The Red-Nosed Man Discourseth
Phiz (Hablot K. Browne)
Dickens's Pickwick Papers
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Having satirized education in the plot gambit involving the seminary for young ladies and the law in "The Trial," Phiz and Dickens now assail the church in the person of a dissenting preacher named Stiggins, whom Tony Weller derisively has denominated as "the red-nosed man" — a reference to the outward and visible sign of his hypocrisy. Thew Reverend Stiggins as the chief of the Dorking branch of the Brick Lane Branch of the United Grand Junction Ebenezer Temperance Association is Mrs. Weller's spiritual counsellor. Even as the temperance preacher criticises taps (public houses) as "vanities," he asks Sam to order him hot rum and water. Apparently, Sam's step-mother ("mother-in-law") has brought the preacher to the Fleet Prison to exhort Sam to repent his dissolute ways that have led to his incarceration for debt — clearly she is unaware that Sam has contrived his status as debtor merely to watch over Mr. Pickwick. Sam, too, regards Stiggins as a "humbug," as he describes the preacher as "Saint Simon Without, and Saint Walker Within" (the reference being to the notorious spy Hookey Walker, the vehicle for expressions of incredulity such as that by the street boy whom Scrooge asks to bring the poulterer and prize turkey around to his residence on Christmas morning at the close of A Christmas Carol (1843).
Ever since his initial appearance in the story in chapter ten as the down-to-earth, practical-minded foil to the naive, good-hearted Pickwick in chapter ten (his arrival in the narrative commemorated in Phiz's "First Appearance of Mr. Samuel Weller"), the plucky, wise-cracking, street-smart Cockney had been a favourite with readers — and a continuing character in the picaresque novel, Sancho Panza to Pickwick's Don Quixote, so to speak. Now he assumes considerable prominence in an illustration. The plate, in fact, makes no reference to Sam's "master" whatsoever, for the characters are entirely below the mercantile Pickwick's social station: Mrs. Weller (left), sobbing; Stiggins (centre) in full rhetorical flight; Sam's father, Tony, nodding off; and Sam, not "cross-legged" as indicated in the text, but rather straddling the chair in the Snuggery as if it were a horse.
During the delivery of the oration, Mrs. Weller sobbed and wept at the end of the paragraphs; while Sam, sitting cross-legged on a chair and resting his arms on the top rail, regarded the speaker with great suavity and blandness of demeanour; occasionally bestowing a look of recognition on the old gentleman, who was delighted at the beginning, and went to sleep about half-way. [chapter 45]
Cohen, Jane Rabb. Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State U. P., 1980.
Dickens, Charles. "Pickwick Papers (1836-37). Il. Hablot Knight Browne. The Charles Dickens Edition. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1867.
Guiliano, Edward, and Philip Collins, eds. The Annotated Dickens. Vol. 1. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1986.
Hammerton, J. A. The Dickens Picture-Book. London: Educational Book Co., 1910.
Steig, Michael. Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington & London: Indiana U.P., 1978.
Last modified 26 December 2011