Redlaw and the Phantom

John Leech's opening plate, a full-page vignette on page 34 that treats the Doppelganger scene, compels the reader to return to Tenniel's earlier treatments of the same theme. This time, we have dialogue and explication on the previous page running over to the top of the illustration. How convenient that the sentence "This was the dread companion of the haunted man!" sits immediately above the figures. Leech's chair is less fanciful and his version of the spirit more substantial than their counterparts in the Frontispiece. Leech has made Redlaw's study lighter, permitting us to see far more detail in the bookcase at the back. We can see "his drugs and instruments and books" (Penguin 246), but not "the shadow of his shaded lamp . . . , motionless among a crowd of spectral shapes" (Penguin 246). Thus, not only Tenniel's opening plates but also a textual passage many pages earlier have prepared us for this scene, the second visitation of the Ghost. The moment captured is that before Redlaw notices and addresses the Phantom. While Redlaw gazes into the fire, the Phantom's thoughtful gaze is bent on the Chemist, and not on the fire, too, as in the text: "It took, for some moments, no more apparent heed of him, than he of it" (35). Leech seems to have made this alteration in order to make his rendering of the two parallel Tenniel's.

Gone are the good angels and demons, replaced by commonplace objects, which nevertheless appear ominous in the half-light: is that a skull on the top shelf and a demon's mask above, or are these only ocular delusions? Redlaw's chair in Leech's plate is more prosaic (no carved gargoyle supports the arm of this chair). The spectre does not whisper at Redlaw's ear like Satan at the ear of Eve in Paradise Lost; rather, Leech brings out the physical likeness in their features as Redlaw, seeing past wrongs re-enacted in the flames, is sardonically scrutinized by his double, whose body fades into the back of the chair and the curtain, right. Redlaw's hair is less full in Leech's version; his hairline recedes, giving him a more middle-aged and careworn aspect. His demeanour is not fearful, as in Tenniel, but bemused. In addition to the small library seen also in Tenniel's plate, the bookcase behind the figures contains glass jars, indicative of Redlaw's scientific vocation. Leech has captured the moment on the preceding page when "As he leaned his arm upon the elbow of his chair, ruminating before the fire, it leaned upon the chair-back close above him" (33). One reads page 33 with anticipation, glancing back to examine the textual details more carefully once one turned the page, then moves back to that central moment hinted at in Dickens's title (top, page 34). The curtain to the right appears again, but at the left, in the seventh plate, thereby connecting the two in the pictorial narrative sequence.

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Last modified 19 October 2004