"Breakfast in Dr. Jeddler's Orchard" by Charles Green (p. 27). 1912. 11 x 15.2 cm, exclusive of frame. Dickens's The Battle of Life, Pears Centenary Edition, in which the plates often have captions that are different from the titles in the "List of Illustrations" (p. 13-14). Specifically, Breakfast in Dr. Jeddler's Orchard 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 farewell meal for Alfred Heathfield before he departs to take up medical studies abroad is "Grace presided; but so discretely stationed herself, as to cut off her sister and Alfred from the rest of the company. Snitchey and Craggs sat with the blue bag between them for safety" ("Part the First," p. 35). In the 1846​first edition of the novella, the equivalent illustration is John Leech's The Parting Breakfast, but the British Household Edition, illustrated by Fred Barnard, contains no such picture of the parting breakfast. However, E. A. Abbey in the American Household Edition has realised precisely the same scene in the composite woodblock engraving "Meat?" said Britain, approaching Mr. Snitchey, with the carving knife and fork in his hands, and throwing the question at him like a missile. The earlier versions provide a contrast between the attractive young people, the crotchety lawyers, and the quirky servants; Green's version is far more realistic, but also more placid and mundane. In this respect, even Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s version in the Diamond Edition, The Breakfast,​is preferable, although not nearly so realistic. In any event, British seventies illustrator Charles Green is not likely to have seen either American illustration. Thus, we may interpret Green's frontispiece as a response to John Leech's 1846 more whimsical study of the breakfast scene in period costume.

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

"With a start, productive for the moment of a closer partnership between Jonathan Snitchey and Thomas Craggs than the subsisting articles of agreement in that wise contemplated, he hastily betook himself to where the sisters stood together, and — however, I needn't more particularly explain his manner of saluting Marion first, and Grace afterwards, than by hinting that Mr. Craggs may possibly have considered it "too easy."

Perhaps to change the subject, Doctor Jeddler made a hasty move towards the breakfast, and they all sat down at table. Grace presided; but so discreetly stationed herself, as to cut off her sister and Alfred from the rest of the company. Snitchey and Craggs sat at opposite corners, with the blue bag between them for safety; and the Doctor took his usual position, opposite to Grace. Clemency hovered galvanically about the table, as waitress; and the melancholy Britain, at another and a smaller board, acted as Grand Carver of a round of beef, and a ham.

"Meat?" said Britain, approaching Mr. Snitchey, with the carving knife and fork in his hands, and throwing the question at him like a missile. ["Part the First," p. 35, 1912 edition]

Commentary

The subject of this ensuing conversation is significant in terms of the novella's plot, namely that Alfred Heathfield, heretofore Dr. Jeddler's ward, is about to leave for medical studies for three years abroad, with the promise of Marion Jeddler's hand in marriage when he returns. However, Abbey's treatment of the scene is more realistic and theatrical, and less cartoon-like; moreover, Abbey has omitted entirely the stagecoach that is approaching the village and will shortly carry Alfred away to the greater world, the world of commercial and professional opportunities that will develop​into the Victorian urban environment. In Leech's small-scale wood engraving, a coach drawn by a team of horses is rattling across a plain (above), while below the crotchety serving man, Benjamin Britain (lower right), offers to carve roast beef for the attorneys at his end of the table; Dr. Jeddler and his daughters are at the left side of the frame. In total, Leech has included eight characters, Alfred (largely obscured by the elderly physician) and comic servant Clemency Newcome rounding out the party at a rather crowded table. In contrast, E. A. Abbey has positioned the youthful and manly figure of Alfred in the foreground (right), with Snitchey (identified by the​blue bag) ​and Benjamin Britain to the left. Marion, Grace, and their father are in the background, with Clemency again standing behind them; somehow, Abbey has lost track of Craggs, Snitchey's legal partner. Abbey's composition, however, has the merit of solid, three-dimensional figures in varied poses set against the background of Dr. Jeddler's orchard, established vividly in the 1846 edition with Daniel Maclise's Frontispiece, the ladder and the tree from that original illustration appearing again in Abbey's version. Whereas Leech and Abbey foreground the curmudeonly servant, Benjamin Britain, by featuring him as reluctantly taking orders from the attorneys, Green has chosen a less humorous moment — "the melancholy Britain, at another and a smaller board, acted as Grand Carver of a round of beef, and a ham."

Green, however, is less interested in realising the characters of those at the breakfast table, concentrating instead on establishing the context of the scene by focussing on the realistic portrayal of costumes in a three-dimensional space​defined by Grace, down left, and Benjamin Britain, his back towards us, up right. Since Green has positioned Dr. Jeddler in the centre, he should be the focal character, but, as his back is toward the reader, the eye shifts right, towards the handsome, middle-aged lawyers, who, as in the text, are virtual clones. However, these attorneys are treated conventionally and seriously — they are hardly the "characters" of Dickens's story. Moreover, Clemency Newcome (upper centre) is presented realistically rather than in a caricatural style, so that the scene lacks the dynamic humour of the Leech original, even though in composition it is a brilliant academic exercise in the integration of eight characters, the limb of the tree above joining the figure of the carving servant to the characters at the table, presided over by Grace, who pours the tea, a task that would have fallen to Dr. Jeddler's wife, were she alive. Thus, the frontispiece admirably introduces the cast of characters — with the exception of the aristocratic wastrel, Michael Warden.

Illustrations from the original edition (1846), Diamond Edition (1867), and American Household Edition (1876)

Left: John Leech's scene of Dr. Jeddler's farewell to his protege, Alfred, The Parting Breakfast. Right: Sol Eytinge, Junior's study of two generations and two social classes, in The Breakfast. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Above: E. A. Abbey's 1876 engraving of the same scene in Dr. Jeddler's orchard, "Meat?" said Britain, approaching Mr. Snitchey, with the carving knife and fork in his hands, and throwing the question at him like a missile. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

References

Dickens, Charles. The Battle of Life: A Love Story. Illustrated by John Leech, Richard Doyle, Daniel Maclise, and Clarkson Stanfield. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1846.

_____. The Battle of Life: A Love Story. Illustrated by John Leech, Richard Doyle, Daniel Maclise, and Clarkson Stanfield. (1846). Rpt. in Charles Dickens's Christmas Books, ed. Michael Slater. Hardmondsworth: Penguin, 1971, rpt. 1978.

_____. The Battle of Life. 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.


Created 6 May 2015