Mrs. Tetterby Marketing
12.1 x 6.9 cm, framed
Dickens's The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain. A Fancy for Christmas Time, The Pears' Centenary Edition, vol. 5, page 74.
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"But you see, 'Dolphus," said Mrs. Tetterby, "this being Christmas-time, when all people who can, make holiday, and when all people who have got money, like to spend some, I did, somehow, get a little out of sorts when I was in the streets just now. There were so many things to be sold — such delicious things to eat, such fine things to look at, such delightful things to have — and there was so much calculating and calculating necessary, before I durst lay out a sixpence for the commonest thing; and the basket was so large, and wanted so much in it; and my stock of money was so small, and would go such a little way; — you hate me, don't you, 'Dolphus?"
"Not quite," said Mr. Tetterby, "as yet."
"Well! I'll tell you the whole truth," pursued his wife, penitently, "and then perhaps you will. I felt all this, so much, when I was trudging about in the cold, and when I saw a lot of other calculating faces and large baskets trudging about, too, that I began to think whether I mightn’t have done better, and been happier, if — I — hadn't —” the wedding-ring went round again, and Mrs. Tetterby shook her downcast head as she turned it. ["Chapter Two: The Gift Diffused," p. 75, 1912 Pears edition]
The caption immediately below the illustration points directly towards the moment realised: "There were so many things to be sold, and there was so much calculating necessary, before I durst lay out a sixpence" (74, adapted from p. 75). The many dashes in the passage realised opposite the full-page lithograph remind the reader that this scene outside the shops is narrated by one of the characters and not by the omniscient voice, and that therefore the illustration represents an extension of the text. For the sake of economy, Dickens has utilised indirect presentation, setting the marketing scene in the context of Mrs. Tetterby's growing doubts about the wisdom of marrying a newsagent of small means over having married a man with better prospects. This anguished doubt is, of course, prepares the reader for Mrs. Tetterby's being tested by the baneful effects of Redlaw's "double." The scene for modern readers may recall the scene in the 1951 Renown-Rank cinematic adaptation when Tiny Tim's momentary enjoyment of the mechanical toys in the shop window before the very thing from which he derives so much enjoyment is sold.
Just prior to this illustration Dickens through the dialogue between husband and wife specifically names Mrs. Tetterby "Sophia" (73), conveying some notion of her individuality as she ponders whether she should have accepted the marriage proposal of one of those "sons of Mars" (73), i. e., sergeants, over that of Adolphus Tetterby. The sentimental dialogue and her ensuing narrative concerning her marketing expedition give Sophia Tetterby something of a "back-story" that Mrs. Cratchit in the first Christmas Book, for example, lacks, but which Dot in The Cricket on the Hearth possesses. Although Adolphus designates her many times as "My little woman" (pages 69, 72, 73, etc.), Sophia Tetterby is hardly the stereotypical, lower-middle-class Victorian wife and mother, despite her dedication to hearth and home; although she does not consider the kind of life she might have had outside marriage, she thoughtfully examines her wedding-ring, which represents the choice she made, as she is tempted to ponder the kind of life she might have had as the wife of another.
And yet, despite Dickens's development of her character, she appears just once in the original 1848 narrative-pictorial sequence 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 illustrations for 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 twice in 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 most radical personality alteration by depicting 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.
What distinguishes Green's treatment of Mrs. Tetterby in these illustrations is his obvious sympathy for her. Despite exhaustion from her recent shopping trip, she immediately acknowledges Johnny, whose face she touches tenderly as he holds up Sally to receive a maternal kiss. In this present illustration, which prepares the reader for the transformation which Redlaw's "double" effects upon those with whom he comes into contact, Sophia Tetterby critically examines the contents of the grocer's window from the vantage point of the snowy street. Behind her (right) a middle-class father and daughter, fashionably dressed, move past the shop, not having to make such nice calculations as those in Mrs. Tetterby's mind. She betrays a slight agitation in the position of her hands as she critically regards the fresh fruit in the box in the display window. Green juxtaposes her large wicker basket on her left arm against the large, well-lit window whose contents are largely beyond her limited means. Her nose seems slightly red, as if pinched by the cold, but otherwise she presents the same thoughtful profile as in Mrs. Tetterby, Johnny, and the Baby, Green's thirteenth illustration, as well as the same bonnet and patterned shawl. However, here Green presents her outside the domestic context: here she is a careful consumer and canny shopper wishing, nevertheless, that she might be able to afford more extensive purchases and the kind of luxuries other shoppers seem able to manage. Thus, Mrs. Tetterby in Green's extension of the text is not consistent with the 1848 illustration of a cartoon-like, short, dumpy, middle-aged woman following the model of Mrs. Cratchit in the first Christmas Book, but rather represents a more modern notion of the domestic role played by women a century ago, and a more modern characterization of the female perspective.
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 10 July 2015