"'Bye-the-bye,' and he looked into the pretty face, still close to his, 'I suppose it's your birthday.'"
13.8 x 10.7 cm framed
See commentary below.
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham
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The Passage Illustrated
Barnard's picture of Dr. Jeddler and his teenaged daughters in the orchard on Marion's birthday — which coincidentally falls on the anniversary of "the great battle [that] was fought on this ground" (124) in the previous century — realises the following passage:
— it was Doctor Jeddler's house and orchard, you should know, and these were Doctor Jeddler's daughters — came bustling out to see what was the matter, and who the deuce played music on his property, before breakfast. For he was a great philosopher, Doctor Jeddler, and not very musical.
"Music and dancing to-day!" said the Doctor, stopping short, and speaking to himself. "I thought they dreaded to-day. But it's a world of contradictions. Why, Grace, why, Marion!" he added, aloud, "is the world more mad than usual this morning?"
"Make some allowance for it, father, if it be," replied his younger daughter, Marion, going close to him, and looking into his face, "for it's somebody's birthday."
"Somebody's birth-day, Puss!" replied the Doctor. "Don't you know it's always somebody's birthday? Did you never hear how many new performers enter on this — ha! ha! ha! — it's impossible to speak gravely of it — on this preposterous and ridiculous business called Life, every minute?"
"No, not you, of course; you're a woman — almost," said the Doctor. "By-the-by," and he looked into the pretty face, still close to his, "I suppose it's your birthday."
"No! Do you really, father?" cried his pet daughter, pursing up her red lips to be kissed.
"There! Take my love with it," said the Doctor, imprinting his upon them; "and many happy returns of the — the idea! — of the day. The notion of wishing happy returns in such a farce as this," said the Doctor to himself, "is good! Ha! ha! ha!" — "Part the First," British Household Edition, p. 120.
Barnard's orchard illustration compared to those by Daniel Maclise, Richard Doyle, and Clarkson Stanfield (1846)
The British Household Edition of The Christmas Books, which provides realistic images with modelled figures in the manner of the Sixties school illustrators, fails to match the visual interest of the original 1846 small-scale illustrations. Compare, for example, Dr. Jeddler's interviewing his daughters in the garden in the original series with Barnard's version of the same scene. Richard Doyle's "Part the First" shows the cheerful county doctor, dressed in the appropriate fashion of a professional man of the late eighteenth century (including a wig), conversing with his dark-haired and blonde-haired daughters in the orchard (as indicated not merely by the trees, but by the basket of apples, centre). The pleasant scene is sharply contrasted by the aftermath of the Civil War conflict above, which, like Stanfield's "War" gives only a very general notion of the chronological setting. Although Barnard's second illustration for The Battle of Life: A Love Story accurately realizes the moment and even involves the philosophical physician's chucking Marion's chin, the original composition has the playfulness and humour typical of the earlier period of Victorian illustration — and it is precisely these endearing qualities that Barnard's far more realistic and academic treatment lacks.
Maclise, Doyle, and Stanfield work in the picturesque tradition: Frontispiece, Part the First, War, and Peace.
Although Barnard's realism is effective in his Carol illustrations in the 1878 British Household Edition, it fails to match the vitality of the original illustrations of The Christmas Books in the later titles. Although Barnard, working thirty years after the first editions, is faithful to the texts of The Battle of Life and The Haunted Man, his work seems mirthless and even cold when placed beside the lively pictures of the mid-1840s. Barnard, in fact, required situations and characters far stronger than those of the 1846 domestic melodrama, which eschews humour for sentimentality and is entirely lacking the supernatural dimension that one finds in varying degrees intervening in the plots of the other four Christmas Books.
Only The Battle of Life among the Christmas Books is what one might term a period piece, and indeed among Dickens's works of volume length it is one of a very few historical fictions, the other examples being Barnaby Rudge, set about 1780, and A Tale of Two Cities, the action of which covers the two decades of the American and French Revolutions, approximately 1775 to 1795. The chronological setting of the novella at first seems only incidental — certainly, it is not an "historical" fiction in the sense of having actual events embedded within it, as is the case with Dickens's two historical novels. Dickens chose an eighteenth-century setting for two reasons, the first of which was that such a setting made Marion's disappearance render more plausible, the second that his childhood favourite The Vicar of Wakefield (1766) inspired this Christmas Book. The characters are very much like Victorian characters, and Marion's sacrificing her marriage to Alfred in favour of her younger sister is typical of the personal sacrifices that Victorian society expected of its members. The original illustrations (particularly "Peace" by seascape painter Clarkson Stanfield through their simplicity and costumes capture well the agrarian England that existed prior to the coming of railways and the Industrial Revolution. In this regard, Stanfield's "Peace" underscores the annual harvest's importance in the lives of the rural population most effectively, although the action and the figures could equally appear in a mid-nineteenth century harvest scene; unfortunately, Barnard, focussing on figures rather than backdrops, has nothing to match its quiet beauty and serene landscape.
The historical setting of the fourth Christmas Book may owe something, too, to a growing middle-class interest in historical costumes and artefacts. Evidence of the rising middle class's interest in the past — not the classical world studied at the two universities, but the more recent and decidely English past — was the continuing popularity of the Waverly novels of Sir Walter Scott and the new fascination with historical costume that made J. R. Planché's British Costume: A Complete History of the Dress of the Inhabitants of the British Isles (1834) and Charles Knight's The Pictorial History of England being a History of the People as well as History of the Kingdom Illustrated with many hundred Woodcuts (1837). The interest in historical accuracy in costuming and furniture goes back to such Renaissance masters as Mantegna (as seen in his The Triumphs of Caesar, 1484 and 1492, for example), but a more general interest among the English in such accuracy as pertained to the fashions of their own nation was signalled by the publication of Joseph Strutt's Dresses and Habits of the English People (1796-9) and the History paintings of Richard Parkes Bonington (1802-1828), and Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), and, closer to the publication of The Battle of Life the founding of The British Archaeological Association (1843), and the scrupulously researched costuming of the Shakespeare revivals of the 1830s and 1840s under Planché, Charles Kemble, and Dickens's great friend, the legendary actor-manager W. C. Macready. In book illustration as in painting, the new "people-based" visualisation of history practised by Daniel Maclise (1806-1870) "sought to 'flesh out' history, to bring it to life by recreating the past as accurately as possible" (MacCulloch 118). One can readily discern the accuracy of the eighteenth-century costumes that Maclise has created for the harvesters and the dancing Jeddler sisters in the highly decorative "Frontispiece", which includes highly realistic renditions of a harp and a fiddle (right). A demand for such historical accuracy in visualisations of the past would become a repeated theme in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood's journal The Germ (1848-1850). As a serious academician and painter of historical subjects, Maclise may have allowed his pride in his scrupulous attention to historical detail to attempt to direct the work of his fellow artists on the novel in Dickens's absence. Michael Slater reports that the Punch cartoonist John Leech, the sole illustrator of A Christmas Carol in 1843, was upset at Maclise's presumption, and complained of his interference to Dickens's business manager, John Forster [Slater 125].
The shoes, dresses, fabrics, and hairstyles of the Jeddler family in Barnard's 1878 illustration are consonant, then, with the fashion for historical accuracy in the visual and performing arts. On the other hand, Barnard's depiction of Dr. Jeddler also owes something to the original narrative-pictorial sequence, particularly Richard Doyle's "Part the First", in which the philosophical country doctor strikes a Pickwickian pose, with his right hand under the tails of his coat, a pose that he borrowed from Seymour's celebrated serial illustration of "Mr. Pickwick Addresses the Club"; Fred Barnard would also have been influenced by Phiz's 1870s reiteration of this pose in "Sam stole a look at the inquirer" in the Household Edition of the novel.
The Jeddler sisters, Grace and Marion, however, are not distinguished in Barnard's interpretation of the scene, a similarity that may reinforce the plot of Alfred's eventual substitution of Grace for Marion as his wife after the younger sister's mysterious disappearance. Doyle, on the other hand, despite the extreme similarity in their costumes in his first contribution to the series (including the pendants around their necks), distinguishes the daughters not merely by their hair colour but also by their facial features. Barnard omits the physician's residence (right in Doyle's wood engraving), perhaps to emphasize the figures and the canopy of the orchard. Barnard's invests the Jeddler sisters with an earnestness that their Doyle counterparts lack, implying perhaps the strain of both being in love with the same young man, Alfred Heathfield. Barnard, in directing his viewer's attention to the girls' expressions, has turned their father's face away from the viewer, so that the viewer must refer to the text to determine whether the doctor is being facetious. Thus, the illustration exemplifies Barnard's notion that illustration should complement and not merely repeat the text.
Cohen, Jane Rabb. Charles Dickens and his Original Illustrators. Columbus: University of Ohio Press, 1980.
Cook, James. Bibliography of the Writings of Dickens. London: Frank Kerslake, 1879. As given in Publishers' Circular The English Catalogue of Books.
Dickens, Charles. The Battle of Life: A Love Story. Christmas Stories. Il. E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876. Pp. 111-140.
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MacCulloch, Laura. "'Fleshing out' Time: Ford Madox Brown and the Dalziel's Bible Gallery." Reading Victorian Illustration, 1855-1875: Spoils of the Lumber Room. Ed. Paul Goldman and Simon Cooke. Farnham, Surrey, and Burington, VT: Ashgate, 2012. Pp. 115-136.
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Slater, Michael. "Introduction to The Battle of Life." Dickens's Christmas Books. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1971. Rpt., 1978. Vol. 2: 123-126.
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Last modified 31 July 2016