We will say, if you please,

"We will say, if you please," added Mr. Pecksniff, with great tenderness of manner, "That it arises from a cold in the head, or is attributable to snuff, or smelling-salts, or onions, or anything but the real cause." (1870s) Illustration by Fred Barnard for Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit (Chapter III), page 17. [Mr. Pecksniff visits the elderly invalid at the Blue Dragon.] 10.8 cm x 13.7 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 moment realized sets up readers' expectations as the illustrator reveals what will happen over the page. This scene in old Martin's sick-chamber is comparable to Phiz's second plate for the first monthly number, "Martin Chuzzlewit suspects the landlady without any reason." The chamber's lone candle realistically casts the shadows of Barnard's figures on the wall- paper, and establishes continuity with the text (old Martin's burning of yet another will) and Phiz's plate. In fact, Barnard seems to be inviting comparison with Phiz here since he has selected a similar but not identical subject. In each illustrator's narrative-pictorial sequence these plates begin what Michael Steig has termed "old Martin's progress" (Dickens Studies Annual 2: 126). In the original serial illustration a paranoid, aged miser complete with patriarchal skullcap (which Phiz possibly intended to evoke the Old Testament story of Isaac's choice of heirs, Esau and Jacob) is in self-isolation imposed by his wealth. As the head of a greedy clan, he has reason to be suspicious. However, whereas in Phiz's plate he had accused the kind-hearted publican without reason, in Barnard's he exercises reasonable caution in suspecting the motives of the loquacious newcomer who proclaims himself in sermonical tones a purely disinterested "friend."

The Chuzzlewit "curse" under which old Martin feels himself labouring implies a simple, superstitious nature in his interview with Mrs. Lupin she counsels is only the operation of "sick fancies." Several pages later, when we have learned how his fortune has brought nothing by familial dissention, his aggressive demeanour seems fully justified, especially since we have already judged Pecksniff a posturing, pompous hypocrite. In addition to maintaining continuity through old Martin's posture and attitude (despite the absence of the skullcap), Barnard has chosen to furnish the apartment exactly after Phiz's manner, with a small, round table at the bedside, the rumpled bedclothes, and the abundant draperies of the bed-curtains. However, whereas Phiz had employed the drapery to suggest the old man's closeness to Mary Graham and his tendency to exclude others from his confidence, in Barnard's plate the pillar of rectitude and platitudinous sentiment has replaced the curtains, which Barnard has re-positioned to the extreme right as a frame to complement the chair and Pecksniffian shadow at the extreme left. Whereas Phiz has drawn the viewer's eye right of centre, to the heads of old Martin and young Mary, in order to convey their sympathetic understanding, Barnard has shifted the mood from watchful suspicion to character comedy as Pecksniff performs his serio-comic monologue for an audience of one. As the left hand, gesturing, and the right hand, stagily displaying the oversized handkerchief, a theatrical property long before vaudeville, suggest, Pecksniff is always acting a part. He is as comic a tragedian as Wopsle will later prove to be whether in the Gargerys' parlour or on the London stage in Great Expectations (1861).

Curiously, the Household Edition has positioned this third Barnard plate prior to the moment realized by the second plate, leaving the reader to wonder when the text realized by the third plate will occur.

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 January 2008