I say insolent familiarity, Sir," said Mr. Pickwick, turning upon Fogg with a fierceness of gesture which caused that person to retreat towards the door with great expedition by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne). Household Edition (1874) of Dickens's Pickwick Papers, p. 384. Engraved by one of the Dalziels. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

In closing the original serial illustrations, Phiz and Dickens provided a frontispiece that shows Sam Weller and Samuel Pickwick in the old gentleman's library, retired from their adventures and seated at a round table on which are books and an ink-stand, decanters and glasses, details suggesting that they (like the purchaser of the final instalment and of the volume edition) are enjoying the experience of reading about and reflecting on their adventures. Effective as this frontispiece may be in emphasizing the mutually supportive "Quixote/Panza" relationship of master and man, it does little to tie up the loose ends of the novel's chief plot, the machinations of the lawyers Dodson and Fogg in supporting Mrs. Bardell's breach of promise suit against the protagonist. Indeed, as a volume "frontispiece," it could not give away specifics about the outcome of the chief plot. The force of Nemesis or poetic justice (which a modern reader might term "closure") requires that the conclusion of the episodic novel involve the scurrilous lawyers' receiving some sort of comeuppance, however. And so, without Dickens dictating to him what the four plates for the final sequence of Household Edition chapters (originally, the "double" number of November 1837, comprising chapters 53 through 57) would be, Hablot Knight Browne was free at last to follow his inclination to see that in his final woodcuts the devious legal partners would be recipients of divine (if not human) justice in Perker's inner office at Gray's Inn, where shortly before Jingle and Trotter have been recipients of divine forgiveness.

Thus, in winding up the "Bardell versus Pickwick" plot visually, Phiz reintroduces the figures of Dodson and Fogg, last seen not in "The Trial" of chapter 34 (for they are solicitors rather than barristers, and must utilise the services of a barrister such as the oratorical Serjeant Buzfuz), but in their interview with Pickwick and Sam at their chambers in "You just come avay," said Mr. Weller. "Battledore and Shuttlecock's a wery good game, vhen you an't the shuttlecock and two lawyers the battledores'". The sharp-nosed attorney with the white waistcoat in that earlier illustration, standing behind the other, is probably Dodson, but neither attorney in this later illustration much resembles his earlier counterpart. Previously, in their own offices, operating in full view of their clerks, Dodson (right) and Fogg (centre), are large, even expansive figures full of "cheek" and self-confidence as they goad the inexperienced and naive Pickwick into slandering and even assaulting them as an extension of their "sharp practice" philosophy. As they observe of Pickwick when they meet him in Perker's office after his release from the Fleet, the retired merchant is not so large as before (they are referring to the effects of prison diet, but they might also be commenting upon the effects of suffering on ego); however, now at a considerable disadvantage, with no witnesses biased in their favour to support their narrative of being vilified and even beaten, Dodson (right) and Fogg (immediately in front of him, centre) are physically diminished as they shrink from their indignant victim, his characteristic pose of having one hand under coat tails as he gestures with the other recalling the opening scene of the novel, when he addressed the Pickwickians.

The shading of their thin faces suggests not so much embarrassment as shock and even fear, as Phiz has them retreating into the open doorway. Phiz has chosen to give the umbrella to Dodson, mentioned in the text as belonging to Fogg, and replace it (and Fogg's gloves as theatrical properties) with a lawyer's blue bag, even though he has secured Pickwick's payment in a pocketbook. In other words, no longer directed by the author to remain scrupulously faithful to the details established by the text, apparently Phiz felt free to invent and adjust, his most significant change being the characterisation of the predatory attorneys, whose slapping of the pocket, coyly disclosing the charges, mock forgiveness and affability, and smirking certainly do not suggest that they are abashed by Pickwick's accusations any more than they were in their own office earlier. Perker's gesture implies that he desperately wants them to leave rather than precipitate an altercation, even as Pickwick sternly points them toward the door. Although Perker's clerk, Lowten, is not in evidence, the reader presumes that he is just outside the right margin of the illustration, on the other side of the open door. The passage realised in this dramatic illustration is this:

Then both the partners laughed together — pleasantly and cheerfully, as men who are going to receive money often do.

"We shall make Mr. Pickwick pay for peeping," said Fogg, with considerable native humour, as he unfolded his papers. "The amount of the taxed costs is one hundred and thirty-three, six, four, Mr. Perker."

There was a great comparing of papers, and turning over of leaves, by Fogg and Perker, after this statement of profit and loss. Meanwhile, Dodson said, in an affable manner, to Mr. Pickwick —

"I don't think you are looking quite so stout as when I had the pleasure of seeing you last, Mr. Pickwick."

"Possibly not, sir," replied Mr. Pickwick, who had been flashing forth looks of fierce indignation, without producing the smallest effect on either of the sharp practitioners; "I believe I am not, sir. I have been persecuted and annoyed by scoundrels of late, sir."

Perker coughed violently, and asked Mr. Pickwick whether he wouldn't like to look at the morning paper. To which inquiry Mr. Pickwick returned a most decided negative.

"True," said Dodson, "I dare say you have been annoyed in the Fleet; there are some odd gentry there. Whereabouts were your apartments, Mr. Pickwick?"

"My one room," replied that much-injured gentleman, "was on the Coffee-Room flight."

" Oh, indeed!" said Dodson. "I believe that is a very pleasant part of the establishment."

" Very," replied Mr. Pickwick drily.

There was a coolness about all this, which, to a gentleman of an excitable temperament, had, under the circumstances, rather an exasperating tendency. Mr. Pickwick restrained his wrath by gigantic efforts; but when Perker wrote a cheque for the whole amount, and Fogg deposited it in a small pocket-book, with a triumphant smile playing over his pimply features, which communicated itself likewise to the stern countenance of Dodson, he felt the blood in his cheeks tingling with indignation.

"Now, Mr. Dodson," said Fogg, putting up the pocket-book and drawing on his gloves, "I am at your service."

"Very good," said Dodson, rising; "I am quite ready."

"I am very happy," said Fogg, softened by the cheque, "to have had the pleasure of making Mr. Pickwick's acquaintance. I hope you don't think quite so ill of us, Mr. Pickwick, as when we first had the pleasure of seeing you."

"I hope not," said Dodson, with the high tone of calumniated virtue. "Mr. Pickwick now knows us better, I trust; whatever your opinion of gentlemen of our profession may be, I beg to assure you, sir, that I bear no ill-will or vindictive feeling towards you for the sentiments you thought proper to express in our office in Freeman's Court, Cornhill, on the occasion to which my partner has referred."

"Oh, no, no; nor I," said Fogg, in a most forgiving manner.

"Our conduct, sir," said Dodson, "will speak for itself, and justify itself, I hope, upon every occasion. We have been in the profession some years, Mr. Pickwick, and have been honoured with the confidence of many excellent clients. I wish you good-morning, sir."

"Good-morning, Mr. Pickwick," said Fogg. So saying, he put his umbrella under his arm, drew off his right glove, and extended the hand of reconciliation to that most indignant gentleman; who, thereupon, thrust his hands beneath his coat tails, and eyed the attorney with looks of scornful amazement.

"Lowten!" cried Perker, at this moment. "Open the door."

"Wait one instant," said Mr. Pickwick. "Perker, I will speak."

"My dear sir, pray let the matter rest where it is," said the little attorney, who had been in a state of nervous apprehension during the whole interview; "Mr. Pickwick, I beg —"

"I will not be put down, sir," replied Mr. Pickwick hastily. "Mr. Dodson, you have addressed some remarks to me."

Dodson turned round, bent his head meekly, and smiled.

"Some remarks to me," repeated Mr. Pickwick, almost breathless; "and your partner has tendered me his hand, and you have both assumed a tone of forgiveness and high-mindedness, which is an extent of impudence that I was not prepared for, even in you."

"What, sir!" exclaimed Dodson.

"What, sir!" reiterated Fogg.

"Do you know that I have been the victim of your plots and conspiracies?" continued Mr. Pickwick. "Do you know that I am the man whom you have been imprisoning and robbing? Do you know that you were the attorneys for the plaintiff, in Bardell and Pickwick?"

"Yes, sir, we do know it," replied Dodson.

"Of course we know it, sir," rejoined Fogg, slapping his pocket — perhaps by accident.

"I see that you recollect it with satisfaction," said Mr. Pickwick, attempting to call up a sneer for the first time in his life, and failing most signally in so doing. "Although I have long been anxious to tell you, in plain terms, what my opinion of you is, I should have let even this opportunity pass, in deference to my friend Perker's wishes, but for the unwarrantable tone you have assumed, and your insolent familiarity. I say insolent familiarity, sir," said Mr. Pickwick, turning upon Fogg with a fierceness of gesture which caused that person to retreat towards the door with great expedition.

"Take care, sir," said Dodson, who, though he was the biggest man of the party, had prudently entrenched himself behind Fogg, and was speaking over his head with a very pale face. "Let him assault you, Mr. Fogg; don't return it on any account."

"No, no, I won't return it," said Fogg, falling back a little more as he spoke; to the evident relief of his partner, who by these means was gradually getting into the outer office.

"You are," continued Mr. Pickwick, resuming the thread of his discourse — "you are a well-matched pair of mean, rascally, pettifogging robbers."

"Well," interposed Perker, "is that all?"

"It is all summed up in that," rejoined Mr. Pickwick; "they are mean, rascally, pettifogging robbers."

"There!" said Perker, in a most conciliatory tone. "My dear sirs, he has said all he has to say. Now pray go. Lowten, is that door open?"

Mr. Lowten, with a distant giggle, replied in the affirmative. [Chapter 53, Chapman & Hall Household Edition, p. 373-74]

Unfortunately, Phiz could not capture the delightful comedy of Pickwick's denunciation of the black-suited rogues or communicate the irony of Pickwick's condemnatory interrogation of the lawyers or their shift in attitude from bantering superiority to fear for their safety. In the imaginative or "anti-reality" world of the nine interpolated tales of the novel, genuine Nemesis is possible, even logical, since these are oral tales with the traditional moral compass of cautionary and instructive short fiction. However, in the novel, the contemporary world of Charles Dickens (although the action is set back some half-a-dozen years from the time of part-publication and initial reading), a denunciation of meanness, baseness, and duplicity rather than a more severe punishment is the best that the middle-class reader, pondering the moral state of contemporary society, can expect — especially when looking for poetic justice that corrects the professional misconduct of lawyers.

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.


Victorian Web Overview Victorian Book Illustration Charles Dickens Phiz (Hablot K. Browne) Next

Last modified 11 March 2012