Throughout his novels Dickens uses the stage-coach as a way of back-dating his stories, having his characters ride in them even though at the time of writing the railroad had conquered England. Traveling by coach exposed one to hours of being jolted and shaken against strangers — that is, if one could afford to ride inside. Cheaper fares procured one a seat outside the coach in the wind, rain, and cold. Nonetheless, Dickens uses the coach to create nostalgia for a lost pre-industrial, pre-mechanized Britain, nowhere more obviously than in Pickwick Papers.
In "The Dualistic Chronological Setting of Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit," Philip V. Allingham points out that
the early part of the novel appears to be set in bucolic, pre-industrial England, even though by the early 1840s Britain was firmly in the railway age. However, stage-coaches continued to leave their various London termini for coaching inns throughout the country until 1846. . . . When in Ch. 36 Tom Pinch enters London via its western suburbs and alights in the City at an unspecified coaching inn and when Nadgett and Jonas Chuzzlewit make their way across country by stage-coaches, we are inclined to think that the story is transpiring about a decade before its publication. That the action is set in the early to mid-1830s is reinforced by references to new London Bridge (opened in 1831) and to Furnival's Inn (re-built in 1817 and the temporary residence of young Charles Dickens in 1834), and by details such as the gauze-like silk scarves worn over low-cut evening-dresses (Ch. 36), Tom Pinch's calculating postage by distance (suggesting a temporal setting prior to the inauguration of the Penny Post in 1839), and the watchmen in the vicinity of Todgers's rooming-house (suggesting a time before the introduction of Bobbies under Sir Robert Peel's Metropolitan Police Bill of 1829).
Last modified 12 July 2010