Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Other Ghost of "Pickwick"

In a previous post (15 July 2005), we considered briefly the lingering question of the ghost stories included in Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers: Were they written specifically as part of the Pickwick serial, or were they written as individual short stories which Dickens ultimately cast into the Pickwick sequence to meet publishing deadlines?

Pickwick was tarnished by a real-life tragedy, as well. It might be contended that Dickens’ arrogant temperament led to the stunning calamity. The series basically was the concept of noted illustrator Robert Seymour. Dickens, a young, struggling author at the time (1836), was commissioned by the publishers to write narratives to accompany a set of Seymour’s woodcuts. Dickens haughtily persuaded the publishers to reverse the priority and promote his tale, illustrated by Seymour’s drawings. The amended arrangement clearly did not set well with Seymour -- especially after Dickens criticized one of his illustrations and asked him to alter it. Seymour did so . . . then promptly killed himself.


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