The Boarding House
Sol Eytinge, Jr.
9.8 x 7.2 cm (framed)
Dickens's Christmas Books & Sketches by Boz, Illustrative of Every-day Life and Every-day People (Diamond Edition), facing p. 378.
After the heart-warming, sentimental seasonal tales which Dickens wrote between 1843 and 1848, this volume of the Diamond Edition, commemorating Dickens's Second American Reading Tour, features seven scenes from Dickens's earliest work, "Our Parish," the twenty-five chapters from "Scenes," and twelve chapters from "Characters," the text established by Chapman and Hall in 1839.
[Click on image to enlarge it.]
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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Mrs. Tibbs was, beyond all dispute, the most tidy, fidgety, thrifty little personage that ever inhaled the smoke of London; and the house of Mrs. Tibbs was, decidedly, the neatest in all Great Coram Street. Mrs. Tibbs was somewhat short of stature, and Mr. Tibbs was by no means a large man. He had, moreover, very short legs, but, by way of indemnification, his face was peculiarly long. He was to his wife what the 0 is in 90 — he was of some importance with her —he was nothing without her. Mrs. Tibbs was always talking. Mr. Tibbs rarely spoke; but, if it were at any time possible to put in a word, when he should have said nothing at all, he had that talent.Mrs. Tibbs detested long stories, and Mr. Tibbs had one, the conclusion of which had never been heard by his most intimate friends. It always began, "I recollect when I was in the volunteer corps, in eighteen hundred and six," — but, as he spoke very slowly and softly, and his better half very quickly and loudly, he rarely got beyond the introductory sentence. He was a melancholy specimen of the story-teller. He was the wandering Jew of Joe Millerism. — "Tales," Chapter 1, "The Boarding House," p. 378.
Commentary: Tibbs versus Boz
Although the middle-class couple who run the rooming-house on Great Coram Street, near the British Museum, are the focus of the two "Boarding-house" sketches, Dickens explores neither of them beyond their rather stereotypical surfaces, so that Mr. Tibbs is a well-meaning but uxorious husband and his wife a controlling shrew. Despite the somewhat flimsy multiple-marriage plot, then, these early sketches, published in The Monthly Magazine for May and August 1834, never really rise to the artistic status of the modern short story, owing to a lack of interior analysis. It is worthnoting, perhaps, that "Tibbs" is not merely the couple's surname, but also the pseudonym that twenty-two-year-old Charles Dickens adopted for the twelve sketches he subsequently published in Bell's Life in London between 27 September 1835 and 17 January 1836. The more familiar pseudonym "Boz" Dickens used for sketches in the Morning and Evening Chronicle, as well as for the monthly numbers of the Pickwick Papers and the initial run of the first volume edition of The Adventures of Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress. Thus, his use of "Boz" as his nom de plume spans the period of 1834 through 1838. The last novel which Dickens ascribed to "Boz" was Martin Chuzzlewit, published in monthly numbers between January 1843 and July 1844. One wonders what connection between himself and Mr. Tibbs Dickens saw — or were the Tibbses reflection of his own parents?
In illustrating these early sketches first published in the Monthly Magazine and illustrated by Cruikshank in 1836, Eytinge had the precedent two original illustrations The Boarding House and The Boarding House —II., but chose to offer up another dual character study, depicting the middle-aged landlady and her oppressed husband.
However, the illustration is ineffective as an introduction to the boarding-house marriage plots of the two sketches. The dual character study on the page facing the opening of the story introduces the reader to the dictatorial Mrs. Tibbs and her henpecked spouse. Although he is hardly the inebriate that Eytinge implies, the erratic, sexualised behaviour noted in Harry Furniss's 1910 animated "below-stairs" illustration The Boarding House: Mr. Tibbs may be the result of the servants' plying him with gin-and-water. His attempting to kiss the maids, moreover, seems to suggest his dissatisfaction with a marriage in which his wife treats him like one of the domestics, confining him to the kitchen and assigning him the cleaning of the boarders' boots and shoes. The couple's relationship bookends the two-part story as "The Boarding-House" begins with Dickens's describing Mrs. Tibbs' dominance, and concludes with their closing the boarding-house and going their separate ways after disposing of the furniture by auction, and dividing Mr. Tibbs' modest annuity between them. Dickens does not mention the legal grounds of the separation, which in 1836 for people of the middle class would not have been a formalized divorce.
Relevant Illustrations from Other Editions, 1839 through 1910
Left: George Cruikshank's illustration for the first instalment of the two-part short story, The Boarding House, showing Tibbs (left), Septimus Hicks (centre), and Mr. Carlton in his dressing-gown and easy chair (1839). Centre: George Cruikshank's version of the discovery scene, when the boarders find Mrs. Tibbs and Mr. Evenson in a supposedly compromising position, in The Boarding House.II (1839).Right: Harry Furniss's comic study of a most animated Mr. Tibbs, trying to kiss one of the young, attractive housemaids, The Boarding House: Mr. Tibbs (1910). [Click on the images to enlarge them.]
Above: The Household Edition illustration for the first part of the story, depicting young Mr. Septimus Hicks abd the invalid, Mr. Calton, about to reveal to each other their secret marriage plans in "I received a note —" he said very tremulously, in a voice like a Punch with a cold. —"Yes," returned the other, "You did." —"Exactly."—"Yes." (1876). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
Above: Fred Barnard's second illustration for the story, in which the new boarder, the wealthy widow Mrs. Blossis confused about Mrs. Tibbs's use of the expression "no stomach" (as in "no appetite"), "No what?" inquired Mrs. Bloss with a look of the most indescribable alarm. "No stomach," repeated Mrs. Tibbs with a shake of the head (1876). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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Last modified 11May 2017