The Pickwick Papers (1836-7) launched Dickens’s career in riotous style. The format of monthly serial publication, together with the picaresque nature of the comic subject matter, created a huge popular following for the young novelist. ‘The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club’ is a rumbustious romp through the coaching England of Dickens’s youth – a world that was fast disappearing, ironically, beneath the railways that sped his work around the globe, but rich in sentimental appeal for both Dickens and his public. From the cricket match at Dingley Dell to the Parliamentary hustings at Eatanswill, from the aphorisms of ‘Cockney Boots’ himself, Sam Weller, to the somnambulant Fat Boy and crafty Mr Jingle, The Pickwick Papers radiates, in the words of G. K. Chesterton, ‘that sense of everlasting youth – a sense as of the gods gone wandering in England’.
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