Marion's Return to her Home and Grace
9 x 7.6 cm. vignetted
Dickens's The Battle of Life, The Pears' Centenary Edition, vol. 4, page 132.
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"She knew not what she dreaded, or what hoped; but remained there, motionless, looking at the porch by which they had disappeared.
Ah! what was that, emerging from its shadow; standing on its threshold! That figure, with its white garments rustling in the evening air; its head laid down upon her father's breast, and pressed against it to his loving heart! O God! was it a vision that came bursting from the old man's arms, and with a cry, and with a waving of its hands, and with a wild precipitation of itself upon her in its boundless love, sank down in her embrace!
"Oh, Marion, Marion! Oh, my sister! Oh, my heart's dear love! Oh, joy and happiness unutterable, so to meet again!"
It was no dream, no phantom conjured up by hope and fear, but Marion, sweet Marion! So beautiful, so happy, so unalloyed by care and trial, so elevated and exalted in her loveliness, that as the setting sun shone brightly on her upturned face, she might have been a spirit visiting the earth upon some healing mission.
Clinging to her sister, who had dropped upon a seat and bent down over her — and smiling through her tears — and kneeling, close before her, with both arms twining round her, and never turning for an instant from her face — and with the glory of the setting sun upon her brow, and with the soft tranquillity of evening gathering around them — Marion at length broke silence; her voice, so calm, low, clear, and pleasant, well-tuned to the time.
"When this was my dear home, Grace, as it will be now again —"
"Stay, my sweet love! A moment! O Marion, to hear you speak again."
She could not bear the voice she loved so well, at first. ["Part the Third," p. 133, 1912 Pears edition]
The short title on page 14 ("Marion's Return to her Home and Grace") is augmented by a direct quotation beneath the actual whole-page illustration: "So beautiful, so happy, so unalloyed by care and trial, so elevated and exalted in her loveliness" (page 132, immediately below the lithograph in fine print, but also occurring in the text on the facing page). Thus, the reader encounters Dickens's description of Marion twice over the course of pages 132-133.
With the tender reunion in the orchard we have come full circle from the opening scene there almost a decade earlier, when the sisters danced as carefree adolescents among the fruit trees on Marion's birthday, coincidentally the day of Alfred's leaving for his medical studies abroad. In the five-and-a-half years since Marion vanished, neither sister appears to have changed much, even in point of fashion, as they appear here much as they did in Departure of Alfred on page 51, at the end of "Part The First." In the 1846 edition of the novella, the team of illustrators realizes the tearful reunion of Grace and Marion twice: in the headpiece for the final chapter, Richard Doyle's Part the Third, and in Daniel Maclise's The Sisters.
In the original reunion illustration, the sisters cling to one another indoors, in the parlour, by the sacred hearth of the Jeddler family, whereas in Green's illustration, Grace, "Clinging to her sister, who had dropped upon a seat" (133) occupies a position on the garden bench which more closely corresponds to Dickens's description. However, the artist has retained the apple tree, suggestive of knowledge as well as of the time of the year, rather than placing the bench closer to the porch which communicates with the kitchen. One has a sense of Alfred as a committed father playing with his daughter outside the open window as the sisters, embracing, are lost in a world of their own in the Maclise illustration, which effectively closes out the 1846 sequence of thirteen illustrations. The Green illustration, however, lacks that contrast of the outer and inner worlds.
Nevertheless, the elegant penultimate illustration in Charles Green's narrative-pictorial sequence assures the reader that the trajectory of the story is towards a sentimental happy ending in which Grace apparently forgives her supplicating sister, taking her to her breast as Marion, seeking forgiveness, kneels before the sister for whom she has, in fact, sacrificed her home and her fiancé. In place of the statuesque sisters communing in the twilight of Marion's birthday amidst a perfect stillness and serenity, above which Cupid (to whom Alfred points) draws his bow to signify the power of love, Green gives us a somewhat stilted scene of the return of the Prodigal Daughter. Since Marion has little for which to apologise and has committed no moral lapse to disgrace her sister and father, the scene seems somewhat artificial. Marion, in the final analysis, is hardly equivalent to Em'ly Peggotty in David Copperfield who has succumbed to the allure of the dashing Steerforth and the prospect of foreign travels. No scarlet woman, Marion has merely been living quietly with her Aunt Martha; she is, as she declares, still Grace's "maiden sister" (137).
Relevant Illustrations from the 1846 and later Editions
Left: Richard Doyle's interpretation of the tearful reunion of the sisters, Part the Third. Right: Daniel Maclise's tender moment closing the story of the everyday battles of life, The Sisters. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
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 3 June 2015