Sam looked at the Fat Boy with great astonishment, but without saying a word by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne). Household Edition (1874) of Dickens's Pickwick Papers, p. 189. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Since this is the first meeting of two of the novel's chief comic characters — Pickwick's street-wise Cockney servant, Sam Weller, and Wardle's narcoleptic page, Joe "The Fat Boy" — this should be significant among the twenty-seven wholly new illustrations that Phiz created in 1873 for the fifty-seven woodcuts in the Household Edition of The Pickwick Papers, issued in 1874 (perhaps because Chapman and Hall realised that, despite Phiz's name recognition with the public, his work would have little drawing power because it was often just a bad imitation of the new Sixties style). The plate, whatever its shortcoming as a composition, reminds the reader that Sam Weller was still in Pickwick's future when the Pickwickians last visited Dingley Dell. Pickwick has left Sam and Joe to pack the luggage (as well as casks of oysters, one such cask being just behind the trunk between Sam and Joe, and a large cod-fish that has accompanied the Pickwickians on the stage-coach from London) onto the cart while he, Tupman, Snodgrass, and Winkle make their way by foot from Muggleton to Dingley Dell.

Left: Mr. Wardle looked on, in silent wonder. Right: Wardle and His Friends under the Influence of the Salmon

In the background is the sign of the Blue Lion, Muggleton, reminding the reader of the Muggleton/Dingley Dell cricket match that concluded with rather too much drinking, although Pickwick put the ill-effects of the banquet (as realised in the Household Edition as "Mr. Wardle looked on, in silent wonder" (see above) down to too much salmon, as suggested in both the original series in "Wardle and His Friends under the Influence of the Salmon" (see above) and the frontispiece of the Household Edition, "Old Mr. Wardle, with a highly-inflamed countenance, was grasping the hand of a strange gentleman". Unfortunately, this twenty-seventh illustration lacks the humour and charm of the accompanying text, with the East London and Kentish dialects of the two servants helping to distinguish them.

"Sam looked at the Fat Boy with great astonishment, but without saying a word." (p. 189) gives the reader the precise moment, but the reader must absorb the entire textual scene to understand the picture's implications, which, as usual, involve Sam's doing everything and Joe's doing nothing but observe. It begins with Pickwick's ordering Sam to assist Joe (not do all the packing himself). Pickwick has elected not to ride since there would be insufficient room for his friends; his determination to walk reminds the reader of the difficulties the Pickwickians encountered with the rented horse and carriage earlier, when travelling from Rochester to Dingley Dell, and realised in "The horse no sooner beheld Mr. Pickwick advancing with the chaise whip in his hand, &c." (p. 25). Presumably the presence of Joe, "The Fat Boy" (last seen in "Mr. Tupman looked round. There was the fat boy" [p. 49]) and the horse and cart would instantly have recalled Pickwick's previous transportation problems and motivate his intention to walk to Dingley Dell:

"Help Mr. Wardle’s servant to put the packages into the cart, and then ride on with him. We will walk forward at once."

Having given this direction, and settled with the coachman, Mr. Pickwick and his three friends struck into the footpath across the fields, and walked briskly away, leaving Mr. Weller and the fat boy confronted together for the first time. Sam looked at the fat boy with great astonishment, but without saying a word; and began to stow the luggage rapidly away in the cart, while the fat boy stood quietly by, and seemed to think it a very interesting sort of thing to see Mr. Weller working by himself.

"There," said Sam, throwing in the last carpet-bag, "there they are!"

"Yes," said the fat boy, in a very satisfied tone, "there they are."

"Vell, young twenty stun," said Sam, "you're a nice specimen of a prize boy, you are!’ ‘Thank’ee,’ said the fat boy.

"You ain’t got nothin’ on your mind as makes you fret yourself, have you?" inquired Sam.

"Not as I knows on," replied the fat boy.

"I should rayther ha’ thought, to look at you, that you was a-labourin’ under an unrequited attachment to some young ‘ooman," said Sam.

The fat boy shook his head.

"Vell," said Sam, "I am glad to hear it. Do you ever drink anythin’?"

"I likes eating better," replied the boy.

"Ah,’ said Sam, ‘I should ha’ s’posed that; but what I mean is, should you like a drop of anythin’ as’d warm you? but I s’pose you never was cold, with all them elastic fixtures, was you?"

"Sometimes," replied the boy; "and I likes a drop of something, when it’s good."

"Oh, you do, do you?" said Sam, "come this way, then!"

The Blue Lion tap was soon gained, and the fat boy swallowed a glass of liquor without so much as winking — a feat which considerably advanced him in Mr. Weller’s good opinion. Mr. Weller having transacted a similar piece of business on his own account, they got into the cart. [Chapter 28, Chapman & Hall's Household Edition, p. 189]

Related Material

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 April 2012