The Firm of Tugby, late Chickenstalker by Charles Green (p. 119). 1912. 7.6 x 11 cm, exclusive of frame. Dickens's The Chimes, Pears Centenary Edition, in which the plates often have captions that are different from the titles in the "List of Illustrations" (p. 15-16). Specifically, The Firm of Tugby, late Chickenstalker has a lengthy caption that is quite different from its title in the "List of Illustrations"; the textual quotation that serves as the caption for this illustration of the comfortable bourgeois couple enjoying the warmth of their parlour while outside in the darkness (suggestive of despair) the poor are freezing is "'I'm glad to think we had muffins,' said the former porter, in the tone of one who had set his conscience at rest" ("Fourth Quarter," p. 119 — the passage realised is on the previous page, immediately opposite the illustration, which occupies two-thirds of page 119). There is no equivalent illustration in the 1844 first edition of the novella.

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

So desolate was Trotty, and so mournful for the youth and promise of his blighted child, that it was a sorrow to him, even to have no place in Mrs. Chickenstalker's ledger.

"What sort of a night is it, Anne?" inquired the former porter of Sir Joseph Bowley, stretching out his legs before the fire, and rubbing as much of them as his short arms could reach; with an air that added, "Here I am if it's bad, and I don't want to go out if it's good."

"Blowing and sleeting hard," returned his wife; "and threatening snow. Dark. And very cold."

"I'm glad to think we had muffins,' said the former porter, in the tone of one who had set his conscience at rest. "It's a sort of night that's meant for muffins. Likewise crumpets. Also Sally Lunns."

The former porter mentioned each successive kind of eatable, as if he were musingly summing up his good actions. After which he rubbed his fat legs as before, and jerking them at the knees to get the fire upon the yet unroasted parts, laughed as if somebody had tickled him.

"You're in spirits, Tugby, my dear," observed his wife.

The firm was Tugby, late Chickenstalker.

"No," said Tugby. "No. Not particular. I'm a little elewated. The muffins came so pat!"

With that he chuckled until he was black in the face; and had so much ado to become any other colour, that his fat legs took the strangest excursions into the air. Nor were they reduced to anything like decorum until Mrs. Tugby had thumped him violently on the back, and shaken him as if he were a great bottle.

         ["Fourth Quarter," p. 118, 1912 edition]

Commentary

In contrast to the sufferings of the lodger in the back-attic, Richard, the Tugbys are leading a life of comparative comfort. However, the husband lacks a soft spot in his heart for Richard and Margaret, unlike his wife, the former Mrs. Chickenstalker, who remembers them both as hopeful and attractive young adults — before the death of Trotty Veck nine years earlier. Mr. Tugby, formerly the porter of Sir Joseph Bowley, dispatches Margaret for unpaid rent as soon as her husband dies, leaving her destitute and with the burden of a young child. Although Charles Green depicts the couple without visual satire or physical distortion, Fred Barnard enjoys the grotesquerie of the Tugbys, ridiculing them as overfed and oblivious to the sufferings of the working poor. The 1878 Household Edition shows the lower middle class, middle-aged couple seated comfortably before their fire; but around them, almost menacing their fireside ease, are deep shadows, through which we see a considerable accumulation of material possessions, including a grandfather clock (upper left) and plate (upper right). Although Barnard has deliberately obscured the background in order to accentuate the figures, Green has reacted to Dickens's text in a more realistic vein, making the Tugbys in their parlour look rather like the Bumbles in theirs in Oliver Twist. Green's realistic interpretation signifies his conception of the Tugbys as quite normal petite bourgeoisie enjoying their middle-aged ease before a roaring (and therefore expensive) coal fire; although he throws the husband and wife's faces into chiaroscuro to emphasize their cheerfulness on so raw a night, Green also suggests their affluence by the clock and bric-and-brac on the mantlepiece, including china figurines and metal candlesticks, two framed prints on the walls, and a leaded-pane china cabinet (right) — a thoroughly respectable Victorian parlour that contrasts Meg's garret.

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

Left: Leech's scene of Trotty's encountering Sir Joseph's porter, Tugby, Sir Joseph Bowley's. Right: John Leech's's study of​ Mrs. Chickenstalker, dancing with Trotty at Meg's wedding, The New Year's Dance. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Above: Fred Barnard's 1878 wood-engraving of Trotty's encountering in the future his grocer, Mrs. Chickenstalker, as the wife of Sir Joseph Bowley's former porter, "You're in spirits, Tugby, my dear." [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 13 April 2015