The Christmas chapter from The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens


Charles Dickens celebrated the half-way point of Pickwick Papers with a ‘good-humoured’ Christmas number. It was written within a few days, not long after an unusually severe snowstorm, and published on 31 December 1836 at the height of the holiday season. Pickwick, like the reader, is taken back to a joyous, old-fashioned Christmas of blazing logs, ‘feasting and revelry’, ‘companionship and mutual goodwill’, and happy ‘delusions of our childish days’. As one contemporary reviewer complained, it was very reminiscent of Washington Irving’s The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, a book Dickens knew and loved as a child.

The Number ends with ‘The story of the goblins who stole a sexton’, a Christmas tale of the supernatural. In it the lonely, morose, misanthropic Gabriel Grubb tries to cheer himself up on Christmas Eve by digging a grave. As he sits down to rest after his work he is tormented by goblins with visions of joy and happy family life until he is converted to optimism and benevolence. The story, which brings a sharp note of reality to the idyllic episode, shows Dickens’s developing sense of the meaning of Christmas, anticipating A Christmas Carol.

Full title:
The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club
1837 (1836, 37), London
Serial / Illustration / Image
Charles Dickens, Hablot Knight Browne [illustrator]
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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