Harry Furniss's eighteen-volume edition of The Charles Dickens Library (London: Educational Book Company, 1910) contains some 500 special plates (part of the total of 1200 illustrations) and two volumes of commentary. Volume XVII, edited by J. A. Hammerton, is entitled The Dickens Picture Book: A Record of the Dickens Illustrators. Since the order of the volumes is roughly chronological, the tenth volume, entitled David Copperfield, precedes the eleventh volume, Bleak House, with the twelfth volume being Little Dorrit. Bleak House is Dickens's ninth complete novel, a work so long at 888 pages (and orginally a nineteen-month serialisation) that the series editor, J. A. Hammerton, did not have to fill out the volume with short stories or journalistic pieces. This was the first novel written after Dickens's launching his hugely successful weekly literary journal Household Words (27 March 1850-28 May 1859).

The final volume of the 1910 Charles Dickens Library Edition is The Dickens Companion: A Book of Anecdote and Reference. Whereas the muti-volumed Household Edition, issued in tandem by Chapman and Hall and Harper and Brothers throughout the 1870s involved some sixteen American and British illustrators working in the new mode of the Sixties and providing more than a thousand wood-engravings for the thirty-eight volumes, Furniss produced five hundred full-page lithographs — a prolific output and a singular achievement for a single artist. Furniss was fortunate in illustrating Bleak House that he had two precedents for his twenty-eight lithographs (based on staccato pen-and-ink drawings) both the serial program of forty illustrations by Dickens's collaborator of twenty-two years, Hablot Knight Brown, and the wholly new, generally half-page composite woodblock illustrations by the gifted caricaturist Fred Barnard in the Household Edition of 1873, which as one of the longest volumes in that edition contains sixty illustrations. Furniss's standard throughout the 1910 edition, even for the longest novels in the canon, is twenty-eight or twenty-nine full-page lithographs, including the coloured engraved-title.

For all twenty-nine of the illustrations for the Bleak House in volume 11, Hammerton and Furniss have included both succinct captions (given in full below) and extended quotations to demonstrate the textual moment realised in each; moreover, each quotation refers to a specific page number, thereby enabling the reader to find the passage illustrated. The exception to this standard mode of presentation and captioning is a pair of character studies of the two Turveydrops, and of the two maids (Rosa and Hortense). As usual in the volumes of The Charles Dickens Library Edition Furniss provides an ornately bordered title-page, listed as Characters in the Story in the "List of Special Plates" (vii), although it depicts less than half of the eighty-six named characters. Each page is 12.2 by 18.4 cm (4.75 by 7.25 inches) with a caption below each plate in upper-case; below that occurs a multi-line quotation in upper and lower case. Each plate, whether horizontally or vertically oriented, is effectively 14.3 cm by 9.2 cm (5.5 inches by 3.25 inches). The ten vertically-mounted as well as the horizontally-mounted illustrations are vignetted. Aside from the forty-two title-page vignettes surrounding the book's title, of the twenty-eight full-page illustrations, Furniss devotes only four to single characters and situations (Chesney Wold in the frontispiece, Krook, Tulkinghorn, and Jo the crossing-sweeper), so that only a few secondary characters, as well as the principals in groups (Skimpole, Guppy, Joe in the Coroner's court, Lady Deadlock, the Smallweeds, the maids, Chadband, Vholes, Richard, and Detective Bucket) fill the scenes.

Bleak House: 28 Original Plates (1910)

With a huge cast of characters and only twenty-eight illustrations, Furniss necessarily had to be selective. After all, whereas Fred Barnard in the Household Edition volume had received the Chapman and /hall commission to design sixty-one composite woodblock engravings, Furniss had less than half of that number of lithographs for the eleventh volume of the Charles Dickens Library edition that he illustrated without any collaborators or assistants. Whereas he depicts the chief characters such as Lady Deadlock, Esther, Richard, Detective Bucket, and Guppy a number of times, he fails to depict most of the minor characters.

Related Material, including Other Illustrated Editions of Bleak House

Scanned image and text 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.]


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

Dickens, Charles. Bleak House. Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne ("Phiz"). London: Bradbury and Evans, 1853.

_______. Bleak House. Illustrated by F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. The Works of Charles Dickens. The Household Edition. New York: Sheldon and Company, 1863. Vols. 1-4.

_______. Bleak House. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr, and engraved by A. V. S. Anthony. 14 vols. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1867. VI.

_______. Bleak House, with 59 illustrations by Fred Barnard. Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1873. IV.

_______. Bleak House. Illustrated by Harry Furniss [28 original lithographs]. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols.​ London: Educational Book, 1910. XI.

_______, and Fred Barnard. The Dickens Souvenir Book. London: Chapman & Hall, 1912.

Hammerton, J. A. "Chapter 18: Bleak House." The Dickens Picture-Book. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book, 1910. XVII. 366-97.

Kitton, Frederic George. Dickens and His Illustrators: Cruikshank, Seymour, Buss, "Phiz," Cattermole, Leech, Doyle, Stanfield, Maclise, Tenniel, Frank Stone, Landseer, Palmer, Topham, Marcus Stone, and Luke Fildes. Amsterdam: S. Emmering, 1972. Re-print of the London 1899 edition.

Lester, Valerie Browne. Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens. London: Chatto and Windus, 2004.

Schlicke, Paul, ed. The Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1999.

Steig, Michael. Chapter 4. "Bleak House: Iconography of Social and Sexual Satire." Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington & London: Indiana U. P., 1978. 86-112.

Vann, J. Don. "Bleak House, twenty parts in nineteen monthly instalments, October 1846—April 1848." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: The Modern Language Association, 1985. 69-70./

Created 21 December 2020

Last modified 30 January 2021