The Banquet at Bowley Hall by Charles Green (p. 103). 1912. 7 x 10.9 cm. Dickens's The Chimes, Pears Centenary Edition, in which the plates often often captions that are different from the titles in the "List of Illustrations" (p. 15-16). Specifically, The Banquet at Bowley Hall has a caption that is quite different from the title in the "List of Illustrations"; the textual quotation that serves as the caption for this illustration of Will's deriding Sir Joseph and his guests as callous and hypocritical is ""Gentlefolks!" he said. "You've drunk the Labourer. Look at me!" ("Third Quarter," p. 103 — the passage realised is immediately above the illustration).

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Passage Illustrated

"The ragged visitor — for he was miserably dressed &mdash ;looked round upon the company, and made his homage to them with a humble bow.

"Gentlefolks!" he said. "You've drunk the Labourer. Look at me!"

"Just come from jail," said Mr. Fish.

"Just come from jail," said Will. "And neither for the first time, nor the second, nor the third, nor yet the fourth."

Mr. Filer was heard to remark testily, that four times was over the average; and he ought to be ashamed of himself.

"Gentlefolks!" repeated Will Fern. "Look at me! You see I'm at the worst. Beyond all hurt or harm; beyond your help; for the time when your kind words or kind actions could have done me good," — he struck his hand upon his breast, and shook his head, "is gone, with the scent of last year’s beans or clover on the air. Let me say a word for these," pointing to the labouring people in the Hall; "and when you're met together, hear the real Truth spoke out for once."

         ["Third Quarter," p. 109, 1912 edition]

Commentary

Although The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells That Rang An Old Year Out and a New Year In (1844) provides no exact parallel for this illustration of Will Fern's denouncing the Bowleys and their guests. However, the principal illustrator of the Household Edition, Fred Barnard offered Charles Green a model against which in its melodramatic distortions to react, "Whither thou goest, I can Not go; where thou lodgest, I do Not lodge; thy people are Not my people; Nor thy God my God!" ("Third Quarter," p. 65). In Barnard's interpretation, bare-shouldered middle-aged aristocratic women and men in formal evening dress are stunned by Will's interruption; Barnard leaves Sir Joseph's reaction up to the reader, since the illustrator has position Sir Joseph, bottom centre, facing Will Fern and therefore with his face turned away from the viewer. While the fashionably dressed aristocrats seated at Sir Joseph's banquet table are shocked as much by Fern's gaunt, ragged appearance as by his message of class warfare, shadowy figures behind Fern, "the people . . . in their rustic dresses" (102) watch in wonder at his temerity as he disrupts Lady Bowley's birthday celebrations. Sir Joseph has toasted (as many landowners were wont to do in those days before the repeal of the Corn Laws) "the Dignity of Labour" (102), and now Fern as the zeitgeist of the Hungry Forties gives Sir Joseph his lie.

The illustration in the 1844 first edition of the novella that captures something of the frivolous activities and distant attitudes of the rural aristocracy is land- and seascape artist Clarkson Stanfield's scene dropped into the text of the fashionable sketching party's enjoying the prospect of Will Fern's rustic home, Will Fern's Cottage ("Third Quarter," p. 120). Green, however, following Barnard's precedent, grapples with the issue of the miserable lives of the rural farm labourer, positioning the lithograph in the midst of the passage. The tenants from Barnard's picture — "the people . . . in their rustic dresses" — are not evident in Green's interpretation, which focuses on the figurtes of Will and Sir Joseph. Although wearing a linen smock-frock still, as in his earlier appearances, Will has grown gaunt and old in prison. Although he has removed his broad-brimmed hat, Will Fern does not mute his passionate criticism of the members of the landed class who are both shocked and curious at their unexpected visitor. Like Barnard's dinner guests, Green's wear fashionable evening wear, but are realistically drawn, as are the banquet table and uniformed footman (left rear). The aristocracy in this interpretation are hardly caricatures, but normal, middle-aged people whose wealth insulates them from the sufferings of the Dorsetshire labourer.

Illustrations from the first edition (1844), the British Household Edition (1878), and the Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910)

Left: Clarkson Stanfield's scene of a picturesque peasantry, Will Fern's Cottage. Right: Fred Barnard's study of​ Fern's dramatic interruption of the banquet, "Whither thou goest, I can Not go; where thou lodgest, I do Not lodge; thy people are Not my people; Nor thy God my God!" [Click on images to enlarge them.]

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. 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. (1844). Rpt. in Charles Dickens's Christmas Books, ed. Michael Slater. Hardmondsworth: Penguin, 1971, rpt. 1978. Pp. 137-252.

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

Dickens, Charles. 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.

Solberg, Sarah A. "'Text Dropped into the Woodcuts': Dickens' Christmas Books." Dickens Studies Annual 8 (1980): 103-118.

Thomas, Deborah A. Dickens and The Short Story. Philadelphia: U. Pennsylvania Press, 1982.

Welsh, Alexander. "Time and the City in The Chimes." Dickensian 73, 1 (January 1977): 8-17.


Last modified 5 May 2015