The Pickwick Papers Continued: The Madman's Tale

I am starting to get a better feel for Mr. Pickwick and his band of followers, and especially found it interesting when Mr. Pickwick went to speak to his widowed landlady only to have her mistake his words for a marriage proposal. But again, I can only get so deep with the world that Dickens paints where every man seems like a stout, jolly fellow. But, the tales they discover along the way are such a stark counterpoint, I can’t help to be instantly drawn in.

In Chapter 11, we hear of the madman’s tale.

Quote:  “‘Yes!–a madman’s! How that word would have struck to my heart, many years ago! How it would have roused the terror that used to come upon me sometimes, sending the blood hissing and tingling through my veins, till the cold dew of fear stood in large drops upon my skin, and my knees knocked together with fright! I like it now though. It’s a fine name. Show me the monarch whose angry frown was ever feared like the glare of a madman’s eye–whose cord and axe were ever half so sure as a madman’s gripe. Ho! ho! It’s a grand thing to be mad! to be peeped at like a wild lion through the iron bars–to gnash one’s teeth and howl, through the long still night, to the merry ring of a heavy chain and to roll and twine among the straw, transported with such brave music. Hurrah for the madhouse! Oh, it’s a rare place!”

The opening above grabbed me, and I couldn’t stop until I got to the end. This is a story about a young woman who is given up to a madman to marry by her father and three brothers in order to “cash in” on the madman’s wealth, told from the point of view of the madman himself.  It becomes clear from the beginning that perhaps the madman was only mad because he believed it was something he was predestined to.

“I remember days when I was afraid of being mad; when I used to start from my sleep, and fall upon my knees, and pray to be spared from the curse of my race; when I rushed from the sight of merriment or happiness, to hide myself in some lonely place, and spend the weary hours in watching the progress of the fever that was to consume my brain. I knew that madness was mixed up with my very blood, and the marrow of my bones! that one generation had passed away without the pestilence appearing among them, and that I was the first in whom it would revive. I knew it must be so: that so it always had been, and so it ever would be: and when I cowered in some obscure corner of a crowded room, and saw men whisper, and point, and turn their eyes towards me, I knew they were telling each other of the doomed madman; and I slunk away again to mope in solitude.”

He spends his days, convincing himself he is mad, although to the reader, he does not seem so. His wife spends her days wrapped in melancoly. The madman eventually finds out that his wife can never be happy with him, not because he is mad, but because when her family married her off for money, she was in love with another. The man, in his madness, or perhaps his broken heart, plans ways to kill his wife, but before he can do so, she collapses. After a bedside vigil and many doctors, the madman is told to prepare for the worst, since his wife is mad! His wife dies on her own, the very next day. The father, who so heartlessly forced his daughter to marry, followed her to the grave. In the end the madman is confronted by one of the brothers, and he tries to kill the brother in a fit of rage at what they’d done to him and the sister they claimed to have loved. Before he is successful, he is stopped, and he runs for his life realizing that they have discovered the secret of his madness.

‘My secret was out; and my only struggle now was for liberty and freedom. I gained my feet before a hand was on me, threw myself among my assailants, and cleared my way with my strong arm, as if I bore a hatchet in my hand, and hewed them down before me. I gained the door, dropped over the banisters, and in an instant was in the street.

“Straight and swift I ran, and no one dared to stop me. I heard the noise of the feet behind, and redoubled my speed. It grew fainter and fainter in the distance, and at length died away altogether; but on I bounded, through marsh and rivulet, over fence and wall, with a wild shout which was taken up by the strange beings that flocked around me on every side, and swelled the sound, till it pierced the air. I was borne upon the arms of demons who swept along upon the wind, and bore down bank and hedge before them, and spun me round and round with a rustle and a speed that made my head swim, until at last they threw me from them with a violent shock, and I fell heavily upon the earth. When I woke I found myself here–here in this gray cell, where the sunlight seldom comes, and the moon steals in, in rays which only serve to show the dark shadows about me, and that silent figure in its old corner. When I lie awake, I can sometimes hear strange shrieks and cries from distant parts of this large place. What they are, I know not; but they neither come from that pale form, nor does it regard them. For from the first shades of dusk till the earliest light of morning, it still stands motionless in the same place, listening to the music of my iron chain, and watching my gambols on my straw bed.”

It’s a sad tale, of a sad man, who was given the belief from young on that he was destined to be mad. In the end, that belief lead him to his demise. The power of the mind overrode reality.

The Charles Dickens Project and The Pickwick Papers

As promised, here is more facts and information about both Charles Dickens and his first novel, The Pickwick Papers.

(Sorry about the lack of space between some paragraphs, seems to be a problem with the site.)


I have a little trouble connecting with Mr. Pickwick and company. They are the typical overly dramatic Dicken’s type characters. But the “stories” they hear and report to the Pickwick Club instantly catch my attention. Especially the darker ones. What can I say? It’s my dark side. I was completely pulled into “The Convict’s Return” as told by a clergyman.

It’s the tale of young John Edmunds who grows up protected by his mother from his violent father. His mother takes the abuse to spare him. He is very close to his mother, and goes to church with her regularily. As he grows older, he drifts from his mother’s side, and no longer goes to church with her.

Once grown, John Edmunds is accused of a crime spree and sentenced to death. His mother’s heart is broken. His sentence is commuted to 14 years in prison.

Despite his hardened attitude, his mother visits him everyday, until she grows ill. He suddenly realizes how much he loves her and how sorry he is when she stops coming to the prison gate to see him. The clergyman tells John Edmunds that his mother is ill and tells him of her love and forgiveness, and the clergyman tells the man’s dying mother of his repentance. During the night John Edmunds is moved to another prison and the clergyman has no way to tell him that his mother had passed away. She was buried in the corner of the church graveyard without even a headstone.

Although John Edmunds had written letters to his mother via the clergyman, none had ever made it and the clergyman had assumed that John had died in prison. John’s father never visited, or cared what happened to his son.

Once released John returned to his village, looking for his mother. He went to the church, but the familiar pew they always sat in together was empty. He went to his childhood home, but someone else lived there. He didn’t have the heart to enquire further, and wandered on, sad and alone.

Quote: ‘On a fine Sunday evening, in the month of August, John Edmunds set foot in the village he had left with shame and disgrace seventeen years before. His nearest way lay through the churchyard. The man’s heart swelled as he crossed the stile. The tall old elms, through whose branches the declining sun cast here and there a rich ray of light upon the shady part, awakened the associations of his earliest days. He pictured himself as he was then, clinging to his mother’s hand, and walking peacefully to church. He remembered how he used to look up into her pale face; and how her eyes would sometimes fill with tears as she gazed upon his features — tears which fell hot upon his forehead as she stooped to kiss him, and made him weep too…’

Later, John Edmunds came upon an old man. At first he didn’t recognize the person who had caused him and his mother so much pain. Then, when the man cursed him and hit him with a stick, he knew it was his father. Although he wanted to choke the man, John couldn’t bring himself to harm his father. The man collapsed on his own of a burst blood vessel right there and then. He died before his son could even raise him off the ground.

The old clergyman finished his story with – ‘In that corner of the churchyard,’ said the old gentleman, after a silence of a few moments, ‘in that corner of the churchyard of which I have before spoken, there lies buried a man who was in my employment for three years after this event, and who was truly contrite, penitent, and humbled, if ever man was. No one save myself knew in that man’s lifetime who he was, or whence he came — it was John Edmunds, the returned convict.’

I actually teared up a bit. Not only is the story heartbreaking, but Dickens creates art with his words. His poetic style brings real emotion to the page.

And now to Mr. Dickens – Here’s one of many interesting fun facts about Charles Dickens. Hans Christian Andersen was Dicken’s close friend and mutual influence. Andersen even dedicated his book Poet’s Day Dream to Dickens in 1853. But this didn’t stop Dickens, a bit of a jokester, from letting Andersen know when he’d overstayed his welcome at Dickens’s home. He made a sign and left it on Andersen’s mirror in the guest room. It read: “Hans Andersen slept in this room for five weeks, which seemed to the family like AGES.”

Blogging and The Charles Dickens Project

In a time when media is king, and using the internet as a tool to get the word out there is  necessity, I find myself overwhelmed. Authors no longer have the advantage of holing themselves up to write a book. In truth, I have to wonder if they ever did, or if that’s just Hollywood’s take on it. Anyway, as an author, not only am I writng, not one, but several things at once, but I am also trying to maintain an online presence. That means Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, GoodReads, etc. etc. Part of all of that is this blog. I feel terrible that this blog  is the thing that gets left in the dust, the most. For those of you who don’t know, I also work a full-time day job, and take a writng class on my day off, as well as being a member of a writing group. Throw in book signings, appearances at book clubs, etc. and it’s amazing I ever get time to make dinner for my family.

Now I’ve started my third facebook page titled “The Charles Dickens Project” and have been consistantly posting everyday. This is part of my research (oh yeah, I forgot to mention research in the list of things to do) in writing a historic fiction Christmas story in which Mr. Dickens himself will be one of the main characters.  I thought, since I made the page public, anyone could read it, but now I’m finding that’s not the case. So in an effort to kill two birds (excuse the cliche’) I am going to post what I write there, here. That way, those of you who don’t use facebook can keep up with my progress as well. Since I’ve been posting for a while, I’ll post one weeks worth once a day until I catch up. Afterwards, I’ll post here once a week. I’m reading all of Dicken’s books in order, and post summaries of where I am in each book. I also post biographical information, definition of Dickensian terms, and fun facts.  I hope you enjoy!

Week One –

Bio – Let’s start with a little background information. Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on Feb. 7th, 1812 and died on June 9th 1870. He was born to John and Elizabeth Dickens, he had three sisters and four brothers. During his life he and his wife, Catherine had ten children.

Book One – Dickens’ first published novel was “The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club” more commonly known as “The Pickwick Papers.” The main characters are Mr. Samuel Pickwick, and his traveling companions, Mr Nathaniel Winkle, Mr Augustus Snodgrass, and Mr Tracy Tupman, who went out across the country as reporters of a sort. This was published as a serial. I did not read an overview, so at first I was a little confused as to what connection there was between one character and another. I quickly realized that Dickens simply used his main characters as a vehicle to tell a collection of otherwise unrelated short stories. Quite a brilliant idea!

One thing I have to say, Dickens’ chapter titles are almost stories in themselves. Take, for instance, the title of Chapter Seven of “The Pickwick Papers” – HOW MR. WINKLE, INSTEAD OF SHOOTING AT THE PIGEON AND KILLING THE CROW, SHOT AT THE CROW AND WOUNDED THE PIGEON; HOW THE DINGLEY DELL CRICKET CLUB PLAYED ALL-MUGGLETON, AND HOW ALL- MUGGLETON DINED AT THE DINGLEY DELL EXPENSE; WITH OTHER INTERESTING AND INSTRUCTIVE MATTERS. Quite a mouthful, wouldn’t you say?

I’ll stop here so I don’t overwhelm you. Tomorrow, I will get more into the story itself.

The Charles Dickens Project

Over the past several months I’ve been joking around about how I’m “Channeling Chuck.”  I have been posting all kinds of fun facts on similarities between Charles Dickens and myself on my facebook page.  Click here: D.L. Marriott Facebook Page

As it turns out we have quite a few similarities.  Now if only success as a writer was one of them!

Okay, so even though I can’t hope to compare, I can share other facets of his life.  For one, we are both self-published authors. Yes, although he had a publisher, Mr. Dickens was unhappy with his pitiful share of the money, so he went out and self-published a book.  It turned out to be one of his most successful books.  I could give you many more interesting facts and parallels, and over time I will, but for now I am concentrating on writing a book in which Mr. Dickens, himself, is a major character.

In preparation for this, I am reading all of Charles Dickens works, in order.  Either that makes me extremely intellectual, extremely brave and adventurous, or extremely crazy. Whatever you want to call me, feel free to follow me on my quest to better understand a great classic author.  To share what I learn I’ve launched a new facebook page. Click here: The Charles Dickens Project

It’s a public page so you don’t need to be a facebook-er (is that even a word?) to check it out.

I hope you do.  I think it’s going to be fun!  Or as Mr. Dickens would say – It will be a jolly undertaking that will, no doubt. bring forth much spirited repartee.

Happy Birthday Chuck!

Today is a significant day in history. Today we celebrate a legend. An author who’s works have been read, heard, or seen in either play or movie, by nearly everyone. If you look at the Google logo for today, you might get a clue. Two hundred years ago today, on February 7th, 1812, Charles John Huffam Dickens was born. He was the second of eight children born to John and Elizabeth Dickens. As a small boy he was a voracious reader  (a common affliction of most, if not all writers).

If you have ever read David Copperfield, you know a bit about Dicken’s life. It is said to be the closest to an autobiography of all his works, although many of his characters in many of his stories were taken from his own experiences and the people he knew.

At the age of twelve his father was sent to debtor’s prison  and Charles was sent to live with a family friend, and later in the back attic of a court agent. He was forced to leave school and work ten hour days in a blacking factory to pay his room and board, and to help his family.

This harsh existence at such a young age had a lasting impression on Charles, and became the mainstay of his writing. He often wrote about the terrible conditions of the poor and orphaned.

Later he was quoted on  how he wondered how he could be cast away at such a young age. He also mentioned how no one was around to give him any help.  It is obvious by his stories, that these experiences left an indelible mark on the man.

Although a bequeath from the passing of his paternal grandmother released his father from prison, Charles was not immediately sent for by his mother, and was forced to continue to work in the boot-blacking factory. He was eventually able to go to school, although it too was anything but a good experience. The school was run down, and the headmaster brutal. At the age of fifteen he was again forced to leave school (his father was arrested, and his family in need, often throughout his life)  and went to work in a law office as a junior clerk, and a year later became a freelance reporter and reported legal proceedings for four years.

In 1833, at the age of 21, Dicken’s first story ‘A Dinner at Poplar Walk’ was published in a monthly periodical. He continued to write short serial sketches which became his first collection of work titled ‘Sketches by Boz’ published in 1836, and then led to his first novel ‘The Pickwick Papers’ in March of 1836. And so began the career of a legendary author.

So today we celebrate the life of a literary great, and next week I’ll tell you just why this little old author (meaning me) has an interest, and possibly a connection with this often downtrodden yet brilliant man!

Happy Birthday Charles!