"Well Mrs. Gamp, and how are 'you,' Mrs. Gamp?" said this gentleman, in a voice as soft as his step. (1872). — Fred Barnard's twenty-fifth regular illustration for Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit, (Chapter XIX), page 161. [Pecksniff and the recently-engaged alcoholic nurse Sairey Gamp who doubles as a midwife encounter the local undertaker, Mr. Mould.] 10.7 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.]

Passage Illustrated

She was a fat old woman, this Mrs. Gamp, with a husky voice and a moist eye, which she had a remarkable power of turning up, and only showing the white of it. Having very little neck, it cost her some trouble to look over herself, if one may say so, at those to whom she talked. She wore a very rusty black gown, rather the worse for snuff, and a shawl and bonnet to correspond. In these dilapidated articles of dress she had, on principle, arrayed herself, time out of mind, on such occasions as the present; for this at once expressed a decent amount of veneration for the deceased, and invited the next of kin to present her with a fresher suit of weeds; an appeal so frequently successful, that the very fetch and ghost of Mrs Gamp, bonnet and all, might be seen hanging up, any hour in the day, in at least a dozen of the second-hand clothes shops about Holborn. The face of Mrs Gamp — the nose in particular — was somewhat red and swollen, and it was difficult to enjoy her society without becoming conscious of a smell of spirits. Like most persons who have attained to great eminence in their profession, she took to hers very kindly; insomuch that, setting aside her natural predilections as a woman, she went to a lying-in or a laying-out with equal zest and relish.

"Ah!" repeated Mrs. Gamp; for it was always a safe sentiment in cases of mourning. "Ah dear! When Gamp was summoned to his long home, and I see him a-lying in Guy's Hospital with a penny-piece on each eye, and his wooden leg under his left arm, I thought I should have fainted away. But I bore up."

If certain whispers current in the Kingsgate Street circles had any truth in them, she had indeed borne up surprisingly; and had exerted such uncommon fortitude as to dispose of Mr. Gamp's remains for the benefit of science. But it should be added, in fairness, that this had happened twenty years before; and that Mr. and Mrs. Gamp had long been separated on the ground of incompatibility of temper in their drink.

"You have become indifferent since then, I suppose?" said Mr. Pecksniff. "Use is second nature, Mrs. Gamp."

"You may well say second nater, sir," returned that lady. "One's first ways is to find sich things a trial to the feelings, and so is one's lasting custom. If it wasn't for the nerve a little sip of liquor gives me (I never was able to do more than taste it), I never could go through with what I sometimes has to do. 'Mrs. Harris,' I says, at the very last case as ever I acted in, which it was but a young person, 'Mrs. Harris,' I says, 'leave the bottle on the chimley-piece, and don't ask me to take none, but let me put my lips to it when I am so dispoged, and then I will do what I'm engaged to do, according to the best of my ability.' 'Mrs. Gamp,' she says, in answer, 'if ever there was a sober creetur to be got at eighteen pence a day for working people, and three and six for gentlefolks — night watching,"' said Mrs. Gamp with emphasis, '"being a extra charge — you are that inwallable person.' 'Mrs. Harris,' I says to her, 'don't name the charge, for if I could afford to lay all my feller creeturs out for nothink, I would gladly do it, sich is the love I bears 'em. But what I always says to them as has the management of matters, Mrs. Harris' — here she kept her eye on Mr. Pecksniff — 'be they gents or be they ladies, is, don't ask me whether I won't take none, or whether I will, but leave the bottle on the chimley-piece, and let me put my lips to it when I am so dispoged.'"

The conclusion of this affecting narrative brought them to the house. In the passage they encountered Mr. Mould the undertaker; a little elderly gentleman, bald, and in a suit of black; with a notebook in his hand, a massive gold watch-chain dangling from his fob, and a face in which a queer attempt at melancholy was at odds with a smirk of satisfaction; so that he looked as a man might, who, in the very act of smacking his lips over choice old wine, tried to make believe it was physic.

"Well, Mrs. Gamp, and how are you, Mrs. Gamp?" said this gentleman, in a voice as soft as his step.

"Pretty well, I thank you, sir," dropping a curtsey. — Chapter 19, "The Reader is Brought into Communication with Some Professional Persons, and Sheds a Tear over the Filial Piety of Good Mr. Jonas," p. 160-161.


Although Dickens's original illustrator, Hablot Knight Browne, did not introduce the alcoholic sickroom nurse Sarah (Sairey) Gamp until the chapter 26 instalment (October 1843) in Mrs. Gamp Has Her Eye on the Future, Barnard, well aware that the red-nosed, husky-voiced androgynous Sairey had become a Dickens comedic icon, maneuvers to introduce as early possible. Here, Dickens shows her in league with the local undertaker, the aptly named Mr. Mould, a dapper member of a generally dour profession whose first representative in the Dickens canon is Mr. Sowerberry in Oliver Twist. Likewise, composing his narrative-pictorial sequence for the novel in the Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910), Harry Furniss gave the boozey nurse a place of prominence in Characters in the Story, and offered an individual portrait of her in Sairey Gamp for Chapter 22.

Relevant Sairey Gamp illustrations, 1843 to 1910

Left: Phiz's Mrs. Gamp Propoges a Toast (Ch. 49, June 1844). Centre: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s Sairey Gamp and Bestsey Prig (1867). Right: Harry Furniss's synthesis of the character as drawn by Phiz and Barnard, Sairey Gamp (1910).

Left: F. O. C. Darley's frontispiece for volume two, "The creetur's head's so hot," said Mrs. Gamp, alluding to her attendance on the old clerk, Chuffey. Centre: Kyd's miniature portrait of Mrs. Gamp walking through the streets with hat, bag, and umbrella, Sairey Gamp (card no. 24, 1910). Right: From Kyd's book of remarkable Dickens characters, Sairey Gamp in watercolour, as seen in Ch. 19. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Above: Fred Barnard's Mrs. Gamp favours the company with an exhibition of professional skill, old Chuffey being the object of her ministrations (Chapter 46, the Household Edition, 1872). [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Above: Fred Barnard's Sairey Gamp rose — morally and physically rose — and denounced her." (Chapter 49, the Household Edition, 1872). [Click on image to enlarge it.]


Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. New York and Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1990.

Dickens, Charles. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit. Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne. London: Chapman and Hall, 1844.

_____. Martin Chuzzlewit. Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. 55 vols. Il. F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. New York: Sheldon and Co., 1863. Vol. 2 of 4.

_____. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Junior. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.

_____. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, with 59 illustrations by Fred Barnard. Household Edition, volume 2. London: Chapman and Hall, 1871-1880. The copy of the Household Edition from which this picture was scanned was the gift of George Gorniak, proprietor of The Dickens Magazine, whose subject for the fifth series, beginning in January 2008, was this novel.

_____. Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book, 1910. Vol. 7.

Kyd [Clayton J. Clarke]. Characters from Dickens. Nottingham: John Player & Sons, 1910.

Steig, Michael. "Martin Chuzzlewit's Progress by Dickens and Phiz. Dickens Studies Annual 2 (1972): 119-149.

Last modified 22 July 2016