Pickwick Papers, p. 129. Wood-engraving by Wentworth, 3 7⁄8 inches high by 5 3⁄8 inches wide (10 cm high by 13.5 cm wide), framed, half-page; referencing text on the following page; descriptive headline: "Captain Boldwig" (p. 129). [Click on image to enlarge it.](See page 130.) by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne). British Household Edition (1874) of Dickens's
Passage Illustrated: The Irate Boldwig confronts the Comatose Trespasser
Mr. Pickwick had not been asleep half an hour when little Captain Boldwig, followed by the two gardeners, came striding along as fast as his size and importance would let him; and when he came near the oak tree, Captain Boldwig paused and drew a long breath, and looked at the prospect as if he thought the prospect ought to be highly gratified at having him to take notice of it; and then he struck the ground emphatically with his stick, and summoned the head-gardener. . . .
"Who are you, you rascal?" said the captain, administering several pokes to Mr. Pickwick's body with the thick stick. "What's your name?"
"Cold punch," murmured Mr. Pickwick, as he sank to sleep again.
[Chapter 19; the Chapman & Hall Household Edition, p. 130; the Harper & Bros. Household Edition, p. 117]
Commentary by Robert Patten: A Marked Change in Subject from the Serial Edition of 1836-37
As critics have noted, the objects and characters in Phiz's original illustration of the protagonist in the village pound — notably the braying donkey and three pigs — convey important meanings amounting to visual commentary. No one, however, has commented upon the presence of a beadle or local municipal legal authority and a monkey (centre, above Pickwick) holding aloft a turnip or apple. Curiously, in preparing his series of fifty-seven woodcuts for the 1874 Household Edition Phiz elected not to redraft this highly effective engraving in full; rather, Phiz has reduced the 1836 scene to a cameo for the frontispiece, and has chosen instead to depict the prefatory scene in which the irate landowner, Captain Boldwig, confronts has the sleeping Pickwick and orders him impounded for trespass. In this later illustration, Phiz contrasts the coneys, the gardener and under-gardener in their workaday attire and serviceable caps, with the formally dressed, officious landowner.
Mr. Pickwick comes to the pound through his own follies: the folly of being out on a rainy night, hiding in a private garden to prevent the elopement of a stranger; the folly of watching a shooting expedition from a wheelbarrow; the folly of consuming too much veal pie and imbibing too much cold punch. For correction, he is isolated from his fellow Pickwickians, and divided from the villagers by the wooden fence of the pound. ["Boz, Phiz and Pickwick in the Pound," 580]
Left: The frontispiece of the 1874 Household Edition, probably completed during the previous year illustrations: Detail of Pickwick in the Pound. Right: Phiz's original October 1836 steel-engraving, number 17 of the serial plates: Pickwick in the Pound. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]
Cohen notes that Browne and not Dickens surrounded Pickwick with animals suggestive of stubbornness and gluttony, icons that since the Middle Ages signify vice and "which contrast with the church towering overhead with its implicit promise of forgiveness" (65). In the new plate, Phiz (like Nast) decided to depict instead the moment when Pickwick, still disoriented, unintentionally identifies himself by accident as "Punch," the unredeemed sinner of the popular street entertainment of the Punch and Judy Show. Like Mr. Pickwick, Mr. Punch is easily blinded by anger — he also beats his wife and thumbs his nose at propriety and the law (none of which fits the respectable Pickwick, of course).
Disregarding this identification (which the monkey-demon on the fence above Pickwick and the beadle in the 1837 engraving reinforce), let us examine the two 1874 woodcuts for their implications about Pickwick as a flawed hero, one whom we should not so much emulate as regard as imperfect, and therefore fallible and human. In 1873 although Nast and Phiz worked independently separated as they were by the North Atlantic, both selected precisely the same moment in chapter 19 to illustrate: "Who are you, you rascal?" said the captain, administering several pokes to Mr. Pickwick's body with the thick stick. "What's your name?" by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne) in the Chapman and Hall Household Edition (1874) of Dickens's The Pickwick Papers, p. 113; and simply "Who are you, you rascal?" by Thomas Nast in the Harper and Brothers' Household Edition (1874), p. 117. The passage realised in both illustrations is this, although in neither illustration does the under-gardener, Wilkins, have his hand to his hat in deference to the majestic Boldwig's authority.
The Household Edition illustrations by Phiz and Nast compared
Thomas Nast's "Who are you, you rascal?".
One of the most popular images of Pickwick does not show him at his best, and perhaps that was the reason for its popularity: it shows the somewhat stuffy, slightly self-righteous retired businessman and amateur scientist taken down a peg when a local official mistakenly takes the respectable bourgeois for a drunken trespasser. The Household Edition title-page vignette relates to "Pickwick in the Pound," while in the nineteenth chapter Phiz realises the earlier scene as British Household Edition No. 20, in Chapter 19, depicting the protagonist discovered by two gardeners and Captain Boldwig (holding a thick rattan stick with a brass ferule), the irascible and self-important land-owner. Indignant at the tell-tale evidence of picknicking and trespass on his property, Boldwig orders his men to transport the "plebeian" Pickwick, in a drunken stupor in a wheelbarrow, and deposit him in the local pound, which serves as a jail for the village. The military man's interrogation of the inebriate is not assisted by Pickwick's giving his name as "Cold Punch." Of the two gardeners in Phiz's picture, we may assume that Wilkins is immediately behind the pompous Boldwig, and that the man with the trowel is Hunt. Similarly, Nast uses two cartoonist's tricks to establish the identities of the gardeners, for the "sub-gardener," Wilkins, is a thin, smockfrock-wearing peasant carrying an oversized watering can, while his superior, Hunt, a stouter individual, is in closer proximity to Boldwig, and wears more conventionally middle-class attire: an apron, a vest, and a shirt. The less intelligent Wilkins gapes, open-mouthed, at the trespasser, whereas Hunt scratches his head, not sure what to make of a respectably clad, elderly, middle-class gentleman in such a pose and embarrassing situation. The object, however, that establishes which of the two is Wilkins is somewhat improbable since the object of Boldwig's inspection is not to water potted plants. Nor is Nast's Boldwig particularly well realised as in the text the haughty landowner is "a little fierce man in a stiff black neckerchief and blue surtout . . . with a thick rattan stick" (Harper & Brothers, p. 116; Champan & Hall, p. 129).
Whereas Nast captures the Captain's bellicose nature and military bearing, Phiz more ably conveys through his coloured face, facial hair, and rotund figure something of Boldwig's pomposity. Moreover, Phiz's gardeners, who surround Pickwick rather than, as in Nast's woodcut, observe him, are humorous and engaging characters whose aprons and implements (the broom and the trowel) bespeak their occupation. The chief difference between the two compositions, however, is the central placement of the addled Pickwick in Phiz's, and Nast's central placement of Boldwig, thrusting his cane into the trespasser rather than gently prodding the drunkard. Nast employs the juxtaposition of the sleeping inebriate and the noble, aged oak above him to emphasise Pickwick's figure, and perhaps obliquely comment on the inappropriateness of a revered elder finding himself in such a compromised position through the immoderate consumption of an alcoholic beverage. Phiz has Pickwick semiconscious but unable to rise, his hat (the sign of his middle-class respectability) abandoned on the ground, whereas the much chubbier Pickwick of Nast's woodcut is still fast asleep, his hat still firmly planted on his head. If, as Sergeant Buzfuz in his courtroom peroration about Pickwick's character asserts, Pickwick is metaphorically a "serpent," that is, an interloper and deceiver, he has unwittingly enacted the role of the serpent in Eden in this plate, prodded not by the spear of the angel-warrior Gabriel as in Book Four of Paradise Lost, but by the rattan cane of the class-conscious, ex-military man Captain Boldwig, who is as brazen as his ferule.
- A corresponding plate in the original 1836 Pickwick: “Mr. Pickwick in the Pound.”
- The complete list of illustrations by Seymour and Phiz for the original edition
- An introduction to the Household Edition (1871-79)
Cohen, Jane Rabb. Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State U. P., 1980.
Dickens, Charles. "The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (serialised 1836-37). London: Chapman & Hall, 1837.
Dickens, Charles. illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne and Thomas Nast. Pickwick Papers. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874; New York: Harper and Brothers, 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