"Tetterby and his Young Family" by Charles Green. 1912. 10 x 15.1 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 Tetterby's attempting to read the newspaper amidst the domestic chaos that has attended his wife's leaving the family business-and-home combined in order to go shopping: "'In company with the small man was almost any amount of small children" (p. 57, quoted from p. 56 facing) to underscore the pandemonium that the determined Tetterby, the vortex of the storm, has thus far been able to shut out.

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Passage Realised

A small man sat in a small parlour, partitioned off from a small shop by a small screen, pasted all over with small scraps of newspapers. In company with the small man, was almost any amount of small children you may please to name — at least it seemed so; they made, in that very limited sphere of action, such an imposing effect, in point of numbers.

Of these small fry, two had, by some strong machinery, been got into bed in a corner, where they might have reposed snugly enough in the sleep of innocence, but for a constitutional propensity to keep awake, and also to scuffle in and out of bed. The immediate occasion of these predatory dashes at the waking world, was the construction of an oyster-shell wall in a corner, by two other youths of tender age; on which fortification the two in bed made harassing descents (like those accursed Picts and Scots who beleaguer the early historical studies of most young Britons), and then withdrew to their own territory.

In addition to the stir attendant on these inroads, and the retorts of the invaded, who pursued hotly, and made lunges at the bed-clothes under which the marauders took refuge, another little boy, in another little bed, contributed his mite of confusion to the family stock, by casting his boots upon the waters; in other words, by launching these and several small objects, inoffensive in themselves, though of a hard substance considered as missiles, at the disturbers of his repose, — who were not slow to return these compliments. ["Chapter Two: The Gift Diffused," p. 32, 1912 Pears edition]

Commentary

Here, as in many of his thirty-one illustrations Green is responding to and often absorbing both the original wood-engravings of the 1848 scarlet volume and the 1910 Charles Dickens Library Edition lithographs of Harry Furniss. Green clearly has in mind two earlier versions of the newspaper-reading Adolphus Tetterby, small newsagent and harried parent. In the 1848 volume, John Leech depicts in a cartoon idiom the scene in which Mrs. Tetterby arrives home to find the children have run amock in The Tetterbys. Although the 1878 British, green-cloth Household Edition contains an engraving of Johnny and Moloch, Fred Barnard does not deal with Tetterby directly, and it is unlikely that Green would have been able to consult the American Household Edition volume to study the 1876 E. A. Abbey wood-engraving "You bad boy!" said Mr. Tetterby. Therefore, one must assume that Green's chief source of inspiration, aside from the Leech study of the family, is Harry Furniss's recent satire The Tetterby's Temper. Whereas in Green's study Mrs. Tetterby has yet to return and restore order, in Furniss's the lady of the house is grudgingly setting the table while her husband attempts to read. Furniss has reorganized the scene to make it less cluttered. Gone entirely are the familial hearth and mantelpiece in the Leech realisation, and Furniss offers none of the homey bric-a-brac from John Leech's version. More significantly, whereas Leech's figures were amusing caricatures verging on the actors of a cartoon, these Tetterbys — two adults and nine children — coexist in a larger space, despite the small dining table. Furniss has also taken pains to incorporate Mr. Tetterby's newspaper screen (upper right). There is, however, still a good deal of humour remaining in the 1910 composition. Now consider the transformation effected by Green: shifting to the earlier scene, Green focusses on the relationship between the hapless Tetterby and his unruly brood: the seven children are distributed throughout the room exactly as described in the text; nevertheless, Green creates the illusion of spaciousness as he isolates Tetterby in the centre of the composition, which distinguishes the various children by their poses and activities. Almost photographic in its realistic delineation of the interior space and figures, the composition is conspicuously lacking that essential Dickensian ingredient: humour. Seemingly unaffected by the domestic turmoil, Green's tranquil parent spoils the joke.

Relevant Illustrations from the 1848 and Household Editions

Left: John Leech's study of the congested Tetterby parlour, The Tetterbys Right: E. A. Abbey's study of the frustrated father, "You bad boy!" said Mr. Tetterby (1876). [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Harry Furniss's full-page study of the entire family, including Mrs. Tetterby, just returned from shopping, The Tetterby's Temper (1910).

References

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 3 July 2015