"Alfred Learns the Tidings of Marion's Sudden Flight" by Charles Green (p. 56). 1912. 11.1 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, the caption beneath this illustration is "'Grace! what is it? Is she dead?' She disengaged herself, as if to recognise his face, and fell down at his feet" (page 101), the second to last full page of "Part the Second." In the 1846 edition of the novella, the equivalent illustration by Richard Doyle, Part the Second, occurs at the very beginning of the second movement of the story to establish an anticipatory set in the reader's mind; the source of suspense is not whether Marion will inexplicably vanish from the little village, but what events in the second chapter precipitate her flight. But whereas Doyle does not make clear which female character has fainted and which is running to assist the young man on his knees (logically, Alfred, but at the beginning of "Part the Second" possibly Michael Warden), Green clarifies the identity of the eight characters, both by their clothing and faces and by their juxtapositions: Snitchey and Craggs (distinguished, as in previous scenes, by their suits and wigs) are to the left; the portly, black-suited Dr. Jeddler, Clemency, and Britain to the right; and, in the most conspicuous, central position in this scene of almost operatic emotional excess Alfred (kneeling) and Grace (the brunette sister), who has fainted. No forest or cottage is visible in the backdrop as the swirling snow engulfs the backdrop. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Passage Illustrated

"What is the matter?' he [Alfred] exclaimed.

"I don't know. I — I am afraid to think. Go back. Hark!"

There was a sudden tumult in the house. She put her hands upon her ears. A wild scream, such as no hands could shut out, was heard; and Grace — distraction in her looks and manner — rushed out at the door.

"Grace!" He caught her in his arms. "What is it! Is she dead!"

She disengaged herself, as if to recognise his face, and fell down at his feet.

A crowd of figures came about them from the house. Among them was her father, with a paper in his hand.

"What is it!" cried Alfred, grasping his hair with his hands, and looking in an agony from face to face, as he bent upon his knee beside the insensible girl. "Will no one look at me? Will no one speak to me? Does no one know me? Is there no voice among you all, to tell me what it is!" ["Part the Second," p. 102, 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 the scene in which those at Dr. Jeddler's party emerge from the house, looking for Marion; however, in the American Edition, issued two years earlier, E. A. Abbey provides a highly convincing re-interpretation of the nocturnal scene involving the country attorneys, Dr. and Grace Jeddler, and (most significantly) in the foreground, centre, Alfred Heathfield, ministering to the comatose Grace, in And sunk down in his former attitude, clasping one of Grace's cold hands in his own.

Since Green was probably able to study the illustrations of the original 1846 edition and the Household Edition of 1878 — it is unlikely, under British copyright, that he had seen the 1876 American Household Edition illustrations of E. A. Abbey — the early twentieth-century interpretation of the melodramatic scene logically should incorporate elements of the earlier visualisations. The nocturnal scene, obscured by snow, the frantic searchers, the distraught father, and Grace lying on the ground are common to all three interpretations.

What distinguishes Charles Green's lithograph (aside, of course, from the medium) is the theatricality of the illustration, which sits outside the text, so to speak, rather than existing within the letterpress. One must pause at the bottom of page 100, "There was a sudden tumult in the house," to read the illustration proleptically, decoding the figures, juxtapositions, and situation before proceeding to the textual equivalent of the plate. Both media focus on Alfred's attempting to minister to the fainting Grace. However, whereas in the text Alfred gives in to his emotions, "grasping his hair with his hands" (102), in the Green illustration, Alfred does not 'look in agony from face to face,' but looks steadily down at Grace, "insensible" as in the text. The reader cannot accurately assess the expression on the face of this stoic figure. Rather, the choric characters in the background convey the emotions that, in the text, Alfred experiences. Dr. Jeddler, "with his hands before his face" (102) must be the figure in front of Snitchey and Craggs (left). What the other characters are doing Dickens does not express, so that Green invents postures, poses, and juxtapositions for Clemency (wringing her hands in sympathy, right), Britain (immediately behind her, immobile), and — strangely — aniother Dr. Jeddler figure, pointing downward (right). As in a tableau vivant there is no "hurrying to and fro" but static, silent "confusion" — "disorder" without the attendant "noise." The overall effect is a theatrical freeze prior to the curtain's dropping at the end of Act Two.

Relevant Illustrations from the 1846‚Äč and later Editions

Left: Richard Doyle's dramatic illustration of the confusion attendant upon the discovery of Marion's disappearance, Part the Second. Right: Harry Furniss's intimation that Michael Warden and Marion are eloping, For Alfred's Sake (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Left: Fred Barnard's handling of the scene, "What is the matter?" he exclaimed. "I don't know. I — I am afraid to think. Go back. Hark!" with Alfred Heathfield supporting a distracted Clemency Newcome (1878); right: John Leech's The Night of the Return, with a pair of contrasting but synchronous scenes, inside and outside the doctor's home (1846). [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Above: E. A. Abbey's 1876 dramatic realisation of the same scene which emphasizes the emotional turmoil that Marion's disappearance has caused, And sunk down in his former attitude, clasping one of Grace's cold hands in his own. [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 25 May 2015