Departure of Alfred
11 x 7.3 cm. vignetted
Dickens's The Battle of Life, The Pears' Centenary Edition, vol. 4, page 51.
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As the coach gets ever closer to Dr. Jeddler's house, Grace and Marion try to maintain their equanimity as Alfred bids the servants, Clemency and Britain, farewell. The scene is fraught with emotion because Alfred, engaged to Marion, willnot return for three years — and Grace, too, is in love with him.
"Coming down the road!" cried Britain.
"A kiss of Clemency Newcome for long acquaintance' sake — shake hands, Britain — Marion, dearest heart, good bye! Sister Grace! remember!"
The quiet household figure, and the face so beautiful in its serenity, were turned towards him in reply; but Marion's look and attitude remained unchanged.
The coach was at the gate. There was a bustle with the luggage. The coach drove away. Marion never moved.
"He waves his hat to you, my love," said Grace. "Your chosen husband, darling. Look!"
The younger sister raised her head, and, for a moment, turned it. Then turning back again, and fully meeting, for the first time, those calm eyes, fell sobbing on her neck.
"Oh, Grace. God bless you! But I cannot bear to see it, Grace! It breaks my heart." ["Part the First," 1912 Pears Edition, p. 50-52]
The caption is a synopsis of Dickens's text on the following page; the title in the "List of Illustrations" (p. 13), "The Departure of Alfred," is thus replaced with a textualquotation, "The younger sister raised her head, and, for a moment, turned it. Then turning back again, and fully meeting, for the first time, those calm eyes, fell sobbing on her neck." No such extreme emotion intrudes upon the four illustrations of the sisters in the 1846 edition that pertain to the actions and characters of "Part the First"; however, thereader is prepared for an emotional breakdown on the part of one of the sisters on the opening page of Richard Doyle's Part the Second. There is no doubt in either Green's sequence or that of the original edition that the novella is the sisters' story, and that all other characters — including Alfred Heathfield —are purely secondary.
Green's depiction of the mutually devoted sisters in The Frontispiece is consistent with Furniss's in terms of their ages and dress, but is rather more realistic and less caricatural than the Doyle original, harking back to that illustrator's depiction of them in Part the First. The sisters should, of course, be thoroughly Dickensian "engenues," a charming contrast to the older characters in terms of their delicate beauty.
In the original artists' thirteen illustrations, one or both of the sisters appear in eight, including the highly effective opening and closing wood-engravings. They appear in Green's sequence a full eleven times in the thirty illustrations, a sign that Green recognized their importance as the pivitol figures in the romantic triangle. For the sake of visual continuity, Green consistently depicts them in similar eighteenth-century dresses in the mode of Goldsmith's country comedy She Stoops to Conquer (1776), and, of course, maintains Marion as a blonde, Grace as a brunette. Ironically, in this Green illustration whose short title "Departure of Alfred" the male component of the romantic triangle is not depicted, so that Green is concentrating on the sisters' responses to Alfred's leaving them for three years, rather than on the rather bland youth himself.
Relevant Illustrations from the 1846 and later Editions
Left: Richard Doyle's visual foreshadowing of the climax of the second movement of the novella, Part the Second. centre: Fred Barnard's study of the two sisters on the day of Alfred's departure, "Bye-the-bye," and he looked into the pretty face, still close to his, "I suppose it's your birthday." Right: Harry Furniss's interpretation of the sisters' differing responses to Alfred's departure in Alfred's Farewell. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: E. A. Abbey's 1876 engraving of the scene in which Grace collapses on the night of Alfred's return, after Marion has supposedly eloped with Michael Warden, "And sunk down in his former attitude, clasping one of Grace's cold hands in his own." [Click on 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.
Last modified 11 May 2015