Yesterday’s post on the duel in Nicholas Nickleby reminds me of two things.
First, that there is a sort of dueling scene in Chapter 2 of The Pickwick Papers, which is derailed just before the shooting begins. Just an adventure for Mr. Winkle, nothing serious.
Second, a scene of transportation to prison is much like the journey to a duel or execution. Here is Mr. Pickwick, in Chapter 50, being taken to debtors’ prison for failing to pay a dishonorable bill:
“The hackney coach jolted along Fleet Street, as hackney coaches usually do. The horses ‘went better,’ the drive said, when they had anything before them, (they must have gone at a most extraordinary pace when there was nothing,) and so the vehicle kept behind a cart; when the cart stopped, it stopped; and when the cart went on again, it did the same. Mr. Pickwick sat opposite the tipstaff; and the tipstaff sat with his hat between his knees, whistling a tune, and looking out of the coach window.”
Pickwick might be at his lowest point in the entire novel. What is he thinking? Dickens doesn’t tell us, but instead creates a new character who we will never see again after this page.