Mr. Pickwick, a convivial old gentleman, resolves that he and three other "Pickwickians"—Mr. Nathaniel Winkle, Mr. Augustus Snodgrass, and Mr. Tracy Tupman—should travel beyond London to add to their experiences of the quaint and curious phenomena of life. The friends traverse the countryside of Georgian England, where their comic misadventures include an encounter with highwaymen, romantic entanglements, and a challenge to a duel. Best of all, they meet Sam Weller, the Cockney valet whose comic philosophy forms the joyous soul of this picaresque romp.
Published serially in 1836–37, The Pickwick Papers was Dickens' first novel and its rousing success launched his lasting fame. This narrative of coach travel provides a vivid portrait of a world that was soon to vanish with the coming of the railroads. From the grim depiction of Fleet Prison to the exuberant account of the cricket match at Dingley Dell, the tales of the immortal Pickwick Club offer memorable scenes of nineteenth-century England.