The Start: Showing how Mr. Pickwick undertook to drive and Mr. Winkle to ride
Felix O. C. Darley
9.9 x 8.5 cm vignetted
Dickens's The Pickwick Papers, Riverside Edition, vol. 1 frontispiece.
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A short one — showing, among other Matters, how Mr. Pickwick undertook to drive, and Mr. Winkle to ride and how both did it. [p. 98]
Mr. Pickwick had made his preliminary arrangements, and was looking over the coffee–room blinds at the passengers in the street, when the waiter entered, and announced that the chaise was ready — an announcement which the vehicle itself confirmed, by forthwith appearing before the coffee-room blinds aforesaid.
It was a curious little green box on four wheels, with a low place like a wine–bin for two behind, and an elevated perch for one in front, drawn by an immense brown horse, displaying great symmetry of bone. An hostler stood near, holding by the bridle another immense horse — apparently a near relative of the animal in the chaise — ready saddled for Mr. Winkle.
"Bless my soul!" said Mr. Pickwick, as they stood upon the pavement while the coats were being put in. "Bless my soul! who's to drive? I never thought of that."
"Oh! you, of course," said Mr. Tupman.
"Of course," said Mr. Snodgrass.
"I!" exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.
"Not the slightest fear, Sir," interposed the hostler. "Warrant him quiet, Sir; a hinfant in arms might drive him."
"He don't shy, does he?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.
"Shy, sir? — he wouldn't shy if he was to meet a vagin — load of monkeys with their tails burned off."
The last recommendation was indisputable. Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass got into the bin; Mr. Pickwick ascended to his perch, and deposited his feet on a floor-clothed shelf, erected beneath it for that purpose.
"Now, shiny Villiam," said the hostler to the deputy hostler, "give the ge'lm'n the ribbons." "Shiny Villiam" — so called, probably, from his sleek hair and oily countenance — placed the reins in Mr. Pickwick's left hand; and the upper hostler thrust a whip into his right.
"Wo—o!" cried Mr. Pickwick, as the tall quadruped evinced a decided inclination to back into the coffee-room window. "Wo—o!" echoed Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass, from the bin. "Only his playfulness, gen'lm'n," said the head hostler encouragingly; "jist kitch hold on him, Villiam." The deputy restrained the animal's impetuosity, and the principal ran to assist Mr. Winkle in mounting. [Vol. 1, p. 102-103]
Typical of the uncomfortable physical and situation comedy which the urbanites let loose in the Kentish countryside afford is this scene at the Bull Inn, Rochester. Mr. Pickwick hires the inn's carriage (a post-chaise) to take himself and his companions to Manor Farm, Dingley Dell. Of course, being from the metropolis, Samuel Pickwick and his fellow Pickwickians (Tupman and Snodgrass with Pickwick in the chaise, Winkle on the horse) know absolutely nothing about driving such a vehicle or the management of horses, and make utter fools of themselves in the streets of Rochester.
Robert Seymour, Thomas Nast, and Phiz have all selected for their series of illustrations a scene later in the same chapter when Mr. Winkle tries ineffectually to get the recalcitrant horse to cooperate, in The horse no sooner beheld Mr. Pickwick advancing with his chaise whip in his hand (1874), Mr. Winkle Soothes the Refractory Steed (1836), and "Bless my soul!" exclaimed the agonized Mr. Pickwick, "there's the other horse running away!" (1873). Having access only to Seymour's original illustration, Felix O. C. Darley presents an exceedingly clean backdrop for the disoriented Pickwickians, an idealised vision of an English country-town, with the inn from which they are departing in the background. However, Darley's handling of the character comedy, in particular, Pickwick's dismay as he tries to correct the horse's misbehaviour, is masterful, and the illustrator's manner realistic rather than caricature-like — the style favoured by John McLenan throughout his illustrations for Harper's Weekly. However, in spite of the realistic modelling of the figures and the plate's three-dimensionalism, instead of an inn sign depicting a bull, Darley has imposed the icon of a swan, perhaps an oblique allusion to Shakespeare, the other great comic writer of English literature, just as the potted geraniums in the background may allude to the flower that Dickens favoured on his first American reading tour.
Dickens, Charles. The Pickwick Papers. Il. F. O. C. Darley. Volume 1. The Riverside Edition. New York and Cambridge, Mass.: Hurd and Houghton, and Riverside, 1872.
Dickens, Charles. The Pickwick Papers. Il. Thomas Nast. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1873.
Dickens, Charles. The Pickwick Papers. Il. Phiz. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874.
Last modified 20 February 2014