The Old Sun-dial
7.0 x 5.5 cm, vignetted
Dickens's The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain. A Fancy for Christmas Time, The Pears' Centenary Edition, vol. 5, page 21.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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[Redlaw's] dwelling was so solitary and vault-like, — an old, retired part of an ancient endowment for students, once a brave edifice, planted in an open place, but now the obsolete whim of forgotten architects; smoke-age-and-weather-darkened, squeezed on every side by the overgrowing of the great city, and choked, like an old well, with stones and bricks; its small quadrangles, lying down in very pits formed by the streets and buildings, which, in course of time, had been constructed above its heavy chimney stalks; its old trees, insulted by the neighbouring smoke, which deigned to droop so low when it was very feeble and the weather very moody; its grass-plots, struggling with the mildewed earth to be grass, or to win any show of compromise; its silent pavements, unaccustomed to the tread of feet, and even to the observation of eyes, except when a stray face looked down from the upper world, wondering what nook it was; its sun-dial in a little bricked-up corner, where no sun had straggled for a hundred years, but where, in compensation for the sun's neglect, the snow would lie for weeks when it lay nowhere else, and the black east wind would spin like a huge humming-top, when in all other places it was silent and still. ["Chapter One: The Gift Bestowed," p. 20-21, 1912 Pears edition]
At best, the illustration of the sundial in Redlaw's snowy "bricked-up corner" is a thumbnail, but again, as with Redlaw's laboratory, Green infuses this slight object with symbolic significance, as if it is symptomatic of Redlaw's ennui. John Leech, and the 1878 British Household Edition engravings by Fred Barnard. However, in itsuse of emblem, symbol, and irony this series of lithographs rarely intersects with the melodramatic pen-and-ink drawings of Harry Furniss in the 1910 Charles Dickens Library Edition's anthology of Christmas Books. An equally subtle and telling use of visual symbolism, however, occurs in Furniss's Spring Killed by Haggard Winter, which presents pictorially the effect that Redlaw has upon those whom he encounters after the spirit has conferred his "gift.", the title given in the "List of Illustrations" (p. 15), is augmented immediately below the embedded image by the following quotation: "The snow would lie for weeks when it lay nowhere else" (p. 21). Once again, Green is responding to and even absorbing both the original wood-engravings of the 1848 design team, led by
Since Dickens himself in this atmospheric description seems to be presenting Redlaw's personal environment as a psychological extension of the chemistry professor himself, Green's rendering the little sundial as being symbolic of Redlaw's being emotionally arrested and socially withdrawn is consistent with the effects which the bare subtly text achieves. The succeeding paragraph's alluding to "many low passages," "the forgotten Crypt," and the "half-buried" Norman arches of Redlaw's dwelling intensifies this sense that the professor's rooms in the Old College are a manifestation of his psychological state. In terms of Redlaw's relationship, time has stood still since his romantic rejection; thus, the snow-covered sun-dial becomes a metaphor for Redlaw's feelings of abandonment. The thumbnail, then, achieves more than a set a gloomymood and establish the story's physical setting, the effects achieved by the scenic The Old College by marine painter Clarkson Stanfield in the 1848 volume.
Relevant Illustrations from the 1848 and the Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910)
Left: Clarkson Stanfield's atmospheric study of the Jerusalem Buildings, The Old College. Right: Harry Furniss's more statuesque symbol of the maligant effects of the "haunted" academic upon those whom he meets, Spring Killed by Haggard Winter. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
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.
Last modified 25 June 2015