"A compliment which Mr. Weller returned by knocking him down out of hand: having previously, with the utmost consideration, knocked down a chairman for him to lie upon by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne). Household Edition (1874) of Dickens's Pickwick Papers, p. 169. Engraved by one of the Dalziels. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

In Ipswich, the town in Suffolk to which Mr. Pickwick and Sam have pursued the nefarious Alfred Jingle after his appearance at Mrs. Leo Hunter's garden party at Eatanswill, the Pickwickians rent rooms at the Great White Horse Inn. Mistaking Miss Witherfield's room for his own after getting lost in the maze of corridors after midnight, Pickwick finds himself in highly embarrassing circumstances yet again. Accused by the "middle-aged lady in yellow curl-papers" of being a political agitator, and brought before the local magistrate, the wrong-headed old Tory Mr. Nupkins, Pickwick eventually uses his knowledge that Nupkins, too, has been taken in by Jingle to leverage his own release and that of Sam, even though the pair have been involved in a physical altercation with the authorities in the market place after Sam attempted to effect his master's rescue by assaulting the preposterous constable, Grummer (fallen to the ground and touching his head gingerly in the foreground, left, his baton of office momentarily cast aside).

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Mr. Weller Attacks the Executive of Ipswich

As is typical of the scenes which Phiz revised from the original illustrations, in the battle between Sam Weller and the civic authorities at Ipswich in defence of Pickwick, the Household Edition illustrator has moved in for a close-up, so that the details of surrounding houses are lost, and Pickwick's head, formerly in the centre of the composition, now touches the top frame. Then, too, Phiz has sacrificed something of the original's Hogarthian exuberance in redrafting the scene in the manner of the Sixties Illustrators, reducing the number of figures (all now much more substantial) from twelve in the foreground of the December 1836 engraving to nine in the 1873 woodcut, and somewhat reducing Sam Weller's presence, for Sam (below, right) and Pickwick (above, centre), who dominate the earlier 12.5 by 11.3 engraving, are lost in 11.0 by 13.6 cm woodcut. Other figures immediately recognisable are Mr. Snodgrass (left, with his coat off the shoulder, as if making to fight, although he has no intention of doing so) and the other special constable, Mr. Dubbley (centre, in front of the sedan chair), in the surtout, ineffectually defending himself against Sam Weller's right jab. A significant shift in his conception of Pickwick in this scene is evident in the Household Edition woodcut, for Pickwick, formerly argumentative and indignant as he clambers up to the roof of the sedan chair to make his grievance heard, now seems somewhat aghast at the mayhem Sam has caused in trying to liberate him. The continued presence of the somewhat oversized sedan chair in both earlier and later versions suggests a Regency or even an eighteenth-century setting for both the passage and its accompanying illustration which captures well the sense of uproarious discord of a brawling crowd scene like something out of the William Hogarthseries entitled "The Election" (particularly "The Chairing of the Candidate") in the following:

Whether Mr. Winkle was seized with a temporary attack of that species of insanity which originates in a sense of injury, or animated by this display of Mr. Weller's valour, is uncertain; but certain it is, that he no sooner saw Mr. Grummer fall than he made a terrific onslaught on a small boy who stood next him; whereupon Mr. Snodgrass, in a truly Christian spirit, and in order that he might take no one unawares, announced in a very loud tone that he was going to begin, and proceeded to take off his coat with the utmost deliberation. He was immediately surrounded and secured; and it is but common justice both to him and Mr. Winkle to say, that they did not make the slightest attempt to rescue either themselves or Mr. Weller; who, after a most vigorous resistance, was overpowered by numbers and taken prisoner. The procession then reformed; the chairmen resumed their stations; and the march was re-commenced.

Mr. Pickwick's indignation during the whole of this proceeding was beyond all bounds. He could just see Sam upsetting the specials, and flying about in every direction; and that was all he could see, for the sedan doors wouldn’t open, and the blinds wouldn’t pull up. At length, with the assistance of Mr. Tupman, he managed to push open the roof; and mounting on the seat, and steadying himself as well as he could, by placing his hand on that gentleman’s shoulder, Mr. Pickwick proceeded to address the multitude; to dwell upon the unjustifiable manner in which he had been treated; and to call upon them to take notice that his servant had been first assaulted. In this order they reached the magistrate’s house; the chairmen trotting, the prisoners following, Mr. Pickwick oratorising, and the crowd shouting. [chapter 24, page 169 in the Chapman & Hall Household Edition]

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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 9 March 2012