Books Fiction Death And Mr Pickwick

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Pages: 816

Language: English

Publisher: Jonathan Cape; First Edition edition (21 May 2015)

By: Stephen Jarvis(Author)

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On 31 March 1836 the publishers Chapman & Hall launched the first issue of a new monthly periodical entitled The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Conceived and created by the artist Robert Seymour, it contained four of his illustrations; the words to accompany them were written by a young journalist who used the pen-name Boz.

The story of a sporting-cum-drinking club presided over by fat, loveable Mr Pickwick, assisted by his cockney manservant Sam Weller, The Pickwick Papers soon became a popular sensation, outselling every other book except the Bible and Shakespeare’s plays, and read and discussed by the entire population of the British Isles, from the duke’s drawing-room to the lowliest chophouse. The fame of Mr Pickwick soon spread worldwide – making The Pickwick Papers the greatest literary phenomenon in history.

But one does not need to have read a single word of The Pickwick Papers to be enthralled by the story of how this extraordinary novel came to be. The creation and afterlife of The Pickwick Papers is the subject of Stephen Jarvis’s novel, Death and Mr Pickwick.This vast, intricately constructed, indeed Dickensian work is at once the ultimate homage to a much-loved book, tracing its genesis and subsequent history in fascinating detail, and a damning indictment of how an ambitious young writer expropriated another man’s ideas and then engaged in an elaborate cover-up of The Pickwick Papers’ true origin.

Few novels deserve to be called magnificent. Death and Mr Pickwick is one of them.

"An outstanding debut novel." (Peter Kemp Sunday Times)"This is a masterpiece of imagination supported by a mountain of research." (Christian House, 4 stars Sunday Telegraph)"A novel as crowded, rude and brilliantly inventive as the great pre-Dickensian caricatures it celebrates." (Lucy Hughes-Hallett Observer)"Some may view this book as a remarkable piece of literary detection, others a dazzlingly written and superbly imagined exposition on how art and writing are gestated and born. Or both." (Daily Mail)

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Customer reviews:

  • By Kenneth Barrett on 9 January 2017

    Stephen Jarvis has resurrected a controversy from the beginnings of Charles Dickens's career, and brought it vividly to life with an almost Dickensian cast of characters and a momentum that, lengthy though the book is, carries the reader through a wonderful evocation of Regency London.This was a period when the world of British publishing was undergoing fundamental change, and working its way towards its modern form. Mr Jarvis starts in a leisurely fashion, drawing in the publishers, printers, writers and illustrators from the beginning of the era. He doesn't reach Dickens himself until about halfway through the book. When he does, he investigates at length whether or not there has been a great literary crime.One aspect we do have to bear in mind is that this is a work of faction - a working of history into fictional form. It is obvious that the author's research has been vast, but we, the readers, can find it difficult to see where fact ends and fiction begins; a position made even more difficult by the artful machinations of Mr Jarvis, who breathes a most convincing life into his cast of historical characters.This is a totally engrossing book, daring in concept, and a very valuable addition to our knowledge of the young Dickens and his times.

  • By Kindle Customer on 25 October 2016

    Fortunately I have read this novel just after re-reading the original. This has been another excursion into a Dickensian world: an excursion of great pleasure and stimulation. Novel or history? Both, I suppose. The role of Seymour which is pivotal here does not entirely convince me. But no matter: the novel was pure delight!

  • By Mervyn Eastman on 1 August 2015

    An excellent novel and very clever indeed. Delighted that at last there is a focus on how Dickens and Chapman & Hall treated this young and vulnerable illustrator.

  • By Mark Bernes on 1 September 2016

    A masterpiece. Truly wonderful book.

  • By coverstory on 24 July 2015

    I thoroughly enjoyed this first novel by Stephen about the early 19th Century caricaturist and etcher Robert Seymour and his influence on the Pickwick Papers. I found the stories around this theme especially the history of the print shop engravers very interesting and the gradual enfolding of Robert Seymour's life, death and resulting legacy was engrossing. It was difficult given the evidence presented in the book by the character 'Mr Inbelicate' to decide what was actual historical evidence and what was fiction but the arguments put forward in the book by him engaged the mind of the reader as in any good detective story. Charles Dickens, especially, does not come out well in respect of his treatment of Seymour. There are two areas which I struggled with. Firstly, the reference to the characters and stories in Pickwick Papers : although I had read this novel it was a long time ago and I had forgotten much of its content which sometimes put me at a disadvantage. Secondly, like the 'Mr N.' in the pages I would have really valued an index of the main historical people who appear in this novel as it was easy to forget their importance. Overall though I forgave the author for what in my mind were imperfections and immersed myself for several weeks in the world of Pickwick described in skillful and evocative detail.

  • By Jonathan Talbot on 23 September 2015

    As other reviewers have all said this is an extraordinary book. There many things which make it so but for me there are four really important ingredients. First Stephen Jarvis is a terrific storyteller. There is a central plot but it is supplemented by a number of tangents, prequels and the like which appear, engulf the reader, then disappear sometimes to return, sometimes not. The second important ingredient is his ability to create a vast galaxy of intriguing characters. The third great strength of this book is the level of detail it contains. The whole thing is underpinned by a wealth of research- what people ate, what they drank, what they said to each other and so on. But there is such a lightness of touch that the reader is never feels that details appear for their own sake. The final ingredient is in some ways an outcome of this- the ease with which we are introduced to the world of the characters, notably nineteenth century London. These worlds are so perfectly created we do not doubt their veracity for a moment. Although it is a very long book it is not sprawling in the sense that the author loses control in places. When l first picked it up l thought it needed the attentions of an Editor but l soon came to realise this is not so. It is tightly drawn and the multiple episodes never outstay their welcome. So it is a great piece of writing- what of its themes? There are many again but l will pick out two: the effect of the spread of mass literacy in a freesociety and the relationship between written and visual communication.I picked this book up by sheer chance- l suggest anyone reading this make a point of obtaining it.

  • By Mr. J. C. Johnston on 9 August 2015

    A quite beautifully written book. This tale of Robert Seymour, illustrator and caricaturist of the early 19th century, is full of tales, digressions and delights, all leading to the first illustrations for Mr Pickwick and the publishing phenomenon of the 19th century. I found it a fascinating study of how the creative process works for artists and writers. As a historian, the re-creation of early 19th century London is a treat. In fact, modern day Londoners and tourists could use this book as a guide to the capitals pubs and hostelries. A pleasure to read.

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