"Mrs. William and the Sick Student" by Charles Green. 1912. 8.0 x 9.2 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 used a direct quotation that illustrates the surliness of Green's sick student lying on his ample couch in his dressing gown, "'The pillows are not comfortable,' she said. 'I will soon put them right'" (p. 90, adapted from the very top of the same page in the text). Green's Mrs. William is much less the angular magazine beauty than the Milly of Harry Furniss's 1910 pen-and-ink drawing Milly, and rather more believable as a young married woman of the 1840s whose face and posture betoken genuine concern for the health and comfort of the "poor student," Longford (alias, "Denham").

The Passage Illustrated

"Dear Mr. Edmund,” said Milly, looking round, "they told me there was a gentleman here."

"There is no one here but I."

"There has been some one?"

"Yes, yes, there has been some one."

She put her little basket on the table, and went up to the back of the couch, as if to take the extended hand — but it was not there. A little surprised, in her quiet way, she leaned over to look at his face, and gently touched him on the brow.

"Are you quite as well to-night? Your head is not so cool as in the afternoon."

"Tut!" said the student, petulantly, "very little ails me."

A little more surprise, but no reproach, was expressed in her face, as she withdrew to the other side of the table, and took a small packet of needlework from her basket. But she laid it down again, on second thoughts, and going noiselessly about the room, set everything exactly in its place, and in the neatest order; even to the cushions on the couch, which she touched with so light a hand, that he hardly seemed to know it, as he lay looking at the fire. When all this was done, and she had swept the hearth, she sat down, in her modest little bonnet, to her work, and was quietly busy on it directly.

"It's the new muslin curtain for the window, Mr. Edmund," said Milly, stitching away as she talked. "It will look very clean and nice, though it costs very little, and will save your eyes, too, from the light. My William says the room should not be too light just now, when you are recovering so well, or the glare might make you giddy."

He said nothing; but there was something so fretful and impatient in his change of position, that her quick fingers stopped, and she looked at him anxiously.

"The pillows are not comfortable," she said, laying down her work and rising. "I will soon put them right."

"They are very well," he answered. "Leave them alone, pray. You make so much of everything."

He raised his head to say this, and looked at her so thanklessly, that, after he had thrown himself down again, she stood timidly pausing. However, she resumed her seat, and her needle, without having directed even a murmuring look towards him, and was soon as busy as before. ["Chapter Two: The Gift Diffused," Pears Centenary Edition, p. 89-90]

Commentary

Although the seventies illustrators of the British and American Household Editions of The Christmas Books, Fred Barnard and E. A. Abbey, offered fresh ideas and realised situations that their predecessors had not, Charles Green for the 1912 Pears Centenary Edition of The Haunted Man is still responding for the most part to the 1848 illustrations by the team of illustrators led by John Leech. In this instance, the illustration to which Green is responding is Frank Stone's elegant composition, Milly and the Student. However, whereas Stone's student seems genuinely ill and even despondent, Green's Denham's (i. e., Longford's) expression is one of discontent and sarcasm, as if he does not appreciate Milly's attention and kindnesses. Green has elected to show the effect of Redlaw's doppelganger on the poor student, and has therefore transformed despondency and despair into superciliousness, losing the beautiful conmplement in the tender facial expressions in the picture by Dickens's original illustrator, Frank Stone, who had so effectively communicated the young man's hopelessness through the student's posture and expression. Whereas Stone has placed the suffering youth on a small couch to imply his painful and constrained circumstances, Green has placed him on a full-length couch, perhaps to suggest that his background is one of middle-class comfort rather than indigence — and that he is not what he seems. However, both illustrators (unlike Furniss in 1910, who foregrounds Milly and accentuates her figure) ably match their conceptions to the text realised, since Milly is in the very act of solicitously adjusting the student's pillow in both.

Relevant Illustrations from the 1848 and Later Editions

Frank Stone's description of Milly Swidger's tenderly ministering to the sick student: Milly and the Student; centre, Harry Furniss elegant description of Milly Swidger's visit to Denham's rooms, Milly (1910); and, right, Fred Barnard's 1878 melodramatic engraving of Redlaw and Denham earlier, "Mr. Redlaw!" he exclaimed, and started up.. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

References

Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1998.

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 22 July 2015