The Stake. Artist: John Franklin. Drawn and engraved by Franklin, 1841, reprinted 1847. Steel-plate etching, 3.75 by 5.5 inches (9.6 cm high by 14.4 cm wide). Second illustration by this artist for W. H. Ainsworth's historical romance, Old St. Paul's: A Tale of the Plague and the Fire (London: Parry, Blenkharn & Co., 1847): Book the First, "April, 1665," Chapter III, "The Gamester and the Bully," facing p. 31. The dark plate reinforces the chaos engulfing English society with this last, greatest visitation of the bubonic plague. In the 1841 original, the illustrator has employed extreme Baroque chiaroscuro to highlight the mask-like visages of gamblers, rendering the face of the youth in the centre totally obscured.

Scanned image by a Simon Cooke, color correction and sizing by George P. Landow. 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.

Passage Illustrated: "Rolling the Dice"

"I understand that you are a villain. You have robbed me of my money, and would rob me of my honour."

"These are harsh words, sir," replied the knight, calmly; "but let them pass. We will play first, and fight afterwards. But you refuse my challenge?"

"It is false!" replied Disbrowe, fiercely, "I accept it." And producing a key, he threw it on the table. "My life is, in truth, set on the die," he added, with a desperate look — "for if I lose, I will not survive my shame."

"You will not forget our terms," observed Parravicin. "I am to be your representative to-night. You can return home to-morrow."

"Throw, sir — throw," cried the young man, fiercely.

"Pardon, me," replied the knight; "the first cast is with you. A single main decides it."

"Be it so," returned Disbrowe, seizing the box. And as he shook the dice with a frenzied air, the major and Lydyard drew near the table, and even Wyvil roused himself to watch the result.

"Twelve!" cried Disbrowe, as he removed the box. "My honour is saved! My fortune retrieved — Huzza!"

"Not so fast," returned Parravicin, shaking the box in his turn. "You were a little too hasty," he added, uncovering the dice. "I am twelve, too. We must throw again."

"This to decide," cried the young officer, again rattling the dice. "Six!"

Parravicin smiled, took the box, and threw ten. [Book the First — "April, 1665," Chapter Three, "The Gamester and the Bully," pp. 30-31]

Related Material: Phiz's Frontispiece and Title-page Vignette (1847)

Ainsworth initially serialised the novel in the Sunday Times, from 3 January through 26 December 1841 in fifty-one weekly instalments, which Ainsworth almost immediately reconfigured as twelve monthly parts for publication that same year, a pattern more famously adopted by Charles Dickens in 1859 for A Tale of Two Cities (June-December).


Ainsworth, William Harrison. Old Saint Paul's: A Tale of the Plague and the Fire. London: Parry, Blenkharn & Co., 1847. This was a one-volume reprint of the three-decker published by Hugh Cunningham in 1841. Routledge re-issued the single volume with the Franklin illustrations prefaced by two additional engravings by Hablot Knight Brown.

Vann, J. Don. "William Harrison Ainsworth: Old Saint Paul's in the Sunday Times, 3 January-26 December 1841." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: MLA, 1985. Pp. 21-22.

Last modified 4 November 2018