Felix O. C. Darley
11.4 by 10 cm vignetted
Dickens's The Pickwick Papers, as realised in Character Sketches from Dickens (1888).
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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It was in the yard of one of these inns — of no less celebrated a one than the White Hart — that a man was busily employed in brushing the dirt off a pair of boots, early on the morning succeeding the events narrated in the last chapter. He was habited in a coarse, striped waistcoat, with black calico sleeves, and blue glass buttons; drab breeches and leggings. A bright red handkerchief was wound in a very loose and unstudied style round his neck, and an old white hat was carelessly thrown on one side of his head. There were two rows of boots before him, one cleaned and the other dirty, and at every addition he made to the clean row, he paused from his work, and contemplated its results with evident satisfaction.
. . . a smart chambermaid in the upper sleeping gallery, who, after tapping at one of the doors, and receiving a request from within, called over the balustrades — "Sam!" [Chapter 10, July 1836]
Although the first appearance of Samuel Weller in the text of the novel was as celebrated throughout the nineteenth century on both sides of the Atlantic as its realisation in Phiz's illustration for July 1836, and had been the subject of later illustrations in the Diamond and Household Editions, Darley must have felt he could add fresh insights. Indefatigably jolly like the Cockney factotum at the Green Dragon, Mark Tapley, in Martin Chuzzlewit, Sam is introduced to the reader at the "boots" or general male servant at the White Hart Inn, Southwark. Whereas Phiz and Eytinge had introduced Sam in company with Samuel Pickwick, Darley reimagines the moment from Pickwick's perspective: as he polishes boots in the inn-yard, Sam knowingly eyes a pretty chambermaid in the gallery of one of those old inns of the Borough, of which only The George off the Borough High Street remains near "old London Bridge, and its adjacent neighbourhood on the Surrey side" (Ch. 10). Darley's Sam is as smartly dressed as Phiz's and Eytinge's, but seems thinner and sharper of visage, as he gives the chambermaid indistinctly seen in the background a sharp glance.
Relevant Chapman & Hall (1836), Diamond Edition (1867), and Household Edition (1877) Illustrations
Left: Phiz's The First Appearance of Sam Weller. Centre: Hablot Knight Browne's Sam stole a look at the inquirer. Right: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller (1867). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Background to the 1888 Character Sketches
In 1888, Darley (or, more properly, Darley's estate) published with Porter and Coates thirteen elegant character studies in a collector's folder rather than a book, a selection which reveals not merely the fin de siècle taste in Dickens's works, but also those characters that continued to hold a fascination for the aged illustrator. In the American Bookseller for Christmas 1888 the Philadelphia publishers advertised two "folios" with view to the Christmas book trade:
No. One (6 illustrations) I. Sam Weller [as introduced by Hablot Knight Browne]. II. Tony Weller [drinking at The Marquis of Granby]. III. Fagan [sic] and the Oliver Twist. IV. Nancy, Oliver, Bill Sykes, and Bullseye. V. Mrs. Joe and her tickler on the rampage. VI. Pip teaching Joe his letters in the kitchen.
No. Two (7 illustrations) VII. Little Nell and her Grandfather in the churchyard. VIII. Dick Swiveller and Quilp. IX. Barnaby Rudge and Grip the raven. X. Hugh and Dolly Varden. XI. Old Rudge and John Willet. XII. Caleb Plummer and His Blind Daughter. XIII. Mine host of "The Nutmeg Grater" [Benjamin Britain, with Clemency Newcome].
Although the prints are uncaptioned, the advertisement gives the names of the characters and the books from which they come:
Porter and Coates' New Books. Character Sketches from the Works of Charles Dickens. By F. O. C. Darley. Folio No. 1, Size 19x23 $6.00 Containing six magnificent illustrations carefully reproduced from the original drawings. Old Weller, from Pickwick Papers. Barnaby Rudge, from Barnaby Rudge. Oliver Twist and Fagan [sic], from Oliver Twist. Joe Gargery and Pip, from Great Expectations. Mine Host of "The Nutmeg Grater," from The Battle of Life. Little Nell and her Grandfather, from The Old Curiosity Shop.
Folio No. 2, Size 19x23 $6.00 Containing seven magnificent illustrations carefully reproduced from the original drawings. Sam Weller, from The Pickwick Papers. Hugh and Dolly Varden, from Barnaby Rudge. Bill Sykes, Nancy, and Oliver, from Oliver Twist. Mrs. Gargery on the rampage, from Great Expectations. Caleb Plummer and his blind daughter, from Cricket on the Hearth. Dick Swiveller and Quilp, from Old Curiosity Shop. Old Rudge and John Willet.
But a few months before his death, Mr. F. O. C. Darley, the greatest American book illustrator, commenced what he intended should be the crowning monument of his artistic career — a series of drawings of some of the characters which Dickens has made immortal. Each novel was to be taken up in turn, and two or three of the most prominent characters selected which should faithfully represent the great series of familiar characters who owe their existence to the master mind of English literature. Mr. Darley's heart was in the work, and every detail was thought out, and drawn with a loving hand; and when the first sketches were shown to the critics all acknowledged that Mr. Darley had surpassed his previous efforts, and had thoroughly caught the spirit of Dickens himself. Sam Weller and his father were speaking likenesses, and Barnaby Rudge was never better drawn by any artist living or dead. In their way The Pickwick Papers, Barnaby Rudge, the Old Curiosity Shop, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, and Christmas Stories had each furnished their quota to the great picture gallery, and the companion of the great work was eagerly anticipated, when Mr. Darley's sudden and unexpected death cut short his life's work, and almost the last thought of the dying man was his regret that he did not live to complete the Dickens illustrations, a regret which be shared by all who see the brilliant work which he had already done on them. [American Bookseller, 1888, p. 314]
Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. New York and Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1990.
Bolton, Theodore. The Book Illustrations of Felix Octavius Carr Darley (1951). Worcester, Mass: American Antiquarian Society, 1952.
"Charles Dickens, Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. Illustrated from Drawings by F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. New York: Sheldon & Co." New York Times. 19 December 1863. http://www.nytimes.com/1863/12/19/news/charles-dickens-works-charles-dickens-household-edition-illustrated-drawings-fo.html?pagewanted=2
Darley, Felix Octavius Carr. Character Sketches from Dickens. Philadelphia: Porter and Coates, 1888.
Dickens, Charles. The Pickwick Papers. Il. Hablot Knight Browne ('Phiz'). London: Chapman and Hall, 1837.
Dickens, Charles. The Pickwick Papers. Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. Il. Hablot Knight Browne ('Phiz'). London: Chapman and Hall, 1873.
Dickens, Charles. The Pickwick Papers. Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. 55 vols. Il. F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. New York: Sheldon and Co., 1865.
Dickens, Charles. The Pickwick Papers. Works of Charles Dickens. Diamond Edition. 18 vols. Il. Sol Eytinge, Jr. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
Pitz, Henry C. "Chapter Three: Talent in the Valley." The Brandywine Tradition. New York: Weathervane, 1968. Pp. 20-32.
"Porter and Coates' New Books. Character Sketches from the Works of Charles Dickens by F. O. C. Darley. American Bookseller. New York and London: Nicolas R. Mohachesi, December 1888. P. 314. http://books.google.ca/books?id=ltFOAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA314&lpg=PA314&dq=darley's+character+sketches+from+Dickens&source=bl&ots=8aPYbypoTJ&sig=HMYXnLSdsdnWrMXsG2p4fdSrbHY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=2emuU-yJIqnf8gGG0IG4Cw&ved=0CDEQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=darley's%20character%20sketches%20from%20Dickens&f=false. Accessed 28 June 2014.
F. O. C.
Last modified 17 July 2014