Miss Fanny meets an Acquaintance in Venice
14.3 cm high x 9.5 cm wide, partially vignetted
Dickens's Little Dorrit, Vol. 12 of Charles Dickens Library Edition, Book the Second, "Poverty," Chapter 6, "Something Right Somewhere," facing p. 513.
Fin-de-siécle illustrator Harry Furniss's interpretation of the chapter in which Amy Dorrit has a disturbing experience with painter Henry Gowan and his model, Blandois. However, here Furniss focuses on the comedic (Fanny's putting Edward Sparkler in his place) rather than thew melodramatic.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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In effect, the swain was standing up in his gondola, card-case in hand, affecting to put the question to a servant. This conjunction of circumstances led to his immediately afterwards presenting himself before the young ladies in a posture, which in ancient times would not have been considered one of favourable augury for his suit; since the gondoliers of the young ladies, having been put to some inconvenience by the chase, so neatly brought their own boat in the gentlest collision with the bark of Mr. Sparkler, as to tip that gentleman over like a larger species of ninepin, and cause him to exhibit the soles of his shoes to the object of his dearest wishes: while the nobler portions of his anatomy struggled at the bottom of his boat in the arms of one of his men.
However, as Miss Fanny called out with much concern, Was the gentleman hurt, Mr. Sparkler rose more restored than might have been expected, and stammered for himself with blushes, "Not at all so."
Miss Fanny had no recollection of having ever seen him before, and was passing on, with a distant inclination of her head, when he announced himself by name. Even then she was in a difficulty from being unable to call it to mind, until he explained that he had had the honour of seeing her at Martigny. Then she remembered him, and hoped his lady-mother was well.
"Thank you," stammered Mr. Sparkler, "she's uncommonly well — at least, poorly."
"In Venice?" said Miss Fanny.
"In Rome," Mr. Sparkler answered. "I am here by myself, myself. I came to call upon Mr. Edward Dorrit myself. Indeed, upon Mr. Dorrit likewise. In fact, upon the family."
Turning graciously to the attendants, Miss Fanny inquired whether her papa or brother was within? The reply being that they were both within, Mr. Sparkler humbly offered his arm. — Book the Second, "Riches," Chapter 6, "Something Right Somewhere," p. 516-517.
Whereas Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz), the original serial illustrator, in Instinct Stronger than Learning (Part 12: November 1856) had illustrated the chapter set in Venice by portraying the studio of Henry Gowan above a bank on an islet, providing little local colour but describing well the characters of the artist and the murderer, Blandois, the other illustrators of the novel at this point have been sure to include a gondola to underscore the exotic Italian setting. However, whereas Mahoney's using the text of the closing of the chapter as his subject allows him to complement the original serial illustration by focussing on Blandois' comment that somebody has poisoned Gowan's dog, Harry Furniss dwells upon Fanny's taking subtle revenge on Edward Sparkler for his mother's refusal to recognize days before at the inn in Switzerland. Furniss thoroughly enjoys his exotic material and the lively gondoliers, an interpretation that may even owe something to The Gondoliers a light-hearted 1889 comic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan. It is easy, however, to lose track of Edward Sparkler, Fanny, and Little Dorrit (centre) amidst the Renaissance architecture.
Pertinent illustrations in other early editions, 1856 to 1873
Left: Eytinge, Junior's dual study of the delicate, tentative bride and the boorish artist-husband, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Gowan (1867). Right: James Mahoney's lantern-lit Venetian scene of Blandois' handing Little Dorrit into a gondola after dinner, On the brink of the quay, they all came together (1873). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: Phiz's dramatic rendering of Henry Gowan's trying to restrain his dog from attacking his model, Blabdois, Instinct Stronger than Training (November 1856). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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Last modified 25 April 2016