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Summary Chapter 33

The Pickwickians and Mr. Pickwick’s solicitors arrive at court and take their places. By and by, the presiding judge Mr. Justice Starleigh, a short, fat man with a “very comical-looking wig,” takes his place and the trial begins.

But before the trial begins, Thomas Goffen, a chemist, who has been selected for jury duty, argues his case for being excused to no avail. Justice Starleigh is deaf to the chemist’s argument that his—Goffen’s—absence at the pharmacy could prove tragic on account of the chemist’s assistant who is ignorant of chemical properties (thus the possiblity of selling the wrong concoction of drugs to a customer).

Presently, the trial begins with Mr. Serfeant Buzfuz’s opening statement on behalf of Mrs. Bardell. The statement is a lengthy one and is put in the best possible light on behalf of Mrs. Bardell and in the worst possible light on behalf of Mr. Pickwick. Then Mr. Buzfuz calls Mrs. Bardell’s friend Mrs. Cuppins to the witness stand. Her testimony is predictably biased in favor of Mrs. Bardell. But no sooner is she done with her testimony when she indulges in a rambling discourse about her own domestic affairs, for which she is escorted out of the courtroom.

Mr. Nathaniel Winkle is called to the stand by the prosecution. In having the Pickwickian’s name reiterated, the presiding judge botches it and then justifies his botching it with an absurd argument. The trial proceeds. Mr. Skimpin, Mr. Buzfuz’s assistant, takes Mr. Winkle’s testimony. By dint of overbearing pressure, Mr. Winkle’s words are made to reflect badly on Mr. Pickwick.

Mr. Phunky, Mr. Snubbin’s assistant, then questions Mr. Winkle on behalf of Mr. Pickwick. The argument is made that Mr. Pickwick’s advanced age makes him a father figure to Mr. Winkle, and that in his advanced age Mr. Pickwick is content to remain a bachelor as his wild oats had already been sown, so to speak. Thus, Mr.Winkle has put Mr. Pickwick in the best of lights only to ruin this line of argument with a qualification. The prosecution pounces on the qualification and forces Mr. Winkle to speak of the embarrassing incident wherein Mr. Pickwick found himself in Miss Witherfield’s room, causing a rupture between her and her betrothed George Nupkins, Esq. Consequently, some hours after the trial, Mr. Winkle is found at the George and Vulture lamenting his lapse of judgment.

The trial continues with the testimonies of Mr. Tupman, Mr. Snodgrass, and Susannah Sanders. Alas, by and large, the prosecution manages to get the upper-hand on these testimonies as well. Then Sam Weller is called to the stand and things take a turn. Sam’s forthrightness makes him a favorite of the people observing from the gallery. Both the presiding judge and the lead prosecution Mr. Buzfuz are made to look like fools. Indeed, Sam’s testimony suggests that Dodson and Fogg aren’t so much involved in the case to represent their client Mrs. Bardell but to swindle money off of Mr. Pickwick. Subsequently, the prosecution quickly dismisses Sam from the witness stand.

Mr. Snubbin makes his closing statement on behalf of the defendant Mr. Pickwick. Needless to say, it puts Mr. Pickwick in the best of lights. Then Justice Starleigh addresses the jury, reiterating the issue at hand. The jury recesses to arrive at a decision.

A quarter of an hour passes when the jury renders a decision. The decision is in favor of the prosecution; the defendant must pay damages amounting to 750 pounds. Indignant, Mr. Pickwick assures Dodson and Fogg, that they will not receive a farthing. Dodson and Fogg gloat. Meanwhile, Mr. Weller senior reminds Sam that Mr. Pickwick should have done as Mr. Weller had suggested.

Charles Dickens