East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai



Pickwick was the brand of the tea my grandmother used to buy – over forty-five years ago. The brand, I find out checking on Amazon, is still around – but they no longer use the coach as a logo. That’s where I first heard the name, and associated it to… well, horse-drawn coaches.

Later, of course, I learned about the novel – through a very funny adaptation produced by the Italian state television – back when our TV aimed at educating the masses while entertaining them. before reality shows, in other words. And then in school – I was bored to death by a simplified version in English I was saddled with, one summer, when I was in middle school. When I finally made it to the novel proper, in the first year in high school, I was taught it was an inferior work, a juvenile effort from the genius that would later give us Oliver Twist and Great Expectations. Pickwick Papers? Rubbish.

Confessions of a Dickens reader – I can’t stand Oliver Twist, I have very similar sentiments for David Copperfield, and do not care for Great Expectations. My favorite Dickens novels are Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend and yes, The Pickwick Papers.

And when I started reading mostly in English, The Pickwick Papers was the first “serious” book I bought – a Penguin Edition, that is still somewhere here in a box.

And here is the thing – in the last twenty years, buying a copy of the Pickwick Papers has become a routine occurrence – I’ve bought, lost, misplaced, lent and given away dozens of copies. Because it’s the sort of comfort book I like keeping at hand. I had a copy in my car, and later left as copy in the desk in my lab when working on my PhD. Each one of us has their eccentricities, I guess – something I learned from Pickwick. And really, there are worse vices, and worse books.

Two hours ago, I ordered yet another copy of the Papers. The Wordsworth Classics edition (you know I’ve got a thing for that publisher), which goes for little over two bucks. It’s actually cheaper than turning my closet upside-down looking for an older copy. And yes, I have a digital copy too, and you can get it free on Gutenberg, but what can I say – it costs less than a bag of chips, it lasts longer and it does not upset my stomach, and when I’ll have read it once again, I will give it away to some friend or other.
because once in a while I feel like going back to Mr Pickwick’s story – as a distraction from everyday trouble, and to clean my palate, so to speak.

Of course, as a happy subscriber to Amazon Prime, I do not pay for postage, and I get the books with the special “24 hours delivery” – which means my book will be here on the 9th of February.
Yes, ten days.
Because this is still Astigianistan, after all.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “Pickwick

  1. Uh, I have the MacMillan Collector’s Library edition. (No index inside, I have to say)


    • There is a wide variety of editions, as the book is now in the public domain. Many do not have neither index nor metatextual contents.
      The best, in hard copy, is probably the Everyman Library hardback edition.
      The Wordsworth Classics paperback is so cheap you can actually use it as an alternative greetings card.
      In digital form, the Gutenberg text is perfectly fine.


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