The Indian Savage and the Maiden — Chap. xxiii, p. 148, from the Household Edition of Charles Dickens's The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, illustrated by Fred Barnard with fifty-nine composite woodblock engravings (1875). 10.7 cm high by 13.7 cm wide (4 ⅛ by 5 ⅜ inches), framed. Running head: "The Leading Lady of the Company" (149). [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Passage Illustrated: Vincent Crummles' Melodramatic Transpontine Rehearsal

The manager clapped his hands as a signal to proceed, and the savage, becoming ferocious, made a slide towards the maiden; but the maiden avoided him in six twirls, and came down, at the end of the last one, upon the very points of her toes. This seemed to make some impression upon the savage; for, after a little more ferocity and chasing of the maiden into corners, he began to relent, and stroked his face several times with his right thumb and four fingers, thereby intimating that he was struck with admiration of the maiden’s beauty. Acting upon the impulse of this passion, he (the savage) began to hit himself severe thumps in the chest, and to exhibit other indications of being desperately in love, which being rather a prosy proceeding, was very likely the cause of the maiden’s falling asleep; whether it was or no, asleep she did fall, sound as a church, on a sloping bank, and the savage perceiving it, leant his left ear on his left hand, and nodded sideways, to intimate to all whom it might concern that she was asleep, and no shamming. Being left to himself, the savage had a dance, all alone. Just as he left off, the maiden woke up, rubbed her eyes, got off the bank, and had a dance all alone too — such a dance that the savage looked on in ecstasy all the while, and when it was done, plucked from a neighbouring tree some botanical curiosity, resembling a small pickled cabbage, and offered it to the maiden, who at first wouldn’t have it, but on the savage shedding tears relented. Then the savage jumped for joy; then the maiden jumped for rapture at the sweet smell of the pickled cabbage. Then the savage and the maiden danced violently together, and, finally, the savage dropped down on one knee, and the maiden stood on one leg upon his other knee; thus concluding the ballet, and leaving the spectators in a state of pleasing uncertainty, whether she would ultimately marry the savage, or return to her friends.

"Very well indeed," said Mr. Crummles; "bravo!" [Chapter XXIII, "Treats of the Company of Mr. Vincent Crummles, and of his Affairs, Domestic and Theatrical," pp. 146-47]



Right: The Country Manager Regearses a Combat, in which Phiz inducts the reader into the seedy world of 19th c. theatre. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

In the Household Edition's revision of the illustration that introduces manager Vincent Crummles and his itinerant acting company, Barnard focuses upon the improbable juxtaposition of the actor playing "The Savage," with a pointer reminiscent of Wackford Squeers' classroom management implement, and the pirouetting Infant Phenomenon, Crummles' daughter. Whereas Phiz has brought the theatrical manager well forward in the October 1838 rehearsal scene, Barnard relegates him and the other family members to the background, and places Crummles' ham-acting daughter, Ninetta, in the spotlight. Barnard, therefore, has seized the opportunity to spoof early Victorian melodrama. His series of illustrations for the provincial theatre chapters parallels Phiz's illustrations for serial Parts VII through X. In these, through realising Dickens's account of Nicholas's becoming an actor and resident playwright, Phiz underscores the artificiality and seediness of the provincial theatre. In Dickens and Phiz Michael Steig notes that "these plates emphasize the extent to which acting becomes a major metaphor in the novel" (45). This "family business" is at least more benign than that of Wackford Squeers, despite the parallels in terms of pretence and dececption.

Introducing the Hyperbolic Vincent Crummles, Dickens's Version of Thomas Davenport

Further 'Backstage' Scenes by Phiz (November 1838), Darley, Eytinge, Reinhart, and Furniss.

Left: The Great Bespeak for Miss Snevellici, in which the reader must adopt the actors' perspective of the ragtag provincial audience. Right: Nicholas Instructs Smike in the Art of Acting, in which Nicholas's caricatured companion struggles to learn his minor part, despite his friend's best efforts.

Left: Felix Octavius Carr Darley's 1861 lithographic frontispiece The Rehearsal (1861). Right: Harry Furniss's 1910 lithograph representing the same scene, Nicholas and Smike behind the Scenes, in the Charles Dickens Library Edition.

Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's 1867composite woodblock engraving of the theatrical family: Mr. and Mrs. Crummles and The Phenomenon. Right: C. S. Reinhart's version of the same "Indian Savage and Maiden" dance number: And finally the Savage dropped down on one knee, and the maiden stood on one leg on his other knee (1875).

Related material, including front matter and sketches, by other illustrators

Scanned image, colour correction, sizing, caption, and commentary by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose, as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image, and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


Barnard, J. "Fred" (il.). Charles Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby, with fifty-eight illustrations. The Works of Charles Dickens: The Household Edition. 22 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1875. Volume 15. Rpt. 1890.

Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1988.

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 Nicholas Nickleby. With fifty-two illustrations by C. S. Reinhart. The Household Edition. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1872. I.

__________. Nicholas Nickleby. With 39 illustrations by Hablot K. Browne ("Phiz"). London: Chapman & Hall, 1839.

__________. Nicholas Nickleby. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book, 1910. Vol. 4.

__________. "Nicholas Nickleby." Scenes and Characters from the Works of Charles Dickens, being eight hundred and sixty-six drawings by Fred Barnard et al.. Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1908.

Created 7 December 2019

Last modified 17 April 2021