Bardell v. Pickwick
by Percy Fitzgerald
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Transcribed from the 1902 Elliot Stock edition by David Price, email

[Picture: Mr. Justice Gaselee (original of Mr. Justice Stareleigh), sketched by the Editor from the family portrait in the possession of H. Gaselee, Esq.]

Bardell v. Pickwick

The Trial for Breach of Promise of Marriage held at the Guildhall Sittings, on April 1, 1828, before Mr. Justice Stareleigh and a Special Jury of the City of London.

Edited with Notes and Commentaries by PERCY FITZGERALD, M.A., F.S.A.

Barrister-at-Law; and sometime Crown Prosecutor on the North-East Circuit (Ireland).




There are few things more familiar or more interesting to the public than this cause celebre. It is better known than many a real case: for every one knows the Judge, his name and remarks—also the Counsel—(notably Sergeant Buzfuz)—the witnessess, and what they said—and of course all about the Plaintiff and the famous Defendant. It was tried over seventy years ago at "the Guildhall Settens," and was described by Boz some sixty-three years ago. Yet every detail seems fresh—and as fresh as ever. It is astonishing that a purely technical sketch like this, whose humours might be relished only by such specialists as Barristers and Attorneys, who would understand the jokes levelled at the Profession, should be so well understanded of the people. All see the point of the legal satire. It is a quite a prodigy. Boz had the art, in an extraordinary degree, of thus vividly commending trade processes, professional allusions, and methods to outsiders, and making them humourous and intelligible. Witness Jackson, when he came to "serve" Mr. Pickwick and friends with the subpoenas. It is a dry, business-like process, but how racy Boz made it. A joke sparkles in every line.

This trial for Breach has been debated over and over again among lawyers and barristers, some contending that "there was no evidence at all to go to the Jury" as to a promise; others insisting on mis-direction, and that there was evidence that ought not to have been admitted. The law has since been changed, and by later Acts both Mrs. Bardell and Mr. Pickwick would have been allowed to tell their stories and to have been cross-examined. Mrs. Bardell was almost justified in supposing that Mr. Pickwick was offering his hand when he was merely speaking of engaging a man-servant. But then the whole would have been spoiled. Under the present systems, this would all have come out. Mr. Pickwick, when it came to his turn, would have explained what his proceedings meant. It is a most perfect and vivid satire on the hackneyed methods of the lawyers when dealing with the witnesses. Nothing can be more natural or more graphic. It is maintained to something between the level of comedy and farce: nor is there the least exaggeration. It applies now as it did then, though not to the same topics. A hectoring, bullying Counsel, threatening and cruel, would interfere with the pleasant tone of the play; but it is all the same conveyed. There is a likeness to Bardell v. Pickwick in another Burlesque case, tried in our day, the well-known "Trial by Jury," the joint work of Mr. Gilbert and the late Sir Arthur Sullivan. The general tone of both is the same and in the modern work there is a general Pickwickian flavour. Sir Arthur's music, too, is highly "Pickwickian," and the joint effort of the two humorists is infinitely diverting. The Judge is something of a Stareleigh.

The truth is that Boz, the engenderer of these facetiae, apart from his literary gift, was one of the most brilliant, capable young fellows of his generation. Whatever he did, he did in the best way, and in the brightest way. But his power of observation and of seeing what might be termed the humorous quiddity of anything, was extraordinary.

To put absurdity in a proper view for satirical purposes, it has to be generalised from a number of instances, familiar to all. Those legal oddities, the public had seen over and over again, but they had passed unnoticed till this clever observer set to work and noted them. As I say, it required a deep knowledge of the law to set these things in a grotesque light.

Boz had been a sort of general reporter on the Chronicle: he "took" everything. He had reported at police courts as well as at the law courts. His quick and bright intelligence seized the humours here, as it did those of the street. He later reported in the Gallery, and was dispatched across country in post-chaises to "take" eminent political speakers—always winning the hearty commendation of his employers for his zeal and energy.


Mr. Pickwick was a well-to-do bachelor, who lived by himself near the city, where he had been in trade. His age was about fifty, as can be accurately calculated by his remark on the sliding at Manor Farm. "I used to do so on the gutters when I was a boy . . . but I hav'nt done such a thing these thirty years." This was said in 1828. He resided in Goswell Street—now Goswell Road—with a widow lady, whose husband had been in the Excise. He cannot have paid more than a pound a week, if so much, for two rooms on the first floor. There was no servant, and the hardworking landlady, Mrs. Martha Bardell, performed all the duties of her household single-handed. As her Counsel later described it,—and see all she did for him!—"She waited on him, attended to his comforts, cooked his meals, looked out his linen for the washer-woman when it went abroad, darned, aired, and prepared it for his wear when it came home, and, in short, enjoyed his fullest trust and confidence." Thus Sergeant Buzfuz, duly "instructed." Not only was there Mr. Pickwick, but there was another lodger, and her little boy Tommy. The worthy woman took care of and looked after all three. This might incline us to take a favorable view of her. She regarded her lodger with feelings of veneration and attachment, of which proof is found in her later talk with Sam. To him she said that "he had always behaved himself like a perfect gentlemen," and then added this significant speech: "It's a terrible thing to be dragged in this way before the public, but I now see that it's the only thing that I ought to do." That is, she seems to have held out as long as possible, believing that her amiable lodger would act as a perfect gentlemen and like himself. But when she found that even an action had no terrors for him, she saw that there was nothing else to do but to let the action go on.

And what was Mrs. Bardell like? One would imagine her a plump, buxom widow, "fat, fair, and forty," with her dear little boy, "the only pledge of her deceased exciseman," or say something between thirty and forty years old. Fortunately, two portraits have come down to us of the lady—one somewhat of this pattern, and depicting her, as she flung herself on Mr. Pickwick on that disastrous morning: the other—a swollen, dreadful thing, which must be a caricature of the literal presentment. Here we see a woman of gross, enormous proportions seated on the front bench and apparently weighing some thirteen or fourteen stone, with a vast coarse face. This is surely an unfair presentment of the worthy landlady; besides, Dodson and Fogg were too astute practitioners to imperil their chances by exhibiting to his Lordship and the Jury so ill-favoured a plaintiff. Indeed, we are told that they arranged a rather theatrical exhibition in this scene, with a view of creating an impression in their favour.

Many find pleasure in reading the Bookseller's Catalogues, and a vast number are showered on me in the course of the year. But on one of these I always gaze with a special interest, and even tenderness. For it comes from one Herbert, who lives in Goswell Road. Only think, Goswell Road—erst Goswell Street, where just seventy years ago Mrs. Bardell was letting lodgings and Mr. Pickwick himself was lodging: and on the cover I read, furthur attraction, "Goswell Road, near the 'Angel,'" whence the "stage" which took the party to the "Spaniard" at Hampstead started! Sometimes I am drawn to the shop, crowded with books; but one's thoughts stray away from the books into speculations as to which house it was. But the indications are most vague, though the eye settles on a decent range of shabby-looking faded tenements—two storeys high only—and which look like lodging houses. Some ingenious commentators have indeed ventured to identify the house itself, arguing from the very general description in the text.

We should note, however, Mr. Pickwick's lack of caution. He came in the very next day, having apparently made no enquiries as to the landlady. Had he done so, he would have learned of the drunken exciseman who met his death by being knocked on the head with a quart pot. He might have heard of the friends, Cluppins, Raddle, etc., who seemed to have been charwomen or something of the sort; also that there was a sort of working man as a fellow lodger. Above all, that there was no servant in the house. All which boded ill, and made it likely that Mr. Pickwick would be the easy victim of some crafty scheme.

All went well until the unluckly morning in July, 1827, when Mr. Pickwick's friends, coming to pay a morning call, and entering unexpectedly, surprised Mr. Pickwick with his landlady fainting in his arms in an hysterical condition. This was a very awkward business. The delinquent, however, did not at once grasp the situation, and could not "make head or tail of it, or what the lady meant." His friends, however, had their doubts:

'What is the matter?' said the three tongue-tied Pickwickians.

'I don't know,' replied Mr. Pickwick, pettishly. 'Now, help me, lead this woman down stairs.'

'Oh, I am better now,' said Mrs. Bardell, faintly.

'Let me lead you downstairs,' said the ever gallant Mr. Tupman.

'Thank you, sir—thank you?' exclaimed Mrs. Bardell hysterically. And downstairs she was led accordingly, accompanied by her affectionate son.

[Picture: The cause of action]

'I cannot conceive—' said Mr. Pickwick, when his friend returned—'I cannot conceive what has been the matter with that woman. I had merely announced to her my intention of keeping a man servant, when she fell into the extraordinary paroxysm in which you found her. Very extraordinary thing.'

'Very,' said his three friends.

'Placed me in such an extremely awkward situation,' continued Mr. Pickwick.

'Very,' was the reply of his followers, as they coughed slightly, and looked dubiously at each other.

This behaviour was not lost upon Mr. Pickwick. He remarked their incredulity. They evidently suspected him.

It may be reasonably supposed that Mr. Pickwick had not been very discreet, or sufficiently cautious in his general behaviour to his landlady. As we know, he was rather too effusive in his relations with the fair sex. One of his weaknesses was kissing. He would kiss everybody who was young or good-looking. His maxim was "Kiss early and kiss often." Who can forget his systematic method of greeting the engaging Arabella? "He (1) took off his spectacles, (2) in great haste, and (3) taking both the young lady's hands in his (4) kissed her (5) a great many times (6) perhaps a greater number of times than was absolutely necessary." Old rogue! I have little doubt that on his return home from his tours he encircled the buxom figure of Mrs. Bardell—all of course in his own paternal and privileged way.

It should be borne in mind also that Mr. Pickwick was almost invariably drawn into his more serious scrapes and embarrassments by this devotion to the sex. The night in the boarding school garden—the affair with the spinster lady—his interview with Arabella from the top of the wall—his devotion to Mrs. Pott and Mrs. Dowler—and much more that we do not hear of, show that he was a gallant elderly gentleman. Oh, he was a "sly dog, he was."

There is a curious burst of Mr. Pickwick's which seems to hint at a sort of tender appreciation on his side. When the notice of trial was sent to him, in his first vehemence, he broke out that Mrs. Bardell had nothing to do with the business, "She hadn't the heart to do it." Mr. Pickwick could not speak with this certainty, unless he knew the lady's feelings pretty well. Why hadn't she the heart to do it? Because she was sincerely attached to him and his interests and was "a dear creature." This, however, was a fond delusion of the worthy gentleman's. Persons of her class are not quite so disinterested as they appear to be, especially if they have to interpret the various paternal and comforting advances made to them by their well to do lodgers.

There is another factor which can hardly be left out, when considering Mr. Pickwick's responsibility—that is, his too frequent indulgence in liquor, and the insufficiency of his head to stand its influence. Now this was a very important day for him, the first time he was to set up a man servant. He had to break it to his landlady, who would naturally resent the change. He may have been priming himself with some of those perpetual glasses of brandy and water to which he was addicted, and who knows but that, in his ardour to propitiate, he may have gone a little too far? This fact too, of the introducing a man servant into her establishment, Mrs. Bardell may have indistinctly associated with a general change in his life. If she were to become Mrs. Pickwick her duties might be naturally expected to devolve on a male assistant.

Next morning he and his friends quitted London on their travels to Eatanswill in pursuit of adventure. He airily dismissed the matter. We may wonder whether he made any remonstrance to his landlady before his departure. Probably he did not, fancying that she had been merely in a slight fit of the "tantrums."

At Bury, however, after the boarding-school adventure, he was to be painfully awakened. He was sitting with his friends after dinner at the "Angel," in his happiest mood. Winkle had related his quarrel with Pott in re Mrs. Pott, in a humorous fashion when one of the most delightful of humorous scenes followed.

Mr. Pickwick was proceeding with his scathing rebuke, when Sam enters with a letter.

'I don't know this hand,' said Mr. Pickwick, opening the letter. 'Mercy on us! what's this? It must be a jest; it—it—can't be true.'

'What's the matter?' was the general inquiry.

'Nobody dead, is there?' said Wardle, alarmed at the horror in Mr. Pickwick's countenance.

Mr. Pickwick made no reply, but, pushing the letter across the table, and desiring Mr. Tupman to read it aloud, fell back in his chair with a look of vacant astonishment quite alarming to behold.

Mr. Tupman, with a trembling voice, read the letter, of which the following is a copy:—

'Freeman's Court, Cornhill, August 28th, 1827. Bardell against Pickwick.


Having been instructed by Mrs. Martha Bardell to commence an action against you for a breach of promise of marriage, for which the plaintiff lays her damages at fifteen hundred pounds, we beg to inform you that a writ has been issued against you in this suit in the Court of Common Pleas; and request to know, by return of post, the name of your attorney in London, who will accept service thereof.

We are, Sir, Your obedient servants, DODSON & FOGG.

Mr. Samuel Pickwick.'

So Mr. Pickwick, the general mentor, the philosopher and friend—the man of high moral tone, "born to set the world aright"—the general lecturer of his "followers," was now in for an action at law of the most awkward and unpleasant kind. To be philandering with one's landlady! rather low form this. But what would they say down at Manor Farm? How Isabella Wardle and her sister—and all the girls—would laugh! And the spinster aunt—she would enjoy it! But there was no help for it. It must be faced.

Naturally Mr. Pickwick felt uncomfortable, and his first idea was to arrange the matter. This was a sensible course, and he ought at once to have put the matter into the hands of his friend Perker, with full powers to treat. But no. Mr. Pickwick's vanity and indiscretion made him meddle in the business behind his solicitor's back, as it where, and with damaging results to himself—a warning to all such amateurs. It must be said that Dodson and Fogg's behaviour at the extraordinary visit which he paid them was marked by a certain propriety. Mr. Pickwick insisted on knowing what were the grounds of action—that is, the details of the evidence against him—in short, their case. They, very correctly, refused to tell him. "The case may be false or it may be true—it may be credible it may be incredible." But all the same it was a strong case. This was as much as they could tell. Mr. Pickwick could only urge that if "it were so, he was a most unfortunate man," on which Dodson promptly—"I hope you are, sir, I trust you may be, sir. If you are really innocent, you are more unfortunate than I had believed any man could possibly be."

Mr. Pickwick then rather foolishly asked did he understand they meant to go on with the action—as if they could have been affected by his declaration. "Understand?" was the reply, "that you certainly may"—a very natural speech.

With some want of professional delicacy and etiquette, Dodson seized the opportunity to "serve" Mr. Pickwick; but they were not a high-class firm and their methods were not high-class. Then an extraordinarily incredible display followed. His passion broke forth. "Of all the disgraceful and rascally proceedings he ever, etc.!" Dodson summoned his clerks to listen to this gross language, and said, "Perhaps you would like to call us swindlers." "You are," said Mr. Pickwick. Fogg even wished him to assault them—and perhaps he would have done so, but for Sam, who at last got him away. This was certainly not correct, but how aggravating was Mr. Pickwick! One is rather astonished at the forbearance of this sharp firm.

Now, had Mr. Pickwick gone straight to his lodgings in Goswell Street and seen Mrs. Bardell, heard her views and claims, had he been told by her that she had been professionally urged to go to law as she had such a strong case—there might have been some excuse for this violence to Dodson and Fogg. But he knew nothing whatever of the matter—knew nothing of the attornies—and in his blind fury gratuitously assumed that they had "conspired" to harass him in this way. True, he had overheard how they had treated poor Ramsey.

This very malapropos visit of Mr. Pickwick to the firm was, as I said, a mistake and damaged his case. It showed that he was nervous and anxious, and insecure. He took nothing by it. There was in truth much short-sighted cunning in his ways, which came of his overweening vanity. But this was only one of several attempts he made to worm out something to his own advantage.

Another of Mr. Pickwick's foolish manoeuvres was his sending his man to his old lodgings to his landlady—ostensibly to fetch away his "things," when this dialogue passed:

'Tell Mrs. Bardell she may put a bill up, as soon as she likes.'

'Wery good, sir,' replied Mr. Weller; 'anythin' more, sir.'

'Nothing more, Sam.'

Mr. Weller stepped slowly to the door, as if he expected something more; slowly opened it, slowly stepped out, and had slowly closed it within a couple of inches, when Mr. Pickwick called out.


'Sir,' said Mr. Weller, stepping quickly back, and closing the door behind him.

'I have no objection, Sam, to your endeavouring to ascertain how Mrs. Bardell herself seems disposed towards me, and whether it is really probable that this vile and groundless action is to be carried to extremity. I say, I do not object to your doing this, if you wish it, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick. Sam gave a short nod of intelligence and left the room.

Now this was very artful on the part of Mr. Pickwick, but it was a very shallow sort of artfulness, and it was later to recoil on himself. Sam of course saw through it at once. It never dawned on this simple-minded man what use the Plaintiff's solicitors would make of his demarche.

When the subpoenas were served he rushed off to Perker:

'They have subpoena'd my servant too,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Sam?' said Perker.

Mr. Pickwick replied in the affirmative.

'Of course, my dear sir; of course. I knew they would. I could have told you that a month ago. You know, my dear sir, if you will take the management of your affairs into your own hands after intrusting them to your solicitor, you must also take the consequences.' Here Mr. Perker drew himself up with conscious dignity, and brushed some stray grains of snuff from his shirt frill.

'And what do they want him to prove?' asked Mr. Pickwick, after two or three minutes' silence.

'That you sent him up to the plaintiff's to make some offer of a compromise, I suppose,' replied Perker. 'It don't matter much, though; I don't think many counsel could get a great deal out of him.'

'I don't think they could,' said Mr. Pickwick.

The minutiae of legal process are prosaic and uninteresting, and it might seem impossible to invest them with any dramatic interest; but how admirably has Boz lightened up and coloured the simple incident of an attorney's clerk—a common, vulgar fellow of the lowest type, arriving to serve his subpoenas on the witnesses—all assumed to be hostile. The scene is full of touches of light comedy.

'How de do, sir?' said Mr. Jackson, nodding to Mr. Pickwick.

That gentlemen bowed, and looked somewhat surprised for the physiognomy of Mr. Jackson dwelt not in his recollection.

'I have called from Dodson and Fogg's,' said Mr. Jackson, in an explanatory tone.

Mr. Pickwick roused at the name. 'I refer you to my attorney, sir: Mr. Perker, of Gray's Inn,' said he. 'Waiter, show this gentleman out.'

'Beg your pardon, Mr. Pickwick,' said Jackson, deliberately depositing his hat on the floor, and drawing from his pocket the strip of parchment. 'But personal service, by clerk or agent, in these cases, you know, Mr. Pickwick—nothing like caution, sir, in all legal forms?'

Here Mr. Jackson cast his eye on the parchment; and, resting his hands on the table, and looking round with a winning and persuasive, smile, said: 'Now, come; don't let's have no words about such a little matter as this. Which of you gentlemen's name's Snodgrass?'

At this inquiry Mr. Snodgrass gave such a very undisguised and palpable start, that no further reply was needed.

'Ah! I thought so,' said Mr. Jackson, more affably than before. 'I've got a little something to trouble you with, sir.'

'Me!' exclaimed Mr. Snodgrass.

'It's only a subpoena in Bardell and Pickwick on behalf of the plaintiff,' replied Jackson, singling out one of the slips of paper, and producing a shilling from his waistcoat pocket. 'It'll come on, in the settens after Term; fourteenth of Febooary, we expect; we've marked it a special jury cause, and it's only ten down the paper. That's yours, Mr. Snodgrass.' As Jackson said this he presented the parchment before the eyes of Mr. Snodgrass, and slipped the paper and the shilling into his hand.

Mr. Tupman had witnessed this process in silent astonishment, when Jackson, turning sharply upon him, said:

'I think I ain't mistaken when I say your name's Tupman, am I?'

Mr. Tupman looked at Mr. Pickwick; but, perceiving no encouragement in that gentleman's widely-opened eyes to deny his name, said:

'Yes, my name is Tupman, sir.'

'And that other gentleman's Mr. Winkle, I think?' said Jackson.

Mr. Winkle faltered out a reply in the affirmative; and both gentlemen were forthwith invested with a slip of paper, and a shilling each, by the dexterous Mr. Jackson.

'Now,' said Jackson, 'I'm affraid you'll think me rather troublesome, but I want somebody else, if it ain't inconvenient. I have Samuel Weller's name here, Mr. Pickwick.'

'Send my servant here, waiter,' said Mr. Pickwick. The waiter retired, considerably astonished, and Mr. Pickwick motioned Jackson to a seat.

There was a painful pause, which was at length broken by the innocent defendant.

'I suppose, sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, his indignation rising while he spoke; 'I suppose, sir, that it is the intention of your employers to seek to criminate me upon the testimony of my own friends?'

Mr. Jackson struck his forefinger several times against the left side of his nose, to intimate that he was not there to disclose the secrets of the prison-house, and playfully rejoined:

'Not knowin', can't say.'

'For what other reason, sir,' pursued Mr. Pickwick, 'are these subpoenas served upon them, if not for this?'

'Very good plant, Mr. Pickwick,' replied Jackson, slowly shaking his head. 'But it won't do. No harm in trying, but there's little to be got out of me.'

Here Mr. Jackson smiled once more upon the company, and, applying his left thumb to the tip of his nose, worked a visionary coffee-mill with his right hand: thereby performing a very graceful piece of pantomime (then much in vogue, but now, unhappily, almost obsolete) which was familiarly denominated 'taking a grinder.' (Imagine a modern solicitor's clerk "Taking a grinder!")

'No, no, Mr. Pickwick,' said Jackson, in conclusion; 'Perker's people must guess what we served these subpoenas for. If they can't, they must wait till the action comes on, and then they'll find out.'

Mr. Pickwick bestowed a look of excessive disgust on his unwelcome visitor, and would probably have hurled some tremendous anathema at the heads of Messrs. Dodson and Fogg, had not Sam's entrance at the instant interrupted him.

'Samuel Weller?' said Mr. Jackson, inquiringly.

'Vun o' the truest things as you've said for many a long year,' replied Sam, in a most composed manner.

'Here's a subpoena for you, Mr. Weller,' said Jackson.

'What's that in English?' inquired Sam.

'Here's the original,' said Jackson, declining the required explanation.

'Which?' said Sam.

'This,' replied Jackson, shaking the parchment.

'Oh, that's the 'rig'nal, is it?' said Sam. 'Well, I'm wery glad I've seen the 'rig'nal, 'cos it's a gratifyin' sort o' thing, and eases vun's mind so much.'

'And here's the shilling,' said Jackson. 'It's from Dodson and Fogg's.'

'And it's uncommon handsome o' Dodson and Fogg, as knows so little of me, to come down vith a present,' said Sam. 'I feel it as a wery high compliment, sir; it's a wery hon'rable thing to them, as they knows how to reward merit werever they meets it. Besides wich, it's affectin to one's feelin's.'

As Mr. Weller said this, he inflicted a little friction on his right eye-lid, with the sleeve of his coat, after the most approved manner of actors when they are in domestic pathetics.

Mr. Jackson seemed rather puzzled by Sam's proceedings; but, as he had served the subpoenas, and had nothing more to say, he made a feint of putting on the one glove which he usually carried in his hand, for the sake of appearances; and returned to the office to report progress.

Another of Mr. Pickwick's foolish and self-willed proceedings was the interview with Serjeant Snubbin, which he so positively insisted upon. We may wonder now-a-days would any K.C. of position have condescended to allow such a proceeding? I fancy it would be thought "irregular:" though perhaps ex gratia, and from the oddity of the proposal, it might be conceded.

When Mr. Pickwick called upon him, it turned out that the Serjeant knew nothing whatever of his case; probably cared nothing about it. It was not in his line. He perhaps wondered why the old-fashioned lawyer had "retained" him. We learn Parker's reason:

'Well, we've done everything that's necessary. I have engaged Serjeant Snubbin.'

'Is he a good man?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.

'Good man!' replied Perker; 'bless your heart and soul, my dear sir, Serjeant Snubbin is at the very top of his profession. Gets treble the business of any man in court—engaged in every case. You needn't mention it abroad; but we say—we of the profession—that Serjeant Snubbin leads the court by the nose.'

How foolish was this reasoning can be seen on an instant's reflection. To "lead the court by the nose" is well enough in an argument before a judge: but here it was more important to lead a jury by the nose, which Buzfuz knew how to do. Moreover when a counsel has this power, it usually operates on a special judge and his colleagues; but who could guarantee that Snubbin's special judge would try the case. As it turned out, the Chief Justice fell sick before the day, and Mr. Justice Stareleigh unexpectedly took the case. He as it proved was anything but "led by the nose." Perker indeed, summed up the whole weakness of the case in a single sentence:

'They have subpoena'd my three friends,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Ah! of course they would,' replied Perker. 'Important witnesses; saw you in a delicate situation.'

'But she fainted of her own accord,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'She threw herself into my arms.'

'Very likely, my dear sir,' replied Perker; 'very likely and very natural. Nothing more so, my dear sir, nothing. But who's to prove it?'

A suggestion, we are told, that rather "staggered" Mr. Pickwick.

Within ten minutes after he had received the assurance that the thing was impossible, he was conducted by his solicitors into the outer office of the great Serjeant Snubbin himself.

It was an uncarpeted room of tolerable dimensions, with a large writing table drawn up near the fire, the baize top of which had long since lost all claim to its original hue of green, and had gradually grown grey with dust and age, except where all traces of its natural colour were obliterated by ink-stains. Upon the table were numerous little bundles of papers tied with red tape; and behind it, sat an elderly clerk, whose sleek appearance and heavy gold watch-chain presented imposing indications of the extensive and lucrative practice of Mr. Serjeant Snubbin.

'Is the Serjeant in his room, Mr. Mallard?' inquired Perker, offering his box with all imaginable courtesy.

'Yes, he is,' was the reply, 'but he's very busy. Look here; not an opinion given yet, on any one of these cases; and an expedition fee paid with all of them.' The clerk smiled as he said this, and inhaled the pinch of snuff with a zest which seemed to be compounded of a fondness for snuff and a relish for fees.

'Something like practice that,' said Perker.

'Yes,' said the barrister's clerk, producing his own box, and offering it with the greatest cordiality; 'and the best of it is, that as nobody alive except myself can read the Serjeant's writing, they are obliged to wait for the opinions, when he has given them, till I have copied 'em, ha—ha—ha!'

'Which makes good for we know who, besides the Serjeant, and draws a little more out of his clients, eh?' said Perker; 'Ha, ha, ha!' At this the Serjeant's clerk laughed again—not a noisy boisterous laugh, but a silent, internal chuckle, which Mr. Pickwick disliked to hear. When a man bleeds inwardly, it is a dangerous thing for himself; but when he laughs inwardly, it bodes no good to other people.

'You haven't made me out that little list of the fees that I'm in your debt, have you?' said Perker.

'No, I have not,' replied the clerk.

'I wish you would,' said Perker. 'Let me have them, and I'll send you a cheque. But I suppose you're too busy pocketing the ready money, to think of the debtors, eh? ha, ha, ha!' This sally seemed to tickle the clerk, amazingly, and he once more enjoyed a little quiet laugh to himself.

'But, Mr. Mallard, my dear friend,' said Perker, suddenly recovering his gravity, and drawing the great man's great man into a corner, by the lappel of his coat, 'you must persuade the Serjeant to see me, and my client here.'

'Come, come,' said the clerk, 'that's not bad either. See the Serjeant! come, that's too absurd.' Notwithstanding the absurdity of the proposal, however, the clerk allowed himself to be gently drawn beyond the hearing of Mr. Pickwick; and after a short conversation conducted in whispers, walked softly down a little dark passage and disappeared into the legal luminary's sanctum, from whence he shortly returned on tiptoe, and informed Mr. Perker and Mr. Pickwick that the Serjeant had been prevailed upon, in violation of all his established rules and customs, to admit them at once.

The Serjeant was writing when his clients entered; he bowed abstractedly when Mr. Pickwick was introduced by his solicitor; and then, motioning them to a seat, put his pen carefully in the inkstand, nursed his left leg, and waited to be spoken to.

'Mr. Pickwick is the defendant in Bardell and Pickwick, Serjeant Snubbin,' said Perker.

'I am retained in that, am I?' said the Serjeant.

'You are, Sir,' replied Perker.

The Serjeant nodded his head, and waited for something else.

'Mr. Pickwick was anxious to call upon you, Serjeant Snubbin,' said Perker, 'to state to you, before you entered upon the case, that he denies there being any ground or pretence whatever for the action against him; and that unless he came into court with clean hands, and without the most conscientious conviction that he was right in resisting the plaintiff's demand, he would not be there at all. I believe I state your views correctly; do I not, my dear Sir?' said the little man, turning to Mr. Pickwick.

'Quite so,' replied that gentleman.

Mr. Serjeant Snubbin unfolded his glasses, raised them to his eyes; and, after looking at Mr. Pickwick for a few seconds with great curiosity, turned to Mr. Perker, and said, smiling slightly as he spoke—

'Has Mr. Pickwick a strong case?'

The attorney shrugged his shoulders.

'Do you purpose calling witnesses?'


The smile on the Serjeant's countenance became more defined; he rocked his leg with increased violence, and, throwing himself back in his easy-chair, coughed dubiously.

These tokens of the Serjeant's presentiments on the subject, slight as they were, were not lost on Mr. Pickwick. He settled the spectacles, through which he had attentively regarded such demonstrations of the barrister's feeling as he had permitted himself to exhibit, more firmly on his nose; and said with great energy, and in utter disregard of all Mr. Perker's admonitory winkings and frownings—

'My wishing to wait upon you for such a purpose as this, Sir, appears, I have no doubt, to a gentleman who sees so much of these matters as you must necessarily do, a very extraordinary circumstance.'

The Serjeant tried to look gravely at the fire, but the smile came back again.

[Picture: Mr. Pickwick expounds his case to his Counsel]

'Gentlemen of your profession, Sir,' continued Mr. Pickwick, 'see the worst side of human nature—all its disputes, all its ill-will and bad blood, rise up before you. You know from your experience of juries (I mean no disparagement to you or them) how much depends upon effect; and you are apt to attribute to others, a desire to use, for purposes of deception and self-interest, the very instruments which you, in pure honesty and honour of purpose, and with a laudable desire to do your utmost for your client, know the temper and worth of so well, from constantly employing them yourselves. I really believe that to this circumstance may be attributed the vulgar but very general notion of your being, as a body, suspicious, distrustful, and over-cautious. Conscious as I am, Sir, of the disadvantage of making such a declaration to you, under such circumstances, I have come here, because I wish you distinctly to understand, as my friend Mr. Perker has said, that I am innocent of the falsehood laid to my charge; and although I am very well aware of the inestimable value of your assistance, Sir, I must beg to add, that unless you sincerely believe this, I would rather be deprived of the aid of your talents than have the advantage of them.'

Long before the close of this address, which we are bound to say was of a very prosy character for Mr. Pickwick, the Serjeant had relapsed into a state of abstraction.

Now the Serjeant might at once have replied to all this, that the innocence or guilt of a client had nothing to do with him, that his use was merely to secure a client such benefit and advantage as the law entitled him to: that a judge and jury would decide the point of innocence. Boz himself evidently shared this popular delusion, and seems to be speaking by Mr. Pickwick's mouth. The sagacious Serjeant, however, took no notice whatever of the appeal, but simply asked "who was with him" in the case. Mr. Phunky was sent for, and asked by his leader "to take Mr. Pickwick away" and "hear anything he may wish to communicate." The party was then bowed out.

The truth was, Mr. Pickwick's attorney was too much of a social character and of the "old family solicitor" pattern for so critical a case. The counsel he "instructed" were unsuitable. Serjeant Snubbin was an overworked "Chamber lawyer," whose whole time and experience was given to furnishing "opinions" on tangled cases; so pressed was he that he took "expedition fees" to give certain cases priority: an illegitimate practice that now the Bar Committee would scarcely tolerate. What could such a man know of nisi prius trials, of cross-examining or handling witnesses? It is enough to give his portrait, as supplied by the author:

[Picture: Serjeant Snubbin, K.C.]

Mr. Serjeant Snubbin was a lantern-faced, sallow-complexioned man, of about five-and-forty, or—as the novels say—he might be fifty. He had that dull-looking boiled eye which is often to be seen in the heads of people who have applied themselves during many years to a weary and laborious course of study; and which would have been sufficient, without the additional eye-glass which dangled from a broad black riband round his neck, to warn a stranger that he was very near-sighted. His hair was thin and weak, which was partly attributable to his having never devoted much time to its arrangement, and partly to his having worn for five-and-twenty years the forsenic wig which hung on a block beside him. The marks of hair powder on his coat collar, and the ill-washed and worse tied white neckerchief round his throat, showed that he had not found leisure since he left the court to make any alteration in his dress: while the slovenly style of the remainder of his costume warranted the inference that his personal appearance would not have been very much improved if he had. Books of practice, heaps of papers, and opened letters, were scattered over the table, without any attempt at order or arrangement; the furniture of the room was old and ricketty; the doors of the bookcase were rotting in their hinges; the dust flew out from the carpet in little clouds at every step; the blinds were yellow with age and dirt; the state of everything in the room showed, with a clearness not to be mistaken, that Mr. Serjeant Snubbin was far too much occupied with his professional pursuits to take any great heed or regard of his personal comforts.

It was a characteristic feature of the slowness of legal process in those days that though the notice of action was sent on August the 28th, 1827, the case was not ripe for trial until February 14th of the next year—nearly six months having elapsed. It is difficult to speculate as to what this long delay was owing. There were only two witnesses whose evidence had to be briefed—Mrs. Cluppins and Mrs. Sanders—and they were at hand. It is odd, by the way, that they did not think of examining little Tommy Bardell, the only one who actually witnessed the proceeding. True, he was of tender years—about eight or ten—and the son of the Plaintiff, but he must have "known the nature of an oath."


At last the momentous morning came round. It was the fourteenth of February, Valentine's Day, 1828—one not of good omen for the Plaintiff. {26} The Defendant's party was rather gloomy at breakfast, when Perker, by wave of encouraging his client, uttered some dicta as to the chances of the Jury having had a good breakfast "Discontented or hungry jurymen, my dear Sir, always find for the Plaintiff." "Bless my heart," said Mr. Pickwick, looking very blank, "What do they do that for!"

The party then got into hackney coaches and was driven to the Guildhall, where the case was to be tried at ten o'clock precisely.

[Picture: Exterior of the Guildhall Court.—Now City Museum]

[Picture: Interior of the Guildhall, Court, circa 1830. (From an original drawing by T. Allen.)]

How dramatic Boz has made the "calling of the Jury," which might be thought an uninteresting and prosaic operation enough. It was a special jury, which entailed one guinea per head extra expense on Mr. Pickwick. He had, of course, asked for it: but Dodson and Fogg would have been well content with and perhaps even have preferred a common jury. Now-a-days, special jurors, though summoned largely, have to be almost coerced into attending. A fine of ten pounds is imposed, but this is almost invariably remitted on affidavit. The common jurors, moreover, do not show the reluctance to "serve" of Groffin, the chemist. A guinea is not to be despised. There are, as it were, professional common jurors who hang about the Courts in the hope of being thus called as "understudies." On this occasion what was called a Tales was prayed for, and two common jurors were pressed into the service: and "a greengrocer and a chemist were caught directly."

It is impossible to say too much of the completeness with which the legal scene is put forward. Everything is dealt with. We have perfect sketches of the judge, the ushers, the jury, the counsel on the case, the witnesses, the barristers, the attorneys; we have the speeches, the methods of examination and cross-examination.

There is nothing better or more life-like than the sketch of the court in the chill morning, and before the actors came on the scene—the inimitable description of the idle barristers hanging about "the Bar of England," which is accurate to this hour.

Few could describe effectively the peculiar appearance of a crowd of barristers assembled in a Court of Law. They are a type apart, and their odd headgear accentuates all the peculiarities of their faces. No one has, however, succeeded so well as Boz in touching off their peculiarities. This sort of histrionic guise and bearing is assumed with a view to impose on his friends and the public, to suggest an idea that they have much or at least something to do.

'And that,' said Mr. Pickwick, pointing to a couple of enclosed seats on his right, 'that's where the jurymen sit, is it not?'

'The identical place, my dear Sir,' replied Perker, tapping the lid of his snuff-box.

Mr. Pickwick stood up in a state of great agitation and took a glance at the court. There were already a pretty large sprinkling of spectators in the gallery, and a numerous muster of gentlemen in wigs in the barristers' seats, who presented, as a body, all that pleasing and extensive variety of nose and whisker for which the bar of England is so justly celebrated. Such of the gentlemen as had got a brief to carry, carried it in as conspicuous a manner as possible, and occasionally scratched their noses therewith, to impress the fact more strongly on the observation of the spectators.

One of the happiest descriptions is surely that of the binding of law books. A law library is the most repulsive and uninteresting thing in the world. The colour of the leather is unhealthy and disagreeable, and the necessary shading is secured at the expense of grace. Boz characterises it as 'that under-done pie crust.'

Other gentlemen, who had no briefs to show, carried under their arms goodly octavos, with a red label behind, and that under-done-pie-crust-coloured cover, which is technically known as "law calf." Others, who had neither briefs nor books, thrust their hands into their pockets, and looked as wise as they conveniently could; while others, again, moved here and there with great restlessness and earnestness of manner, content to awaken thereby the admiration and astonishment of the uninitiated stranger. The whole, to the great wonderment of Mr. Pickwick, were divided into little groups, who were chatting and discussing the news of the day in the most unfeeling manner possible—just as if no trial at all were coming on.

A bow from Mr. Phunky, as he entered, and took his seat behind the row appropriated to the King's Counsel, attracted Mr. Pickwick's attention; and he had scarcely returned it, when Mr. Serjeant Snubbin appeared, followed by Mr. Mallard, who half hid the Serjeant behind a large crimson bag, which he placed on his table, and after shaking hands with Perker, withdrew. Then there entered two or three more Serjeants, and among them, one with a fat body and a red face, who nodded in a friendly manner to Mr. Serjeant Snubbin, and said it was a fine morning.

'Who's that red-faced man, who said it was a fine morning and nodded to our counsel?' whispered Mr. Pickwick.

'Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz,' replied Perker. 'He's opposed to us; he leads on the other side. That gentleman behind him is Mr. Skimpin, his junior.'

Mr. Pickwick was just on the point of inquiring, with great abhorrence of the man's cold-blooded villainy, how Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz, who was counsel for the opposite party, dared to presume to tell Mr. Serjeant Snubbin, who was counsel for him, that it was a fine morning,—when he was interrupted by a general rising of the barristers, and a loud cry of 'Silence!' from the officers of the court. Looking round, he found that this was caused by the entrance of the Judge.

On reaching the Court, Perker said, "put Mr. Pickwick's friends in the students' box. Mr. Pickwick had better sit by me." This useful provision for the instruction of legal probationers has fallen into desuetude—no place is reserved for the students now-a-days. Lord Campbell describes the custom and recalls an incident that occurred when he was sitting in the students' box, close to the Bench.

There were some matters of procedure which have since been changed—such as Mr. Skimpin "calling for" Winkle, and the latter answering. This is now done by an Officer of the Court. Skimpin also asks Winkle his name, as a first question, though he had been sworn and had given it. And the mal-entendu as to "Daniel Nathaniel" could not then have occurred, as the Officer would have obtained the name correctly. Another unusual thing was that Buzfuz, after his long and rather exhausting speech, should have examined the first witness. Now-a-days the junior would do this. We may note that at this time it was always "my Lord," and "your Lordship," with the full natural sound—we had not yet got to the clipped "M'lud,'" and "your Ludship." Perhaps this form was actually used by the Counsel but was not noticed by Boz, or seemed to him the right thing. The King's Counsel were behind and could stoop down to consult their solicitors.

This minute observation and particularity of Boz is further shown in his noting the very places where the Attorneys sat, and which he describes. They had the seats next the table:

"You are quite right," said Buzfuz later on, answering the whisper of Dodson and Fogg, after Sam's awkward revelation. How often have we seen these hasty communications, which are not without their dramatic effect.


Mr. Pickwick, unfortunate in his Counsel, his Solicitor, his Jury—one of prejudiced tradesmen—was also to be unlucky in the Judge who tried his case. No doubt Perker had comforted him: "no matter how it goes, however unfair Buzfuz may be, we have a judge to hold the scales fair and keep the jury straight. The Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, the Right Hon. Sir NICHOLAS CONYNGHAM TINDAL is a man of immense reputation at the Bar. We are most fortunate in having him." Judge then of the disappointment when on coming to court it was found that Sir Stephen Gaselee was to take the case "owing to the absence of the Chief Justice, occasioned by indisposition." (I protest that at times one does not know whether we are following out a course of real events, or tracing the incidents of a fiction, so wonderfully does Boz make his fiction blend with reality.) This was a serious blow. Tindal was an admirable judge. Did not his chroniclers write of him: "His sagacity, impartiality and plain sense, his industry and clear sightedness made him an admiration of non-professional spectators: while among lawyers he was very highly esteemed for his invariable kindness to all who appeared before him. He retained to the last their respect and affection." With such a man presiding Sergeant Buzfuz's eccentric violence and abuse of the defendant would have been restrained ("having the outward appearance of a man and not of a monster.") Mr. Skimpin's gross insinuations, to wit, that Winkle was "telegraphing" to his friend, would have been summarily put down, and all "bullying" checked; more, he would have calmly kept Counsel's attention to the issue. This perfect impartiality would have made him show to the Jury how little evidence there was to support the plaintiff's case. Instead came this unlucky indisposition: and his place was taken by "my Brother Gaselee:" with what results Mr. Pickwick was to learn disastrously.

It is curious, however, that the Chief Justice, in spite of his indisposition, should still be associated with the case; for he had tried the momentous case of Norton v. Melbourne, and had heard there letters read, which were parodied in the "chops and tomato sauce" correspondence, so Boz had him well before him. The case had to be tried at the Guildhall Sessions; so a fair and rational judge would have spoilt all sport. Further, as Boz had seen the fairness and dignity of the Chief Justice he was naturally reluctant to exhibit him unfavorably. The only thing was to make the Chief Justice become suddenly "indisposed," and have his place taken by a grotesque judge.

The Judge who was to try the case, Mr. Justice Stareleigh, as is well known, was drawn from Sir Stephen Gaselee, of whose name Stareleigh is a sort of synonym. Serjeant Gaselee was once well known in the prosecutions directed against Radicals and so-called Reformers, but Pickwick has given him a greater reputation. The baiting he received from patriotic advocates may have inflamed his temper and made him irritable. He is described by one author, in a most humorous, if personal fashion. He was "a most particularly short man, and so fat that he seemed all face and waistcoat. He rolled in upon two little turned legs, and having bobbed gravely to the bar who bobbed gravely to him, put his little legs under the table, when all you could see of him was two queer little eyes, one broad, pink face, and somewhere about half of a big and very comical-looking wig." All through he is shown as arrogant and incapable, and also as making some absurd mistakes.

It will be a surprise to most people to learn that this picture is no more than an amusing caricature, and that the judge was really a person of high character. He is described as "a very painstaking, upright judge, and, in his private capacity, a worthy and benevolent man." Thus, Mr. Croker, who, however, supplies a sound reason for his being the subject of such satire. "With many admirable qualities both of head and heart, he had made himself a legitimate object of ridicule by his explosions on the Bench." Under such conditions, the Bar, the suitors and the public had neither the wish nor the opportunity to search for extenuating excuses in his private life. They suffered enough from the "explosions" and that was all that concerned them. He had been fourteen years on the Bench, and, like Stareleigh, belonged to the Common Pleas. He was suffering too from infirmities, particularly from deafness, and appears to have misapprehended statements in the same grotesque fashion that he mistook Winkle's name.

Boz's fashion of burlesque, by the way, is happily shown in his treatment of this topic. Another would have been content with "Daniel," the simple misapprehension. "Nathaniel, sir," says Winkle. "Daniel—any other name?" "Nathaniel, sir—my lord, I mean." "Nathaniel Danielor Daniel Nathaniel?" "No, my lord, only Nathaniel, not Daniel at all."

"What did you tell me it was Daniel for, then, sir?"

"I didn't, my lord."

"You did, sir. How could I have got Nathaniel in my notes, unless you told me so, sir?"

How admirable is this. The sly satire goes deeper, as Judges, under less gross conditions, have often made this illogical appeal to "my notes."

Though not gifted with oratorical powers which were likely to gain him employment as a leader, Gaselee's reputation for legal knowledge soon recommended him to a judge's place. He was accordingly selected on July 1st, 1824, to fill a vacancy in the Court of Common Pleas. In that Court he sat for nearly fourteen years "with the character of a painstaking judge, and in his private capacity as a worthy and benevolent man." Thus Mr. Foss, F.S.A.

The reader will have noted the Judge's severity to poor Groffin, the chemist, who had pleaded the danger of his boy mistaking oxalic acid for Epsom salts. Could it be that the Judge's experience as the son of a provincial doctor, had shown what class of man was before him? Later, unexpectedly, we learn that the Judge was a steady member for fourteen years of the Royal Humane Society, of which institution he was also a Vice-President.

But we now come to a most extraordinary thing—the result of the young author's telling and most sarcastic portrait of the irascible little judge. It is curious that Forster, while enumerating various instances of Boz's severe treatment of living persons, as a sort of chastisement for their defects of manner or character, seems not to have thought of this treatment of the judge—and passes it by. Nor did he notice the prompt result that followed on the sketch. The report of the trial appeared in the March number, 1837—and we are told, the luckless judge retired from the Bench, shortly after the end of Hilary Term, that is in April or the beginning of May. We may assume that the poor gentleman could not endure the jests of his confreres or the scarcely concealed tittering of the Barristers, all of whom had of course devoured and enjoyed the number. We may say that the learned Sergeant Buzfuz was not likely to be affected in any way by his picture; it may indeed have added to his reputation. I confess to some sympathy for the poor old judge who was thus driven from the Bench. Sam Foote was much given to this sort of personal attack, and made the lives of some of his victims wretched. Boz, however, seems to have felt himself called upon to act thus as public executioner on two occasions only. After the fall of the judge in June, 1837, he wanted a model for a tyrannical magistrate in Oliver Twist—and Mr. Laing, the Hatton Garden Magistrate—a harsh, ferocious personage, at once occurred to him. He wrote accordingly to one of his friends that he wished to be smuggled into his office some morning to study him. This "smuggling" of course meant the placing him where he would not be observed—as a magistrate knowing his "sketches" might recognise him. "I know the man perfectly well" he added. So he did, for he forgot that he had introduced him already in Pickwick as Nupkins—whose talk is exactly alike, in places almost word for word to that of "Mr. Fang."

These palliations, Boz, a young fellow of three and twenty or so, did not pause to weigh. He only saw a testy, red-faced old fellow with goggle eyes, and seventy-four years old, and past his work. His infirmities already made him incapable of carrying through the business of the Court as the mistake, "Is it Daniel Nathaniel or Nathaniel Daniel?" shows. It is curious, however, that this weakness of misapprehending names is described of another judge, Arabin—a strange grotesque. Theodore Hook gives an amusing specimen in his Gilbert Gurney.

From the general description in the text, it is evident Stareleigh was the prey of gouty affections—which swelled him into grotesque shape, and he found himself unequal to the office. He died two years after his retirement at No. 13, Montagu Place, Russell Square; so that the Judge in Bardell v. Pickwick was living close to Perker the Attorney in the same case. Here we seem to mix up the fictional and the living characters, but this is the law of Pickwick—the confines between the two worlds being quite confused or broken down. The late commander of our forces in China, Sir A. Gaselee, is of this family. It should be remembered, however, when we think of this judge's frowardness, that judges in those times were dictatorial and carried matters with a high hand. There were often angry conflicts between them, and members of the Bar, and Stareleigh was really not so very tyrannical. He did what so many judges do—took a side from the first, and had decided in his own mind that Mr. Pickwick could not possibly have a case. That curious form of address from the Bench is now no longer heard—"who is with you, Brother Buzfuz?" Judges and sergeants were then common members of the Guild—both wore the "coif."


When the swearing of the jury is going on, how good, and how natural is the scene with the unfortunate chemist.

'Answer to your names, gentlemen that you may be sworn,' said the gentleman in black. 'Richard Upwitch.'

'Here,' said the greengrocer.

'Thomas Groffin.'

'Here,' said the chemist.

'Take the book, gentlemen. You shall well and truly try—'

'I beg this court's pardon,' said the chemist, who was a tall, thin, yellow-visaged man, 'but I hope this court will excuse my attendance.'

'On what grounds, sir?' replied Mr. Justice Stareleigh.

'I have no assistant, my Lord,' said the chemist.

'I can't help that, sir,' replied Mr. Justice Stareleigh. 'You should hire one.'

'I can't afford it, my Lord,' rejoined the chemist.

'Then you ought to be able to afford it, sir,' said the judge, reddening; for Mr. Justice Stareleigh's temper bordered on the irritable, and brooked not contradiction.

'I know I ought to do, if I got on as well as I deserved, but I don't, my Lord,' answered the chemist.

'Swear the gentleman,' said the judge, peremptorily.

The officer had got no farther than the 'You shall well and truly try,' when he was again interrupted by the chemist.

'I am to be sworn, my Lord, am I?' said the chemist.

'Certainly, sir,' replied the testy little judge.

'Very well, my Lord,' replied the chemist in a resigned manner. 'There'll be murder before this trial's over; that's all. Swear me, if you please, sir;' and sworn the chemist was, before the judge could find words to utter.

'I merely wanted to observe, my Lord,' said the chemist, taking his seat with great deliberation, 'that I've left nobody but an errand boy in my shop. He is a very nice boy, my Lord, but he is not acquainted with drugs; and I know that the prevailing impression on his mind is, that Epsom salts means oxalic acid; and syrup of senna, laudanum. That's all, my Lord.' With this, the tall chemist composed himself into a comfortable attitude, and, assuming a pleasant expression of countenance, appeared to have prepared himself for the worst.

One who was born in the same year as Boz, but who was to live for thirty years after him, Henry Russell—composer and singer of "The Ivy Green"—was, when a youth, apprenticed to a chemist, and when about ten years old, that is five years before Bardell v. Pickwick, was left in charge of the shop. He discovered just in time that he had served a customer who had asked for Epsom salts with poison sufficient to kill fifty people. On this he gave up the profession. I have little doubt that he told this story to his friend a dozen years later, and that it was on Boz's mind when he wrote. Epsom salts was the drug mentioned in both instances.

It must be said that even in our day a defendant for Breach, with Mr. Pickwick's story and surroundings, would have had small chance with a city jury. They saw before them a benevolent-looking Lothario, of a Quaker-like air, while all the witnesses against him were his three most intimate friends and his own man.

We have, of course, testy judges now, who may be "short" in manner, but I think it can be affirmed that no judge of our day could behave to counsel or witnesses as Mr. Justice Stareleigh did. It is, in fact, now the tone for a judge to affect a sort of polished courtesy, and to impart a sort of light gaiety to the business he is transacting. All asperity and tyrannous rudeness is held to be out of place. Hectoring and bullying of witnesses will not be tolerated. The last exhibition was perhaps that of the late Dr. Kenealy in the Tichborne case.

All the swearing of jurymen before the court, with the intervention of the judge, has been got rid of. The Master of the Court, or Chief Clerk, has a number of interviews—at his public desk—with important individuals, bringing him signed papers. These are excuses of some sort—medical certificates, etc.—with a view to be "let off" serving. Some—most, perhaps—are accepted, some refused. A man of wealth and importance can have little difficulty. Of course this would be denied by the jurists: but, somehow, the great guns contrive not to attend. At ten o'clock this officer proceeds to swear the jury, which is happily accomplished by the time the judge enters.


Mr. Pickwick, considering the critical nature of his case, was certainly unfortunate in his solicitor, as well as in the Counsel selected by his solicitors. The other side were particularly favoured in this matter. They had a pushful bustling "wide-awake" firm of solicitors, who let not a point escape. Sergeant Buzfuz was exactly the sort of advocate for the case—masterful, unscrupulous, eloquent, and with a singularly ingenious faculty for putting everything on his client's side in the best light, and his adversary's in the worst. He could "tear a witness to pieces," and turn him inside out. His junior, Skimpin, was glib, ready-armed at all points, and singularly adroit in "making a hare" of any witness who fell into his hands, teste Winkle. He had all the professional devices for dealing with a witness's answers, and twisting them to his purpose, at his fingers' ends. He was the Wontner or Ballantyne of his day. Mr. Pickwick's "bar" was quite outmatched. They were rather a feeble lot, too respectable altogether, and really not familiar with this line of business. Even the judge was against them from the very start, so Mr. Pickwick had very poor chances indeed. All this was due to that old-fashioned and rather incapable "Family Solicitor" Perker.

[Picture: Serjeant Buzfuz, K.C.]

Serjeant Buzfuz is known the world all over, at least wherever English is known. I myself was once startled in a fashionable West End church to hear a preacher, when emphasizing the value and necessity of Prayer, and the certainty with which it is responded to, use this illustration: "As Serjeant Buzfuz said to Sam Weller, 'There is little to do and plenty to get.'" Needless to say, an amused smile, if not a titter, passed round the congregation. But it is the Barrister who most appreciates the learned Serjeant. For the topics he argued and his fashion of arguing them, bating a not excessive exaggeration, comes home to them all. Nay, they must have a secret admiration, and fondly think how excellently well such and such topics are put, and how they must have told with a jury.

Buzfuz, it is now well known, was drawn from a leading serjeant of his day, Serjeant Bompas, K.C. Not so long since I was sitting by Bompas's son, the present Judge Bompas, at dinner, and a most agreeable causeur he was. Not only did Boz sketch the style and fashion of the serjeant, but it is clear that Phiz drew the figure and features.

"I am the youngest son of Serjeant Bompas," Judge Bompas writes to me, "and have never heard it doubted that the name Buzfuz was taken from my father who was at that time considered a most successful advocate. I think he may have been chosen for the successful advocate because he was so successful: but I have never been able to ascertain that there was any other special resemblance. I do not remember my father myself: he died when I was eight years old. But I am told I am like him in face. He was tall (five feet ten inches) and a large man, very popular, and very excitable in his cases, so that I am told that Counsel against him used to urge him, out of friendship, not to get so agitated. A connection of mine who knew him well, went over to hear Charles Dickens read the Trial Scene, to see if he at all imitated him in voice or manner, but told me that he did not do so at all. I think, therefore, that having chosen his name, as a writer might now that of Sir Charles Russell, he then drew a general type of barrister, as he thought it might be satirised. My father, like myself, was on the Western Circuit and leader of it at the time of his death."

"I had a curious episode happen to me once. A client wrote to apply to the court to excuse a juror on the ground that he was a chemist and had no assistant who understood the drugs. It was not till I made the application and the Court began to laugh that I remembered the Pickwick Trial. I believe the application was quite bona fide, and not at all an imitation of it." An interesting communication from one who might be styled "Buzfuz's son;" and, as Judge Bompas alludes to his own likeness to his sire, I may add that the likeness to the portrait in the court scene, is very striking indeed. There is the same fullness of face, the large features. Buzfuz was certainly a counsel of power and ability, and I think lawyers will admit he managed Mrs. Bardell's case with much adroitness. His speech, besides being a sort of satirical abstract of the unamiable thundering boisterousness addressed to juries in such cases, is one of much ability. He makes the most of every topic that he thought likely to "tell" on a city jury. We laugh heartily at his would-be solemn and pathetic passages, but these are little exaggerated. Buzfuz's statement is meant to show how counsel, quite legitimately, can bring quite innocent acts to the support of their case by marshalling them in suspicious order, and suggesting that they had a connection with the charge made. Many a client thus becomes as bewildered as Mr. Pickwick was, on seeing his own harmless proceedings assuming quite a guilty complexion.

Serjeant Buzfuz-Bompas died at the age of fifty-three, at his house in Park Road, Regents Park, on February 29th, 1844. He was then, comparatively, a young man, and must have had ability to have attained his position so early. He was called to the Bar in 1815, and began as Serjeant in 1827, in Trinity Term, only a year or so before the famous case was tried.

So dramatic is the whole "Trial" in its action and characters, that it is almost fit for the stage as it stands. There have been a great number of versions, one by the author's son, Charles "the Younger," one by Mr. Hollingshead, and so on. It is a favorite piece for charitable benefits, and a number of well-known performers often volunteer to figure as "Gentlemen of the Jury." Buzfuz has been often played by Mr. Toole, but his too farcical methods scarcely enhanced the part. The easiness of comedy is essential. That sound player Mr. James Fernander is the best Buzfuz that I have seen.

There is a French translation of Pickwick, in which the general spirit of the "Trial" is happily conveyed. Thus Mr. Phunky's name is given as "M. Finge," which the little judge mistakes for "M. Singe." Buzfuz's speech too is excellent, especially his denouncing the Defendant's coming with his chops "et son ignoble bassinoire" i.e., warming pan.


Buzfuz's great speech is one of the happiest parodies in the language. Never was the forensic jargon and treatment so humorously set forth—and this because of the perfect sincerity and earnestness with which it was done. There is none of the far-fetched, impossible exaggeration—the form of burlesque which Theodore Hook or Albert Smith might have attempted. It is, in fact, a real speech, which might have been delivered to a dull-headed audience without much impairing credibility. Apart from this it is a most effective harangue and most plausible statement of the Plaintiff's case.

A little professional touch, which is highly significant as part of the pantomine, and which Boz made very effective at the reading, was the Serjeant's dramatic preparation for his speech. "Having whispered to Dodson and conferred briefly with Fogg, he pulled his gown over his shoulders, settled his wig, and addressed the Jury." Who has not seen this bit of business?

Again, Juries may have noted that the Junior as he rises to speak, mumbles something that is quite inaudible, and which nobody attends to. This is known as "opening the pleadings."

The ushers again called silence, and Mr. Skimpin proceeded to 'open the case;' and the case appeared to have very little inside it when he had opened it, for he kept such particulars as he knew, completely to himself, and sat down, after a lapse of three minutes, leaving the jury in precisely the same advanced stage of wisdom as they were in before.

Serjeant Buzfuz then rose with all the majesty and dignity which the grave nature of the proceedings demanded, and having whispered to Dodson, and conferred briefly with Fogg, pulled his gown over his shoulders, settled his wig, and addressed the jury.

A most delightful legal platitude, as one might call it, is to be found in the opening of the learned Sergeant's speech. It is a familiar, transparent thing, often used to impose on the Jury. As Boz says of another topic, "Counsel often begins in this way because it makes the jury think what sharp fellows they must be." "You have heard from my learned friend, gentlemen," continued the Serjeant, well knowing that from the learned friend alluded to they had heard just nothing at all, "you have heard from my learned friend, that this is an action for Breach of Promise of Marriage, in which the damages are laid at 1,500 pounds. But you have not heard from my learned friend, inasmuch as it did not lie within my learned friend's province to tell you, what are the facts and circumstances of the case." This rich bit of circumlocution is simple nonsense, in rotund phrase, and meant to suggest the imposing majesty of legal process. The Jury knew perfectly beforehand what they were going to try: but were to be impressed by the magnifying agency of legal processes, and would be awe stricken accordingly. The passage, "inasmuch as it did not lie within my learned friend's province to tell you," is a delightful bit of cant. In short, the Jury was thus admitted to the secret legal arena, and into community with the learned friends themselves, and were persuaded that they were very sharp fellows indeed. What pleasant satire is here, on the mellifluous "openings" of Counsel, the putting a romantic gloss on the most prosaic incidents.

A sucking Barrister might well study this speech of Buzfuz as a guide to the conducting of a case, and above all of rather a "shaky" one. Not less excellent is his smooth and plausible account of Mrs. Bardell's setting up in lodging letting. He really makes it "interesting." One thinks of some fluttering, helpless young widow, setting out in the battle of life.

He describes the poor innocent lady putting a bill in her window, "and let me entreat the attention of the Jury to the wording of this document—'Apartments furnished for a single gentleman!' Mrs. Bardell's opinions of the opposite sex, gentlemen, were derived from a long contemplation of the inestimable qualities of her lost husband. She had no fear—she had no distrust—she had no suspicion—all was confidence and reliance. 'Mr. Bardell,' said the widow: 'Mr. Bardell was a man of honour—Mr. Bardell was a man of his word—Mr. Bardell was no deceiver—Mr. Bardell was once a single gentleman himself; to single gentlemen I look for protection, for assistance, for comfort, and for consolation—in single gentlemen I shall perpetually see something to remind me of what Mr. Bardell was, when he first won my young and untried affections; to a single gentleman, then, shall my lodgings be let.' Actuated by this beautiful and touching impulse (among the best impulses of our imperfect nature, gentlemen), the lonely and desolate widow dried her tears, furnished her first floor, caught her innocent boy to her maternal bosom, and put the bill up in her parlour window. Did it remain there long? No. The serpent was on the watch, the train was laid, the mine was preparing, the sapper and miner was at work. Before the bill had been in the parlour window three days—three days, gentlemen—a being, erect upon two legs, and bearing all the outward semblance of a man, and not of a monster, knocked at the door of Mrs. Bardell's house. He enquired within."

Those who attended the Reading will recall the admirable briskness, and more admirable spirit with which Boz delivered the passage "by the evidence of the unimpeachable female whom I shall place in that"—here he brought down his palm with a mighty slap on the desk, and added, after a moment's pause, "Box before you." It was that preceding of the stroke that told. So real was it, one fancied oneself listening to some obstreperous counsel. In all true acting—notably on the French boards—the gesture should a little precede the utterance. So the serjeant knew something of art.

When Mr. Pickwick gave an indignant start on hearing himself described as a heartless villain how cleverly does the capable Buzfuz turn the incident to profit.

[Picture: Mr. Pickwick as a Monster]

'I say systematic villany, gentlemen,' said Serjeant Buzfuz, looking through Mr. Pickwick, and talking at him; 'and when I say systematic villiany, let me tell the defendant, Pickwick, if he be in court, as I am informed he is, that it would have been more decent in him, more becoming, in better judgment and in better taste, if he had stopped away. Let me tell him, gentlemen, that any gestures of dissent or disapprobation in which he may indulge in this court will not go down with you; that you will know how to value, and to appreciate them; and let me tell him further, as my lord will tell you, gentlemen, that a counsel, in the discharge of his duty to his client, is neither to be intimidated nor bullied, nor put down; and that any attempt to do either the one or the other, or the first or the last, will recoil on the head of the attempter, be he plaintiff or be he defendant, be his name Pickwick, or Noakes, or Stoakes, or Stiles, or Brown, or Thompson.'

This little divergence from the subject in hand, had of course the intended effect of turning all eyes to Mr. Pickwick.

We relish, too, another "common form." When the Serjeant found that his jest as to "greasing the wheels of Mr. Pickwick's slow-coach" had somewhat missed fire—a thing that often unaccountably happens, in the case of the "twelve intelligent men," the Serjeant knew how to adroitly recover himself.

He paused in this place to see whether the jury smiled at his joke; but as nobody took it but the greengrocer, whose sensitiveness on the subject was very probably occasioned by his having subjected a chaise-cart to the process in question on that identical morning, the learned Serjeant considered it advisable to undergo a slight relapse into the dismals before he concluded.

'But enough of this, gentlemen,' said Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz, 'it is difficult to smile with an aching heart; it is ill jesting when our deepest sympathies are awakened. My client's hopes and prospects are ruined, and it is no figure of speech to say that her occupation is gone indeed. The bill is down—but there is no tenant. Eligible single gentlemen pass and repass—but there is no invitation for them to enquire within or without. All is gloom and silence in the house; even the voice of the child is hushed; his infant sports are disregarded when his mother weeps; his "alley tors" and his "commoneys" are alike neglected; he forgets the long familiar cry of "knuckle down," and at tip-cheese, or odd and even, his hand is out. But Pickwick, gentlemen, Pickwick, the ruthless destroyer of this domestic oasis in the desert of Goswell Street—Pickwick, who has choked up the well, and thrown ashes on the sward—Pickwick, who comes before you to-day with his heartless tomato sauce and warming-pans—Pickwick still rears his head with unblushing effrontery, and gazes without a sigh on the ruin he has made. Damages, gentlemen—heavy damages is the only punishment with which you can visit him.'


"I shall prove to you, gentlemen, that about a year ago Pickwick suddenly began to absent himself from home, during long intervals, ('on Pickwick Tours,') as if with the intention of breaking off from my client: but I shall show you also that his resolutions were not at that time sufficiently strong, or that his better feelings conquered, if better feelings he has: or that the charms and accomplishments of my client prevailed against his unmanly intentions." We may note the reserve which suggested a struggle going on in Mr. Pickwick. And how persuasive is Buzfuz's exegesis! Then, on the letters:

"These letters bespeak the character of the man. They are not open, fervid, eloquent epistles breathing nothing but the language of affectionate attachment. They are covert, sly, under-hand communications, but, fortunately, far more conclusive than if couched in the most glowing language. Letters that must be viewed with a cautious and supicious eye: letters that were evidently intended at the time, by Pickwick, to mislead and delude any third parties into whose hands they might fall." The gravity and persuasiveness of all this is really impayable. "Let me read the first: 'Garraway's, twelve o'clock. Dear Mrs. B., Chops and tomato sauce. Yours, Pickwick.' Gentlemen, what does this mean? Chops and tomato sauce. Yours, Pickwick. Chops! Gracious Heavens!—and tomato sauce! Gentlemen, is the happiness of a sensitive and confiding female to be trifled away by such artifices as these? The next has no date whatever which is in itself suspicious: 'Dear Mrs. B., I shall not be at home until to-morrow. Slow coach.' And then follows the very remarkable expression, 'Don't trouble yourself about the warming pan.'"

There is a little bit of serious history connected with these letters which I was the first I think to discover. They were intended to satirise the trivial scraps brought forward in Mrs. Norton's matrimonial case—Norton v. Lord Melbourne. My late friend, "Charles Dickens the younger," as he used to call himself, in his notes on Pickwick, puts aside this theory altogether as a mere unfounded fancy; but it will be seen there cannot be a doubt in the matter. Sir W. Follett laid just as much stress on these scraps as Serjeant Buzfuz did on his: he even used the phrase, "it seems there may be latent love like latent heat, in these productions." We have also, "Yours Melbourne," like "Yours Pickwick," the latter signing as though he were a Peer. "There is another of these notes," went on Sir William, "How are you?" "Again there is no beginning you see." "The next has no date, which is in itself suspicious," Buzfuz would have added. Another ran—"I will call about half past four, Yours." "These are the only notes that have been found," added the counsel, with due gravity, "they seem to import much more than mere words convey." After this can there be a doubt?

This case was tried in June, 1836, and, it must be borne in mind, caused a prodigious sensation all over the Kingdom. The Pickwick part, containing the description, appeared about December, six months afterwards. Only old people may recall Norton v. Melbourne, the fair Caroline's wrongs have long been forgotten; but it is curious that the memory of it should have been kept alive in some sort by this farcical parody. Equally curious is it that the public should always have insisted that she was the heroine of yet another story, George Meredith's Diana, though the author has disclaimed it over and over again.

The Serjeant's dealing with the warming pan topic is a truly admirable satiric touch, and not one bit far-fetched or exaggerated. Any one familiar with suspicious actions has again and again heard comments as plausible and as forced. "Don't trouble yourself about the warming pan! The warming pan! Why, gentlemen, who does trouble himself about a warming pen?" A delicious non sequitur, sheer nonsense, and yet with an air of conviction that is irresistable. "When was the peace of mind of man or woman broken or disturbed by a warming pan which is in itself a harmless, a useful and I will add, gentlemen, a comforting article of domestic furniture?" He then goes on ingeniously to suggest that it may be "a cover for hidden fire, a mere substitute for some endearing word or promise, agreeably to a preconcerted system of correspondence, artfully contrived by Pickwick with a view to his contemplated desertion and which I am not in a position to explain?" Admirable indeed! One could imagine a city jury in their wisdom thinking that there must be something in this warming pan!

Not less amusing and plausible is his dealing with the famous topic of the "chops and tomato sauce," not "tomata" as Boz has it. I suppose there is no popular allusion better understood than this. The very man in the street knows all about it and what it means. Absurd as it may seem, it is hardly an exaggeration. Counsel every day give weight to points just as trivial and expound them elaborately to the jury. The Serjeant's burst of horror is admirable, "Gentlemen, what does this mean? 'Chops and tomata sauce! Yours Pickwick!' Chops! Gracious Heavens! What does this mean? Is the happiness of a sensitive and confiding female to be trifled away by such shallow artifices as these?'"

I recall that admirable judge and pleasant man, the late Lord FitzGerald, who was fond of talking of this trial, saying to me that Buzfuz lost a good point here, as he might have dwelt on the mystic meaning of tomato which is the "love apple," that here was the "secret correspondence," the real "cover for hidden fire."

He concluded by demanding exemplary damages as "the recompense you can award my client. And for these damages she now appeals to an enlightened, a high-minded, a right feeling, a conscientious, a dispassionate, a sympathising, a contemplative jury of her civilized countrymen!"


It was really of a very flimsy kind but "bolstered-up" and carried through by the bluster of the serjeant and the smartness of his junior. It rested first on a dialogue between Mr. Pickwick and his landlady which was overheard, in fact by several persons; second, on a striking situation witnessed by his three friends who entered unexpectedly and surprised him with Mrs. Bardell in his arms; third, on some documentary evidence, and lastly, on a damaging incident disclosed by Winkle.

The first witness "put in the box," was Mrs. Martha Cluppins—an intimate friend of the plaintiffs.

We know that she was sister to Mrs. Raddle, who lived far away in Southwark, and was the landlady of Mr. Sawyer. She might have been cross-examined with effect as to her story that she had been "out buying kidney pertaties," etc. Why buy these articles in Goswell Street and come all the way from Southwark? What was she doing there at all? This question could have been answered only in one way—which was that the genial author fancied at the moment she was living near Mrs. Bardell.

Besides this, there was another point which Snubbin, in cross-examination, ought to have driven home. Mrs. Cluppins was of an inferior type, of the common washerwoman or "charing" sort; her language was of Mrs. Gamp's kind; "which her name was" so and so. Yet, this creature, in another room, or on the stairs, the door being "on the jar," can repeat with her limited appreciation, those dubious and imperfect utterances of Mr. Pickwick! How could she remember all? Or could she understand them? Impossible! She, however, may have caught up something.

Winkle, too, said he heard something as he came up the stairs—"Compose yourself my dear creature, for consider if any one were to come," etc. But what could be the value of evidence heard in this way? Would a jury believe it? "Not only," as Sam said, "is 'wision limited,'" but hearing also.

In short, the delicate subtleties of the conversation between Mr. Pickwick and Mrs. Bardell would be wholly lost in her hands. Persons of her class know nothing of suggestion or double meanings or reserved intention, everything for them must be in black and white. How unlikely, therefore, that through the panels of a door or through the half opened door, ("she said on the jar,") could she catch the phrases and their meanings, and, above all, retain them in her memory? No doubt, as the counsel put it bluntly, she listened, and with all her ears.

However this may be, here is what Mrs. Cluppins deposed to:

'Mrs. Cluppins,' said Serjeant Buzfuz, 'pray compose yoursel, ma'am;' and, of course, directly Mrs. Cluppins was desired to compose herself she sobbed with increased violence, and gave divers alarming manifestations of an approaching fainting fit, or, as she afterwards said, of her feelings being too many for her.

'Do you recollect, Mrs. Cluppins?' said Serjeant Buzfuz, after a few unimportant questions—'do you recollect being in Mrs. Bardell's back one pair of stairs, on one particular morning in July last, when she was dusting Mr. Pickwick's apartment?'

'Yes, my Lord and jury, I do,' replied Mrs. Cluppins.

'Mr. Pickwick's sitting-room was the first floor front, I believe?'

'Yes it were, sir,' replied Mrs. Cluppins.

'What were you doing in the back room, ma'am?' inquired the little judge.

'My Lord and jury,' said Mrs. Cluppins, with interesting agitation, 'I will not deceive you.'

'You had better not, ma'am,' said the little judge.

'I was there,' resumed Mrs. Cluppins, 'unbeknown to Mrs. Bardell; I had been out with a little basket, gentlemen, to buy three pounds of red kidney pertaties, which was three pound, tuppense ha'penny, when I see Mrs. Bardell's street door on the jar.'

'On the what?' exclaimed the little judge.

'Partly open, my Lord,' said Serjeant Snubbin.

'She said on the jar,' said the little judge with a cunning look.

'It's all the same, my lord,' said Serjeant Snubbin. The little judge looked doubtful, and said he'd make a note of it. Mrs. Cluppins then resumed—

'I walked in, gentlemen, just to say good mornin', and went in a permiscuous manner up-stairs, and into the back room. Gentlemen, there was the sound of voices in the front room, and—'

'And you listened, I believe, Mrs. Cluppins,' said Serjeant Buzfuz.

'Beggin' your pardon, sir,' replied Mrs. Cluppins, in a majestic manner, 'I would scorn the haction. The voices was very loud, sir, and forced themselves upon my ear.'

'Well, Mrs. Cluppins, you were not listening, but you heard the voices. Was one of those voices Mr. Pickwick's?'

'Yes, it were, sir.'

And Mrs. Cluppins, after distinctly stating that Mr. Pickwick addressed himself to Mrs. Bardell, repeated by slow degrees, and by dint of many questions the conversation with which our readers are already acquainted.

Now we have to turn back to one of the earlier passages in the story for the conversation between the pair, "with which the reader is already acquainted." Thus we shall know what Mrs. Cluppin's might have heard.

Mr. Pickwick paced the room to and fro with hurried steps, popped his head out of the window at intervals of about three minutes each, constantly referred to his watch, and exhibited many other manifestations of impatience, very unusual with him. It was evident that something of great importance was in contemplation, but what that something was not even Mrs. Bardell herself had been enabled to discover.

'Mrs. Bardell,' said Mr. Pickwick at last, as that amiable female approached the termination of a prolonged dusting of the apartment.

'Sir,' said Mrs. Bardell.

'Your little boy is a very long time gone.'

'Why, it's a good long way to the Borough, sir,' remonstrated Mrs. Bardell.

'Ah,' said Pickwick, 'very true; so it is.'

Mr. Pickwick relapsed into silence, and Mrs. Bardell resumed her dusting.

'Mrs. Bardell,' said Mr. Pickwick, at the expiration of a few minutes.

'Sir,' said Mrs. Bardell again.

'Do you think it's a much greater expense to keep two people, than to keep one?'

'La, Mr. Pickwick,' said Mrs. Bardell, colouring up to the very border of her cap, as she fancied she observed a species of matrimonial twinkle in the eyes of her lodger, 'La, Mr. Pickwick, what a question!'

'Well, but do you?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.

'That depends—' said Mrs. Bardell, approaching the duster very near to Mr. Pickwick's elbow, which was planted on the table; 'that depends a good deal upon the person, you know, Mr. Pickwick; and whether it's a saving and careful person, sir.'

'That's very true,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'but the person I have in my eye (here he looked very hard at Mrs. Bardell) I think possesses these qualities; and has, moreover, a considerable knowledge of the world, and a great deal of sharpness, Mrs. Bardell; which may be of material use to me.'

'La, Mr. Pickwick,' said Mrs. Bardell; the crimson rising to her cap-border again.

'I do,' said Mr. Pickwick, growing energetic, as was his wont in speaking of a subject which interested him, 'I do, indeed; and to tell you the truth, Mrs. Bardell, I have made up my mind.'

'Dear me, sir,' exclaimed Mrs. Bardell.

'You'll think it very strange, now,' said the amiable Mr. Pickwick, with a good humoured glance at his companion, 'that I never consulted you about this matter, and never even mentioned it, till I sent your little boy out this morning, eh?'

Mrs. Bardell could only reply by a look. She had long worshipped Mr. Pickwick at a distance, but here she was, all at once, raised to a pinnacle to which her wildest and most extravagant hopes and never dared to aspire. Mr. Pickwick was going to propose—a deliberate plan, too—sent her little boy to the Borough, to get him out of the way—how thoughtful—how considerate!'

'Well,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'what do you think?'

'Oh, Mr. Pickwick,' said Mrs. Bardell, trembling with agitation, 'you're very kind, sir.'

'It'll save you a good deal of trouble, won't it?' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Oh, I never thought anything of the trouble, sir,' replied Mrs. Bardell; 'and, of course, I should take more trouble to please you then, than ever; but it is so kind of you, Mr. Pickwick, to have so much consideration for my loneliness.'

'Ah, to be sure,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'I never thought of that. When I am in town, you'll always have somebody to sit with you. To be sure, so you will.'

'I'm sure I ought to be a very happy woman,' said Mrs. Bardell.

'And your little boy—' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Bless his heart,' interposed Mrs. Bardell, with a maternal sob.

'He, too, will have a companion,' resumed Mr. Pickwick, 'a lively one, who'll teach him, I'll be bound, more tricks in a week than he would ever learn in a year.' And Mr. Pickwick smiled placidly.

'Oh, you dear—' said Mrs. Bardell.

Mr. Pickwick started.

'Oh, you kind, good, playful dear,' said Mrs. Bardell; and without more ado, she rose from her chair, and flung her arms round Mr. Pickwick's neck, with a cataract of tears, and a chorus of sobs.

'Bless my soul,' cried the astonished Mr. Pickwick;—'Mrs. Bardell, my good woman—dear me, what a situation—pray—consider, Mrs. Bardell, if anybody should come.'

'O, let them come,' exclaimed Mrs. Bardell, frantically.

'I'll never leave you, dear, kind, good soul.' And with these words Mrs. Bardell clung the tighter.

Every utterance of the little Judge is in character, from his first directions "go on." His suspicious question, "what were you doing in the back room, ma'am?"—and on Serjeant Buzfuz's sudden pause for breath, when "the silence awoke Mr. Justice Stareleigh, who immediately wrote down something, with a pen without any ink in it, and looked unusually profound, to impress his jury with the belief that he always thought most deeply with his eyes shut." Also when at the "on the jar" incident—he "looked doubtful, but said he'd make a note of it." So when Sam made one of his free and easy speeches, the Judge looked sternly at Sam for fully two minutes, but Sam's features were so perfectly calm that he said nothing. When Sam, too, made his witty reposte to Buzfuz as to his "wision being limited," we are told that there was a great laugh—that even "the little Judge smiled:" a good touch, for he enjoyed, like other judges, seeing his learned brother get a fall—'tis human nature.

It must be said the impression of a listener, who had heard all this could have been anything but favourable to Mr. Pickwick. No doubt there was his paternally benevolent character to correct it: but even this might go against him as it would suggest a sort of hypocrisy. Even the firmest friends, in their surprise, do not pause to debate or reason; they are astonished and wonder exceedingly.


Skimpin may have been intended for Wilkin, a later Serjeant and well-known in the 'fifties, and whose style and manner is reproduced. We could not ask a better junior in a "touch and go" case. He was as ready to take advantage of any opening as was the late Lord Bowen, when he was junior in the Tichborne case.

[Picture: Mr. Skimpin]

On entering the Box, Mr. Winkle "bowed to the Judge," with considerable deference, a politeness quite thrown away. "Don't look at me sir," said the Judge sharply, "look at the Jury." This was ungracious, but judges generally don't relish any advances from witnesses or others.

When poor Winkle was accused by the Judge of giving his name as Daniel, he was told that "he had better be careful:" on which the ready Skimpin: "Now, Mr. Winkle attend to me if you please: and let me recommend you, for your own sake, to bear in mind his lordship's injunction to be careful." Thus by the agency of Judge and counsel witness was discredited at starting and of course flurried.

'I believe you are a particular friend of Pickwick, the defendant, are you not?

Winkle, eager to retrieve himself by being "careful" began—

'I have known Mr. Pickwick now as well as I recollect at this moment, nearly—'

'Pray, Mr. Winkle, don't evade the question. Are you, or are you not a particular friend of the defendant?'

'I was just about to say that—'

'Will you, or will you not answer my question, sir?'

'If you don't you'll be committed, sir,' interposed the little Judge.

'Come, sir,' said Mr. Skimpin, 'yes or no, if you please.'

'Yes, I am,' replied Mr. Winkle.

'Yes, you are. And why couldn't you say that at once, sir?'

I think there is no more happy touch of legal satire in the books than that about "What the soldier said." It is perfect, so complete, that it is always understood by unprofessional readers. The lawyer feels at once that it is as true as it is happy.

'Little to do and plenty to get,' said Serjeant Buzfuz to Sam.

'O, quite enough to get, sir, as the soldier said ven they ordered him three hundred and fifty lashes.'

'You must not tell us what the soldier or any other man said, sir; it's not evidence,' interposed the Judge.

Who will forget the roar that always greeted this sally when Boz read it, or the low and slow solemnity which he imparted to the Judge's dictum. As an illustration it is simply admirable.

Boz himself would have been pleased to find himself quoted in two impressive legal tomes of some 1800 pages. The great and laborious John Pitt Taylor could not have been wholly a legal dry-as-dust: for the man who could have gravely entered Bardell v. Pickwick in his notes and have quoted a passage must have had a share of humour.

Most people know that it is a strict principle that "hearsay evidence" of an utterance will not be accepted in lieu of that of the person to whom the remark was made. Neither can we think it out of probability that such an objection may have been made by some over punctilious judge wishing to restrain Sam's exuberance. A Scotch judge once quoted in court a passage from The Antiquary in which he said the true view of an intricate point was given; but then Scott was a lawyer.

It is requisite, says Mr. John Pitt Taylor (p. 500) speaking of "hearsay evidence" that whatever facts a witness speaks, he should be confined to those lying within his own knowledge. For every witness should give his testimony on oath, and should be subject to cross examination. But testimony from the relation of third persons cannot be subject to these tests. This rule of exclusion has been recognised as a fundamental principle of the law of evidence ever since the time of Charles II. To this he adds a note, with all due gravity: "The rule excluding heresay evidence, or rather the mode in which that rule is frequently misunderstood in Courts of Justice, is amusingly caricatured by Mr. Dickens in his report of the case of Bardell v. Pickwick, p. 367."

Bardell v. Pickwick! He thus puts it with the many thousand or tens of thousand cases quoted, and he has even found a place for it in his index of places. He then goes on to quote the passage, just as he would quote from Barnwall and Adolphus.

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