Pickwick Papers. Facing p. 101. [Click on image to enlarge it.]by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne). Household Edition (1874) of Dickens's
As always, in both Phiz illustrations, Pickwick is readily identifiable, and, by virtue of their close proximity to him, so are Tupman ("fat," as Pickwick says, and looking decidedly uncomfortable in his ridiculous getup), the tall Pott (as a blend of a bearded Cossack and a judge, in the background in the 1836 plate, but brought forward in that for 1873), and the slender Winkle, as usual, wearing gaiters, and a red jacket appropriate to a huntsman — or a postman. The background in Phiz's 1836 plate suggests the kind of outdoor and natural setting that the French court of the eighteenth century would have required for such an affair, but Phiz has filled the 1873 illustration's background with two tents and nine figures in "fancy dress." In both, the elderly Mrs. Hunter looks very much "mutton got up as lamb," in contrast to the younger women whose beauty the skimpy costumes complement.
Mrs. Leo Hunter's Fancy-Dress Dejeuner
More significantly, in the 1873 revision of this illustration, Phiz has pushed Mrs. Hunter to the left margin, giving greater prominence to Pickwick and his associates. Having a larger field to fill (13 by 17.4 cm for 1873; 12 by 10.5 for 1836), in the second iteration Phiz has been able to make his figures much larger, but the change in medium (and probably his partial paralysis and blindness) has meant a loss in the delicacy of line and subtlety of shading in the later illustration. Subtle changes are obvious upon closer inspection: for example, the young woman on Snodgrass's arm, Mrs. Pott, dressed as Apollo with quiver and lyre (right), does not hold her musical instrument up in the 1873 plate and has a more natural pose. The later plate presents figures modelled with a greater sense of three-dimensional space, emphasising, for example, the trunks and boughs of the trees in the backdrop, whereas the original illustration created a Watteau-esque setting by focusing the trees' foliage and by showing the trees in their entirety. In essence, then, Phiz's view in 1836 is panoramic, but that of the 1873 woodcut is a close-up in which the principals crowd out the background detail: note, for example, the figure in the helmet between Pickwick and his hostess — in bringing the bearded editor forward in the Household Edition woodcut, Phiz has forced that other-worldly figure in the helmet (Snodgrass) into the background.
The essential point of both Dickens's text and Phiz's 1836 illustration is the satirising of society lady poets and their bad poetry, Dickens's model, according to Philip Collins and Edward Guiliano in The Annotated Dickens, being the Honourable Miss Mary Monckton (1746-1840), afterwards, Lady Cork, "a renowned and conversationalist, whose passion was to throw parties for the most eminent people of her day" (Vol. I, p. 150). Dickens has appropriately dubbed her "Lion-Hunter," for she glories in catching literary lions and celebrities such as Count Smorltork and Samuel Pickwick. According to Kathleen Tillotson in the Literary Times Supplement for 22 November 1957,
Dickens based his depiction of the Count on Prince Puckler-Muskau and Professor Friedrich von Raumer, both of whom had recently written books about England after short tours of the country. [The Annotated Dickens, Vol. I, p. 152]
Likely through conversations with the author, Phiz would have been aware of the originals who sat for the portraits of Mrs. Leo Hunter and the Count, for as Jane Rabb Cohen notes, Dickens gave his illustrator very explicit suggestions for the September 1836 garden-party picture in a 19 October 1836 letter, in which Dickens comments upon the juxtapositions of the characters and the ladies. In particular, he stipulated that "Minerva" (that is, Mrs. Hunter) should look "a little younger (like Mrs. Pott — who is perfect)" (cited in Cohen, p. 64), as if Browne were trying to make Mrs. Hunter as old as Miss Monckton (i. e., 90!).
"Mr. Pickwick, ma'am," said a servant, as that gentleman approached the presiding goddess, with his hat in his hand, and the brigand and troubadour on either arm.
"What! Where!" exclaimed Mrs. Leo Hunter, starting up, in an affected rapture of surprise.
"Here," said Mr. Pickwick.
"Is it possible that I have really the gratification of beholding Mr. Pickwick himself!" ejaculated Mrs. Leo Hunter.
"No other, ma'am," replied Mr. Pickwick, bowing very low. "Permit me to introduce my friends — Mr. Tupman — Mr. Winkle — Mr. Snodgrass — to the authoress of 'The Expiring Frog.'
Very few people but those who have tried it, know what a difficult process it is to bow in green velvet smalls, and a tight jacket, and high-crowned hat; or in blue satin trunks and white silks, or knee-cords and top-boots that were never made for the wearer, and have been fixed upon him without the remotest reference to the comparative dimensions of himself and the suit. Never were such distortions as Mr. Tupman's frame underwent in his efforts to appear easy and graceful — never was such ingenious posturing, as his fancy-dressed friends exhibited.
"Mr. Pickwick,' said Mrs. Leo Hunter, "I must make you promise not to stir from my side the whole day. There are hundreds of people here, that I must positively introduce you to."
"You are very kind, ma'am," said Mr. Pickwick. [chapter 15; Chapman & Hall Household Edition, p. 101, facing the full-page illustration]
- The original 1836 version of this scene by Phiz: “Mrs. Leo Hunter's Fancy-Dress Dejeuner”
- The complete list of illustrations by Seymour and Phiz for the original edition
- An introduction to the Household Edition (1871-79)
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.]
Dickens, Charles. Pickwick Papers. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874; New York: Harpers, 1874.
Last modified 5 April 2012