For Alfred's Sake —
14.5 x 9.3 cm framed
Dickens's Christmas Books, Charles Dickens Library Edition, facing p. 289.
Furniss has avoided making the same error that John Leech made in depicting the young aristocrat Michael Warden's eloping with Marion Jeddler, but then Furniss had the advantage of having read the whole book in advance of preparing the illustration. [Commentary continued below.]
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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"Let me go out," said Clemency, soothing her. "I'll tell him what you like. Don't cross the door-step to-night. I'm sure no good will come of it. Oh, it was an unhappy day when Mr. Warden was ever brought here! Think of your good father, darling — of your sister."
"I have," said Marion, hastily raising her head. "You don't know what I do. I must speak to him. You are the best and truest friend in all the world for what you have said to me, but I must take this step. Will you go with me, Clemency," she kissed her on her friendly face, 'or shall I go alone?"
Sorrowing and wondering, Clemency turned the key, and opened the door. Into the dark and doubtful night that lay beyond the threshold, Marion passed quickly, holding by her hand.
In the dark night he joined her, and they spoke together earnestly and long; and the hand that held so fast by Clemency's, now trembled, now turned deadly cold, now clasped and closed on hers, in the strong feeling of the speech it emphasised unconsciously. When they returned, he followed to the door, and pausing there a moment, seized the other hand, and pressed it to his lips. Then, stealthily withdrew.
The door was barred and locked again, and once again she stood beneath her father's roof. ["Part the Second," page 286-287]
Whereas the original illustrations of this moment — Daniel Maclise's "The Secret Interview" and John Leech's "The Night of the Return" misled the readers of 1846 as to the true nature of Marion's disappearance, later illustrators such as Fred Barnard and Harry Furniss did not state visually that Michael Warden eloped with Marion Jeddler, perhaps out of respect for the text and perhaps to leave the issue a mystery that the reader must wait to resolve.
in illustrating the second part of Charles Dickens's 1846 Christmas Book, The Battle of Life, John Leech drew Michael Warden eloping with Marion Jeddler. The picture ["The Night of the Return," actually two simultaneously occurring scenes, one indoors, the other outside] illustrates the belief of everyone within the story, and of readers to that point in the story. At the end of the third part, which Leech may never have read, the truth is disclosed: Marion fled from home alone, seeking refuge with her aunt. Is Leech's illustration an erroneous representation of what happened that night? For Dickens, the artist made a flat mistake, reading carelessly. "I need not tell you, my dear fellow," Dickens complained to John Forster, "Warden has no business in the elopement scene. He was never there!" The error was for the author "a monstrous enormity" which he saw, too late for cancellation, "with a horror and agony not to be expressed." But the illustration functions perfectly as the representation of what all the characters [except Warden and Marion] and readers believe; and even Dickens quickly grew aware "that what is such a monstrous enormity to me, as never having entered my brain, may not so present itself to others." Dickens is in fact quite disingenuous in saying that the idea of Marion's eloping with Michael never entered his brain; it was the idea inculcated throughout the third part of the tale. [Patten 92-93]
Robert L. Patten is undoubtedly correct in speculating that the real cause of Dickens's dissatisfaction with the illustration is that it seems to pre-empt the author's options; in other words, the graphic artist is asserting control over the direction of the story. No later illustrator in fact made the same "error" in that no subsequent illustration for the novella actually depicts the elopement; however, both Fred Barnard and Harry Furniss leave open the possibility of an elopement, in accordance with the writer's intention to create an air of mystery around what turns out to be Marion's self-sacrifice as her absence leads inevitably to her younger sister's marriage to Alfred.
Only Warden's costume is realised in any detail in the 1910 lithograph, whereas the eighteenth-century garb of all three figures is effectively described in the wood-engravings by Maclise, Abbey, and Barnard. Although the reader perceives almost nothing of Clemency but her back and nothing of the remaining characters' costumes in detail, the reader of the 1910 volume receives a strong sense of Clemency's emotion. On the other hand, Warden's motivation and Marion's attitude are not clear from their poses, although the reader could reasonably conclude that they are about to elope.
Furniss's impressionism aside, he has adopted a minimalist approach to depicting the costumes of the women and has focussed instead upon Michael Warden's luxuriant hair and travelling cloak. Perhaps, to make the prospect of an elopement more likely despite The young woman's obvious devotion to her family, Furniss has emphasized Michael Warden's physical attractiveness, just as Dickens and Phiz were to do for James Steerforth, the rake who absconds with Little Em'ly in David Copperfield. Furniss has elected to depict the scene's backdrop, the outside of the Jeddler cottage in early winter, but scantily, with a few lines, in complete contrast to the highly realistic treatments of Fred Barnard and E. A. Abbey. In his introduction to the illustrations of the first editions of Dickens's novels J. A. Hammerton in 1910 denigrated the work of Phiz, Cruikshank, and Leech as "old and obsolete" (i), an unfair characterization with respect to the older style of book illustration, and of pictorial accompaniments that, no matter what their intrinsic value as works of art, enjoyed the sanction of the novelist himself and therefore confer upon these earlier illustrators the status of co-presenter of the story. The original Christmas Book illustrations in particular, dropped into the letterpress and presented simultaneously with the passages realised, are far more than "curious and quaint" (i), despite the fact that the medium of boxwood engraving was by 1910 somewhat outdated as artists such as Furniss had access to photoreproductive processes to transform pen-and-ink drawings into book illustrations, enabling fin-de-siecle artists such as Furniss to work much more rapidly than their predecessors, albeit with considerable loss of detail, as in "For Alfred's Sake" here. Indeed, in their subtle patterns and movements, and in the contrasts between indoor festivity and the bleakness of the snowy night without, one might well prefer the original illustrations of Leech and Maclise to the rapidly delivered sketch of Harry Furniss, who failed in this instance to assimilate and transcend the work of earlier Dickens illustrators.
Related Illustrations in Earlier Editions
Left: Daniel Maclise's "The Secret Interview", and John Leech's "The Night of the Return"; centre, Fred Barnard's "'What is the matter?' he exclaimed. 'I don't know. I — I am afraid to think. Go back. Hark!'" (1878); right: E. A. Abbey's "And sunk down in his former attitude, clasping one of Grace's cold hands in his own.". [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Cohen, Jane Rabb. "John Leech." Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio U. P., 1980. Pp. 141-151.
Dickens, Charles. The Battle of Life. A Love Story. Il. John Leech, Daniel Maclise, Richard Doyle, and Clarkson Stanfield. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1846.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books. Il. Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.
Dickens, Charles. The Christmas Books. Il. Harry Furniss. Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. Vol. 8.
Dickens, Charles. The Christmas Books. Il. Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. 16 vols. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories. Il. E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.
Hammerton, J. A. The Dickens Picture Book. Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book, 1910.
Patten, Robert L.