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Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit, Vol. 7 of Charles Dickens Library Edition, Chapter 23, "Martin and His Partner Take Possession of Their Estate. The Joyful Occasion Involves Some Further Account of Eden," facing p. 416. The heroic pose of Mark Tapley is at odds with the desolation and decay of the log-cabin settlement on the banks of the Mississippi. Mark surveys the challenge ahead, the writhing of the tree-roots repeated in the waviness of his his hair, as if implying that his civilising energy is equal to the task ahead. The bleak situation is indeed a test of his British pluck and Cockney "jollity."
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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As they proceeded further on their track, and came more and more towards their journey's end, the monotonous desolation of the scene increased to that degree, that for any redeeming feature it presented to their eyes, they might have entered, in the body, on the grim domains of Giant Despair. A flat morass, bestrewn with fallen timber; a marsh on which the good growth of the earth seemed to have been wrecked and cast away, that from its decomposing ashes vile and ugly things might rise; where the very trees took the aspect of huge weeds, begotten of the slime from which they sprung, by the hot sun that burnt them up; where fatal maladies, seeking whom they might infect, came forth at night in misty shapes, and creeping out upon the water, hunted them like spectres until day; where even the blessed sun, shining down on festering elements of corruption and disease, became a horror; this was the realm of Hope through which they moved.
At last they stopped. At Eden too. The waters of the Deluge might have left it but a week before; so choked with slime and matted growth was the hideous swamp which bore that name.
There being no depth of water close in shore, they landed from the vessel's boat, with all their goods beside them. There were a few log-houses visible
"Here comes an Edener," said Mark. "He'll get us help to carry these things up. Keep a good heart, sir. Hallo there!"
The man advanced toward them through the thickening gloom, very slowly; leaning on a stick. As he drew nearer, they observed that he was pale and worn, and that his anxious eyes were deeply sunken in his head. His dress of homespun blue hung about him in rags; his feet and head were bare. He sat down on a stump half-way, and beckoned them to come to him. When they complied, he put his hand upon his side as if in pain, and while he fetched his breath stared at them, wondering. — Chapter 23, "Martin and His Partner Take Possession of Their Estate. The Joyful Occasion Involves Some Further Account of Eden," p. 390-391.
In graphing the jungle desolation of the Mississippi wilderness, Furniss was responding to a pair of Phiz illustrations in the original serial, the land and settlement as advertised in The Thriving City of Eden as it Appeared on Paper (September 1843, Chapter 21) and the disgusting actuality of the malarial swamp, The Thriving City of Eden as it Appeared in Fact (September 1843, Chapter 23). Whereas Fred Barnard in the Household Edition dwelt upon the humorous misconceptions of Martin's American acquaintances about England and the English, Furniss reverts to the land-swindling scheme, which parallels Montague Tigg's fraudulent insurance company across the Atlantic. Martin nearly succumbs to both disease and self-pity, but Mark proves himself more than a match for the American wilderness; thus, in Furniss's Eden illustration he stands above it, like a Miltonic angel surveying lower creation in Paradise Lost. Bestriding the hillside like a colossus, Mark dwarfs the city's crumbling log-cabins. The perilous nature of the unhealthy location is exemplified by the six grave-markers in the bottom right-hand corner — and, whereas Dickens immediately introduces Mark to a wasted "Edener," Furniss shows no other living beings in this North American jungle. Also missing from the 1910 illustration but foregrounded in the 1843 engraving is the despondent Martin, sitting in front of his architectural "business" while Mark goes to work to tame the wilderness and make the best of an unpleasant situation. What dominates the Furniss illustration, being at the same level as Mark himself, is the mighty Mississippi at the top of the illustration, suggestive of the Old Testament Deluge in retreat. The rest of the picture is hardly "Eden," but a post-lapsarian world of weed-like trees growing out of the primordial ooze.
Relevant Illustrations of the Young Englishmen in Eden, 1843-1872
Left: Hablot Knight Browne's initial view of Eden — on the wall of the land agent's office, The Thriving City of Eden as it Appeared on Paper (Chapter 21, September 1843). Centre: Phiz's support of Dickens's satire of the actual appearance of the mosquito-infested wilderness, The Thriving City of Eden as it Appeared in Fact (September 1843). Right: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s study of the effect of the place on Martin, Martin Chuzzlewit and Mark Tapley (1867). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: Fred Barnard's realisation of the scene in which Martin disabuses his American acquaintances of their odd notions about the British monarchy, "I was merely remarking, gentlemen — though it's a point of very little import — that the Queen of England does not happen to live in the Tower of London." (1872). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
Above: Fred Barnard's realisation of the scene in which Martin is invited to deliver a lecture to the Watertoast Society, "Well, sir!" said the Captain, putting his hat a little more on one side, for it was rather tight in the crown: "You're quite a public man I calc'late."(1872). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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Last modified 28January 2016