E. A. Abbey
18.8 x 12.8 cm
Illustration for Dickens's Dr. Marigold in "The Extra Christmas Number" from All the Year Round (1865).
The story of the "cheapjack" (travelling huckster) is bracketed in the American Household Edition by a single textual moment, the return of Dr. Marigold's adopted daughter, Sophy, and her child from China, where her husband (also deaf and dumb) has been on station in the military. [continued below]
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Until the grandchild addresses him as "Grandfather," neither he nor the reader knows that she can speak, for Sophy had written that she feared her daughter was deaf and dumb. Thus, the proleptic reading facilitated by the illustration partially undercuts the suspense as the reader is alerted to the fact, even before starting the story, that the child is capable of speech. Perhaps believing that many Household Edition readers would be familiar with the ten-year-old story, Abbey has chosen to reveal the climax even before the story begins, exciting a certain interest as to how the narrative will arrive at this sentimental climax, foreshadowed in one of the volume's three full-page illustrations.
I had started at a real sound, and the sound was on the steps of the cart. It was the light hurried tread of a child, coming clambering up. That tread of a child had once been so familiar to me, that for half a moment I believed I was a-going to see a little ghost.
But the touch of a real child was laid upon the outer handle of the door, and the handle turned, and the door opened a little way, and a real child peeped in. A bright little comely girl with large dark eyes.
Looking full at me, the tiny creature took off her mite of a straw hat, and a quantity of dark curls fell about her face. Then she opened her lips, and said in a pretty voice,
"Ah, my God!" I cries out. "She can speak!"
"Yes, dear grandfather. And I am to ask you whether there was ever any one that I remind you of?"
In a moment Sophy was round my neck, as well as the child, and her husband was a-wringing my hand with his face hid, and we all had to shake ourselves together before we could get over it. And when we did begin to get over it, and I saw the pretty child a-talking, pleased and quick and eager and busy, to her mother, in the signs that I had first taught her mother, the happy and yet pitying tears fell rolling down my face. 
The illustrator must necessarily shift the perspective from first person (that of the travelling peddler and auctioneer) to an objective or dramatic perspective that foregrounds the narrator-protagonist. The reader of 1876, if unfamiliar with this seasonal offering, may well have been puzzled by the child's crying out "Grandfather!" since Marigold's adopted daughter is deaf and dumb, and the first part of the story charts the kindly cheapjack's teaching the child how to read and write.
The physical setting, realized in sharp perspective, is Dr. Marigold's "library cart," especially constructed for Sophy as a child. Marigold has just spent Christmas Day in the cart, motivated the reader presumes by a desire to be close to his adopted daughter. Although the illustrator does not elaborate on the cheapjack's yuletide cookery (detailed by Dickens as involving a pudding of kidneys, oysters, and mushrooms), Abbey does depict the small, cast-iron stove, but from its central position in the foreground emphasizes the volume that the wondering reader has just dropped in surprise at a child's appearing in the doorway just as he was thinking of Sophy holding her child in her arms. Abbey has based his realisation of the cheapjack upon Dickens's initial description, including the shawl:
I am at present a middle-aged man of a broadish build, in cords, leggings, and a sleeved waistcoat the strings of which is always gone behind. Repair them how you will, they go like fiddle-strings. You have been to the theatre, and you have seen one of the wiolin-players screw up his wiolin, after listening to it as if it had been whispering the secret to him that it feared it was out of order, and then you have heard it snap. That's as exactly similar to my waistcoat as a waistcoat and a wiolin can be like one another.
I am partial to a white hat, and I like a shawl round my neck wore loose and easy. Sitting down is my favorite posture. If I have a taste in point of personal jewelry, it is mother-of-pearl buttons. There you have me again, as large as life. 
Abbey's extreme simplicity of setting, his solid three-dimensionalism in modelling the figures, and his use of highlighting and shadow are all reminiscent of the work of British Household Edition illustrator and engraver Edward Dalziel. Compare Abbey's study of the child's figure here with that of the children in Dalziel's "Trotting about among the beds, on familiar terms with all the patients, was a comical mongrel dog, called poodles" in the Chapman and Hall edition of The Uncommercial Traveller. If anything, Abbey's sixties style is more flexible and his figures less wooden than those of the British artist and engraver.
Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1998.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books. Il. Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories. Il. E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.
Dickens, Charles. The Uncommercial Traveller. Il. Edward G. Dalziel. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1877.
James, Henry. Picture and Text. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1893. Pp. 44-60.
Kitton, Frederic G. Dickens and His Illustrators. 1899. Rpt. Honolulu: U. Press of the Pacific, 2004.
Thomas, Deborah A. Dickens and The Short Story. Philadelphia: U. Pennsylvania Press, 1982.
Last modified 10 December 2012