Mr. and Mrs. Harry Walmers, Jr. by Sol Eytinge, Jr. 7.5 cm high by 9.9 cm wide, framed. The Diamond Edition of Dickens's The Uncommercial Traveller and Additional Christmas Stories (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867; Lee and Shepard & Charles T. Dillingham, n. d.). 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.],
So Boots goes up-stairs to the Angel, and there he finds Master Harry on a e-normous sofa,— immense at any time, but looking like the Great Bed of Ware, compared with him, — a drying the eyes of Miss Norah with his pocket-hankecher. Their little legs was entirely off the ground, of course, and it really is not possible for Boots to express to me how small them children looked. [Second Branch: "The Boots," page 339]
The 1855 "framed tale" for Christmas, with contributions by Dickens's staff-writers, the successor to The Seven Poor Travellers in the fifth Extra Christmas Number in Household Words, has seven parts, four not by Dickens himself. The much larger Christmas offering originally appeared as The Holly-Tree Inn without illustration on 15 December 1855. Perhaps because only Dickens's contributions have been widely reprinted, posterity has lost sight of the other tales in the sequence, although these were penned by some of the mid-nineteenth-century's more popular writers of journalistic short fiction: Part 2, "The Ostler," is by Wilkie Collins; Part 4, "The Landlord," by William Howitt; Part 5, "The Barmaid," by Adelaide Anne Proctor; and "The Poor Pensioner," by Harriet Parr (writing under the nom de plume "Holme Lee") — the last three of whom got their start as professional writers on the staff of Household Words. In contrast, Dickens's three pieces — "The Guest" (Part 1), "The Boots" (Part 3), and "The Bill") Part 7) have been reprinted under the heading "The Holly-Tree Inn: Three Branches" ever since 1867. For this sixth seasonal offering, however, there were three lesser pieces of varying quality which Dickens introduced with "The Guest," developed the romantic plot of the runaway children in "The Boots" (the subject of Furniss's first and second illustrations for the short story in 1910), and concluded with "The Bill," the seventh and final part in which the middle-class Londoner who is the original narrator learns of his error and returns home to be married instead of emigrating to America.
Although it conveys adequately Norah's distress at being away from home and suffering an exhausting coach trip, and Harry's solicitousness, Eytinge's slight wood-engraving gives the reader no sense of the story's physical setting, the Yorkshire Inn based on the well-known George and New Inn at Greta Bridge. The enormous couch might be anywhere.
Using the distnctive voice of Cobbs, the "Boots" (that is, the hotel employee who, like Sam Weller in The Pickwick Papers of 1836-37, cleans boots and is the general factotum for a coaching inn), Dickens's Traveller narrates the tale of the asexual attraction of two precocious children, Norah and Harry, who plan to elope to Gretna Green. The illustrator should try to capture the essential humour of the piece that Dickens would employ again in A Holiday Romance in Our Young Folks in 1867. Unfortunately, the pluck and dash of the precocious Harry is not in evidence in Eytinge's illustration.
When called upon by the snow-bound traveller for a tale, the loquacious Cobbs recalls when, as the under-gardener to Mr. Walmers at Shooter's Hill, about seven miles from London, he had watched young Master Harry and Norah play in the garden, — and then goes on to narrate how the trajectory of their romance led to their being guests at the Holly Tree Inn in Yorkshire. Without the four contributions of Dickens's collaborators, the piece was often reprinted as "Boots at The Holly-Tree Inn," the second of "The Holly-Tree: Three Branches." Cobbs's narrative as retailed by monologic traveller (a first-person narrative at one remove, so to speak, for Dickens's focal character of the frame remains in charge of "conducting" the story, although quoting Cobbs liberally) gives Dickens the opportunity to lapse into dialect and to offer a unique working-class perspective on the antics of the two charming, privileged children of the upper-middle class and their idyllic but ephemeral existence as an eloping "couple" at the inn. The inn-keeper himself (the "guv'nor") is absent in York, trying to locate the children's relatives, and so has ordered Cobbs to find pretexts effectively preventing their departure for Gretna Green across the Scottish border. Hence, Cobbs offers the ebullient Master Harry one of the village's few attractions, "Love's Lane." In E. A. Abbey's Harper and Brothers Household Edition large-scale wood-engraving, There's Love's Lane, both the chambermaid and Cobbs are amused by Harry's attitude as they escort a sleepy Norah up to her room by candlelight. Thus, Abbey imbues the figures with an inner life that is wholly lacking in the "Bed o' Ware" scene in the Diamond Edition of 1867, rushed to press to promote Dickens's forthcoming American reading tour.
Library, Household, and Charles Dickens Library Edition (1868, 1876 and 1910) Illustrations Relevant to "The Holly-Tree Inn" (1855)
Relevant Household Edition and Illustrated Library Edition Illustrations
Left : E. A. Abbey's "There's Love Lane". Centre: Harry French's The Holly Tree. Right: Harry Furniss's "Arrivals at The Holly Tree" (1910) [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Harry Furniss's much more modelled and dramatic handling of the arrival of the youngsters at the inn is much more impressionistic and dynamic — especially in terms of the coaching scene that forms the backdrop — than those of Sol Eytinge and Harry French decades earlier. Whereas French in the garden scene with Harry and Cobbs realises the narrative moment in a Sixties manner, with modelling and realistic detail, Furniss's realisation of the arrival at the Holly Tree in Yorkshire is thoroughly comedic, with the well-dressed children handling the business of arranging accommodation with aplomb as the landlord ("Governor") rubs his hands in glee at the prospect of a substantial bill for the diminutive but obviously affluent travellers. With his limited space, Eytinge had room enough for the introduction of the children but insufficient room for anything so dramatic.
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Scenes and characters from the works of Charles Dickens; being eight hundred and sixty-six drawings, by Fred Barnard, Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz); J. Mahoney; Charles Green; A. B. Frost; Gorgon Thomson; J. McL. Ralston; H. French; E. G. Dalziel; F. A. Fraser, and Sir Luke Fildes; printed from the original woodblocks engraved for "The Household Edition.". New York: Chapman and Hall, 1908. Copy in the Robarts Library, University of Toronto.
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Last modified 21 April 2014