". . . saw her . . . adjust the Lie upon his head"
Charles Edmund Brock
whole page: 10 x 8.5 cm. vignetted
Dickens's The Cricket on the Hearth, page 172.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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The Carrier accompanied [Tackleton], without another word. They went across a yard, where the stars were shining, and by a little side-door, into Tackleton's own counting-house, where there was a glass window, commanding the ware-room, which was closed for the night. There was no light in the counting-house itself, but there were lamps in the long narrow ware-room; and consequently the window was bright.
"A moment!" said Tackleton. "Can you bear to look through that window, do you think?"
"Why not?" returned the Carrier.
"A moment more," said Tackleton. "Don't commit any violence. It's of no use. It's dangerous too. You're a strong-made man; and you might do murder before you know it."
The Carrier looked him in the face, and recoiled a step as if he had been struck. In one stride he was at the window, and he saw —
Oh, Shadow on the Hearth! Oh, truthful Cricket! Oh, perfidious Wife!
He saw her, with the old man — old no longer, but erect and gallant — bearing in his hand the false white hair that had won his way into their desolate and miserable home. He saw her listening to him, as he bent his head to whisper in her ear; and suffering him to clasp her round the waist, as they moved slowly down the dim wooden gallery towards the door by which they had entered it. He saw them stop, and saw her turn — to have the face, the face he loved so, so presented to his view! — and saw her, with her own hands, adjust the Lie upon his head, laughing, as she did it, at his unsuspicious nature! — Chapter Two, "Chirp the Second," p. 171-172.
C. E. Brock, working in 1905, had a number of possible models from which to produce his extended visual program for The Cricket on the Hearth, in particular, the 1845 fourteen-image edition by Dickens's original illustrators, and the somewhat shorter visual series in British and American Household Editions of the 1870s. However, the scene in which John misapprehends the situation (old friends meeting, not the initiation of an adulterous liaison) shown him by Tackleton has a single precedent, Suffering him to clasp her round the waist, as they moved slowly down the dim wooden gallery, although both Richard Doyle and John Leech in the original edition show the emotional aftermath of the scene in the gallery as John tries to determine how he should act upon this knowledge of his wife's (supposed) infidelity.
Whereas in the original of this scene, Fred Barnard somewhat comically places Tackleton and John Peerybingle to the rear, straining to spy on Dot and Edward Plummer through a small window, Brock focuses on Dot and Edward, and provides neither backdrop nor observers. Thus, the great visual humourist of the Household Edition cautions the reader against jumping to conclusions about Dot and the young stranger, just as John and Tackleton have done. The Brock illustration, indeed, seems quite innocuous, and perhaps that was the illustrator's intent as the book was marketed for a child readership by J. M. Dent of London and E. P. Dutton of New York as one of numerous volumes in the Dent's Children's Illustrated Classics series, which includes such notable children's books as R. M. Ballantyne's The Coral Island (Vol. No. 6) and R. D. Blackmore's Lorna Doone (No. 22). In other words, Brock designed the illustration to be construed superficially and without any implication of adultery. Dot, as if adjusting a child's clothing, arranges the young man's hair, who, smiling, actually looks away from her; Brock specifically avoids the chief moment that Dickens describes as Edward does not bend his head to hers, and does not clasp Dot around the waist, as in the Barnard engraving. Rather, she merely smiles at him as she adjusts his hair. Brock details Dot's matronly cap and patterned shawl, signifiers of her domestic status, in contrast to the great-coat worn by the traveller who has come from the ends of the earth to reclaim his bride.
Relevant Illustrations from various editions
Left: Richard Doyle's melodramatic treatment of John's anguish, Chirp the Third (1845). Centre: John Leech's depiction of the middle-aged carrier's wrestling with the revellation of adultery, John's Reverie (1845). Right: E. A. Abbey's study of the enraged middle-aged carrier, threatening Tackleton, "Listen to me!" he said. "And take care that you hear me right." (1876).
Above: Fred Barnard's illustration of the scene between Dot and Edward Plummer undisguised in the gallery, Suffering him to clasp her round the waist, as they moved slowly down the dim wooden gallery (1878). [Click on image to enlarge it.]
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. No. 59 in Dent's Children's Illustrated Classics.
___. 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 16 October 2015