xxx xxx

Joe, The Fat Boy in two distinct studies — The Fat Boy asleep again, facing II, 192, 14 cm high by 8 cm wide (5 ½ inches by 3 inches) vignetted, and Tragedy in the Arbour, facing II, 104, 14 cm high by 9.1 cm wide (5 ½ inches by 3 ⅝ inches) vignetted, in Dickens's The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. 1874. Lithographic reproductions of pen-and-ink drawings from The Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910).

Passages Illustrated: The Narcoleptic Servant is Cannier than he Appears

Everybody was excited, except the fat boy, and he slept as soundly as if the roaring of cannon were his ordinary lullaby.

"Joe, Joe!" said the stout gentleman, when the citadel was taken, and the besiegers and besieged sat down to dinner. "Damn that boy, he's gone to sleep again. Be good enough to pinch him, sir — in the leg, if you please; nothing else wakes him — thank you. Undo the hamper, Joe." [Chapter IV, "A Field-day and a Bivouac — more new friends; and an Invitation to the Country," 54]

Second Passage Illustrated: Not Asleep at all

"Missus!" shouted the fat boy.

"Well, Joe," said the trembling old lady. "I'm sure I have been a good mistress to you, Joe. You have invariably been treated very kindly. You have never had too much to do; and you have always had enough to eat."

This last was an appeal to the fat boy's most sensitive feelings. He seemed touched, as he replied emphatically —

"I knows I has."

"Then what can you want to do now?" said the old lady, gaining courage.

"I wants to make your flesh creep," replied the boy.

This sounded like a very bloodthirsty mode of showing one’s gratitude; and as the old lady did not precisely understand the process by which such a result was to be attained, all her former horrors returned.

"What do you think I see in this very arbour last night?" inquired the boy.

"Bless us! What?" exclaimed the old lady, alarmed at the solemn manner of the corpulent youth.

"The strange gentleman — him as had his arm hurt — a-kissin' and huggin' —"

"Who, Joe? None of the servants, I hope."

Worser than that," roared the fat boy, in the old lady’s ear.

"Not one of my grandda'aters?"

"Worser than that."

"Worse than that, Joe!" said the old lady, who had thought this the extreme limit of human atrocity. "Who was it, Joe? I insist upon knowing."

The fat boy looked cautiously round, and having concluded his survey, shouted in the old lady’s ear —

"Miss Rachael." [Chapter VIII, "Strongly Illustrative of the Position," 105-6]

Commentary: Furniss's innovative illustration of a pivotal scene

The chapter in which series editor, J. A. Hammerton, has inserted the portrait of the secondary, comic character "Joe, The Fat Boy," Mr. Wardle's page at Dingley Dell Farm, near Muggleton (Rochester) in Kent, has nothing whatsoever to do with the portrait of the somnolent servant. Consequently, the illustration may have several points of reference, particularly when Dickens introduces him at the military field-day in Chapter IV, and when Joe spies upon Rachael Wardle and Tracy Tupman in the garden bower or arbour in Chapter VIII.

What Joe (supposedly asleep) observed when Rachel Wardel and Tracy Tupman were engaged in a chaste tryst in the arbour at Dingley Dell he now communicates to Old Mrs. Wardle, the family matriarch. However, Joe does not realise that, in communicating his secret, he is being observed and overheard by the devious out-of-work actor Alfred Jingle, who has attached himself to the Pickwickians with an hour to the main chance. Armed with this knowledge of Miss Rachael's romantic inclinations, Jingle determines to exploit her vulnerability.

By his sheer bulk, Joe, Wardle's page, is immediately recognizable, as is the slender, sharp-featured Jingle in his swallow-tail coat. The subtitle for the illustration identifies precisely the narrative moment that Furniss has in mind: "I wants to make your flesh creep," replied the boy — Pickwick, 105. However, since the old lady is somewhat hard of hearing, she is not yet shocked; that shocked response occurs when Joe identifies the object of Tupman's romantic liaison as the old lady's own daughter.

Although Furniss had obvious precedents for the scene that he would illustrate for Chapter 8, he elected to illustrate instead a scene that no previous illustrator had attempted in order to introduce the plot gambit of Alfred Jingle's stealing away Rachael Wardle. The abduction results in his pursuit by Wardle and Pickwick, and ultimately the introduction of Sam Weller at the White Hart Inn in the Borough.

Other artists who illustrated this work, 1836-1910

Other studies of Joe, The Fat Boy (1836-1924)

Left: Phiz's original June 1836 illustration of Joe: The Fat Boy Awake Again. Centre: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s individual character study of the devious gourmand: The Fat Boy in Chapter 54 (1867). Right: Harrold Copping's 1924 lithographic reproduction of an original watercolour, A"The Fat Boy Awake".

Parallel Scene by Phiz in the British Household Edition (1874)

Above: Phiz's Sam looked at the Fat Boy with great astonishment, but without saying a word, Chapter XXVIII ("A Good-Humored Christmas Chapter") (1874).

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.]


Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Checkmark and Facts On File, 1999.

Dickens, Charles. Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne ("Phiz"). The Authentic Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1901 [rpt. of the 1868 volume, based on the 30 May 1857 volume].

_____. Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1867. 14 vols.

_____. Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Illustrated by Thomas Nast. The Household Edition. 16 vols. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1873. Vol. 4.

_____. Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne ('Phiz'). The Household Edition. 22 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874. Vol. 5.

_____. Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book, 1910. Vol. 2.

Matz, B. W., and Kate Perugini; illustrated by Harold Copping. Character Sketches from Dickens. London: Raphael Tuck, 1924.

Created 14 September 2019

Last modified 5 February 2020