Before Sam could interfere to prevent it, his heroic parent had penetrated into a remote corner of the room, and attacked the Reverend Mr. Stiggins with manual dexterity by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne). Household Edition (1874) of Dickens's Pickwick Papers, p. 233. Engraved by one of the Dalziels. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Still on 13 February 1831, after Tony Weller has assisted his son in the composition of a Valentine to the Nupkins's maid, Mary, back in Ipswich, Tony persuades Sam to accompany him to a meeting of the United Grand Junction Ebenezer Temperance Association, with the intention of exposing the red-nosed "Reverend" Mr. Stiggins (of whom the naive Mrs. Weller is quite fond) as a pious fraud and drunken hypocrite. Although Thomas Nast does not illustrate the coachman's assaulting Stiggins at this point, he has already commented on Mrs. Weller's ill-placed devotion to the nonconformist temperance minister in his twenty-sixth illustration, "'She's been gettin' rayther in the Methodistical order lately, Sammy'" (Chapter, p. 132 in the Harper and Brothers' Household Edition). Simply on economic grounds, one can see the absurdity of a publican such as Susan Weller, who with her husband runs Dorking's coaching inn and public house "The Marquis of Granby," supporting the temperance cause, but Dicken enjoys exploiting the absurdity by making Stiggins the cause of marital discord between the Wellers. The moment which Nast realised earlier to explain the old coachman's antipathy for the rascally reverend is this, as Sam queries his father about Susan Weller's health recently:

‘How’s mother-in-law this mornin’?"

"Queer, Sammy, queer," replied the elder Mr. Weller, with impressive gravity. "She’s been gettin’ rayther in the Methodistical order lately, Sammy; and she is uncommon pious, to be sure. She’s too good a creetur for me, Sammy. I feel I don’t deserve her."

"Ah," said Mr. Samuel. "that’s wery self-denyin’ o’ you."

"Wery," replied his parent, with a sigh. "She’s got hold o’ some inwention for grown-up people being born again, Sammy — the new birth, I think they calls it. I should wery much like to see that system in haction, Sammy. I should wery much like to see your mother-in-law born again. Wouldn’t I put her out to nurse."

"What do you think them women does t’other day," continued Mr. Weller, after a short pause, during which he had significantly struck the side of his nose with his forefinger some half-dozen times. ‘What do you think they does, t’other day, Sammy?"

"Don’t know," replied Sam, "what?"

"Goes and gets up a grand tea-drinkin’ for a feller they calls their shepherd," said Mr. Weller. "I was a-standing starin' in at the picture shop down at our place, when I sees a little bill about it; 'tickets half-a-crown. All applications to be made to the committee. Secretary, Mrs. Weller;' and when I got home there was the committee a-sittin’ in our back parlor. Fourteen women; I wish you could ha’ heard ’em, Sammy. There they was, a-passin’ resolutions, and wotin’ supplies, and all sorts o’ games. [Chapter 22 in the Harper & Bros. Household Edition, p. 131-32]

Adding an illustration between "The Valentine" and "The Trial" for the Household Edition, Phiz has realised the assault upon Stiggins at the close of chapter 33, immediately prior to the "Trial" scene. The physical comedy works only because the reader is assured by his actions and utterances that Stiggins is a drunkard and therefore a hypocrite. The scene of vigorous group action involves yet another instance of Weller-produced Hogarthian violence that a "watchman" (that is, a municipal peace-keeper of the type not replaced until the late 1840s by the regular police constable known as a "Bobby," nicknamed after Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel) will not be able to correct:

"Now, Sammy," said Mr. Weller, taking off his greatcoat with much deliberation, "just you step out, and fetch in a watchman."

"And wot are you a-goin' to do, the while?" inquired Sam.

"Never you mind me, Sammy," replied the old gentleman; "I shall ockipy myself in havin' a small settlement with that 'ere Stiggins." Before Sam could interfere to prevent it, his heroic parent had penetrated into a remote corner of the room, and attacked the Reverend Mr. Stiggins with manual dexterity.

"Come off!" said Sam.

"Come on!" cried Mr. Weller; and without further invitation he gave the Reverend Mr. Stiggins a preliminary tap on the head, and began dancing round him in a buoyant and cork-like manner, which in a gentleman at his time of life was a perfect marvel to behold. [Chapter 33, Chapman & Hall Household Edition, p. 231]

Phiz's two versions of this scene Left: It was a still more exciting spectacle to behold Mr. Weller . . . . . immersing Mr. Stiggins's head in a horse-trough full of water, and holding it there until he was half suffocated. Right: Tony Weller ejects Mr. Higgins [Click on these images to enlarge them.]

Sam has already confronted his step-mother and the repulsively red-nosed Stiggins in the back parlour of the public house in Chapter 27, and Chapter 22 had established Tony's unease about his wife's devotion to Stiggins, but Phiz's illustration in chapter 33 makes it all too clear the antipathy between the bluff coach-driver (as substantial and honest a man as Stiggins is thin and deceptive) and the oily hypocrite. In the Phiz illustration, one of seventeen entirely original woodcuts for the Household Edition rather than a redrafting of a scene in the original series, Brother Anthony Humm in the background is being "all but suffocated by the crowd of female devotees" as the lights are being put out and the meeting descends into chaos. Tony has one further opportunity to assault Stiggins in chapter 52, when Sam's father, encouraged by his son, dunks the hapless "pastor" in the horse trough in front of The Marquis of Granby in "It was a still more exciting spectacle to behold Mr. Weller . . . . . immersing Mr. Stiggins's head in a horse-trough full of water, and holding it there until he was half suffocated" (p. 377 in the Chapman & Hall Household Edition), itself a reprise of the poetic justice that befalls the arch hypocrite in "Tony Weller ejects Mr. Higgins".

Plates by other illustrators

Left: "'Governor in?' inquired Sam" by Thomas Nast. Right: The Rev. Mr. Stiggins and Mrs. Weller by Sol Eytinge, Jr. [Click on these images to enlarge them.]

In drawing the nonconformist minister upon whom Tony Weller vents his anger, particularly after Susan's death when Stiggins turns up at the public house looking for a bequest for his temperance society, Thomas Nast had not only Dickens's text and Phiz's 1837 illustrations on which to base his satirical visualisation, for Sol Eytinge, Jr., in the Ticknor and Fields Diamond Edition of 1867 had offered a possible model in two illustrations: "The Rev. Mr. Stiggins and Mrs. Weller" and "Meeting of the Brick Lane Branch of U. G. J. E. T. A.", the second of which illustrates a moment just ahead of Tony Weller's assaulting Stiggins in chapter 33. One may assume that Phiz had never seen Eytinge's version of Stiggins, for Phiz's rendition of the temperance minister does not resemble Eytinge's. The Nast illustration for chapter 27 is the only one which really depicts Stiggins's physiognomy, so that one must conclude that, if Nast saw the Eytinge illustrations, he rejected them in order to make the minister the repeated butt of physical nemesis.

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 10 March 2012