"Ah! Here was Alfred. Having stolen in unobserved, he playfully leaned on the back of Sophronia's chair." (p. 111) — the caption in the Chapman and Hall Household Edition text is the same as that in the New York Harper and Brothers volume, although the American edition does not employ quitation marks. Alfred Lammle, confidence man, has not merely resigned himself to the fact that his new wife, Sophronia, is up to the same game; rather, he has joined forces with her in a scheme to profit from a secret marriage between the discontented Georgiana Podsnap and the vacuous socialite Fascination Fledgeby. The naieve, gullible Georgiana is the young woman sitting opposite the dark-haired, sharp-eyed, downward glancing, fashionably attired Mrs. Lammle in her drawing-room in the Lammles' temporary residence in Sackville Street, Piccadilly. Originally in Part 7 (November 1864), the scene is the basis for James Mahoney's nineteenth illustration for Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, Household Edition, 1875. Wood engraving by the Dalziels, 10.5 cm high x 12.3 cm wide.

Passage Realised

Sophronia's glance was as if a rather new light broke in upon her. It shaded off into a cool smile, as she said, with her eyes upon her lunch, and her eyebrows raised:

"You are quite wrong, my love, in your guess at my meaning. What I insinuated was, that my Georgiana's little heart was growing conscious of a vacancy."

"No, no, no," said Georgiana. "I wouldn't have anybody say anything to me in that way for I don't know how many thousand pounds."

"In what way, my Georgiana?" inquired Mrs. Lammle, still smiling coolly with her eyes upon her lunch, and her eyebrows raised.

"You know," returned poor little Miss Podsnap. "I think I should go out of my mind, Sophronia, with vexation and shyness and detestation, if anybody did. It's enough for me to see how loving you and your husband are. That's a different thing. I couldn't bear to have anything of that sort going on with myself. I should beg and pray to — to have the person taken away and trampled upon."

Ah! here was Alfred. Having stolen in unobserved, he playfully leaned on the back of Sophronia's chair, and, as Miss Podsnap saw him, put one of Sophronia's wandering locks to his lips, and waved a kiss from it towards Miss Podsnap.

"What is this about husbands and detestations?" inquired the captivating Alfred.

"Why, they say," returned his wife, "that listeners never hear any good of themselves; though you — but pray how long have you been here, sir?"

"This instant arrived, my own." — Book Two, "Birds of a Feather," Chapter 4, "Cupid Prompted," p. 111-112.

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.]


The woodcut for Book Two, "Birds of a Feather," Chapter Four, "Cupid Prompted," re-introduces Georgiana Podsnap from earlier in the novel: "an under-sized damsel, with high shoulders, low spirits, chilled elbows, a a rasped surface of nose" (Book One, Chapter 11). Despite the respectability of their Sackville Street parlour and correctness of their breakfast table, through their poses and sharp features illustrator Sol Eytinge reveals the couple's predatory natures more certainly than Mahoney's depiction of Alfred Lammle as a congenial husband in Georgiana's presence. As Dickens's text implies, the pair are hatching a scheme intent upon separating the wealthy Podsnap from some of his fortune by arranging a surreptitious marriage for his daughter. In his illustration for "Cupid Prompted," Eytinge implies the Lammles' being experts at sharp practice by the pointed nose (Dickens specifies he has "too much nose"), sharp fingers, and demonic grin of the husband, and the casual self-assurance of the wife, who even in private demonstrates the acute fashion sense that has rendered her a "consciously 'splendid woman'" in the Veneerings' social set. Emphasizing the rich draperies at the window and the elegance of the ladies' dresses and hairstyles, Mahoney like Eytinge suggests the Piccadilly townhouse's "handsome fittings and furnishings" through the table, although neither includes the mirror which reflects Sophronia Lammle's smirking expression as she deprecates Miss Podsnap just after the young lady has left the room.

Reverting to the plot involving the banker Podsnap, his discontented daughter, Georgiana, and the "confidence couple," the Lammles, Dickens begins "Cupid Prompted" with another series of society dinners. Very quickly, however, he shifts the scene to the handsomely furnished parlour at the Sackville Street, Piccadilly, townhouse of Sophronia and Alfred Lammle. Whereas Marcus Stone focuses on the society dinner staged by John Podsnap, the veneer of respectable society, Mahoney and Eytinge penetrate the brilliant surface to explore the machinations of the devious Lammles. Aware of the effectiveness of the representation of the social gathering in Marcus Stone's serial illustration for Book Two, Chapter Four, Bringing Him In, Mahoney has elected to focus on the Lammles' plotting to marry Georgiana Podsnap to Fledgeby. There is, however, little sense of playfulness or romance in Mahoney's somber trio, and Alfred is not nearly the handsome, young confidence man with the feral expression that Marcus Stone captures so well in the honeymoon illustration, The Happy Pair.

​Is this blonde-bearded thirty-something husband in a professional suit an appropriate facsmile of Dickens's resilient swindler Alfred Lammle of the full, ginger muttonchop-sideburns? There is little here to distinguish his image from Mahoney's characterization of Eugene Wrayburn, except​ the sharp nose, as both have a similar appearance. While Dickens describes Alfred Lammle's mood as "playful" when he leans over his wife's chair, Mahoney's somber husband does not engage with her at all; indeed, he seems to be directing his thoughtful gaze towards the couple's visitor, whose face the reader cannot assess. Dickens emphasizes that Lammle wears an excessive amount of jewelry, and therefore "glitters" with "too much sparkle in his studs, his eyes, his buttons, his talk, his teeth" (I: 2). Unscrupulous and opportunistic, Alfred Lammle should look shifty and untrustworthy, despite his supreme self-confidence and social survival skills; unfortunately, Mahoney's characterization falls well short of this image.

Pertinent Illustrations in the original and Diamond Editions, 1864-1867

Left: Marcus Stone's November 1864 illustration of a gathering of London upper-middle-class society, Bringing Him In. Right: American Sol Eytinge, Junior's characterisation of the cunning couple, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Lammle (1867). [Click on​images to enlarge them.]

Above: Marcus Stone's July 1864 illustration of the Lammles' discovering the truth about each other during their honeymoon on the Isle of Wight, ironically entitled The Happy Pair. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]


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Last modified 8 December 2015