Saturday, March 21, 2009

Charles Dickens doesn't want your Fanfic!, or, Pickwick Week continues

The Pickwick Papers was first published in monthly installments, many of which opened with a direct prefatory address from Dickens to the reader. The fifteenth chapter carried this note:
Notice to Correspondents

We receive every month an immense number of communications, purporting to be "suggestions" for the Pickwick Papers. We have no doubt that they are forwarded with the kindest intentions; but as it is wholly out of our power to make use of any such hints, and as we really have no time to peruse anonymous letters, we hope the writers will henceforth spare themselves a great deal of unnecessary and useless trouble.
Dickens's claim that he had no time to read anonymous letters was undercut a bit, however, by an earlier statement, in the postscript he had appended to Chapter Three:
Always anxious to amuse our readers by every means in our power, we beg to present them with the following verbatim copy of a letter, actually addressed and sent by an anonymous correspondent to the Editor of the Pickwick Papers, a fortnight since. Our correspondent's notions of punctuation are peculiar to himself, and we have not ventured to interfere with them.
In times when the great. and the good are. largely association for. the amelioration of the Animal Kingdom, it seems remarkable. that any writer should. counteract their. intentions. by. such careless paragraphs as. the one. I. inclose!

if it is carelessness. only. it may be corrected if it is. bad taste. I am afraid it. will be more difficult. but perhaps you could. in another paper. point out, to the obtuse, like myself, the wit or humour, of depicting. the noblest of animals faint, weary, and over driven,
When the Knees Quiver and the Pulses beat!
Subjected. to a. Brute; only to be. tolerated because he at least is ignorant, of. the Creature and his Creator. to whom he is responsible, and whose. 'admirable frolic and fun' consists in his giving. his brutal history of his horse. in bad English!
And then follows an extract from a newspaper, containing hte Cabman's description of his Horse, from page 6 of our first number.

This is evidently a very pleasant person--a fellow of infinite fancy. We shall be happy to receive other communications from the same source--and on the same terms; that is to say, post paid.
I suppose it's a comfort to know that, no matter how much the world may change, the public mailbox remains a strongly held redoubt of the monomaniacal and the off-center.

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