The Worlds Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906. Vols. VIIX: British
Serjeant Buzfuzs Address to the Jury
By Charles Dickens (18121870)
From Pickwick Papers
SERJEANT BUZFUZ rose with all the majesty and dignity which the grave nature of the proceedings demanded, and having whispered to Dodson, and conferred briefly with Fogg, pulled his gown over his shoulders, settled his wig, and addressed the jury.
Serjeant Buzfuz began by saying that never, in the whole course of his professional experiencenever, from the very first moment of his applying himself to the study and practice of the lawhad he approached a case with feelings of such deep emotion, or with such a heavy sense of the responsibility imposed upon hima responsibility, he would say, which he could never have supported, were he not buoyed up and sustained by a conviction so strong that it amounted to positive certainty that the cause of truth and justice, or, in other words, the cause of his much-injured and most oppressed client, must prevail with the high-minded and intelligent dozen of men whom he now saw in that box before him.
Counsel always begin in this way, because it puts the jury on the very best terms with themselves, and makes them think what sharp fellows they must be. A visible effect was produced immediately; several jurymen beginning to take voluminous notes with the utmost eagerness.
You have heard from my learned friend, gentlemen, continued Serjeant Buzfuz, well knowing that, from the learned friend alluded to, the gentlemen of the jury had heard just nothing at allyou have heard from my learned friend, gentlemen, that this is an action for a breach of promise of marriage, in which the damages are laid at £1,500. But you have not heard from my learned friend, inasmuch as it did not come within my learned friends province to tell you, what are the facts and circumstances of the case. Those facts and circumstances, gentlemen, you shall hear detailed by me, and proved by the unimpeachable female whom I will place in that box before you.
Here Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz, with a tremendous emphasis on the word box, smote his table with a mighty sound, and glanced at Dodson and Fogg, who nodded admiration of the serjeant, and indignant defiance of the defendant.
The plaintiff, gentlemen, continued Serjeant Buzfuz, in a soft and melancholy voice, the plaintiff is a widow; yes, gentlemen, a widow. The late Mr. Bardell, after enjoying, for many years, the esteem and confidence of his sovereign, as one of the guardians of the royal revenues, glided almost imperceptibly from the world, to seek elsewhere for that repose and peace which a custom-house can never afford.
At this pathetic description of the decease of Mr. Bardell, who had been knocked on the head with a quart pot in a public-house cellar, the learned serjeants voice faltered, and he proceeded with emotion:
Some time before his death, he had stamped his likeness upon a little boy. With this little boy, the only pledge of her departed exciseman, Mrs. Bardell shrunk from the world, and courted the retirement and tranquillity of Goswell Street; and here she placed in her front parlour-window a written placard, bearing this inscription, Apartments furnished for a single gentleman. Inquire within. Here Serjeant Buzfuz paused, while several gentlemen of the jury took a note of the document.
There is no date, gentlemen, replied Serjeant Buzfuz; but I am instructed to say that it was put in the plaintiffs parlour-window just this time three years. I entreat the attention of the jury to the wording of this document, Apartments furnished for a single gentleman! Mrs. Bardells opinions of the opposite sex, gentlemen, were derived from a long contemplation of the inestimable qualities of her lost husband. She had no fearshe had no distrustshe had no suspicionall was confidence and reliance. Mr. Bardell, said the widowMr. Bardell was a man of honourMr. Bardell was a man of his wordMr. Bardell was no deceiverMr. Bardell was once a single gentleman himself; to single gentlemen I look for protection, for assistance, for comfort, and for consolation; in single gentlemen I shall perpetually see something to remind me of what Mr. Bardell was when he first won my young and untried affections. To a single gentleman, then, shall my lodgings be let. Actuated by this beautiful and touching impulseamong the best impulses of our imperfect nature, gentlementhe lonely and desolate widow dried her tears, furnished her first floor, caught her innocent boy to her maternal bosom, and put the bill up in her parlour-window. Did it remain there long? No. The serpent was on the watch, the train was laid, the mine was preparing, the sapper and miner was at work. Before the bill had been in the parlour-window three daysthree days, gentlemena being, erect upon two legs, and bearing all the outward semblance of a man, and not of a monster, knocked at the door of Mrs. Bardells house. He inquired within; he took the lodgings; and on the very next day he entered into possession of them. This man was PickwickPickwick, the defendant.
Serjeant Buzfuz, who had proceeded with such volubility that his face was perfectly crimson, here paused for breath. The silence awoke Mr. Justice Stareleigh, who immediately wrote down something with a pen without any ink in it, and looked unusually profound, to impress the jury with the belief that he always thought most deeply with his eyes shut. Serjeant Buzfuz proceeded:
Of this man Pickwick I will say little; the subject presents but few attractions; and I, gentlemen, am not the man, nor are you, gentlemen, the men, to delight in the contemplation of revolting heartlessness, and of systematic villainy.
Here Mr. Pickwick, who had been writhing in silence for some time, gave a violent start, as if some vague idea of assaulting Serjeant Buzfuz, in the august presence of justice and law, suggested itself to his mind. An admonitory gesture from Perker restrained him, and he listened to the learned gentlemans continuation with a look of indignation, which contrasted forcibly with the admiring faces of Mrs. Cluppins and Mrs. Sanders.
I say systematic villainy, gentlemen, said Serjeant Buzfuz, looking through Mr. Pickwick, and talking at him; and when I say systematic villainy, let me tell the defendant, Pickwick, if he be in court, as I am informed he is, that it would have been more decent in him, more becoming, in better judgment, and in better taste, if he had stopped away. Let me tell him, gentlemen, that any gestures of dissent or disapprobation in which he may indulge in this court will not go down with you; that you will know how to value and how to appreciate them; and let me tell him further, as my lord will tell you, gentlemen, that a counsel, in the discharge of his duty to his client, is neither to be intimidated, nor bullied, nor put down; and that any attempt to do either the one or the other, or the first, or the last, will recoil on the head of the attempter, be he plaintiff or be he defendant, be his name Pickwick, or Noakes, or Stoakes, or Stiles, or Brown, or Thompson.
This little diversion from the subject in hand had, of course, the intended effect of turning all eyes to Mr. Pickwick. Serjeant Buzfuz, having partially recovered from the state of moral elevation into which he had lashed himself, resumed:
I shall show you, gentlemen, that for two years Pickwick continued to reside constantly, and without interruption or intermission, at Mrs. Bardells house. I shall show you that Mrs. Bardell, during the whole of that time, waited on him, attended to his comforts, cooked his meals, looked out his linen for the washerwoman when it went abroad, darned, aired, and prepared it for wear when it came home, and, in short, enjoyed his fullest trust and confidence. I shall show you that, on many occasions, he gave halfpence, and on some occasions even sixpences, to her little boy; and I shall prove to you, by a witness, whose testimony it will be impossible for my learned friend to weaken or controvert, that on one occasion he patted the boy on the head, and, after inquiring whether he had won any alley tors or commoneys latelyboth of which I understand to be a particular species of marbles much prized by the youth of this townmade use of this remarkable expression, How should you like to have another father? I shall prove to you, gentlemen, that about a year ago, Pickwick suddenly began to absent himself from home, during long intervals, as if with the intention of gradually breaking off from my client; but I shall show you also that his resolution was not at that time sufficiently strong, or that his better feelings conquered, if better feelings he has, or that the charms and accomplishments of my client prevailed against his unmanly intentions; by proving to you that on one occasion, when he returned from the country, he distinctly and in terms offered her marriage; previously, however, taking special care that there should be no witnesses to their solemn contract; and I am in a situation to prove to you, on the testimony of three of his own friendsmost unwilling witnesses, gentlemenmost unwilling witnessesthat on that morning he was discovered by them holding the plaintiff in his arms, and soothing her agitation by his caresses and endearments.
And now, gentlemen, but one word more. Two letters have passed between these parties, letters which are admitted to be in the handwriting of the defendant, and which speak volumes indeed. These letters, too, bespeak the character of the man. They are not open, fervent, eloquent epistles, breathing nothing but the language of affectionate attachment. They are covert, sly, underhanded communications, but, fortunately, far more conclusive than if couched in the most glowing language and the most poetic imageryletters that must be viewed with a cautious and suspicious eyeletters that were evidently intended at the time, by Pickwick, to mislead and delude any third parties into whose hands they might fall. Let me read the first: Garraways, twelve oclock. Dear Mrs. B.Chops and tomato sauce. Yours, Pickwick. Gentlemen, what does this mean? Chops and tomato sauce. Yours, Pickwick! Chops! Gracious heavens! and tomato sauce! Gentlemen, is the happiness of a sensitive and confiding female to be trifled away by such shallow artifices as these? The next has no date whatever, which is in itself suspicious: Dear Mrs. B., I shall not be at home till to-morrow. Slow coach. And then follows this very, very remarkable expression, Dont trouble yourself about the warming-pan. The warming-pan! Why, gentlemen, who does trouble himself about a warming-pan? When was the peace of mind of man or woman broken or disturbed by a warming-pan, which is in itself a harmless, a useful, and I will add, gentlemen, a comforting article of domestic furniture? Why is Mrs. Bardell so earnestly entreated not to agitate herself about this warming-pan, unlessas is no doubt the caseit is a mere cover for hidden fire, a mere substitute for some endearing word or promise, agreeably to a preconcerted system of correspondence, artfully contrived by Pickwick with a view to his contemplated desertion, and which I am not in a condition to explain? And what does this illusion to the slow coach mean? For aught I know, it may be a reference to Pickwick himself, who has most unquestionably been a criminally slow coach during the whole of this transaction, but whose speed will now be very unexpectedly accelerated, and whose wheels, gentlemen, as he will find to his cost, will very soon be greased by you!
Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz paused in this place, to see whether the jury smiled at his joke; but as nobody took it but the green-grocer, whose sensitiveness on the subject was very probably occasioned by his having subjected a chaise-cart to the process in question on that identical morning, the learned serjeant considered it advisable to undergo a slight relapse into the dismals before he concluded.
But enough of this, gentlemen, said Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz; it is difficult to smile with an aching heart; it is ill jesting when our deepest sympathies are awakened. My clients hopes and prospects are ruined, and it is no figure of speech to say that her occupation is gone indeed. The bill is downbut there is no tenant. Eligible single gentlemen pass and repassbut there is no invitation for them to inquire within or without. All is gloom and silence in the house; even the voice of the child is hushed; his infant sports are disregarded when his mother weeps; his alley tors and his commoneys are alike neglected; he forgets the long familiar cry of knuckle down; and at tip-cheese, or odd and even, his hand is out. But Pickwick, gentlemenPickwick, the ruthless destroyer of this domestic oasis in the desert of Goswell StreetPickwick, who has choked up the well, and thrown ashes on the swardPickwick, who comes before you to-day with his heartless tomato sauce and warming-pansPickwick still rears his head with unblushing effrontery, and gazes without a sigh on the ruin he has made. Damages, gentlemenheavy damagesis the only punishment with which you can visit him, the only recompense you can award to my client. And for those damages she now appeals to an enlightened, a high-minded, a right-feeling, a conscientious, a dispassionate, a sympathising, a contemplative jury of her civilised countrymen.