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 Stroller's Tale" (No. 2, May 1836) [illustration]
- "The Story of the Convict's Return" (No. 3, June 1836)
- "A Madman's Manuscript" (No. 4, July 1836)
- "The Bagman's Story" (No. 5, August 1836)
- "The Parish Clerk" (No. 6, September 1836)
- "The Old Man's Tale about the Queer Client" (No. 8, November 1836) [illustration]
- "The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton" (No. 10, January 1837) [illustration]
- "The True Legend of Prince Bladud" (No. 13, April 1837)
- "The Story of the Bagman's Uncle" (No. 17, September 1837) [illustration]
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 chair was an ugly old gentleman; and what was more, he was winking at Tom Smart" (ch. 14, "The Bagman's Tale")
- "Old Lobbs gave it one tug, and open it flew, disclosing Nathaniel Pipkin standing bolt upright inside, and shaking with apprehension from head to foot" (ch. 17, "The Parish Clerk. A Tale of True Love")
- "'Heyling!' said the old man wildly. 'My boy, Heyling, my dear boy, look, look!' Gasping for breath, the miserable father pointed to the spot where the young man was struggling for life" (ch. 21, "The Old Man's Tale about the Queer Client")
- "Seated on an upright tombstone, close to him, was a strange unearthly figure" (ch. 29, "The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton")
- "These attentions were directed, not towards him, but to a young lady, who just then appeared at the foot of the steps" (ch. 49, "The Story of the Bagman's Uncle.")
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.
Dickens, Charles. Pickwick Papers. The Household Edition. Illustrated by Thomas Nast. New York: Harpers and Brothers, 1873.
Dickens, Charles. Pickwick Papers. The Household Edition. Illustrated by Phiz. London: Chapman and Hall, 1873.
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 3 June 2019