Alderman Cute and Mr. Filer by Charles Green (p. 40). 1912. 7.5 x 10 cm. Dickens's The Chimes, Pears Centenary Edition, in which the plates have often captions that are different from the titles in the "List of Illustrations" (p. 15-16). The textual quotation that serves as the caption for this illustration of Trotty being confronted by the severe alderman and his hanger-on, the statistician Filer on the steps of the old church is "He who had Toby's meat upon the fork, called to the first one by the name of Filer" ("First Quarter," p. 40 — the passage realised is immediately below the illustration).

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Passage Illustrated

"What's the matter, what's the matter!" said the gentleman for whom the door was opened; coming out of the house at that kind of light-heavy pace — that peculiar compromise between a walk and a jog-trot — with which a gentleman upon the smooth down-hill of life, wearing creaking boots, a watch-chain, and clean linen, may come out of his house: not only without any abatement of his dignity, but with an expression of having important and wealthy engagements elsewhere. "What's the matter! What's the matter!"

"You're always a-being begged, and prayed, upon your bended knees you are," said the footman with great emphasis to Trotty Veck, "to let our door-steps be. Why don't you let 'em be? Can't you let 'em be?"

"There! That'll do, that'll do!" said the gentleman. "Halloa there! Porter!" beckoning with his head to Trotty Veck. "Come here. What's that? Your dinner?"

"Yes, sir," said Trotty, leaving it behind him in a corner.

"Don't leave it there," exclaimed the gentleman. "Bring it here, bring it here. So! This is your dinner, is it?"

"Yes, sir," repeated Trotty, looking with a fixed eye and a watery mouth, at the piece of tripe he had reserved for a last delicious tit-bit; which the gentleman was now turning over and over on the end of the fork.

Two other gentlemen had come out with him. One was a low-spirited gentleman of middle age, of a meagre habit, and a disconsolate face; who kept his hands continually in the pockets of his scanty pepper-and-salt trousers, very large and dog's-eared from that custom; and was not particularly well brushed or washed. The other, a full-sized, sleek, well-conditioned gentleman, in a blue coat with bright buttons, and a white cravat. This gentleman had a very red face, as if an undue proportion of the blood in his body were squeezed up into his head; which perhaps accounted for his having also the appearance of being rather cold about the heart.

He who had Toby's meat upon the fork, called to the first one by the name of Filer; and they both drew near together. Mr. Filer being exceedingly short-sighted, was obliged to go so close to the remnant of Toby's dinner before he could make out what it was, that Toby’s heart leaped up into his mouth. But Mr. Filer didn't eat it.

"This is a description of animal food, Alderman," said Filer, making little punches in it with a pencil-case, "commonly known to the labouring population of this country, by the name of tripe."

The Alderman laughed, and winked; for he was a merry fellow, Alderman Cute. Oh, and a sly fellow too! A knowing fellow. Up to everything. Not to be imposed upon. Deep in the people’s hearts! He knew them, Cute did. I believe you!

         ["First Quarter," p. 38-41, 1912 edition]

Commentary

The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells That Rang An Old Year Out and a New Year In (1844) provides no caption for the equivalent illustration by John Leech, but has the following title in the "List of Illustrations": The Dinner on the Steps ("First Quarter," p. 34). Green's characters are far more realistically drawn, with normal rather than distorted faces and postures. As in the study of the same scene by E. A. Abbey for the American Household Edition of 1876, off to one side, observing Filer's attempting to humiliate Trotty, are the sturdy blacksmith Richard and his fiancee, Meggy Veck. Significantly, Green conveys the identity of the building in front of which the scene transpires — the alderman's townhouse, as suggested by the windows and iron railings on the steps. Using a horizontal rather than a vertical orientation, Green is better able to fit Richard and Meg into the scene as observers, whereas in Leech's original they stand to one side, apparently oblivious to the dialogue between Trotty and Filer regarding the consumption of tripe as a delicacy (which it decidedly was not for the upper and middle classes at the time). Green also conveys a better sense that the backdrop is the façade of Alderman Cute's house, there being a very narrow front door and no railing on the narrow steps, on which Leech has awkwardly perched three figures in the 1844 illustration.

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Illustrations from the first edition (1844), and the American (1876) and British Household Edition (1878)

Left: John Leech's scene on the steps of the Alderman's house opposite the old church, Alderman Cute and his Friends. Right: Fred Barnard's study of​Trotty and his beautiful daughter, "No," said Toby after another sniff. "It's — It's mellower than Polonies." [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Above: E. A. Abbey's 1876​ wood-engraving of Trotty's being accosted by Alderman Cute and the statistician, Filer, "What's the matter? What's the matter?" said the gentleman for whom the door was opened." [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

References

Dickens, Charles. The Chimes. Introduction by Clement Shorter. Illustrated by Charles Green. The Pears' Centenary Edition. London: A & F Pears, [?1912].

Dickens, Charles. The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells That Rang An Old Year Out and a New Year In. Illustrated by John Leech, Richard Doyle, Clarkson Stanfield, and Daniel Maclise. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1844.

Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books​. Illustrated by​Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.

_____. Christmas Stories​. Illustrated by​ E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.


Last modified 1 April 2015