« PreviousContinue »
of variety and value. In subsequent editions the publishers took the opportunity of cancelling the two plates in No. 3, and substituting two others by · Phiz.' These were great improvements; but copies of the work with the · Buss' illustrations are valued for their rarity. No. 5 contained two plates signed · Phiz,' that signature being thus used for the first time. Subsequently the two plates in No. 4 were altered, and the plates of Nos. 5, 6, 7, and 8 have been slightly re-touched, but no marked difference is brought out.
The expectations entertained of the possible success of the work by its original projectors appear to have been modest in the extreme. We have it on the authority of Mr. Aked that he received the first order for binding Part 1, and that it was for 400 copies only; so small an order that he was able to execute it himself in one evening, after the workpeople had left. The demand greatly exceeded this scanty supply ; but it was after the introduction of Sam Weller that the success of the work became unprecedented. It reached a sale of nearly 40,000 copies a month, and fairly took the country by storm. Nothing else was talked of; and the anxiety to discover the name of the new author who concealed himself under the odd nom de plume was universal; but only by slow degrees did it ooze out and become known to the world at large that · Boz' was Charles Dickens. His reception by the public moved the author to issue with No. 10, in December 1836, a brief address; and as this does not appear in any edition of the work—not being intended to be bound up with it—we offer a copy as a relic or curiosity of literature.
* Ten months have now elapsed since the appearance of the first number of the Pickwick Papers. At the close of the year, and the conclusion of half his task, their author may perhaps, without any unwarrantable intrusion on the notice of the public, venture to say a few words of himself.
He has long been desirous to embrace the first opportunity of announcing that it is his intention to adhere to his original pledge of confining this work to twenty numbers. He has every temptation to exceed the limits he first assigned to himself, that brilliant success, an enormous and increasing sale, the kindest notice, and the most extensive popularity can hold out. They are, one and all, sad temptations to an author; but he has determined to resist them; firstly, because he wishes to keep the strictest faith with his readers; and, secondly, because he is most anxious that when the Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club form a complete work, the book may not have to contend against the heavy disadvantage of being prolonged beyond his original plan.
For ten months longer, then, if the author be permitted to retain his health and spirits, the Pickwick Papers will be issued in their present form, and will then be completed. By what fresh adventures they may be succeeded is no matter for present consideration. The author merely hints that he has strong reason to believe that a great variety of other documents still lie hidden in the repository from which these were taken, and that they may one day see the light.
With this short speech Mr. Pickwick's Stage-Manager makes his most grateful bow, adding, on behalf of himself and publishers, what the late eminent Mr. John Richardson, of Horsemonger - lane, Southwark, and the yellow caravan with the brass knocker, always said in behalf of himself and company at the close of every performance: Ladies and gentlemen, for these marks of your favour we beg to return you our sincere thanks; and allow us to inform you, that we shall keep perpetually going on beginning again, regularly, until the end of the fair.'
It would appear that about the May or June of the next year, 1837, the appearance of the work was interrupted. How this happened—how one so methodical in all his arrangements could have suffered anything to interfere with the publication of such a workMr. Dickens's biographers will probably explain. All the explanation the author gave was comprised in the following address, which was sent out with the July number :
*186 Strand, June 30th, 1837. • The author is desirous to take the opportunity afforded him by his resumption of this work to state once again, what he thought had been stated sufficiently emphatically before, namely, that its publication was interrupted by a severe domestic affliction of no ordinary kind, that this was the sole cause of the non-appearance of the present number in the usual course, and that henceforth it will continue to be published with its accustomed regularity. However superfluous this second notice may appear to many, it is rendered necessary by various idle speculations and absurdities, which have been industriously propagated during the past month, which have reached the author's ears from many quarters, and have pained him exceedingly. By one set of intimate acquaintances, especially well-informed, he has been killed outright; by another, driven mad; by a third, imprisoned for debt; by a fourth, sent, per steamer, to the United States; by a fifth, rendered incapable of mental exertion for evermore; by all, in short, represented as doing anything but seeking in a few weeks' retirement the restoration of that cheerfulness and peace of which a sad bereavement had temporarily deprived him.'
In the same number appeared a curious · Notice to Correspondents,' which has now a singular interest :
• We receive every month an immense number of communications, purporting to be “suggestions” for the Pickwick Papers. We have no doubt that they are forwarded with the kindest intentions; but as it is wholly out of our power to make use of any such hints, and as we really have no time to peruse anonymous letters, we hope the writers will henceforth spare themselves a great deal of unnecessary and useless trouble.'
The last part of the work was issued in October 1837.
Meanwhile the popularity of Pickwick had gone on accumulating. It was seized upon as a subject for dramatisation ; and soon rival versions were being played at the various London theatres. The best and most successful adaptation was that at the Strand Theatre, under W. J. Hammond's management. It played a hundred nights; and the house opened its next season with an extended version of the story. Another proof of its popularity lay in the formation of Pickwick clubs-convivial gatherings in which the members assumed the names of the characters of the work—in every town in the kingdom. Other indications of enormous success might be added; but it is not our purpose to enter into this branch of the subject, but simply to recall a few facts, and present a relic or two, which will have special interest at a moment when the thoughts of all are full of the greatness of him who has suddenly quitted the scene of his triumphs, and will return to it no more.
THE NAMELESS DEAD
Why do you wail, O Wind? why do you sigh, O Sea ?
Moan, moan, moan
Ah, what is the tale
You would fain unveil In your wild weird cries to me ?
A gleam of white on the shore !—'tis not the white of foam,
'Tis one of the drowned—drowned
Last night, in the dark,
There perish'd a bark On the bar ; and 'twas bound for home!
A woman's cold white corpse
a woman so young and fair ! See, the cruel storm has entwin'd with weeds the wealth of her weltering hair ;
And the little, the little hand
They had bound her fast
To the wreck of a mast; But the wild waves would not spare !
Look, how they bound and leap-- cast themselves far o'er the
shore, Striving to seize on their stranded prey, and carry it off once more !
Or is it remorse or dread,
That makes the surge
On the ocean-verge