Well, I finished PICKWICK PAPERS and took it back a few days ago. Frankly, I
skipped or skimmed a good deal. Dickens was, first of all, writing a
different sort of thing here, and secondly, wasn't quite up to speed with his
mature talent, though you can see traces of the future in this book: so to
speak, The Ghost of Dickens Yet to Come.
However, I wanted to comment on a relationship in this book, that of
manservant Sam Weller to his employer Mr. Pickwick. Samuel's eager
combativeness in a scrap, his readiness to defend his master at every turn,
his resourcefulness, his humorous habits of speech - all made me think of
another Sam. I couldn't decide whether this was just due to an archetypical
master/man pattern in British literature, or whether I was being unduly
influenced by the name "Sam," or if there was more than this at work here.
Does anyone know whether JRRT liked Dickens, and this work in particular? Do
you think he might have had it (even subconsciously) in memory when he
created Sam Gamgee?
This Sam, however, has far more of an eye for the ladies - though at the end,
he settles down quite happily with his Mary. Which brings up another
half-baked critical opinion. Something struck me about Mr Pickwick which I
finally resolved as this:
As I thought of the other famous male characters in Dickens, it struck me
that they are either melodramatic heroes or villains, composed of wind and
smoke - or else, whether in pathos or comedy, they are overgrown children.
Mr. Pickwick, though occasionally the subject of humorous predicaments, and
though he is firmly and explicitly depicted as sexually inactive -- Mr
Pickwick is a mature man. A man in full, to use Tom Wolfe's phrase.
Just an impression, I can't give chapter or verse to justify it.