Preparations for Supper — A plate of hot buttered toast. —
Felix O. C. Darley
9.9 x 8.5 cm vignetted
Dickens's The Pickwick Papers, Riverside Edition, vol. 2 frontispiece.
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Sam looked round in the direction whence the voice proceeded. It came from a rather stout lady of comfortable appearance, who was seated beside the fireplace in the bar, blowing the fire to make the kettle boil for tea. She was not alone; for on the other side of the fireplace, sitting bolt upright in a high-backed chair, was a man in threadbare black clothes, with a back almost as long and stiff as that of the chair itself, who caught Sam's most particular and especial attention at once.
He was a prim-faced, red-nosed man, with a long, thin countenance, and a semi-rattlesnake sort of eye — rather sharp, but decidedly bad. He wore very short trousers, and black cotton stockings, which, like the rest of his apparel, were particularly rusty. His looks were starched, but his white neckerchief was not, and its long limp ends straggled over his closely-buttoned waistcoat in a very uncouth and unpicturesque fashion. A pair of old, worn, beaver gloves, a broad-brimmed hat, and a faded green umbrella, with plenty of whalebone sticking through the bottom, as if to counterbalance the want of a handle at the top, lay on a chair beside him; and, being disposed in a very tidy and careful manner, seemed to imply that the red-nosed man, whoever he was, had no intention of going away in a hurry.
To do the red-nosed man justice, he would have been very far from wise if he had entertained any such intention; for, to judge from all appearances, he must have been possessed of a most desirable circle of acquaintance, if he could have reasonably expected to be more comfortable anywhere else. The fire was blazing brightly under the influence of the bellows, and the kettle was singing gaily under the influence of both. A small tray of tea-things was arranged on the table; a plate of hot buttered toast was gently simmering before the fire; and the red-nosed man himself was busily engaged in converting a large slice of bread into the same agreeable edible, through the instrumentality of a long brass toasting-fork. Beside him stood a glass of reeking hot pine-apple rum-and-water, with a slice of lemon in it; and every time the red-nosed man stopped to bring the round of toast to his eye, with the view of ascertaining how it got on, he imbibed a drop or two of the hot pine-apple rum-and-water, and smiled upon the rather stout lady, as she blew the fire. [Chapter 27, "Samuel Weller makes a pilgrimage to Dorking, and beholds his mother-in-law," page 247, second half of vol. 1]
The picaresque form which he had inherited from Fielding and Smollett allowed Dickens opportunities to introduce a great range of characters and themes, including his delightful exposure of hypocrisy in the figure of the nonconformist minister Mr. Stiggins and of gullibility in Stiggins's addle-headed but devoted parishioner Mrs. Weller, Sam's "mother-in-law," that is, his stepmother.
Neither the British Household Edition illustrator of the seventies, Phiz, nor Phiz in the original 1836 sequence realizes this scene in The Marquis of Granby at Dorking. However, Thomas Nast in "Governor in?" Inquired Sam (1873) offers an extreme caricature of the red-nosed Shepherd of the Brick Lane congregation in the parlour with Mrs. Weller. Nast has abandoned all subtlety of characterization in the cartoon, but establishes the setting effectively and does justice Dickens's satire of the hypocritical nonconformist minister whose excessive eating and drinking represent his infantile egocentricity. In contrast, Felix Octavius Carr Darley, one of the leading book illustrators of mid-nineteenth-century America, adopts a realistic approach, even to the red-nosed man, focussing on the preparation of the toast prior to consuming it voraciously before the parlour fire, ministered to by a comely, middle-aged publican, "a rather stout lady of comfortable appearance" .
The scene is the parlour at The Marquis of Granby, the public house and coaching inn that Mrs. Weller runs at Dorking, outside London, which Dickens introduces into the novel in chapter 27 as part of Sam's "back-story." While preaching temperance to his Brick Lane congregants, Stiggins is a dipsomaniac addicted to Mrs. Weller's pineapple rum — his reiterated "red nose" being the outward and visible sign of his alcoholism and hypocrisy. Dickens and Darley find his drinking amusing, but his hypocrisy about it and fleecing the flock reprehensible. However, Darley adopts an almost photographic realism in depicting the scene, paying strict attention to the detailing of the tankards, the tile-lined fireplace, the chair, tea-table, bellows, and toasting fork, and Stiggins's physical signifiers, the hat, gloves, and umbrella on the chair. Without recourse to comic distortion Darley conveys accurately Dickens's physical description of Stiggins's "long thin countenance."
Dickens, Charles. The Pickwick Papers. Il. F. O. C. Darley. Volumes 1 and 2 [originally four volumes in the 1861 Household Edition]. The Riverside Edition. New York and Cambridge, Mass.: Hurd and Houghton, and Riverside, 1872.
Dickens, Charles. The Pickwick Papers. Il. Thomas Nast. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1873.
Dickens, Charles. The Pickwick Papers. Il. Phiz. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874.
F. O. C.
Last modified 24 February 2014