Mrs. Tetterby, Johnny, and the Baby
9.3 x 7.4 cm, vignetted
Dickens's The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain. A Fancy for Christmas Time, The Pears' Centenary Edition, vol. 5, page 65.
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The process of induction, by which Mr. Tetterby had come to the conclusion that his wife was a little woman, was his own secret. She would have made two editions of himself, very easily. Considered as an individual, she was rather remarkable for being robust and portly; but considered with reference to her husband, her dimensions became magnificent. Nor did they assume a less imposing proportion, when studied with reference to the size of her seven sons, who were but diminutive. In the case of Sally, however, Mrs. Tetterby had asserted herself, at last; as nobody knew better than the victim Johnny, who weighed and measured that exacting idol every hour in the day.
Mrs. Tetterby, who had been marketing, and carried a basket, threw back her bonnet and shawl, and sitting down, fatigued, commanded Johnny to bring his sweet charge to her straightway, for a kiss. Johnny having complied, and gone back to his stool, and again crushed himself, Master Adolphus Tetterby, who had by this time unwound his torso out of a prismatic comforter, apparently interminable, requested the same favour. Johnny having again complied, and again gone back to his stool, and again crushed himself, Mr. Tetterby, struck by a sudden thought, preferred the same claim on his own parental part. The satisfaction of this third desire completely exhausted the sacrifice, who had hardly breath enough left to get back to his stool, crush himself again, and pant at his relations. ["Chapter Two: The Gift Diffused," p. 65-66, 1912 Pears edition]
The caption immediately below the illustration points directly towards the moment realised: "Mrs. Tetterby [. . .] threw back her bonnet and shawl, and sitting down, fatigued, commanded Johnny to bring his sweet charge to her straightway, for a kiss" (65). But who precisely is Mrs. Tetterby? She begins as a Leech caricature, a short, dumpy, middle-aged woman following the model of Mrs. Cratchit in the first Christmas Book. Sophia Tetterby appears just once in the original 1848 novella's illustrations, the scene being the family parlour as she returns from shopping in John Leech's The Tetterbys. Although she is nondescript in the Diamond Edition illustration by Sol Eytinge, Jr., The Tetterbys, she is a much more assertive and outspoken woman, dominating her slender husband in Harry Furniss's The Tetterby Temper (1912). Although she does not appear at all in the three E. A. Abbey illustrationsfor the 1876 Harper and Brothers' Household Edition, or, for that matter, in Fred Barnard's 1878 Chapman and Hall series of seven wood-engravings, she actually appears twicein the 1910 Charles Dickens Library Edition, in her second appearance being something of a harridan as she falls under the Spirit's baneful influence and attacks Johnny in The Tetterby's Baby. Thus, Furniss realised that he could show how the Redlaw double could affect a radical personality alteration by depicting the heretofore caring Mrs. Tetterby as behaving quite unlike herself. She is, therefore not merely a supporting character or mere reflection of the author's mother, Elizabeth Dickens, as by her abusive conduct she demonstrates the pernicious effects of failing to remember even difficult times and trying circumstances — and yet, like Lady Macbeth (or, for that matter, Mrs. Cratchit) she exists at this point in the narrative without her own Christian name, and therefore an extension of her husband. Shortly, just prior to the illustration which shows her looking yearningly into a shop window, Dickens through the dialogue between husband and wife specifically names Mrs. Tetterby "Sophia" (73), conveying some notion of her individuality as he develops this secondary character.
What distinguishes Green's treatment is his obvious sympathy for Mrs. Tetterby, who, despite exhaustion from shopping on foot, immediately acknowledges Johnny, whose face she touches tenderly as he holds up Sally to receive a maternal kiss. As in the text, she has pushed back her large, outer bonnet in order to deal with the children. She is no beauty, like Milly Swidger, but a mature woman who has had a great many children over the course of her marriage, and manages to look after them all as well as her husband, who in the previous illustration disregards the chaotic scene in the parlour and buries himself in his newspaper. Green intends, then, that this smaller illustration contrast Mrs. Tetterby's engagement with her husband's cool aloofness.
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 and setting the table, The Tetterby's Temper (1910).
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 13 July 2015