- ‘A most particularly short man, and so fat, that he seemed all face and waistcoat‘ is a quotation from The Pickwick Papers (Chapter 34).
This quotation is a description of Justice Stareleigh, the judge presiding at the trial of Bardwell v. Pickwick. This famous court case from The Pickwick Papers appeared in Chapter 34 of the novel (first published in part 12 of the serialisation of the story in March 1837).
Stareleigh is a comical figure based on a real judge named Stephen Gaselee whom Dickens saw in action in the Court of Common Pleas. The fictitious name is a play of the original character. If you replace an S for a Z you get gaze which Dickens substituted for star.
Justice Stareleigh is a comical figure based on an irascible, little judge named Stephen Gaselee whom Dickens saw in action in the Court of Common Pleas. The fictitious name is a play on the letters of the character it is based on. If you replace an S for a Z you get Gaze, which Dickens replaced for Star. Stephen Gaselee was born in 1763 at Portsea, the father was an eminent surgeon at Portsmouth. Called to the bar 1793, King’s Counsel 1819, Justice of Court of Common Pleas 1824, knighted 1825. Retired from the bench in 1837. He died at 13 Montague Place, Russell Square, London, on 26 March 1839.
The Trial of Bardwell v. Pickwick.
One of the most memorable scenes from Charles Dickens’s first novel The Pickwick Papers is the trial of Mrs. Bardwell against Mr. Pickwick. An account of the trial from a legal perspective was published in 1902 by the Anglo-Irish author and critic, Percy Hetherington Fitzgerald (1834–1925), titled Bardell v. Pickwick: the trial for breach of promise of marriage held at the Guildhall Sittings, on April 1, 1828, before Mr. Justice Stareleigh and a special jury of the City of London. Fitzgerald first met Charles Dickens in Dublin in 1858, when Dickens made his first tour of Ireland. He became a good friend of Dickens and contributor to Dickens’s magazine, Household Words.
Mr. Pickwick was on the point of inquiring, with great abhorrence of the man’s cold-blooded villainy, how Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz, who was counsel for the opposite party, dared to presume to tell Mr. Serjeant Snubbin, who was counsel for him, that it was a fine morning, when he was interrupted by a general rising of the barristers, and a loud cry of ‘Silence!’ from the officers of the court. Looking round, he found that this was caused by the entrance of the judge.
Mr. Justice Stareleigh (who sat in the absence of the Chief Justice, occasioned by indisposition) was a most particularly short man, and so fat, that he seemed all face and waistcoat. He rolled in, upon two little turned legs, and having bobbed gravely to the Bar, who bobbed gravely to him, put his little legs underneath his table, and his little three-cornered hat upon it; and when Mr. Justice Stareleigh had done this, all you could see of him was two queer little eyes, one broad pink face, and somewhere about half of a big and very comical-looking wig.
The judge had no sooner taken his seat, than the officer on the floor of the court called out ‘Silence!’ in a commanding tone, upon which another officer in the gallery cried ‘Silence!’ in an angry manner, whereupon three or four more ushers shouted ‘Silence!’ in a voice of indignant remonstrance. This being done, a gentleman in black, who sat below the judge, proceeded to call over the names of the jury; and after a great deal of bawling, it was discovered that only ten special jurymen were present. Upon this, Mr. Serjeant Buzfuz prayed a tales; the gentleman in black then proceeded to press into the special jury, two of the common jurymen; and a greengrocer and a chemist were caught directly.
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