The Haunted Man and the Woman on the Stairs
11.8 x 7.6 cm, exclusive of frame
Dickens's The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain. A Fancy for Christmas Time, The Pears' Centenary Edition, vol.5, page 103.
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"In there!" he said, pointing out one house where there were shattered lights in the windows, and a dim lantern in the doorway, with "Lodgings for Travellers" painted on it.
Redlaw looked about him; from the houses to the waste piece of ground on which the houses stood, or rather did not altogether tumble down, unfenced, undrained, unlighted, and bordered by a sluggish ditch; from that, to the sloping line of arches, part of some neighbouring viaduct or bridge with which it was surrounded, and which lessened gradually towards them, until the last but one was a mere kennel for a dog, the last a plundered little heap of bricks; from that, to the child, close to him, cowering and trembling with the cold, and limping on one little foot, while he coiled the other round his leg to warm it, yet staring at all these things with that frightful likeness of expression so apparent in his face, that Redlaw started from him.
"In there!" said the boy, pointing out the house again. "I'll wait."
"Will they let me in?" asked Redlaw.
"Say you're a doctor," he answered with a nod. "There's plenty ill here."
Looking back on his way to the house-door, Redlaw saw him trail himself upon the dust and crawl within the shelter of the smallest arch, as if he were a rat. He had no pity for the thing, but he was afraid of it; and when it looked out of its den at him, he hurried to the house as a retreat.
"Sorrow, wrong, and trouble," said the Chemist, with a painful effort at some more distinct remembrance, "at least haunt this place darkly. He can do no harm, who brings forgetfulness of such things here!"
With these words, he pushed the yielding door, and went in.
There was a woman sitting on the stairs, either asleep or forlorn, whose head was bent down on her hands and knees. As it was not easy to pass without treading on her, and as she was perfectly regardless of his near approach, he stopped, and touched her on the shoulder. Looking up, she showed him quite a young face, but one whose bloom and promise were all swept away, as if the haggard winter should unnaturally kill the spring.
With little or no show of concern on his account, she moved nearer to the wall to leave him a wider passage.
"What are you?" said Redlaw, pausing, with his hand upon the broken stair-rail.
"What do you think I am?" she answered, showing him her face again.
He looked upon the ruined Temple of God, so lately made, so soon disfigured; and something, which was not compassion — for the springs in which a true compassion for such miseries has its rise, were dried up in his breast — but which was nearer to it, for the moment, than any feeling that had lately struggled into the darkening, but not yet wholly darkened, night of his mind — mingled a touch of softness with his next words. [Chapter Two: "The Gift Diffused," p. 101-104]
The caption immediately below the illustration points directly towards the moment realised: "She moved nearer to the wall. 'What are you?' said Redlaw, pausing" (103, adapted from the bottom of p. 102). The bare caption does not reveal, however, that Redlaw and his guide have passed through some of London's meanest streets, and that therefore, in all likelihood, although Dickens avoids the word, she is a prostitute. As a species of social realism, the illustration is as oblique as Harry Furniss's Spring Killed by Haggard Winter, dating from just two years earlier. These night scenes are akin to that visual social critique by John Leech of the ragged boy and girl, symbolically labelled "Ignorance" and "Want," in his highly realistic delineation of these figures, allegorical and yet convincing in their suffering, in Ignorance and Want (1843). Green's scene, like Furniss's, is unusual in that it realises an aspect of the story which all the nineteenth-century illustrators of the book have avoided: the East-end slum from which the urchin comes, where, moreover, dissolute gambler George Swidger lies dying. The original illustrators of the 1848 edition and the Household Edition illustrators of the 1870s did not shy away from depicting the poverty-stricken proletariat's representative, the cowering, ragged child of The Boy before the Fire. But neither of the Household Editions' renditions of the street boy includes his sordid origins, the East End slum from which he has come. In "Chapter 2: The Gift Diffused," Fred Barnard realises this lean, atavistic denizen of the London slums in "I'm not a-going to take you there. Let me be, or I'll heave some fire at you!". Harry Furniss, in the Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910), is both conventional (in presenting an allegorical figure realistically) and daring, in that he has elected to depict a marginal figure who rarely appears in Victorian book illustrations, the Fallen Woman, a type whom Dickens was shortly to explore more fully in the characters of Martha and Little Em'ly in David Copperfield (1849-50). Although Green's interpretation of the scene is less dramatic, it is far more realistic in its depiction of the young woman, wearing a shawl and bonnet against the elements.
Relevant Illustrations from the 1848 and Later Editions
Left: John Leech's realistic study of the allegorical evils of the factory system, Ignorance and Want (1843). Right: Harry Furniss's realisation of the university professor's encounter with a young prostitute, Spring Killed by Haggard Winter (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
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 4 September 2015