Caleb's daughter, the doll's dressmaker
1.5 x 1.7 cm vignetted
Thumbnail illustration for The Cricket on the Hearth in Christmas Books, Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910), vol. 8, on the ornamental title-page.
Although the "List of Special Plates" (vii) indicates that a full-page plate entitled "Caleb's Daughter, The Doll's Dressmaker" should be found facing page 184, Furniss has provided no such full-page illustration. [Commentary continued below.]
[Click on image to enlarge it.]
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]
The Blind Girl never knew that ceilings were discoloured, walls blotched and bare of plaster here and there, high crevices unstopped, and widening every day, beams mouldering and tending downward. The Blind Girl never knew that iron was rusting, wood rotting, paper peeling off; the size, and shape, and true proportion of the dwelling, withering away. The Blind Girl never knew that ugly shapes of delf and earthenware were on the board; that sorrow and faint-heartedness were in the house; that Caleb's scanty hairs were turning greyer and more grey, before her sightless face. The Blind Girl never knew they had a master, cold, exacting, and uninterested — never knew that Tackleton was Tackleton in short; but lived in the belief of an eccentric humourist who loved to have his jest with them, and who while he was the Guardian Angel of their lives, disdained to hear one word of thankfulness.
And all was Caleb's doing; all the doing of her simple father! But he too had a Cricket on his Hearth; and listening sadly to its music when the motherless Blind Child was very young, that Spirit had inspired him with the thought that even her great deprivation might be almost changed into a blessing, and the girl made happy by these little means. For all the Cricket tribe are potent Spirits. even though the people who hold converse with them do not know it (which is frequently the case); and there are not in the unseen world, voices more gentle and more true, that may be so implicitly relied on, or that are so certain to give none but tenderest counsel, as the Voices in which the Spirits of the Fireside and the Hearth address themselves to human kind. ["Chirp The Second," p. 186]
However if the index is an error, then, including the multiple thumbnail sketches in the margins of the title-page as a single unit, there are just thirty illustrations in total. In theory, readers of 1910 encountered the thumbnail illustration in anticipation of the passage that they would meet in the text almost two hundred pages later. However, the characters of Bertha and Caleb Plummer were well known to readers on both sides of the Atlantic in 1910 owing to sixty-five years of dramatic adaptations of The Cricket on the Hearth particularly Dion Boucicault's Dot, which premiered at New York City's Wintergarden Theatre on 14 September 1859, with noted American comedian Joseph Jefferson as Caleb. In the original, Dickens-sanctioned production at the Lyceum, London, which opened on 20 December 1845, the role was enacted by actor-manager Keeley himself, and the part had been revived countless times between the original Albert Smith and Edward Stirling adaptations and the 1909 cinematic version, directed by D. W. Griffith. The foremost nineteenth-century actor to bring the comic-pathetic part to the boards was J. L. Toole. Bertha is happy with her narrow world and her role as a toymaker, but Furniss confirms nothing much about her character (other than her working with dolls) by providing a full-page realisation of her.
The father and daughter share a devoted companionship in sharp contrast to that of Jenny Wren and her alcoholic and irresponsible parent, "Mr. Dolls," in Our Mutual Friend, a pair of figures with whom Furniss's readers would already have been familiar. Furniss has sketched Caleb in his sackcloth "beautiful blue coat," although in fact it is already hanging on a clothesline to dry at the beginning of "Chirp the Second." The prop is, however, a necessary detail to enable the reader to identify Caleb at the start of the book, a typical piece of Dickensian shorthand for the little toy-maker who strives to make his blind daughter's life more cheerful and her poverty less apparent.
Similar Illustrations in Earlier Editions
Left: Richard Doyle's Chirp the Second; left of centre, Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s "Caleb Plummer and Bertha" (1867); right of centre: E. A. Abbey's "'Halloo! Hallo!' Said Caleb. 'I shall be vain presently!'"; right, Fred Barnard's rendition of Bertha, Caleb, and Tackleton [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Bolton, H. Philip. "The Cricket on the Hearth." Dickens Dramatized. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987. Pp. 273-295.
Cohen, Jane Rabb. Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio U. P., 1980.
Dickens, Charles. The Christmas Books. Il. Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. 16 vols. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
Dickens, Charles. The Christmas Books. Il. Harry Furniss. Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. Vol. 8.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books. Il. Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories. Il. E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.
Dickens, Charles. The Cricket on the Hearth. A Fairy Tale of Home. Il. John LeechDaniel Maclise, Richard Doyle, Edwin Landseer, and Clarson Stanfield. London: Bradbury and Evans, [dated 1846].
Last modified 2 July 2013