"Do you always smoke after you goes to bed, old cock?" inquired Mr. Weller of his land-lord, when they had both retired for the night by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne). Household Edition (1874) of Dickens's Pickwick Papers, p. 321. Engraved by one of the Dalziels. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Although Thomas Nast offered illustrations for neither chapter 43 nor chapter 44 in the Harper and Brothers version of the Household Edition for The Pickwick Papers, providing instead a woodcut relating to the comic Reverent Stiggins subplot in chapter 45, Phiz took this opportunity to create entirely new illustrations for these chapters. Neither illustration has a counterpart in the original serial illustrations, and both are among the seventeen entirely new illustrations that Phiz developed for the Household Edition, giving him the opportunity to balance the fortunes of Samuel Pickwick and those of Sam Weller, making the latter in essence the novel's co-protagonist. Neither this nor the previous illustration, "Sam, having been formally introduced . . . . as the offspring of Mr. Weller, of the Belle Savage, was treated with marked distinction", 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.

In chapter 44, although Nathaniel Winkle requests Sam's assistance in prosecuting his romantic pursuit of Arabella Allen, Sam is not free to leave the Fleet, where he settles in comfortably, as always making the best of a bad lot (in this case, being incarcerated for a debt he owes his father), as we see in the 1873 illustration and the following passage involving Sam's dialogue with his landlord, a cobbler who has fallen victim to Doctors' Commons and Chancery over legal actions brought against him when he became the executor of a relative's estate:

Finding all gentle remonstrance useless, Mr. Pickwick at length yielded a reluctant consent to his taking lodgings by the week, of a bald-headed cobbler, who rented a small slip room in one of the upper galleries. To this humble apartment Mr. Weller moved a mattress and bedding, which he hired of Mr. Roker; and, by the time he lay down upon it at night, was as much at home as if he had been bred in the prison, and his whole family had vegetated therein for three generations.

"Do you always smoke arter you goes to bed, old cock?" inquired Mr. Weller of his landlord, when they had both retired for the night.

"Yes, I does, young bantam," replied the cobbler.

"Will you allow me to in-quire wy you make up your bed under that 'ere deal table?" said Sam.

"Cause I was always used to a four-poster afore I came here, and I find the legs of the table answer just as well," replied the cobbler.

"You're a character, sir," said Sam.

"I haven't got anything of the kind belonging to me," rejoined the cobbler, shaking his head; "and if you want to meet with a good one, I'm afraid you'll find some difficulty in suiting yourself at this register office."

The above short dialogue took place as Mr. Weller lay extended on his mattress at one end of the room, and the cobbler on his, at the other; the apartment being illumined by the light of a rush-candle, and the cobbler's pipe, which was glowing below the table, like a red-hot coal. The conversation, brief as it was, predisposed Mr. Weller strongly in his landlord's favour; and, raising himself on his elbow, he took a more lengthened survey of his appearance than he had yet had either time or inclination to make.

He was a sallow man — all cobblers are; and had a strong bristly beard — all cobblers have. His face was a queer, good- tempered, crooked-featured piece of workmanship, ornamented with a couple of eyes that must have worn a very joyous expression at one time, for they sparkled yet. The man was sixty, by years, and Heaven knows how old by imprisonment, so that his having any look approaching to mirth or contentment, was singular enough. He was a little man, and, being half doubled up as he lay in bed, looked about as long as he ought to have been without his legs. He had a great red pipe in his mouth, and was smoking, and staring at the rush-light, in a state of enviable placidity.

"Have you been here long?' inquired Sam, breaking the silence which had lasted for some time.

"Twelve year," replied the cobbler, biting the end of his pipe as he spoke.

"'Contempt?" inquired Sam. The cobbler nodded.

'

"Well, then," said Sam, with some sternness, "wot do you persevere in bein' obstinit for, vastin' your precious life away, in this here magnified pound? Wy don't you give in, and tell the Chancellorship that you're wery sorry for makin' his court contemptible, and you won't do so no more?"

The cobbler put his pipe in the corner of his mouth, while he smiled, and then brought it back to its old place again; but said nothing.

"Wy don't you?" said Sam, urging his question strenuously.

"Ah,' said the cobbler, "you don't quite understand these matters. What do you suppose ruined me, now?"

"Wy,' said Sam, trimming the rush-light, 'I s'pose the beginnin' wos, that you got into debt, eh?"

"Never owed a farden," said the cobbler; "try again."

"Well, perhaps," said Sam, "you bought houses, wich is delicate English for goin' mad; or took to buildin', wich is a medical term for bein' incurable."

The cobbler shook his head and said, 'Try again.' 'You didn't go to law, I hope?' said Sam suspiciously. 'Never in my life,' replied the cobbler. 'The fact is, I was ruined by having money left me."

"Come, come," said Sam, 'that von't do. I wish some rich enemy 'ud try to vork my destruction in that 'ere vay. I'd let him."

"Oh, I dare say you don't believe it," said the cobbler, quietly smoking his pipe. "I wouldn't if I was you; but it's true for all that."

"How wos it?" inquired Sam, half induced to believe the fact already, by the look the cobbler gave him. [Chapman & Hall Household Edition, ch. 44, p. 308-309]

There follows what amounts to an integrated first-person narrative on the vagaries of the English legal system. The illustration conveys a sense of both characters, the sanguine old cobbler and the equally sanguine Sam Weller, both sleeping on the floor of a spacious furnished apartment. Although the rush light is positioned on the mantelpiece, the room seems much better lit than Dickens describes. Whereas the cobbler's pipe is "glowing below the table, like a red-hot coal" (308) because the room is in near darkness, Phiz communicates the effect through its billowing smoke, somewhat altering the atmosphere of the ensuing dialogue. The old man's attitudes about the injustices of the property-inheritance system and his gradually revealed bitterness are not suggested, so that the illustration does not seem to be referring to anything of substance, whereas the cobbler's tale is Dickens's indictment of a system he knew so well as a legal clerk and then a reporter. Unfortunately, although this illustration conveys an accurate image of the physical particulars of the old cobbler, it presents a "sanitized" image of life in a debtors' prison, suggesting that Phiz (unlike Boz) was unfamiliar with conditions in such places in the 1830s, the misery, the dinginess, the lack of sanitation, and the all-consuming desperation rampant in these deplorable institutions.

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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 20 April 2012