12.5 x 9.6 cm vignetted
Dickens's Christmas Stories, Part Two, Vol. 16 of Charles Dickens Library Edition, facing page 140.
The 1867 Extra Christmas Number's fiction offering in All the Year Round was to be the last of the Christmas Stories that Dickens "conducted" with a team of writers for his own periodicals. [Commentary continued below.]
[Click on image to enlarge it, and mouse over to find links.]
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.]
"Julius Cæsar," cried Beckwith, staggering between us, "Mist' Sampson! Mist' Sampson, Julius Cæsar! Julius, Mist' Sampson, is the friend of my soul. Julius keeps me plied with liquor, morning, noon, and night. Julius is a real benefactor. Julius threw the tea and coffee out of window when I used to have any. Julius empties all the water-jugs of their contents, and fills 'em with spirits. Julius winds me up and keeps me going. — Boil the brandy, Julius!"
There was a rusty and furred saucepan in the ashes, — the ashes looked like the accumulation of weeks, — and Beckwith, rolling and staggering between us as if he were going to plunge headlong into the fire, got the saucepan out, and tried to force it into Slinkton's hand.
"Boil the brandy, Julius Cæsar! Come! Do your usual office. Boil the brandy!"
He became so fierce in his gesticulations with the saucepan, that I expected to see him lay open Slinkton's head with it. I therefore put out my hand to check him. He reeled back to the sofa, and sat there panting, shaking, and red-eyed, in his rags of dressing-gown, looking at us both. I noticed then that there was nothing to drink on the table but brandy, and nothing to eat but salted herrings, and a hot, sickly, highly peppered stew.
"At all events, Mr. Sampson," said Slinkton, offering me the smooth gravel path [of his hair style] for the last time, "I thank you for interfering between me and this unfortunate man's violence. However you came here, Mr. Sampson, or with whatever motive you came here, at least I thank you for that."
"Boil the brandy," muttered Beckwith.
Without gratifying his desire to know how I came there, I said, quietly, "How is your niece, Mr. Slinkton?"
He looked hard at me, and I looked hard at him. [Part V, "Hunted Down," pages 142-143 in the second half of vol. 16]
Not first published in either Dickens journal, "Hunted Down" has nothing whatsoever to do with yuletide feelings of benevolence and nostalgia, being a tightly disciplined first-person crime-and-detection story of the type at which Wilkie Collins excelled. In "Hunted Down", the short story which Dickens so successfully marketed in the United States, the first-person narrator is also an active agent in the plot as he attempts to save the heiress, Miss Niner, from her predatory uncle, the poisoner Julius Slinkton. As the story first appeared in instalments outside the context of Dickens's "Extra Christmas Numbers" in two unconnected periodicals and well outside the Christmas season — The New York Ledger (20 and 27 August, and 3 September 1859) and All the Year Round (4 and 11 April 1860), it has little in common with the Christmas Stories from Dickens's own periodicals with which it shares space in Volume 16 of The Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910). Furthermore, not previously illustrated, the text offered Harry Furniss no models of illustration against which to react. Despite the engaging caption, Julius Slinkton is yet to receive a greater "surprise" when he is subsequently shocked to learn that his "dupe," Alfred Beckwith is, in fact, the young actuary Meltam, who was romantically involved with the niece that Slinkton poisoned in order to acquire her fortune. Shadowing the next victim in order to protect her, Meltham had adopted yet another disguise, the invalid Major Banks, at Scarborough before resuming his London alias of Beckwith. Here, Furniss describes the scene in which the oily hypocrite, perfidious poisoner, and proven defrauder of life insurance companies is about to receive his comeuppance.
The picture is in one of Furniss's favourite modes: the grotesquely comic. Some seven weeks after the scene on the beach at the seaside resort of Scarborough with which Furniss opened the story, Slinkton is trapped by his cunning adversaries, the insurance agent Sampson and the actuary Meltham, in his rooms at the Middle Temple, London. The chaotic room of the raving dipsomaniac whom Slinkton has insured is suggested by the fireplace, wainscotting, tumbled books, and tilted picture in the background. Furniss's rendering of the addict (centre) is as convincing as Meltham's impersonation, and Furniss's Slinkton is every inch a would-be Church of England clergyman, but Sampson seems much older and heavier than the same character in the initial illustration. Flying off his padded sofa so violently that his dressing-gown seems to take wing, Beckwith is a wonderfully comic realisation as he thrusts a diminutive saucepan at Slinkton, whose delicate gesture imparts his supposed aloofness from the maniac whose frenzy for liquor he has in fact been feeding. Indeed, all that is missing from the picture are the salty viands with which Slinkton has been plying Beckwith in order to stimulate his thirst. In the foreground lie the fire tongs, thrown down doubtless in Beckwith's delirium, but also implying the iron grasp into which the confidence man is about to fall as Meltham reveals himself and enumerates the damning evidence that he has accumulated against Slinkton.
Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1988.
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 25 October 2013