The Drum's Speech
14.8 x 9.8 cm. vignetted
Dickens's The Chimes, The Pears' Centenary Edition, vol. 2, page 143.
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Before Will Fern could make the least reply, a band of music burst into the room, attended by a lot of neighbours, screaming "A Happy New Year, Meg!" "A Happy Wedding!" "Many of em!" and other fragmentary good wishes of that sort. The Drum (who was a private friend of Trotty's) then stepped forward, and said:
"Trotty Veck, my boy! It's got about, that your daughter is going to be married to-morrow. There an't a soul that knows you that don't wish you well, or that knows her and don't wish her well. Or that knows you both, and don't wish you both all the happiness the New Year can bring. And here we are, to play it in and dance it in, accordingly."
Which was received with a general shout. The Drum was rather drunk, by-the-bye; but, never mind.
["Fourth Quarter," p. 144, 1912 edition]
Neither The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells That Rang An Old Year Out and a New Year In (1844) has no precise equivalent for this character study, although the Tivoli Professors, led by the Drum, are featured prominently in John Leech's final illustration, The New Year's Dance, which, however, foregrounds Trotty dancing with Mrs. Chickenstalker. The caption for The Drum's Speech is a quotation drawn from the following page: "Or that knows you both, and don't wish you both all the happiness the New Year can bring." The illustration emphasizes the reaction of the community (of which the reader has little sense throughout the story, except for Jabez's band of street musicians, who seem more pertinent to Charles Dickens's experiences on the Italian tour of 1844-45 when he and his family stayed in Genoa than to the Parish of St. Paul's, London) to Meg's impending marriage. The drum is not a mere caricature, according to Green, in contrast John Leech's bass-drum player, a sprig of green in his hat. Indeed, Green invests his face with a tinge of melancholy, a sense of the fleeting quality of human happiness, that one sees in the paintings of Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) such as the Commedia dell'arte performer Gilles (1718-18). The drummer (in more upbeat mood) also appears at the top of the dancers in Harry Furniss's interpretation of the New Year's dance, but does not rise above the level of supporting character. Green regards the melancholic musician as an entertainer who observes the dance of life, but never really participates it.
Illustrations from the first edition (1844) and the Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910)
Left: John Leech's scene of Trotty dancing with Mrs. Chickenstalker, The New Year's Dance. Right: Harry Furniss's study of Trotty's seeing his daughter, her fiance, Lilian, and Mrs. Chickenstalker happily dancing in his dream, from which he appears to be awakening, Trotty's Dream. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
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 byHarry 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.
Last modified 16 April 2015