"Thieves! thieves!" screamed the usurer, starting up and holding his book to his breast. "Robbers! murder!", for Chap. LIII; fiftieth illustration for the British Household Edition, illustrated by Fred Barnard with fifty-nine composite woodblock engravings (1875). The framed illustration is 10.8 x 13.8 cm (4 ⅛ by 5 ½ inches), framed, p. 357. A dark plate. Running head: "Nicholas Appeals to Arthur Gride" (357). [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Passage Illustrated: Nicholas attempts to persuade Gride not to marry Madeline

Barnard initially depicts Nicholas trying to persuade Madeline not to sacrifice herself to pay off her father's debts by marrying the odious miser: "I must beseech you to contemplate again the fearful curse to which you have been impelled." (Ch. 53).

The room had no other light than that which it derived from a dim and dirt-clogged lamp, whose lazy wick, being still further obscured by a dark shade, cast its feeble rays over a very little space, and left all beyond in heavy shadow. This lamp the money-lender had drawn so close to him, that there was only room between it and himself for the book over which he bent; and as he sat, with his elbows on the desk, and his sharp cheek-bones resting on his hands, it only served to bring out his ugly features in strong relief, together with the little table at which he sat, and to shroud all the rest of the chamber in a deep sullen gloom. Raising his eyes, and looking vacantly into this gloom as he made some mental calculation, Arthur Gride suddenly met the fixed gaze of a man.

"Thieves! thieves!" shrieked the usurer, starting up and folding his book to his breast. ‘Robbers! Murder!"

"What is the matter?" said the form, advancing.

"Keep off!" cried the trembling wretch. ‘Is it a man or a — a —"

"For what do you take me, if not for a man?" was the inquiry.

"Yes, yes," cried Arthur Gride, shading his eyes with his hand, "it is a man, and not a spirit. It is a man. Robbers! robbers!" [Chapter LIII, Containing the further Progress of the Plot contrived by Mr. Ralph Nickleby and Mr. Arthur Gride] [Chapter LIII, "Containing the further Progress of the Plot contrived by Mr. Ralph Nickleby and Mr. Arthur Gride," 356]

Commentary: Gride's dealing with "a man, and not a spirit"

That very morning, Madeline has proven adamant about pursuing a course that will liberate her feckless, class-conscious father from his massive debts, but which will also unite her with a living cadaver who values only her physical appearance. She has made it clear to Nicholas that she intends to sacrifice herself to save her father. Since that appeal failed, Nicholas now visits Gride's house that evening. He tries to scare off Gride, intimating that he can expose Gride's forgeries and send him to Newgate, although he has mere suspicions rather than actual proof. Nicholas apparently knows that Madeline has an inheritance, and that Gride has somehow gotten wind of it. Unable to frighten him off, Nicholas attempts to buy him off — but again to no avail. When Gride threatens to announce from his window that he is being robbed by housebreakers Nicholas wisely departs.

The plate is an accurate depiction of Gride's darkened room, illuminated by a single lamp on his desk. THe usurer has been reading an account ledger, composed in his own hand, and this volume sits open upon the desk. Although Gride will shortly put on a gruff demeanour, as he suddenly becomes aware of the presence of another in the darkened he is terrified that he is being visited by an apparition. Barnard lets the chiaroscuro play upon Gride's gaunt visage and gnarled hands to reveal his momentary terror, until he resolves that he is dealing with "a man, and not a spirit" (356).

Relevant Illustrations from Other Editions (1839-1875)

Left: Phiz shows how Nicholas outwits Gride and his uncle Ralph in Nicholas Congratulates Arthur Gride on His Wedding Morning (August 1839). Centre: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s Diamond Edition study of the novel's miserly villains: Ralph Nickleby and Arthur Gride (1867). Right: Fred Barnard's Household Edition illustration for the previous chapter involves Grides's selecting his wedding outfit, which he acquired at a bargain (of course!): "I'll be married in the bottle-green, cried Arthur Gride.

Above: C. S. Reinhart's 1875 woodblock engraving of Nicholas's stealing the aged miser's bride: And then, taking the beautiful burden in his arms, rushed out in Chapter 54 of the American Household Edition.

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-nine illustrations. The Works of Charles Dickens: The Household Edition. 22 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1875. XV. 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 23 September 2021