Grace and Marion Dancing in the Orchard by Charles Green (p. 21). 1912. 10.7 x 14.9 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, Grace and Marion Dancing in the 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 charming illustration of the dark-haired and blonde-haired sister dancing to the music of a harp and fiddle in their father's orchard is "It was a pleasant, lively, natural scene; a beautiful day, a retired spot; and the two girls, quite unconstrained and careless, danced in the freedom and gaiety of their hearts" ("Part the First," p. 21, from the text on the facing page) — an expression of perfect harmony and sisterly devotion (perhaps inspired by the author's recollections of his wife and her sister, Mary, who died in May 1837). In the 1846 edition of the novella, the equivalent illustration is Daniel Maclise's frontispiece, Grace and Marion Jeddler Dancing, but the Household Editions, illustrated by Fred Barnard and American E. A. Abbey, contain no such picture of sisterly devotion.

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Passage Illustrated

Nowhere more altered, perhaps, about a hundred years ago, than in one little orchard attached to an old stone house with a honeysuckle porch; where, on a bright autumn morning, there were sounds of music and laughter, and where two girls danced merrily together on the grass, while some half-dozen peasant women standing on ladders, gathering the apples from the trees, stopped in their work to look down, and share their enjoyment. It was a pleasant, lively, natural scene; a beautiful day, a retired spot; and the two girls, quite unconstrained and careless, danced in the freedom and gaiety of their hearts.

If there were no such thing as display in the world, my private opinion is, and I hope you agree with me, that we might get on a great deal better than we do, and might be infinitely more agreeable company than we are. It was charming to see how these girls danced. They had no spectators but the apple-pickers on the ladders. They were very glad to please them, but they danced to please themselves (or at least you would have supposed so); and you could no more help admiring, than they could help dancing. How they did dance!

Not like opera-dancers. Not at all. And not like Madame Anybody's finished pupils. Not the least. It was not quadrille dancing, nor minuet dancing, nor even country-dance dancing. It was neither in the old style, nor the new style, nor the French style, nor the English style: though it may have been, by accident, a trifle in the Spanish style, which is a free and joyous one, I am told, deriving a delightful air of off-hand inspiration, from the chirping little castanets. As they danced among the orchard trees, and down the groves of stems and back again, and twirled each other lightly round and round, the influence of their airy motion seemed to spread and spread, in the sun-lighted scene, like an expanding circle in the water. Their streaming hair and fluttering skirts, the elastic grass beneath their feet, the boughs that rustled in the morning air — the flashing leaves, the speckled shadows on the soft green ground — the balmy wind that swept along the landscape, glad to turn the distant windmill, cheerily — everything between the two girls, and the man and team at plough upon the ridge of land, where they showed against the sky as if they were the last things in the world — seemed dancing too.

At last, the younger of the dancing sisters, out of breath, and laughing gaily, threw herself upon a bench to rest. The other leaned against a tree hard by. The music, a wandering harp and fiddle, left off with a flourish, as if it boasted of its freshness; though the truth is, it had gone at such a pace, and worked itself to such a pitch of competition with the dancing, that it never could have held on, half a minute longer. The apple-pickers on the ladders raised a hum and murmur of applause, and then, in keeping with the sound, bestirred themselves to work again like bees. ["Part the First," pp. 20-22, 1912 edition]

Commentary

In the Household Edition of 1878 Fred Barnard does not establish the close relationship between the sisters, but chooses to focus on the relationship between Dr. Jeddler and his adolescent daughters in "Bye-the-bye," and he looked into the pretty face, still close to his, "I suppose it's your birthday.". In the original 1846 narrative-pictorial sequence, the first and last illustrations by academic artist Daniel Maclise, Grace and Marion Jeddler Dancing and The Sisters, occupying the two strongest positions in the sequence, underscore the closeness of Marion, the elder, and Grace, the younger sister, as well as their stately beauty. Green's interpretation of the dancing scene is less elaborate and more spacious, setting the dancers against a backdrop of trees rather than (as in the Maclise original) a crowded background of fruit-pickers, musicians, and foliage — and yet his composition is not so satisfying aesthetically because the sisters are apart from the natural setting rather than organically a part of that setting.

Whereas Maclise depicts six apple-gatherers as well as the two dancers and the two musicians to suggest a communal festival, Green leaves the orchard relatively unoccupied, with just a single fruit-gatherer above the fiddler and harpist, and a great many apples on the ground. The romance of the scene is not especially well suited to the photographic finish and realism of Green's full-page lithograph, which nevertheless establishes the chronological and geographical setting through the period costumes and pastoral backdrop. In their upper-middle-class dresses, the fair sisters are clearly not members of the peasantry, but young women of leisure who can dance while the farm-labourers harvest the fruit of their father's orchard. Their dancing sets them apart, rather than, as in the 1846 frontispiece, connects them to the society of the village. Having but one illustration to commit to the novella, A. A. Dixon six years prior to Charles Green's composition, elected to realise this same scene in a small-scale lithographic frontispiece for the story in the Collins' Pocket Edition, but his execution of the dancers is stilted and lacks the sharpness and energy of Maclise's composition, with the boughs of the apple-trees dominating the background, eclipsing almost entirely the hard-working farm-labourers and musicians clearly evident in the original. Finally, with five illustrations to complete for the novella in the 1910 Charles Dickens Library Edition, Harry Furniss elected to focus on the potential conflict between the sisters over who would marry Alfred, with the final illustration focussing on the angelic Marion,whose selfless romantic sacrifice has enabled her sister to find happiness with young physician Alfred Heathfield.

Relevant Illustrations from the 1846​ and 1906 Editions

Left: Daniel Maclise's pastoral interpretation of the dancing sisters, Grace and Marion Jeddler Dancing. Right: Daniel Maclise's description of the restored harmony between the sisters after years of separation which Marion's sacrifice has entailed, The Sisters. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Left: A. A. Dixon's 1906 ​lithograph of the lookalike sisters dancing in the orchard, Danced in the freedom and gaiety of their hearts. Right: Harry Furniss's pen-and-ink drawing of the sisters' bidding Alfred a reluctant goodbye, Alfred's Farewell. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

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