Infallible domestic recipes and precepts.
Charles Edmund Brock
9 x 7.6 cm. vignetted
Dickens's The Cricket on the Hearth, page 168.
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"So bring me the precious Baby, Tilly," said [Dot], drawing a chair to the fire; "and while I have it in my lap, here's Mrs. Fielding, Tilly, will tell me all about the management of Babies, and put me right in twenty points where I'm as wrong as can be. Won't you, Mrs. Fielding?"
Not even the Welsh Giant, who, according to the popular expression, was so "slow" as to perform a fatal surgical operation upon himself, in emulation of a juggling-trick achieved by his archenemy at breakfast-time; not even he fell half so readily into the snare prepared for him, as the old lady did into this artful pitfall. The fact of Tackleton having walked out; and furthermore, of two or three people having been talking together at a distance, for two minutes, leaving her to her own resources; was quite enough to have put her on her dignity, and the bewailment of that mysterious convulsion in the Indigo trade, for four-and-twenty hours. But this becoming deference to her experience, on the part of the young mother, was so irresistible, that after a short affectation of humility, she began to enlighten her with the best grace in the world; and sitting bolt upright before the wicked Dot, she did, in half an hour, deliver more infallible domestic recipes and precepts, than would (if acted on) have utterly destroyed and done up that Young Peerybingle, though he had been an Infant Samson. — Chapter Two, "Chirp the Second," p. 167.
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 original illustrators depicted Mrs. Fielding twice in the fourteen illustrations, later artists working on the Diamond Edition (Sol Eytinge, Junior) and the British and American Household Editions in the 1870s (E. A. Abbey and Fred Barnard) did not bother with this minor character. Consequently, Brock had a free hand in reinterpreting the images provided him by John Leech.
Whereas in the original of this scene, Mrs. Fielding's Lecture, the grand, old lady is holding forth in the Plummers' parlour (indicated by the masks on the wall and the puppets on the mantelpiece) to an attentive Dot (centre, holding a diminutive baby), her daughter, May (back to the reader), and Tilly Slowboy (right), Brock strips away all contextual detail except the chair from the previous scene. He has even elminated Mrs. Fielding's auditors in order to focus the reader's attention on the self-important mother-of-the-bride in her outlandish hat, which is nevertheless scaled down from the 1845 illustration.
Relevant Illustrations of Mrs. Fielding from the 1845 edition
Left: John Leech's cfairy-tale treatment of Mrs. Fielding's Lecture (1845). Right: John Leech's depiction of the little community at festival, integrating even Tackleton and Mrs. Fielding, The Dance (1845). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
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 20 October 2015