"Headpiece for 'Chirp the Third': John by the hearth with the Fairy" (1905), a half-page illustration for "Chirp the Third," 8.6 cm by 9.8 cm, vignetted (p. 175), is Brock's redrafting of two scenes in the 1845 sequence, Richard Doyle's Chirp the Third and John Leech's John's Reverie. These, and Brock's composition, in turn, served as models Harry Furniss in his 1910 Charles Dickens Library Edition illustration The Vacant Stool, less fanciful and more realistic than Brock's study of John and the Fairy Cricket, who does not actually appear in the program of illustration in the original, 1845 edition of The Cricket on the Hearth: A Fairy Tale of Hearth and Home, or in either of the Household Edition sequences, although Barnard employs the fairy, the cricket, and John's pipe in the Title-page vignette (1878).

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Passage Illustrated

He reversed the gun to beat the stock up the door; he already held it lifted in the air; some indistinct design was in his thoughts of calling out to him to fly, for God's sake, by the window —

When, suddenly, the struggling fire illumined the whole chimney with a glow of light; and the Cricket on the Hearth began to Chirp!

No sound he could have heard, no human voice, not even hers, could so have moved and softened him. The artless words in which she had told him of her love for this same Cricket, were once more freshly spoken; her trembling, earnest manner at the moment, was again before him; her pleasant voice — O what a voice it was, for making household music at the fireside of an honest man! — thrilled through and through his better nature, and awoke it into life and action.

He recoiled from the door, like a man walking in his sleep, awakened from a frightful dream; and put the gun aside. Clasping his hands before his face, he then sat down again beside the fire, and found relief in tears. — Chapter Three, "Chirp the Third," p. 178.

Commentary

C. E. Brock, working in 1905, had several possible models from which to work for the scene of John's agonizing before the fire as to how he should address his wife's supposed infidelity with the young man disguised as the Old Stranger, whom John befriended on the road. Although the British Household Edition illustrator, Fred Barnard, had provided Brock with an image of Tackleton's showing the supposed lovers together in the gallery of his counting-house, Brock's realisation of this fairy-vision is a thorough innovation utterly without precedent. Richard Doyle shows John in despair, a visual melodrama with his shotgun at his knee and the fairies swirl helplessly about him, while John Leech treats the scene more realistically and more atmospherically, with John in the darkness of doubt as he contemplates using firearm propped against the fireplace. Leech's John wears a linen smockfrock indicative of his class and region, while Doyle's John wears britches and a fustian coat, providing a model for later illustrators. Like Leech, Brock includes the vacant stool, but places John before an illuminated rather than darkened fireplace grate. The realism of the kettle, stool, chair, and coal-grate is undercut by the fantastic, winged figure of the spirit of the cricket, who seems to bless John with her right hand as she gestures towards the sacred hearth with her left.

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: Harry Furniss's 1910 pen-and-ink drawing transferred to lithograph, The Vacant Stool (1910).

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.]

References

Bolton, H. Philip. Dickens Dramatized. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987.

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.

Orwell, George. "Charles Dickens." (1939) Critical Essays. London: Secker and Warburg, 1946 (first published in 1940 in "Inside the Whale" and Other Essays.]


Last modified​17 October 2015