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The Pickwick Papers | Quotes


Great men are seldom over scrupulous in the arrangement of their attire.

Narrator, Chapter 2

The narrator is discussing Mr. Pickwick's preparation for his travels. This reiterates the idea that Pickwick is a "great man," which was established in Chapter 1, although Dickens is being facetious. Dickens establishes early on that Pickwick is a kind, but in no way brilliant, man. However, the members of the Pickwick Club treat him as a genius, so his less-than-scrupulous attire seems appropriate.


Most people are when they've little to do and less to get.

Mr. Jingle, Chapter 2

Mr. Jingle attempts to ingratiate himself with Mr. Pickwick by claiming to be a philosopher or "observer of human nature." He comments that people can be "observers of human nature" when they don't have much to do or to get. This applies to Mr. Pickwick, who is wealthy and retired. Mr. Jingle may intend for Pickwick to believe that he also is a wealthy man of leisure, or he may honestly see himself as someone with little to do, because he doesn't have a job, and less to get, because he has no money.


Man is but mortal; and there is a point beyond which human courage cannot extend.

Narrator, Chapter 4

This refers to Mr. Pickwick and his friends as they face the regiment's charge during the bivouac and field day. Dickens repeatedly refers to Mr. Pickwick as godlike, angel-like, or superior to the ordinary man, but here he admits that Pickwick and his friends are mere mortals and were frightened.


'It wasn't the wine,' murmured Mr. Snodgrass, in a broken voice. 'It was the salmon.' (Somehow or other, it never is the wine, in these cases.)

Mr. Snodgrass, Chapter 8

When the men return home drunk after the cricket match, the Wardle ladies are horrified. In an attempt to present himself in a better light, Mr. Snodgrass suggests food poisoning, rather than drunkenness, is to blame. As the narrator points out, this is a polite fiction that is often attempted but rarely believed.


It's always best on these occasions to do what the mob do.

Mr. Pickwick, Chapter 13

This exchange happens during the election at Eatanswill. Dickens shows his opinion of the political process by referring to the rowdy election crowd as a "mob." Mr. Pickwick's advice to go along with the mob suggests a certain level of cowardice, or at least a strong sense of self-preservation.


Battledore and shuttlecock's a wery good game, vhen you ain't the shuttlecock and two lawyers the battledores, in which case it gets too excitin' to be pleasant.

Sam Weller, Chapter 20

Sam intervenes when Mr. Pickwick becomes angry at Dodson and Fogg. In his usually picturesque way, Sam warns Pickwick not to give Dodson and Fogg any more evidence to use against him in court cases.


I took a good deal o' pains with his eddication, sir; let him run in the streets when he was wery young, and shift for his-self. It's the only way to make a boy sharp, sir.

Mr. Weller, Chapter 20

When Mr. Pickwick first meets Mr. Weller, Sam's father anxiously inquires whether Sam is a satisfactory servant. Upon hearing that he is, Mr. Weller takes credit for Sam's success, citing his own unorthodox parenting technique. Although his parenting approach may have been questionable, it did have the result of making Sam very street-smart and careful, which is part of what makes him so valuable to Pickwick.


Dumb as a drum vith a hole in it.

Sam Weller, Chapter 25

When Mr. Pickwick, Sam, and the other Pickwickians are arrested by the Magistrate, Sam argues with everyone, trying to defend his master. Pickwick orders him to be quiet. This is Sam's response.


She never went out herself, and ... was apt to consider it an act of domestic treason, if anybody else took the liberty of doing what she couldn't.

Narrator, Chapter 28

Mrs. Wardle, the old deaf lady who is Mr. Wardle's mother, is rather cranky and unhappy when the Pickwickians visit at Christmas. She doesn't approve of the Pickwickians' travels, and she is particularly unhappy about the imminent wedding of her granddaughter to Mr. Trundle.


When a man bleeds inwardly, it is a dangerous thing for himself; but when he laughs inwardly, it bodes no good to other people.

Narrator, Chapter 31

When Mr. Pickwick insists that he be introduced to the great Serjeant Snubbin, who will argue his case in court, he witnesses Perker and the clerk laughing together about getting more out of their clients. The clerk is the one who "laughs inwardly," and it is an example of the inherent mistrust Dickens has for lawyers and their subordinates.


Never mind the character, and stick to the alleybi.

Mr. Weller, Chapter 33

Sam's father offers his advice on Mr. Pickwick's trial, and he recommends focusing on the alibi. This argument, of course, does not apply in a civil matter, such as Bardell v. Pickwick, but Mr. Weller is convinced it could help Mr. Pickwick avoid a judgement against him.


We still leave unblotted the leaves of our statute book ... the just and wholesome law which declares that the sturdy felon shall be fed and clothed, and that the penniless debtor shall be left to die of starvation and nakedness.

Narrator, Chapter 42

This is one of Dickens's most direct statements against debtors' prisons in the book, made as Mr. Pickwick visits the "poor side" of the debtors' prison for the first time. Dickens follows this quote with the sentence: "This is no fiction," in case readers think he is inventing or embellishing the truth of the prison.


I never heerd ... or read of in story-books, nor see in picters, any angel in tights and gaiters ... but ... he's a reg'lar thoroughbred angel for all that.

Sam Weller, Chapter 45

When Sam learns that Mr. Pickwick has been helping Mr. Jingle and Job in prison, he is struck once again by how good Pickwick is.


What was over couldn't be begun, and what couldn't be cured must be endured.

Narrator, Chapter 48

Mr. Pickwick breaks the news of Arabella's elopement and marriage to her brother. Arabella's aunt comes unexpectedly to his aid, telling Ben Allen to make the best of it.


You'll find that as you get vider, you'll get viser. Vidth and visdom, Sammy, alvays grows together.

Mr. Weller, Chapter 56

Sam suggests that his father is getting plump in his old age; this is Mr. Weller's retort.

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