"He knows nothing of what has happened," he whispered by Thomas Nast (1873)

Bibliographical Note

The illustration appears in the American Edition of Charles Dickens's The Posthumous Papers of The Pickwick Club, Chapter VIII, "Strongly Illustrative of the Position, That the Course of True Love is not a Railway," page 52. Wood-engraving, 4 inches high by 5 ¼ inches wide (10.2 cm high by 13.4 cm wide), vignetted, half-page; referencing text on the previous page; descriptive headlines: "Mr. Tupman Declares" (p. 51) and "A Snake in the Grass" (p. 53). New York: Harper & Bros., Franklin Square, 1873.

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.]

Passage Illustrated: The Aftermath of Tupman's Declaration

"What do you want here, Sir?"

"Supper's ready, sir," was the prompt reply.

"Have you just come here, sir?" inquired Mr. Tupman, with a piercing look.

"Just," replied the fat boy.

Mr. Tupman looked at him very hard again; but there was not a wink in his eye, or a curve in his face.

Mr. Tupman took the arm of the spinster aunt, and walked towards the house; the fat boy followed behind.

"He knows nothing of what has happened," he whispered.

"Nothing," said the spinster aunt.

There was a sound behind them, as of an imperfectly suppressed chuckle. Mr. Tupman turned sharply round. No; it could not have been the fat boy; there was not a gleam of mirth, or anything but feeding in his whole visage. [Chapter VIII, "Strongly Illustrative of the Position, That the Course of True Love is not a Railway," page 51]


1title1 Instead of depicting the Fat Boy interrupting Tupman's declaration of love for Rachael Wardle, as Phiz did in the original serial publication of the novel, Nast depicts Tupman by himself in the garden (in Mr. Tupman) and then going into the house for dinner, accompanied by the Wardles' indolent page, Joe. The illustration underscores Dickens's ironic situational humour because the smirk on Joe's face indicates that, contrary to the obtuse Tupman's interpretation, Joe knows very well what has been transpiring between the middle-aged guest and the mistress in the garden bower. Nast emphasizes the bandage on Tupman's arm, for his condition as an invalid after the hunting accident has led to this autumnal romance. Beside Joe Nast has placed a large watering-can lying on its side, recalling Tupman's earlier declaration of affection for the rather plain spinster: "Here Mr. Tupman paused, and pressed the hand which clasped the handle of the happy watering-pot" (51). The angle of their heads, their demeanour, and their close physical proximity strongly suggest that Rachael Wardle returns Tupman's profession of romantic interest — a situation which Joe finds so improbable and ridiculous that he struggles to maintain "the utter vacancy" (51) of his countenance.

Having studied the original Phiz illustration of the middle-aged lovers, Thomas Nast chose to foil his more conventional, comedic treatment of the courtship in the garden (seen in the engraving The Fat Boy Awake Again, substituted for Buss's version prior to volume publication) in order to satirize the middle-aged lover, Tracy Tupman. Whereas Joe, "The Fat Boy" and Wardle's page, interrupts Tupman's rapturous declaration and embarrasses the unlikely lovers in the garden bower at Dingley Dell in both of Phiz's illustrations (1837 and 1874), Nast introduces Joe's accompanying Tupman and Rachael Wardle back to the manor-house after presenting the corpulent Tupman in Regency dress and a symbolic pose.

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

Above: Phiz situates his treatment of the farcical courtship scene in a garden bower as Pickwick's second lieutenant, wounded inadvertently by the inept Winkle, recuperates at the Dingley Dell manor-house, and is much in the company of the spinster aunt: Mr. Tupman looked round. There was the fat boy. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Other artists who illustrated this work, 1836-1910

Related Material


Dickens, Charles. The Pickwick Papers. Illustrated by Robert Seymour and Hablot Knight Browne. London: Chapman & Hall, 1836-37.

Dickens, Charles. The Pickwick Papers. Illustrated by Robert Seymour and Hablot Knight Browne. London: Chapman & Hall, 1896.

Dickens, Charles. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. The Household Edition. Illustrated by Thomas Nast. New York: Harper and Brothers 1873.

Dickens, Charles. Pickwick Papers. Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne ('Phiz'). The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874.

Last modified 5 November 2019