The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club has the distinction of being the only one of Charles Dickens’s sixteen novels that I have not read. Since it contains one of my favorite poems (‘Ode to an Expiring Frog’), and I just bought it at a book sale, I thought I ought to get around to reading it. So, I started reading it on Sunday, June 24, 2012 — an example of the “first shall be last” (The Pickwick Papers was Charles Dickens’s first novel).
“My friend Mr. Snodgrass has a great taste for poetry,” replied Mr. Pickwick.
“So has Mrs. Leo Hunter, sir. She dotes on poetry, sir. She adores it; I may say that her whole soul and mind are wound up and entwined with it. She has produced some delightful pieces herself, sir. You may have met with her ‘Ode to an Expiring Frog,’ sir.”
“I don’t think I have,” said Mr. Pickwick.
“You astonish me, sir,” said Mr. Leo Hunter. “It created an immense sensation. It was signed with an L and eight stars, and appeared originally in a lady’s magazine. It commenced:
‘Can I view thee panting, lying
On thy stomach, without sighing;
Can I unmoved see thee dying
On a log,
“Beautiful!” said Mr. Pickwick.
“Fine,” said Mr. Leo Hunter, “so simple.”
“Very,” said Mr. Pickwick.
“The next verse is still more touching. Shall I repeat it?”
“If you please,” said Mr. Pickwick.
“It runs thus,” said the grave man still more gravely:
‘Say, have fiends in shape of boys,
With wild halloo and brutal noise
Hunted thee from marshy joys,
With a dog,
“Finely expressed,” said Mr. Pickwick.
— from Chapter 15, p. 227, of The Pickwick Papers, by Charles Dickens (New York: A Signet Classic, 1964).
Alas! Children are still fascinated with frogs. I took the photos above when a child brought me a toy construction cone that a frog had climbed into.
As a child I kept a scrapbook into which I copied poems and pasted pictures cut out from various magazines. ‘Ode to an Expiring Frog’ is one of the later additions to this book.