Hard Times, which appeared in American Household Edition, 1870. Page 217.by Charles S. Reinhart. 1883. Actual size: 13.2 cm wide by 10.3 cm high (horizontally mounted, with text above and below on a page 24 cm high by 16.2 cm wide). This plate illustrates "Garnering," Chapter Six, "The Starlight" in Charles Dickens's
Sissy in fashionable, middle-class dress and Rachael (identifiable by her large plaid shawl) recoil from the mouth of the Old Hell Pit, near whose margin they have just discovered Stephen Blackpool's hat. Just after the moment realised, the pair spring back from the edge and fall on their knees, holding each other in fright as Stephen's fate becomes suddenly apparent. The time is noon on a fine fall Sunday.
Suspecting that Stephen may have fallen ill upon the road four days earlier, Sissy and Rachael agreed on the Friday to walk into the country on the following Sunday in hopes of learning of his whereabouts. As is consistent with Dickerns's letterpress, the plate depicts an autumnal landscape in the background -- the novel indicates the setting is "about midway between the town and Mr. Bounderby's retreat" (217) -- certainly, Sissy and Rachael are far enough from Coketown that they have escaped its smoke-serpents. Beneath a clear sky leafless trees proclaim the season. In the left rear is a fragment of rotten fence but recently broken. Although Reinhart does not show Stephen's footprints, at Rachael's feet on the grass lies Stephen's hat, which in the text Sissy has just taken up to read Stephen's name wreitten on the inside band. Presumably she is still holding the hat as she catches her companion on " the brink of a black ragged chasm hidden by thick grass" in the foreground. Reinhart has captured well the look of horror on their faces as they realise the fate they have narrowly avoided but which, in all likelihood, has overtaken the honest factory-hand.
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]
Last modified 22 October 2002