Pickwick Papers, p. 113. Engraved by Wentworth. [Click on image to enlarge it.]by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne). Household Edition (1874) of Dickens's
As critics have noted, the objects and characters in Phiz's original illustration (see below) — notably the braying donkey and three pigs — convey important meanings. 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, choosing instead to depict the scene in which the irate landowner, Captain Boldwig, has the sleeping Pickwick impounded for trespass. Robert Patten has noted that the donkey and swine may point to a biblical interpretation, although he does not note that swine were the companions of the Prodigal Son in the Christian parable:
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.
The pound is therefore a small, informal prison, separating errant characters from the larger community. In this instance, Mr. Pickwick's only companions are animals — asses and pigs. The illustration ["Pickwick in the Pound," for Part 7, October 1836] invites us to consider his behavior in the light of the traditional moral associations of these animals: the pigs seem emblems of sloth and gluttony; the donkeys, emblems of stubbornness. Browne's independent addition of these animals — none are mentioned in Dickens's text — is an example of how his artistic imagination complements Dickens'. Both seize on objects or figures that emblemize a scene. [Robert L. Patten, "Boz, Phiz and Pickwick in the Pound," 580]
The sixteenth plate for The Pickwick Papers (October 1836) illustrates the symbiotic relationship that quickly developed by Boz and Phiz after Seymour's death and his successor, Buss, was dismissed. In the original steel engraving, Pickwick, who still feels 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. He is now 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.
Left: Number 16 of the 1836 illustrations: The Unexpected Breaking Up of the Seminary for Young Ladies. Right: Phiz's original October 1836 illustration, number 17 of the plates: Pickwick in the Pound. [Click on image to enlarge it.]
According to Michael Steig, Jane Rabb Cohen, and Robert L. Patten, Phiz has juxtaposed the gluttonous and sensual appetites exemplified by these creatures against a symbol of Christian forgiveness, the church tower seen faintly in the background. The village beadle (right), numerous children, and ten adults join the donkey in derisively laughing at Pickwick's condition, a foreshadowing of his imprisonment in the Fleet after he suffers a second injustice at the hands of the legal system. Surrounded by a largely juvenile mob in the Pound, Pickwick is made a figure of ridicule before being rescued by Wardle and Sam.
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 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):
Pickwick is in each case shown to be in the center of an enclosure, the object of mocking smiles or laughter from those on the other side of the barriers. I am less satisfied with Patten's use of this important insight in interpreting the novel. According to Patten, in the first of the pair, Pickwick "for correction" of his folly in drinking too much "is put in a small informal prison, separating errant characters from the larger community"(p. 580). In contrast is the following plate, where "he is now isolated, not from the hearty villagers, but from Dodson and Fogg," (p. 582). thus reflecting Pickwick's moral superiority at this point. The novel's movement is from "communal harmony and benevolent good feeling to dissension and isolation," (Ibid.) and then to spiritual enlightenment, for Pickwick's ability to join "the hilarious villagers" by laughing at himself" (p. 589) is related to the larger pattern of the novel, wherein Pickwick escapes "spiritual imprisonment" through forgiveness of Mrs. Bardell and Mr. Jingle (Ibid., p. 586.). Patten interprets the church building in the background of the pound plate as "iconographically" implying "Christian attitudes such as humility and forgiveness" (p. 585) while the donkeys and pigs function as emblems of Pickwick's folly and gluttony (p. 580). [Dickens and Phiz, p. 28-29]
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:
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.
"Hunt," said Captain Boldwig.
'"Yes, sir," said the gardener.
'"Roll this place to-morrow morning — do you hear, Hunt?"
"And take care that you keep this place in good order — do you hear, Hunt?"
"And remind me to have a board done about trespassers, and spring guns, and all that sort of thing, to keep the common people out. Do you hear, Hunt; do you hear?"
"I'll not forget it, sir."
"I beg your pardon, sir," said the other man, advancing, with his hand to his hat.
"Well, Wilkins, what's the matter with you?" said Captain Boldwig.
"I beg your pardon, sir — but I think there have been trespassers here to-day."
"Ha!" said the captain, scowling around him.
"Yes, sir — they have been dining here, I think, sir."
"Why, damn their audacity, so they have," said Captain Boldwig, as the crumbs and fragments that were strewn upon the grass met his eye. 'They have actually been devouring their food here. I wish I had the vagabonds here!" said the captain, clenching the thick stick.
"I wish I had the vagabonds here," said the captain wrathfully.
"Beg your pardon, sir," said Wilkins, 'but —"
"But what? Eh?" roared the captain; and following the timid glance of Wilkins, his eyes encountered the wheel-barrow and Mr. Pickwick.
"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.
"What?" demanded Captain Boldwig.
"What did he say his name was? " asked the captain.
"Punch, I think, sir," replied Wilkins.
"That's his impudence — that's his confounded impudence," said Captain Boldwig. "He's only feigning to be asleep now," said the captain, in a high passion. "He's drunk; he's a drunken plebeian. Wheel him away, Wilkins, wheel him away directly."
"Where shall I wheel him to, sir?" inquired Wilkins, with great timidity.
"Wheel him to the devil," replied Captain Boldwig.
"Very well, sir," said Wilkins.
"Stay," said the captain.
Wilkins stopped accordingly. [Chapter 19; the Chapman & Hall Household Edition, p. 130; the Harper & Bros. Household Edition, p. 117]
The Household Edition illustrations by Phiz and Nast compared
Thomas Nast's Pickwick in the Pound.
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 porotagonist discovered by two gardeners and Captain Boldwig (holding a thick rattan stick with a brass ferule), the irascible land-owner. Indignant at the telltale 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.
- 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)
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. Formatting by George P. Landow. [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 in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]
Cohen, Jane Rabb. Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State U. P., 1980.
Dickens, Charles. "Pickwick Papers (1836-37). London: Chapman & Hall.
Dickens, Charles. il. Hablot Knight Browne and Thomas Nast. Pickwick Papers. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874; New York: Harpers, 1874.
Hammerton, J. A. The Dickens Picture-Book. London: Educational Book Co.,1910.
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 9 March 2012