Coming home from Church

"Coming home from Church" by Hablot Knight Browne ("Phiz") Chapter 31, facing p. 344 in the "London Edition." Mounted vertically. Dimensions: 10 cm in height, 15.8 cm. , Caxton Edition (1911). In the "List of Illustrations" in the Clarendon Edition (1974), editor Alan Horsman shows that this illustration was originally paired with The eyes of Mrs. Chick are opened to Lucretia Tox in the tenth monthly instalment (Chapters 29 through 31), July 1847. The illustration is unusual in that it is Phiz's first attempt at a vertical orientation, which he realised would enable him to select for illustration group scenes that were cramped by the usual horizontal orientation in which he had worked in The Pickwick Paper ten years earlier.

Passage Illustrated

Now, the carriages arrive at the bride's residence, and the players on the bells begin to jingle, and the band strikes up, and Mr. Punch, that model of connubial bliss, salutes his wife. Now, the people run and push, and press around in a gaping throng, while Mr. Dombey, leading Mrs. Dombey by the hand, advances solemnly into the Feenix Halls. Now, the rest of the wedding party alight, and enter after them. [Ch. 31, "The Wedding," p. 343].

Commentary

This plate, depicting the arrival of the bride at her residence immediately after the wedding, both recalls the swirling, vigorous action of Phiz's crowd scenes for Barnaby Rudge and anticipates such later crowd scenes as those found in A Tale of Two Cities. Note, for example, how Phiz has positioned Dombey's proud profile in the off-centre in the composition, and through his erect posture and the black hair and height has distinguished him from the other male members of the middle-class present.l Then, too, we note Phiz's familiar fondness for horses (compare the animated horses here to those in The Stoppage at the Fountain and The Spy's Funeral in A Tale of Two Cities) (1859), and unruly, boisterous crowds accompanied by percussive musicians (the drummer, right, and the tambourine player, upper left of centre). Ironically, the vast expense and pomp of the bourgeois ceremony (as exemplified by the silk hats of the celebrants and the ornate uniforms of the carriage drivers and postillions in the background) seem part of a theatrical celebration staged for the benefit of the "pauper" audience, extreme left and right. That this second marriage may not be successful is implied by another theatrical event, the Punch and Judy show, upper right. In contrast to the sterile solemnity and posing of the middle-class wedding-party, Phiz posits the vital energy of the gaping, lower-class onlookers.

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 in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

References

Dickens, Charles. Dombey and Son. Illustrated by Hablot K. Browne ("Phiz"). 8 coloured plates. London and Edinburgh: Caxton and Ballantyne, Hanson, 1910.

Dickens, Charles. Dombey and Son. Illustrated by Hablot K. Browne ("Phiz"). Ed. Alan Horsman. The Clarendon Edition. Oxford: Clarendon, 1974.

Hammerton, J. A. The Dickens Picture-Book. London: Educational Book Co. [1910].


Last modified 9 October 2002