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Mr. Pickwick finds himself in Captain Boldwig's pound. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. 1874. Woodblock engraving, 8 x 7.3 cm (3 by 2 ¾ inches). —In the title-page vignette, Phiz anticipates Pickwick's extreme embarrassment at awakening from a drunken stupor in the village pound, surrounded by errant animals indicative of atavistic impulses and uncivilised behaviour. Apprehended in a comatose condition on Captain Boldwig's estate and treated like a common vagabond, Pickwick, heretofore a respectable, well-off member of the bourgeoisie, discovers what it feels like to be unjustly judged and incarcerated. The scene anticipates his being sentenced to the Fleet Prison after he loses his case against Mrs. Bardell, who has sued him for breach of promise of marriage.

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.]

Passage Illustrated: Mr. Pickwick awakens in an ignominious circumstance

Meanwhile Mr. Pickwick had been wheeled to the Pound, and safely deposited therein, fast asleep in the wheel-barrow, to the immeasurable delight and satisfaction not only of all the boys in the village, but three-fourths of the whole population, who had gathered round, in expectation of his waking. If their most intense gratification had been awakened by seeing him wheeled in, how many hundredfold was their joy increased when, after a few indistinct cries of "Sam!" he sat up in the barrow, and gazed with indescribable astonishment on the faces before him.

A general shout was of course the signal of his having woke up; and his involuntary inquiry of ‘What’s the matter?" occasioned another, louder than the first, if possible.

"Here’s a game!" roared the populace.

"Where am I?" exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.

"In the pound," replied the mob.

"How came I here? What was I doing? Where was I brought from?"

"Boldwig! Captain Boldwig!" was the only reply. [Chapter XIX, "A Pleasant Day with an Unpleasant Termination," p. 130]

Commentry: A Proleptic Reading

Phiz's original serial illustration Pickwick in the Pound (October 1836).

This title-page vignette, the second illustration in the Chapman and Hall Household Edition (1874), faces the frontispiece, anticipating a scene in Chapter XIX. Phiz directs the reader neither by caption nor quotation to turn to page 130 in the nineteenth chapter to decipher the meaning of Pickwick's lying in a wheelbarrow or his shocked expression. Nor does Phiz depict the other components of the scene that provide a visual context: the enclosure, the impounded animals, and the gleeful spectators. Perhaps Phiz expected readers of the new Household Edition volume would already be familiar with his earlier version of the famous comedic scene, either from reading an earlier edition — Chapman and Hall, London, first published Pickwick in nineteen monthly parts, from April 1836 through November 1837 — or from having seen the original October 1836 steel-engraving Pickwick in the Pound, in which even a donkey, also apprehended for trespass, laughes at the hapless protagonist, who, like a prodigal, is keeping company with swine. The style of this later, much simplified version of the scene, seems far cruder and heavier than Phiz’s earlier work.

In the title-page vignette of the Household Edition, Phiz suggests by the fence-posts behind Pickwick and the wheelbarrow that the novel's dubious hero is indeed in the pound but spares him the humiliation of being surrounded by three-quarters of the population of the village who pelt him with vegetables and "a few other little tokens of the playful disposition of the many-headed" (130), that is, the mob. As Patten notes in "Boz, Phiz and Pickwick in the Pound," Phiz has juxtaposed the stray animals, the derisive villagers, and the tower of the village church for thematic purposes, so that it may seem odd that neither of the Household Edition illustrators chose to replicate in full this scene of the protagonist's social degradation as Pickwick awakes to find himself an object of scorn and without the support of Sam and his fellow Pickwickians. Remarks Patten points out in that "Pickwick's follies are the result of an excess of appetites that, in moderation, are beneficial" (581) since they serve to reinforce camaraderie and fellowship. Phiz has placed him with other creatures whose appetites have led them astray. Steig is somewhat critical of Patten's attempt to link "Pickwick in the Pound" thematically the other illustration for Part 7, "Mr. Pickwick and Sam in the attorneys' office" (ch. 20).

In the original steel engraving, Pickwick, who is still feeling the effects of multiple glasses of cold punch, has been transported as a "drunken plebeian" (130) in the wheelbarrow from the scene of his debauch on Captain Boldwig's land at One-tree Hill (the very name suggestive of Christian redemption through suffering) to the local impound. In assessing the frontispiece, the reader must recall how Phiz had depicted Pickwick surrounded by the villagers, a stray donkey (who apparently laughs at the inebriate), and three pigs, despite the fact that the text in chapter 19 Dickens mentions no such creatures as Pickwick's companions.

An adaptation of Phiz's original serial illustration Pickwick in the Pound (October 1836) for the cover and title-page of Dicks' Standard Play 1065.

The sixteenth plate for The Pickwick Papers (October 1836), Pickwick, who still feels the effects of multiple glasses of cold punch, has been transported as a "drunken plebeian" in the wheelbarrow from the scene of his "debauch" (a picnic, in fact) on Captain Boldwig's land at One-tree Hill (the very name suggestive of Christian redemption through suffering) to the local impound. The 1836 steel-engraving, in turn, became the basis within a year for the cover of Dicks' Standard Play 1065 and the title-page of Pickwick. A Farce, In Three Acts, William Lehman Rede's dramatic adaptation of Dickens's novel, first performed at The Adelphi Theatre, on 3 April 1837 — although the serial did not arrive at its final instalment until the November 1837 double number.

Related Material


Cohen, Jane Rabb. Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State U. P., 1980.

Dickens, Charles. "Pickwick Papers (1836-37). Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne ('Phiz'). London: Chapman & Hall, 1837.

Dickens, Charles. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne and Thomas Nast. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874; New York: Harper and Bros., 1873.

Patten, Robert L. ""Boz, Phiz and Pickwick in the Pound."English Literary History 36 (1969): 575-591.

Steig, Michael. Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington & London: Indiana U.P., 1978. [Complete text in VW]

Last modified 23 June 2019