According to Robert L. Patten and Deborah A. Thomas, the interpolated tales in The Pickwick Papers provide moral exempla or cautionary fictions that, despite a certain air of improbability resulting from Dickens's use of coincidence and supernatural agents, serve to underscore the themes of the novel. In other words, they are not, as some critics have charged, merely extraneous padding intended to fill out the monthly 32-page parts. These stories in the original serial, not all of which are illustrated, are as follows:

The situation in Phiz's program of illustration for the Household Edition (1873-74) is somewhat different, since the expanded program of 57 woodcuts allowed Phiz to develop the following five additional illustrations for the interpolated tales, although he decided not to illustrate "The Stroller's Tale" of the alcoholic clown, one of Seymour's last illustrations, and surely one of the most "socially realistic" and depressing among the original forty-four engravings:

The last is a revision of the September 1837 engraving "The Ghostly Passengers in the Ghost of a Mail." However, even in the 1874 Household Edition, Phiz chose not to illustrate four of the nine interpolated tales, so that one must assume that either he felt that these five stories were particularly important or he regarded the other four as not sufficiently important to warrant pictorial accompaniment.

References

Dickens, Charles. Pickwick Papers. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874; New York: Harpers and Brothers, 1874.

Patten, Robert L. "The Art of Pickwick's Interpolated Tales." ELH 34 (1967): 349-66.

Thomas, Deborah L. Dickens and The Short Story. Philadelphia: U. Pennsylvania Press, 1982.


Last modified 9 March 2012