Ornamental Title Page
14 x 11.5 cm. vignetted
Dickens's The Battle of Life, The Pears' Centenary Edition, vol. 4, title-page.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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Once upon a time, it matters little when, and in stalwart England, it matters little where, a fierce battle was fought. It was fought upon a long summer day when the waving grass was green. Many a wild flower formed by the Almighty Hand to be a perfumed goblet for the dew, felt its enamelled cup fill high with blood that day, and shrinking dropped. Many an insect deriving its delicate color from harmless leaves and herbs, was stained anew that day by dying men, and marked its frightened way with an unnatural track. The painted butterfly took blood into the air upon the edges of its wings. The stream ran red. The trodden ground became a quagmire, whence, from sullen pools collected in the prints of human feet and horses’ hoofs, the one prevailing hue still lowered and glimmered at the sun.
["Part the First," p. 15-16, 1912 edition]
Whereas the 1846 edition implies through several early illustrations — the top of Part the First and War — that the battle in question occurred during the Civil War of the seventeenth century, Charles Green has elected to depict as the title-page vignette a scene from the War of the Roses in the fifteenth-century, with two armoured knights on horseback, three supporting foot-soldiers, and monk carrying the standard of St. George. Ironically, Green's fourth illustration, a thumbnail of the kind of light armour worn roundhead cavalry, An old dinted corselet, and a helmet, had been hanging in the church so long on page 19, clearly indicates that the conflict with which the book begins in flashback was from the Royalist/Parliamentary conflict of the 1640s, and not from an earlier period.
In the Household Edition of 1878 Fred Barnard does not merely establish through his first illustration, The ploughshare still turned up from time to time some rusty bits of metal . . ., that the conflict was one in which the combatants wore full armour, he describes the sense of wonder that grips the villagers when periodically an artefact from that battle is turned up by a plough; in other words, Barnard graphs the relationship between the past conflict and the tranquil present. In the original 1846 narrative-pictorial sequence, Clarkson Stanfield underscores this difference through two highly effective landscape scenes, War and its complement, Peace. However, the elegant title-page by Daniel Maclise in the 1846 edition, putting the battle in a psychological context with angelic or Blakeian adversaries, nevertheless has at its centre a mediaeval warrior with a broadsword in one hand and a spear surmounted by a banner in the other — and butterfly wings, perhaps in realisation of "The painted butterfly took blood into the air upon the edges of its wings."
Relevant Illustrations from the 1846and 1876 Editions
Left: Clarkson Stanfield's description of the aftermath of the slaughter, War. Right: Clarkson Stanfield's description of the same field, a century later, under cultivation, Peace. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: Fred Barnard's 1878engraving of the villagers' reaction to the discovery of another relic of the battle, The ploughshare still turned up from time to time some rusty bits of metal. . . . [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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