In the last plate of The Haunted Man, which appears on p, 188, Stanfield has emphasized "the Great Hall" at the expense of "The Christmas Party." Architectural elements — Gothic beams and an elegant stained glass window in the rear, overwhelm the diners, a number of whom are obscured or have their backs to the viewer.

Fred Guida's blowup of the final plate corrects the dwarfing of the characters by the architectural setting, and permits the viewer to observe compositional details obscured in the much smaller original vignette, occupying perhaps two-thirds of the page. The largest child playing in the foreground in presumably Johnny Tetterby. The well-dressed diner facing away from us on the left (one is tempted to say "stage right," for the whole composition seems so much like one of Stanfield's theatrical sets) may be Professor Redlaw; Stanfield may have deliberately turned the figure so that we cannot see his face and thereby lose the visual continuity established by Leech and Tenniel. Presumably the woman to the right is Milly, in which case the man seated in front of her is her husband, William, and the old man beside her Philip Swidger, her father-in-law. The table's centrepiece appears to be a multi-layered cake rather than the roast "beef" which Dickens specifically mentions.

Appropriately, given the prominence of the pictorial element throughout the book, the final words of the text, "Lord, keep my memory green," are actually in the plate, thereby synthesizing visual and textual narratives at the final moment of the story. In "Dickens at Work on The Haunted Man," Ruth Glancy notes that Dickens deviated from the manuscript text to accommodate this effect:

for the sake of illustration Dickens removed a reference to the scroll beneath the picture as being in Latin, which, the manuscript said, translates as "Lord! keep my memory green!" As an illustration of the scroll appears on the final page of the book Dickens perhaps felt it would be easier for Stanfield if it were "old English letters" rather than Latin (HM, 326)." (DSA 15: 77)

The translation, of course, makes the motto more accessible to the Common Reader, albeit one who can afford the outlay of five shillings for a very small book, which compels the reader to engage text and illustration simultaneously in twelve of the seventeen plates (and all illustrations after no. 7, "Redlaw and the Boy") which share space with printed text. However, the final plate creates not only a synthesis but a serious divergence between text and illustration: the Swidgers present are a mere handful compared to the legions of Swidgers, who "were so numerous that they might join hands and make a ring round England" (351), "by dozens and scores" (352), to say nothing of the Tetterby clan. The jollity of Scrooge's Christmas prize-turkey, punch, and polkas has boiled down to "beef" (which Stanfield indicates is something like a multi-layered cake with white icing!), around which perhaps sixteen somber "party-goers" chat, rather than dance as at the close of The Chimes and The Cricket.

The warmth and geniality of the final scene in the old college are a sharp contrast to the dark, icey, and forbidding exterior view of this bastion of male learning in Plate 11 (p. 105). In this final space, the past and present as well as the public and private converge. The Gothic beams support the roof and thereby emphasize the importance of the abiding presence of the past and through memory of its contribution to the individual's and the group's sense of identity. How can we know ourselves unless we retain awareness of our origins? The triple-paned stained-glass window complements the biblical language into which the reclaimed and resurrected Redlaw lapses under the influence of the Mary- like Milly, whose unconditional love is so well communicated in "Milly and the Children" (Plate 15, p. 159). Although she is "the embodiment of his better wisdom" (187), her presence in the great Dinner Hall is not immediately obvious. Like the protagonist himself, she has been absorbed into the figures so that the room with its occupants as depicted by Stanfield is an emblem of society as a whole. Here in an ornate and beautiful space bequeathed by tradition and financed by a benevolent aristocracy (exemplified by the bearded Elizabethan gentleman in the portrait above the diners) the working-class Swidgers and lower-middle-class Tetterbys join with the upper-middle-class professional in communal celebration of Christmas. Here, too, the mundaneöthe teething infant, the rough-housing children, the great fire, and panneled wallsöand the "marvellous" coincide: "shapes and faces on the walls, . . . gradually changing what was real and familiar there, to what was wild and magical" (187). In other words, the child- like faculty of imagination transforms the real into the wonderful. The public and performative space is animated by the presence of young children, elders, the affianced couple, the mentor of young men who are metaphorically his children (Redlaw) and the epitome of domestic, feminine goodness who is a mother to the children of others (Milly).

Redlaw has removed himself from the isolation of his study, and abandoned his academic alienation for the common space of the great Dinner Hall, where people of all conditions and degrees and both genders meet on an equality to share a meal and after-dinner conversation. The "sedate" face from the past, staring benignly down upon the diners, has displaced the sardonic visage of Redlaw's doppelganger, and a cheery communal fireplace of the "Illustrated Page to Chapter I" (p. 1) and of "The Christmas Party in the Great Dinner Hall" (p. 188) has replaced the barren, cheerless hearth of the chemist's study in the frontispiece and the sixth illustration (p. 34). Redlaw must return to his study as Scrooge to his countinghouse, but he will no longer bear into that confined space the burden of melancholy and the atmosphere of gloom that had hitherto invested it.

The only spirits we are ever to credit fully in the Christmas Books in general and The Haunted Man in particular are those of familial conviviality, charity, forgiveness, and compassion for our fellow man: in short, the Christmas Spirit. Sadly, in part owing to Stanfield's deficiencies and in part to a growing want of something in Dickens's own life, the bonhomie that attends the close of each of the other Christmas Books seems lacking here. We have passed from the obvious allegory of A Christmas Caroland The Chimes to something more subtle. Dickens would construct collaborative framed-tales for Household Words and its successor All the Year Round, a Christmas blend he was certain suited the popular if not the critical taste, but, perhaps in part owing to the influence of Wilkie Collins, realism would predominate over allegory. Another impetus towards realism that Dickens received was delivered to him by his periodical critics, who resented the religious tone and pious sentimentalizing in which he indulges at the close of The Haunted Man.


Victorian Web Charles Dickens Victorian Book Illustration Clarkson Stanfield

Last modified 19 October 2004