Charles Edmund Brock
15 x 9.5cm. vignetted
Dickens's The Cricket on the Hearth, title-page.
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It was pleasant to see Dot, with her little figure, and her baby in her arms: a very doll of a baby: glancing with a coquettish thoughtfulness at the fire, and inclining her delicate little head just enough on one side to let it rest in an odd, half-natural, half-affected, wholly nestling and agreeable manner, on the great rugged figure of the Carrier. It was pleasant to see him, with his tender awkwardness, endeavouring to adapt his rude support to her slight need, and make his burly middle-age a leaning-staff not inappropriate to her blooming youth. It was pleasant to observe how Tilly Slowboy, waiting in the background for the baby, took special cognizance (though in her earliest teens) of this grouping; and stood with her mouth and eyes wide open, and her head thrust forward, taking it in as if it were air. Nor was it less agreeable to observe how John the Carrier, reference being made by Dot to the aforesaid baby, checked his hand when on the point of touching the infant, as if he thought he might crack it; and bending down, surveyed it from a safe distance, with a kind of puzzled pride, such as an amiable mastiff might be supposed to show, if he found himself, one day, the father of a young canary. — Chapter One, "Chirp the First," p. 112]
C. E. Brock, working in 1905, had few possible models from which to work for his program of illustration for The Cricket on the Hearth here because the story lacks the illustration history enjoyed by the first of The Christmas Books, A Christmas Carol (1843). Although Dickens's American illustrator, Sol Eytinge, Junior had provided a study of the carrier and his family in The Peerybingles, the equivalent of this illustration in the Diamond Edition's anthology Christmas Books (1867) was not likely available to him. Thus, Brock's chief source for visual antecedents for The Cricket on the Hearth was the 1845 edition, illustrated by a team of contemporary artists: John Leech, Clarkson Stanfield, Richard Doyle, and Edwin Landseer, R. A. (1802-73). In the Household Edition volumes published by Chapman and Hall and Harper and Brothers in the 1870s, Brock would have found a useful model in the family study by Fred Barnard, John Peerybingle's Fireside (1878).
Surrounding the couple and their cradled infant is a border based on the notion of "hearth," with a mantelpiece at the top and fireplace implements along the sides, together with dolls and toys such as a rocking-horse (representative of the work of the toy-makers Caleb and Bertha) and the cricket (lower right) as the presiding spirit of the domestic hearth. Rounding out the realia are the boiling kettle (lower left) and the warming pan (lower right), the bellows (centre left) and tongs (lower right). Thus, the ornamental title-page emphasizes the original sub-title ("A Fairy-tale of Hearth and Home"), even though Brock has not included it, by including the common, everyday objects whose descriptions dominate the opening pages of "Chirp the First": the Kettle (p. 105), the Cricket (p. 106), and "the jolly blaze" (p. 107, suggested by the bellows and the firewood). Brock has represented the Haymaker from the clock as a figure on the mantle (upper right) rather than adding the Dutch clock and the Moorish Palace, but has prepared the reader for the arrival of John Peerbingle and realisation of the awkward nurse, Tilly Slowboy, in the uncaptioned headpiece for Chapter one. Oddly enough, Brock fails to mention either of these illustrations in the index on p. viii.
Relevant Illustrations from various editions, 1845-1912
Left: Clarkson Stanfield's interpretation of the scene in the Peerybingles' parlour after John's return, John and Dot (1845). Centre: Fred Barnard's interpretation of the same fireside scene, John Peerybingle's Fireside, in the 1878 illustration in the Household Edition. Right: Harry Furniss's suggestion that the stranger threatens the Peerybingle idyll, The Shadow on the Hearth, in the 1912 illustration in the Charles Dickens Library Edition [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: E. A. Abbey's study of the Peerybingles and their gangly nurse, "Ain't he beautiful, John?" (1876). [Click on image to enlarge it.]
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.
___. Christmas Stories. Illustrated by E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books, illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
___. Christmas Books, illustrated by Fred Barnard. Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.
___. Christmas Books, illustrated by A. A. Dixon. London & Glasgow: Collins' Clear-Type Press, 1906.
___. Christmas Books, illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book, 1910.
___. A Christmas Carol and The Cricket on the Hearth, illustrated by C. E. [Charles Edmund] Brock. London: J. M. Dent, 1905; New York: Dutton, rpt., 1963.
___. Christmas Stories, illustrated by E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.
Dickens, Charles. The Cricket on the Hearth: A Fairy Tale of Home. Illustrated by John Leech, Daniel Maclise, Richard Doyle, Clarkson Stanfield, and Edwin Landseer. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1845.
Last modified 16 October 2015