Mr. Winkle Soothes the Refractory Steed
Chapter 5, Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
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Mr. Winkle stepped forward with an air of determination and resolution; and Mr. Tupman looked out from behind a tree. The boy shouted; four birds flew out. Mr. Winkle fired. There was a scream as of an individual- — not a rook- — in corporal anguish. Mr. Tupman had saved the lives of innumerable unoffending birds by receiving a portion of the charge in his left arm.
To describe the confusion that ensued would be impossible. To tell how Mr. Pickwick in the first transports of emotion called Mr. Winkle "Wretch!" how Mr. Tupman lay prostrate on the ground; and how Mr. Winkle knelt horror-stricken beside him; how Mr. Tupman called distractedly upon some feminine Christian name, and then opened first one eye, and then the other, and then fell back and shut them both-; — all this would be as difficult to describe in detail, as it would be to depict the gradual recovering of the unfortunate individual, the binding up of his arm with pocket-handkerchiefs, and the conveying him back by slow degrees supported by the arms of his anxious friends. [Chapter 7, p. 43]
In the original sequence, neither Seymour nor his immediate successor, Buss, attempted to realise the scene in which Tupman is inadvertently wounded by Winkle in the rook-shooting scene at Dingley Dell in chapter 7. The illustrator here suggests that the damage to Tupman's arm is less severe than Dickens implies — but, of course, Phiz had no need to fear the writer's countermanding any of his illustrations in the Household Edition. According to the illustration, the hunting accident occurs not far from the manor house (left rear), and a good many more hunters are involved than Winkle (right), Tupman (centre: holding his arm, which shows no sign of having received the discharge of a fowling piece at close range), Pickwick and Joe ("The Fat Boy") left. We recognise Winkle from earlier scenes in the series as the surprised hunter to the right, and Tupman as the somewhat rotund but elegantly dressed bourgeoisie from the ballroom scene in chapter 2. Because the illustration has been situated some ten pages prior to the reader's encountering the incident in the text, Phiz has given the reader considerable advance notice that Tupman will sustain some sort of injury that will prevent his accompanying his fellow Pickwickians to the cricket match between Muggleton and Dingley Dell, and consequently his not partaking liberally of the salmon and alcoholic beverages served afterward at the local public house. Thus, Phiz has selected this scene not merely for its melodramatic qualities, but also because it will establish how Tupman comes to be alone with the spinster aunt in the next illustration, "Mr. Tupman looked round. There was the Fat Boy" (page 49). Since the reader knows in advance that the accident will not be serious, for there is a total absence of blood and shredded fabric, the reader knows that this will be yet another instance of Winkle's utter incapacity to be the knowledgeable sportsman he has purported to be. Phiz has chosen to realise the moment just before a chastened Winkle, "horror-stricken," kneels beside Tupman; indeed, Tupman is still standing unsteadily at this point. Consequently, the reader, forewarned, does not construe the incident in any but a comic light, despite the initial seriousness of the accident in the text.
Thomas Nast's treatment of precisely the same scene in "To describe the confusion that ensued would be impossible" (Plate) is quite different, not merely because of the cartoonish style but more significantly because of the heightened emotion of Winkle (left) and Pickwick (right) at discovering Tupman unconscious on the group at the base of the tree behind which he had taken refuge during the recent hunt. Here, the woods are deep, and the manor house, where the party (limited to just two additional hunters, Joe, Winkle, and Pickwick) must carry the immense figure in order to give medical aid, is nowhere in sight.
Last modified 24 March 2012