It is England, the year 1828 in the Fleet, a debtor's prison, Mr. Samuel Pickwick and his 'Gentleman's Gentleman' Sam Weller are reminiscing on the adventures that led to their imprisonment.
It was Christmas Eve 1827 in the courtyard of Mrs. Bardell's inn the "George and Vulture", and Pickwick greets his old friend Wardle and his family, daughters Emily and Isabella and their maiden aunt Rachel. He introduces them to his fellow members of the Pickwick Club, the poetic Snodgrass, the sporting Winkle and Tupman, the romantic.
Enter the wily Jingle who, before long, has tricked the innocent Tupman into paying for his ticket to the ball that night. Here, discovering that Rachel is an heiress, Jingle sets about courting her, thereby spoiling Tupman's chances and landing Winkle in a pretty pickle!
The next morning Pickwick returns to his rooms to discover the ebullient Sam striking up a 'friendship' with the new maid Mary. After some thought he decides to hire Sam as his Gentleman's Gentleman. Unfortunately, when he seeks Sam's release as Boot Black, Mrs. Bardell mistakes the request for a proposal of marriage and Pickwick finds himself in a compromising position!
Winkle, having slept through the ball, is surprised to receive a challenge to a duel. When the affair is happily resolved the Pickwickians and the Wardle family go skating; there they discover Rachel has succumbed to Jingle's flattery and run off with him, and Pickwick is presented with a writ for Breach of Promise. They follow the runaways to Eatanswill where Pickwick succeeds in buying Jingle off. Pickwick's next call is to the offices of Dodson and Fogg where he learns some hard truths about the law. In the Court room, Sgt. Buzfuz so ably states Mrs. Bardell's case that Pickwick is found guilty with damages; after refusing to pay he finds himself in the fleet ... where we came in.