'It is in such enlightened means,' said a voice

"It is in such enlightened means," said a voice, almost in Martin's ear, "That the bubbling passions of my country find a vent." (1870s). Illustration by Fred Barnard for Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit (Chapter XV), page 129. [The newsboys invade "The Screw" as the line-of-the-packet vessel lands in New York harbour.] 10.6 cm x 13.8 cm. Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL.]

The letterpress's image of bubbling passions finding vent is not especially menacing, however, in that it suggests a water geyser such as Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park rather than an active volcano such as Mount Vesuvius in Italy. No wonder Dickens associates the journalist with a frothy, bubbly beverage—champagne, of which he has extorted a number of bottles from the captain of "The Screw."

Fred Barnard's first American illustration (discounting the scene of Mark Tapley and fellow immigrants in steerage) depicts in a close up the arrival of "The Screw" in New York harbour in Chapter 16, although the printer has incorrectly placed it in the preceding chapter, when Martin and Mark are still in the middle of the five-week passage. In the letterpress, like diminutive pirates bent upon plunder, a legion of news-boys boards and overruns the packet steamer, hawking wares whose quality and character Dickens makes immediately evident in their titles: the New York Sewer, Stabber, Family Spy, Private Listener, Peeper, Plunderer, Keyhole Reporter, and Rowdy Journal, a catalogue that implies the presence of at least eight vendors. However, instead of a milling crowd of miniature entrepreneurs and shipboard customers set against a panorama of docks and ships in America's busiest port, Barnard shows a lone news-boy with a bundle of New York Sewers tucked under his arm. This, indeed, is the very paper to which Dickens in metonymy devotes more than half-a-column: they are all much the same in their partisan prose, accounts of violent incidents, and personal attacks. Barnard sketchily suggests a crowded quay in the background, focusing on Colonel Diver, editor of the Rowdy Journal, in the foreground, centre; he and the newsboy to the right embody the American fifth estate which Dickens vilifies.

Martin has yet to turn and confront the owner of the disembodied voice speaking in his ear, so that we cannot evaluate by his facial expression Martin's immediate reaction as his back is towards us and his face to the shore. Thus, Barnard compels us to read the illustration by reading the letterpress. As Martin turns, he sees what we read: "a sallow gentleman, with sunken cheeks, black hair, small twinkling eyes, and a singular expression . . . which was not a frown, nor a leer, and yet might have been mistaken at first glance for either." Through the narrator's description we can assume that Martin is struck by Diver's "vulgar cunning and conceit." Although these qualities of Diver's physiognomy are not easily realized in illustration, Barnard has given us a tall, lean American nattily rather than "shabbily" dress. He is neither the gangly cartoon figure of Phiz's "Mr. Jefferson Brick Proposes an Appropriate Sentiment" (July 1843), nor the ugly and disreputable American newspaper editor of Dickens's letterpress. To give Diver's words a theatrical referent Barnard has him gesture with his left arm to the news-boy selling The Sewer.

Although his arms are therefore not impressively folded as in Dickens's initial description of him, Colonel Diver's surtout does extend to his ankles, and he does sport a buff waistcoat frilled shirt. He casually leans full length against the bulwark of the vessel, and carries exactly the sort of cane Dickens mentions: "shod with a mighty ferule at one end and armed with a great metal knob at the other, [it] depended from a line-and-tassel on his wrist." However, Barnard has markedly reduced the size of the knob, and therefore rendered Colonel Diver far less menacing, as may be more appropriate to the spirit of Anglo-American cooperation after the Civil War.

References

Dickens, Charles. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, with 59 illustrations by Fred Barnard. Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1871-1880. The copy of the Household Edition from which this picture was scanned was the gift of George Gorniak, Editor of The Dickens Magazine, whose subject for the fifth series, beginning in January 2008, was this novel.


Victorian Web Overview Victorian Book Illustration Charles Dickens Fred Barnard

Last modified 28 April 2008