Source: Scenes and Characters from the Works of Charles Dickens (1908)
The border shows the influence, direct or indirect, of German illustrators, particularly Rethel.
See below for identification of characters.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham
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Gordon Thomson, who did the Household Edition plates for Pictures from Italy must have been one of the few 1870s illustrators available in 1908. The characters depicted include Little Nell and her grandfather (upper left), Pickwick and Sam Weller (centre, above the title — and above them the Peggottys' houseboat at Yarmouth), Jenny Wren and Seth Pecksniff (upper right), Bill Sykes, Capt. Cuttle, Aunt Betsey Trotwood and young David Copperfield (lower right), Tom Pinch and Wilkins Micawber (centre bottom, and above them London Bridge with Lizzie and Gaffer Hexam in their boat), Barnaby Rudge and Silas Wegg (lower left, with Little Dorrit just above them). Other figures include Krook or "The Lord Chancellor" (with the cat), Lady Deadlock (shrouded in black veiling), and Fred Quilp (left).
Introductory Note [author unknown]
There is one question upon which the critics and lovers of Dickens seem never able to get into agreement, and that is the question of the original illustrations to his works. Though the thorough-going enthusiast Phiz and Dickens seem inseparable, and no edition which does not contain the old, familiar grotesques of Hablot Browne's imagination, or, in the earlier volume, the equally abnormal lineaments portrayed by Cruikshank or Seymour, would be deemed worthy of a place upon his bookshelf. But a younger generation is growing up, for whom the time-honoured pictures have not the charm of long association, and among them it is common to hear the complaint that the natural humour and pathos of the author's best works are spoiled to modern fancy by the violent caricatures of the illustrator. " Let us abolish these pictures altogether," they say: "and illustrate the books with pretty conventionalities by more fashionable artists." At the opposite pole stands yet another group of critics — the "Superior People " who have made up their minds that Dickens himself was a caricaturist, and that therefore the early illustrations, even if they do a little emphasise his exaggerations, are only conceived in fitting harmony with a world of fancy which drowns itself in excesses of the grotesque. Among so many doctors, and all so emphatic, m.ho shall decide? It is, at any rate, no easy task.
It happens, however, that there does exist a series of Dickens illustrations, now in some danger of being unduly neglected, in which the artists were wonderfully happy in preserving [ix/x] the original features of Phiz and Cruikshank's interpretations, while they toned down the more extravagant details and brought imagination into closer harmony with reality. These were the illustrations to the square-shaped " Household Edition," published in 1870, just after the great novelist's death — and now reissued in this Dickens picture-book, in the hope that those who love the stories may like to possess in separate form what is, perhaps, the best pictorial accompaniment that the novels ever received. At the time of its first publication, the "Household Edition" enjoyed an enormous success. At the moment the name of Dickens was on every one's lips, and the fact that this splendidly illustrated reprint was issued in penny numbers and sixpenny parts placed it within reach of even the most humbly stocked purse. Its sale was stupendous, and the familiar green-covered pamphlets percolated through every town and village where the English tongue is spoken. The original copies may still be met with, under many a country timbered roof, carefully treasured as one of the most cherished household possessions.
Undoubtedly, a great part of the success was due to the art of the illustrators. To begin with, there was an unusually liberal display of pictures-the edition, as a vehicle, containing close upon nine hundred. But more important than the number were the truth and sincerity of the interpretation — qualities which helped to give a new life to characters already secure of immortality. First and foremost, of course, the edition will always be associated with the memory of Fred Barnard, whose pictures are the outstanding feature of the present volume. Barnard seemed destined by nature to illustrate Dickens; the impressively ingenious than the skill with which he took the types already created by his predecessors, preserved [x/xi] characteristics, so that each was unmistakably himself, and yet by the illuminating touch of genius transferred them every one from the realm of caricature to that of portraiture. Not far inferior to him was that admirable draughtsman, Charles Green, who exactly adopted Barnard's attitude to the originals. The reader who will compare Green's illustrations to "The Old Curiosity Shop" with Phiz's, will scarcely fail to notice with interest how often Green has chosen the same subject as his predecessor, and all but treated it in the same manner, save that a twisted grotesque suddenly becomes, under the magic of his wand, a natural human being. His picture of Sally Brass and the Marchioness is a remarkable instance in point: but there are many others equally eloquent of his sympathetic and interpretative method. Nor should the work of Mahony, A. B. Frost, Gordon Thomson and others be forgotten, for each in his own way has helped to make this volume, what its publishers confidently claim it to be, a collection of Dickens pictures unrivalled for humour, pathos, character, and interpretative skill. In the certainty that such a gallery of good work can hardly fail to find appreciators, the volume is now offered to all lovers of the most widely popular author of the Victorian Era. [ix-xi]
Scenes and characters from the works of Charles Dickens; being eight hundred and sixty-six drawings, by Fred Barnard, Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz); J. Mahoney; Charles Green; A. B. Frost; Gorgon Thomson; J. McL. Ralston; H. French; E. G. Dalziel; F. A. Fraser, and Sir Luke Fildes; printed from the original woodblocks engraved for "The Household Edition.". New York: Chapman and Hall, 1908. Pp. ix-xi. Copy in the Robarts Library, University of Toronto.
Last modified 4 February 2013