"The Waif" 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 savage nature of Green's street boy supine before Redlaw's fire, "Let me be, or I'll heave some fire at you!" (p. 98, quoted from the very top of the same page in the text). Green's boy of the streets is better clothed and less atavistic but more realistic than the Waif of Harry Furniss's 1910 pen-and-ink drawing "I'll bite if you hit me", and rather less cartoonish than John Leech's 1848 ragged figure enjoying sheer heat, The Boy before the Fire. As believable and somewhat more dynamic is Fred Barnard's 1878 figure in rags, "I'm not a-going to take you there. Let me be, or I'll heave some fire at you!".

The Passage Illustrated

The fire, to which he had directed the boy last night, shining brightly through the glass, made an illuminated place upon the ground. Instinctively avoiding this, and going round it, he looked in at the window. At first, he thought that there was no one there, and that the blaze was reddening only the old beams in the ceiling and the dark walls; but peering in more narrowly, he saw the object of his search coiled asleep before it on the floor. He passed quickly to the door, opened it, and went in.

The creature lay in such a fiery heat, that, as the Chemist stooped to rouse him, it scorched his head. So soon as he was touched, the boy, not half awake, clutching his rags together with the instinct of flight upon him, half rolled and half ran into a distant corner of the room, where, heaped upon the ground, he struck his foot out to defend himself.

"Get up!" said the Chemist. "You have not forgotten me?"

"You let me alone!" returned the boy. "This is the woman's house — not yours."

The Chemist’s steady eye controlled him somewhat, or inspired him with enough submission to be raised upon his feet, and looked at.

"Who washed them, and put those bandages where they were bruised and cracked?" asked the Chemist, pointing to their altered state.

"The woman did."

"And is it she who has made you cleaner in the face, too?"

"Yes, the woman."

Redlaw asked these questions to attract his eyes towards himself, and with the same intent now held him by the chin, and threw his wild hair back, though he loathed to touch him. The boy watched his eyes keenly, as if he thought it needful to his own defence, not knowing what he might do next; and Redlaw could see well that no change came over him.

"Where are they?" he inquired.

"The woman's out."

"I know she is. Where is the old man with the white hair, and his son?"

"The woman’s husband, d'ye mean?" inquired the boy.

"Ay. Where are those two?"

"Out. Something's the matter, somewhere. They were fetched out in a hurry, and told me to stop here."

"Come with me," said the Chemist, "and I'll give you money."

"Come where? and how much will you give?"

"I’ll give you more shillings than you ever saw, and bring you back soon. Do you know your way to where you came from?"

"You let me go," returned the boy, suddenly twisting out of his grasp. "I'm not a going to take you there. Let me be, or I'll heave some fire at you!"

He was down before it, and ready, with his savage little hand, to pluck the burning coals out. ["Chapter Two: The Gift Diffused," Pears Centenary Edition, p. 97-98]

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 John Leech's character study of the street-smart waif, The Boy before the Fire.

Whereas Leech's boy sits on a cushioned chair, eating and enjoying the warmth, Green's reaches towards the fire as he casts a baleful look at us — thus, Green places the viewer in Redlaw's position, and focusses on the boy's fire-lit face which contrasts the shadows behind him as he is caught in contrapposto rather than (as ion Leech's wood-engraving) sitting rigidly on a chair. Although Leech's Boy is no mere abstraction, but a child whose realism is conveyed through his various emotions and his size relative to the chair, he lacks both the photographic realism and the smouldering intensity of gaze seen in this 1912 lithograph. Leech's Boy is fascinated, almost hypnotized by the fire into whose flames hestares, but the character as envisaged by the later illustrators asserts himself against anybodywho threatens to come between him and the source of his comfort; he is thus a more Darwinian figure than the Leech original as described by Barnard, Furniss, and Green. In the 1878, 1910, and 1912 illustrations, the Boy is dark and menacing as he looks out at the readerfrom a page printed after the publication of the ground-breaking scientific work, Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, published eleven years after Dickens's novella, but over fifty years before the Pears edition.

Relevant Illustrations from the 1848 and Later Editions

John Leech's description of bony waif enjoying real heat and dryness in Redlaw's rooms in the Old College, The Boy before the Fire; right, Harry Furniss impressionistic description of the same character in his first appearance, "I'll bite if you hit me" (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Above: right, Fred Barnard's 1878 melodramatic engraving of Redlaw's encountering the boy in front of the fireplace, "I'm not a-going to take you there. Let me be, or I'll heave some fire at you!". [Click on image to enlarge it.]

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 3 September 2015