"Sam, having been formally introduced . . . . as the offspring of Mr. Weller, of the Belle Savage, was treated with marked distinction by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne). Household Edition (1874) of Dickens's Pickwick Papers, p. 313. Engraved by one of the Dalziels. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Although Thomas Nast, not at all interested in the Fleet Prison experiences of Pickwick, offered illustrations for neither chapter 43 nor chapter 44 in the Harper and Brothers version of the Household Edition for The Pickwick Papers. Instead, he provided a woodcut relating to the comic subplot involving the Reverent Stiggins in chapter 45. Phiz took this opportunity to create entirely a pair of new illustrations for these chapters. Neither 1873 illustration has a counterpart in the original serial illustrations, and both are among the seventeen entirely original illustrations that Phiz developed for the Household Edition, giving him the opportunity to focus on the character and fortunes of Sam Weller, making him in essence the novel's co-protagonist. In fact, in the fifty-seven illustrations in the Chapman and Hall Household Edition, Pickwick appears in just twenty-two, Sam (despite the fact that he doesn't make an appearance in the initial chapters) in twenty-two — the pair together in eight of the woodcuts. Although Tracy Tupman dominates the early illustrations (with seven appearances in the original sequence, nine appearances in the Household Edition), he is soon replaced by Nathaniel Winkle as the novel's chief "middle-class" romantic figure; however, neither Pickwickian has Sam's prominence in the 1873 series. In contrast, in the original 1836-37 series of forty-four illustrations, jointly by Seymour and Browne, the image of Samuel Pickwick is dominant as the retired merchant appears in twenty-nine engravings, Sam in a mere fifteen, Tupman in nine (mostly in the first half of the program), and Winkle in eleven of the engravings. Thus, rethinking the importance of the various characters in his new narrative-pictorial sequence for the Household Edition with the benefit of having read the entire novel (a perspective which, of course, he lacked when illustrating the serial), Phiz actually decreased the number of Pickwick's appearances and increased the number of Sam's, despite the fact that Sam's initial appearance is in the tenth illustration, by which point Pickwick has already been featured in seven woodcuts, including the title-page vignette, a close-up of "Pickwick in the Pound". This transformed precedence probably reflects some four decades of popular reception of the novel and the general popularity of the epigrammatic Sam Weller as the endlessly resourceful, street-wise Cockney who corrects Pickwick's limited "intellectual" perspective with worldly knowledge.

In chapter 43, Sam makes sure that he won't be separated from Pickwick by arranging with his father to be arrested as an insolvent debtor over an unpaid twenty-five pound loan, and accordingly arrives at the Fleet Prison accompanied by a posse of coachmen. When Pickwick learns of Sam's arrest, he offers to pay for Sam's discharge — but Sam refuses to let him do so. His stated rationale is that, like Pickwick, he does not wish to enrich an evil man. The passage realised in the third "coachman" plate in the series once again reinforces Sam's connection to the fraternity of coachmen, among whom his father, the rotund and philosophical Tony, is a leading light:

Mr. Weller at once sought the erudite Solomon Pell, and acquainted him with his desire to issue a writ, instantly, for the sum of twenty-five pounds, and costs of process; to be executed without delay upon the body of one Samuel Weller; the charges thereby incurred, to be paid in advance to Solomon Pell.

The attorney was in high glee, for the embarrassed coach-horser was ordered to be discharged forthwith. He highly approved of Sam's attachment to his master; declared that it strongly reminded him of his own feelings of devotion to his friend, the Chancellor; and at once led the elder Mr. Weller down to the Temple, to swear the affidavit of debt, which the boy, with the assistance of the blue bag, had drawn up on the spot.

Meanwhile, Sam, having been formally introduced to the whitewashed gentleman and his friends, as the offspring of Mr. Weller, of the Belle Savage, was treated with marked distinction, and invited to regale himself with them in honour of the occasion — an invitation which he was by no means backward in accepting.

The mirth of gentlemen of this class is of a grave and quiet character, usually; but the present instance was one of peculiar festivity, and they relaxed in proportion. After some rather tumultuous toasting of the Chief Commissioner and Mr. Solomon Pell, who had that day displayed such transcendent abilities, a mottled-faced gentleman in a blue shawl proposed that somebody should sing a song. The obvious suggestion was, that the mottled-faced gentleman, being anxious for a song, should sing it himself; but this the mottled-faced gentleman sturdily, and somewhat offensively, declined to do. Upon which, as is not unusual in such cases, a rather angry colloquy ensued. [Chapman & Hall Household Edition, ch. 43, p. 304]

Because the passage occurs some nine pages prior to the illustration, the reader of the Household Edition must have had to refresh his or her memory as to the precise nature of the gathering when arriving finally at the forty-fourth illustration. Clearly, Sam Weller is the thin young man seated left, and, despite the generic qualities of the six coachmen in the illustration, if he has returned from doing the legal paperwork, Tony Weller is likely the pipe-smoking individual seated next to Sam. The rubicund-visaged coachman (standing, centre), although lacking a shawl, would therefore be the "mottled-faced" man "anxious for song," leaving the reader to conclude either that Solomon Pell is the man seated to the right, or that (given the number of coachmen facsimiles present) neither Pell nor his clerk has been depicted. The serving maid or "officiating damsel" (3012), left, completes the picture of the group awaiting Sam's formal apprehension and translation to the Fleet. The text afterwards specifies that those present include the plaintiff (Tony); the defendant (Sam); attorney Pell and his clerk, Benjamin; and "eight stout coachmen," who escort Sam to the Fleet walking four abreast. However, if we assume that neither Pell nor his clerk appears in the scene, Browne seems to have left out a coachman in the travellers' room of the public-house opposite the Insolvent Court — unless Tony has yet to return at the moment realised.

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 20 April 2012