"'Are you all here?' Glancing at the party, over his spectacles." — wood engraving from "Bound for the Great Salt Lake," chapter 20 in The Uncommercial Traveller by Charles S. Reinhart (1844-1896). 10.3 cm high by 13.3 cm wide (half-page, horizontally mounted, 88). The wood-engraving illustrates a scene on the same page of text. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Passage Realised

The emigrants were now all on deck. They were densely crowded aft, and swarmed upon the poop-deck like bees. Two or three Mormon agents stood ready to hand them on to the Inspector, and to hand them forward when they had passed. By what successful means, a special aptitude for organization had been infused into these people, I am, of course, unable to report. But I know that, even now, there was no disorder, hurry, or difficulty.

All being ready, the first group are handed on. That member of the party who is entrusted with the passenger-ticket for the whole, has been warned by one of the agents to have it ready, and here it is in his hand. In every instance through the whole eight hundred, without an exception, this paper is always ready.

INSPECTOR (reading the ticket). Jessie Jobson, Sophronia Jobson, Jessie Jobson again, Matilda Jobson, William Jobson, Jane Jobson, Matilda Jobson again, Brigham Jobson, Leonardo Jobson, and Orson Jobson. Are you all here? (glancing at the party, over his spectacles). [88]

Commentary

Instead of depicting a large group of emigrants as Dalziel has done, Reinhart focuses on a single family, the Jobsons, as they pass a medical inspection administered by the Government emigration agent and the health officer, neither of whom is officious or arbitrary or impersonal in the execution of his duties: "There was not the slightest flavour of the Circumlocution Office about their proceedings" (88) — this "office" being Dickens's satire in Little Dorrit on government offices generally. In other words, at least on this occasion, the functionaries of the system behave with unwonted courtesy and consideration, rather than their customary obfuscation and officiousness. The rigging and spars in Reinhart's wood-engraving set the scene, although the steam emanating from the funnel (left) is inaccurate since the Amazon was a sailing ship. The Jobsons as depicted by Reinhart seem more solidly middle class than the passengers on the deck of Dalziel's Amazon in the British Household Edition, and one does not receive the impression of a great crowd of emigrants about to depart in the Reinhart plate.

As Slater and Drew note, this particular Uncommercial Traveller article, published exactly a month after Dickens's visiting the actual embarkation scene at the London docks, draws on personal observation. In "Bound for the Great Salt Lake," which became chapter 20 in The Uncommercial Traveller, we have an account that reflects in a manner of factual reportage Dickens's visit to the emigrant ship Amazon on the morning of 4 June 1863.

The recollections of the artist George Dunlop Leslie confirm that Dickens was among a party of visitors who gathered to see the ship on Wednesday, 3 June, before it embarked from 'London New Dock' basin, to the south of Shadwell Church. The party 'drove in an open carriage from the office of (ATYR) . . . Dickens talked and laughed the whole way, and was in great form as we passed through Radcliffe Highway' (Charles Dickens by Pen and Pencil, Ed. F. G. Kitton (1890), pp. 164-g5) . [Slater and Drew, 249]

Although the first Mormon mission to Great Britain preceded founding of Great Salt Lake City by ten years, perhaps as many as 70,000 British converts left their native land for Mormon settlements elsewhere in the United States between 1839 and 1841 alone. The scene described by Dickens and the Household Edition illustrators, however, is but one embarkation of the second great Mormon mission. Apparently Mormon evangelists, seeking to increase the population of Great Salt Lake City (approximately 6,000 three years after its founding by Brigham Young in 1847), discovered fruitful ground for proselytising in Wales in the 1860s, possibly because the Nonconformist Welsh responded with alacrity to the promise of land overseas. Although with characteristic hyperbole Dickens estimated the number of emigrants aboard the vessel as 1,200, the Mormon paper Millennial Star gave the number as 895 (as cited by Slater and Drew, 248). Strangely enough, although Dickens acknowledges the presence of many Welsh among the passengers, his personal interviews only mention a peasant from the vicinity of Stonehenge in Wiltshire and a "Mormon Agent," both distinguished by their distinctive accents. Perhaps Dickens was reluctant to attempt to capture the Welsh accent, or felt that interviewing yet another group would mar the style of the piece, which already combines factual reportage and observation with two humorous interviews, both of which there is something deceptive or spurious about the Commercial's interlocutors.

The illustration and Dickens's initial description of conditions on "My Emigrant Ship" (908) would both lead the reader to anticipate the lachrymose pandemonium typical of such scenes as "The Emigrants" in Dickens's David Copperfield; in fact, much to the surprise of Dickens's Uncommercial Traveller, "nobody is in an ill-temper, nobody is the worse for drink, nobody swears an oath or uses a coarse word, nobody appears depressed" (98). The vivid detail in the text is the result of first-hand observation.

By 1863 thousands had left the British Isles (notably from England and Wales) under the auspices of the Church of Latter Day Saints, which had acquired its own shipping agency, through which it efficiently chartered ships and outfitted its converts for the transcontinental journey, assisting those emigrants lacking the funds to pay their own way through a charitable foundation, The Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company. Lord Houghton in the Edinburgh Review of January 1862 had already commented upon the unusual self-discipline and good order of the Mormon ships and settlers, and, despite his obvious scepticism about the genuineness of their "conversion," Charles Dickens concurs in "Bound for the Great Salt Lake" (published just a month after his personal observations) that the Mormon emigrants behaved in an exemplary manner compared to other emigrants he had seen over the past twenty years. His somewhat jocular and detached "Uncommercial Traveller" account appeared in All the Year Round, vol. 9 (July 4, 1863): 444-49. Dalziel's illustration for the British Household Edition is a more dynamic "group shot" on board the deck of the emigrant vessel, comparable to scenes in such novels as David Copperfield and Martin Chuzzlewit: Browne's "The Emigrants", Barnard's "On board the "'Screw'", and Barnard's on deck illustration depicting the arrival of 'The Screw' in New York's harbour, "It is in such enlightened means," said a voice, almost in Martin's ear, "That the bubbling passions of my country find a vent". On the other hand, Reinhart's focuses on the medical authorities' health inspection of a single family: one wonders whether his choice of subject was the result of American concerns about the general health of immigrants to the Land of Opportunity.

Other urban and nautical scenes

Scanned image 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.]

References

Dickens, Charles. The Uncommercial Traveller, Hard Times, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Il. Charles Stanley Reinhart and Luke Fildes. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.

Dickens, Charles. The Uncommercial Traveller. Il. Edward Dalziel. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1877.

Hartnoll, Phyllis, ed. The Concise Oxford Companion to the Theatre. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1972.

Scenes and Characters from the Works of Charles Dickens; being eight hundred and sixty-six drawings, by Fred Barnard, Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz); J. Mahoney; Charles Green; A. B. Frost; Gordon Thomson; J. McL. Ralston; H. French; E. G. Dalziel; F. A. Fraser, and Sir Luke Fildes; printed from the original woodblocks engraved for "The Household Edition." New York: Chapman and Hall, 1908. Copy in the Robarts Library, University of Toronto.

Slater, Michael, and John Drew, eds. Dickens' Journalism: 'The Uncommercial Traveller' and Other Papers 1859-70. The Dent Uniform Edition of Dickens' Journalism, vol. 4. London: J. M. Dent, 2000.


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Last modified 16 March 2013