The Convict's Return
Felix O. C. Darley
9.9 x 8.5 cm vignetted
Dickens's Great Expectations, Household Edition (1861), vol. 2 frontispiece.
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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.] Image reproduced courtesy of Dickens collector and bibliophile Dan Calinescu, Toronto.
He came back to where I stood, and again held out both his hands. Not knowing what to do — for, in my astonishment I had lost my self-possession — I reluctantly gave him my hands. He grasped them heartily, raised them to his lips, kissed them, and still held them.
"You acted noble, my boy," said he. "Noble, Pip! And I have never forgot it!"
At a change in his manner as if he were even going to embrace me, I laid a hand upon his breast and put him away.
"Stay!" said I. "Keep off! If you are grateful to me for what I did when I was a little child, I hope you have shown your gratitude by mending your way of life. If you have come here to thank me, it was not necessary. Still, however you have found me out, there must be something good in the feeling that has brought you here, and I will not repulse you; but surely you must understand that — I —" [Chapter 39, pages 103-104 in volume 2]
Whereas other illustrators have either overlooked the return of the antipodean convict (such as Marcus Stone) or have focussed on Pip's developing relationship with Estella instead, few have dealt with the clandestine reappearance in Pip's life of Magwitch. The illustration which most closely approximates Darley's is ironically one of the most modern — Edward Ardizzone's Chapter 39 colour illustration Pip has a visitor by night. With only the benefit of McLenan's illustrations as a reference, Darley therefore has shown considerable innovation in choosing this subject as the frontispiece for volume 2, for the complications arising from the convict's return shape much of the plot from chapter 39 onward.
Neither frontispiece for the 1861 two-volume publication points to the influential females of the story, Mrs. Joe, Miss Havisham, and Estella; despite the fact that the latter two appear prominently in Marcus Stone's wood-engravings for the Illustrated Library Edition, which does not feature Magwitch at all. With access only to the work of John McLenan in Harper's Weekly, Darley has nevertheless chosen for realisation scenes with which McLenan does not deal.
The 1861 frontispiece for the second volume by a renowned American illustrator, Felix Octavius Carr Darley (then 39 and well established as a professional artist), taken in conjunction with the frontispiece for the first volume (the apprehension of ragged convicts Magwitch and Compeyson after their escape from the hulks), suggests that this is a story of fathers-and-sons, as in the first Pip from the shoulder of his surrogate father watches the soldiers apprehend "his" convict, the man who now returns to see the London "gentleman" whom his hard labour abroad has created out of the poor orphan from the Medway marshes as vengeance on the gentlemanly class in general and Compeyson in particular. Darley's handling of the revelation scene that so palpably provides the solution to secret of the source of Pip's expectations — that the proletarian ex-convict and not the brewery heiress is his secret benefactor, and that therefore Miss Havisham has not been grooming Pip to be Estella's husband — is sensitive. As the slender, fashionably dressed youth in his early twenties brushes off Magwitch's attentions, as if his mere touch will bring the contamination of the prison house, the balding convict in travelling great-coat and boots (as if fresh from landing) pathetically reaches out to embrace the handsome gentleman that his years of labour in the Outback have created. Darley leaves it to the reader to determine the expression on Pip's face, compelling the reader to identify with the smiling, open-handed visitor from antipodean shores for whom return means death. In the background, Darley has placed details that bespeak Pip's class, taste, and education: the framed miniature silhouette portrait (left), the painting of a rustic scene in the manner of John Constable (again, fashionable in the 1820s), the book-lined shelf, the elegant Regency divan and chair, and the modern desk-lamp that illuminates the interior scene, which is itself an enlightenment. Pip's gentlemanly status is confirmed by the servant's bell-pull on the wall.
Darley's treatment of both the convict and his adopted son is far more subtle than that of A. A. Dixon in the 1905 Collins Pocket Edition, in which the illustrator depicts both the youth's revulsion at having physical contact with the convict, and the hearty older man's beseeching look of devotion. However, despite the melodramatic overtones, Dixon's modelling of the figures and detailing of Pip's somewhat cluttered study is as convincing as Darley's, although the 1905 lithograph lacks the sharpness and selectivity of the 1861 photogravure plate.
Pertinent Illustrations in Other Editions: 1876, 1885, 1903, 1905, 1910, and 1939
Left: Edward Ardizzone's "Pip has a visitor by night. Center: F. A. Fraser's "I rose out of my chair, and stood with my hand upon the back of it" . Right: F. W. Pailthorpe's "On the Stairs." [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Left: Charles Green's "I made him some hot rum-and-water." Center: A. A. Dixon's "Again he took both my hands." Right: Harry Furniss's "Provis." [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Il. John McLenan. Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization 4 (8 December 1860): 773.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Il. F. O. C. Darley. Volume 1. The Household Edition. New York: James G. Gregory, 1861.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Il. John McLenan. Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson, 1861.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Il. Marcus Stone. The Illustrated Library Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1864.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Il. Sol Eytinge, Junior. Diamond Edition. 14 vols. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1867.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Il. F. A. Fraser. Volume 6 of the Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1876.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Il. F. W. Pailthorpe. London: Robson & Kerslake, 23 Coventry Street, Haymarket, 1885.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Il. H. M. Brock. Imperial Edition. 16 vols. London: Gresham Publishing Company [34 Southampton Street, The Strand, London], 1901-3.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Il. A. A. Dixon. Collins Pocket Edition. London and Glasgow: Collins' Clear-Type Press, 1905.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Il. Harry Furniss. Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. Vol 14.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Il. Edward Ardizzone. Heritage Edition. New York: Heritage Press, 1939.
Last modified 24February 2014