A century ago, the most famous American illustrator of Dickens's works was Felix Octavious Carr Darley (1822-88), who was the lead artist of the American "Household Edition," initiated in 1860 by Houghton, Mifflin (New York and Boston). However, challenging Frederic G. Kitton's judgment about the greatest Dickens illustrator on the other side of the Atlantic, J. A. Hammerton notes

Another very successful American illustrator of Dickens was Sol Eytinge, Junr., whose chief work was devoted to the Diamond Edition of Dickens, inaugurated by Ticknor & Fields in 1867, though on many other occasions he found subjects in the great English novelist for the exercise of his pencil. Dickens himself said of Eytinge's illustrations: "They are remarkable alike for a delicate perception of beauty, a lively eye for character, a most agreeable absence of exaggeration, and a general modesty and propriety which I greatly like." This expression of opinion is especially valuable in view of the fact that certain of the qualities here enumerated by Dickens are too often absent from the work of his chief English illustrator, and perhaps we may detect in this appreciation of his American interpreter Dickens's own feeling that in the long series of Phiz pictures his scenes and characters were not presented as they might have been. . . . [27]

In Our Mutual Friend Eytinge found little of beauty to realise, but certainly seems to have been intrigued by the novel's large cast of Dickens originals. Today, Solomon Eytinge, Junior (1833-1905) is perhaps best remembered for having executed the first extensive program of illustration for A Christmas Carol, namely for the 1869 Ticknor-Fields edition that contained twenty-five wood-cuts. In particular, Eytinge created the iconic image of Tiny Tim hoisted up on his father's shoulders, an image of complete sympathy between a loving father and a physically challenged child that so many cinematic adaptations have reproduced. However, in his own day, Americans associated the name "Sol Eytinge" with the periodical and volume illustrations for a host of British-authored works of fiction, not merely those of Dickens, for whom he completed ninety-five wood-cuts for Ticknor-Fields' Diamond Edition (1867-71), which contained sixteen illustrations for each, although some volumes combined shorter works, so that, for example, A Tale of Two Cities was coupled with Great Expectations, and Christmas Stories with Sketches by Boz. A unique volume in the Diamond Edition, again illustrated by Eytinge, is a text of his 1867-68 readings in America. The sixteen-volume series "also contains a feature entirely new in Editions of Dickens's Works, a full and complete Index of all the characters and principal incidents of all the Novels," according to a contemporary advertisement in The Readings of Mr. Charles Dickens, as Condensed by Himself. A Christmas Carol and The Trial from 'Pickwick'.. See also an advertisement in The Nation (28 Nov 1867: p. 433).

For American readers in the seventies and eighties, Eytinge was the leading illustrator of Louisa May Alcott, Robert Browning, Alfred, Loird Tennyson, Bret Harte, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James R. Lowell, Washington Irving, Edgar Allen Poe, and John G. Whittier, and a regular contributor to Harper's Weekly, frequently commenting in his pictures on the ever-widening gap between America's poor and its wealthy elite. At the offices of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Paper, Eytinge worked alongside the celebrated graphic humourist Thomas Nast.

Born in Philadelphia on 23 October 1833, in June 1858 Eytinge was married to Margaret Winshop by the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher in Brooklyn, where he had begun his professional career as an illustrator of books and magazines with the New York publishing house of Harper and Brothers. Subsequently, he joined the staff of Fields, Osgood's magazine Every Saturday as lead illustrator in the Boston publishing house. When Charles Dickens finally returned to America after the Civil War, Eytinge painted his portrait, from which he subsequently created a lithograph published by Ticknor-Fields in 1868. He was one of a select group of American literati who on 23 April 1868 accompanied Dickens to the wharf as the great author took ship for England from New York with his manager, George Dolby. In May 1869, Eytinge crossed the Atlantic with James T. Fields, Annie Fields, and Mabel Lowell to visit Dickens at Gad's Hill. Fields and Eytinge set out from their hotel in Piccadilly to explore the bizarre underworld that Dickens was about to chronicle in The Mystery of Edwin Drood as the trio visited some of the seamiest sights of London's East End, including a dockside opium den and a police lockup.

On 26 March 1905, Eytinge died in retirement in Bayonne, New Jersey, and is buried in the New York Bay Cemetery in Jersey City, NJ., survived by his wife, a children's author.

References

Hammerton, J. A. The Dickens Picture-Book, A Record of the Dickens Illustrators. The Charles Dickens Library. London: Educational Book, 1910.

Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1999.

Dickens, Charles. Il. Marcus Stone. Our Mutual Friend. Intro. Andrew Sanders. Everyman's Library. Toronto, London, and New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.

Dickens, Charles. Il. Sol Eytinge, Jr. Our Mutual Friend. Boston: Fields, Osgood; Lee and Shepard; New York: Charles T. Dillingham, 1870.

Kaplan, Fred. Dickens: A Biography. New York: William Morrow, 1988.

Kitton, Frederic G. Dickens and His Illustrators. 1899. Rpt. Honolulu: U. Press of the Pacific, 2004.

Patten, Robert L. "Eytinge, Solomon, Jr." Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens. Ed. Paul Schlicke. New York and Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1999. P. 229.

Winter, William. Old Friends: Being Literary Recollections of Other Days. New York: Moffat, Yard, 1909. [Text of section on Eytinge]


Victorian Web Victorian Book Illustration Sol Eytinge

Last modified 25 July 2011