12.6 x 8 cm vignetted
Dickens's Christmas Stories, Part Two, Vol. 16 of Charles Dickens Library Edition, facing page 70.
The 1867 Extra Christmas Number's fiction offering in All the Year Round is a Victorian thriller on the Collins model rather than, as its predecessors in Dickens's journals, a framed tale of some seven or eight separate short stories connected by the fortuitous meeting of their various narrators. [Commentary continued below.]
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You have not been long established in London, I suppose, Mr. Obenreizer?"
"It is only now that I have undertaken this agency."
"Mademoiselle your niece — is — not married?"
George Vendale glanced about him, as if for any tokens of her.
"She has been in London?"
"She is in London."
"When, and where, might I have the honour of recalling myself to her remembrance?"
Mr. Obenreizer, discarding his film and touching his visitor's elbows as before, said lightly: "Come up-stairs."
Fluttered enough by the suddenness with which the interview he had sought was coming upon him after all, George Vendale followed up-stairs. In a room over the chamber he had just quitted — a room also Swiss-appointed — a young lady sat near one of three windows, working at an embroidery-frame; and an older lady sat with her face turned close to another white-tiled stove (though it was summer, and the stove was not lighted), cleaning gloves. The young lady wore an unusual quantity of fair bright hair, very prettily braided about a rather rounder white forehead than the average English type, and so her face might have been a shade — or say a light — rounder than the average English face, and her figure slightly rounder than the figure of the average English girl at nineteen. A remarkable indication of freedom and grace of limb, in her quiet attitude, and a wonderful purity and freshness of colour in her dimpled face and bright gray eyes, seemed fraught with mountain air. Switzerland, too, though the general fashion of her dress was English, peeped out of the fanciful bodice she wore, and lurked in the curious clocked red stocking, and in its little silver-buckled shoe. As to the elder lady, sitting with her feet apart upon the lower brass ledge of the stove, supporting a lap-full of gloves while she cleaned one stretched on her left hand, she was a true Swiss impersonation of another kind; from the breadth of her cushion-like back, and the ponderosity of her respectable legs (if the word be admissible), to the black velvet band tied tightly round her throat for the repression of a rising tendency to goitre; or, higher still, to her great copper-coloured gold ear-rings; or, higher still, to her head-dress of black gauze stretched on wire.
"Miss Marguerite,” said Obenreizer to the young lady, "do you recollect this gentleman?"
"I think," she answered, rising from her seat, surprised and a little confused: "it is Mr. Vendale?" [Act I, "New Characters on the Scene," pages 33-34 in the second half of vol. 16]
Relevant Illustrated Library Edition (1868) and Household Edition (1877) Illustrations
Left: E. G. Dalziel's "If there had been a wrestle with a robber, as I dreamed," said Obenreizer . . . . Centre: Dalziel's "He became roused to the knowledge that Obenreizer had set upon him, and that they were struggling desperately in the snow." (1877). Right: Charles Green's dramatic 1868 illustration of the struggle in "No Thoroughfare". [Click on images to enlarge them.]
After Doctor Marigold's Prescriptions, Dickens' interest in what had become the traditional Christmas number apparently declined. In Mugby Junction, as its table of contents indicates, he added the stories by other writers as a kind of inevitable supplement at the end of his own contributions. With No Thoroughfare, the holiday production for the following year, he dropped his usual format and leaned heavily on the help of Wilkie Collins. In 1868, he jettisoned the Christmas number altogether. [Thomas 152-153]
In the nineteenth-century illustrated editions, the story has consistently been the subject of illustration, in particular, the scene involving the alpine struggle between the young protagonist, George Vendale, and the duplicitous Jules Obenreizer. Although the Collinsian villain is the subject of a number of illustrations in the editions issued between 1868 and 1910, his beautiful niece appears only in Furniss's sequence. The seasonal offering for 1866, Mugby Junction, proved to be the last of Dickens's "framed tales for Christmas," since 1867's No Thoroughfare is a tightly organised joint venture with just one other writer, Wilkie Collins, who had not contributed any short stories whatsoever to Dickens's seasonal offerings since 1861. Thomas is rather dismissive of the 1867 novella, for which Dickens contributed just the "Overture" and "Act Three," although he collaborated with Collins on the first and fourth acts. She describes the work as
a technically unremarkable tangle of mistaken identity, murder, love, and larceny. Its form is that of a single story, narrated in the third person, without any interpolated pieces. [Thomas 108]
The story also exists as a theatre script, but only one performance had authorial sanction: this occurred in the same month as the publication of the novella, at the New Adlphi in the Islington district of London, 26-30 December 1867 (Bolton 438). However, with so short a West End run, it is unlikely to have had much influence on nineteenth-century illustrators of the novella. Born in 1854, Harry Furniss might have caught one of the few performances of the play at London's Olympic Theatre in November 1875, in which the French lion of the Victorian stage, Charles Fechter, starred as "Rischenbach" (Bolton, 440), that is, Obenreizer. It is conceivable that Furniss's Marguerite was influenced by one of the young actresses who took the part in British productions of 1875 (The Lyceum), 1876 (The Olympic), and 1903 (The Grand, Islington). Furniss in his depiction of the struggle on the mountain was likely responding to Charles Green's "No Thoroughfare" in the Illustrated Library Edition of 1868, although the staging of this conflict was likely spectacular in its backdrop.
The 1876 Harper and Brothers edition of Christmas Books, illustrated by E. A. Abbey, does not contain the novella. However, Edward Dalziel's series of illustrations for the Chapman and Hall volume, issued the year following, does contain four three-quarter-page illustrations for No Thoroughfare, all of which focus on the characters. Of these, however, none concerns the story's "love interest," the beautiful and innocent niece of the villain. In Dalziel's sequence, Obenreizer appears twice, and Vendale in each wood-engraving, indicating clearly whom Furniss regarded as the story's most important characters. The conflict protagonist and antagonist rises to a crescendo in He became roused to the knowledge that Obenreizer had set upon him, and that they were struggling desperately in the snow, but Dalziel conducts the reader to that climactic moment without introducing Marguerite or her chaperone, the devious Madame Dor, Obenreizer's Swiss housekeeper. To focus on the essential sweetness and suggest the significance of the young woman to the plot, Furniss introduces Marguerite by herself, at her embroidery frame, even though Madame Dor, Vendale, and Obenreizer are also present in the upper room. By devoting one of his four illustrations to Obenreizer's niece, Furniss telegraphs her later playing a significant part in the thriller's resolution as she foils her nefarious uncle's plot against Vendale, saving his life, and eventually becoming Mrs. George Vendale. She may not be a great beauty, despite her blonde locks, in Furniss's illustration, but the illustrator has invested her with a knowing glance which somewhat undermines her being a paragon of the domestic arts.
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Bolton, H. Philip. Dickens Dramatized. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987.
Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1998.
Dickens, Charles. The Uncommercial Traveller and Additional Christmas Stories . Il. Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. 16 vols. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867. Rpt. Illustrated Household Edition. Boston: Lee and Shepard; New York: Charles T. Dillingham, n. d.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories. Il. Harry Furniss. Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. 2 vols.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories from "Household Words" and "All The Year Round". Il. Fred Walker, F. A. Fraser, Harry French, E. G. Dalziel, J. Mahony [sic], Townley Green, and Charles Green. Centenary Edition. 36 vols. London: Chapman & Hall; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911. Volume Two.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories. Il. Edward Dalziel, Harry French, F. A. Fraser, James Mahoney, Townley Green, and Charles Green. The Oxford Illustrated Dickens. Oxford, New York, and Toronto: Oxford U.P., 1956, rpt. 1989.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories. Il. E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories from "Household Words" and "All the Year Round". Il. E. G. Dalziel. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1877. Rpt., 1892.
Schlicke, Paul, ed. "Christmas Stories." The Oxford Companion to Dickens. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1999. Pp. 100-101.
Thomas, Deborah A. Dickens and The Short Story. Philadelphia: U. Pennsylvania Press, 1982.
Last modified 21 October 2013