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´╗┐Title: Bardell v. Pickwick
Author: Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Bardell v. Pickwick" ***

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Transcribed from the 1902 Elliot Stock edition by David Price, email

   [Picture: Mr. Justice Gaselee (original of Mr. Justice Stareleigh),
 sketched by the Editor from the family portrait in the possession of H.
                              Gaselee, Esq.]

Bardell v. Pickwick

    The Trial for Breach of Promise of Marriage held at the Guildhall
 Sittings, on April 1, 1828, before Mr. Justice Stareleigh and a Special
                       Jury of the City of London.

                    Edited with Notes and Commentaries
                      PERCY FITZGERALD, M.A., F.S.A.

  _and sometime Crown Prosecutor on the North-East Circuit_ (_Ireland_).

                           WITH ILLUSTRATIONS.

                   ELLIOT STOCK 62 PATERNOSTER ROW E.C.


There are few things more familiar or more interesting to the public than
this _cause celebre_.  It is better known than many a real case: for
every one knows the Judge, his name and remarks--also the
Counsel--(notably Sergeant Buzfuz)--the witnessess, and what they
said--and of course all about the Plaintiff and the famous Defendant.  It
was tried over seventy years ago at "the Guildhall Settens," and was
described by Boz some sixty-three years ago.  Yet every detail seems
fresh--and as fresh as ever.  It is astonishing that a purely technical
sketch like this, whose humours might be relished only by such
specialists as Barristers and Attorneys, who would understand the jokes
levelled at the Profession, should be so well understanded of the people.
All see the point of the legal satire.  It is a quite a prodigy.  Boz had
the art, in an extraordinary degree, of thus vividly commending trade
processes, professional allusions, and methods to outsiders, and making
them humourous and intelligible.  Witness Jackson, when he came to
"serve" Mr. Pickwick and friends with the _subpoenas_.  It is a dry,
business-like process, but how racy Boz made it.  A joke sparkles in
every line.

This trial for Breach has been debated over and over again among lawyers
and barristers, some contending that "there was no evidence at all to go
to the Jury" as to a promise; others insisting on mis-direction, and that
there was evidence that ought not to have been admitted.  The law has
since been changed, and by later Acts both Mrs. Bardell and Mr. Pickwick
would have been allowed to tell their stories and to have been
cross-examined.  Mrs. Bardell was almost justified in supposing that Mr.
Pickwick was offering his hand when he was merely speaking of engaging a
man-servant.  But then the whole would have been spoiled.  Under the
present systems, this would all have come out.  Mr. Pickwick, when it
came to his turn, would have explained what his proceedings meant.  It is
a most perfect and vivid satire on the hackneyed methods of the lawyers
when dealing with the witnesses.  Nothing can be more natural or more
graphic.  It is maintained to something between the level of comedy and
farce: nor is there the least exaggeration.  It applies now as it did
then, though not to the same topics.  A hectoring, bullying Counsel,
threatening and cruel, would interfere with the pleasant tone of the
play; but it is all the same conveyed.  There is a likeness to Bardell
_v._ Pickwick in another Burlesque case, tried in our day, the well-known
"Trial by Jury," the joint work of Mr. Gilbert and the late Sir Arthur
Sullivan.  The general tone of both is the same and in the modern work
there is a general Pickwickian flavour.  Sir Arthur's music, too, is
highly "Pickwickian," and the joint effort of the two humorists is
infinitely diverting.  The Judge is something of a Stareleigh.

The truth is that Boz, the engenderer of these facetiae, apart from his
literary gift, was one of the most brilliant, capable young fellows of
his generation.  Whatever he did, he did in the best way, and in the
brightest way.  But his power of observation and of seeing what might be
termed the humorous _quiddity_ of anything, was extraordinary.

To put absurdity in a proper view for satirical purposes, it has to be
generalised from a number of instances, familiar to all.  Those legal
oddities, the public had seen over and over again, but they had passed
unnoticed till this clever observer set to work and noted them.  As I
say, it required a deep knowledge of the law to set these things in a
grotesque light.

Boz had been a sort of general reporter on the _Chronicle_: he "took"
everything.  He had reported at police courts as well as at the law
courts.  His quick and bright intelligence seized the humours here, as it
did those of the street.  He later reported in the Gallery, and was
dispatched across country in post-chaises to "take" eminent political
speakers--always winning the hearty commendation of his employers for his
zeal and energy.


Mr. Pickwick was a well-to-do bachelor, who lived by himself near the
city, where he had been in trade.  His age was about fifty, as can be
accurately calculated by his remark on the sliding at Manor Farm.  "I
used to do so on the gutters when I was a boy . . . but I hav'nt done
such a thing these thirty years."  This was said in 1828.  He resided in
Goswell Street--now Goswell Road--with a widow lady, whose husband had
been in the Excise.  He cannot have paid more than a pound a week, if so
much, for two rooms on the first floor.  There was no servant, and the
hardworking landlady, Mrs. Martha Bardell, performed all the duties of
her household single-handed.  As her Counsel later described it,--and see
all she did for him!--"She waited on him, attended to his comforts,
cooked his meals, looked out his linen for the washer-woman when it went
abroad, darned, aired, and prepared it for his wear when it came home,
and, in short, enjoyed his fullest trust and confidence."  Thus Sergeant
Buzfuz, duly "instructed."  Not only was there Mr. Pickwick, but there
was another lodger, and her little boy Tommy.  The worthy woman took care
of and looked after all three.  This might incline us to take a favorable
view of her.  She regarded her lodger with feelings of veneration and
attachment, of which proof is found in her later talk with Sam.  To him
she said that "he had always behaved himself like a perfect gentlemen,"
and then added this significant speech: "It's a terrible thing to be
dragged in this way before the public, but _I now see_ that it's the only
thing that I ought to do."  That is, she seems to have held out as long
as possible, believing that her amiable lodger would act as a perfect
gentlemen and like himself.  But when she found that even an action had
no terrors for him, she saw that there was nothing else to do but to let
the action go on.

And what was Mrs. Bardell like?  One would imagine her a plump, buxom
widow, "fat, fair, and forty," with her dear little boy, "the only pledge
of her deceased exciseman," or say something between thirty and forty
years old.  Fortunately, two portraits have come down to us of the
lady--one somewhat of this pattern, and depicting her, as she flung
herself on Mr. Pickwick on that disastrous morning: the other--a swollen,
dreadful thing, which must be a caricature of the literal presentment.
Here we see a woman of gross, enormous proportions seated on the front
bench and apparently weighing some thirteen or fourteen stone, with a
vast coarse face.  This is surely an unfair presentment of the worthy
landlady; besides, Dodson and Fogg were too astute practitioners to
imperil their chances by exhibiting to his Lordship and the Jury so
ill-favoured a plaintiff.  Indeed, we are told that they arranged a
rather theatrical exhibition in this scene, with a view of creating an
impression in their favour.

Many find pleasure in reading the Bookseller's Catalogues, and a vast
number are showered on me in the course of the year.  But on one of these
I always gaze with a special interest, and even tenderness.  For it comes
from one Herbert, who lives in Goswell Road.  Only think, _Goswell_
Road--erst Goswell Street, where just seventy years ago Mrs. Bardell was
letting lodgings and Mr. Pickwick himself was lodging: and on the cover I
read, furthur attraction, "Goswell Road, near the 'Angel,'" whence the
"stage" which took the party to the "Spaniard" at Hampstead started!
Sometimes I am drawn to the shop, crowded with books; but one's thoughts
stray away from the books into speculations as to _which_ house it was.
But the indications are most vague, though the eye settles on a decent
range of shabby-looking faded tenements--two storeys high only--and which
_look_ like lodging houses.  Some ingenious commentators have indeed
ventured to identify the house itself, arguing from the very general
description in the text.

We should note, however, Mr. Pickwick's lack of caution.  He came in the
very next day, having apparently made no enquiries as to the landlady.
Had he done so, he would have learned of the drunken exciseman who met
his death by being knocked on the head with a quart pot.  He might have
heard of the friends, Cluppins, Raddle, etc., who seemed to have been
charwomen or something of the sort; also that there was a sort of working
man as a fellow lodger.  Above all, that there was no servant in the
house.  All which boded ill, and made it likely that Mr. Pickwick would
be the easy victim of some crafty scheme.

All went well until the unluckly morning in July, 1827, when Mr.
Pickwick's friends, coming to pay a morning call, and entering
unexpectedly, surprised Mr. Pickwick with his landlady fainting in his
arms in an hysterical condition.  This was a very awkward business.  The
delinquent, however, did not at once grasp the situation, and could not
"make head or tail of it, or what the lady meant."  His friends, however,
had their doubts:

    'What _is_ the matter?' said the three tongue-tied Pickwickians.

    'I don't know,' replied Mr. Pickwick, pettishly.  'Now, help me, lead
    this woman down stairs.'

    'Oh, I am better now,' said Mrs. Bardell, faintly.

    'Let me lead you downstairs,' said the ever gallant Mr. Tupman.

    'Thank you, sir--thank you?' exclaimed Mrs. Bardell hysterically.
    And downstairs she was led accordingly, accompanied by her
    affectionate son.

                      [Picture: The cause of action]

    'I cannot conceive--' said Mr. Pickwick, when his friend returned--'I
    cannot conceive what has been the matter with that woman.  I had
    merely announced to her my intention of keeping a man servant, when
    she fell into the extraordinary paroxysm in which you found her.
    Very extraordinary thing.'

    'Very,' said his three friends.

    'Placed me in such an extremely awkward situation,' continued Mr.

    'Very,' was the reply of his followers, as they coughed slightly, and
    looked dubiously at each other.

    This behaviour was not lost upon Mr. Pickwick.  He remarked their
    incredulity.  They evidently suspected him.

It may be reasonably supposed that Mr. Pickwick had not been very
discreet, or sufficiently cautious in his general behaviour to his
landlady.  As we know, he was rather too effusive in his relations with
the fair sex.  One of his weaknesses was _kissing_.  He would kiss
everybody who was young or good-looking.  His maxim was "Kiss early and
kiss often."  Who can forget his _systematic_ method of greeting the
engaging Arabella?  "He (1) took off his spectacles, (2) in great haste,
and (3) taking both the young lady's hands in his (4) kissed her (5) a
great many times (6) perhaps a greater number of times than was
absolutely necessary."  Old rogue!  I have little doubt that on his
return home from his tours he encircled the buxom figure of Mrs.
Bardell--all of course in his own paternal and privileged way.

It should be borne in mind also that Mr. Pickwick was almost invariably
drawn into his more serious scrapes and embarrassments by this devotion
to the sex.  The night in the boarding school garden--the affair with the
spinster lady--his interview with Arabella from the top of the wall--his
devotion to Mrs. Pott and Mrs. Dowler--and much more that we do not hear
of, show that he was a gallant elderly gentleman.  Oh, he was a "sly dog,
he was."

There is a curious burst of Mr. Pickwick's which seems to hint at a sort
of tender appreciation on his side.  When the notice of trial was sent to
him, in his first vehemence, he broke out that Mrs. Bardell had nothing
to do with the business, "_She hadn't the heart to do it_."  Mr. Pickwick
could not speak with this certainty, unless he knew the lady's feelings
pretty well.  _Why_ hadn't she the heart to do it?  Because she was
sincerely attached to him and his interests and was "a dear creature."
This, however, was a fond delusion of the worthy gentleman's.  Persons of
her class are not quite so disinterested as they appear to be, especially
if they have to interpret the various paternal and comforting advances
made to them by their well to do lodgers.

There is another factor which can hardly be left out, when considering
Mr. Pickwick's responsibility--that is, his too frequent indulgence in
liquor, and the insufficiency of his head to stand its influence.  Now
this was a very important day for him, the first time he was to set up a
man servant.  He had to break it to his landlady, who would naturally
resent the change.  He may have been _priming_ himself with some of those
perpetual glasses of brandy and water to which he was addicted, and who
knows but that, in his ardour to propitiate, he may have gone a _little_
too far?  This fact too, of the introducing a man servant into her
establishment, Mrs. Bardell may have indistinctly associated with a
general change in his life.  If she were to become Mrs. Pickwick her
duties might be naturally expected to devolve on a male assistant.

Next morning he and his friends quitted London on their travels to
Eatanswill in pursuit of adventure.  He airily dismissed the matter.  We
may wonder whether he made any remonstrance to his landlady before his
departure.  Probably he did not, fancying that she had been merely in a
slight fit of the "tantrums."

At Bury, however, after the boarding-school adventure, he was to be
painfully awakened.  He was sitting with his friends after dinner at the
"Angel," in his happiest mood.  Winkle had related his quarrel with Pott
_in re_ Mrs. Pott, in a humorous fashion when one of the most delightful
of humorous scenes followed.

Mr. Pickwick was proceeding with his scathing rebuke, when Sam enters
with a letter.

    'I don't know this hand,' said Mr. Pickwick, opening the letter.
    'Mercy on us! what's this?  It must be a jest; it--it--can't be

    'What's the matter?' was the general inquiry.

    'Nobody dead, is there?' said Wardle, alarmed at the horror in Mr.
    Pickwick's countenance.

    Mr. Pickwick made no reply, but, pushing the letter across the table,
    and desiring Mr. Tupman to read it aloud, fell back in his chair with
    a look of vacant astonishment quite alarming to behold.

    Mr. Tupman, with a trembling voice, read the letter, of which the
    following is a copy:--

                    '_Freeman's Court_, _Cornhill_, _August_ 28_th_, 1827.
                                               _Bardell against Pickwick_.


    _Having been instructed by Mrs. Martha Bardell to commence an action
    against you for a breach of promise of marriage_, _for which the
    plaintiff lays her damages at fifteen hundred pounds_, _we beg to
    inform you that a writ has been issued against you in this suit in
    the Court of Common Pleas_; _and request to know_, _by return of
    post_, _the name of your attorney in London_, _who will accept
    service thereof_.

                                                          _We are_, _Sir_,
                                                 _Your obedient servants_,
                                                          _DODSON & FOGG_.

    Mr. Samuel Pickwick.'

So Mr. Pickwick, the general mentor, the philosopher and friend--the man
of high moral tone, "born to set the world aright"--the general lecturer
of his "followers," was now in for an action at law of the most awkward
and unpleasant kind.  To be philandering with one's landlady! rather low
form this.  But what would they say down at Manor Farm?  How Isabella
Wardle and her sister--and all the girls--would laugh!  And the spinster
aunt--_she_ would enjoy it!  But there was no help for it.  It must be

Naturally Mr. Pickwick felt uncomfortable, and his first idea was to
arrange the matter.  This was a sensible course, and he ought at once to
have put the matter into the hands of his friend Perker, with full powers
to treat.  But no.  Mr. Pickwick's vanity and indiscretion made him
meddle in the business behind his solicitor's back, as it where, and with
damaging results to himself--a warning to all such amateurs.  It must be
said that Dodson and Fogg's behaviour at the extraordinary visit which he
paid them was marked by a certain propriety.  Mr. Pickwick insisted on
knowing what were the grounds of action--that is, the details of the
evidence against him--in short, their case.  They, very correctly,
refused to tell him.  "The case may be false or it may be true--it may be
credible it may be incredible."  But all the same it was a strong case.
This was as much as they could tell.  Mr. Pickwick could only urge that
if "it were so, he was a most unfortunate man," on which Dodson
promptly--"I hope you are, sir, I trust you may be, sir.  If you are
really innocent, you are more unfortunate than I had believed any man
could possibly be."

Mr. Pickwick then rather foolishly asked did he understand they meant to
go on with the action--as if they could have been affected by his
declaration.  "Understand?" was the reply, "that you certainly may"--a
very natural speech.

With some want of professional delicacy and etiquette, Dodson seized the
opportunity to "serve" Mr. Pickwick; but they were not a high-class firm
and their methods were not high-class.  Then an extraordinarily
incredible display followed.  His passion broke forth.  "_Of all the
disgraceful and rascally proceedings he ever_, _etc._!"  Dodson summoned
his clerks to listen to this gross language, and said, "Perhaps you would
like to call us swindlers."  "_You are_," said Mr. Pickwick.  Fogg even
wished him to assault them--and perhaps he would have done so, but for
Sam, who at last got him away.  This was certainly not correct, but how
aggravating was Mr. Pickwick!  One is rather astonished at the
forbearance of this sharp firm.

Now, had Mr. Pickwick gone straight to his lodgings in Goswell Street and
seen Mrs. Bardell, heard her views and claims, had he been told by her
that she had been professionally urged to go to law as she had such a
strong case--there might have been some excuse for this violence to
Dodson and Fogg.  But he knew nothing whatever of the matter--knew
nothing of the attornies--and in his blind fury gratuitously assumed that
they had "conspired" to harass him in this way.  True, he had overheard
how they had treated poor Ramsey.

This very _malapropos_ visit of Mr. Pickwick to the firm was, as I said,
a mistake and damaged his case.  It showed that he was nervous and
anxious, and _insecure_.  He took nothing by it.  There was in truth much
short-sighted cunning in his ways, which came of his overweening vanity.
But this was only one of several attempts he made to worm out something
to his own advantage.

Another of Mr. Pickwick's foolish manoeuvres was his sending his man to
his old lodgings to his landlady--ostensibly to fetch away his "things,"
when this dialogue passed:

    'Tell Mrs. Bardell she may put a bill up, as soon as she likes.'

    'Wery good, sir,' replied Mr. Weller; 'anythin' more, sir.'

    'Nothing more, Sam.'

    Mr. Weller stepped slowly to the door, as if he expected something
    more; slowly opened it, slowly stepped out, and had slowly closed it
    within a couple of inches, when Mr. Pickwick called out.


    'Sir,' said Mr. Weller, stepping quickly back, and closing the door
    behind him.

    'I have no objection, Sam, to your endeavouring to ascertain how Mrs.
    Bardell herself seems disposed towards me, and whether it is really
    probable that this vile and groundless action is to be carried to
    extremity.  _I say_, _I do not object to your doing this_, _if you
    wish it_, _Sam_,' said Mr. Pickwick.  Sam gave a short nod of
    intelligence and left the room.

Now this was very artful on the part of Mr. Pickwick, but it was a very
shallow sort of artfulness, and it was later to recoil on himself.  Sam
of course saw through it at once.  It never dawned on this simple-minded
man what use the Plaintiff's solicitors would make of his _demarche_.

When the subpoenas were served he rushed off to Perker:

    'They have subpoena'd my servant too,' said Mr. Pickwick.

    'Sam?' said Perker.

    Mr. Pickwick replied in the affirmative.

    'Of course, my dear sir; of course.  I knew they would.  I could have
    told _you_ that a month ago.  You know, my dear sir, if you _will_
    take the management of your affairs into your own hands after
    intrusting them to your solicitor, you must also take the
    consequences.'  Here Mr. Perker drew himself up with conscious
    dignity, and brushed some stray grains of snuff from his shirt frill.

    'And what do they want him to prove?' asked Mr. Pickwick, after two
    or three minutes' silence.

    'That you sent him up to the plaintiff's to make some offer of a
    compromise, I suppose,' replied Perker.  'It don't matter much,
    though; I don't think many counsel could get a great deal out of

    'I don't think they could,' said Mr. Pickwick.

The minutiae of legal process are prosaic and uninteresting, and it might
seem impossible to invest them with any dramatic interest; but how
admirably has Boz lightened up and coloured the simple incident of an
attorney's clerk--a common, vulgar fellow of the lowest type, arriving to
serve his subpoenas on the witnesses--all assumed to be hostile.  The
scene is full of touches of light comedy.

    'How de do, sir?' said Mr. Jackson, nodding to Mr. Pickwick.

    That gentlemen bowed, and looked somewhat surprised for the
    physiognomy of Mr. Jackson dwelt not in his recollection.

    'I have called from Dodson and Fogg's,' said Mr. Jackson, in an
    explanatory tone.

    Mr. Pickwick roused at the name.  'I refer you to my attorney, sir:
    Mr. Perker, of Gray's Inn,' said he.  'Waiter, show this gentleman

    'Beg your pardon, Mr. Pickwick,' said Jackson, deliberately
    depositing his hat on the floor, and drawing from his pocket the
    strip of parchment.  'But personal service, by clerk or agent, in
    these cases, you know, Mr. Pickwick--nothing like caution, sir, in
    all legal forms?'

    Here Mr. Jackson cast his eye on the parchment; and, resting his
    hands on the table, and looking round with a winning and persuasive,
    smile, said: 'Now, come; don't let's have no words about such a
    little matter as this.  Which of you gentlemen's name's Snodgrass?'

    At this inquiry Mr. Snodgrass gave such a very undisguised and
    palpable start, that no further reply was needed.

    'Ah! I thought so,' said Mr. Jackson, more affably than before.
    'I've got a little something to trouble you with, sir.'

    'Me!' exclaimed Mr. Snodgrass.

    'It's only a _subpoena_ in Bardell and Pickwick on behalf of the
    plaintiff,' replied Jackson, singling out one of the slips of paper,
    and producing a shilling from his waistcoat pocket.  'It'll come on,
    in the settens after Term; fourteenth of Febooary, we expect; we've
    marked it a special jury cause, and it's only ten down the paper.
    That's yours, Mr. Snodgrass.'  As Jackson said this he presented the
    parchment before the eyes of Mr. Snodgrass, and slipped the paper and
    the shilling into his hand.

    Mr. Tupman had witnessed this process in silent astonishment, when
    Jackson, turning sharply upon him, said:

    'I think I ain't mistaken when I say your name's Tupman, am I?'

    Mr. Tupman looked at Mr. Pickwick; but, perceiving no encouragement
    in that gentleman's widely-opened eyes to deny his name, said:

    'Yes, my name _is_ Tupman, sir.'

    'And that other gentleman's Mr. Winkle, I think?' said Jackson.

    Mr. Winkle faltered out a reply in the affirmative; and both
    gentlemen were forthwith invested with a slip of paper, and a
    shilling each, by the dexterous Mr. Jackson.

    'Now,' said Jackson, 'I'm affraid you'll think me rather troublesome,
    but I want somebody else, if it ain't inconvenient.  I _have_ Samuel
    Weller's name here, Mr. Pickwick.'

    'Send my servant here, waiter,' said Mr. Pickwick.  The waiter
    retired, considerably astonished, and Mr. Pickwick motioned Jackson
    to a seat.

    There was a painful pause, which was at length broken by the innocent

    'I suppose, sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, his indignation rising while he
    spoke; 'I suppose, sir, that it is the intention of your employers to
    seek to criminate me upon the testimony of my own friends?'

    Mr. Jackson struck his forefinger several times against the left side
    of his nose, to intimate that he was not there to disclose the
    secrets of the prison-house, and playfully rejoined:

    'Not knowin', can't say.'

    'For what other reason, sir,' pursued Mr. Pickwick, 'are these
    subpoenas served upon them, if not for this?'

    'Very good plant, Mr. Pickwick,' replied Jackson, slowly shaking his
    head.  'But it won't do.  No harm in trying, but there's little to be
    got out of me.'

    Here Mr. Jackson smiled once more upon the company, and, applying his
    left thumb to the tip of his nose, worked a visionary coffee-mill
    with his right hand: thereby performing a very graceful piece of
    pantomime (then much in vogue, but now, unhappily, almost obsolete)
    which was familiarly denominated 'taking a grinder.'  (Imagine a
    modern solicitor's clerk "Taking a grinder!")

    'No, no, Mr. Pickwick,' said Jackson, in conclusion; 'Perker's people
    must guess what we served these subpoenas for.  If they can't, they
    must wait till the action comes on, and then they'll find out.'

    Mr. Pickwick bestowed a look of excessive disgust on his unwelcome
    visitor, and would probably have hurled some tremendous anathema at
    the heads of Messrs. Dodson and Fogg, had not Sam's entrance at the
    instant interrupted him.

    'Samuel Weller?' said Mr. Jackson, inquiringly.

    'Vun o' the truest things as you've said for many a long year,'
    replied Sam, in a most composed manner.

    'Here's a subpoena for you, Mr. Weller,' said Jackson.

    'What's that in English?' inquired Sam.

    'Here's the original,' said Jackson, declining the required

    'Which?' said Sam.

    'This,' replied Jackson, shaking the parchment.

    'Oh, that's the 'rig'nal, is it?' said Sam.  'Well, I'm wery glad
    I've seen the 'rig'nal, 'cos it's a gratifyin' sort o' thing, and
    eases vun's mind so much.'

    'And here's the shilling,' said Jackson.  'It's from Dodson and

    'And it's uncommon handsome o' Dodson and Fogg, as knows so little of
    me, to come down vith a present,' said Sam.  'I feel it as a wery
    high compliment, sir; it's a wery hon'rable thing to them, as they
    knows how to reward merit werever they meets it.  Besides wich, it's
    affectin to one's feelin's.'

    As Mr. Weller said this, he inflicted a little friction on his right
    eye-lid, with the sleeve of his coat, after the most approved manner
    of actors when they are in domestic pathetics.

    Mr. Jackson seemed rather puzzled by Sam's proceedings; but, as he
    had served the subpoenas, and had nothing more to say, he made a
    feint of putting on the one glove which he usually carried in his
    hand, for the sake of appearances; and returned to the office to
    report progress.

Another of Mr. Pickwick's foolish and self-willed proceedings was the
interview with Serjeant Snubbin, which he so positively insisted upon.
We may wonder now-a-days would any K.C. of position have condescended to
allow such a proceeding?  I fancy it would be thought "irregular:" though
perhaps _ex gratia_, and from the oddity of the proposal, it might be

When Mr. Pickwick called upon him, it turned out that the Serjeant knew
nothing whatever of his case; probably cared nothing about it.  It was
not in his line.  He perhaps wondered why the old-fashioned lawyer had
"retained" him.  We learn Parker's reason:

    'Well, we've done everything that's necessary.  I have engaged
    Serjeant Snubbin.'

    'Is he a good man?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.

    'Good man!' replied Perker; 'bless your heart and soul, my dear sir,
    Serjeant Snubbin is at the very top of his profession.  Gets treble
    the business of any man in court--engaged in every case.  You needn't
    mention it abroad; but we say--we of the profession--that Serjeant
    Snubbin leads the court by the nose.'

How foolish was this reasoning can be seen on an instant's reflection.
To "lead the court by the nose" is well enough in an argument before a
judge: but here it was more important to lead _a jury_ by the nose, which
Buzfuz knew how to do.  Moreover when a counsel has this power, it
usually operates on a special judge and his colleagues; but who could
guarantee that Snubbin's special judge would try the case.  As it turned
out, the Chief Justice fell sick before the day, and Mr. Justice
Stareleigh unexpectedly took the case.  He as it proved was anything but
"led by the nose."  Perker indeed, summed up the whole weakness of the
case in a single sentence:

    'They have subpoena'd my three friends,' said Mr. Pickwick.

    'Ah! of course they would,' replied Perker.  'Important witnesses;
    saw you in a delicate situation.'

    'But she fainted of her own accord,' said Mr. Pickwick.  'She threw
    herself into my arms.'

    'Very likely, my dear sir,' replied Perker; 'very likely and very
    natural.  Nothing more so, my dear sir, nothing.  _But who's to prove

A suggestion, we are told, that rather "staggered" Mr. Pickwick.

Within ten minutes after he had received the assurance that the thing was
impossible, he was conducted by his solicitors into the outer office of
the great Serjeant Snubbin himself.

    It was an uncarpeted room of tolerable dimensions, with a large
    writing table drawn up near the fire, the baize top of which had long
    since lost all claim to its original hue of green, and had gradually
    grown grey with dust and age, except where all traces of its natural
    colour were obliterated by ink-stains.  Upon the table were numerous
    little bundles of papers tied with red tape; and behind it, sat an
    elderly clerk, whose sleek appearance and heavy gold watch-chain
    presented imposing indications of the extensive and lucrative
    practice of Mr. Serjeant Snubbin.

    'Is the Serjeant in his room, Mr. Mallard?' inquired Perker, offering
    his box with all imaginable courtesy.

    'Yes, he is,' was the reply, 'but he's very busy.  Look here; not an
    opinion given yet, on any one of these cases; and an expedition fee
    paid with all of them.'  The clerk smiled as he said this, and
    inhaled the pinch of snuff with a zest which seemed to be compounded
    of a fondness for snuff and a relish for fees.

    'Something like practice that,' said Perker.

    'Yes,' said the barrister's clerk, producing his own box, and
    offering it with the greatest cordiality; 'and the best of it is,
    that as nobody alive except myself can read the Serjeant's writing,
    they are obliged to wait for the opinions, when he has given them,
    till I have copied 'em, ha--ha--ha!'

    'Which makes good for we know who, besides the Serjeant, and draws a
    little more out of his clients, eh?' said Perker; 'Ha, ha, ha!'  At
    this the Serjeant's clerk laughed again--not a noisy boisterous
    laugh, but a silent, internal chuckle, which Mr. Pickwick disliked to
    hear.  When a man bleeds inwardly, it is a dangerous thing for
    himself; but when he laughs inwardly, it bodes no good to other

    'You haven't made me out that little list of the fees that I'm in
    your debt, have you?' said Perker.

    'No, I have not,' replied the clerk.

    'I wish you would,' said Perker.  'Let me have them, and I'll send
    you a cheque.  But I suppose you're too busy pocketing the ready
    money, to think of the debtors, eh? ha, ha, ha!'  This sally seemed
    to tickle the clerk, amazingly, and he once more enjoyed a little
    quiet laugh to himself.

    'But, Mr. Mallard, my dear friend,' said Perker, suddenly recovering
    his gravity, and drawing the great man's great man into a corner, by
    the lappel of his coat, 'you must persuade the Serjeant to see me,
    and my client here.'

    'Come, come,' said the clerk, 'that's not bad either.  See the
    Serjeant! come, that's too absurd.'  Notwithstanding the absurdity of
    the proposal, however, the clerk allowed himself to be gently drawn
    beyond the hearing of Mr. Pickwick; and after a short conversation
    conducted in whispers, walked softly down a little dark passage and
    disappeared into the legal luminary's sanctum, from whence he shortly
    returned on tiptoe, and informed Mr. Perker and Mr. Pickwick that the
    Serjeant had been prevailed upon, in violation of all his established
    rules and customs, to admit them at once.

    The Serjeant was writing when his clients entered; he bowed
    abstractedly when Mr. Pickwick was introduced by his solicitor; and
    then, motioning them to a seat, put his pen carefully in the
    inkstand, nursed his left leg, and waited to be spoken to.

    'Mr. Pickwick is the defendant in Bardell and Pickwick, Serjeant
    Snubbin,' said Perker.

    'I am retained in that, am I?' said the Serjeant.

    'You are, Sir,' replied Perker.

    The Serjeant nodded his head, and waited for something else.

    'Mr. Pickwick was anxious to call upon you, Serjeant Snubbin,' said
    Perker, 'to state to you, before you entered upon the case, that he
    denies there being any ground or pretence whatever for the action
    against him; and that unless he came into court with clean hands, and
    without the most conscientious conviction that he was right in
    resisting the plaintiff's demand, he would not be there at all.  I
    believe I state your views correctly; do I not, my dear Sir?' said
    the little man, turning to Mr. Pickwick.

    'Quite so,' replied that gentleman.

    Mr. Serjeant Snubbin unfolded his glasses, raised them to his eyes;
    and, after looking at Mr. Pickwick for a few seconds with great
    curiosity, turned to Mr. Perker, and said, smiling slightly as he

    'Has Mr. Pickwick a strong case?'

    The attorney shrugged his shoulders.

    'Do you purpose calling witnesses?'


    The smile on the Serjeant's countenance became more defined; he
    rocked his leg with increased violence, and, throwing himself back in
    his easy-chair, coughed dubiously.

    These tokens of the Serjeant's presentiments on the subject, slight
    as they were, were not lost on Mr. Pickwick.  He settled the
    spectacles, through which he had attentively regarded such
    demonstrations of the barrister's feeling as he had permitted himself
    to exhibit, more firmly on his nose; and said with great energy, and
    in utter disregard of all Mr. Perker's admonitory winkings and

    'My wishing to wait upon you for such a purpose as this, Sir,
    appears, I have no doubt, to a gentleman who sees so much of these
    matters as you must necessarily do, a very extraordinary

    The Serjeant tried to look gravely at the fire, but the smile came
    back again.

         [Picture: Mr. Pickwick expounds his case to his Counsel]

    'Gentlemen of your profession, Sir,' continued Mr. Pickwick, 'see the
    worst side of human nature--all its disputes, all its ill-will and
    bad blood, rise up before you.  You know from your experience of
    juries (I mean no disparagement to you or them) how much depends upon
    _effect_; and you are apt to attribute to others, a desire to use,
    for purposes of deception and self-interest, the very instruments
    which you, in pure honesty and honour of purpose, and with a laudable
    desire to do your utmost for your client, know the temper and worth
    of so well, from constantly employing them yourselves.  I really
    believe that to this circumstance may be attributed the vulgar but
    very general notion of your being, as a body, suspicious,
    distrustful, and over-cautious.  Conscious as I am, Sir, of the
    disadvantage of making such a declaration to you, under such
    circumstances, I have come here, because I wish you distinctly to
    understand, as my friend Mr. Perker has said, that I am innocent of
    the falsehood laid to my charge; and although I am very well aware of
    the inestimable value of your assistance, Sir, I must beg to add,
    that unless you sincerely believe this, I would rather be deprived of
    the aid of your talents than have the advantage of them.'

    Long before the close of this address, which we are bound to say was
    of a very prosy character for Mr. Pickwick, the Serjeant had relapsed
    into a state of abstraction.

Now the Serjeant might at once have replied to all this, that the
innocence or guilt of a client had nothing to do with him, that his use
was merely to secure a client such benefit and advantage as the law
entitled him to: that a judge and jury would decide the point of
innocence.  Boz himself evidently shared this popular delusion, and seems
to be speaking by Mr. Pickwick's mouth.  The sagacious Serjeant, however,
took no notice whatever of the appeal, but simply asked "who was with
him" in the case.  Mr. Phunky was sent for, and asked by his leader "to
take Mr. Pickwick away" and "hear anything he may wish to communicate."
The party was then bowed out.

The truth was, Mr. Pickwick's attorney was too much of a social character
and of the "old family solicitor" pattern for so critical a case.  The
counsel he "instructed" were unsuitable.  Serjeant Snubbin was an
overworked "Chamber lawyer," whose whole time and experience was given to
furnishing "opinions" on tangled cases; so pressed was he that he took
"expedition fees" to give certain cases priority: an illegitimate
practice that now the Bar Committee would scarcely tolerate.  What could
such a man know of nisi prius trials, of cross-examining or handling
witnesses?  It is enough to give his portrait, as supplied by the author:

                    [Picture: Serjeant Snubbin, K.C.]

    Mr. Serjeant Snubbin was a lantern-faced, sallow-complexioned man, of
    about five-and-forty, or--as the novels say--he might be fifty.  He
    had that _dull-looking boiled eye_ which is often to be seen in the
    heads of people who have applied themselves during many years to a
    weary and laborious course of study; and which would have been
    sufficient, without the additional eye-glass which dangled from a
    broad black riband round his neck, to warn a stranger that he was
    very near-sighted.  His hair was thin and weak, which was partly
    attributable to his having never devoted much time to its
    arrangement, and partly to his having worn for five-and-twenty years
    the forsenic wig which hung on a block beside him.  The marks of hair
    powder on his coat collar, and the ill-washed and worse tied white
    neckerchief round his throat, showed that he had not found leisure
    since he left the court to make any alteration in his dress: while
    the slovenly style of the remainder of his costume warranted the
    inference that his personal appearance would not have been very much
    improved if he had.  Books of practice, heaps of papers, and opened
    letters, were scattered over the table, without any attempt at order
    or arrangement; the furniture of the room was old and ricketty; the
    doors of the bookcase were rotting in their hinges; the dust flew out
    from the carpet in little clouds at every step; the blinds were
    yellow with age and dirt; the state of everything in the room showed,
    with a clearness not to be mistaken, that Mr. Serjeant Snubbin was
    far too much occupied with his professional pursuits to take any
    great heed or regard of his personal comforts.

It was a characteristic feature of the slowness of legal process in those
days that though the notice of action was sent on August the 28th, 1827,
the case was not ripe for trial until February 14th of the next
year--nearly six months having elapsed.  It is difficult to speculate as
to what this long delay was owing.  There were only two witnesses whose
evidence had to be briefed--Mrs. Cluppins and Mrs. Sanders--and they were
at hand.  It is odd, by the way, that they did not think of examining
little Tommy Bardell, the only one who actually witnessed the proceeding.
True, he was of tender years--about eight or ten--and the son of the
Plaintiff, but he must have "known the nature of an oath."


At last the momentous morning came round.  It was the fourteenth of
February, Valentine's Day, 1828--one not of good omen for the Plaintiff.
{26}  The Defendant's party was rather gloomy at breakfast, when Perker,
by wave of encouraging his client, uttered some _dicta_ as to the chances
of the Jury having had a good breakfast "Discontented or hungry jurymen,
my dear Sir, always find for the Plaintiff."  "Bless my heart," said Mr.
Pickwick, looking very blank, "What do they do that for!"

The party then got into hackney coaches and was driven to the Guildhall,
where the case was to be tried at ten o'clock precisely.

       [Picture: Exterior of the Guildhall Court.--Now City Museum]

    [Picture: Interior of the Guildhall, Court, circa 1830.  (From an
                     original drawing by T. Allen.)]

How dramatic Boz has made the "calling of the Jury," which might be
thought an uninteresting and prosaic operation enough.  It was a special
jury, which entailed one guinea per head extra expense on Mr. Pickwick.
He had, of course, asked for it: but Dodson and Fogg would have been well
content with and perhaps even have preferred a common jury.  Now-a-days,
special jurors, though summoned largely, have to be almost coerced into
attending.  A fine of ten pounds is imposed, but this is almost
invariably remitted on affidavit.  The common jurors, moreover, do not
show the reluctance to "serve" of Groffin, the chemist.  A guinea is not
to be despised.  There are, as it were, professional common jurors who
hang about the Courts in the hope of being thus called as "understudies."
On this occasion what was called a _Tales_ was prayed for, and two common
jurors were pressed into the service: and "a greengrocer and a chemist
were caught directly."

It is impossible to say too much of the completeness with which the legal
scene is put forward.  Everything is dealt with.  We have perfect
sketches of the judge, the ushers, the jury, the counsel on the case, the
witnesses, the barristers, the attorneys; we have the speeches, the
methods of examination and cross-examination.

There is nothing better or more life-like than the sketch of the court in
the chill morning, and before the actors came on the scene--the
inimitable description of the idle barristers hanging about "the Bar of
England," which is accurate to this hour.

Few could describe effectively the peculiar appearance of a crowd of
barristers assembled in a Court of Law.  They are a type apart, and their
odd headgear accentuates all the peculiarities of their faces.  No one
has, however, succeeded so well as Boz in touching off their
peculiarities.  This sort of histrionic guise and bearing is assumed with
a view to impose on his friends and the public, to suggest an idea that
they have much or at least something to do.

    'And that,' said Mr. Pickwick, pointing to a couple of enclosed seats
    on his right, 'that's where the jurymen sit, is it not?'

    'The identical place, my dear Sir,' replied Perker, tapping the lid
    of his snuff-box.

    Mr. Pickwick stood up in a state of great agitation and took a glance
    at the court.  There were already a pretty large sprinkling of
    spectators in the gallery, and a numerous muster of gentlemen in wigs
    in the barristers' seats, who presented, as a body, all that pleasing
    and extensive variety of nose and whisker for which the bar of
    England is so justly celebrated.  Such of the gentlemen as had got a
    brief to carry, carried it in as conspicuous a manner as possible,
    and occasionally scratched their noses therewith, to impress the fact
    more strongly on the observation of the spectators.

One of the happiest descriptions is surely that of the binding of law
books.  A law library is the most repulsive and uninteresting thing in
the world.  The colour of the leather is unhealthy and disagreeable, and
the necessary shading is secured at the expense of grace.  Boz
characterises it as 'that under-done pie crust.'

    Other gentlemen, who had no briefs to show, carried under their arms
    goodly octavos, with a red label behind, and that
    under-done-pie-crust-coloured cover, which is technically known as
    "law calf."  Others, who had neither briefs nor books, thrust their
    hands into their pockets, and looked as wise as they conveniently
    could; while others, again, moved here and there with great
    restlessness and earnestness of manner, content to awaken thereby the
    admiration and astonishment of the uninitiated stranger.  The whole,
    to the great wonderment of Mr. Pickwick, were divided into little
    groups, who were chatting and discussing the news of the day in the
    most unfeeling manner possible--just as if no trial at all were
    coming on.

    A bow from Mr. Phunky, as he entered, and took his seat behind the
    row appropriated to the King's Counsel, attracted Mr. Pickwick's
    attention; and he had scarcely returned it, when Mr. Serjeant Snubbin
    appeared, followed by Mr. Mallard, who half hid the Serjeant behind a
    large crimson bag, which he placed on his table, and after shaking
    hands with Perker, withdrew.  Then there entered two or three more
    Serjeants, and among them, one with a fat body and a red face, who
    nodded in a friendly manner to Mr. Serjeant Snubbin, and said it was
    a fine morning.

    'Who's that red-faced man, who said it was a fine morning and nodded
    to our counsel?' whispered Mr. Pickwick.

    'Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz,' replied Perker.  'He's opposed to us; he leads
    on the other side.  That gentleman behind him is Mr. Skimpin, his

    Mr. Pickwick was just on the point of inquiring, with great
    abhorrence of the man's cold-blooded villainy, how Mr. Serjeant
    Buzfuz, who was counsel for the opposite party, dared to presume to
    tell Mr. Serjeant Snubbin, who was counsel for him, that it was a
    fine morning,--when he was interrupted by a general rising of the
    barristers, and a loud cry of 'Silence!' from the officers of the
    court.  Looking round, he found that this was caused by the entrance
    of the Judge.

On reaching the Court, Perker said, "put Mr. Pickwick's friends in the
students' box.  Mr. Pickwick had better sit by me."  This useful
provision for the instruction of legal probationers has fallen into
desuetude--no place is reserved for the students now-a-days.  Lord
Campbell describes the custom and recalls an incident that occurred when
he was sitting in the students' box, close to the Bench.

There were some matters of procedure which have since been changed--such
as Mr. Skimpin "calling for" Winkle, and the latter answering.  This is
now done by an Officer of the Court.  Skimpin also asks Winkle his name,
as a first question, though he had been sworn and had given it.  And the
_mal-entendu_ as to "Daniel Nathaniel" could not then have occurred, as
the Officer would have obtained the name correctly.  Another unusual
thing was that Buzfuz, after his long and rather exhausting speech,
should have examined the first witness.  Now-a-days the junior would do
this.  We may note that at this time it was always "my Lord," and "your
Lordship," with the full natural sound--we had not yet got to the clipped
"M'lud,'" and "your Ludship."  Perhaps this form _was_ actually used by
the Counsel but was not noticed by Boz, or seemed to him the right thing.
The King's Counsel were behind and could stoop down to consult their

This minute observation and particularity of Boz is further shown in his
noting the very places where the Attorneys sat, and which he describes.
They had the seats next the table:

"You are quite right," said Buzfuz later on, answering the whisper of
Dodson and Fogg, after Sam's awkward revelation.  How often have we seen
these hasty communications, which are not without their dramatic effect.


Mr. Pickwick, unfortunate in his Counsel, his Solicitor, his Jury--one of
prejudiced tradesmen--was also to be unlucky in the Judge who tried his
case.  No doubt Perker had comforted him: "no matter how it goes, however
unfair Buzfuz may be, we have a judge to hold the scales fair and keep
the jury straight.  The Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, the Right
Hon. Sir NICHOLAS CONYNGHAM TINDAL is a man of immense reputation at the
Bar.  We are most fortunate in having him."  Judge then of the
disappointment when on coming to court it was found that Sir Stephen
Gaselee was to take the case "owing to the absence of the Chief Justice,
occasioned by indisposition."  (I protest that at times one does not know
whether we are following out a course of real events, or tracing the
incidents of a fiction, so wonderfully does Boz make his fiction blend
with reality.)  This was a serious blow.  Tindal was an admirable judge.
Did not his chroniclers write of him: "His sagacity, impartiality and
plain sense, his industry and clear sightedness made him an admiration of
non-professional spectators: while among lawyers he was very highly
esteemed _for his invariable kindness to all who appeared before him_.
He retained to the last their respect and affection."  With such a man
presiding Sergeant Buzfuz's eccentric violence and abuse of the defendant
would have been restrained ("having the outward appearance of a man and
not of a monster.")  Mr. Skimpin's gross insinuations, to wit, that
Winkle was "telegraphing" to his friend, would have been summarily put
down, and all "bullying" checked; more, he would have calmly kept
Counsel's attention to the issue.  This perfect impartiality would have
made him show to the Jury how little evidence there was to support the
plaintiff's case.  Instead came this unlucky indisposition: and his place
was taken by "my Brother Gaselee:" with what results Mr. Pickwick was to
learn disastrously.

It is curious, however, that the Chief Justice, in spite of his
indisposition, should still be associated with the case; for he had tried
the momentous case of Norton _v._ Melbourne, and had heard there letters
read, which were parodied in the "chops and tomato sauce" correspondence,
so Boz had him well before him.  The case had to be tried at the
Guildhall Sessions; so a fair and rational judge would have spoilt all
sport.  Further, as Boz had seen the fairness and dignity of the Chief
Justice he was naturally reluctant to exhibit him unfavorably.  The only
thing was to make the Chief Justice become suddenly "indisposed," and
have his place taken by a grotesque judge.

The Judge who was to try the case, Mr. Justice Stareleigh, as is well
known, was drawn from Sir Stephen Gaselee, of whose name Stareleigh is a
sort of synonym.  Serjeant Gaselee was once well known in the
prosecutions directed against Radicals and so-called Reformers, but
_Pickwick_ has given him a greater reputation.  The baiting he received
from patriotic advocates may have inflamed his temper and made him
irritable.  He is described by one author, in a most humorous, if
personal fashion.  He was "a most particularly short man, and so fat that
he seemed all face and waistcoat.  He rolled in upon two little turned
legs, and having bobbed gravely to the bar who bobbed gravely to him, put
his little legs under the table, when all you could see of him was two
queer little eyes, one broad, pink face, and somewhere about half of a
big and very comical-looking wig."  All through he is shown as arrogant
and incapable, and also as making some absurd mistakes.

It will be a surprise to most people to learn that this picture is no
more than an amusing caricature, and that the judge was really a person
of high character.  He is described as "a very painstaking, upright
judge, and, in his private capacity, a worthy and benevolent man."  Thus,
Mr. Croker, who, however, supplies a sound reason for his being the
subject of such satire.  "With many admirable qualities both of head and
heart, he had made himself a legitimate object of ridicule by his
explosions on the Bench."  Under such conditions, the Bar, the suitors
and the public had neither the wish nor the opportunity to search for
extenuating excuses in his private life.  They suffered enough from the
"explosions" and that was all that concerned them.  He had been fourteen
years on the Bench, and, like Stareleigh, belonged to the Common Pleas.
He was suffering too from infirmities, particularly from deafness, and
appears to have misapprehended statements in the same grotesque fashion
that he mistook Winkle's name.

Boz's fashion of burlesque, by the way, is happily shown in his treatment
of this topic.  Another would have been content with "Daniel," the simple
misapprehension.  "Nathaniel, sir," says Winkle.  "Daniel--any other
name?"  "Nathaniel, sir--my lord, I mean."  "_Nathaniel Daniel_--_or
Daniel Nathaniel_?"  "No, my lord, only Nathaniel, not Daniel at all."

"What did you tell me it was Daniel for, then, sir?"

"I didn't, my lord."

"You did, sir.  _How could I have got Nathaniel in my notes_, _unless you
told me so_, _sir_?"

How admirable is this.  The sly satire goes deeper, as Judges, under less
gross conditions, have often made this illogical appeal to "my notes."

Though not gifted with oratorical powers which were likely to gain him
employment as a leader, Gaselee's reputation for legal knowledge soon
recommended him to a judge's place.  He was accordingly selected on July
1st, 1824, to fill a vacancy in the Court of Common Pleas.  In that Court
he sat for nearly fourteen years "with the character of a painstaking
judge, and in his private capacity as a worthy and benevolent man."  Thus
Mr. Foss, F.S.A.

The reader will have noted the Judge's severity to poor Groffin, the
chemist, who had pleaded the danger of his boy mistaking oxalic acid for
Epsom salts.  Could it be that the Judge's experience as the son of a
provincial doctor, had shown what class of man was before him?  Later,
unexpectedly, we learn that the Judge was a steady member for fourteen
years of the Royal Humane Society, of which institution he was also a

But we now come to a most extraordinary thing--the result of the young
author's telling and most sarcastic portrait of the irascible little
judge.  It is curious that Forster, while enumerating various instances
of Boz's severe treatment of living persons, as a sort of chastisement
for their defects of manner or character, seems not to have thought of
this treatment of the judge--and passes it by.  Nor did he notice the
prompt result that followed on the sketch.  The report of the trial
appeared in the March number, 1837--and we are told, the luckless judge
retired from the Bench, shortly after the end of Hilary Term, that is in
April or the beginning of May.  We may assume that the poor gentleman
could not endure the jests of his _confreres_ or the scarcely concealed
tittering of the Barristers, all of whom had of course devoured and
enjoyed the number.  We may say that the learned Sergeant Buzfuz was not
likely to be affected in any way by _his_ picture; it may indeed have
added to his reputation.  I confess to some sympathy for the poor old
judge who was thus driven from the Bench.  Sam Foote was much given to
this sort of personal attack, and made the lives of some of his victims
wretched.  Boz, however, seems to have felt himself called upon to act
thus as public executioner on two occasions only.  After the fall of the
judge in June, 1837, he wanted a model for a tyrannical magistrate in
_Oliver Twist_--and Mr. Laing, the Hatton Garden Magistrate--a harsh,
ferocious personage, at once occurred to him.  He wrote accordingly to
one of his friends that he wished to be _smuggled_ into his office some
morning to study him.  This "smuggling" of course meant the placing him
where he would not be observed--as a magistrate knowing his "sketches"
might recognise him.  "I know the man perfectly well" he added.  So he
did, for he forgot that he had introduced him already in _Pickwick_ as
Nupkins--whose talk is exactly alike, in places almost word for word to
that of "Mr. Fang."

These palliations, Boz, a young fellow of three and twenty or so, did not
pause to weigh.  He only saw a testy, red-faced old fellow with goggle
eyes, and seventy-four years old, and past his work.  His infirmities
already made him incapable of carrying through the business of the Court
as the mistake, "Is it Daniel Nathaniel or Nathaniel Daniel?" shows.  It
is curious, however, that this weakness of misapprehending names is
described of another judge, Arabin--a strange grotesque.  Theodore Hook
gives an amusing specimen in his Gilbert Gurney.

From the general description in the text, it is evident Stareleigh was
the prey of gouty affections--which swelled him into grotesque shape, and
he found himself unequal to the office.  He died two years after his
retirement at No. 13, Montagu Place, Russell Square; so that the Judge in
Bardell _v._ Pickwick was living close to Perker the Attorney in the same
case.  Here we seem to mix up the fictional and the living characters,
but this is the law of _Pickwick_--the confines between the two worlds
being quite confused or broken down.  The late commander of our forces in
China, Sir A. Gaselee, is of this family.  It should be remembered,
however, when we think of this judge's frowardness, that judges in those
times were dictatorial and carried matters with a high hand.  There were
often angry conflicts between them, and members of the Bar, and
Stareleigh was really not so very tyrannical.  He did what so many judges
do--took a side from the first, and had decided in his own mind that Mr.
Pickwick could not possibly have a case.  That curious form of address
from the Bench is now no longer heard--"who is with you, _Brother
Buzfuz_?"  Judges and sergeants were then common members of the
Guild--both wore the "coif."


When the swearing of the jury is going on, how good, and how natural is
the scene with the unfortunate chemist.

    'Answer to your names, gentlemen that you may be sworn,' said the
    gentleman in black.  'Richard Upwitch.'

    'Here,' said the greengrocer.

    'Thomas Groffin.'

    'Here,' said the chemist.

    'Take the book, gentlemen.  You shall well and truly try--'

    'I beg this court's pardon,' said the chemist, who was a tall, thin,
    yellow-visaged man, 'but I hope this court will excuse my

    'On what grounds, sir?' replied Mr. Justice Stareleigh.

    'I have no assistant, my Lord,' said the chemist.

    'I can't help that, sir,' replied Mr. Justice Stareleigh.  'You
    should hire one.'

    'I can't afford it, my Lord,' rejoined the chemist.

    'Then you ought to be able to afford it, sir,' said the judge,
    reddening; for Mr. Justice Stareleigh's temper bordered on the
    irritable, and brooked not contradiction.

    'I know I _ought_ to do, if I got on as well as I deserved, but I
    don't, my Lord,' answered the chemist.

    'Swear the gentleman,' said the judge, peremptorily.

    The officer had got no farther than the 'You shall well and truly
    try,' when he was again interrupted by the chemist.

    'I am to be sworn, my Lord, am I?' said the chemist.

    'Certainly, sir,' replied the testy little judge.

    'Very well, my Lord,' replied the chemist in a resigned manner.
    'There'll be murder before this trial's over; that's all.  Swear me,
    if you please, sir;' and sworn the chemist was, before the judge
    could find words to utter.

    'I merely wanted to observe, my Lord,' said the chemist, taking his
    seat with great deliberation, 'that I've left nobody but an errand
    boy in my shop.  He is a very nice boy, my Lord, but he is not
    acquainted with drugs; and I know that the prevailing impression on
    his mind is, that Epsom salts means oxalic acid; and syrup of senna,
    laudanum.  That's all, my Lord.'  With this, the tall chemist
    composed himself into a comfortable attitude, and, assuming a
    pleasant expression of countenance, appeared to have prepared himself
    for the worst.

One who was born in the same year as Boz, but who was to live for thirty
years after him, Henry Russell--composer and singer of "The Ivy
Green"--was, when a youth, apprenticed to a chemist, and when about ten
years old, that is five years before Bardell _v._ Pickwick, was left in
charge of the shop.  He discovered just in time that he had served a
customer who had asked for Epsom salts with poison sufficient to kill
fifty people.  On this he gave up the profession.  I have little doubt
that he told this story to his friend a dozen years later, and that it
was on Boz's mind when he wrote.  Epsom salts was the drug mentioned in
both instances.

It must be said that even in our day a defendant for Breach, with Mr.
Pickwick's story and surroundings, would have had small chance with a
city jury.  They saw before them a benevolent-looking Lothario, of a
Quaker-like air, while all the witnesses against him were his three most
intimate friends and his own man.

We have, of course, testy judges now, who may be "short" in manner, but I
think it can be affirmed that no judge of our day could behave to counsel
or witnesses as Mr. Justice Stareleigh did.  It is, in fact, now the tone
for a judge to affect a sort of polished courtesy, and to impart a sort
of light gaiety to the business he is transacting.  All asperity and
tyrannous rudeness is held to be out of place.  Hectoring and bullying of
witnesses will not be tolerated.  The last exhibition was perhaps that of
the late Dr. Kenealy in the Tichborne case.

All the swearing of jurymen before the court, with the intervention of
the judge, has been got rid of.  The Master of the Court, or Chief Clerk,
has a number of interviews--at his public desk--with important
individuals, bringing him signed papers.  These are excuses of some
sort--medical certificates, etc.--with a view to be "let off" serving.
Some--most, perhaps--are accepted, some refused.  A man of wealth and
importance can have little difficulty.  Of course this would be denied by
the jurists: but, somehow, the great guns contrive not to attend.  At ten
o'clock this officer proceeds to swear the jury, which is happily
accomplished by the time the judge enters.


Mr. Pickwick, considering the critical nature of his case, was certainly
unfortunate in his solicitor, as well as in the Counsel selected by his
solicitors.  The other side were particularly favoured in this matter.
They had a pushful bustling "wide-awake" firm of solicitors, who let not
a point escape.  Sergeant Buzfuz was exactly the sort of advocate for the
case--masterful, unscrupulous, eloquent, and with a singularly ingenious
faculty for putting everything on his client's side in the best light,
and his adversary's in the worst.  He could "tear a witness to pieces,"
and turn him inside out.  His junior, Skimpin, was glib, ready-armed at
all points, and singularly adroit in "making a hare" of any witness who
fell into his hands, _teste_ Winkle.  He had all the professional devices
for dealing with a witness's answers, and twisting them to his purpose,
at his fingers' ends.  He was the Wontner or Ballantyne of his day.  Mr.
Pickwick's "bar" was quite outmatched.  They were rather a feeble lot,
too respectable altogether, and really not familiar with this line of
business.  Even the judge was against them from the very start, so Mr.
Pickwick had very poor chances indeed.  All this was due to that
old-fashioned and rather incapable "Family Solicitor" Perker.

                     [Picture: Serjeant Buzfuz, K.C.]

Serjeant Buzfuz is known the world all over, at least wherever English is
known.  I myself was once startled in a fashionable West End church to
hear a preacher, when emphasizing the value and necessity of Prayer, and
the certainty with which it is responded to, use this illustration: "As
Serjeant Buzfuz said to Sam Weller, '_There is little to do and plenty to
get_.'"  Needless to say, an amused smile, if not a titter, passed round
the congregation.  But it is the Barrister who most appreciates the
learned Serjeant.  For the topics he argued and his fashion of arguing
them, bating a not excessive exaggeration, comes home to them all.  Nay,
they must have a secret admiration, and fondly think how excellently well
such and such topics are put, and how they must have told with a jury.

Buzfuz, it is now well known, was drawn from a leading serjeant of his
day, Serjeant Bompas, K.C.  Not so long since I was sitting by Bompas's
son, the present Judge Bompas, at dinner, and a most agreeable causeur he
was.  Not only did Boz sketch the style and fashion of the serjeant, but
it is clear that Phiz drew the figure and features.

"I am the youngest son of Serjeant Bompas," Judge Bompas writes to me,
"and have never heard it doubted that the name Buzfuz was taken from my
father who was at that time considered a most successful advocate.  I
think he may have been chosen for the successful advocate because he was
so successful: but I have never been able to ascertain that there was any
other special resemblance.  I do not remember my father myself: he died
when I was eight years old.  But I am told I am like him in face.  He was
tall (five feet ten inches) and a large man, very popular, and very
excitable in his cases, so that I am told that Counsel against him used
to urge him, out of friendship, not to get so agitated.  A connection of
mine who knew him well, went over to hear Charles Dickens read the Trial
Scene, to see if he at all imitated him in voice or manner, but told me
that he did not do so at all.  I think, therefore, that having chosen his
name, as a writer might now that of Sir Charles Russell, he then drew a
general type of barrister, as he thought it might be satirised.  My
father, like myself, was on the Western Circuit and leader of it at the
time of his death."

"I had a curious episode happen to me once.  A client wrote to apply to
the court to excuse a juror on the ground that he was a chemist and had
no assistant who understood the drugs.  It was not till I made the
application and the Court began to laugh that I remembered the Pickwick
Trial.  I believe the application was quite bona fide, and not at all an
imitation of it."  An interesting communication from one who might be
styled "Buzfuz's son;" and, as Judge Bompas alludes to his own likeness
to his sire, I may add that the likeness to the portrait in the court
scene, is very striking indeed.  There is the same fullness of face, the
large features.  Buzfuz was certainly a counsel of power and ability, and
I think lawyers will admit he managed Mrs. Bardell's case with much
adroitness.  His speech, besides being a sort of satirical abstract of
the unamiable thundering boisterousness addressed to juries in such
cases, is one of much ability.  He makes the most of every topic that he
thought likely to "tell" on a city jury.  We laugh heartily at his
would-be solemn and pathetic passages, but these are little exaggerated.
Buzfuz's statement is meant to show how counsel, quite legitimately, can
bring quite innocent acts to the support of their case by marshalling
them in suspicious order, and suggesting that they had a connection with
the charge made.  Many a client thus becomes as bewildered as Mr.
Pickwick was, on seeing his own harmless proceedings assuming quite a
guilty complexion.

Serjeant Buzfuz-Bompas died at the age of fifty-three, at his house in
Park Road, Regents Park, on February 29th, 1844.  He was then,
comparatively, a young man, and must have had ability to have attained
his position so early.  He was called to the Bar in 1815, and began as
Serjeant in 1827, in Trinity Term, only a year or so before the famous
case was tried.

So dramatic is the whole "Trial" in its action and characters, that it is
almost fit for the stage as it stands.  There have been a great number of
versions, one by the author's son, Charles "the Younger," one by Mr.
Hollingshead, and so on.  It is a favorite piece for charitable benefits,
and a number of well-known performers often volunteer to figure as
"Gentlemen of the Jury."  Buzfuz has been often played by Mr. Toole, but
his too farcical methods scarcely enhanced the part.  The easiness of
comedy is essential.  That sound player Mr. James Fernander is the best
Buzfuz that I have seen.

There is a French translation of _Pickwick_, in which the general spirit
of the "Trial" is happily conveyed.  Thus Mr. Phunky's name is given as
"M. Finge," which the little judge mistakes for "M. Singe."  Buzfuz's
speech too is excellent, especially his denouncing the Defendant's coming
with his chops "_et son ignoble bassinoire_" i.e., warming pan.


Buzfuz's great speech is one of the happiest parodies in the language.
Never was the forensic jargon and treatment so humorously set forth--and
this because of the perfect _sincerity_ and earnestness with which it was
done.  There is none of the far-fetched, impossible exaggeration--the
form of burlesque which Theodore Hook or Albert Smith might have
attempted.  It is, in fact, a real speech, which might have been
delivered to a dull-headed audience without much impairing credibility.
Apart from this it is a most effective harangue and most plausible
statement of the Plaintiff's case.

A little professional touch, which is highly significant as part of the
pantomine, and which Boz made very effective at the reading, was the
Serjeant's dramatic preparation for his speech.  "Having whispered to
Dodson and conferred briefly with Fogg, _he pulled his gown over his
shoulders_, _settled his wig_, and addressed the Jury."  Who has not seen
this bit of business?

Again, Juries may have noted that the Junior as he rises to speak,
mumbles something that is quite inaudible, and which nobody attends to.
This is known as "opening the pleadings."

    The ushers again called silence, and Mr. Skimpin proceeded to 'open
    the case;' and the case appeared to have very little inside it when
    he had opened it, for he kept such particulars as he knew, completely
    to himself, and sat down, after a lapse of three minutes, leaving the
    jury in precisely the same advanced stage of wisdom as they were in

    Serjeant Buzfuz then rose with all the majesty and dignity which the
    grave nature of the proceedings demanded, and having whispered to
    Dodson, and conferred briefly with Fogg, pulled his gown over his
    shoulders, settled his wig, and addressed the jury.

A most delightful legal platitude, as one might call it, is to be found
in the opening of the learned Sergeant's speech.  It is a familiar,
transparent thing, often used to impose on the Jury.  As Boz says of
another topic, "Counsel often begins in this way because it makes the
jury think what sharp fellows they must be."  "You have heard from my
learned friend, gentlemen," continued the Serjeant, well knowing that
from the learned friend alluded to they had heard just nothing at all,
"you have heard from my learned friend, that this is an action for Breach
of Promise of Marriage, in which the damages are laid at 1,500 pounds.
But you have _not heard from my learned friend_, _inasmuch as it did not
lie within my learned friend's province to tell you_, what are the facts
and circumstances of the case."  This rich bit of circumlocution is
simple nonsense, in rotund phrase, and meant to suggest the imposing
majesty of legal process.  The Jury knew perfectly beforehand what they
were going to try: but were to be impressed by the magnifying agency of
legal processes, and would be awe stricken accordingly.  The passage,
"inasmuch as it did not lie within my learned friend's province to tell
you," is a delightful bit of cant.  In short, the Jury was thus admitted
to the secret legal arena, and into community with the learned friends
themselves, and were persuaded that they were very sharp fellows indeed.
What pleasant satire is here, on the mellifluous "openings" of Counsel,
the putting a romantic gloss on the most prosaic incidents.

A sucking Barrister might well study this speech of Buzfuz as a guide to
the conducting of a case, and above all of rather a "shaky" one.  Not
less excellent is his smooth and plausible account of Mrs. Bardell's
setting up in lodging letting.  He really makes it "interesting."  One
thinks of some fluttering, helpless young widow, setting out in the
battle of life.

He describes the poor innocent lady putting a bill in her window, "and
let me entreat the attention of the Jury to the wording of this
document--'Apartments furnished for a single gentleman!'  Mrs. Bardell's
opinions of the opposite sex, gentlemen, were derived from a long
contemplation of the inestimable qualities of her lost husband.  She had
no fear--she had no distrust--she had no suspicion--all was confidence
and reliance.  'Mr. Bardell,' said the widow: 'Mr. Bardell was a man of
honour--Mr. Bardell was a man of his word--Mr. Bardell was no
deceiver--Mr. Bardell was once a single gentleman himself; to single
gentlemen I look for protection, for assistance, for comfort, and for
consolation--in single gentlemen I shall perpetually see something to
remind me of what Mr. Bardell was, when he first won my young and untried
affections; to a single gentleman, then, shall my lodgings be let.'
Actuated by this beautiful and touching impulse (among the best impulses
of our imperfect nature, gentlemen), the lonely and desolate widow dried
her tears, furnished her first floor, caught her innocent boy to her
maternal bosom, and put the bill up in her parlour window.  Did it remain
there long?  No.  The serpent was on the watch, the train was laid, the
mine was preparing, the sapper and miner was at work.  Before the bill
had been in the parlour window three days--three days, gentlemen--a
being, erect upon two legs, and bearing all the outward semblance of a
man, and not of a monster, knocked at the door of Mrs. Bardell's house.
He enquired within."

Those who attended the Reading will recall the admirable briskness, and
more admirable spirit with which Boz delivered the passage "by the
evidence of the unimpeachable female whom I shall place in that"--here he
brought down his palm with a mighty slap on the desk, and added, after a
moment's pause, "_Box_ before you."  It was that _preceding_ of the
stroke that told.  So real was it, one fancied oneself listening to some
obstreperous counsel.  In all true acting--notably on the French
boards--the gesture should a little precede the utterance.  So the
serjeant knew something of art.

When Mr. Pickwick gave an indignant start on hearing himself described as
a heartless villain how cleverly does the capable Buzfuz turn the
incident to profit.

                   [Picture: Mr. Pickwick as a Monster]

    'I say systematic villany, gentlemen,' said Serjeant Buzfuz, looking
    through Mr. Pickwick, and talking _at_ him; 'and when I say
    systematic villiany, let me tell the defendant, Pickwick, if he be in
    court, as I am informed he is, that it would have been more decent in
    him, more becoming, in better judgment and in better taste, if he had
    stopped away.  Let me tell him, gentlemen, that any gestures of
    dissent or disapprobation in which he may indulge in this court will
    not go down with you; that you will know how to value, and to
    appreciate them; and let me tell him further, as my lord will tell
    you, gentlemen, that a counsel, in the discharge of his duty to his
    client, is neither to be intimidated nor bullied, nor put down; and
    that any attempt to do either the one or the other, or the first or
    the last, will recoil on the head of the attempter, be he plaintiff
    or be he defendant, be his name Pickwick, or Noakes, or Stoakes, or
    Stiles, or Brown, or Thompson.'

    This little divergence from the subject in hand, had of course the
    intended effect of turning all eyes to Mr. Pickwick.

We relish, too, another "common form."  When the Serjeant found that his
jest as to "greasing the wheels of Mr. Pickwick's slow-coach" had
somewhat missed fire--a thing that often unaccountably happens, in the
case of the "twelve intelligent men," the Serjeant knew how to adroitly
recover himself.

    He paused in this place to see whether the jury smiled at his joke;
    but as nobody took it but the greengrocer, whose sensitiveness on the
    subject was very probably occasioned by his having subjected a
    chaise-cart to the process in question on that identical morning, the
    learned Serjeant considered it advisable to undergo a slight relapse
    into the dismals before he concluded.

    'But enough of this, gentlemen,' said Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz, 'it is
    difficult to smile with an aching heart; it is ill jesting when our
    deepest sympathies are awakened.  My client's hopes and prospects are
    ruined, and it is no figure of speech to say that her occupation is
    gone indeed.  The bill is down--but there is no tenant.  Eligible
    single gentlemen pass and repass--but there is no invitation for them
    to enquire within or without.  All is gloom and silence in the house;
    even the voice of the child is hushed; his infant sports are
    disregarded when his mother weeps; his "alley tors" and his
    "commoneys" are alike neglected; he forgets the long familiar cry of
    "knuckle down," and at tip-cheese, or odd and even, his hand is out.
    But Pickwick, gentlemen, Pickwick, the ruthless destroyer of this
    domestic oasis in the desert of Goswell Street--Pickwick, who has
    choked up the well, and thrown ashes on the sward--Pickwick, who
    comes before you to-day with his heartless tomato sauce and
    warming-pans--Pickwick still rears his head with unblushing
    effrontery, and gazes without a sigh on the ruin he has made.
    Damages, gentlemen--heavy damages is the only punishment with which
    you can visit him.'


"I shall prove to you, gentlemen, that _about a year ago Pickwick
suddenly began to absent himself from home_, during long intervals, ('on
Pickwick Tours,') _as if with the intention of breaking off from my
client_: but I shall show you also that his resolutions were not at that
time sufficiently strong, or that his better feelings conquered, _if
better feelings he has_: or that the charms and accomplishments of my
client prevailed against his unmanly intentions."  We may note the
reserve which suggested a struggle going on in Mr. Pickwick.  And how
persuasive is Buzfuz's _exegesis_!  Then, on the letters:

"These letters bespeak the character of the man.  They are not open,
fervid, eloquent epistles breathing nothing but the language of
affectionate attachment.  They are _covert_, _sly_, under-hand
communications, but, fortunately, far more conclusive than if couched in
the most glowing language.  _Letters that must be viewed with a cautious
and supicious eye_: _letters that were evidently intended at the time_,
_by Pickwick_, _to mislead and delude any third parties into whose hands
they might fall_."  The gravity and persuasiveness of all this is really
_impayable_.  "Let me read the first: 'Garraway's, twelve o'clock.  Dear
Mrs. B., Chops and tomato sauce.  Yours, Pickwick.'  Gentlemen, what does
this mean?  Chops and tomato sauce.  Yours, Pickwick.  Chops!  Gracious
Heavens!--and tomato sauce!  Gentlemen, is the happiness of a sensitive
and confiding female _to be trifled_ away by such artifices as these?
_The next has no date_ _whatever which is in itself suspicious_: 'Dear
Mrs. B., I shall not be at home until to-morrow.  Slow coach.'  And then
follows the very remarkable expression, 'Don't trouble yourself about the
warming pan.'"

There is a little bit of serious history connected with these letters
which I was the first I think to discover.  They were intended to
satirise the trivial scraps brought forward in Mrs. Norton's matrimonial
case--Norton _v._ Lord Melbourne.  My late friend, "Charles Dickens the
younger," as he used to call himself, in his notes on _Pickwick_, puts
aside this theory altogether as a mere unfounded fancy; but it will be
seen there cannot be a doubt in the matter.  Sir W. Follett laid just as
much stress on these scraps as Serjeant Buzfuz did on his: he even used
the phrase, "it seems there may be latent love like latent heat, in these
productions."  We have also, "Yours Melbourne," like "Yours Pickwick,"
the latter signing as though he were a Peer.  "There is another of these
notes," went on Sir William, "How are you?"  "Again there is no beginning
you see."  "The next has no date, which is in itself suspicious," Buzfuz
would have added.  Another ran--"I will call about half past four,
Yours."  "_These_ are the only notes that have been found," added the
counsel, with due gravity, "_they seem to import much more than mere
words convey_."  After this can there be a doubt?

This case was tried in June, 1836, and, it must be borne in mind, caused
a prodigious sensation all over the Kingdom.  The Pickwick part,
containing the description, appeared about December, six months
afterwards.  Only old people may recall Norton _v._ Melbourne, the fair
Caroline's wrongs have long been forgotten; but it is curious that the
memory of it should have been kept alive in some sort by this farcical
parody.  Equally curious is it that the public should always have
insisted that she was the heroine of yet another story, George Meredith's
_Diana_, though the author has disclaimed it over and over again.

The Serjeant's dealing with the warming pan topic is a truly admirable
satiric touch, and not one bit far-fetched or exaggerated.  Any one
familiar with suspicious actions has again and again heard comments as
plausible and as forced.  "Don't trouble yourself about the warming pan!
The warming pan!  Why, gentlemen, who _does_ trouble himself about a
warming pen?"  A delicious _non sequitur_, sheer nonsense, and yet with
an air of conviction that is irresistable.  "When was the peace of mind
of man or woman broken or disturbed by a warming pan which is in itself a
harmless, a useful _and I will add_, _gentlemen_, a comforting article of
domestic furniture?"  He then goes on ingeniously to suggest that it may
be "a cover for hidden fire, a mere substitute for some endearing word or
promise, _agreeably to a preconcerted system_ of correspondence, artfully
contrived by Pickwick _with a view_ to his contemplated desertion and
which I am not in a position to explain?"  Admirable indeed!  One could
imagine a city jury in their wisdom thinking that there must be
_something_ in this warming pan!

Not less amusing and plausible is his dealing with the famous topic of
the "chops and tomato sauce," not "tomata" as Boz has it.  I suppose
there is no popular allusion better understood than this.  The very man
in the street knows all about it and what it means.  Absurd as it may
seem, it is hardly an exaggeration.  Counsel every day give weight to
points just as trivial and expound them elaborately to the jury.  The
Serjeant's burst of horror is admirable, "Gentlemen, _what does this
mean_?  'Chops and tomata sauce!  Yours Pickwick!'  Chops!  Gracious
Heavens!  What does this mean?  Is the happiness of a sensitive and
confiding female to be trifled away _by such shallow artifices as

I recall that admirable judge and pleasant man, the late Lord FitzGerald,
who was fond of talking of this trial, saying to me that Buzfuz lost a
good point here, as he might have dwelt on the mystic meaning of tomato
which is the "love apple," that here was the "secret correspondence," the
real "cover for hidden fire."

He concluded by demanding exemplary damages as "the recompense you can
award my client.  And for these damages she now appeals to an
enlightened, a high-minded, a right feeling, a conscientious, a
dispassionate, a sympathising, a contemplative jury of her civilized


It was really of a very flimsy kind but "bolstered-up" and carried
through by the bluster of the serjeant and the smartness of his junior.
It rested first on a dialogue between Mr. Pickwick and his landlady which
was overheard, in fact by several persons; second, on a striking
situation witnessed by his three friends who entered unexpectedly and
surprised him with Mrs. Bardell in his arms; third, on some documentary
evidence, and lastly, on a damaging incident disclosed by Winkle.

The first witness "put in the box," was Mrs. Martha Cluppins--an intimate
friend of the plaintiffs.

We know that she was sister to Mrs. Raddle, who lived far away in
Southwark, and was the landlady of Mr. Sawyer.  She might have been
cross-examined with effect as to her story that she had been "out buying
kidney pertaties," etc.  Why buy these articles in Goswell Street and
come all the way from Southwark?  What was she doing there at all?  This
question could have been answered only in one way--which was that the
genial author fancied at the moment she was living near Mrs. Bardell.

Besides this, there was another point which Snubbin, in
cross-examination, ought to have driven home.  Mrs. Cluppins was of an
inferior type, of the common washerwoman or "charing" sort; her language
was of Mrs. Gamp's kind; "which her name was" so and so.  Yet, this
creature, in another room, or on the stairs, the door being "on the jar,"
can repeat with her limited appreciation, those dubious and imperfect
utterances of Mr. Pickwick!  How could she remember all?  Or could she
understand them?  Impossible!  She, however, may have caught up

Winkle, too, said he heard something as he came up the stairs--"Compose
yourself my dear creature, for consider if any one were to come," etc.
But what could be the value of evidence heard in this way?  Would a jury
believe it?  "Not only," as Sam said, "is 'wision limited,'" but hearing

In short, the delicate subtleties of the conversation between Mr.
Pickwick and Mrs. Bardell would be wholly lost in her hands.  Persons of
her class know nothing of suggestion or double meanings or reserved
intention, everything for them must be in black and white.  How unlikely,
therefore, that through the panels of a door or through the half opened
door, ("she said on the jar,") could she catch the phrases and their
meanings, and, above all, retain them in her memory?  No doubt, as the
counsel put it bluntly, she listened, and with all her ears.

However this may be, here is what Mrs. Cluppins deposed to:

    'Mrs. Cluppins,' said Serjeant Buzfuz, 'pray compose yoursel, ma'am;'
    and, of course, directly Mrs. Cluppins was desired to compose herself
    she sobbed with increased violence, and gave divers alarming
    manifestations of an approaching fainting fit, or, as she afterwards
    said, of her feelings being too many for her.

    'Do you recollect, Mrs. Cluppins?' said Serjeant Buzfuz, after a few
    unimportant questions--'do you recollect being in Mrs. Bardell's back
    one pair of stairs, on one particular morning in July last, when she
    was dusting Mr. Pickwick's apartment?'

    'Yes, my Lord and jury, I do,' replied Mrs. Cluppins.

    'Mr. Pickwick's sitting-room was the first floor front, I believe?'

    'Yes it were, sir,' replied Mrs. Cluppins.

    'What were you doing in the back room, ma'am?' inquired the little

    'My Lord and jury,' said Mrs. Cluppins, with interesting agitation,
    'I will not deceive you.'

    'You had better not, ma'am,' said the little judge.

    'I was there,' resumed Mrs. Cluppins, 'unbeknown to Mrs. Bardell; I
    had been out with a little basket, gentlemen, to buy three pounds of
    red kidney pertaties, which was three pound, tuppense ha'penny, when
    I see Mrs. Bardell's street door on the jar.'

    'On the what?' exclaimed the little judge.

    'Partly open, my Lord,' said Serjeant Snubbin.

    'She _said_ on the jar,' said the little judge with a cunning look.

    'It's all the same, my lord,' said Serjeant Snubbin.  The little
    judge looked doubtful, and said he'd make a note of it.  Mrs.
    Cluppins then resumed--

    'I walked in, gentlemen, just to say good mornin', and went in a
    permiscuous manner up-stairs, and into the back room.  Gentlemen,
    there was the sound of voices in the front room, and--'

    'And you listened, I believe, Mrs. Cluppins,' said Serjeant Buzfuz.

    'Beggin' your pardon, sir,' replied Mrs. Cluppins, in a majestic
    manner, 'I would scorn the haction.  The voices was very loud, sir,
    and forced themselves upon my ear.'

    'Well, Mrs. Cluppins, you were not listening, but you heard the
    voices.  Was one of those voices Mr. Pickwick's?'

    'Yes, it were, sir.'

    And Mrs. Cluppins, after distinctly stating that Mr. Pickwick
    addressed himself to Mrs. Bardell, repeated by slow degrees, and by
    dint of many questions the conversation with which our readers are
    already acquainted.

Now we have to turn back to one of the earlier passages in the story for
the conversation between the pair, "with which the reader is already
acquainted."  Thus we shall know what Mrs. Cluppin's might have heard.

    Mr. Pickwick paced the room to and fro with hurried steps, popped his
    head out of the window at intervals of about three minutes each,
    constantly referred to his watch, and exhibited many other
    manifestations of impatience, very unusual with him.  It was evident
    that something of great importance was in contemplation, but what
    that something was not even Mrs. Bardell herself had been enabled to

    'Mrs. Bardell,' said Mr. Pickwick at last, as that amiable female
    approached the termination of a prolonged dusting of the apartment.

    'Sir,' said Mrs. Bardell.

    'Your little boy is a very long time gone.'

    'Why, it's a good long way to the Borough, sir,' remonstrated Mrs.

    'Ah,' said Pickwick, 'very true; so it is.'

    Mr. Pickwick relapsed into silence, and Mrs. Bardell resumed her

    'Mrs. Bardell,' said Mr. Pickwick, at the expiration of a few

    'Sir,' said Mrs. Bardell again.

    'Do you think it's a much greater expense to keep two people, than to
    keep one?'

    'La, Mr. Pickwick,' said Mrs. Bardell, colouring up to the very
    border of her cap, as she fancied she observed a species of
    matrimonial twinkle in the eyes of her lodger, 'La, Mr. Pickwick,
    what a question!'

    'Well, but _do_ you?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.

    'That depends--' said Mrs. Bardell, approaching the duster very near
    to Mr. Pickwick's elbow, which was planted on the table; 'that
    depends a good deal upon the person, you know, Mr. Pickwick; and
    whether it's a saving and careful person, sir.'

    'That's very true,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'but the person I have in my
    eye (here he looked very hard at Mrs. Bardell) I think possesses
    these qualities; and has, moreover, a considerable knowledge of the
    world, and a great deal of sharpness, Mrs. Bardell; which may be of
    material use to me.'

    'La, Mr. Pickwick,' said Mrs. Bardell; the crimson rising to her
    cap-border again.

    'I do,' said Mr. Pickwick, growing energetic, as was his wont in
    speaking of a subject which interested him, 'I do, indeed; and to
    tell you the truth, Mrs. Bardell, I have made up my mind.'

    'Dear me, sir,' exclaimed Mrs. Bardell.

    'You'll think it very strange, now,' said the amiable Mr. Pickwick,
    with a good humoured glance at his companion, 'that I never consulted
    you about this matter, and never even mentioned it, till I sent your
    little boy out this morning, eh?'

    Mrs. Bardell could only reply by a look.  She had long worshipped Mr.
    Pickwick at a distance, but here she was, all at once, raised to a
    pinnacle to which her wildest and most extravagant hopes and never
    dared to aspire.  Mr. Pickwick was going to propose--a deliberate
    plan, too--sent her little boy to the Borough, to get him out of the
    way--how thoughtful--how considerate!'

    'Well,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'what do you think?'

    'Oh, Mr. Pickwick,' said Mrs. Bardell, trembling with agitation,
    'you're very kind, sir.'

    'It'll save you a good deal of trouble, won't it?' said Mr. Pickwick.

    'Oh, I never thought anything of the trouble, sir,' replied Mrs.
    Bardell; 'and, of course, I should take more trouble to please you
    then, than ever; but it is so kind of you, Mr. Pickwick, to have so
    much consideration for my loneliness.'

    'Ah, to be sure,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'I never thought of that.  When
    I am in town, you'll always have somebody to sit with you.  To be
    sure, so you will.'

    'I'm sure I ought to be a very happy woman,' said Mrs. Bardell.

    'And your little boy--' said Mr. Pickwick.

    'Bless his heart,' interposed Mrs. Bardell, with a maternal sob.

    'He, too, will have a companion,' resumed Mr. Pickwick, 'a lively
    one, who'll teach him, I'll be bound, more tricks in a week than he
    would ever learn in a year.'  And Mr. Pickwick smiled placidly.

    'Oh, you dear--' said Mrs. Bardell.

    Mr. Pickwick started.

    'Oh, you kind, good, playful dear,' said Mrs. Bardell; and without
    more ado, she rose from her chair, and flung her arms round Mr.
    Pickwick's neck, with a cataract of tears, and a chorus of sobs.

    'Bless my soul,' cried the astonished Mr. Pickwick;--'Mrs. Bardell,
    my good woman--dear me, what a situation--pray--consider, Mrs.
    Bardell, if anybody should come.'

    'O, let them come,' exclaimed Mrs. Bardell, frantically.

    'I'll never leave you, dear, kind, good soul.'  And with these words
    Mrs. Bardell clung the tighter.

Every utterance of the little Judge is in character, from his first
directions "go on."  His suspicious question, "what were you doing in the
back room, ma'am?"--and on Serjeant Buzfuz's sudden pause for breath,
when "the _silence_ awoke Mr. Justice Stareleigh, who immediately wrote
down something, with a pen without any ink in it, and looked unusually
profound, to impress his jury with the belief that he always thought most
deeply with his eyes shut."  Also when at the "on the jar" incident--he
"looked doubtful, but said he'd make a note of it."  So when Sam made one
of his free and easy speeches, the Judge looked sternly at Sam for fully
two minutes, but Sam's features were so perfectly calm that he said
nothing.  When Sam, too, made his witty _reposte_ to Buzfuz as to his
"wision being limited," we are told that there was a great laugh--that
even "the little Judge smiled:" a good touch, for he enjoyed, like other
judges, seeing his learned brother get a fall--'tis human nature.

It must be said the impression of a listener, who had heard all this
could have been anything but favourable to Mr. Pickwick.  No doubt there
was his paternally benevolent character to correct it: but even this
might go against him as it would suggest a sort of hypocrisy.  Even the
firmest friends, in their surprise, do not pause to debate or reason;
they are astonished and wonder exceedingly.


Skimpin may have been intended for Wilkin, a later Serjeant and
well-known in the 'fifties, and whose style and manner is reproduced.  We
could not ask a better junior in a "touch and go" case.  He was as ready
to take advantage of any opening as was the late Lord Bowen, when he was
junior in the Tichborne case.

                          [Picture: Mr. Skimpin]

On entering the Box, Mr. Winkle "bowed to the Judge," with considerable
deference, a politeness quite thrown away.  "Don't look at me sir," said
the Judge sharply, "look at the Jury."  This was ungracious, but judges
generally don't relish any advances from witnesses or others.

When poor Winkle was accused by the Judge of giving his name as Daniel,
he was told that "he had better be careful:" on which the ready Skimpin:
"Now, Mr. Winkle attend to me if you please: and let me recommend you,
for your own sake, to bear in mind his lordship's injunction to be
careful."  Thus by the agency of Judge and counsel witness was
discredited at starting and of course flurried.

    'I believe you are a particular friend of Pickwick, the defendant,
    are you not?

Winkle, eager to retrieve himself by being "careful" began--

    'I have known Mr. Pickwick now as well as I recollect at this moment,

    'Pray, Mr. Winkle, don't evade the question.  Are you, or are you not
    a particular friend of the defendant?'

    'I was just about to say that--'

    'Will you, or will you not answer my question, sir?'

    'If you don't you'll be committed, sir,' interposed the little Judge.

    'Come, sir,' said Mr. Skimpin, '_yes or no_, _if you please_.'

    'Yes, I am,' replied Mr. Winkle.

    '_Yes_, _you are_.  _And why couldn't you say that at once_, _sir_?'

I think there is no more happy touch of legal satire in the books than
that about "What the soldier said."  It is perfect, so complete, that it
is always understood by unprofessional readers.  The lawyer feels at once
that it is as true as it is happy.

    'Little to do and plenty to get,' said Serjeant Buzfuz to Sam.

    'O, quite enough to get, sir, as the soldier said ven they ordered
    him three hundred and fifty lashes.'

    '_You must not tell us what the soldier or any other man said_,
    _sir_; _it's not evidence_,' interposed the Judge.

Who will forget the roar that always greeted this sally when Boz read it,
or the low and slow solemnity which he imparted to the Judge's dictum.
As an illustration it is simply admirable.

Boz himself would have been pleased to find himself quoted in two
impressive legal tomes of some 1800 pages.  The great and laborious John
Pitt Taylor could not have been wholly a legal dry-as-dust: for the man
who could have gravely entered Bardell _v._ Pickwick in his notes and
have quoted a passage must have had a share of humour.

Most people know that it is a strict principle that "hearsay evidence" of
an utterance will not be accepted in lieu of that of the person to whom
the remark was made.  Neither can we think it out of probability that
such an objection may have been made by some over punctilious judge
wishing to restrain Sam's exuberance.  A Scotch judge once quoted in
court a passage from _The Antiquary_ in which he said the true view of an
intricate point was given; but then Scott was a lawyer.

It is requisite, says Mr. John Pitt Taylor (p. 500) speaking of "hearsay
evidence" that whatever facts a witness speaks, he should be confined to
those lying within his own knowledge.  For every witness should give his
testimony on oath, and should be subject to cross examination.  But
testimony from the relation of third persons cannot be subject to these
tests.  This rule of exclusion has been recognised as a fundamental
principle of the law of evidence ever since the time of Charles II.  To
this he adds a note, with all due gravity: "The rule excluding heresay
evidence, or rather the mode in which that rule is frequently
misunderstood in Courts of Justice, is amusingly caricatured by Mr.
Dickens _in his report_ of the case of Bardell _v._ Pickwick, p. 367."

Bardell _v._ Pickwick!  He thus puts it with the many thousand or tens of
thousand cases quoted, and he has even found a place for it in his index
of places.  He then goes on to quote the passage, just as he would quote
from Barnwall and Adolphus.

How sagacious--full of legal point--is Boz's comment on Winkle's
incoherent evidence.  Phunky asked him whether he had any reason to
suppose that Pickwick was about to be married.  "'Oh no; certainly not,'
replied Mr. Winkle with so much eagerness, that Mr. Phunky ought to have
got him out of the box with all possible dispatch.  Lawyers hold out that
there are two kinds of particularly bad witnesses: a reluctant witness,
and a too willing witness;" and most true it is.  Both commit themselves
in each case, but in different ways.  The matter of the former, and the
manner of the latter do the mischief.  The ideal witness affects
indifference, and is as impartial as the record of a phonograph.  It is
wonderful where Boz learned all this.  No doubt from his friend Talfourd,
K.C., who carefully revised "The Trial."

Skimpin's interpretation of Mr. Pickwick's consolatory phrase, which he
evidently devised on the spur of the moment, shows him to be a very
ready, smart fellow.

    'Now, Mr. Winkle, I have only one more question to ask you, and I beg
    you to bear in mind his Lordship's caution.  Will you undertake to
    swear that Pickwick, the Defendant, did not say on the occasion in
    question--"My dear Mrs. Bardell, you're a good creature; compose
    yourself to this situation, for to this situation you must come," or
    words to that effect?'

    'I--I didn't understand him so, certainly,' said Mr. Winkle,
    astounded at this ingenious dove-tailing of the few words he had
    heard.  'I was on the staircase, and couldn't hear distinctly; the
    impression on my mind is--'

    'The gentlemen of the jury want none of the impressions on your mind,
    Mr. Winkle, which I fear would be of little service to honest,
    straightforward men,' interposed Mr. Skimpin.  'You were on the
    staircase, and didn't distinctly hear; but you will swear that
    Pickwick _did not make use_ of the expressions I have quoted?  Do I
    understand that?'

    'No, I will not,' replied Mr. Winkle; and down sat Mr. Skimpin, with
    a triumphant countenance.

This "Will you swear he did _not_," etc., is a device familiar to cross
examiners, and is used when the witness cannot be got to accept the words
or admit that they were used.  It of course means little or nothing: but
its effect on the jury is that they come to fancy that the words _may_
have been used, and that the witness is not very clear as to his

How well described, too, and satirised, is yet another "common form" of
the cross examiner, to wit the "How often, Sir?" question.  Winkle, when
asked as to his knowledge of Mrs. Bardell, replied that "he did not know
her, but that he had seen her."  (I recall making this very answer to Boz
when we were both driving through Sackville Street, Dublin.  He had asked
"Did I know so-and-so?" when I promptly replied, "I don't know him, but I
have seen him."  This rather arrided him, as Elia would say.)

Skimpin went on:

    'Oh, you don't know her, but you have seen her.'

    'Now have the goodness to tell the gentlemen of the jury what you
    mean by _that_, Mr. Winkle.'

    'I mean that I am not intimate with her, but that I have seen her
    when I went to call on Mr. Pickwick, in Goswell Street.'

    'How often have you seen her, Sir?'

    'How often?'

    '_Yes_, _Mr. Winkle_, _how often_?  I'll repeat the question for you
    a dozen times, if you require it, Sir.'  And the learned gentlemen,
    with a firm and steady frown, placed his hands on his hips, and
    smiled suspiciously to the jury.

    _On this question there arose the edifying brow-beating_, _customary
    on such points_.  First of all, Mr. Winkle said it was quite
    impossible for him to say how many times he had seen Mrs. Bardell.
    Then he was asked if he had seen her twenty times, to which he
    replied, 'Certainly,--more than that.'  And then he was asked whether
    he hadn't seen her a hundred times--whether he couldn't swear that he
    had seen her more than fifty times--whether he didn't know that he
    had seen her at least seventy-five times, and so forth; the
    satisfactory conclusion which was arrived at, at last, being--that he
    had better take care of himself, and mind what he was about.  The
    witness having been, by these means, reduced to the requisite ebb of
    nervous perplexity, the examination was concluded.

How excellent is this.  Who has not heard the process repeated over and
over again from the young fledgeling Counsel to the old "hardbitten" and
experienced K.C.?

A young legal tyro might find profit as well as entertainment in
carefully studying others of Mr. Skimpin's adroit methods in cross
examination.  They are in a manner typical of those in favour with the
more experienced members of the profession, allowing, of course, for a
little humorous exaggeration.  He will note also that Boz shows clearly
how effective was the result of the processes.  Here are a few useful

_How to make a witness appear as though he wished to withhold the
truth_._  How to highly discredit a witness by an opening question_._
How to insinuate inaccuracy_._  How to suggest that the witness is
evading_._  How to deal with a statement of a particular number of
instances_._  How to take advantage of a witness' glances_._  How to
suggest another imputed meaning to a witness' statement and confuse him
into accepting it_.

Another happy and familiar form is Skimpin's interrogation of Winkle as
to his "friends"--

    'Are they here?'

    'Yes they are,' said Mr. Winkle, _looking very earnestly towards the
    spot where his friends were stationed_.

As every one attending courts knows, this is an almost intuitive movement
in a witness; he thinks it corroborates him somehow.

But how good Skimpin and how ready--

"'Pray attend to me, Mr. Winkle, and _never mind your friends_,' with
another expressive look at the jury; '_they must tell their stories
without any previous consultation with you_, if none has yet taken
place,' another expressive look.  'Now Sir, tell what you saw,' etc.
'_Come_, _out with it_, _sir_, _we must_ have it sooner or later.'"  The
assumption here that the witness would keep back what he knew is adroit
and very convincing.


But now we come to a very critical passage in Mr. Pickwick's case: one
that really destroyed any chance that he had.  It really settled the
matter with the jury; and the worst was, the point was brought out
through the inefficiency of his own counsel.

But let us hear the episode, and see how the foolish Phunky muddled it.

    Mr. Phunky rose for the purpose of getting something important out of
    Mr. Winkle in cross-examination.  Whether he did get anything
    important out of him, will immediately appear.

                          [Picture: Mr. Phunky]

    'I believe, Mr. Winkle,' said Mr. Phunky, 'that Mr. Pickwick is not a
    young man?'

    'Oh no,' replied Mr. Winkle, 'old enough to be my father.'

    'You have told my learned friend that you have known Mr. Pickwick a
    long time.  Had you ever any reason to suppose or believe that he was
    about to be married?'

    'Oh no; certainly not;' replied Mr. Winkle with so much eagerness,
    that Mr. Phunky ought to have got him out of the box with all
    possible dispatch.  Lawyers hold out that there are two kinds of
    particularly bad witnesses, a reluctant witness, and a too willing
    witness; it was Mr. Winkle's fate to figure in both characters.

    'I will even go further than this, Mr. Winkle,' continued Mr. Phunky,
    in a most smooth and complacent manner.  'Did you ever see any thing
    in Mr. Pickwick's manner and conduct towards the opposite sex to
    induce you to believe that he ever contemplated matrimony of late
    years, in any case?'

    'Oh no; certainly not,' replied Mr. Winkle.

    'Has his behaviour, when females have been in the case, always been
    that of a man, who having attained a pretty advanced period of life,
    content with his own occupations and amusements, treats them only as
    a father might his daughters?'

    'Not the least doubt of it,' replied Mr. Winkle, in the fulness of
    his heart.  'That is--yes--oh yes--certainly.'

    'You have never known anything in his behaviour towards Mrs. Bardell,
    or any other female, in the least degree suspicious?' said Mr.
    Phunky, preparing to sit down, for Serjeant Snubbin was winking at

    'N--n--no,' replied Mr. Winkle, 'except on one trifling occasion,
    which, I have no doubt, might be easily explained.'

    Now, if the unfortunate Mr. Phunky had sat down when Serjeant Snubbin
    winked at him, or if Serjeant Buzfuz had stopped this irregular
    cross-examination at the outset (which he knew better than to do, for
    observing Mr. Winkle's anxiety, and well knowing it would in all
    probability, lead to something serviceable to him), this unfortunate
    admission would not have been elicited.  The moment the words fell
    from Mr. Winkle's lips, Mr. Phunky sat down, and Serjeant Snubbin
    rather hastily told him he might leave the box, which Mr. Winkle
    prepared to do with great readiness, when Serjeant Buzfuz stopped

    'Stay, Mr. Winkle--stay,' said Serjeant Buzfuz, 'will your lordship
    have the goodness to ask him, what this one instance of suspicious
    behaviour towards females on the part of this gentlemen, who is old
    enough to be his father, was?'

    'You hear what the learned counsel says, Sir,' observed the Judge,
    turning to the miserable and agonized Mr. Winkle.  'Describe the
    occasion to which you refer.'

    'My lord,' said Mr. Winkle, trembling with anxiety, 'I--I'd rather

And Winkle had to relate the whole Ipswich adventure of the doublebedded
room and the spinster lady.

It is surprising that Dodson and Fogg did not ferret out all about Mr.
Pickwick's adventure at the Great White Horse.  Peter Magnus lived in
town and must have heard of the coming case; these things _do_ somehow
leak out, and he would have gladly volunteered the story, were it only to
spite the man.  But further, Dodson and Fogg must have made all sorts of
enquiries into Mr. Pickwick's doings.  Mrs. Bardell herself might have
heard something.  The story was certainly in the Ipswich papers, for
there was the riot in the street, the appearance before the mayor, the
exposure of "Captain FitzMarshall"--a notable business altogether.  What
a revelation in open court!  Conceive Miss Witherfield called to depose
to Mr. Pickwick's midnight invasion.  Mr. Pickwick himself might have
been called and put on the rack, this incident not concerning his breach
of promise.  And supposing that the ubiquitous Jingle had heard of this
business and had gone to the solicitor's office to volunteer evidence,
and most useful evidence it would have been--to wit that Mr. Pickwick had
been caught in the garden of a young ladies' school and had alarmed the
house by his attempts to gain admission in the small hours!  Jingle of
course, could not be permitted to testify to this, but he could put the
firm on the track.  Mr. Pickwick's reputation could hardly have survived
these two revelations, and sweeping damages to the full amount would have
been the certain result.

This extraordinary adventure of Mr. Pickwick's at the Great White Horse
Inn, Ipswich, verifies Dodson's casual remark to him, that "he was either
a very designing or a most unfortunate man," circumstances being so
strong against him.  As the story was brought out, in open court, owing
to the joint indiscretion of Phunky and Winkle, it will be best, in
justice to Mr. Pickwick, to give practically his account of the affair.

    'Nobody sleeps in the other bed, of course,' said Mr. Pickwick.

    'Oh no, sir.'

    'Very good.  Tell my servant to bring me up some hot water at
    half-past eight in the morning, and that I shall not want him any
    more to-night.'

    'Yes, sir.'

    And bidding Mr. Pickwick good-night, the chambermaid retired, and
    left him alone.

    Mr. Pickwick sat himself down in a chair before the fire, and fell
    into a train of rambling meditations.  First he thought of his
    friends, and wondered when they would join him; _then his mind
    reverted to Mrs. Martha Bardell_; and from that lady it wandered, by
    a natural process, to the dingy counting-house of Dodson and Fogg.
    From Dodson and Fogg's it flew off at tangent, to the very centre of
    the history of the queer client; and then it came back to the Great
    White Horse at Ipswich, with sufficient clearness to convince Mr.
    Pickwick that he was falling asleep: so he aroused himself, and began
    to undress, when he recollected he had left his watch on the table
    down stairs.  So as it was pretty late now, and he was unwilling to
    ring his bell at that hour of the night, he slipped on his coat, of
    which he had just divested himself, and taking the japanned
    candlestick in his hand, walked quietly down stairs.

    The more stairs Mr. Pickwick went down, the more stairs there seemed
    to be to descend, and again and again, when Mr. Pickwick got into
    some narrow passage, and began to congratulate himself on having
    gained the ground-floor, did another flight of stairs appear before
    his astonished eyes.  At last he reached a stone hall, which he
    remembered to have seen when he entered the house.  Passage after
    passage did he explore; room after room did he peep into; at length,
    just as he was on the point of giving up the search in despair, he
    opened the door of the identical room in which he had spent the
    evening, and beheld his missing property on the table.

    Mr. Pickwick seized the watch in triumph, and proceeded to retrace
    his steps to his bed-chamber.  If his progress downwards had been
    attended with difficulties and uncertainty, his journey back, was
    infinitely more perplexing.  Rows of doors, garnished with boots of
    every shape, make, and size, branched off in every possible
    direction.  A dozen times did he softly turn the handle of some
    bedroom door, which resembled his own, when a gruff cry from within
    of "Who the devil's that?" or "What do want here?" caused him to
    steal away on tiptoe, with a perfectly marvellous celerity.  He was
    reduced to the verge of despair, when an open door attracted his
    attention.  He peeped in--right at last.  There were the two beds,
    whose situation he perfectly remembered, and the fire still burning.
    His candle, not a long one when he first received it, had flickered
    away in the drafts of air through which he had passed, and sunk into
    the socket, just as he had closed the door after him.  'No matter,'
    said Mr. Pickwick, 'I can undress myself just as well by the light of
    the fire.'

    The bedsteads stood, one each side of the door; and on the inner side
    of each, was a little path, terminating in a rush-bottomed chair,
    just wide enough to admit of a person's getting into, or out of bed,
    on that side if he or she thought proper.  Having carefully drawn the
    curtains of his bed on the outside, Mr. Pickwick sat down on the
    rush-bottomed chair, and leisurely divested himself of his shoes and
    gaiters.  He then took off and folded up, his coat, waistcoat, and
    neck-cloth, and slowly drawing on his tasseled night-cap, secured it
    firmly on his head, by tying beneath his chin, the strings which he
    always had attached to that article of dress.  It was at this moment
    that the absurdity of his recent bewilderment struck upon his mind;
    and throwing himself back in the rush-bottomed chair, Mr. Pickwick
    laughed to himself so heartily, that it would have been quite
    delightful to any man of well-constituted mind to have watched the
    smiles which expanded his amiable features, as they shone forth, from
    beneath the night-cap.

    'It is the best idea,' said Mr. Pickwick to himself, smiling till he
    almost cracked the night-cap strings--'It is the best idea, my losing
    myself in this place, and wandering about those staircases, that I
    ever heard of.  Droll, droll, very droll.'  Here Mr. Pickwick smiled
    again, a broader smile than before, and was about to continue the
    process of undressing, in the best possible humour, when he was
    suddenly stopped by a most unexpected interruption; to wit, the
    entrance into the room of some person with a candle, who, after
    locking the door, advanced to the dressing table, and set down the
    light upon it.

    The smile that played upon Mr. Pickwick's features, was
    instantaneously lost in a look of the most unbounded and
    wonder-stricken surprise.  The person, whoever it was, had come so
    suddenly and with so little noise, that Mr. Pickwick had had no time
    to call out, or oppose their entrance.  Who could it be?  A robber?
    Some evil-minded person who had seen him come upstairs with a
    handsome watch in his hand, perhaps.  What was he to do!

    The only way in which Mr. Pickwick could catch a glimpse of his
    mysterious visitor with the least danger of being seen himself, was
    by creeping on to the bed, and peeping out from between the curtains
    on the opposite side.  Keeping the curtains carefully closed with his
    hand, so that nothing more of him could be seen than his face and
    nightcap, and putting on his spectacles, he mustered up courage, and
    looked out.

    Mr. Pickwick almost fainted with horror and dismay.  Standing before
    the dressing glass, was a middle-aged lady in yellow curl-papers,
    busily engaged in brushing what ladies call their "back hair."
    However the unconscious middle-aged lady came into that room, it was
    quite clear that she contemplated remaining there for the night; for
    she had brought a rushlight and shade with her, which with
    praiseworthy precaution against fire, she had stationed in a basin on
    the floor, where it was glimmering away, like a gigantic lighthouse,
    in a particularly small piece of water.

    'Bless my soul,' thought Mr. Pickwick, 'what a dreadful thing!'

    'Hem!' said the lady; and in went Mr. Pickwick's head with
    automaton-like rapidity.

    'I never met with anything so awful as this,'--thought poor Mr.
    Pickwick, the cold perspiration starting in drops upon his nightcap.
    'Never.  This is fearful.'

    It was quite impossible to resist the urgent desire to see what was
    going forward.  So out went Mr. Pickwick's head again.  The prospect
    was worse than before.  The middle-aged lady had finished arranging
    her hair; had carefully enveloped it, in a muslin nightcap with a
    small plaited border, and was gazing pensively on the fire.

    'This matter is growing alarming'--reasoned Mr. Pickwick with
    himself.  'I can't allow things to go on in this way.  By the
    self-possession of that lady, it's clear to me that I must have come
    into the wrong room.  If I call out, she'll alarm the house, but if I
    remain here, the consequences will be still more frightful.'

        [Picture: The Double Bedded Room, Great White Horse, Ipswich]

    Mr. Pickwick, it is quite unnecessary to say, was one of the most
    modest and delicate-minded of mortals.  The very idea of exhibiting
    his nightcap to a lady, overpowered him, but he had tied those
    confounded strings in a knot, and do what he would, he couldn't get
    it off.  The disclosure must be made.  There was only one other way
    of doing it.  He shrunk behind the curtains, and called out very


    That the lady started at this unexpected sound was evident, by her
    falling up against the rushlight shade; that she persuaded herself it
    must have been the effect of imagination was equally clear, for when
    Mr. Pickwick, under the impression that she had fainted away,
    stone-dead from fright, ventured to peep out again, she was gazing
    pensively on the fire as before.

    'Most extraordinary female this,' thought Mr. Pickwick, popping in
    again.  'Ha--hum.'

    These last sounds, so like those in which, as legends inform us, the
    ferocious giant Blunderbore was in the habit of expressing his
    opinion that it was time to lay the cloth, were too distinctly
    audible, to be again mistaken for the workings of fancy.

    'Gracious Heaven!' said the middle-aged lady, 'what's that!'

    'It's--it's--only a gentleman, Ma'am,' said Mr. Pickwick from behind
    the curtains.

    'A gentleman!' said the lady with a terrific scream.

    'It's all over,' thought Mr. Pickwick.

    'A strange man,' shrieked the lady.  Another instant and the house
    would be alarmed.  Her garments rustled as she rushed towards the

    'Ma'am,'--said Mr. Pickwick, thrusting out his head, in the extremity
    of desperation, 'Ma'am.'

    Now although Mr. Pickwick was not actuated by any definite object in
    putting out his head, it was instantaneously productive of a good
    effect.  The lady, as we have alreaded stated, was near the door.
    She must pass it, to reach the staircase, and she would most
    undoubtedly have done so by this time, had not the sudden apparition
    of Mr. Pickwick's nightcap driven her back, into the remotest corner
    of the apartment, where she stood, staring wildly at Mr. Pickwick,
    while Mr. Pickwick, in his turn, stared wildly at her.

    'Wretch,'--said the lady, covering her eyes with her hands, 'what do
    you want here.'

    'Nothing, Ma'am--nothing whatever, Ma'am,' said Mr. Pickwick,

    'Nothing!' said the lady, looking up.

    'Nothing, Ma'am, upon my honour,' said Mr. Pickwick, nodding his head
    so energetically, that the tassel of his nightcap danced again.  'I
    am almost ready to sink, Ma'am, beneath the confusion of addressing a
    lady in my nightcap (here the lady hastily snatched off her's), but I
    can't get it off, Ma'am (here Mr. Pickwick gave it a tremendous tug
    in proof of the statment).  It is evident to me, Ma'am, now, that I
    have mistaken this bedroom for my own.  I had not been here five
    minutes, Ma'am, when you suddenly entered it.'

    'If this improbable story be really true, Sir,'--said the lady,
    sobbing violently, 'you will leave it instantly.'

    'I will, Ma'am, with the greatest pleasure,' replied Mr. Pickwick.

    'Instantly, Sir,' said the lady.

    'Certainly, Ma'am,' interposed Mr. Pickwick very quickly.
    'Certainly, Ma'am.  I--I--am very sorry, Ma'am,' said Mr. Pickwick,
    making his appearance at the bottom of the bed, 'to have been the
    innocent occasion of this alarm and emotion; deeply sorry Ma'am.'

    The lady pointed to the door.  One excellent quality of Mr.
    Pickwick's character was beautifully displayed at this moment, under
    the most trying circumstances.  Although he had hastily put on his
    hat over his night cap, after the manner of the old patrol; although
    he carried his shoes and gaiters in his hand, and his coat and
    waistcoat over his arm, nothing could subdue his native politeness.

    'I am exceedingly sorry, Ma'am,' said Mr. Pickwick, bowing very low.

    'If you are, Sir, you will at once leave the room,' said the lady.

    'Immediately, Ma'am; this instant, Ma'am,' said Mr. Pickwick, opening
    the door, and dropping both his shoes with a loud crash in so doing.

    'I trust Ma'am,' resumed Mr. Pickwick, gathering up his shoes, and
    turning round to bow again, 'I trust, Ma'am, that my unblemished
    character, and the devoted respect I entertain for your sex, will
    plead as some slight excuse for this'--But before Mr. Pickwick could
    conclude the sentence, the lady had thrust him into the passage, and
    locked and bolted the door behind him.

    Whatever grounds of self-congratulation Mr. Pickwick might have, for
    having escaped so quietly from his late awkward situation, his
    present position was by no means enviable.  He was alone, in an open
    passage, in a strange house, in the middle of the night, half
    dressed; it was not to be supposed that he could find his way in
    perfect darkness to a room which he had been wholly unable to
    discover with a light, and if he made the slightest noise in his
    fruitless attempts to do so, he stood every chance of being shot at,
    and perhaps killed, by some wakeful traveller.  He had no resource
    but to remain where he was, until daylight appeared.  So after
    groping his way a few paces down the passage, and to his infinite
    alarm, stumbling over several pairs of boots in so doing, Mr.
    Pickwick crouched into a little recess in the wall, to wait for
    morning, as philosophically as he might.

    He was not destined, however, to undergo this additional trial of
    patience: for he had not been long ensconced in his present
    concealment when, to his unspeakable horror, a man, bearing a light,
    appeared at the end of the passage.  His horror was suddenly
    converted into joy, however, when he recognized the form of his
    faithful attendant.  It was indeed Mr. Samuel Weller, who after
    sitting up thus late, in conversation with the Boots, who was sitting
    up for the mail, was now about to retire to rest.

Imagine this story told by Miss Witherfield in open court, with all its
details, the lady's narrative being coloured by the recollection that she
had lost a suitable husband owing to her adventure.  Mr. Peter Magnus
would have deposed to Mr. Pickwick's extraordinary interest in the matter
of the proposal, and have added his suspicions on recalling Mr.
Pickwick's ambiguous declaration that he had come down to expose a
certain person--even one of his own sympathetic friends, who had
witnessed the scene with Mrs. Bardell, and recalled the Boarding House
incident, might murmur, "How odd that he is ever thus in pursuit of the
fair under suspicious circumstances? _could_ it be that after all?--What
if he had some previous knowledge of the lady, and secretly admired her,
and stung to fury at the notion of Mr. Peter Magnus marrying, had taken
this strange mode of declaring his passion?"  Even the sagacious Sam,
devoted as he was to his master, was taken aback on meeting him in his
midnight wanderings.

    'Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, suddenly appearing before him, 'Where's my

    Mr. Weller stared at his master with the most emphatic surprise; and
    it was not until the question had been repeated three several times,
    that he turned round, and led the way to the long-sought apartment.

    'Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, as he got into bed, 'I have made one of the
    most extraordinary mistakes to-night, that ever were heard of.'

    'Werry likely, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller, drily.

    'But of this I am determined, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'that if I
    were to stop in this house for six months, I would never trust myself
    about it alone, again.'

    'That's the wery prudentest resolution as you could come to, Sir,'
    replied Mr. Weller.  'You rayther want somebody to look arter you,
    Sir, ven your judgment goes out a wisitin'.'

    'What do you mean by that, Sam?' said Mr. Pickwick.  He raised
    himself in bed, and extended his hand, as if he were about to say
    something more; but suddenly checking himself, turned round, and bade
    his valet 'Good night.'

    'Good night, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller.  He paused when he got outside
    the door--shook his head--walked on--stopped--snuffed the
    candle--shook his head again--and finally proceeded slowly to his
    chamber, apparently buried in the profoundest meditation.

It will be seen that Sam went near to being disrespectful in his
sceptical view of his master's story.

When Mrs. Sanders was examined, "the Court" put a few questions to her,
as to the customs of love-making among persons of her position.  She had
"received love letters, like other ladies.  In the course of their
correspondence Mr. Sanders had often called her a 'duck' but never
'chops' or 'tomato sauce.'  He was particularly fond of ducks.  Perhaps
if he had been as fond of chops and tomato sauce, he might have called
her that, as a term of affection."

Mrs. Sanders was clearly one of the same class as Mrs. Cluppins, and
chiefly deposed to the general impression in the neighbourhood that Mr.
Pickwick had "offered" for Mrs. Bardell.  Tupman, Snodgrass and Sam were
also examined.  Being friends of the defendant, they were from the outset
assumed to be "hostile" and treated accordingly.  It may be doubted,
however, whether it is permissible to treat "your own witnesses" in this
rough fashion, until at least they have shown some overt signs of their
hostility, either by reserve, or an obvious determination to let as
little as possible be extracted from them.  In such case, it is usual to
apply to the court for its sanction to deal with them by the severity of
cross examination.

When Sam entered the witness box, the Serjeant addressed him: "I believe
you are in the service of Mr. Pickwick, the Defendant in this case.
_Speak up_, _if you please_, _Mr. Weller_."  Sam had not had time to say
anything, so the admonition might seem superfluous.  But this is a
well-known device.  Sam had been "briefed" to the Serjeant as a rather
dangerous witness--somewhat too wide awake.  It was necessary therefore
to be short and summary with him.  He thus conveyed to the jury that this
Sam was one whom he could address in this curt way, and who by his low,
uncertain accents might try to hide the truth.  Sam, however,
disconcerted the plan by his prompt, ready answer, "I _mean_ to speak up,
sir."  Sam, as we know, clearly brought out the Dodson and Fogg's
damaging assurance to Mrs. Bardell, that no costs should be charged to
her personally.

When the Plaintiff's case was closed, things did not look particularly
bright for Mr. Pickwick.  It had been shown on the evidence of his own
friends that he had been surprised with his landlady in his arms; (2)
That he had been corresponding with her on most familiar terms--at least
Serjeant Buzfuz had made it appear so; (3) Language that _almost_
amounted to a proposal had been overheard; (4) And finally, it had been
revealed that the Defendant had been "caught" in a lady's bedroom, at an
Inn, at midnight!  To answer which a "strong" case was absolutely
essential.  This, we grieve to say, was not forthcoming.


When we listen to the defence set up for Mr. Pickwick we have to lament
that that worthy gentleman was not better served by his legal advisers.

On the other side the shrewd Dodson and Fogg had done admirably for their
client.  They were sharp clever attornies, having a thundering,
overpowering leader, and a smart, exceedingly smart junior, one of those
"wide-awake" brisk fellows who really conduct the case, and will "take
silk" in a few years.  This gentleman could cross-examine in capital
style and address the jury in a language of his own, by glances, shrugs,
and remarks addressed to a witness, but intended for the jury, as they
knew perfectly well.  His style, bearing, and speeches form an admirable
epitome of the arts and devices of a smart counsel.  There are "common"
forms and Skimpin had them at his fingers' ends.  As we listen, we feel
how admirably directed they were to work on the jury.

Perker's plan of campaign as announced to Mr. Pickwick, was a poor one
enough, and showed how desperate he thought the case was.  "We have only
one (course) to adopt, my dear sir," he said, "cross-examine the
witnesses: trust to Snubbin's eloquence, throw dust in the eyes of the
judge, and ourselves on the jury."  Brave words, but nothing of the
programme was carried out.  The cross-examination of the witnesses was
but tamely attempted.  Snubbin's eloquence was not displayed beyond
mildly praising his client's good character.  As for "throwing dust in
the eyes of judge," we have seen Mr. Justice Stareleigh was much too wide
awake for that; while the throwing themselves on the jury was disastrous.
There were several other lines of defence which a more up-to-date
solicitor would not have overlooked.  A less scrupulous man would have
made searching enquiries into Mrs. Bardell's history and character; but
his client, perhaps, would not have sanctioned this course.

Perker is even absurd enough to talk of a _casa_, as though it were some
Italian word.

A _ca sa_ was short for a writ of _Capias ad Satisfaciendum_, which gave
a warrant to the officers to seize the goods.  There were various kinds
of this machinery, but what affected Mr. Pickwick was a _Capias ad
Satisfaciendum_, to enforce attendance at the Court.  The _ca sa_ also
came after judgment, giving authority to imprison the defendant till the
claim was satisfied.

The appearance of such great guns as the two Serjeants is accounted for
by a curious rule that Serjeants only were permitted to lead in cases
read in the Court of Common Pleas. {84}  This strange monopoly recalls
that other one, in the Court of Arches, where the advocates and judges
used to exchange places and decide on cases in which perhaps they had
been advocates.  These illiberal and unaccountable restrictions have been
swept away, with the Courts themselves.

Very unusual indeed at this time was the appearance of a lawyer of
Serjeant Snubbin's class in court, and there is a well-known story how,
when Charles Butler made his appearance on a special occasion, all the
Bar crowded in to hear him, and he had, I think, to get a gown for the

One is sorry to think that there are no Serjeants now, though at the
Irish Bar there is one solitary survivor--Serjeant Hemphill.  Gone too,
are their "coifs" and other paraphernalia.  With the abolition of the
separate courts they were found superfluous.  We like to hear of Serjeant
Parry, Serjeant Ballantine, Serjeants Warren and Talford, all four
literary men. {85}

Having made this initial blunder, Perker did not even instruct a good,
smart and ready junior, but chose instead the incapable Phunky who really
brought out that fatal piece of evidence from Winkle, which "did for" his
case altogether.  He had no business, as Boz tells us.

This junior, we are told, had been just called, that is to say, he had
been only eight years at the Bar.  Snubbin had never heard of him.  The
little judge, in court, also said "that he never had the pleasure of
hearing the gentleman's name before," a sneer he would not have ventured
on to a counsel in good practice.  Snubbin's remark is amusing and
sarcastic; but now-a-days any barrister who had been at the Bar eight
years would not be considered as just called, for if he has been passed
over for that time, he is likely never to make a figure.  The rude and
unbecoming sneers, both of Snubbin and the little Judge, seem amazing in
our present code of legal manners.  Everything at that time, however, was
much more "in the rough" and coarser.  This was his first case; and the
poor creature is thus described:

    Although an infant barrister, he was a full-grown man.  He had a very
    nervous manner, and a painful hesitation in his speech; it did not
    appear to be a natural defect, but seemed rather the result of
    timidity, arising from the consciousness of being "kept down" by want
    of means, or interest, or connection, or impudence, as the case might
    be.  He was overawed by the Serjeant, and profoundly courteous to the

    'I have not had the pleasure of seeing you before, Mr. Phunky,' said
    Serjeant Snubbin, with haughty condescension.

    Mr. Phunky bowed.  He _had_ had the pleasure of seeing the Serjeant,
    and of envying him too, with all a poor man's envy, for eight years
    and a quarter.

    'You are with me in this case, I understand?' said the Serjeant.

    If Mr. Phunky had been a rich man, he would have instantly sent for
    his clerk to remind him; if he had been a wise one, he would have
    applied his fore-finger to his forehead, and endeavoured to
    recollect, whether, in the multiplicity of his engagements he had
    undertaken this one, or not; but as he was neither rich nor wise (in
    this sense at all events) he turned red, and bowed.

    'Have you read the papers, Mr. Phunky?' inquired the Serjeant.

    Here again, Mr. Phunky should have professed to have forgotten all
    about the merits of the case; but as he had read such papers as had
    been laid before him in the course of the action, and had thought of
    nothing else, waking or sleeping, throughout the two months during
    which he had been retained as Mr. Serjeant Snubbin's junior, he
    turned a deeper red, and bowed again.

    'This is Mr. Pickwick,' said the Serjeant, waving his pen in the
    direction in which that gentleman was standing.

    Mr. Phunky bowed to Mr. Pickwick with a reverence which a first
    client must ever awaken; and again inclined his head towards his

    'Perhaps you will take Mr. Pickwick away,' said the Serjeant,
    'and--and--and--hear anything Mr. Pickwick may wish to communicate.
    We shall have a consultation, of course.'  With this hint that he had
    been interrupted quite long enough, Mr. Serjeant Snubbin, who had
    been gradually growing more and more abstracted, applied his glass to
    his eyes for an instant, bowed slightly round, and was once more
    deeply immersed in the case before him: which arose out of an
    interminable law suit, originating in the act of an individual,
    deceased a century or so ago, who had stopped up a pathway leading
    from some place which nobody ever came from, to some other place
    which nobody ever went to.

With such a pair the case was literally given away.  Perker should have
secured a man like the present Mr. Gill or Mr. Charles Matthews--they
might have "broken down" the witnesses, or laughed the case out of court.

We may speculate--why did Perker make this foolish selection?  As to
Snubbin there was some excuse, as it was the custom that Serjeants only
should lead in the Court of Common Pleas.  But for the choice of Phunky,
Perker's stupidity alone was responsible.

Under these conditions Serjeant Snubbin's conduct of the case and his
"handling" of the witnesses was truly inefficient.  He lost every
opportunity for helping his client.  He "led" in a quiet, gentlemanly and
almost indifferent way.  His first opportunity came in examining Mrs.
Cluppins.  As we have seen, she had deposed to hearing, when the door was
"on the jar," Mr. Pickwick make those speeches which Mrs. Bardell had
taken to be a proposal.  Now here was the moment to show the ambiguity
and that Mr. Pickwick was speaking of his servant.  It might have been
brought out that Sam was actually engaged that day, and that she had met
him on the stairs, etc.  But Snubbin declined to ask her a single
question, saying that Mr. Pickwick admitted the accuracy of her
statement.  But this was beside the matter, and the Serjeant need not
have impeached her accuracy.

When Phunky came to Winkle, the inexperience of the tyro was shown at
once.  Again, here was the moment to have extracted from the witness a
full explanation of Mr. Pickwick's ambiguous speeches to Mrs. Bardell.
He could have "brought out" as "clear as the light of day" that Mr.
Pickwick was speaking of his engagement of a valet and have shown that
the valet was to be engaged that very morning.  It would have been
impossible to resist such an explanation.  But the thing was not thought
of.  From him also could have been drawn a vast deal favourable to Mr.
Pickwick such as his disgust and annoyance at Mrs. Bardell's behaviour,
his wish to be rid of her, his complaints of her conduct.  But no, there
was only the foolish question as to Mr. Pickwick's being an elderly man
and of fatherly ways, a topic that would by no means negative the
presumption of matrimony.  But nothing could excuse the rashness of
putting a general question as to "Mr. Pickwick's behaviour towards
females."  No adroit counsel would run the risk of encountering a too
conscientious witness, such as Winkle proved to be and who would "let the
cat out of the bag."

As we have seen, this awkward question settled Mr. Pickwick's business.
Snubbin had held him out as an elderly but benevolent being, treating
every female he met as a daughter, never dreaming of matrimony: when lo!
the whole fabric is overthrown in an instant by the luckless Winkle's

    Amid the profound silence of the whole court Mr. Winkle faltered out
    that the trifling circumstance of suspicion was Mr. Pickwick's being
    found in a lady's sleeping apartment at midnight, which had
    terminated, _he believed_, in breaking off the projected marriage of
    the lady, and had led, _he knew_, to the whole party being forcibly
    carried before a magistrate.

Thus was the defendant suddenly revealed as a Pecksniffian Lothario, and
his pretence of philanthrophy after was shewn in its true colours.  It
was impossible not to associate this with the scene with Mrs. Bardell.

But there was an important legal "point" which one might have expected
would have occurred to so eminent a Chamber Counsel as Serjeant Snubbin.
To prove a breach of the promise, it must always be shown that the
defendant had been given an opportunity of officially refusing to fulfil
it.  It should have been put to him "in black and white," "Will you marry
me?" and he must have answered "No, I will not," or something to that
effect.  In default of this the defendant might plead "True I gave the
promise and it stands unbroken, for you never required me to act upon
it."  Now in Mr. Pickwick's case this actually occurred.  As we have seen
he left town the morning after the imputed proposal and while he was
away, within a month, the notice of action was sent to him.  Up to that
time he had not heard a word of Dodson and Fogg, or of legal proceedings.
But it may be urged that Mrs. Bardell herself may have written,
formulating her demands.  That this was not the case is evident from Mr.
Pickwick's behaviour; he did not dream of such a thing, or he would have
been disturbed by it, or have consulted his friends about it.  Had it
been so, his high opinion of Mrs. Bardell would have been shattered.  For
did he not say on seeing Dodson and Fogg's letter, "She couldn't do it,
she hasn't the heart to do it."  The only thing that makes against this
theory is his reply to Peter Magnus who asked him "had he ever proposed?"
when he answered vehemently "Never," possibly recalling Mrs. Bardell.
She may however have written to him a pleading letter reminding him of
what he had said to her, declaring her deep-seated affection for him and
inviting him to carry out what he had offered.  Mr. Pickwick would have
replied in one of his amiable letters, couched in rather general terms,
perhaps calling her "my dear creature," but putting aside the whole
business: and there the matter probably dropped for a time.  I have
little doubt the good woman up to the last really believed that her
elderly lodger intended to make her an offer of his hand, and that on his
return from his travels he would resume the business.  Much elated by
this prospect, and most naturally too, she had told all her friends and
neighbours of her approaching advancement.  This Mrs. Sanders specially
deposed to: "had always said and believed that Pickwick would marry Mrs.
Bardell; knew that Mrs. Bardell being engaged to Pickwick was the current
topic of conversation in the neighbourhood, after the fainting in July;
had been told it herself by Mrs. Mudberry which kept a mangle, and Mrs.
Bunkin which clear-starched, but did not see either Mrs. Mudberry or Mrs.
Bunkin in court."

Notwithstanding these speculations, it still does not appear that
Pickwick made such a legal and official refusal to execute his promise as
would be sufficient to support the statement of what is now called "the
summons and plaint," to wit, that the plaintiff being able and willing
"to marry the defendant the defendant refused, etc."

There is another matter on which hands of skilful counsel might have
affected Mrs. Bardell and which my friend Mr. Burnand ("F. C. B.") was
the first to push home.  At the trial, Mrs. Saunders cross-examined by
Serjeant Snubbin, had to admit that her friend had an admirer--a certain
Baker in the neighbourhood--who was supposed to have matrimonial designs.
Pressed on this matter she thus deposed: "Had heard Pickwick ask the
little boy how he should like to have another father.  Did not know that
Mrs. Bardell was at that time keeping company with the baker, but did
know that the baker was then a single man, and is now married.  Couldn't
swear that Mrs. Bardell was not very fond of the baker, but should think
that the baker was not very fond of Mrs. Bardell, or he wouldn't have
married somebody else.  Thought Mrs. Bardell fainted away on the morning
in July, because Pickwick asked her to name the day; knew that she
(witness) fainted away stone dead when Mr. Saunders asked _her_ to name
the day, and believed that everybody as called herself a lady would do
the same, under similar circumstances.  Heard Pickwick ask the boy the
question about the marbles, but upon her oath did not know the difference
between an alley tor and a commoney.

By the COURT.--During the period of her keeping company with Mr. Sanders,
had received love letters, like other ladies.  In course of their
correspondence Mr. Sanders had often called her a 'duck,' but never
'chops,' nor yet 'tomata sauce.'  He was particularly fond of ducks.
Perhaps if he had been as fond of chops and tomata sauce, he might have
called her that, as a term of affection.

What a point, too, Serjeant Snubbin missed here!  Could he not have
quoted the old verses.  How he would have convulsed the court as he
poured out the apropos "for Tommy and Me!"

    Pat-a-cake, Pat-a-cake, baker's man,
       Bake me a cake as quick as you can;
    Knead it and bake it as fast as can be,
       And put in the oven for Tommy and me.

Now we do not find that the Serjeant made any use of this topic in his
speech.  He might have surely urged that this "wily and experienced
widow" was eager for a husband, that having been "thrown over" by her
baker and stung by the mortification, she resolved, as it were, to
rehabilitate herself and prepare this "plant" for her unsuspecting
lodger.  As Sir Henry Irving says in the play, "I don't like widows;
_they know too much_."  F. C. B., as I have said, has treated this baker
theme and developed it regularly in his amusing operetta "Pickwick."

The little epitome given of Snubbin's speech shows how weak were his
topics, and that he, in fact, considered that there was no defence.

    Serjeant Snubbin then addressed the jury on behalf of the defendant;
    and a very long and a very emphatic address he delivered, in which he
    bestowed the highest possible eulogiums on the conduct and character
    of Mr. Pickwick.  He attempted to show that the letters which had
    been exhibited, merely related to Mr. Pickwick's dinner, or to the
    preparations for receiving him in his apartments on his return from
    some country excursion.  It is sufficient to add in general terms,
    that he did the best he could for Mr. Pickwick; and the best, as
    everybody knows on the infallible authority of the old adage, could
    do no more.

This was no more than speaking "in mitigation of damages."

Mr. Phunky made no speech, which was just as well, as he might have but
damaged the case, as no witnesses had been called on his side.  For the
same reason, the Court had not the pleasure of hearing Skimpin, who would
no doubt have "torn the Defendant's case to tatters."


The regular formula is this.  The judge begins to read his notes, and
makes "running comments" as he goes along.  "We have first, gentlemen,
the statement of Mrs. Cluppins, she tells you, &c.  Of course she comes
as the friend of the Plaintiff, and naturally takes a favourable view of
her case.  If you are satisfied with her statement, it is for you,
gentlemen, to consider what value you will attach to it.  Then we come to
the question of damages.  This is entirely a matter for you.  You must
take into account the position in life of the Defendant, and what the
Plaintiff has lost by his default.  On the other hand they must be
reasonable in amount.  If you believe the promise has been clearly
established, you should give substantial though not excessive damages, on
a scale sufficient to repay the Plaintiff for the wrong.  On the other
hand--should it seem to you doubtful whether the promise had been
made--you will give the Defendant the benefit of the doubt.  These are
questions entirely for you--not for me.  On the whole case, you will ask
yourselves, whether a promise such as would satisfy reasonable men, has
been supported by sufficient evidence.  If so, Plaintiff is entitled to
damages--on the other hand, if this is not proved to your satisfaction,
you will find for the Defendant."

Mr. Justice Stareleigh, however, as we are told, then "summed up in his
old established and most approved form.  He read as much of his notes as
he could decypher on so short a notice, and made running comments on the
evidence as he went along.  If Mrs. Bardell were right, it was perfectly
clear that Mr. Pickwick was wrong, and if they thought the evidence of
Mrs. Cluppins worthy of credence, they would believe it, and if they
didn't, why they would'nt.  If they were satisfied that a breach of
promise had been committed, they would find for the Plaintiff, with such
damages as they thought proper; and if, on the other hand, it appeared to
them that no promise of marriage had ever been given, they would find for
the Defendant, with no damages at all."  Such was this lucid
direction--which is really, not in the least, an exaggeration.

But I could fancy some acute judge of our time--such as Mr. Justice Day
or Mr. Justice Bigham--after trying this case, turning round in his seat
to "charge" the jury.  "Here, gentlemen," he would tell them, "we have it
claimed on one side that a promise of marriage was made--and broken; on
the other hand the Defendant denies having ever given such a promise.
The question you will have to deal with is: What was this promise, and
when was it given?  In other words, _when_ did the Defendant propose to
the lady.  On the part of the Plaintiff, this was said to have been done
at the interview in Goswell Street, and two friends of the
Plaintiff--Mrs. Cluppins, I think"--turning over his notes--"yes,
Cluppins, and Sanders both declare positively that they overheard the
language of the proposal.  Further, Mr. Pickwick's friends are called, to
prove that the lady was in his arms, fainting.  It is extraordinary that
not one of these three gentlemen should have deposed to any statements or
have offered explanations of the situation.  One witness indeed says that
he heard the Defendant remonstrate with the Plaintiff, on her hysterical
behaviour, and ask her to consider that if any one should come in, what
would be said.  Now, this is not the language of an ardent suitor, who
would rather wish than otherwise, that such endearing familiarities
should continue: though I don't think you need seriously accept the
reading the learned Counsel, Mr. Skimpin, put on the phrase used; on the
other hand, the words 'my dear creature,' were distinctly heard.

"There is one little incident," the Judge might go on, "which I must not
pass by, and which is not without its significance.  A witness deposed
that the defendant was noted for his kindness to the Plaintiff's little
boy--that he was constantly giving him presents, and once was heard to
say to him, patting him on the head, '_how would you like to have another
father_?'  Now, this addressed to a child of tender years does seem an
odd sort of speech.  Of course, it will be contended that the reference
was to the probability of his Mother marrying some one other than the
Defendant: if that be the case, it seems to me rather an indelicate and
reckless speech.  And then it must be said, it seems inconsistent with
the amiable and benevolent character given to the Defendant to-day.  On
the other hand, if he were referring to _himself_ it will appear natural
and proper enough.  And there is this to be added, that when the child
had reported the remark to his mother, which of course he did, she would
most reasonably begin to found hopes upon it.  And then what follows,
Gentlemen?--the Defendant is found holding this lady in his arms, and
becomes so demonstrative in his attentions that this very child comes to
her rescue.  I am inexperienced in these things--they may be innocent and
done with the purest intentions, or may not; but you, Gentlemen of the
Jury, are men of the world: and it is for you to put the proper
construction on them."

"You will have noted, Gentlemen, this curious feature of the case.  None
of the witnesses were in the room when the imputed proposal was made, yet
all, Cluppins, Weller, and the Defendant's three friends, _heard_ what
the Defendant said.  This suggests that he must have been very pressing,
if not agitated.  One of the witnesses, Winkle, I think, yes, Winkle,
actually deposes to hearing the words, 'My dear creature!  Compose
yourself' and the like.  He added he was afraid someone might come in; a
very reasonable fear, Gentlemen, and well grounded: for several persons
_did_ come in and it would seem with awkward results for the Defendant.
But, Gentlemen, I confess that what most of all weighs with me in this
case is the remarkable avowal wrung from a reluctant witness, of the
Defendant's being surprised at midnight in a lady's bed-chamber, and
being taken, after a serious riot, before the Magistrates.  This came on
me, as I saw it did on you all, as a surprise.  True, it does not bear on
the question of a promise or of the breach.  But still it seems a matter
which you cannot wholly shut out from your consideration.  It startled me
as it did you, to find a sort of travelling philanthropist, as the
Defendant Pickwick holds himself out to be, on whose mildly benevolent
features nature seems to have stamped rectitude and high principle,
living a life of hypocrisy, taking part in midnight invasions and
daylight riots.  It is one of his own friends who tells us this sad
story: and it is for you to consider whether the Plaintiff was here also
in pursuit of yet another disreputable game, holding out marriage as the
bait: I seem to speak strongly, but I feel it would be impossible to
withdraw this from your consideration.

"You may reasonably ask yourselves of what Pickwick was afraid--or why
did he dread the presence of witnesses?  Was he simply beguiling the
lady, as he attempted to beguile that lady at Ipswich, without 'meaning
business,' as the phrase runs.  I must say the Plaintiff had rather
reasonable grounds for assuming that the Defendant _did_ mean business.
But all this is for you, Gentlemen, not for me.

"Then we have the man Weller's statement--a sort of humorous stage
servant, not unamusing--and of course entirely devoted to his master's
interest.  I don't think you need attach any importance to what he said
of the solicitors for the Plaintiff.  When I was at the Bar, Gentlemen,
attornies did much worse things than this."

The jury consulted for only a few minutes.  Perhaps, however, they were
only discussing the amount of damages.  They were certainly
moderate--laid at 1500 pounds--though had Dodson and Fogg's advice
prevailed, it should have been double.  This only, by the way, is further
proof of the amiable Mrs. Bardell's moderation and secret _tendre_ for
her genial lodger.  Considering that Mr. Pickwick was 'a gentleman,' and
further a gentleman of means, and that Mrs. Bardell was but an humble
lodging-house keeper, the sum seems hardly commensurate.  Dodson and Fogg
no doubt expected 1,000 pounds.

    An anxious quarter of an hour elapsed; the jury came back; the judge
    was fetched in.  Mr. Pickwick put on his spectacles, and gazed at the
    foreman with an agitated countenance and a quickly beating heart.

    'Gentlemen,' said the individual in black, 'are you all agreed upon
    your verdict?'

    'We are,' replied the foreman.

    'Do you find for the plaintiff, gentlemen, or for the defendant?'

    'For the plaintiff.'

    'With what damages, gentlemen?'

    'Seven hundred and fifty pounds.'

    Mr. Pickwick took off his spectacles, carefully wiped the glasses,
    folded them into their case, and put them in his pocket; then having
    drawn on his gloves with great nicety, and stared at the foreman all
    the while, he mechanically followed Mr. Perker and the blue bag out
    of court.

    They stopped in a side room while Perker paid the court fees; and
    here, Mr. Pickwick was joined by his friends.  Here, too, he
    encountered Messrs. Dodson and Fogg, rubbing their hands with every
    token of outward satisfaction.

    'Well, gentlemen,' said Mr. Pickwick.

    'Well, sir,' said Dodson: for self and partner.

    'You imagine you'll get your costs, don't you, gentlemen?' said Mr.

    Fogg said they thought it rather probable.  Dodson smiled, and said
    they'd try.

    'You may try, and try, and try again, Messrs. Dodson and Fogg,' said
    Mr. Pickwick vehemently, 'but not one farthing of costs or damages do
    you ever get from me, if I spend the rest of my existence in a
    debtor's prison.'

    'Ha, ha!' laughed Dodson.  'You will think better of that, before
    next term, Mr. Pickwick.'

    'He, he, he!  We'll soon see about that Mr. Pickwick,' grinned Mr.

    Speechless with indignation, Mr. Pickwick allowed himself to be led
    by his solicitor and friends to the door, and there assisted into a
    hackney-coach, which had been fetched for the purpose, by the ever
    watchful Sam Weller.

    Sam had put up the steps; and was preparing to jump upon the box,
    when he felt himself gently touched on the shoulder; and looking
    round, his father stood before him.  The old gentleman's countenance
    wore a mournful expression, as he shook his head gravely, and said,
    in warning accents:

    'I know'd what 'ud come 'o this here mode 'o doin' bisness.  Oh
    Sammy, Sammy, vy worn't there a alleybi!'

We may wonder that the laborious Chamber Counsel Serjeant Snubbin did not
advise "moving for a new trial."  The verdict was clearly a wrong one--no
sufficient evidence had been furnished either of a promise, or a breach.
The full court would no doubt have granted the motion, and this would
have led to Mr. Pickwick's release, for the astute Dodson and Fogg must
have recognised their poor chances, and perhaps have required "security
for costs," which their client could not have given.  However, the idea
did not occur to anybody.

Since the law was changed both plaintiff and defendant may be examined in
such cases as these.  What a different complexion this would have put on
the suit.  The whole case would have tumbled to pieces like a pack of
cards.  For Mr. Pickwick "put into the box" would have clearly shown that
all that had been thus misconstrued, was his proposal for engaging a
valet, which was to have been that very morning.  He would have related
the words of the dialogue, and the Jury would have seen at once how the
mistake arose.  On the other hand, he would have been exposed to a severe
rating cross examination by the learned Serjeant--fortified by Winkle's
most damaging slip about the White Horse incident--who would have forced
out of him all the incidents.  We can almost hear the Serjeant subject
the Defendant to the torture.

"This fellow of yours, Sir, was he recommended to you by a friend?"

"No--not at all."

"By a Registry Office?"

"Certainly not--nothing of the kind."

"Nothing of the kind?  I suppose too low a class of place for you, eh?
Come Sir!"

"I never said such a thing."

"Nor thought it, I suppose?  Come, Sir, no beating about the bush.  In
plain terms, did you get him from a low Public House in the Boro'?"

Mr. Pickwick started up.


"Do you deny it?"

"I never knew that the White Hart was a low Public-House," said the
witness indignantly.

"Never mind what you know, Sir.  Did you or did you not get him from
there?" thundered the Serjeant.

"Of course I did."

"Of course you did.  Then what's the use of all this juggling.  It does
you no good with My Lord and the Jury.  I tell you plainly, Mr. Pickwick,
we mean to have all out of you.  Now Sir, was this man of yours an
experienced valet?"

"Certainly not."

"He had, of course, some training in his profession in other families?"

"Not that I know of."

"Not that you know of.  Do you dare to persist in that, Sir?"

"Why not?"

"Don't ask _me_ questions, Sir, I'm asking _you_.  Do you deny, Sir, that
the man was neither more nor less than a common Boots in the yard of a
Public House, wearing an old tattered hat and jacket--very different from
the suit in which you have rigged him up here to-day?"

Mr. Pickwick was astonished and silent.  He was suffering.  He had never
dreamed of this view.

"Why," he said, "I suppose--"

"We want none of your supposes, Sir, answer yes or no."

"Well he certainly was such as you describe."

A flutter ran round the court.

"And this creature of yours, you would impose on the Jury as a trained
man servant.  You may go down Sir."


This famous firm of city attornies has become a bye-word in legal
history--being considered the most notorious of practitioners for sharp,
underhand, scheming practices.  Boz was always vehement against the
abuses of the law, but his generous ardour sometimes led him to
exaggerated and wholesale statements that were scarcely well founded.
This is found in some degree even in the sweeping attacks in _Bleak
House_.  But he was so vivid, so persuasive, in his pictures, that there
was no appeal.

The unreasoning fury of Mr. Pickwick is specially shown in the case of
Jingle, whom he pursued with an animosity that was almost frantic.  One
would think it was some public enemy he was hunting down for the public
good.  Poor Jingle had really done nothing so monstrous, after all.  He
had "chaffed" Dr. Slammer, "run off" with the spinster aunt--nothing so
uncommon in those days--had been consigned to the Fleet for non-payment
of his debts, and there showed penitence and other signs of a good heart.
His one serious offence was passing himself off as a naval officer, and
under an assumed name.  But he had _crossed_ Mr. Pickwick--had ridiculed
him--had contemptuously sent a message to "Tuppy."  When he dared to play
a practical joke on his persecutor, his infamy passed beyond bounds.
Here was the key to Mr. Pickwick's nature--any lack of homage or respect
was an offence against morality.  So with Dodson and Fogg.  He had
settled in his mind that a condescending visit to these gentlemen, with a
little explanation and remonstrance would completely disarm them.  His
fury on his advances being rejected was extraordinary.

Here Boz shows, as he ever does, his profound and most logical treatment
of human character.  He never goes astray, being guided by a happy and
true instinct.  Mr. Pickwick had grown to be the most inflated of men.
Flattered and followed--submitted to with the greatest
deference--ordering people about--doing what he pleased--he could not
stand the slightest opposition.  No one was to contradict--no one to
question even his stockings--speckled or others.  Even when he was
clearly wrong, it was an affront to hint at it.  He had much in common
with that great man, Mr. Gladstone, who was the political Pickwick of his
time.  He was overbearing and arrogant and unrestrained, and I am afraid
vindictive.  Dodson and Fogg were associated with the great mortification
of his life.  He could not forgive them--the very sight of them roused
his hatred, and the having to pay them ransom stung him to fury.  All
which is most natural and yet unexpected.

The popular and genial Sir Frank Lockwood was almost the first to put
forward a plea in abatement of prejudice for the firm.  He showed that
they were not much below the usual type of middle-class solicitors.  What
they did was in the ordinary course.  With Mr. Pickwick they were most
forbearing, and even indulgent.  There was one rather doubtful passage,
but even here he offers extenuation.  This was their treatment of poor
Ramsey, which, at first sight, seems very bad indeed.

    'There was such a game with Fogg here, this mornin',' said the man in
    the brown coat, 'while Jack was upstairs sorting the papers, and you
    two were gone to the stamp-office.  Fogg was down here opening the
    letters, when that chap we issued the writ against at Camberwell, you
    know, came in--what's his name again?'

    'Ramsey,' said the clerk who had spoken to Mr. Pickwick.

    'Ah, Ramsey--a precious seedy-looking customer.  'Well, sir,' says
    old Fogg, looking at him very fierce--you know his way--'well, Sir,
    have you come to settle?'  'Yes, I have, Sir,' said Ramsey, putting
    his hand in his pocket, and bringing out the money, 'the debt
    two-pound ten, and the costs three pound five, and here it is, sir;'
    and he sighed like bricks, as he lugged out the money, done up in a
    bit of blotting paper.  Old Fogg looked first at the money, and then
    at him, and then he coughed in his rum way, so that I knew something
    was coming.  'You don't know there's a declaration filed, which
    increases the costs materially, I suppose?' said Fogg.  'You don't
    say that Sir,' said Ramsey, starting back; 'the time was only out
    last night, Sir.'  'I do say it, though,' said Fogg, 'my clerk's just
    gone to file it.  Hasn't Mr. Jackson gone to file that declaration in
    Bullman and Ramsey, Mr. Wicks?'  Of course I said yes, and then Fogg
    coughed again, and looked at Ramsey.  'My God!' said Ramsey; 'and
    here have I nearly driven myself mad, scraping this money together,
    and all to no purpose.'  'None at all,' said Fogg, coolly; 'so you
    had better go back and scrape some more together, and bring it here
    in time.'  'I can't get it, by God,' said Ramsey, striking the desk
    with his fist.  'Don't bully me, Sir,' said Fogg, getting into a
    passion on purpose.  'I am not bullying you, Sir,' said Ramsey.  'You
    are,' said Fogg; 'get out, Sir, get out of this office, Sir, and come
    back, Sir, when you know how to behave yourself.'  Well, Ramsey tried
    to speak, but Fogg wouldn't let him, so he put the money in his
    pocket, and sneaked out.  The door was scarcely shut, when old Fogg
    turned round to me, with a sweet smile on his face, and drew the
    declaration out of his coat pocket.  'Here, Wicks,' says Fogg, 'take
    a cab, and go down to the Temple as quick as you can, and file that.
    The costs are quite safe, for he's a steady man with a large family,
    at a salary of five-and-twenty shillings a week, and if he gives us a
    warrant of attorney, as he must in the end, I know his employers will
    see it paid; so we may as well get all we can out of him, Mr. Wicks;
    it's a Christian act to do it, Mr. Wicks, for with his large family
    and small income, he'll be all the better for a good lesson against
    getting into debt,--won't he, Mr. Wicks, won't he?'--and he smiled so
    goodnaturedly as he went away, that it was delightful to see him.
    'He is a capital man of business,' said Wicks, in a tone of the
    deepest admiration, 'capital, isn't he?'

    The other three cordially subscribed to this opinion, and the
    anecdote afforded the most unlimited satisfaction.

    'Nice men these here, Sir,' whispered Mr. Weller to his master; 'wery
    nice notion of fun they has, Sir.'

Sir F. Lockwood, by the way, offers one of the most amusing proofs
conceivable, of the convincing power of "Pickwick," which is constantly
taking us out of the world of fiction, into that of the daily living
life.  He speaks of the cruel trick played upon the unfortunate Ramsey,
who came to pay his bill of costs, and was told that these were out of
date, had been swelled by subsequent proceedings.  An affidavit had been
sworn--which, after he left the house, Wicks, the clerk, was sent off to
swear--Then, Sir Frank, adds: "After all, this is merely given _as the
statement of Wicks_--_on whose testimony not much reliance can be
placed_."  As though Wicks were some living witness, "erect upon two
legs," whom he had been examining in Court!

It must, however, be recollected that this was an _exparte_ story.
Wicks, as Sir F. Lockwood hints, may have coloured it up, to amuse his
brethren.  The truth is these poor helpless debtors, who fall into the
hands of legal "sharks" and money-lenders, have _their_ tricks also.
They will often "do" those they employ if they can.  And further, let
this be considered.  Before Ramsey paid his visit the affidavit _had_
been prepared, and was actually in Fogg's pocket.  Such affidavit would
not be allowed for in the costs unless necessary to the case, so that
Fogg's statement that it had been filed was very near the truth.  Perker
himself was playing the same game of hide and seek with another
unfortunate--one Watty--who was trying to see him, and learn something
about his case, but was always put off with the excuse or falsehood, that
Perker was out, though he was within.  But then, "Perker was an
honourable man."

Boz lets us know, through Sam, how the case reached Dodson and Fogg.  He
speaks of "the kind generous people o' the perfession 'as sets their
clerks to work to find out little disputes among their neighbours and
acquaintances as wants settlin' by means of law suits."  This system,
however, cannot be checked, and "the speculative attorney" even in our
time still flourishes.

It was really not a question whether Mr. Pickwick would "indict them for
a conspiracy," because they acted as solicitors against him, but whether
they would bring an action against _him_ on their own account.  All
through, Mr. Pickwick's behaviour to them had been outrageous.  He chose
to assume, quite gratuitously that it was they--not Mrs. Bardell--who got
up the case; that they had worked on her for their own nefarious ends.
Nothing could be more absurd.  The landlady was eager enough to protect
her own interests--her female friends worked on her, and the loss of so
valuable a lodger, which the incident must have entailed, inflamed her
more.  We can see from Sam's interview with her that she was at last,
though at first reluctant, determined to have her rights.  But Mr.
Pickwick acting on this assumption addressed the firm, from the first to
the last in the most scurrilous language.  He called them "robbers,
swindlers,--a brace of pettifogging scoundrels!"  Shocking and
ungentlemanly terms, and what is worse, actionable.  Yet the pair
received this abuse with infinite good temper and restraint, merely
securing a witness who should listen, and threatening the speaker with
legal penalties.

And why did they not take this course?  Well, they had to suspend
proceedings until Mrs. Bardell's action was settled, when on receiving
their costs they were desirous to part in good humour.  But Mr. Pickwick
was so furious at being invited to shake hands with them, that he again
broke out with coarse abuse, "Robbers!" "Robbers!" calling it after them
down the stairs.  Why did they not take action on this?  Perhaps they
were afraid; as Mr. Pickwick had shewn himself such a doughty and
unyielding fighter--going to prison rather than pay.  Perhaps they
thought he might get the better of them again.

We have very little evidence as to what was the scale of fees in use in
these days.  They were of course far lower than they are now, after
allowances even for the lower cost of living.  To-day, the fees to
Counsel alone would have absorbed considerably more than Dodson and
Fogg's whole bill of costs.  A nice point is, could Mr. Pickwick's
irregular interview with Serjeant Snubbin be considered something in the
way of a consultation?  Here were Counsel, Solicitor and Client: the
Serjeant gave up a portion of his valuable time and, further, the junior
counsel was summoned specially from his chambers to supply his "advice
and opinion."  Mr. Pickwick ought surely to have to pay for his whim.
And the bill of costs that these "sharks" of attornies sent in!  It was
astonishingly moderate.  For writ, service of subpoenas, hunting up
evidence, consultation, fees to counsel, fees for the day, retainers,
etc.,--the sum of 120 pounds was all that was asked.

Imagine Messrs. Lewis and Lewis sending in such a demand at the end of a
trial which it had taken them nearly a year to get ready.  In our time it
could hardly be done under 1,000 pounds.  Perker, by the way, told his
client that on payment of the costs both of Plaintiff and Defendent, into
the hands of "these sharks" he would get his release.  With much
indulgence--the attornies--allowed him to leave the prison on his bare
undertaking to pay.  And it is not clear why he should pay his own costs
to them, and not to Perker.  And they were _not_ paid for sometime.  Mr.
Pickwick's own costs must have been small.  He had no witnesses.  Perker
would not have made a hand of him, and I fancy he would have got off for
ninety pounds, or a hundred pounds.  There was, however, the fees of the
Special Jury, so he would have to pay, say, 220 pounds.


Perker, it has been shown, was not a very brilliant solicitor, and his
views on the trial were somewhat cloudy.  When he was urging his client
to leave the Fleet he threw out some equally shadowy and ill-informed
notions as to what might be done in the way of punishing the nefarious
solicitors, Dodson and Fogg, "those Freeman's Court Sharks."

His great charge was that they had got a _cognovit_, or undertaking to
pay their costs out of Mrs. Bardell--their own client!  Mr. Pickwick
refused to pay them--why should not she?  The poor woman had "blabbed" to
Sam, a careless and natural assurance of theirs, that they would be
content to get them from Mr. Pickwick--a thing many a firm would do.  But
Perker here sees a regular conspiracy.  "I cannot undertake to say
whether the wording of the cognovit, the nature of the ostensible
consideration and the proof we can get together about the whole conduct
of the suit, _will be sufficient to justify an indictment for

It is impossible to understand this bit of legal jargon.  "The wording of
the cognovit"--one could speculate on _that_ without seeing it.  (2) "The
nature of the ostensible consideration" was not far to seek--it being
work and labour done for the Plaintiff.  And again, supposing they had
promised her to get them solely from Mr. Pickwick--Sam's revelation of
this, in open court, and its reception with laughter, showed what was
thought of it.  So which of the two courses were they to adopt?  (3) And
"the proof we may get together about the whole conduct of the suit."
This "whole conduct" was perfectly regular.  So the Judge thought--so did
the jury.  The case was proved by Pickwick's own friends.  As we know,
however, the firm took no steps to obtain satisfaction, but there cannot
be the slightest doubt that they would have "recovered damages."  We
doubt if Mr. Pickwick would have gone to the Fleet for the second time
rather than pay.

Perker's suspicions as to the _Cognovit_ obtained by Dodson and Fogg were
shrewd, and certain enough, though he could not have seen the document.
The suspicions were well warranted by the state of the Law, which became
an instrument in the hands of grasping attorneys.  By it the client was
made to sign an acknowledgment, and offering no defence to a supposed
action,--say for costs--brought against him, Judgment was then marked.

This offered a great temptation to the unscrupulous.  Mrs. Bardell, no
doubt, signed with light heart, not knowing what she was doing, and being
told that it was merely a matter of form.  Various enactments attempted
to protect the client--one being passed some four or five years before
the trial Bardell v. Pickwick, requiring the _Cognovit_ to be regularly
filed within twenty-one days; more than ten years later it was required,
that the client's signing such a thing should have no force in Law,
unless he was represented by another solicitor.

The matter, as we know, was compromised with Dodson and Fogg, so there
was no need to scrutinize the _Cognovit_.  No doubt Perker was enabled to
put pressure on the firm by hinting at such proceedings.

The damages, 750 pounds, were certainly moderate, and would not have been
reduced by the Court on an application to set them aside as "excessive."
The good woman was quite at her ease, being no doubt certain that Mr.
Pickwick, at last, must give in.  She could even enjoy the society of her
friends and make the celebrated junketting to the "Spaniards."  The firm
took another view and grew tired of waiting; or they were sagacious
enough to see that the arrest of their client was about the best method
of putting pressure on Mr. Pickwick.  In this connection, it may be noted
that Jackson's over zeal in the transaction might have led to an action
against his employers; for he arrested not only Mrs. Bardell, but her
friends, Mrs. Sanders and Mrs. Cluppins.  The prison gates were actually
shut on them.  "Safe and sound," said the Bailiff.  "Here we are at
last," said Jackson, "all right and tight."

True, Mrs. Bardell put under her hand in her appealing letter to Mr.
Pickwick, that "this business was from the very first fomented and
encouraged and brought about by these men," but this is not much; for the
view only occurs to her when her operations had completely failed and
recoiled on her own head with such disastrous result.  The firm's
business was to persuade her that she had a good case, and the Jury's
verdict proved that she had.  Had Mr. Pickwick given in and paid, she
would have had no scruples.  One cannot, at the same time, but admire the
ingenuity of the author, in bringing such a Nemesis on her.  Dodson and
Fogg, we are told, "continue in business from which they realise a large
income, and in which they are universally considered among the sharpest
of the sharp."

At the last interview, at Perker's, when the costs were paid, one might
have expected Mr. Pickwick to behave with a certain disdainful dignity.
He was beaten and had paid over the stakes, and could afford to treat his
enemy with contempt.  Not so.  The partners held out the olive branch by
alluding to the way they had passed by his unmannerly attacks on them.
"I beg to assure you, sir, I bear you no ill will or vindictive feeling
for sentiments you thought proper to express of us in our office," and
the other partner said, "I hope you don't think quite so ill of us, etc."
This was rather gentlemanly and becoming.  One offered his hand.  But Mr.
Pickwick broke out in a perfect fury.  They had assumed a tone of
forgiveness which was "an excess of impudence."  He had been "the victim
of their plots and conspiracies."  They had imprisoned and robbed him.
It was "insolent familiarity."  At last he said, "_You are a well-matched
pair of mean_, _rascally_, _pettifogging robbers_."  This sentence he
repeated three times, and the words "Robbers" he shouted after them many
times over the stairs.

Sharping attornies!  Why, a real sharping firm would have forced from
their client advances of fee, "cash out of pocket," have made her give a
Bill of Sale on her lease and goods, and have fairly stripped her of
everything before the case began.  Of the damages--had they got them--she
would have seen but little.

The _Cognovit_ that was extracted from Mrs. Bardell was an
acknowledgement, as we have seen, which entitled them to enter up
judgment just as if a trial had taken place.  In the Oxford great
Dictionary, it reads quaintly to find Mrs. Bardell's cognovit quoted as
an illustration of the legal meaning.

The Turnkey, on her arrest, had told Sam that she had been brought to the
Fleet, "on a Cognovit for costs," Sam imparted this news to Job Trotter,
and sent him off, hot foot, to Perker in Montague Place.  This outcast,
was able to tell him, "it seems they got a _Cognovit_ out of her for the
amount of the costs, directly after the trial!"

Boz, on this occasion, gives us a happy glimpse of Solicitor life.

    Mr. Perker had a dinner party that day, which was certified by the
    lights in the drawing-room windows, the sound of an improved grand
    piano, and an improveable cabinet voice issuing therefrom; and a
    rather overpowering smell of meat which prevaded the steps and entry.
    In fact, a couple of very good country agencies happening to come up
    to town at the same time, an agreeable little party had been got
    together to meet them, comprising Mr. Snicks the Life Office
    Secretary, Mr. Prosee the eminent counsel, three solicitors, one
    commissioner of bankrupts, a special pleader from the Temple, a
    small-eyed peremptory young gentleman, his pupil, who had written a
    lively book about the law of demises, with a vast quantity of
    marginal notes and references; and several other eminent and
    distinguished personages.  From this society little Mr. Perker
    detached himself on his clerk being announced in a whisper; and
    repairing to the dining-room, there found Mr. Lowten and Job Trotter
    looking very dim and shadowy by the light of a kitchen candle, which
    the gentleman who condescended to appear in plush shorts and cottons
    for a quarterly stipend, had, with a becoming contempt for the clerk
    and all things appertaining to 'the office,' placed upon the table.

    'Now Lowten,' said little Mr. Perker, shutting the door, 'what's the
    matter?  No important letter come in a parcel, is there?'

Do we not seem to be present?  We can never pass by Russell Square
without calling up the scene.  Note, too, the components of that legal
dinner.  Poor Sir F. Lockwood used to declare that he relished "Mr.
Prosee, the eminent counsel," more than any one of Boz's legal circle.
Yet these five words are all we know of him.  But Sir Frank had
imagination, and like some of us could read between the lines, or rather,
between the words.  Here was a prominent member of the Bar--was he K.C.?
a triton among the minnows--therefore heading the table, listened to with
reverence as he told of the judges, possibly of "old Stareleigh's" last
exhibition of petulance--"with it's high time for him to go, etc."  But
if he had not silk, why did not Perker retain him instead of the
incapable Phunky, whom he did _not_ ask on this occasion.  "I gave the
chap a good chance, but he destroyed my whole case!"  "Catch me letting
him put his legs under my mahogany."  Among the guests was that
"small-eyed, peremptory young gentleman"--the special pleader's pupil.
What a capital sketch has Boz given of him.  "He had written a _lively_
book about the law of demises, with a vast quantity of marginal notes and
references."  He had come with his teacher, who was no doubt highly
deferental to Mr. Prosee, but enough, the peremptory young gentleman may
have partly "tackled" the great man on some point of practice.  The good
country agencies must have gone home delighted with their evening.

But Mr. Prosee may be brought into somewhat closer communication with the
case.  At Perker's dinner the gentlemen had gone up to the drawing room,
when Perker was called down to hear the news of Mrs. Bardell's arrest.
Mr. Prosee was left expatiating to the circle on some beautiful "point,"
and when Perker returned how likely that he should tell of his
extraordinary client who had preferred to go to prison rather than pay
the costs of a suit, "and here," he would go on, "is the drollest sequel
you ever heard, &c."

"An odd unusual thing," Mr. Prosee would say.  "Plaintiff and Defendant,
both in jail together!  I never heard the like."  There would be much
laughter at the novel situation.  Thus the _cognovit_ would come up and
Mr. Prosee gravely say, "nothing will be done till an Act of Parliament
is passed.  The client should be protected by a fresh solicitor."  On
which the young author of the treatise on Demises would have something to
say in his best fashion; for the _cognovit_ might be taken to be a sort
of demise.  "I doubt Mr. Prosee, if your suggestion would work.  As I
take it, sir, etc."


But the circumstances connected with Mr. Pickwick's release from the
Fleet, show the adroitness and ability of Dodson in a high degree.  It
will be recollected that when Job rushed with the news to Perker, that
gentleman and his clerk broke out into raptuous admiration.

    'Now, Lowten,' said little Mr. Perker, shutting the door, 'what's the
    matter?  No important letter come in a parcel, is there?'

    'No, sir,' replied Lowten.  'This is a messenger from Mr. Pickwick,

    'From Pickwick, eh?' said the little man, turning quickly to Job.
    'Well; what is it?'

    'Dodson and Fogg have taken Mrs. Bardell in execution for her costs,
    sir,' said Job.

    'No!' exclaimed Perker, putting his hands in his pockets, and
    reclining against the sideboard.

    'Yes,' said Job.  'It seems they got a cognovit out of her for the
    amount of 'em, directly after the trial.'

    'By Jove!' said Perker, taking both hands out of his pockets and
    striking the knuckles of his right against the palm of his left,
    emphatically, 'those are the cleverest scamps I ever had anything to
    do with!'

    'The sharpest practitioners _I_ ever knew, sir,' observed Lowten.

    'Sharp!' echoed Perker.  'There's no knowing where to have them.'

    'Very true, sir, there is not,' replied Lowten; and then both master
    and man pondered for a few seconds, with animated countenances, as if
    they were reflecting upon one of the most beautiful and ingenious
    discoveries that the intellect of man had ever made.  When they had
    in some measure recovered from their trance of admiration, Job
    Trotter discharged himself of the rest of his commission.  Perker
    nodded his head thoughtfully, and pulled out his watch.

Now to the superficial this seemed to be evaded by the art of the firm in
"getting the cognovit out of her."  But this was an ordinary, vulgar
stroke--which anyone could have done.  Their policy went far deeper, and
this Perker was acute enough to recognize.  There was no object in
putting Mrs. Bardell into the Fleet.

They could no more get their costs out of her, than they could get them
out of Mr. Pickwick.  She had nothing but her few "sticks" of furniture,
worth say 50 pounds.  But the astute fellows saw what pressure could be
put on the benevolent nature of Mr. Pickwick, who could not endure that a
respectable woman should be exposed to the contamination of a debtor's
prison.  And their sagacity was to be justified, and on the very next
day, too.

It is curious, however, that no mention is made of Mrs. Bardell's
release.  It, of course, took place before Mr. Pickwick's.  Here again
Dodson and Fogg behaved very fairly, for they allowed both her and Mr.
Pickwick to be released, without receiving payment, but simply on "an
understanding" by Perker.  As it turned out, indeed, they were not paid
for some weeks.

The processes by which Mr. Pickwick was got into the Fleet were
complicated enough, _Habeas Corpus_, appearing before functionaries, etc.
But it is odd that in cases of persons of lower degree these seemed not
to be necessary.  We do not hear of them in Sam's instance.  While Mrs.
Bardell, was taken straight from "the Spaniards," to the prison door, she
was not even formally arrested by the Bailiff, though he was in
attendance.  He sat afar off at Hampstead, taking his drink--and on the
box during the drive.  She might be said to have been arbitrarily taken
to the prison by Jackson--without a legal warrant.  Had not the business
been compromised, some other astute firm of attorneys might have found
subject for an action against Dodson and Fogg.

Another of the humorous incidents connected with the case is old Weller's
firm persuasion that Mr. Pickwick was to "stand his trial," as though he
were indicted for some criminal offence.  We find him always astray as to
when he was to be "tried," etc.  This is a most natural impression among
the lower classes, who are not very clear as to the distinction between
civil and criminal process, being most familiar with the latter.  In the
same spirit is his humorous suggestion of securing an _alibi_, as the
best method of getting Mr. Pickwick off.  "O Sammy, Sammy, vy worn't
there a alleybi!"

                                * * * * *

Such is "The Trial in Pickwick."

Is there any writer, now living, I may be asked, who could furnish such a
picture as this, one so full of reality and true humour, of one of our
modern Courts of Justice?  The answer must be that it would be idle to
look for such a person.  There are thousands who could supply minute
drawings in which not a single detail would be omitted.  But the piercing
to the essence, the happy generalization, the knowledge of the true
points of character, these would be sought in vain.


{26}  So confused is the chronology of _Pickwick_, that it is difficult
to fix the exact date of the Trial.  Boz, writing some ten years after
the event, seems to have got a little confused and uncertain as to the
exact year of the Trial.  He first fixed the opening of the story in
1817: but on coming to the compromising incident in Goswell Street, which
occurred only a few weeks later, he changed the year to 1827.  Then
Jingle's anachronism of the French Revolution of July suggested that the
new date would not do.  So 1830 was next adopted.  But this did not end
the matter, for in the "errata" we are directed to change this date back
again to 1827.  And so it now stands.  The Trial therefore really took
place on April 1, 1828.

{84}  Seven years after the Trial this monopoly was taken away from the
Serjeants--namely in 1834: then capriciously given back to them, and
finally abolished in 1840.

{85}  I have heard from the daughter of Mr. Chapman, the original
publisher of _Pickwick_, that Talfourd revised and directed the "Trial."
On one occasion Boz was dining with him when the proof was brought in,
with some legal mistakes noted by Talfourd.  Boz left the table and put
it right.

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