As he leaned his arm upon the elbow of his chair, ruminating before the fire
Felix O. C. Darley
9.9 x 8.5 cm vignetted
Dickens's Christmas Stories, Household Edition, (1861), vol. 2 frontispiece.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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As the gloom and shadow thickened behind him, in that place where it had been gathering so darkly, it took, by slow degrees, — or out of it there came, by some unreal, unsubstantial process — not to be traced by any human sense, — an awful likeness of himself.
Ghastly and cold, colorless in its leaden face and hands, but with his features, and his bright eyes, and his grizzled hair, and dressed in the gloomy shadow of his dress, it came into his terrible appearance of existence, motionless, without a sound. As he leaned his arm upon the elbow of his chair, ruminating before the fire, it leaned upon the chair-back, close above him, with its appalling copy of his face looking where his face looked, and bearing the expression his face bore.
This, then, was the Something that had passed and gone already. This was the dread companion of the haunted man!
It took, for some moments, no more apparent heed of him, than he of it. The Christmas Waits were playing somewhere in the distance, and, through his thoughtfulness, he seemed to listen to the music. It seemed to listen too. [The Christmas Books, Vol. 2, p. 177]
Whereas earlier illustrators surrounded the morose chemistry professor with scientific bric-a-brac to establish the verisimilitude of his study (and thereby enlist the reader's belief in the Phantom), Darley invests the scene with neither goblins, demons, sprites, or chemical apparatus. He does, however, give the scholarly subject a writing desk and four books, and a low-burning coal-fire in the grate. Behind him and his double, in the shadows, are book-lined shelves. An interesting feature of Darley's composition is his costuming of Prof. Redlaw, who wears the stockings and breeches of the Regency rather than the stove-pipe trousers of the late 1840s. The absence of supernatural paraphernalia, so obvious in the first edition, suggests psychological portraiture, a study in depression rather than possession.
Although the original and subsequent illustrators of the last of the Christmas Books, The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain (1848), have depicted the solitary scientist, chemistry Professor Redlaw, in his book-lined study, but Darley alone focuses on the depressed mood of his subject and cuts out entirely the story's supernatural machinery (except, of course, for the doppelganger).
Pertinent Illustrations in Other Editions, 1848 through 1910
Left: John Tenniel's "Frontispiece"; centre, John Leech's "Redlaw and the Phantom" (1848); right: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s "Redlaw and The Boy" (1867). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Left: E. A. Abbey's "I'm eighty-seven!" (1876). Fred Barnard's "You speak to me of what is lying here,' the Phantom interposed". Right: Harry Furniss's "The Phantom" (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Dickens, Charles.The Haunted Man. Christmas Stories. Il. F. O. C. Darley. Household Edition. 55 vols. New York: James G. Gregory, 1861. Vol. 2, 155-300.
Dickens, Charles. The Christmas Books. Il. Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. 16 vols. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
Dickens, Charles. The Christmas Books. Il. Harry Furniss. Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. Vol. 8.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books. Il. Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories. Il. E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.
Dickens, Charles. The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain. Il. John Leech, John Tenniel, Frank Stone, and Clarkson Stanfield. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1848.
F. O. C.
Last modified 20 February 2014