Michael Warden's Return
11 x 6.2 cm. vignetted
Dickens's The Battle of Life, The Pears' Centenary Edition, vol. 4, page 115.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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[Benjamin Britain] might have pursued this metaphysical subject but for her [Clemency's] catching a glimpse of a substantial fact behind him, in the shape of a gentleman attired in mourning, and cloaked and booted like a rider on horseback, who stood at the bar-door. He seemed attentive to their conversation, and not at all impatient to interrupt it.
Clemency hastily rose at this sight. Mr. Britain also rose and saluted the guest. "Will you please to walk up-stairs, sir? There's a very nice room up-stairs, sir."
"Thank you," said the stranger, looking earnestly at Mr. Britain's wife. "May I come in here?"
"Oh, surely, if you like, sir," returned Clemency, admitting him.
"What would you please to want, sir?"
The bill had caught his eye, and he was reading it.
"Excellent property that, sir," observed Mr. Britain.
He made no answer; but, turning round, when he had finished reading, looked at Clemency with the same observant curiosity as before. "You were asking me," — he said, still looking at her, — "What you would please to take, sir," answered Clemency, stealing a glance at him in return.
"If you will let me have a draught of ale," he said, moving to a table by the window, "and will let me have it here, without being any interruption to your meal, I shall be much obliged to you." He sat down as he spoke, without any further parley, and looked out at the prospect. He was an easy, well-knit figure of a man in the prime of life. His face, much browned by the sun, was shaded by a quantity of dark hair; and he wore a moustache. ["Part the Third," p. 115-116, 1912 Pears edition]
The short title on page 14 ("The Return of Michael Warden") is augmented by a direct quotation beneath the actual illustration: "A gentleman attired in mourning, and cloaked and booted like a rider on horseback, who stood at the bar-door." (page 115, immediately below the lithograph in fine print, and beginning at the very bottom of page 115; in other words, the reader encounters the picture in the middle of these lines. Thus, the reader has ample opportunity to compare Dickens's description with Green's realisation of the returned traveller.
Although Dickens specifies that the stranger has a skin skin browned by the Mediterranean sun and a "moustache," Green depicts him as a pallid young Englishman. In the story as originally published, the despondent young aristocrat appears with his attorneys in Snitchey and Craggs by John Leech, with Marion outside the kitchen of the Jeddler house in The Secret Interview by Daniel Maclise, and eloping with Marion in the lower section of The Night of the Return by John Leech; however, in the 1846 novella he does not appear as the older, wiser returning wayfarer of "Part the Third." In the 1876 Harper and Brothers volume, E. A. Abbey depicts Warden as a reproved spendthrift in the offices of Snitchey and Craggs in "Now, observe, Snitchey," he continued, rising and taking him by the button, "and Craggs," taking him by the button also". 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 focusses on a dashing youth in riding boots and aristocratic fashion, but does not depict Warden returning from his Continental travels. The most convincing picture of that more rugged, experienced Warden, Abbey's A gentleman attired in mourning, and cloaked and booted like a rider on horseback, who stood at the bar-door (1876) nevertheless neglects Warden's being "attired in mourning" — something of a red herring since Marion has not died abroad; indeed, she has not been abroad at all, as Warden is about to clarify. Green's version lacks the dash and energy of the other Michael Wardens, but at least clearly shows him in mourning. However, Green has missed the point that this Michael Warden, five or six years older than when last seen in the village, should look sufficiently different that Clemency does not immediately recognise him. In Green's narrative-pictorial sequence, Warden appears as many times as Alfred Heathfield, for a total of six times, but whereas Warden does not appear at all in "Part the First," which features Alfred some three times, Warden dominates "Part the Second." Together they constitute the possibility of suitable marriages for the Jeddler sisters; in the original sequence, the two young men are sufficiently distinguished one from the other, but Green's young men, like Green's lawyers, look rather too much alike.
Relevant Illustrations from the 1846 and later Editions
Left: John Leech's interpretation of Warden in his attorneys' 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 dashing realisation of the scene in which Michael Warden, a seasoned traveller, arrives at the village inn, A gentleman attired in mourning, and cloaked and booted like a rider on horseback, who stood at the bar-door. [Click on the 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. Harmondsworth: 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 29 May 2015