The heroic man actually threw himself into a paralytic attitude, confidently supposed by the two bystanders to have been intended as a posture of self-defence by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne). Household Edition Dickens's Pickwick Papers, p. 89. Engraved by one of the Dalziels. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

In the 1873 Household Edition oth Phiz and Nast again represent he same textual moment, this time, in chapter 15: Tupman and Pickwick nearly come to fisticuffs over Pickwick's pronouncing his fellow Pickwickian "too old" and "too fat" to be getting himself up in a green velvet jacket to impersonate an Alpine Bandit at Mrs. Leo Hunter's fete champetre.

Phiz exploits the possibilities for rendering his protagonist once again ridiculous when he lets his temper (again) get the better of him in the fifteenth Household Edition illustration, "The heroic man actually threw himself into a paralytic attitude, confidently supposed by the two bystanders to have been intended as a posture of self-defence." (See page 99), while Thomas Nast in the twentieth illustration for the Harper and Brothers' Household Edition, "'Come on, Sir!' replied Mr. Pickwick" (page 91), has both antagonists assume convincing pugilistic stances — although Nast's Pickwick seems to be looking in entirely the wrong direction to land a blow, Nast's Tupman, rolling up his sleeves, seems a practiced and formidable opponent. The quarrel thus realised involves Pickwick's having just pronounced his fellow Pickwickian "too old" and "too fat" to be stuffing himself into a green velvet jacket to impersonate an Alpine Bandit a la Lord Byron at Mrs. Leo Hunter's féte champetre the following morning. Snodgrass is ineffectual in both illustrations, being the figure coming between the antagonists in Phiz's woodcut and taking shelter in Nast's behind the table at the Pickwickians' rooms at the Peacock Inn, Eatanswill, three days after the election. The moment realised in both illustrations is this:

"I shall go as a Bandit," interposed Mr. Tupman.

"What!" said Mr. Pickwick, with a sudden start.

"As a bandit," repeated Mr. Tupman, mildly.

"You don't mean to say," said Mr. Pickwick, gazing with solemn sternness at his friend — "'you don't mean to say, Mr. Tupman, that it is your intention to put yourself into a green velvet jacket, with a two-inch tail?"

"Such is my intention, sir," replied Mr. Tupman warmly. "And why not, sir?"

"Because, sir," said Mr. Pickwick, considerably excited — "because you are too old, sir."

"Too old!" exclaimed Mr. Tupman.

"And if any further ground of objection be wanting," continued Mr. Pickwick, "you are too fat, sir.'"

"Sir," said Mr. Tupman, his face suffused with a crimson glow, "this is an insult."

"Sir," replied Mr. Pickwick, in the same tone, "it is not half the insult to you, that your appearance in my presence in a green velvet jacket, with a two-inch tail, would be to me."

"Sir," said Mr. Tupman, "you're a fellow."

"Sir," said Mr. Pickwick, "you're another!"

Mr. Tupman advanced a step or two, and glared at Mr. Pickwick. Mr. Pickwick returned the glare, concentrated into a focus by means of his spectacles, and breathed a bold defiance. Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle looked on, petrified at beholding such a scene between two such men. (Chapter 15: Chapman & Hall Household Edition, p. 99; Harper & Bros. Household Edition, p. 91).

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"Come on, Sir!" replied Mr. Pickwick

In attempting to provide a realistic background, Phiz seems to have forgotten that the altercation does not occur in the Potts' drawing-room (where Pickwick has been a guest since his arrival in Eatanswill) but rather at Tupman, Winkle, and Snodgrass's rooms at the Peacock Inn, whereas Nast has provided a typical bow window with leaded panes and the simplest of furnishings to set the scene. Indeed, Phiz has placed so much furniture in the room — four chairs and a table — in front of the ornate fireplace that the figures seem incapable of moving against one another. On the other hand, in Nast's much better organised composition, the very stout Tupman and Pickwick dominate the scene, with Snodgrass effectively trapped by the two men whom he most admires. Phiz does not suggest that anything will come of the quarrel, but Nast's treatment suggest that a physical contest is about to ensue, thereby heightening suspense for readers since, in the American edition, the woodcut is positioned on the same page as the textual scene.

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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. Formatting by George P. Landow. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

References

Dickens, Charles. Pickwick Papers. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874; New York: Harpers, 1874.


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Last modified 5 April 2012