Death and Mr. Pickwick by Stephen Jarvis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A 5-Star rating is something I try not to give too often. However, in the case of this book, I’m going to have to do just that; mostly because of the time and effort the author must have put into the writing of this tome. The content, of course, is also an important aspect of my rating.

A funny little story about this book…

Quite a few years ago, a group of friends were having an ongoing discussion about Dickens and his books/stories. We had a specific thread going just for The Pickwick Papers, formerly known as The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, written in series fashion by Charles Dickens starting in March of 1836. The first two monthly serials were illustrated by Robert Seymour.

A fellow (the author – Stephen Jarvis) contacted me after seeing our Pickwick discussion. He introduced himself and explained to me that he was in the process of writing a book that would be following the history of Seymour’s involvement along with Dickens’ input in the publication of this serial. He asked me to take a look at his forthcoming book once it was published. He may have even reminded me of this when the book actually did come out in the stores. I don’t remember.

Anyway, I always remembered this fellow and the conversation we had back and forth a couple times regarding Dickens, Seymour, and this fellow’s upcoming book. When the book finally did come out back in 2015, I think, I jotted a note to give it a go, but Life, as it often does, butted in. I had forgotten this book until scrolling through my ebook library on my Nook and remembered acquiring the book a few years previous to now.

Well, I’ve read this book… and am thoroughly impressed, and slightly awed by what I know must have been a MAJOR research and writing effort for Mr. Jarvis. I’m also quite sure this was a long, long time labor of love for him; possibly a bit of an obsession. That’s a good thing because regardless of his motivation, the book was completed and published so that we could read and enjoy it.

The story is a fictionalized (or is it?) very detailed accounting of the history of the initial idea and development of the Pickwick characters and themes. For those of you who don’t know about this, there has been a long running debate on who/when/how Pickwick got its start. Did the illustrator Seymour come up with the idea first or did Dickens? Personally, from my own bits of research over the years, I’ve always leaned toward Seymour. What Mr. Jarvis does in this book, is create a story (or is it just a story?) to explain this longstanding debate.

Any of you out there interested in Dickens, Pickwick, early 19th century England and its literary and other histories will very much enjoy reading this book. It’s an intriguing, detailed, and somewhat sad story. Pick up a copy and give it a go. You may enjoy it as much as I did.

View all my reviews

About V. T. Eric Layton

vtel57, Nocturnal Slacker

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