Joe Gargery and Pip
Felix O. C. Darley
11.7 by 9.5 cm vignetted
Dickens's Great Expectations, as realised in No. 6 of Character Sketches from Dickens (1888).
[Click on image to enlarge it.]
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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"I say, Pip, old chap!" cried Joe, opening his blue eyes wide, "what a scholar you are! An't you?"
"I should like to be," said I, glancing at the slate as he held it: with a misgiving that the writing was rather hilly.
"Why, here's a J," said Joe, "and a O equal to anythink! Here's a J and a O, Pip, and a J-O, Joe."
I had never heard Joe read aloud to any greater extent than this monosyllable, and I had observed at church last Sunday when I accidentally held our Prayer-Book upside down, that it seemed to suit his convenience quite as well as if it had been all right. Wishing to embrace the present occasion of finding out whether in teaching Joe, I should have to begin quite at the beginning, I said, "Ah! But read the rest, Jo."
"The rest, eh, Pip?" said Joe, looking at it with a slowly searching eye, "One, two, three. Why, here's three Js, and three Os, and three J-O, Joes in it, Pip!"
I leaned over Joe, and, with the aid of my forefinger, read him the whole letter.
"Astonishing!" said Joe, when I had finished. "You are a scholar."
"How do you spell Gargery, Joe?" I asked him, with a modest patronage.
"I don't spell it at all," said Joe.
"But supposing you did?"
"It can't be supposed," said Joe. "Tho' I'm oncommon fond of reading, too."
"Are you, Joe?"
"On-common. Give me," said Joe, "a good book, or a good newspaper, and sit me down afore a good fire, and I ask no better. Lord!" he continued, after rubbing his knees a little, "when you do come to a J and a O, and says you, "Here, at last, is a J-O, Joe," how interesting reading is!" [Chapter 7]
Related Illustrations in Other Editions, 1860 through 1910
Left: John McLennan's "At such times as your sister is on the ram-page, Pip" (1860). Centre: Darley's earlier "Household" Edition illustration, "The Sergeant ran in first when he had run the noise quite down" (vol. 1, 1861). Right: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s "Joe and Mrs. Joe Gargarey" (1867). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Left: Marcus Stone's "Taking Leave of Joe" (1862). Centre: F. A. Fraser's Household Edition illustration, "Why, here's a J," said Joe, "and a O equal to anythink!" (1876). Right: Harry Furniss's "Joe indites a Note to Biddy" (1910) from Chapter 57. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Since adult literacy was a major social as well as an educational and commercial concern in both Great Britain and America in the 1860s, prior, that, is to such governmental; initiatives as The Elementary Education Act of England and Wales (1870) and the founding of the United States Office of Education (1869), especially across the Atlantic since foreign-language speakers had to be integrated both socially and politically, it is surprising that so few of Dickens's illustrators have focussed on Joe's illiteracy, and his learning his letters second-hand through his young brother-in-law, Pip. Although Harry Furniss does not realise Joe's early "lack of letters," he does show Joe laboriously penning a letter to his second wife from London in the Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910). Although not as effective as Darley's touching illustration of diminutive Pip teaching the muscular young adult Joe to read in the kitchen after dark (as signified by the candle (right) and the deep chiaroscuro surrounding both figures, F. A., Fraser's Household Edition illustration of the same moment underscores that, even well into the decade of the 1870s adult literacy was still very much alive as a social issue. Both Fraser and Darley also capture the irony of the child's acting as the teacher of an adult, an irony exploited by Dickens himself in depicting such characters as Amy Dorrit and Maggy in Little Doirrit (1857).
Darley's Joe in both his Household Edition frontispiece of 1861 and his later character study is appealing not merely in his youthful and vigorous manliness but also in terms of the closeness of his relationship with Pip, whom he carries on his shoulders as the soldiers pursue the escaped convicts across the Medway marshes in The Sergeant ran in first when he had run the noise quite down. One notes in the later study, too, Darley's fondness for detailing the background context credibly, such elements of the domestic sphere as the pots, pans, pewter mugs, and bellows contributing to the scene as they establish the humble nature of the readers. Joe has laid aside his pipe (right) in order to study what Pip has written for him on the slate, and his expression reflects Pip's intellectual engagement while suggesting his puzzlement. The initial illustrators, Marcus Stone and John McLenan both convey a strong sense of the relationship between young Pip and childlike, good-natured Joe at the fireside, but do not specifically address Pip's becoming Joe's literacy coach.
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F. O. C.
Last modified 20 August 2014