The Fall of Pecksniff by Harry Furniss in The Charles Dickens Library Edition, Volume 7 (1910) — from Chapter ​52, "In which the Tables are Turned, Completely Upside Down." Click on image to enlarge it

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Passage Referenced

"Oh, vermin!" said Mr. Pecksniff. "Oh, bloodsuckers! Is it not enough that you have embittered the existence of an individual wholly unparalleled in the biographical records of amiable persons, but must you now, even now, when he has made his election, and reposed his trust in a Numble, but at least sincere and disinterested relative; must you now, vermin and swarmers (I regret to make use of these strong expressions, my dear sir, but there are times when honest indignation will not be controlled), must you now, vermin and swarmers (for I will repeat it), take advantage of his unprotected state, assemble round him from all quarters, as wolves and vultures, and other animals of the feathered tribe assemble round — I will not say round carrion or a carcass, for Mr Chuzzlewit is quite the contrary — but round their prey; their prey; to rifle and despoil; gorging their voracious maws, and staining their offensive beaks, with every description of carnivorous enjoyment!"

As he stopped to fetch his breath, he waved them off, in a solemn manner, with his hand.

"Horde of unnatural plunderers and robbers!" he continued; "leave him! leave him, I say! Begone! Abscond! You had better be off! Wander over the face of the earth, young sirs, like vagabonds as you are, and do not presume to remain in a spot which is hallowed by the grey hairs of the patriarchal gentleman to whose tottering limbs I have the honour to act as an unworthy, but I hope an unassuming, prop and staff. And you, my tender sir,’ said Mr Pecksniff, addressing himself in a tone of gentle remonstrance to the old man, ‘how could you ever leave me, though even for this short period! You have absented yourself, I do not doubt, upon some act of kindness to me; bless you for it; but you must not do it; you must not be so venturesome. I should really be angry with you if I could, my friend!"

He advanced with outstretched arms to take the old man’s hand. But he had not seen how the hand clasped and clutched the stick within its grasp. As he came smiling on, and got within his reach, old Martin, with his burning indignation crowded into one vehement burst, and flashing out of every line and wrinkle in his face, rose up, and struck him down upon the ground.

With such a well–directed nervous blow, that down he went, as heavily and true as if the charge of a Life–Guardsman had tumbled him out of a saddle. And whether he was stunned by the shock, or only confused by the wonder and novelty of this warm reception, he did not offer to get up again; but lay there, looking about him with a disconcerted meekness in his face so enormously ridiculous, that neither Mark Tapley nor John Westlock could repress a smile, though both were actively interposing to prevent a repetition of the blow; which the old man’s gleaming eyes and vigorous attitude seemed to render one of the most probable events in the world.

"Drag him away! Take him out of my reach!" said Martin; "or I can’t help it. The strong restraint I have put upon my hands has been enough to palsy them. I am not master of myself while he is within their range. Drag him away!"

Seeing that he still did not rise, Mr. Tapley, without any compromise about it, actually did drag him away, and stick him up on the floor, with his back against the opposite wall.

"Hear me, rascal!" said Mr. Chuzzlewit. "I have summoned you here to witness your own work. I have summoned you here to witness it, because I know it will be gall and wormwood to you! I have summoned you here to witness it, because I know the sight of everybody here must be a dagger in your mean, false heart! What! do you know me as I am, at last!"

Mr. Pecksniff had cause to stare at him, for the triumph in his face and speech and figure was a sight to stare at.

"Look there!" said the old man, pointing at him, and appealing to the rest. "Look there! And then — come hither, my dear Martin — look here! here! here!" At every repetition of the word he pressed his grandson closer to his breast.

"The passion I felt, Martin, when I dared not do this," he said, "was in the blow I struck just now. Why did we ever part! How could we ever part! How could you ever fly from me to him!" — Chapter 52, "In which the Tables are Turned, Completely Upside Down," p. 826-828.

Commentary: Improving upon the Treatments of Phiz (1844) and Fred Barnard (1872)

The object of Old Martin's pent-up and now unmitigated fury is the cowering , barely recognizable Pecksniff crammed into the lower left-hand corner, as Martin attempts to restrain the old man and Tom Pinch (right) looks on dispassionately. Other readily recognizable figures in the dramatic tableau are Mark Tapley (right, above Pecksniff), Mrs. Lupin (beside Mark), John Westlock and Ruth Pinch (beside young Martin), and Mary Graham (between Tom Pinch and Martin). As in Phiz's Warm Reception of Mr. Pecksniff by His Venerable Friend (July 1844), the illustrator has created a visual finalé in which we meet most of the principal characters for the last time, the glaring exceptions being Montague Tigg and Jonas Chuzzlewit (now dead) and the boozy sick-room nurse, Sairey Gamp, who, in fact, will shortly appear, accompanied by Bailey and Paul Sweedlepipes.

Over the course of a number of illustrated editions of The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit (1844) a number of artists have assailed this climactic scene, so that Harry Furniss had useful precedents in the original version, Phiz's Warm Reception of Mr. Pecksniff by His Venerable Friend (July 1844), and the Household Edition illustration by Fred Barnard, The Fall of Pecksniff (1872). What Furniss seems to have been determined to attain was a balance between the chaotic and dynamic scene of the old patriarch in Phiz bringing the hypocrite to judgment and the more static, tableau vivant treatment of the same subject by Barnard. Although Barnard has brought together nine of the principals, the women are obscured entirely as Tom Pinch, the man whom Pecksniff unjustly vilified, stares down at the prostrate figure at the end of Old Martin's cane. Furniss, then, seems to have striven to inject more action while revealing the faces of all nine characters, each in a unique pose and caught in the midst of the action, with the hat, books, and umbrella and the possessed old man as the vortex, and the cane raised to strike, as in Phiz, rather than merely prodding Pecksniff after the initial blow, as in Barnard. Furniss knew that he could improve upon Barnard's muted interpretation of his material, but faced a genuine challenge in excelling Dickens's original illustrator. In the final analysis, Furniss has equalled Phiz for sheer energy and clarity, but has lost some of the exquisite background detailing of the July 1844 illustration in order to focus the reader's attention on the left-hand register. A nice touch, however, is the fallen volume beside Pecksniff's respectable top-hat: Gibbon's Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, a neat commentary on the crushing of Pecksniff's dreams of financial empire. The equivalent book in the Phiz illustration is Molière's comic masterpiece Tartuffe.

Relevant Illustrations, 1843-1924

Left: Hablot Knight Browne's ​climactic scene of poetic justice, Warm Reception of Mr. Pecksniff by His Venerable Friend (Chapter 52, July 1844). Right: ​Harold Copping's contrasting study of the two deceivers,​ Mr. Pecksniff and Old Martin Chuzzlewit (1867). [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Above: Fred Barnard's realisation of the climactic scene in which Old Martin denounces Pecksniff, The Fall of Pecksniff​ (1872). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

References

Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. New York and Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1990.

Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1998.

Dickens, Charles. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit. Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne. London: Chapman and Hall, 1844.

Dickens, Charles. Martin Chuzzlewit. Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. 55 vols. Illustrated by F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. New York: Sheldon and Co., 1863. Vols. 1 to 4.

Dickens, Charles. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Junior. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.

Dickens, Charles. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit. Illustrated by Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. 22 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1872. Vol. 2.

Dickens, Charles. Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book, 1910. Vol. 7.

Guerard, Albert J. "Martin Chuzzlewit: The Novel as Comic Entertainment." The Triumph of the Novel: Dickens, Dostoevsky, Faulkner. Chicago & London: U. Chicago P., 1976. Pp. 235-260.

Hammerton, J. A. "Chapter 19: Little Dorrit." The Dickens Picture-Book. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book, 1910. Vol. 17. Pp. 398-427.

Kyd [Clayton J. Clarke]. Characters from Dickens. Nottingham: John Player & Sons, 1910.

"Martin Chuzzlewit — Fifty-nine Illustrations by Fred Barnard." Scenes and Characters from the Works of Charles Dickens, Being Eight Hundred and Sixty-six Drawings by Fred Barnard, Gordon Thomson, Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz), J. McL. Ralston, J. Mahoney, H. French, Charles Green, E. G. Dalziel, A. B. Frost, F. A. Fraser, and Sir Luke Fildes. London: Chapman and Hall, 1907.

Steig, Michael. Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington and London: Indiana U. P., 1978.

_____. "Martin Chuzzlewit's Progress by Dickens and Phiz." Dickens Studies Annual 2 (1972): 119-149.

Vann, J. Don. Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: Modern Language Association, 1985.


Last modified 4​February 2016