"The 'Swarry'," the twelfth full-page illustration by Sol Eytinge, Jr. 7.4 cm high by 9.9 cm wide. The Diamond Edition of Dickens's The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867). 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.]

While the Pickwickians are visiting fashionable Bath after the judgment against their leader in the the Bardell lawsuit, a footman named Smauker, making Sam's acquaintance, invites Sam Weller to an evening "swarry" — soirée or dinner — thrown by a group of elegantly dressed but insufferably clannish and condescending footmen in the parlour of the shop of the local greengrocer who depends upon these inveterate snobs for his trade.

Crossing the greengrocer's shop, and putting their hats on the stairs in the little passage behind it, they walked into a small parlour; and here the full splendour of the scene burst upon Mr. Weller's view.

A couple of tables were put together in the middle of the parlour, covered with three or four cloths of different ages and dates of washing, arranged to look as much like one as the circumstances of the case would allow. Upon these were laid knives and forks for six or eight people. Some of the knife handles were green, others red, and a few yellow; and as all the forks were black, the combination of colours was exceedingly striking. Plates for a corresponding number of guests were warming behind the fender; and the guests themselves were warming before it: the chief and most important of whom appeared to be a stoutish gentleman in a bright crimson coat with long tails, vividly red breeches, and a cocked hat, who was standing with his back to the fire, and had apparently just entered, for besides retaining his cocked hat on his head, he carried in his hand a high stick, such as gentlemen of his profession usually elevate in a sloping position over the roofs of carriages. [Chapter 37, p. 307]

However, since the joint of mutton is uncovered and the carving-knife already in Tuckle's hand, the moment that Eytinge has realised is this:

The greengrocer and his wife then arranged upon the table a boiled leg of mutton, hot, with caper sauce, turnips, and potatoes. Mr. Tuckle took the chair, and was supported at the other end of the board by the gentleman in orange plush. The greengrocer put on a pair of wash-leather gloves to hand the plates with, and stationed himself behind Mr. Tuckle's chair.

"Harris," said Mr. Tuckle, in a commanding tone.

"Sir," said the greengrocer.

"Have you got your gloves on?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Then take the kiver off."

"Yes, Sir."

The greengrocer did as he was told, with a show of great humility, and obsequiously handed Mr. Tuckle the carving-knife; in doing which, he accidentally gaped. [p. 308]

Eytinge offers an impressionistic rather than strictly realistic treatment of his subject, the evening dinner of the fraternity of Bath footmen in all manner of gorgeous and outlandish livery, excrescences of an outmoded class system. The illustrator does not include the character whose consciousness informs the scene, the rank outsider Sam Weller, but focuses instead upon the footmen's victim and dupe, the hapless grocer (centre). To make his point that there is little to distinguish one footman from another except his outward and visible trappings, Eytinge has given the eight middle-aged, somewhat corpulent men the same essential facial features. Curiously, this nocturnal scene ridiculing privilege and snobbery has not been attempted by Phiz in either edition or Nast in the American Household Edition.

Other artists who illustrated this work

References

Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1988.

Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File and Checkmark Books, 1998.

Dickens, Charles. Pickwick Papers (1836-37). Il. Hablot Knight Browne. The Charles Dickens Edition. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1867.

Dickens, Charles. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Il. Sol Eytinge; engraved by A. V. S. Anthony. Jr. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.

Dickens, Charles. "Pickwick Papers (1836-37). Il. Hablot Knight Browne. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1873.

Dickens, Charles. "Pickwick Papers (1836-37). Il. Thomas Nast. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Bros., 1873.

Guiliano, Edward, and Philip Collins, eds. The Annotated Dickens. Vol. 1. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1986.


Victorian Web Victorian Book
Illustration Charles Dickens Sol Eytinge Next

Last modified 23 February 2012