Mrs. Tetterby and the Baby
8.4 x 7.5 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 130.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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Mrs. Tetterby had [Johnny] into the parlour by the collar, in that same flash of time, and repaid him the assault [on his infant sister, Sally or "Moloch"] with usury thereto.
"You brute, you murdering little boy," said Mrs. Tetterby. "Had you the heart to do it?"
"Why don't her teeth come through, then," retorted Johnny, in a loud rebellious voice, "instead of bothering me? How would you like it yourself?"
"Like it, sir!" said Mrs. Tetterby, relieving him of his dishonoured load.
"Yes, like it," said Johnny. "How would you? Not at all. If you was me, you'd go for a soldier. I will, too. There an't no babies in the Army."
Mr. Tetterby, who had arrived upon the scene of action, rubbed his chin thoughtfully, instead of correcting the rebel, and seemed rather struck by this view of a military life.
"I wish I was in the Army myself, if the child's in the right," said Mrs. Tetterby, looking at her husband, "for I have no peace of my life here. I'm a slave — a Virginia slave": some indistinct association with their weak descent on the tobacco trade perhaps suggested this aggravated expression to Mrs. Tetterby. "I never have a holiday, or any pleasure at all, from year's end to year's end! Why, Lord bless and save the child," said Mrs. Tetterby, shaking the baby with an irritability hardly suited to so pious an aspiration, "what's the matter with her now?"
Not being able to discover, and not rendering the subject much clearer by shaking it, Mrs. Tetterby put the baby away in a cradle, and, folding her arms, sat rocking it angrily with her foot.
"How you stand there, 'Dolphus," said Mrs. Tetterby to her husband. "Why don't you do something?" [Chapter Three: "The Gift Reversed," p. 129-130]
The caption immediately below the illustration points directly towards the moment realised: "Mrs. Tetterby put the baby away in a cradle, and, folding her arms, sat rocking it angrily with her foot" (p. 130, quoted verbatim from the bottom of the same page). The bare caption does not reveal, however, the full situation, namely that Mrs. Tetterbys' disgust with the baby and dissatisfaction with her marriage and life in general stem from her having been exposed to Redlaw's "contagion." Whereas Leech depicts the initial situation with cartoon-like humour and some detail, showing the shop front and Johnny both, as well as Mr. Tetterby putting down the shutters in preparation for the start of the business day, Harry Furniss's The Tetterbys' Baby, depicts the child abuse that results from Mrs. Tetterby's loss of compassion and tender memories as a consequence of exposure to Redlaw's Phantom. Thus, as a realist Charles Green has opted for yet another prosaic scene which is neither, in the Leech manner, amusing, nor, in the Furniss manner, dramatic. Green's treatment suggests that Mrs. Tetterby's dissatisfaction is slight rather than grievous; the illustration is part of what one might term Green's "child-rearing" sequence, a theme natural enough in a new edition of The Christmas Books wholly underwritten by the Pears Soap Company, which by its child logos clearly marketed itself as "infant-friendly." Of the twenty-illustrations in this volume, nine involve the quintessential lower-middle-class Tetterbys, and eight involve children (the Tetterby brood and the waif), so that Green's subject is as much (in the abstract) childhood as it is the benevolent effects of memory.
Of the sudden change in disposition of the Tetterbys, in the "Introduction" editor Clement Shorter remarks,
The boon is a curse, for recollections of unhappiness and ill-will are accompanied by memories of happiness and generous kindness. Redlaw and his associates all suffer alike. The delightful Tetterby family, usually so united, quarrel when he approaches; so do the other nice people of his environment. [Page 10]
Relevant Illustrations from the 1848 and 1910 Editions
Left: John Leech's cartoon-like study of Augustus Tetterby, Johnny, and "Moloch" in the street, Johnny and Moloch (1848). Right: Harry Furniss's realisation of Mrs. Tetterby's harsh treatment of Johnny, The Tetterbys' Baby (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: Fred Barnard's treatment of an earlier scene in which Johnny was carrying the infant Sally through the streets, It roved from door-step to door-step, in the arms of little Johnny Tetterby, and lagged heavily at the rear of troops of juveniles who followed the Tumblers (1878). [Click on image to enlarge it.]
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.
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 7 September 2015