Before Mr. Pickwick distinctly knew what was the matter, he was surrounded by the whole body, and kissed by every one of them by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne). Household Edition (1874) of Dickens's Pickwick Papers, p. 193. Engraved by one of the Dalziels. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Left: Thomas Nast's It was a pleasant thing to see Mr. Pickwick in the centre of the group. [At Dingley Dell, under the misltoe] Right: Phiz's 1837 version of the scene: Christmas Eve at Mr. Wardle's [Click on these images to enlarge them.]

As charming a figure as Thomas Nast's "Mr. Pickwick" cuts by himself under the mistletoe at Dingley Dell in the American Household Edition, Pickwick's being surrounded by a bevy of young beauties, in particular, Mr. Wardle's adolescent nieces, and the festive context generally are much appealing, despite a certain woodenness of expression that should suggest something of Pickwick's delight in "Christmas Eve at Mr. Wardle's", in which the protagonist is gallantly offering Mr. Wardle's aged mother an opportunity to dance, and thereby recapture (if only momentarily) a sense of her lost youth as she joins young and middle-aged revellers in seasonal festivity. In the 1873 Christmas Eve plate, Phiz shifts his attention to the scene in which the younger women of the house surround a middle-aged and bashful Pickwick under the mistletoe, precisely the subject which Nast addresses. In contrast to the sprightliness of Phiz's figures in both 1837 and 1837 illustrations, there is an unfortunate woodenness about the seven figures in the Nast mistletoe scene, "It was a pleasant thing to see Mr. Pickwick in the centre of the group" (p. 169), and Nast's Wardle neices are not nearly so attractive as Phiz's, nor is there in Nast's composition much informing background detail, although he shows Old Wardle (right), looking on with approval. Again, Pickwick seems paralysed rather than energised by the delightful situation.

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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