Mr. Weller was dispelling all the feverish remains of the previous evening's conviviality, . . . . when he was attracted by the appearance of a young fellow in mulberry-coloured livery by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne). Household Edition (1874) of Dickens's Pickwick Papers. This illustration, which is on p. 105, refers to p. 107. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Arrived at the Angel in Bury St. Edmunds after a pleasant drive through the countryside and a discussion of how the poorest Londoners live under bridges and night by night in cheap lodging houses, Sam Weller and Mr. Pickwick, pursuing Alfred Jingle after Mrs. Leo Hunter's party at Eatanswill, introduce the reader to the immortal Wellerism "Right as a trivet." Although the fact has not yet registered with Sam (left), the young man, seated opposite, in servant's livery reading a small book (a hymn book, in fact) is none other than Job Trotter, Alfred Jingle's aide. There is no comparable scene in either the original 1836-37 Seymour/Phiz series or the Thomas Nast illustrations for the Harper and Brothers' Household Edition of The Pickwick Papers, the passage illustrated being this:

Early on the ensuing morning, Mr. Weller was dispelling all the feverish remains of the previous evening's conviviality, through the instrumentality of a halfpenny shower-bath (having induced a young gentleman attached to the stable department, by the offer of that coin, to pump over his head and face, until he was perfectly restored), when he was attracted by the appearance of a young fellow in mulberry-coloured livery, who was sitting on a bench in the yard, reading what appeared to be a hymn-book, with an air of deep abstraction, but who occasionally stole a glance at the individual under the pump, as if he took some interest in his proceedings, nevertheless. [Chapter 16, p. 107]

The Dickensian "catch phrase" through which the reader instantly identifies Trotter is "mulberry-coloured livery." Sam assumes that he will be able to delude Job by giving assumed names for himself and his master, but in fact Job has easily identified Sam as Pickwick's servant and, at Jingle's bidding, is about to send the pair on a wild goose chase. Unfortunately, the illustrator seems to have found no way of visually communicating the duplicity being practised by both, and so realises the initial moments of the meeting, when at least Sam is not quite sure of the "mulberry man's" identity. Job appears to be utterly engrossed in reading his hymn-book, although in fact he is closely observing Pickwick's servant, who has just emerged from his dousing under an archaeologically correct farmyard pump of early nineteenth century vintage.

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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