"Redlaw in his Laboratory" by Charles Green. 1912. 6.6 x 8.4 cm, exclusive of frame. Dickens's The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain. A Fancy for Christmas Time, Pears Centenary Edition, in which the plates often have captions that are different from the short titles given at the beginning of the volume in the "List of Illustrations" (p. 15-16). For example, the series editor, Clement Shorter, has included a quotation as a caption underneath the full-page lithograph of Redlaw's working on chemical reactions in his laboratory: "He was, as the world knew, far and wide, a learned man in chemistry" (p. 19, adapted from p. 18), to underscore the learned and scientific nature of Professor Redlaw's field of study: here, then, is a rational thinker not likely to succumb to superstitious fancies. Although in many of his thirty-one illustrations Charles Green is responding to and often absorbing both the original wood-engravings of the 1848 scarlet volume and the 1878 British Household Edition engravings by Fred Barnard, in this particular illustration he goes beyond all previous series, including that in the 1910 Charles Dickens Library Edition's anthology of Christmas Books by Harry Furniss. Here Green extends the text, elaborating on Dickens's passing reference to his protagonist as an experimental chemist.

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Passage Realised

Who could have observed his manner, taciturn, thoughtful, gloomy, shadowed by habitual reserve, retiring always and jocund never, with a distraught air of reverting to a bygone place and time, or of listening to some old echoes in his mind, but might have said it was the manner of a haunted man?

Who could have heard his voice, slow-speaking, deep, and grave, with a natural fulness and melody in it which he seemed to set himself against and stop, but might have said it was the voice of a haunted man?

Who that had seen him in his inner chamber, part library and part laboratory, — for he was, as the world knew, far and wide, a learned man in chemistry, and a teacher on whose lips and hands a crowd of aspiring ears and eyes hung daily. ["Chapter One: The Gift Bestowed," p. 18, 1912 Pears edition]

Commentary

The illustration develops a side of Redlaw's character that previous illustrators have chosen not to develop. Whereas John Leech , for example, in the 1848 Chapman and Hall edition depicts Redlaw in his book-lined study in Redlaw and the Phantom and stepping away from his lecture-theatre in Redlaw and the Boy, Charles Green extends the letterpress by creating a scene that Dickens does not in fact describe: Professor Redlaw at work in his laboratory. The original series through Clarkson Stanfield's representation of the post-secondary school's mediaeval courtyard and buildings establishes The Old College, London, as the physical setting, but does nothing more to demonstrate the protagonist's academic credentials, other than offering John Leech's depiction of a ruminative Redlaw in his cramped, book-lined study, Redlaw and the Phantom. However, the specimens on Redlaw's shelves in the 1848 illustrations suggest that both author and illustrator had imprecise notions as to what a professor of chemistry would do in his experiments. Green had no such difficulty apparently, but may well have had purposes other than merely establishing Redlaw's vocation as a research chemist in composing this third illustration for The Battle of Life for a turn-of-the-century readership.

In this full-page lithograph of Professor Redlaw's conducting an experiment, Green obliquely alludes to the romance of eighteenth-century science as found in the paintings of Wright of Derby. However, the 1912 composition lacks the internal tension and sense of mystery that pervades such paintings as An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1786) because in showing Redlaw as a social isolate Green has included neither students, nor laboratory technicians, nor yet fellow-academics in the well-organized, windowless room containing an alembic, furnace, and ancillary equipment — all quite correct, doubtless, but all rather (deliberately) mundane. The business-like, organized nature of this personal-professional space betokens the personality of the scientist who designed it. However, he is very much the "gentleman-scientist" in a tailcoat, performing his experiments without the benefit of white lab coat and other protective gear as he combines ingredients inches from his face. Green seems to have felt it ironic that a man of science should be afflicted by a doppelganger; certainly he has taken this opportunity to dramatise Redlaw's empirical calling.

"The Haunted Man" as a Novella of 1912 rather than of 1848

The logic of Charles Green's illustration of Redlaw as an experimental chemist rather than a mere lecturer about chemical processes and properties is that, if so reasonable and highly educated a person as an experimental scientist can fall prey to psychological fancies, such a metaphysical delusions may afflict any rational, modern reader. In this regard, the illustration of Redlaw in his laboratory as an extension of the original text situates the protagonist in the realia of modernity, for in the fin de siècle scientific thought aided by scientific equipment was popularly held to herald a new dimension of humanity's age-old struggle with the forces of nature. Redlaw as a chemist can unlock the secrets of nature to effect cures, transform matter, and with godlike power reconstitute matter for undreamt of benefits to humanity. As Lyn Pykett remarks in "The Sensation Legacy,"

The fin de siècle revival of romance and tales of the fantastic . . . like the sensation fiction, both articulate[d] and represent[ed] a range of responses to that modernisation of the senses that accompanied the technological revolutions of the age. Such narratives include Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886). . . as well as H. G. Wells's scientific romances — The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898), When the Sleeper Wakes (1899) and The First Men in the Moon (1901). [216]

Thus, the illustration of Redlaw in his laboratory recontextualises the 1848 "fancy for Christmas" as a work that anticipated the conflict of fancy and science, and the inner, psychological conflicts of a highly rational, educated member of respectable society — an exposé of his "hidden life," so to speak. Like Henry Jekyll, Redlaw preserves his professional aloofness and respectable appearance, all the while harbouring a terrible secret that threatens anybody with whom the protagonist and his double come in contact. The Jekyll-Redlaw connection is reinforced by the fact that both men of science have their own private experimental spaces; although Henry Jekyll's dissection theatre has fallen into disuse, its rear entrance affords Jekyll-as-Hyde his private portal to the seamier side of London, the appropriate arena for Hyde's violent outbreaks. Green enables the reader of 1912 to credit the fabulous dimensions of Dickens's metaphysical narrative by juxtaposing such modern and even mundane scenes as Redlaw in his laboratory and Redlaw in conversation with his butler with such outlandish scenes as Redlaw haunted by his sardonic double, reminding him of past wrongs received and endured, wrongs which he initially would rather forget. As the sensation novel of the 1860s and 1870s had incorporated modern realia such as railways and telegraphic messages to suspend the reader’s disbelief in a tale that begins in the respectable world of the upper-middle class, but shifts to the underclass, night-world of the metropolis as Redlaw accompanies the nameless, savage waif to his lair. In this regard, the careful detailism evident in Green's depiction of the laboratory enforces the modern reader's acceptance of Redlaw as a normative, middle-class figure with whom such a reader might readily identify him- or herself. Symbolically-named Redlaw is not merely Dickens's most educated protagonist; he is a member of the rising professional classes and an exemplar of the rising educated classes of the Information Age, a modern, intellectual hero in humanity's eternal struggle to unlock the secrets of nature in order to address human ills and to combat ignorance with knowledge.

Relevant Illustrations from the 1846​ and later Editions

Left: John Leech's atmospheric study of the the chemist and his ghostly double, Redlaw and the Phantom. Right: Harry Furniss's more dynamic treatment of the same notion, The Phantom., possesses that later illustrator's characteristic sense of humour, but lacks entirely any academic or scientific paraphernalia. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

References

Dickens, Charles. The Haunted Man; or, The Ghost's Bargain. Illustrated by John Leech, Frank Stone, John Tenniel, and Clarkson Stanfield. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1848.

___. The Haunted Man. Illustrated by John Leech, Frank Stone, John Tenniel, and Clarkson Stanfield. (1848). Rpt. in Charles Dickens's Christmas Books, ed. Michael Slater. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971, rpt. 1978. Vol. 2, p. 235-362, 365-366.

___. The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain. A Fancy for Christmas Time. Illustrated by Charles Green, R. I. London: A & F Pears, 1912.

___. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.

___. Christmas Books, illustrated by Fred Barnard. Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.

___. Christmas Books, illustrated by A. A. Dixon. London & Glasgow: Collins' Clear-Type Press, 1906.

___. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book, 1910.

___. Christmas Stories. Illustrated by E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.

___. The Haunted Man. Christmas Stories. Illustrated by Felix Octavius Carr Darley. The Household Edition. New York: James G. Gregory, 1861. Vol. 2, 155-300.

Pykett, Lyn. "The Sensation Legacy." Chapter 16, The Cambridge Companion to Sensation Fiction, ed. Andrew Mangham. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge U. P., 2013. Pp. 210-223.


Last modified 24 June 2015