"That's the way I found him, sitting by the roadside" (1905), 10​ cm by 10.4 cm, vignetted (p. 122). This two-thirds-of-a-page illustration for "Chirp the First" is Brock's realisation of the incident on the highroad (brought up by the carrier as a flashback), when John Peerybingle discovered the elderly Stranger sitting at the side of the highway, waiting to be picked up. Throughout the program of illustration in the original, 1845 edition of The Cricket on the Hearth: A Fairy Tale of Hearth and Home, Brock would have found no precedent for either the scene recalled by John Peerybingle in dialogue or the old Stranger, the young sailor Edward Plummer in disguise. The undisguised stranger, however, appears in Fred Barnard's Suffering him to clasp her round the waist, as they moved slowly down the dim wooden gallery in the Chapman and Hall Household Edition illustrations for The Christmas Books anthology of 1878. In the Brock illustration, there is no Boxer's apparently studying him and his walking-stick.

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.]

Passage Illustrated

"That's all," said John. "Why — no — I —" laying down his knife and fork, and taking a long breath. "I declare — I've clean forgotten the old gentleman!"

"The old gentleman?"

"In the cart," said John. "He was asleep, among the straw, the last time I saw him. I've very nearly remembered him, twice, since I came in; but he went out of my head again. Holloa! Yahip there! Rouse up! That's my hearty!"

John said these latter words outside the door, whither he had hurried with the candle in his hand.

Miss Slowboy, conscious of some mysterious reference to The Old Gentleman, and connecting in her mystified imagination certain associations of a religious nature with the phrase, was so disturbed, that hastily rising from the low chair by the fire to seek protection near the skirts of her mistress, and coming into contact as she crossed the doorway with an ancient Stranger, she instinctively made a charge or butt at him with the only offensive instrument within her reach. This instrument happening to be the baby, great commotion and alarm ensued, which the sagacity of Boxer rather tended to increase; for, that good dog, more thoughtful than its master, had, it seemed, been watching the old gentleman in his sleep, lest he should walk off with a few young poplar trees that were tied up behind the cart; and he still attended on him very closely, worrying his gaiters in fact, and making dead sets at the buttons.

"You're such an undeniable good sleeper, sir," said John, when tranquillity was restored; in the mean time the old gentleman had stood, bareheaded and motionless, in the centre of the room; "that I have half a mind to ask you where the other six are — only that would be a joke, and I know I should spoil it. Very near though," murmured the Carrier, with a chuckle; "very near!"

The Stranger, who had long white hair, good features, singularly bold and well defined for an old man, and dark, bright, penetrating eyes, looked round with a smile, and saluted the Carrier's wife by gravely inclining his head.

His garb was very quaint and odd — a long, long way behind the time. Its hue was brown, all over. In his hand he held a great brown club or walking-stick; and striking this upon the floor, it fell asunder, and became a chair. On which he sat down, quite composedly.

"There!" said the Carrier, turning to his wife. "That's the way I found him, sitting by the roadside! Upright as a milestone. And almost as deaf." — Chapter One, "Chirp the First," pp. 120-21]

Commentary

C. E. Brock, working in 1905, had few possible models from which to work for his program of illustration for The Cricket on the Hearth here because the story lacks the illustration history enjoyed by the first of The Christmas Books, A Christmas Carol (1843). Although the British Household Edition illustrator, Fred Barnard, had provided him with a likeness of the youth beneath the disguise, no previous illustrator had provided a study of Edward Plummer disguised as the Old Stranger. The carrier's van, on the other hand, which Brock has placed in the background, appears twice in the original sequence: in the upper register of Richard Doyle's Chirp the First, and in the successive plate, Clarkson Stanfield's The Carrier's Cart. Here, Brock had his choice of models since, although both vehicles are plausible, they are not identical. Brock ultimately chose a square van-top, as opposed to the rounded covers in the 1845 sequence. What is noteworthy about the Brock illustration, however, is the continuing figure of Perrybingle family dog, Boxer, who stands in the middle of the road, assessing the Old Stranger in the foreground.

Relevant Illustrations from various editions, 1845-1878

Left: Richard Doyle's split-frame illustration simultaneously depicting the Peerybingles' parlour (lower register) and carrier's van (upper register), Chirp the First (1845). Right: Clarkson Stanfield's version of both the carrier's van and the Perrybingles' cottage in The Carrier's Cart (1845). [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Above: Fred Barnard's revellation of the old Stranger's true identity, Suffering him to clasp her round the waist, as they moved slowly down the dim wooden gallery (1878). [Click on image to enlarge it.]

References

Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.

___. Christmas Stories. Illustrated by E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.

Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books, illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.

___. Christmas Books, illustrated by Fred Barnard. Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.

___. Christmas Books, illustrated by A. A. Dixon. London & Glasgow: Collins' Clear-Type Press, 1906.

___. Christmas Books, illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book, 1910.

___. A Christmas Carol and The Cricket on the Hearth, illustrated by C. E. [Charles Edmund] Brock. London: J. M. Dent, 1905; New York: Dutton, rpt., 1963.

___. Christmas Stories, illustrated by E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.

Dickens, Charles. The Cricket on the Hearth: A Fairy Tale of Home. Illustrated by John Leech, Daniel Maclise, Richard Doyle, Clarkson Stanfield, and Edwin Landseer. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1845.


Last modified​13 October 2015