"He became roused to the knowledge that Obenreizer had set upon him, and that they were struggling desperately in the snow."
Edward G. Dalziel
13.7 cm high by 10.5 cm wide, framed.
Dickens's "No Thoroughfare," in Christmas Stories (1877), p. 265.
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How far he had followed out of the gallery, or with what obstacles he had since contended, he knew not. He became roused to the knowledge that Obenreizer had set upon him, and that they were struggling desperately in the snow. He became roused to the remembrance of what his assailant carried in a girdle [a traveler's dagger]. He felt for it, drew it, struck at him, struggled again, struck at him again, cast him off, and stood face to face with him. [[Act II, "On The Mountain," page 264]
Relevant Illustrated Library Edition (1868), 1898 Chapman and Hall, and Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910) Illustrations
Left: Charles Green's dramatic illustration of the struggle in the Alpine vastness, "No Thoroughfare" (1868). Centre: Arthur J. Goodman's "Uncaptioned Frontispiece" for the volume form of the novella(1898). Right: Harry Furniss's "The Struggle on the Mountain" (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
After Doctor Marigold's Prescriptions, Dickens' interest in what had become the traditional Christmas number apparently declined. In Mugby Junction, as its table of contents indicates, he added the stories by other writers as a kind of inevitable supplement at the end of his own contributions. With No Thoroughfare, the holiday production for the following year, he dropped his usual format and leaned heavily on the help of Wilkie Collins. In 1868, he jettisoned the Christmas number altogether. [Thomas 152-153]
The seasonal offering for 1866, Mugby Junction, proved to be the last of Dickens's "framed tales for Christmas," since 1867's No Thoroughfare is a tightly organised joint venture with just one other writer, Wilkie Collins, who had not contributed any short stories whatsoever to Dickens's seasonal offerings since 1861. Thomas is rather dismissive of the 1867 novella, for which Dickens contributed just the "Overture" and "Act Three," although he collaborated with Collins on the first and fourth acts. She describes the collaborative work as less than successful, evidence of the collapse of the Dickens-Collins partnership:
a technically unremarkable tangle of mistaken identity, murder, love, and larceny. Its form is that of a single story, narrated in the third person, without any interpolated pieces. [Thomas 108]
The story also exists as a theatre script, but only one performance had authorial sanction: this occurred in the same month as the publication of the novella, at the New Adlphi in the Islington district of London, 26-30 December 1867 (Bolton 438). However, with so short a West End run, it is unlikely to have had much influence on nineteenth-century illustrators of the novella. Born in 1854, Harry Furniss might have caught one of the few performances of the play at London's Olympic Theatre in November 1875, in which the French lion of the Victorian stage, Dickens's friend Charles Fechter (1817-1870), starred as "Rischenbach" (Bolton, 440), that is, Obenreizer. It is conceivable that Furniss's Marguerite was influenced by one of the young actresses who took the part in British productions of 1875 (The Lyceum), 1876 (The Olympic), and 1903 (The Grand, Islington). Furniss in his depiction of the struggle on the mountain was likely responding to Charles Green's "No Thoroughfare" in the Illustrated Library Edition of 1868, although the staging of this conflict was likely spectacular in its backdrop.
The 1876 Harper and Brothers edition of Christmas Books, illustrated by E. A. Abbey, does not contain the novella. However, Edward Dalziel's series of illustrations for the Chapman and Hall volume, issued the year following, does contain a full-page illustration and four three-quarter-page wood-engravings for No Thoroughfare, all of which focus on the characters and use the settings as mere backdrops to the action. In Dalziel's sequence, Obenreizer appears twice, but Vendale in each of the four embedded wood-engravings, a ratio indicating clearly whom Dalziel regarded as the story's most important characters, although he quite naturally begins with representations of attorney Bintrey and his client Wilding. Since the British Household Edition illustrator, E. G. Dalziel (1817-1905), has devoted five illustrations to the novella, it is certainly possible that his choice of scenes was influenced by his having attended a dramatic production of the story. As in the Furniss sequence of 1910, in the Household Edition the conflict between the Satanic, foreign antagonist and his guileless Saxon opponent rises to a textual crescendo in He became roused to the knowledge that Obenreizer had set upon him, and that they were struggling desperately in the snow, but unlike Dickens and Collins in the medium of print Dalziel conducts the reader to that climactic moment in the visual sequence without introducing Marguerite or her chaperon, Madame Dor, Obenreizer's Swiss housekeeper. The omission is significant as Obenreizer's sexual interest in his ward gives his antipathy for Vendale added motivation as he perceives the Englishman as a romantic rival.
In the nineteenth-century illustrated editions, the story has consistently been the subject of illustration, in particular, the scene involving the alpine struggle between the young protagonist, George Vendale, and the duplicitous Jules Obenreizer. Although Sol Eytinge in the Diamond Edition (1867-68) had no opportunity to provide an illustration for this last Christmas story (because it had yet to be published in periodical form when he was commissioned to illustrate the Diamond Edition in 1867), apparently the first American edition to include an illustration for The Collins-Dickens Christmas Stories Comprising "No Thoroughfare" and "The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices" was that published in Boston by William F. Gill and Company in 1876. This volume has a particularly dramatic rendering of this same life-and-death struggle for possession of the proofs of Obenreizer's forgery in which (somewhat inaccurately) the burly Obenreizer is in the act of pushing Vendale off the ledge — Frontispiece. The Death Struggle on the Brink of the Abyss. This drawing resembles Arthur J. Goodman's lithographic frontispiece for the 1898 Chapman and Hall pocket-sized edition of the novella (216 pages). In this small-scale illustration, magazine illustrator Arthur Jules Goodman depicts the hatless Vendale, in a tweed mountaineer's suit, about to plummet off the snowy precipice. His adversary is wearing a decidedly foreign hat and a moustache (perhaps directly borrowed from Dalziel's earlier visualization of Obenreizer). To emphasize his physical superiority, Goodman has placed a snow-covered Alpine peak directly behind Vendale's assailant.
By the time that the reader arrives at Dalziel's illustration of the wrestling match just before the Tourmente closes in, the reader has already concluded that the devious villain will have to employ force to realize his designs and recover the evidence against him that Vendale is carrying to Obenreizer's Swiss employers for handwriting analysis. Nevertheless, the reading of the illustration is analeptic in that the reader experiences this incident in print on the facing page. The scene, as the text makes manifest, is the Simplon Pass, near the village of Brieg, above Lausanne. Owing to the softness of the recent, heavy snowfall, neither carriage nor sledge has crossed the pass in four days, leaving the determined Vendale no choice but to walk, relying on the experienced Swiss-born mountaineer Jules Obenreizer as his guide. Whereas Goodman, Green, and Furniss make liberal use of white tosuggest the "steady snowfall" (264) surrounding the antagonists on this pathway in the high Alps as the storm rages wildly about them, Dalziel in his Household Edition wood-engraving, with its much sharper lines, renders the figures of the adversaries in considerable detail, conveying through their facial expressions contrasting feelings of determined malice (Obenreizer) and shocked surprise and desperation (Vendale). Coming out of a cave in which they have sought shelter, Vendale finds himself set upon. Having been drugged, the lethargic Vendale should be no match for the heavier Swiss native, but his youth renders him a match for his assailant, who even now attempts to abstract the incriminating papers from his breast pocket as the mountain storm renders the surrounding background indistinct. Dalziel suggests by Obenreizer's superior position as he holds Vendale down that the young, inexperienced Englishman will be the loser — either he will be strangled or he will plummet off the snow-covered cliff on which the action occurs. Already, Vendale's bowler hat (implying his urban origins) is slipping off the precipice with the implication that its owner is about to follow. So self-possessed and in command of the situation is the Swiss assailant that his fedora is still firmly on his head. As the reader arrives at the wood-engraving, Vendale appears to have sealed his own fate:
As his head dropped on his breast, and he stumbled on the brink of the chasm as before, the thievish hands went once more, quick and busy, to his breast. He made a convulsive attempt to cry "No!" desperately rolled himself over in the gulf; and sank away from his enemy's touch, like a phantom in a dreadful dream. [264-265]
In this cliff-hanger, Dalziel has admirably complemented the text by suggesting that Vendale (not well provisioned for this winter journey on foot, as opposed to the backpack wearing Obenreizer) will be the loser, even as he attempts to extricate his adversary's hand from around his throat and protect the papers, which Dickens implies will be lost with Vendale's body. At this moment in both the text and the visual program, it appears that Obenreizer will triumph.
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Bolton, H. Philip. Dickens Dramatized. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987.
Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: 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. 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. No Thoroughfare. Being the Extra Christmas Number of "All the Year Round," 1867. Illustrated by Arthur J. Goodman. London: Chapman and Hall, 1898.
Nayder,,Lillian. Chapter 5, "'No Thoroughfare': The Problem of Illegitimacy."Unequal Partners: Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, & Victorian Authorship. Ithaca and London: Cornell U. P., 2002. Pp. 129-162.
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 27 May 2014