amazed Harold Bloom read it 100 times!

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  29. Perhaps I should have qualified that - I don't mean representative in the sense of 'typical'. But Pickwick was seen as the THE Dickens novel, until about 1930, when it went into decline. It's an interesting question as to why it declined. One reason, I think, is that people were travelling more - by plane, car and train - and Pickwick, which is essentially a travel novel, didn't seem so necessary in people's lives. Best wishes Stephen

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  30. And one other point: Pickwick is really about a huge reading experience - with many characters, situations and varieties of language. It doesn't wrap everything up in the way a plot-driven novel does; instead, it takes readers on a long, long journey. The thing about Pickwick is that it is VAST. At the centenary celebrations for Pickwick in 1936, the statement was made "Pickwick is not a novel, but a universe." I think there is a lot of truth in that. It's my favourite quotation about Pickwick.

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  31. This is sensational. I'm glad I caught it in time. Found it at Mockingbirds, Looking Glasses and Prejudices. I'm in.

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    1. Excellent! Glad you're joining :)

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  32. What do I have to loose?
    I have committed myself to the classics....so time to join the read-a-long at O at Behold the Stars!
    I loved Stephen Jarvis's quote: "Pickwick is not a novel, but a universe."
    As the Americans said in the Civil War:
    “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” (Admiral Farragut USN, Battle of Mobile Bay, August 5, 1864)

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    1. Excellent fighting spirit! :)

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    2. Glad you liked the quote. Another is: "Most books are, simply, books. Not Pickwick."

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  33. I'm late to the party, again. Typical! I just ordered my copy of TPP, so I will catch up when it arrives. Thanks for hosting. How else would I ever read this?

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    1. Glad to be of help! :) Even if your copy doesn't come til April you'll only have five chapters - you'll easily catch up :)

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  34. Excited about the read along! Never did one before.

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    1. I hope this is a good first! Thanks for joining :)

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  35. Wow. This is quite the read-along. I might join, if I find enough time in March to start. I guess two chapters shouldn't take THAT much time, though. I'll see what the Gutenberg press copy of the book looks like. :)

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    1. I hope you do join, this should be a fun read-along :)

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  36. I'm in! As you can see from my posting (http://books-n-music.blogspot.com/2016/03/the-pickwick-papers-read-along.html) I've yet to read a Dickens, so this is perfect for me! Thank you for hosting! I will also keep a page (http://books-n-music.blogspot.com/p/as-is-true-for-many-bloggers-my.html) on my blog to track progress. Alrighty then! Dickens. Uh-huh...gonna love it, right? :)

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    1. I hope you love it! But if you don't there are plenty of other excellent Dickens novels :)

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    2. Yes, and those other novels are the ones that tend to get all the attention these days. But let me say once again: Dickens's really COLOSSAL success was The Pickwick Papers. If I had to compare Pickwick to anything in today's world it would be the TV series Big Brother. A lot of people will be appalled by that comparison, but I see definite similarities between the two. Both are plotless, rambling things, in which many an episode is fuelled by alcohol. Both are full of "life". And, just as Pickwick was a massive global success, so is Big Brother - indeed, BB is one of the biggest TV franchises in history. The foundation of Dickens's career was The Pickwick Papers, and he never produced anything like it again. Best wishes Stephen

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  37. Finally posted my intent to participate post here.

    Thanks for doing this.

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    1. No problem, thanks for joining :)

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  38. On the Death and Mr Pickwick facebook page, I am also starting a countdown to the anniversary of The Pickwick Papers, with a series of Pickwickian images, one for each year between 1836 and 2016. Here is the first set: https://www.facebook.com/deathandmrpickwick/posts/815269385273582 Best wishes Stephen

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    1. Excellent, I'll look out for them - great idea! :)

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  39. I've finally decided to go for it. Please count me in! My sign-up link is here:
    https://breadcrumbreads.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/in-which-i-contemplate-joining-the-the-pickwick-papers-read-along/

    - Risa

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    1. Thanks for joining - I hope you find it fun! :)

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  40. Happy 180th birthday, Mr Pickwick! How is everyone getting on with the reading? I would be delighted if people would send me selfies in which they raise a glass to Mr Pickwick on this momentous day. Please post pics at the Death and Mr Pickwick facebook page, www.facebook.com/deathandmrpickwick and I will then share them on the main timeline. Best wishes Stephen

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  41. Hello again everyone. I am a bit disappointed that nobody has made any comments yet about their feelings on starting Pickwick. I hope that people haven't given up on the book. Pickwick was the most popular novel in the world for almost a century - but it works on different principles from 'normal' novels. It has no real plot, but instead it takes you on a long journey,the like of which you will never have experienced before. It also has a huge cast of characters. Probably the most interesting character in the first couple of chapters is Jingle. His stuttering speech-pattern is usually said to be based on a stage-performance by an actor Dickens admired, Charles Mathews, who used the pattern for a character, Commodore Cosmogony, who featured in a one-man show in which Mathews played many characters. I also find Dismal Jemmy very interesting. The story he will tell at the start of the next section, The Stroller's Tale, is based upon the tragic life of an alcoholic clown, J S Grimaldi, the son of the more famous clown Joseph Grimaldi. It is historically important too, because most commentators on the phenomenon of "the scary clown", such as Batman's enemy The Joker, trace the phenomenon back to The Stroller's Tale. So that is something to look forward to in your April reading. Best wishes Stephen

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    1. Stephen, I think most of the comments are on my most recent post - fear not! :)

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  42. Ah! Now I see! I hadn't ticked the "notify me" bit for that section. Many thanks for telling me.

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  43. WOW! Just yesterday, I suggested to our oldest that we all read through this great work as a family this summer. We will start now! Thanks for the marvelous inspiration. I love your blog. I teach History at a small university in Georgia--we are trying to promote "the Classics" as much as possible with regard to literature and history from Homer forward. Blessings to you!

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    1. Thank you, hope you enjoy it and the schedule isn't too long for you! :)

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  44. Although I have already read The Pickwick Papers, I plan to read along as well. I have some catching up to do. Also, it might be worth pursuing a read-along of Oliver Twist as well. Amazingly, Dickens was writing both novels between February and November 1837. It would also give readers an added sense of both novels by reading them side by side next year and reflecting on how the writing of Pickwick influenced the writing of Twist and vice versa.

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    1. That sounds like a great idea! I'll at least plan to read OT immediately following TPP!

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    2. Glad you're joining us, Frank, it is turning out to be good fun and it's great to hear people's thoughts on each chapter.

      I had read that Oliver Twist was written alongside Pickwick Papers - it's quite a feat, two novels at once! I have read OT fairly recently but I do love it so when I come to re-reading it I'll keep all this in mind, it'll be an interesting comparison. I will indeed consider a read-along of that too!

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  45. What a shame that I am just now finding this. I would have loved to read along. I love the way that you have arranged the read-a-long to correspond with the way that the original was released. Maybe I could consider starting in and seeing if there is any possibility of catching up.

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    1. You could still catch up, we're about to hit the half way point, that's around 400 pages or so... :)

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