The Tetterbys Come to Themselves
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 137.
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"Poor people," said Mr. Tetterby, "ought not to have children at all. They give us no pleasure."
He was at that moment taking up the cup which Mrs. Tetterby had rudely pushed towards him, and Mrs. Tetterby was lifting her own cup to her lips, when they both stopped, as if they were transfixed.
"Here! Mother! Father!" cried Johnny, running into the room. "Here's Mrs. William coming down the street!"
And if ever, since the world began, a young boy took a baby from a cradle with the care of an old nurse, and hushed and soothed it tenderly, and tottered away with it cheerfully, Johnny was that boy, and Moloch was that baby, as they went out together!
Mr. Tetterby put down his cup; Mrs. Tetterby put down her cup. Mr. Tetterby rubbed his forehead; Mrs. Tetterby rubbed hers. Mr. Tetterby's face began to smooth and brighten; Mrs. Tetterby's began to smooth and brighten.
"Why, Lord forgive me," said Mr. Tetterby to himself, "what evil tempers have I been giving way to? What has been the matter here!""
How could I ever treat him ill again, after all I said and felt last night!" sobbed Mrs. Tetterby, with her apron to her eyes.
"Am I a brute," said Mr. Tetterby, "or is there any good in me at all? Sophia! My little woman!"
"'Dolphus dear," returned his wife.
"I — I've been in a state of mind," said Mr. Tetterby, "that I can't abear to think of, Sophy."
"Oh! It's nothing to what I've been in, Dolf," cried his wife in a great burst of grief.
"My Sophia," said Mr. Tetterby, "don't take on. I never shall forgive myself. I must have nearly broke your heart, I know."
"No, Dolf, no. It was me! Me!" cried Mrs. Tetterby.
"My little woman," said her husband, "don't. You make me reproach myself dreadful, when you show such a noble spirit. Sophia, my dear, you don't know what I thought. I showed it bad enough, no doubt; but what I thought, my little woman! —"
"Oh, dear Dolf, don't! Don't!" cried his wife.
"Sophia," said Mr. Tetterby, "I must reveal it. I couldn't rest in my conscience unless I mentioned it. My little woman —"
"Mrs. William's very nearly here!" screamed Johnny at the door.
"My little woman, I wondered how," gasped Mr. Tetterby, supporting himself by his chair, "I wondered how I had ever admired you — I forgot the precious children you have brought about me, and thought you didn't look as slim as I could wish. I — I never gave a recollection," said Mr. Tetterby, with severe self-accusation, "to the cares you've had as my wife, and along of me and mine, when you might have had hardly any with another man, who got on better and was luckier than me (anybody might have found such a man easily I am sure); and I quarrelled with you for having aged a little in the rough years you have lightened for me. Can you believe it, my little woman? I hardly can myself."
Mrs. Tetterby, in a whirlwind of laughing and crying, caught his face within her hands, and held it there.
"Oh, Dolf!" she cried. "I am so happy that you thought so; I am so grateful that you thought so! For I thought that you were common- looking, Dolf; and so you are, my dear, and may you be the commonest of all sights in my eyes, till you close them with your own good hands. I thought that you were small; and so you are, and I'll make much of you because you are, and more of you because I love my husband. I thought that you began to stoop; and so you do, and you shall lean on me, and I'll do all I can to keep you up. I thought there was no air about you; but there is, and it's the air of home, and that's the purest and the best there is, and God bless home once more, and all belonging to it, Dolf!"
"Hurrah! Here's Mrs. William!" cried Johnny. [Chapter Three: "The Gift Reversed," p. 134-137]
The caption immediately below the illustration points directly towards the moment realised: "Mrs. Tetterby, in a whirlwind of laughing and crying, caught his face within her hands, and held it there" (p. 137, quoted verbatim from the bottom of the preceding page). The bare caption does not reveal, however, the full situation, namely that Mrs. Tetterby's disgust with the baby and dissatisfaction with her marriage and life in general (stemming from her having been exposed to Redlaw's "contagion") have resulted in a family quarrel of epic proportions for the good-natured couple. 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. The sequence ends with the husband and wife forgiving one another, a happy ending probably resulting from their proximity to Milly Swidger ("Mrs. William"), whose influence even at a distance counteracts that of the Haunted Man and his malignant double, "The Phantom." The narrative strategy of announcing the imminent arrival of the timely rescuer Dickens has borrowed from Bluebeard by Charles Perrault, a favourite among Dickens's childhood books.
Through this Tetterby sequence, Charles Green has opted for a realistic (albeit, prosaic) approach to the turmoil in the Tetterby household, showing the figures in the round against domestic interiors with near-photographic realism. These scenes of domestic comedy are neither, in the Leech manner, amusing, nor, in the Furniss manner, dramatic. Green's treatment here suggests that Mrs. Tetterby has overcome her momentary dissatisfaction with her marriage as she gently takes her (shorter) husband's face in both hands as she smiles at him — the reader must construct the expression on his face. A realistic touch is the short man's gripping the arms of his chair before the fireplace (where he customarily reads the newspaper) to support himself as he leans forward so that she need not bend over to touch him.
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 8 September 2015