Monday, 30 March 2009

The Pickwick Blogs, by Charles Dickens

Dear blogsters, this is my third and final foray into that alternative universe where literary giants from history had access to computers. I have settled this time upon Charles Dickens.

Many of Dickens' novels were published in weekly parts and, as such, were eagerly awaited by his public. It's my belief that Dickens would have embraced computers and the internet whole-heartedly, and would almost certainly have been an active blogger. It also seems likely that his instalments would have been made available as downloads, and the public readings which so delighted his audiences would no doubt have found their way into podcasts and YouTube. But this is all speculation by me.

Anyway, enough of my chat. Please note that this post contains innuendo as one of its principal ingredients, which I hope you'll not take amiss; the character of Sam Weller (a roaring success with Dickens' public) was given to a degree of irreverence in the original novel. I have merely projected his character traits forward through time for a 21st century audience. Please read on and, I hope, enjoy!

At precisely seven of the clock on the morning of the eleventh of July, in the year in which these voluminous papers are carefully recorded, Mr. Pickwick arose, refreshed, from his slumbers. Having made a most particular toilet, and partaken of the familiar view of Goswell-Street from his chamber window, Mr. Pickwick betook himself to the drawing-room. Mary, beloved spouse of Sam Weller, Mr. Pickwick's faithful servitor, was already bustling about, setting the breakfast-things upon the dining-table, buttering toast, arranging the napery, and performing all manner of other culinary and domestic evolutions of a most comforting nature.

After saluting Mary with his customary diurnal greeting, Mr. Pickwick went to his writing desk and withdrew a leathern case from a capacious drawer. Within the case was Mr. Pickwick's newest purchase; a lap-top computing device, obtained the previous day from Mr. Benjamin Tiggers, Computer Purveyor, of Golden-Cross. Mr. Pickwick beamed, and thought of the ease and alacrity with which he would henceforth be able to note down the perambulations of his beloved club. He was just about to place his noble index finger upon the switch that would bring this useful article to animation, when his action was halted by the arrival of the irrepressible Sam Weller.

'Vy, sir, there's a werry nice set o' equipment, as vun gent said to another ven they vos conwersing in the gentlemen's vash-room,' said Sam.

'Why, thank you, Sam,' retorted Mr. Pickwick, that gentle soul upon whom all innuendo was lost, 'I am rather proud of it. Do you know, this machine...'

'Is the werry latest in nineteenth-century computing technology,' said Sam, who had seen the hand-bill advertising Mr. Pickwick's machine in the window of the ingenious Mr. Tiggers' shop not four-and-twenty hours previously. 'Is is true that this 'ere machine comes vith the werry latest Vindows Wista pre-loaded?'

'Indeed so, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'but that's not the least of it. It is possessed of the most up-to-date processor yet available, together with a veritable plethora of software. Take Word for Windows, for example...'

'I have used that 'ere application,' declared Sam, 'on more than vun occasion, ven composing Walentine poems for my Mary, but I find it werry confusing.'

'Why, bless my soul, Sam, whatever is the problem?' said Mr. Pickwick. 'I have always found it quite straightforward.'

'Vell, sir,' said Sam, straightening his waistcoat and brushing from it the crumbs of his earlier breakfast of muffins, 'Vord for Vindows has this werry ingenious bit of kit called a spell-checker, but I'm werry much afeerd that it don't vork! Vy, every time I types the vord 'Veller', or 'Walentine', or 'vanker', blessed if it don't vant me to use a wubbleyou or a wee instead!'

At once, Mr. Pickwick's enormous brain perceived the answer to the seemingly insoluble problem with which the faithful Sam had been deliberating.

'My dear Sam,' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, his countenance beaming like the sun that was streaming through the windows of the room, 'the solution is a very simple one. You have clearly been using Word for Windows. You should be using Word for Windows for Manservants. It has long been perceived that the class to which you belong habitually transpose the consonants 'v' and 'w'. The spell-checker within the program I have mentioned deals once and for all with this matter! Oh, how droll, Sam! How very droll!'

'Vell I'll be blowed, as the gen'l'm'n said, ven the young 'ooman in Drury-Lane asked him vat his particular pleasure vos on a summer's evening,' Sam said. 'Vy, I've been using a program as vos intended for my betters! Perhaps I should dismiss myself from your serwice for such wicious behaviour!'

'Not a bit of it, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, alarmed as the thought of imminent abandonment by Mr. Weller junior, and the notion of evenings alone in Goswell-Street with nothing but a bowl of gruel by way of sustenance, forced themselves upon his active mind. 'It is my earnest wish that you remain in my service for as long as you wish. Please banish all thoughts of resignation!'

'Wery vell, guv'nor,' said the irrepressible Sam, 'I shall be content to serve you until vun of us is struck dead, or taken to the Fleet, or transported, or hung.'

'Thank you, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'you may go.'

Sam executed a low bow and left the room. Mr. Pickwick was once again just about to switch on his computing device, when a knock came at the door. Mr. Pickwick heard a brief exchange of words in the hall. Then, to his inexpressible delight, the door opened to reveal his Pickwickian companions; the poetic Mr. Augustus Snodgrass, the sportsmanlike Mr. Nathaniel Winkle, and the amorous Mr. Tracy Tupman.

'Gentlemen,' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, 'this is indeed a happy meeting! I had no idea that it was your joint intention to come to my humble lodgings today.'

'But Mr. Pickwick, did you not receive my email? Why, I sent it two days ago,' said Mr. Winkle, who appeared to be fingering something deep within the recesses of his surtout pocket.

'My dear Mr. Winkle,' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, 'I did not. I fear that you have sent it to my old in-box, as I have just made the acquaintance of a new internet service provider. It apparently has an excellent reputation for reliability, according to its proprietor.'

'Pray, Mr. Pickwick, who would that be?' Enquired Mr. Tupman. Tracy Tupman, to his regret still a bachelor, spent many lonely hours at his keyboard, attempting to engage suitable young ladies of breeding in conversation with a view to marriage, and spending not inconsiderable sums of money as a consequence.

'Why, our old friend Mr. Jingle,' Mr. Pickwick replied.

This information had a curious effect upon Mr. Tupman. He first turned very red, and then turned very white. A dangerous perspiration started from his brow, and he swayed visibly.

'Ah! Me!' swooned Mr. Tupman, as he remembered how Mr. Jingle had ingratiated himself into the company of Miss Rachel Wardle, and replaced Mr. Tupman in her affections. 'Mr. Pickwick, tell me it isn't true! Tell me that you have not chosen that snake as your new internet service provider?'

Mr. Pickwick's countenance showed marked discomfort at Mr. Tupman's words. He immediately rang the bell and within moments Sam Weller was at the door.

'Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'would you please obtain a cool flannel for Mr. Tupman. I fear he is unwell.'

'That's a werry interesting colour as you've discovered, sir,' said Sam, addressing Mr. Tupman in relation to the hue of his countenance. 'I'm werry much afeerd as you are about to go off bang, as the young ooman said to her particular acquaintance the muffin man, ven she placed her hand upon his muffins.'

At this moment Sam's wife Mary entered the room, bearing a basin containing a length of calico, liberally sprinkled with cool water. Mr. Tupman allowed Mary to minister to him in his present state of discomfiture, and within minutes he professed himself much better. There was little that escaped the notice of the intelligent Mr. Pickwick. His gaze rested upon Mr. Winkle, who still appeared to be engaged upon some barely perceptible machinations within his pocket.

'Winkle! Why, whatever are you doing?' Enquired Mr. Pickwick. 'Is that a gun in your pocket?'

'Or are you werry pleased to see us, as the young 'ooman said to..'

'Pray be quiet, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick. I insist upon knowing what you are doing.'

Mr. Winkle looked sheepishly at Mr. Pickwick, and withdrew a small object from the pocket in which it had been hitherto confined. 'It's a BlackBerry, Mr. Pickwick. You can use it to send emails and things,' said Winkle.

'Hand it to me, Winkle,' insisted Mr. Pickwick. 'I have had a desire for some time to purchase one of these devices. If you would allow me to peruse it for a moment, perhaps it would enable me to decide whether it would be useful to me.'

Mr. Winkle did as he was bidden. Mr. Pickwick took the BlackBerry in his hand and pressed a button.

'Ah, so there are your emails, Mr. Winkle. I'll just open one, thus,' said Mr. Pickwick, for whom technological matters held no fear. 'But what is this?' And so saying, Mr. Pickwick placed his spectacles upon his nose and recited, verbatim, the content of one of Mr. Winkle's emails:

Mr. Robert Posstot of 12, Mincing Lane, begs leave to suggest that gentlemen may increase their circumference by a considerable degree with the use of a patented device. This useful item is only available from the aforesaid Mr. Posstot for the consideration of half a guinea. Email

'Bless me, Mr. Winkle, whatever does that mean?' enquired Mr. Pickwick who, for the first occasion in his long life, was genuinely mystified.

Mr. Winkle turned very pale. 'Ah, um, well, Mr. Pickwick. I believe it is some item, intended to increase the appetite of a gentleman who is off his food. Hence the mention of circumference,' ventured Mr. Winkle, hoping this hastily-concocted explanation would satisfy Mr. Pickwick's curiosity.

'Begging your pardon, gen'l'm'n,' interposed Sam, 'but I ha' seen emails of this particular wariety afore. And there's a werry particular name for 'em as vell.'

'And what is that, Sam?' said Mr. Snodgrass, venturing into the conversation for the first time. Mr. Snodgrass knew nothing of computers and was content to compose his sensitive poems through the more traditional medium of ink and quill.

'Vy, sir, they are called Gammon,' Sam explained helpfully. 'Ven vun gent asks another gent to part vith his coin, on account of some vonderful thing as the first gent has inwented, ve calls it 'gammoning'. Vy, I get at least vun and tventy pieces of gammon a veek wia my Sony Waio! But, begging your pardon again, I think this 'ere bit of gammon has werry little to do vith a gen'l'm'n's vaistline. I rayther think it has more to do with this 'ere sporting gen'l'm'n's name.'

'What do you mean, Sam? What on earth is meant by increasing the size of a Nathaniel?' Enquired the innocent Mr. Pickwick.

'Vy, bless your old boots and gaiters, guv'nor,' said Sam, 'I vos talking about the name of Vinkle.'

At Sam's retort, the three visiting Pickwickians looked decidedly ill at ease. Mr. Tupman attempted to cram a leathern riding glove into his mouth in a not altogether successful attempt to hide his amusement at Mr. Weller's explanation of the unsolicited electronic missive from the inventive Mr. Posstot, Mr. Snodgrass allowed a flicker of a smile to creep across his other-worldly countenance, which he contrived to conceal behind a small nosegay of flowers, whilst Mr. Winkle simply fainted away.

'Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'I believe that we will be requiring calico and cold water once again.'

'Vell I'll go to the foot of our stairs, as the old gent said ven his vife kicked him down two flights and into the cellar by vay of recreation,' said Sam. 'I think Mr. Vinkle vill be needing something rayther stronger to rewive him.'

'And what would that be, Sam?' enquired Mr. Pickwick.

'Vell, sir, I received an email from my dear old father this werry morning. You know, him as drives the Dorking coach and is ved to the circus acrobat?'

'Yes, Sam, I do recall,' said Mr. Pickwick, who had met Mr. Tony Weller at the start of an eventful journey to Dingley Dell in Kent. 'Pray tell us how we can revive Mr. Winkle?' Even now poor Mr. Winkle remained supine, but was showing signs of returning animation.

Sam remained silent for a few moments, to ensure that the full attention of the Pickwickians was focused upon him. He folded his arms, uttered a gentle cough, and then said, 'Vy, sir, it's a remedy as the old 'un svears by. It's called Wiagra. And, thanks to the Vorld Vide Veb, Mr. Vinkle can awail himself of a supply vithout limit from a werry nice on-line sawbones in Wirginia!'


Madame DeFarge said...

(i haven't caught up with - you're too prolific!)

Very enjoyable jaunt down Dickens lane. Can we look forward to a Tale of Two Twitters? Or Great Textpations?

chris hale said...

MDF - How about David Bloggerfield? Or Little Bloggit? Or Oliver Twit? Or Hard Drives? Or Martin Chuzzletwit?

Comedy Goddess said...

Wow. Just wow.

Is that a new picture of you on the sidebar? Crosseyed? Retirement is having it's way with you! How fun!!

chris hale said...

CG - Yep, that's me. Scary, aint it?

Madame DeFarge said...

Darn you and your pesky imagination. I am outtrumped and undone, if not hoisted by my own petard. That'll teach me to mess with the retired coppers. I'll stick to the serving ones.

chris hale said...

MDF - I'd have to get up early in the morning to improve upon your thesaurean evolutions. Just think of me as a jobbing plagiarist of dead authors' works.

What's all this about sticking to working coppers? Doesn't that require an awful lot of velcro?

Argentum Vulgaris said...

Chris, I have just stuck this on The Tomus Arcanum as a link, and I didn't use a single piece of velcro. This plagarised piece of Dickens is nothing short of brilliant, I enjoyed it immensely, now I have to read the previous entries.

I hope you don't mind me linking this.


Argentum Vulgaris said...

Damn, poos & wees!

I forgot the link, in case you don't have it already.


chris hale said...

AV - Thanks, and thanks for the link; I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Derrick said...

Hi Chris,

This is my second visit to read this Dickensian diatribe (in the nicest possible way, of course!).

I can well imagine Mr D wholeheartedly embracing the wonders of the internet. You have helped to demonstrate what a spendidly useful tool it can be!

chris hale said...

Thanks Derrick.

I had thought this would be my last such venture, but I may have a play around with some other literary giants in the future. Keep watching!