The Pageant of English History
14.5 cm x 9.5 cm, framed
Frontispiece for A Child's History of England in Oliver Twist and A Child's History ofEngland, Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910), facing III, engraved title-page, after 418.
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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Whereas Dickens's original serial version of a national history from the Romans to the Glorious Revolution (1688), in Household Words, appeared without the benefit of illustration from 25 January 1851 sporadically through 10 December 1853, and subsequently appeared in a triple-decker with just a single title-page vignette for each volume by F. W. Topham that same month. Marcus Stone provided eight historical studies in composite woodblock engravings for the Illustrated Library Edition of 1862. Although he had the advantage of being able to study the extensive illustrations in the eighteenth volume of the The Household Edition, 1878 (illustrator, J. McL. Ralston), Furniss elected to provide just a frontispiece and an elaborate title-page for the second half of volume 3 of the Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910). However, in the numerous thumbnails in Britannia's "Pageant," Furniss has provided impressionistic sketches of a dozen historical figures in the former and forty such figures in the latter.
Throughout the nineteenth century in British dominions, but particularly late in Queen Victoria's reign, the image of the goddess Britannia carrying with her left hand a shield emblazoned with the Union Jack and holding aloft a trident spear (suggestive of Britain's vast maritime empire), represented the imperial pretentions of the nation in the Victorian period. Such representations of the goddess of Britain's commercial, industrial, and military might (as in the Custom House and the Merchant Bank in Belfast) are often flanked by the lion of England and the unicorn of Scotland, and sometimes by other allegorical figures, such as goddesses representing maritime commerce, as in Pomeroy's 1903 low-relief statue Britannia and Two Attendants in London. Here, however, Harry Furniss depicts Britannia, our conductress through the pageant of English history, as youthful and cheerful rather than the severe, mature, and regal figure on the Queen Anne Memorial in front of St. Paul's Cathedral, and dispenses with the heraldic beasts. In this pen-and-wash drawing, young Britannia, in the act of stepping forward, is, however, flanked by images of England's kings and queens, notably Henry VIII and Elizabeth (upper right), Charles the First and Charles the Second (right), Richard the Lion-heart as a triumphant crusader (upper right), and (probably) the rebellious Queen of the Iceni, Boadicea (centre left), the last also being the subject of a celebrated statue by Thomas Thornycroft near Westminster Bridge, erected in 1902.
Dickens ends the history abruptly at the Bloodless Revolution of 1688, and reduces the next century and a half of modern British history to several paragraphs which extol the House of Hanover, and Queen Victoria in particular.
The Union of Great Britain with Ireland — which had been getting on very ill by itself — took place in the reign of George the Third, on the second of July, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-eight. William the Fourth succeeded George the Fourth, in the year one thousand eight hundred and thirty, and reigned seven years. Queen Victoria, his niece, the only child of the Duke of Kent, the fourth son of George the Third, came to the throne on the twentieth of June, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-seven. She was married to Prince Albert of Saxe Gotha on the tenth of February, one thousand eight hundred and forty. She is very good, and much beloved. So I end, like the crier, with
God Save the Queen! 
Thus, the closing paragraph and the book's running head "A Child's History of England" remind the reader that, contrary to Furniss's frontispiece, this historical survey is decidedly Anglo-centric, and has little to do with the later construct of the United Kingdom.
Avery, Gillian, ed. Charles Dickens: "A Holiday Romance" and Other Writings for Children with All the Original Illustrations. Everyman edition. London: J. M. Dent, 1995.
Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. , 1988.
Cohen, Jane Rabb. Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State U. , 1980.
Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1998.
Dickens, Charles. A Child's History of England. Il. Marcus Stone. Illustrated Library Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1862.
__________. A Child's History of England in Works. Centenary Edition. 36 vols. London: Chapman and Hall; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1910-12.
__________. Oliver Twist and A Child's History of England. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. Vol. 3.
Scenes and Characters from the Works of Charles Dickens; being eight hundred and sixty-six drawings, by Fred Barnard, Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz); J. Mahoney; Charles Green; A. B. Frost; Gordon Thomson; J. McL. Ralston; H. French; E. G. Dalziel; F. A. Fraser, and Sir Luke Fildes; printed from the original woodblocks engraved for "The Household Edition" . New York: Chapman and Hall, 1908. Copy in the Robarts Library, University of Toronto.
Created 8 January 2014
Last modified 15 January 2020