Samuel Pickwick is a fictional character and the main protagonist in The Pickwick Papers (1836), the first novel by author Charles Dickens. Pickwick is a retired successful businessman and is the Founder and Chairman of the Pickwick Club.
Believed to have been named after the British businessman Eleazer Pickwick (c.1749–1837), although he is the main character in The Pickwick Papers Samuel Pickwick is mostly a passive and innocent figure in the story around whom the other more active characters operate. Having an almost childlike simplicity, Pickwick is loyal and protective toward his friends but is often hoodwinked by conmen and poseurs; he is always gallant towards women, young and old, but can also be indecisive in his dealings with them.
To extend his researches into the quaint and curious phenomena of life, Pickwick creates the Pickwick Club and suggests that he and three other "Pickwickians" (Mr Nathaniel Winkle, Mr Augustus Snodgrass and Mr Tracy Tupman) should make journeys to places remote from London and report on their findings to the other members of the club.
Pickwick careens from one comic disaster to another in pursuit of adventure or honour attended by the other members of the Pickwick Club. The height of his development occurs at the Fleet Prison where, as the result of a breach of promise suit against his landlady, Mrs. Bardell, he is imprisoned for refusing to pay her damages and costs. In the Fleet Pickwick encounters his nemesis Alfred Jingle as a fellow resident. Moved with compassion, Pickwick forgives him and charitably bails him out and later arranges for Jingle and his servant Job Trotter to pursue their fortune in the West Indies.
When Mrs. Bardell herself is sent to the Fleet Prison Pickwick learns that the only way he can relieve her suffering is by paying her costs in the action against himself, thus at the same time releasing himself from the prison.
Always on hand to save the day is his able manservant Sam Weller; the relationship between the idealistic and unworldly Pickwick and the astute cockney Weller has been likened to that between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. By the end of the novel Pickwick looks upon Sam Weller almost as a son, a feeling which is reciprocated by Sam.
The French composer Claude Debussy dedicated to this character a humorous piano piece: Hommage à S. Pickwick Esq. P.P.M.P.C. (n. 9 of Préludes, 2ème Livre, published 1913).
Portrayals in adaptations
In film, television and on stage Mr Pickwick has been portrayed by:
- John Pritt Harley in Mr. Pickwick at the St James's Theatre in London (1837).
- William Wadsworth in Mr. Pickwick's Predicament (1912).
- John Bunny in the silent short The Pickwick Papers (1913).
- Frederick Volpe in The Adventures of Mr. Pickwick (1921), silent lost film.
- Charles Laughton in Mr. Pickwick at the Theatre Royal in London (1928).
- Ray Collins in The Pickwick Papers - Orson Welles's CBS Radio series.
- James Hayter in the 1952 film The Pickwick Papers.
- George Howe (and later Clive Revill) in Mr. Pickwick at the Plymouth Theatre and the John Golden Theatre in New York (1952), and then the TV movie The Pickwick Papers (1953).
- John Salew in Tales from Dickens (aka Fredric March Presents Tales from Dickens) (1959).
- Patrick Newell in Mr. Pickwick - Belgrade Theatre, Coventry (1961).
- Harry Secombe, in the musical Pickwick (1963), by Cyril Ornadel, Wolf Mankowitz, and Leslie Bricusse. Secombe also appeared as Pickwick in the BBC TV movie-version Pickwick (1969).
- Arthur Brough in Uneasy Dreams: The Life of Mr. Pickwick (1970)
- Bill Reimbold in Dickens of London (1976)
- Nigel Stock in the 12-part BBC miniseries The Pickwick Papers (1985).
- In the Disneyland ride The Haunted Mansion, the ghost of a drunken, plump little man in Victorian garb, holding a bottle of wine, can be seen swinging from the chandelier in the ballroom tableau. Blueprints and concept art identify the character as "Pickwick", most likely in reference to Dickens's character.
- Pickwick on David Perdue's Charles Dickens Characters page
- The Pickwick Papers - Cliff's Notes
- Michael Pointer, Who's Who in Dickens - Grange Books (1995) - pgs 112-113]
- Mark Wormald (2003) "Introduction" to The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. London, Penguin.
- 'Pickwick Papers Characters' - enotes.com
- Mark Womald, introduction to Dickens, Charles (29 Jan 2004). The Pickwick Papers. Penguin Classics. ISBN 9780140436112.
- Samuel Pickwick on the Internet Movie Database
- Playbill for St James's Theatre, advertising 'Mr Pickwick' - the British Library Collection
- Mr. Pickwick - The University of Kent Theatre Collection
- Mr. Pickwick on the Theatricalia website
- - Mr. Pickwickk on the Internet Broadway Database
The Mr. Pickwick pub along with its insignia, established in Geneva as the oldest english pub in Switzerland, refers to the character drawn by Dickens.