The City Pickwick Club

Monday 28th January 2019

As many of you will know, the Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, or The Pickwick Papers, was the first novel of Charles Dickens. It was published in monthly instalments from March 1836 to November 1837. The first instalment sold about 500 copies. However, sales rapidly grew and the last instalment sold about 40,000 copies making the book a bestseller and it established the writer as a notable literary force at the age of 25. The beginning of an illustrious career!

Set in 1827-28, the story centres around a kind and wealthy old gentleman, Samuel Pickwick Esquire. Along with a collection of acolytes, he forms the Pickwick Club and they embark on a variety of travels, adventures and misdeeds in England with their journeys being taken by coach. Dickens' deft use of humour and satire combined with a great cast of magnificently comic characters proved such a winning work that it remains a much loved treasure to this day.

In tribute to Dickens and Samuel Pickwick himself, The City Pickwick Club was formed in 1909 with membership limited to 100 individuals each of which are allotted the name of a character. Membership is much sought after, tougher than joining the most prestigious of golf clubs, for sure. They meet three times a year at the George & Vulture Tavern to discuss the Club's business and to share a snug little dinner. Vacancies for this club arise very rarely, as you might expect.

As it happens, a Past Master of our company is a member and it was a great honour to receive an invitation to join him at one such meeting. Mr Pickwick presided over the proceedings supported admirably well by the Honorary Secretary, Mr Augustus Snodgrass. The members and guests dined well before Mr Pickwick presented his guest to speak, Rt Hon Lord Justice Nigel Davis QC. It turned out that the choice of speaker was contentious for the Lord Justice sought to prove that the Court case against Mr Pickwick for breach of promise (of marriage) towards Mrs Bardell was, in fact, fair; that his subsequent incarceration was just. Despite the protestations from Club members, to an impartial observer such a Master Tobacco Pipe Maker, the Lord Justice's case seemed clear cut. However, the cloud cast by this difference of opinion soon passed with a glass of port and a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne.