Philip and Mrs. William putting up Holly
15.2 x 10.8 cm, exclusive of frame
Dickens's The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain. A Fancy for Christmas Time, The Pears' Centenary Edition, vol. 5, page 31.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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"What is that the old man has in his arms?" asked Mr. Redlaw, as he sat down to his solitary meal.
"Holly, sir," replied the quiet voice of Milly.
"That's what I say myself, sir," interposed Mr. William, striking in with the butter-boat. "Berries is so seasonable to the time of year! — Brown gravy!"
"Another Christmas come, another year gone!" murmured the Chemist, with a gloomy sigh. "More figures in the lengthening sum of recollection that we work and work at to our torment, till Death idly jumbles all together, and rubs all out. So, Philip!" breaking off, and raising his voice as he addressed the old man, standing apart, with his glistening burden in his arms, from which the quiet Mrs. William took small branches, which she noiselessly trimmed with her scissors, and decorated the room with, while her aged father-in-law looked on much interested in the ceremony. ["Chapter One: The Gift Bestowed," p. 30, 1912 Pears edition]
Series editor Clement Shorter specifically reproduces two of the original volume's seasonal plates, Frank Stone's Milly on the chair (originally entitled Milly and the Old Man) and Milly and the Tetterby Children on pages 7 and 8 respectively in the introduction. Citing passages from Dickens's correspondence with Frank Stone in praise of the two illustrations, Shorter asserts that, despite the excellence of the work of the original illustrators, Green's series of lithographs is superior to the small-scale wood-engravings dropped into the 1848 text:
Dickens took very great interest in the illustrations, and two of his letters to one of the artists have been published [i. e., in the correspondence edited by Georgina Hogarth and Mamie Dickens in two volumes, Chapman & Hall: 1880]. The artists were John Tenniel, Clarkson Stansfield [sic], Frank Stone, and John Leech. I am tempted to the expression of an opinion that the illustrations were not very good, and that here you have a very much better edition — to say nothing of a cheaper — of "The Haunted Man" than was the lot of an early generation [which paid five shillings for the novella in 1848]. The four artists I have named have done admirable work, and the genius that Tenniel displayed as a cartoonist and Leech as a humourist will not soon be forgotten. But the high qualities of these artists at their best were not called out by this grim story. ["Introduction," p. 6-7]
Although he deplores the fact that the popularity of the novella has waned to such an extent that as a dramatic adaptation it is "now dead for our generation" (9), Shorter singles out for praise the Tetterbys ("delightful" ) and Milly Swidger ("the embodiment of unselfish love"). He also notes a Tennysonian connection no longer apparent, for Dickens had originally quoted for lines from "Departure" on the title-page, but had dropped them prior to publication because he felt their effect inappropriate to the story's conclusion, when the spirit's dubious gift is "reversed":
And o'er the hills, and far away,
Beyond their utmost purple rim,
Beyond the night, across the day,
Thro' all the world IT followed him. ["Introduction," p. 11]
Although the narrative-pictorial sequence at seventeen illustrations is longer and more innovative than that for any other Christmas Book, A Christmas Carol having but eight (all by John Leech) and The Chimes fourteen (with five by Leech as lead illustrator for the entire series), Shorter is correct in his evaluation at least of Leech's five caricatural drawings for The Haunted Man, which are cramped, awkward, uninspired, and generally lacking in the sort of whimsical exuberance seen throughout his Carol illustrations of 1843. Fittingly, this was to be his last Dickens commission. And appropriately Shorter focuses instead upon the elegant designs of Dickens's old friend, Frank Stone. The excerpts reproduced in the introduction, moreover, relate directly to several of Charles Green's compositions.
In the case of the present, holly-decorating illustration, Green is providing a more realistic — and more prosaic — version of Frank Stone's Milly and the Old Man, choosing to update the 1848 picture instead of responding to either of the Household Edition illustrations in which Redlaw has a dialogue with Milly and her father-in-law about decorating the Old College with holly, a seasonal which accords with the story's explicit theme, "Lord, keep my memory green." Jane Rabb Cohen notes that Dickens was particularly concerned with the figure of Milly as a "redeeming angel":
Stone met with Dickens and Leech, still the main Christmas Book illustrator, to discuss the story of The Haunted Man in 1848 [November 19]. Predictably, the painter [i. e., Stone], with his taste for attractive women, was most inspired by Milly Swidger, the redeeming angel in the macabre situation that Redlaw brings on himself by wishing away all memory of the past. The artist made proposed sketches of Milly, ornamenting the dreary college room with holly, assisted by the elderly Philip. Dickens called "CHARMING" the drawing he preferred of Milly standing on the chair rather than the floor, a position that stressed Philip's fragility as did his more noticeably stooped shoulders. [Cohen, 187]
Green's whole-page composition duplicates their poses, but removes a rather more Milly from the precariousness of standing on the chair as she inserts a sprig of holly in what appears to be a barometer; the wainscotting and the uniform glass and metal containers behind Philip (containers of salt and pepper) suggest that the scene is the dining-hall, where the story will end, rather than Redlaw's rooms, as in the text, where he is served a late supper by William. The antiphonal voice of the dejected chemist is not represented visually in the Green illustration, but his sentiments on page 30 are juxtaposed against the look concentration on the faces of the servants, going about their task methodically, unaffected by such melancholy and gloominess. Green's figures are more solid and less angular than Stone's, and are approximately of the same height, so that the composition lacks the original's sense of energy as Stone's figures rise up from the blank space (lower left) through the accompanying text (centre left) to the holly that Milly holds aloft, above the frame portrait (upper right), so that the page number (19) completes the subtle upward movement of the composition, which is augmented by the old man's upturned gaze, the line of his left shoulder, the rivetted chair-back, and the lines of Philip's coat and Milly's skirt. None of this sort of dynamic quality is conveyed through Green's figures, which do not benefit from the juxtaposition of textual passage illustrated and the illustration itself; rather, in the 1912 Pears edition, one first reads the text, and then reads the illustration, as opposed to the simultaneous reading of passage and picture in the 1848 edition. Comparing the two, one is struck by the elegant detailism of Stone's padded chair with ornate legs and diagonal support — and of the delicacy of the figure of Mrs. William, who is a far less etherial presence in the Green illustration.
Relevant Illustrations from the 1848 and later Editions
Left: Frank Stone's study of old Philip Swidgers and his daughter-in-law, Milly and the Old Man Centre: Frank Stone's elegant study of the Milly Swidger with the Tetterby children, Milly and the Children. Right: Harry Furniss's fashion plate of the Milly, tending to the sick student, Milly (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Left: Fred Barnard's group study of the Swidgers and Redlaw, "Merry and happy, was it?" asked the Chemist in a low voice. "Merry and happy, old man?" (1878). Right: E. A. Abbey's more cartoon-like study of the Swidgers, "I'm eighty-seven!" (1876). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Cohen, Jane Rabb. "The Illustrators of the Christmas Books, John Leech." Charles Dickens and His original Illustrators. Columbus: University of Ohio Press, 1981. Pp. 141-151.
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 26 June 2015