Tom Pinch at the Brass and Copper Founder's.
14.7 cm high by 9.7 cm wide vignetted
Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit, Vol. 7 of The Charles Dickens Library Edition, Chapter 36, "Tom Pinch Departs to Seek his Fortune. What He finds at Starting," facing p. 592.The narrative now shifts to the aftermath of Pecksniff's discharging Tom Pinch, who sets out for London to find his sister, Ruth. She is a little younger than her brother, and works as a governess for the family of an industrialist in Camberwell, a new suburb south of the Thames suitable for such a wealthy, upper-middle class family. Treated with disrespect by her demanding employers, Ruth is delighted when her brother gives the brass-and-copper founder a piece of his mind — and her notice.
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"When you tell me," resumed Tom, who was not the less indignant for keeping himself quiet, "that my sister has no innate power of commanding the respect of your children, I must tell you it is not so; and that she has. She is as well bred, as well taught, as well qualified by nature to command respect, as any hirer of a governess you know. But when you place her at a disadvantage in reference to every servant in your house, how can you suppose, if you have the gift of common sense, that she is not in a tenfold worse position in reference to your daughters?"
"Pretty well! Upon my word," exclaimed the gentleman, "this is pretty well!"
"It is very ill, sir," said Tom. "It is very bad and mean, and wrong and cruel. Respect! I believe young people are quick enough to observe and imitate; and why or how should they respect whom no one else respects, and everybody slights? And very partial they must grow — oh, very partial! — to their studies, when they see to what a pass proficiency in those same tasks has brought their governess! Respect! Put anything the most deserving of respect before your daughters in the light in which you place her, and you will bring it down as low, no matter what it is!"
"You speak with extreme impertinence, young man," observed the gentleman.
"I speak without passion, but with extreme indignation and contempt for such a course of treatment, and for all who practise it," said Tom. "Why, how can you, as an honest gentleman, profess displeasure or surprise at your daughter telling my sister she is something beggarly and humble, when you are for ever telling her the same thing yourself in fifty plain, out-speaking ways, though not in words; and when your very porter and footman make the same delicate announcement to all comers? As to your suspicion and distrust of her: even of her word: if she is not above their reach, you have no right to employ her."
"No right!" cried the brass-and-copper founder.
"Distinctly not," Tom answered. "If you imagine that the payment of an annual sum of money gives it to you, you immensely exaggerate its power and value. Your money is the least part of your bargain in such a case. You may be punctual in that to half a second on the clock, and yet be Bankrupt. I have nothing more to say," said Tom, much flushed and flustered, now that it was over, "except to crave permission to stand in your garden until my sister is ready." — Chapter 36, "Tom Pinch Departs to Seek his Fortune. What He finds at Starting," p. 594.
While Martin and Mark complete their American adventure by returning from the malarial swamps of Eden, Tom Pinch sets out from the Wiltshire village where he has served as Pecksniff's architectural apprentice. His destination is the Camberwell district of Southwark, south of the Thames, where his sister, Ruth, is a governess to the daughters of a wealthy industrialist, although Furniss depicts but one child. Discovering that her sister's employers are verbally abusive, demeaning in their attitude towards her, and unreasonable in their demands upon his sister, this new, assertive Tom dares to give the captain of industry a piece of his mind, and then to serve notice on his sister's behalf. Together they leave the upper-middle-class mansion and take rooms in Islington, where Ruth becomes a model housekeeper, and Tom finds unexpected employment as the organizer and cataloguer of a private library.
Although Fred Barnard in the Household Edition illustration "No right!" cried the brass-and-copper founder, attempted to realize the scene in which Tom visits his sister at Camberwell and finds her much put-upon by her employer, Furniss's version is much more dramatic, owing to his foregrounding the nouveau-riche family and putting the departing Pinches in the background as Tom delivers a Parthian shot. Ironically, despite its dramatic potential, Dickens's original illustrator, Hablot Knight Browne, avoided the scene entirely, showing Tom's departure from Wiltshire by coach and then the Pinches in their Islington (village north of London) flat as John Westlock, formerly Tom's fellow apprentice and Ruth's future husband, pays an unexpected call.
In the Barnard illustration, Tom wags an admonitory finger in the face of the surprised, overfed bourgeois as the employer's ugly wife and daughter look on (right). In the background, the fireplace and bric-a-brac on the mantelpiece establish the setting as the family's parlour. In the Furniss, illustration, however, Furniss gives the reader a "long shot" which reveals every indication of Victorian affluence: padded chairs, oil paintings (including a study of a smoke-spewing factory, and a likeness of the founder), an ornate clock, a bookcase, a fabric fireplace screen (which bears the image of Pomona, Roman goddess of abundance, bearing a cornucopia of fruit and flowers), wainscoting, carpets, and floor-to-ceiling drapery. The founder's indignation and his wife's hauteur complement Tom's upright figure and determined departure, his closed fist indicative of self-control under emotionally trying circumstances. Ruth, concerned, looks on from the corridor. Furniss's handling of the materials given him by Barnard and Dickens is masterful in its multiple characterisations and critique of the late 19th c. nouveau riche.
Relevant Illustrations, 1843-1924
Left: Hablot Knight Browne's realisation of Tom's departure by coach for London, Mr. Pinch Departs to Seek His Fortune (Chapter 36, February 1844). Right: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s portrait of John Westlock and Ruth Pinch at Fountain Court, in the Inner Temple, London, John Westlock and Ruth Pinch (1867). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Left: Hablot Knight Browne's realisation of John Westlock's arrival at Tom and Ruth Pinch's apartment, Mr. Pinch and Ruth Unconscious of a Visitor (Chapter 39, March 1844). Right: Harold Copping's 1924 colour lithograph of Ruth Pinch's housekeeping idealized as Ruth Pinch Makes a Pudding(Chapter 39). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: Fred Barnard's realisation of the same scene, when Tom denounces Ruth's employer as a bully, "No right!" cried the brass-and-copper founder(1872). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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Last modified 31January 2016