"And when the visitor (oppressed with pie) had fallen asleep, this wicked landlord would . . . cut his throat."
Edward G. Dalziel
14 cm high by 10.7 cm wide, framed.
Dickens's The Holly-Tree Inn, "First Branch," in Christmas Stories, page 16 [See commentary below].
[Click on image to enlarge it and mouse over text for links.]
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 in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]
My first impressions of an Inn dated from the Nursery; consequently I went back to the Nursery for a starting-point, and found myself at the knee of a sallow woman with a fishy eye, an aquiline nose, and a green gown, whose specially was a dismal narrative of a landlord by the roadside, whose visitors unaccountably disappeared for many years, until it was discovered that the pursuit of his life had been to convert them into pies. For the better devotion of himself to this branch of industry, he had constructed a secret door behind the head of the bed; and when the visitor (oppressed with pie) had fallen asleep, this wicked landlord would look softly in with a lamp in one hand and a knife in the other, would cut his throat, and would make him into pies; for which purpose he had coppers, underneath a trap-door, always boiling; and rolled out his pastry in the dead of the night. Yet even he was not insensible to the stings of conscience, for he never went to sleep without being heard to mutter, "Too much pepper!" which was eventually the cause of his being brought to justice. ["First Branch: Myself," page 17]
The Household Edition illustrator seems have enjoyed capturing the precise moment before the blood-thirsty landlord plunges his blade into the unconscious guest in his nightcap. As befits so grisly a subject, the background and even the murderer are dark, while an extreme chiaroscuro creates depth of field by highlighting the oblivious guest at the inn in the narrator's reverie.
Although London playwright, theatre manager, and actor George Dibdin-Pitt (1799-1855) introduced the demon barber of Fleet Street, Sweeney Todd, to the stage in 1847 in The String of Pearls at the Hoxton Theatre, the urban myth of the cannibalistic barber in league with meat-pie manufacturers originated in a serial story written the year previous by Thomas Preckett Prest, prolific writer of penny dreadfuls. This was, however, the sort of gruesome tale that young Charles Dickens loved to read and which his nurse at Chatham, Mary Weller, delighted to tell him. Both Perrault's Blue Beard and "Nurse's Stories" in Dickens's The Uncommercial Traveller essays utilize similar spine-tingling and horrific narrative elements.
Related Illustrations from "Nurse's Stories"
Left: Edward Dalziel's "A lemon has pips, a yard has ships, and I'll have chips" Right: C. S. Reinhart's "And the bride looked up at the glass, just in time to see the Captain cutting her head off." [Click on images to enlarge them.]
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Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Checkmark and Facts On File, 1998.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books and The Uncommercial Traveller. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. Vol. 10.
Dickens, Charles. The Uncommercial Traveller and Additional Christmas Stories. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Junior. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories from "Household Words" and "All The Year Round". Illustrated by Townley Green, Charles Green, Fred Walker, F. A. Fraser, Harry French, E. G. Dalziel, and J. Mahony. The Illustrated Library Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1868, rpt. in the Centenary Edition of Chapman & Hall and Charles Scribner's Sons (1911). 2 vols.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories. Illustrated by E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories from "Household Words" and "All the Year Round". Illustrated by E. G. Dalziel. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1877.
Dickens, Charles. The Uncommercial Traveller, Hard Times, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Il. C. S. Reinhart and Luke Fildes. The Household Edition. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1876.
Dickens, Charles. The Uncommercial Traveller. Illustrated by E. G. Dalziel. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1877.
Scenes and characters from the works of Charles Dickens; being eight hundred and sixty-six drawings, by Fred Barnard, Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz); J. Mahoney; Charles Green; A. B. Frost; Gordon Thomson; J. McL. Ralston; H. French; E. G. Dalziel; F. A. Fraser, and Sir Luke Fildes; printed from the original woodblocks engraved for "The Household Edition.". New York: Chapman and Hall, 1908. Copy in the Robarts Library, University of Toronto.
Thomas, Deborah A. Dickens and The Short Story. Philadelphia: U. Pennsylvania Press, 1982.
Last modified 25 April 2014