is keeping me greatly amused at the moment. It was Dickens' first novel, published in 1837 when he was 24 and catapulted him to fame. Its humour largely derives from farcical situational comedy but there is also some excellent dialogue. Take this exchange between Mr Pickwick and his manservant Sam Weller when Sam is describing his earlier career:
"...I had unfurnished lodgin's for a fortnight"
"Unfurnished lodgings?" said Mr Pickwick.
"Yes - the dry arches of Waterloo Bridge. Fine sleeping place - vithin ten minutes' walk of all the public offices - only if there is any objection to it, it is that the situation's rayther
too airy. I see some queer sights there."
"Ah, I suppose you did," said Mr Pickwick with an air of considerable interest.
"Sights, Sir," resumed Mr Weller, "as 'ud penetrate your benevolent heart, and come out the other side. You don't see the reg'lar wagrants there; trust 'em, they knows better than that. Young beggars, male and female, as hasn't made a rise in their profession, takes up their quarters there sometimes; but it's generally the worn-out, starving, houseless creeturs as rolls themselves up in the dark corners o' them lonesome places - poor creeturs as an't up to the twopenny rope."
"And pray Sam, what is
the twopenny rope?" inquired Mr Pickwick.
"The twopenny rope, Sir, " replied Mr Weller, "is just a cheap lodgin' house, vere the beds is twopence a night."
"What do you call a bed a rope for?" said Mr Pickwick.
"Bless your innocence, Sir, that an't it, "replied Sam. "Ven the lady and gen'lm'n as keeps the Hot-el, first begun business, they used to make the beds on the floor; but this wouldn't do at no price, 'cos instead o' taking a moderate twopenn'orth o' sleep, the lodgers used to lie there half the day. So now they has two ropes, 'bout six feet apart, and three from the floor, which goes right down the room; and the beds are made of slips of coarse sacking, stretched across 'em."
"Well," said Mr Pickwick.
"Well," said Mr Weller, "the adwantage o' the plan's hobvious. At six o'clock every mornin', they lets go the ropes at one end, and down falls all the lodgers. 'Consequence is, that being thoroughly waked, they get up wery quietly and walk away!"