"Michael Warden at the Office of Mssrs. Snitchey and Craggs" by Charles Green (p. 56). 1912. 10.1 x 15.1 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, Michael Warden at the Office of Mssrs. Snitchey and Craggs, one of Green's longer "short titles," has the even longer caption, the textual quotation "Not alone; but, with a man of about thirty, . . . who sat in the armchair of state, with one hand in his breast . . .pondering moodily. Messrs. Snitchey and Craggs sat opposite each other at a neighbouring desk." ("Part the Second," p. 56, from the text on the previous page) — a legal office lined with tomes forming the background for the despondent figure by the fire, right foreground. Moreover, Green shifts the focus from the lawyers' client to Snitchey and Craggs themselves by using two flaring candles to draw the eye diagonally upward, to the attorneys pondering Warden's papers, presumably property deeds and debts. In the 1846 edition of the novella, the equivalent illustration by John Leech includes these same characters in the upper register, the composition separating the elderly, dusty attorneys at a substantial double desk (right) and a contemplative, bewigged young aristocrat (right), but foregrounds the symbol of a cornucopia padlocked, skewered bills, and a padlocked trunk, all suggestive of the dire state of Warden's affairs. No such symbolism balances Green's unrelenting realism.

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Passage Illustrated

In this office, nevertheless, Snitchey and Craggs made honey for their several hives. Here, sometimes, they would linger, of a fine evening, at the window of their council-chamber overlooking the old battle-ground, and wonder (but that was generally at assize time, when much business had made them sentimental) at the folly of mankind, who couldn't always be at peace with one another and go to law comfortably. Here, days, and weeks, and months, and years, passed over them: their calendar, the gradually diminishing number of brass nails in the leathern chairs, and the increasing bulk of papers on the tables. Here, nearly three years' flight had thinned the one and swelled the other, since the breakfast in the orchard; when they sat together in consultation at night.

Not alone; but, with a man of about thirty, or that time of life, negligently dressed, and somewhat haggard in the face, but well-made, well-attired, and well-looking, who sat in the armchair of state, with one hand in his breast, and the other in his dishevelled hair, pondering moodily. Messrs. Snitchey and Craggs sat opposite each other at a neighbouring desk. One of the fireproof boxes, unpadlocked and opened, was upon it; a part of its contents lay strewn upon the table, and the rest was then in course of passing through the hands of Mr. Snitchey; who brought it to the candle, document by document; looked at every paper singly, as he produced it; shook his head, and handed it to Mr. Craggs; who looked it over also, shook his head, and laid it down. Sometimes, they would stop, and shaking their heads in concert, look towards the abstracted client. And the name on the box being Michael Warden, Esquire, we may conclude from these premises that the name and the box were both his, and that the affairs of Michael Warden, Esquire, were in a bad way.

         ["Part the Second," p. 55-57, 1912 edition]

Commentary

In the Household Edition of 1878 Fred Barnard, having a very limited program of illustration with which to work, does not include a scene involving the country attorneys and the Jeddlers, but he does depict the lawyers offering Michael Warden their legal advice in "I think it will be better not to hear this, Mr. Craggs?", in which at least physically the middle-aged attorneys complement one another, so that one is tall and thin, the other of middle height. The highly realistic — almost photographic — Green study of the lawyers, in contrast, presents them as equally tall and distinguished men of handsome middle age, Craggs in a fawn suit, Snitchey in dark cloth, but otherwise similar in face and form. Their fashionable dress in the lithograph is a little ironic, given their crusty natures in the Green illustration, which is nevertheless atmospheric, with the gloom of the nocturnal scene matching Warden's gloomy mood as he faces the prospect of years abroad, living cheaply until the family fortunes are restored.

Even though they appear twice in the original 1846 sequence of illustrations, one sees little of the lawyers in either Household Edition volume. In the 1876 Harper and Brothers volume, E. A. Abbey depicts Snitchey and Craggs as a pair of middle-aged attorneys of a decidely dry and dusty hue, their clothing far more borgeois and less aristocratic than that of Green's attorneys, in "Now, observe, Snitchey," he continued, rising and taking him by the button, "and Craggs," taking him by the button also". Fred Barnard in the 1878 British Household Edition focuses on the difference between the self-confident, youthful aristocrat in the centre (Michael Warden, the profligate client) and the cautious, thoughtful, middle-aged men counselling him, in "I think it will be better not to hear this, Mr. Craggs?" — a comic interpretation of the pair approximately Leech's earlier interpretation. Focussing on the lithe figure of Michael Warden once again, but depicting his attorneys as mere background figures at the top of the stairs, Harry Furniss in his 1910 lithograph Michael Warden leaving his lawyers merely renders them as physically angular, their faces mere masks.

Relevant Illustrations from the 1846​ and later Editions

Left: John Leech's interpretation of the attorney's cluttered office in Snitchey and Craggs. Right: Harry Furniss's description of the careless client and his careful attorneys, Michael Warden leaving his lawyers. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Above: Fred Barnard's 1878​more humorous realisation of the aged attorneys, concerned that their client is a fortune-hunter, seeking to address his financial problems by marrying an heiress (who is also their client!), "I think it will be better not to hear this, Mr. Craggs?" [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Above: E. A. Abbey's 1876​more prosaic realisation of the same scene which emphasizes Michael Warden's animation, "Now, observe, Snitchey," he continued, rising and taking him by the button, "and Craggs," taking him by the button also" [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 22 May 2015