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Summary Chapter 49

Having decided to act as Mr. Winkle’s ambassador and visit Mr. Winkle’s father with Ben Allen for the purpose of assuring the father that his son’s marriage to Ben Allen’s sister Arabella was not done on the gad despite appearances, Mr. Pickwick arrives at Bob Sawyer’s medical establishment in a coach that will only seat two when Bob Sawyer insists on closing shop and accompanying Mr. Pickwick and Ben Allen. Indeed, on account of his bad credit which won’t allow him to buy medicine, Bob Sawyer persuades Mr. Pickwick that he—Bob Sawyer—stands to gain more by closing shop than keeping it open. Thus with Mr. Pickwick and Ben Allen seated within the coach and Ben Allen joining Sam Weller in the driver’s seat, they head off for Birmingham which is a good 106 miles from Bristol.

During the first leg of the trip, Bob Sawyer’s behavior, which is nothing less than rowdy and dissolute, scandalizes Mr. Pickwick. But by and by, having partaken of some liquor, Mr. Pickwick concedes that Bob Sawyer’s behavior is more jocose and high-spirited than rowdy and dissolute. Presently, despite Mr. Pickwick’s objection (it is only 11 a.m. and they have traveled only 19 of the 106 miles which they must cover), the party stops for lunch at Bob Sawyer’s behest. They stop to dine one more time before they arrive in the industrial city of Birmingham. They secure lodgings at a local inn and discover that Mr. Winkle, Senior’s residence is within walking distance.

Despite the lateness of the hour, the trio of Mr. Pickwick, Ben Allen, and Bob Sawyer repair to Mr. Winkle’s residence. There, they are greeted by the maid who takes an immediate dislike to Bob Sawyer. By and by, the trio is led to a waiting room. They wait for Mr. Winkle, Senior who is in the middle of supper.

When Mr. Winkle, Senior arrives, Mr. Pickwick sees that Mr. Winkle, Senior, but for his bald head, is an older replica of his son. Anxious to deflect attention away from his rowdy and dissolute friends, Mr. Pickwick gets down to business and hands Mr. Winkle, Senior the four page letter written by his son. The father reads the letter. To Mr. Pickwick’s astonishment, the contents of the letter, which address the how and why of Mr. Winkle’s marriage to Arabella, fails to move Mr. Winkle, Senior. When Mr. Pickwick objects to the father’s indifference, Mr. Winkle, Senior, who is by profession an operator of a commercial wharf, express a slight annoyance with his son but maintains his indifference, stating that he is a man of business and that he will by no means jump to hasty conclusions. Accompanied by his bumbling companions Ben Allen and Bob Sawyer, Mr. Pickwick angrily takes his leave.

Charles Dickens