8 x 4 cm. vignetted
Dickens's The Battle of Life, The Pears' Centenary Edition, vol. 4, page 70.
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"It's only me, Mister," said Clemency, putting in her head at the door.
"And what's the matter with you?"said the Doctor.
"Oh, bless you, nothing an't the matter with me," returned Clemency — and truly too, to judge from her well-soaped face, in which there gleamed as usual the very soul of good-humour, which, ungainly as she was, made her quite engaging. Abrasions on the elbows are not generally understood, it is true, to range within that class of personal charms called beauty-spots. But, it is better, going through the world, to have the arms chafed in that narrow passage, than the temper: and Clemency's was sound and whole as any beauty's in the land.
"Nothing an't the matter with me," said Clemency, entering, "but — come a little closer, Mister."
The Doctor, in some astonishment, complied with this invitation.
"You said I wasn't to give you one before them, you know," said Clemency.
A novice in the family might have supposed, from her extraordinary ogling as she said it, as well as from a singular rapture or ecstasy which pervaded her elbows, as if she were embracing herself, that 'one,' in its most favourable interpretation, meant a chaste salute. Indeed the Doctor himself seemed alarmed, for the moment; but quickly regained his composure, as Clemency, having had recourse to both her pockets — beginning with the right one, going away to the wrong one, and afterwards coming back to the right one again — produced a letter from the Post-office.
"Britain was riding by on a errand," she chuckled, handing it to the Doctor, "and see the mail come in, and waited for it. There's A. H. in the corner. Mr. Alfred's on his journey home, I bet. We shall have a wedding in the house — there was two spoons in my saucer this morning. Oh Luck, how slow he opens it!" ["Part the Second," 1912 Pears Edition, p. 70-71]
The caption "Clemency Newcome" is a synopsis of Dickens's text on the same page; thus, the simple title in the "List of Illustrations" (p. 13) becomes, "'It's only me, Mister,' said Clemency, putting in her head at the door" (p. 70). In the 1846 edition of the novella, there is no equivalent illustration that offers such a cameo of the story's comic woman, the good-hearted natural, Clemency Newcome.
Of the illustrations of her prior to Green's in 1912, perhaps the most satisfactory is that by Harry Furniss in the Charles Dickens Library's anthology of The Christmas Books (1910). Indeed, Furniss apparently adapted an actual newspaper illustration of a scene in the 1846 adaption for the Lyceum Theatre, London, by Albert Smith, Scene from The Battle of Life, — "The Proposal Scene" — at the Lyceum Theatre: Clemency, Mrs. Keeley; Britain, Mr. Keeley. Mrs. Maryanne Keeley's animated impersonation of Clemency was one of the highpoints of the production, according to The Illustrated London News for Saturday, 26 December 1846 (p. 413). The spirited performance must somehow have come to Furniss's notice, for his Clemency and Britain. The smiling, youthful Clemency of the newspaper depiction of comedienne Maryanne Keeley in the role is the basis for Furniss's cheerful woman in late youth, but both are in total contrast to the serious, elderly companion of Fred Barnard's much more serious depiction of the comic woman of the melodrama, satisfactory as his eighteenth-century costuming of her may be.
Green's depiction of her in The Frontispiece is consistent with Furniss's in terms of her age and servant's attire, but is rather more realistic and less caricatural than the Leech original, harking back to Doyle's depiction of her in The Secret Interview. She should, of course, be a thoroughly Dickensian "character," a comic contrast to the lovers Alfred, Grace, Marion, and Michael. She appears in Green's sequence a full nine times in the thirty illustrations, a sign that Green recognized her importance as a foil to the serious, young lovers and the philosophical Dr. Jeddler. For the sake of visual continuity, Green consistently depicts her in servant's garb, including white apron and cloth cap, but nevertheless sees her as a real person rather than a Leech caricature. She and Benjamin Britain are the "downstairs" component of the story, and true to her servant's active interest in matters "above stairs," she has been avidly awaiting the advent of a letter from Alfred announcing his return.
Relevant Illustrations from the 1846 and later Editions
Left: Daniel Maclise's stylish realisation of Michael Warden's chaperoned interview with Marion, The Secret Interview. Right: Harry Furniss's description of the comic servants Benjamin Britain and Clemency Newcome in Clemency and Britain. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: Fred Barnard's 1878 engraving of the scene in which Alfred meets Clemency at the door on the night of his return, after Marion has supposedly eloped with Michael Warden, "What is the matter?" he exclaimed. "I don't know. I — I am afraid to think. Go back. Hark!" [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 19 May 2015