Mrs. William and the "Waif"
10.5 x 7.6 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 41.
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The room turned darker and colder, and the gloom and shadow gathering behind the chair was heavier.
"Not content with this, sir, Mrs. William goes and finds, this very night, when she was coming home (why it's not above a couple of hours ago), a creature more like a young wild beast than a young child, shivering upon a door-step. What does Mrs. William do, but brings it home to dry it, and feed it, and keep it till our old Bounty of food and flannel is given away, on Christmas morning! If it ever felt a fire before, it's as much as ever it did; for it's sitting in the old Lodge chimney, staring at ours as if its ravenous eyes would never shut again. It's sitting there, at least," said Mr. William, correcting himself, on reflection, "unless it's bolted!" ["Chapter One: The Gift Bestowed," p. 40, 1912 Pears edition]
The child of the streets, wearing adult cast-offs far too large for him, contemplating the image of an aristocratic child of about his own age in thelower left quadrant of John Leech's Substance and Shadow (Punch, 15 July 1843) gave rise to Leech's most damning indictment of Victorian capitalism and the factory system, Ignorance and Want in A Christmas Carol (19 December 1843). In the original volume of The Haunted Man, Leech reprised the waifs of the 1843 cartoon and illustration with the nameless urchin who takes refuge in the Old College, The Boy before the Fire. Dickens makes it clear, however, that this is no abstraction or allegorical figure, but a very real creature in tatters from the East End slums. Although American illustrator E. A. Abbey did not include a realisation of the boy more beast than child, in the 1867 Diamond Edition Sol Eytinge, Jr. had highlighted the moment when the upper-middle-class academic encounters the boy luxuriating in the unfamiliar heat of a roaring coal-fire in Redlaw and The Boy, in which the boy is remarkably hairy, as if he is the missing link between humanity and the apes. In the British Household Edition, the great seventies interpreter of Dickens, Fred Barnard tackled the issue of urban poverty is a highly realistic manner in "I'm not a-going to take you there. Let me be, or I'll heave some fire at you!" (1878). Although the desolate child sleeping in a doorway islacking shoes in Green's interpretation of the scene in which Milly Swidger encounters the nameless waif, he seems too well-dressed and passive when one compares him to earlier illustrators' interpretations. Milly, solicitous and dressed in a heavy woolen shawl, seems to hesitate as she approaches the child in a scene merely narrated byWilliam rather than addressed by the author directly in the text. What distinguishesthe Green illustration is the moment at which he has chosen to introduce the homelesschild, that is when the embodiment of Christian charity, Milly Swidger, first notices theboy sheltering in a doorway in the snowy street; thus, the caption on page 41 immediately below the illustration underscores Milly's interpretation of the boy as a "creature" rather thana human child: "A creature more like a young wild beast than a young child, shivering upon a door-step." Green's boy is nevertheless merely underprivileged rather than abyproduct of the callous neglect of the Captains of Industry, a real child rather than ablatant symbol.
This figure of urban blight depicted or realized by earlier illustrators:
Leech's somewhat wooden but atmospheric cartoons versus Barnard's modelled study of the Boy and Redlaw: left: Leech's "Redlaw and The Boy"; centre, Barnard's realistic "I'm not a-going to take you there. Let me be, or I'll heave some fire at you!"; right, Harry Furniss's dynamic and dark "I'll bite if you hit me".
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 30 June 2015