The Pecksniffs posing to receive Martin.
14.6cm highby 10cm wide vignetted
Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit, Vol. 7 of Charles Dickens Library Edition, situated in Chapter 6, "Comprises, among Other Important Matters, Pecksniffian and Architectural, an Exact Relation of the Progress Made by Mr. Pinch in the Confidence and Friendship of the New Pupil," facing p. 96.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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Mr.Pecksniff had clearly not expected them for hours to come; for he was surrounded by open books, and was glancing from volume to volume, with a black lead-pencil in his mouth, and a pair of compasses in his hand, at a vast number of mathematical diagrams, of such extraordinary shapes that they looked like designs for fireworks. Neither had Miss Charity expected them, for she was busied, with a capacious wicker basket before her, in making impracticable nightcaps for the poor. Neither had Miss Mercy expected them, for she was sitting upon her stool, tying on the — oh good gracious!— the petticoat of a large doll that she was dressing for a neighbour's child — really, quite a grown-up doll, which made it more confusing — and had its little bonnet dangling by the ribbon from one of her fair curls, to which she had fastened it lest it should be lost or sat upon. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to conceive a family so thoroughly taken by surprise as the Pecksniffs were, on this occasion.
"Bless my life!" said Mr. Pecksniff, looking up, and gradually exchanging his abstracted face for one of joyful recognition. "Here already! Martin, my dear boy, I am delighted to welcome you to my poor house!"
With this kind greeting, Mr. Pecksniff fairly took him to his arms, and patted him several times upon the back with his right hand the while, as if to express that his feelings during the embrace were too much for utterance.
"But here,"he said, recovering, "are my daughters, Martin; my two only children, whom (if you ever saw them) you have not beheld— ah, these sad family divisions!— since you were infants together. Nay, my dears, why blush at being detected in your everyday pursuits? We had prepared to give you the reception of a visitor, Martin, in our little room of state,"said Mr.Pecksniff, smiling, "but I like this better, I like this better!"— Chapter 5,"Containing a Full Account of the Installation of Mr. Pecksniff's New Pupil into the Bosom of Mr. Pecksniff's Family. With all the Festivities Held on that Occasion, and the Great Enjoyment of Mr. Pinch,"p. 83.
Commentary: The Pecksniff Family
This illustration of Pecksniff and his daughters in Chapter 5 effectively introduces the reader to the family in which young Martin Chuzzlewit will find himselfas an architectural apprentice in Pecksniff's home-office-and-school in the sleepy Wiltshire village not far from Salisbury. The Furnissillustration is a fresh, late Victorian interpretation of Martin's arrival; whereas Hablot Knight Browne in the February 1843 engraving Pinch Starts Homeward with The New Pupil (Chapter 5) introduces the reader to both young Martin and his fellow apprentice in Pecksniff's gig, Furniss takes the opportunity to introduce the hypocritical Pecksniff and his fatuous daughters in their parlour as "posers." whereas Pecksniff pretends to be a working architect so caught up in his projects that he loses track of time, the nubile daughters (conceived of by Furniss as Cinderella's ugly step-sisters) pretend to be diligent seamstress thoroughly engaged in charity work — as young middle-class women suitable to marry an heir such as young Martin. The trap is set.
The positioning of the illustration complicates its interpretation, as the situation realised — Pecksniff's pretending to be caught unawares of the arrival of the new pupil — occurs thirteen pages before the illustration, so that one reads the plate analeptically, reviewing it not merely in light of the passage illustrated but also inb light of the intervening pages, especially the facing page, in which in conversation with the naieve Tom young Martin describes Pecksniff's village as "this kennel of a place" (96). In these intervening pages, too, Pecksniff challenges young Martin to design a institutional building:
Who knows but a young man of your taste might hit upon something, impracticable and unlikely in itself, but which I could put into shape? For it really is, my dear Martin, it really is in the finishing touches alone, that great experience and long study in these matters tell. Ha, ha, ha! Now it really will be," continued Mr. Pecksniff, clapping his young friend on the back in his droll humour, "an amusement to me, to see what you make of the grammar-school." 
Later on, Martin and Mark return from Americas to witness Pecksniff's participation in the laying of the cornerstone for the building Martin has designed, a moment that a number of the illustrators have memorialised. Furniss is careful to include in the present illustration the table spread with books and papers, and to have Pecksniff as The Master Builder holding aloft a lead pencil and a pair of compasses. The illustrator is also careful to include the bust and oil portrait of Pecksniff (left) and to provide a clear familial likeness in the faces of the father and his daughters, the one knitting and the other (cross-eyed) sewing a doll's dress.
Relevant Illustrations, 1843-1872
Left: Hablot Knight Browne's Pinch Starts Homeward with The New Pupil (Chapter 5, February 1843). Centre: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s Mr. Pecksniff and his Daughters (1867). Right: John Gilbert's rather more realistic study of Mr. Pecksniff, Mr. Pecksniff's Courtship (1863). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: Fred Barnard's realisation of the novel's opening scene, with Pecksniff blown down on his own steps, Uncaptioned illustration to begin Chapter One (1872). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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Last modified 22 January 2016