A large mass of ice disappeared (Pickwick falls through the ice on the pond) by Thomas Nast (1873), Chapter XXX, 179.

Bibliographical Note

The illustration appears in the American Edition of Charles Dickens's The Posthumous Papers of The Pickwick Club, Chapter XXX, "How the Pickwickians made and Cultivated the Acquaintance of a Couple of Nice Young Men Belonging to One of the Liberal Professions; How They Disported Themselves on the Ice; and How Their Visit Came to a Conclusion," 179. Half-page composite woodblock-engraving, 4 1⁄16 inches high by 5 ¼ inches wide (10.4 cm high by 13.4 cm wide), framed, referencing text on the same page; descriptive headline: "In and Out." New York: Harper & Bros., Franklin Square, 1873. In the 1910 Charles Dickens Library Edition, Harry Furniss provides a less humorous and more suspenseful interpretation of the same moment.

Passage Illustrated: The Second Mishap on the Ice

Dismay and anguish were depicted on every countenance; the males turned pale, and the females fainted; Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle grasped each other by the hand, and gazed at the spot where their leader had gone down, with frenzied eagerness; while Mr. Tupman, by way of rendering the promptest assistance, and at the same time conveying to any persons who might be within hearing, the clearest possible notion of the catastrophe, ran off across the country at his utmost speed, screaming "Fire!" with all his might.

It was at this moment, when old Wardle and Sam Weller were approaching the hole with cautious steps, and Mr. Benjamin Allen was holding a hurried consultation with Mr. Bob Sawyer on the advisability of bleeding the company generally, as an improving little bit of professional practice — it was at this very moment, that a face, head, and shoulders, emerged from beneath the water, and disclosed the features and spectacles of Mr. Pickwick. [Chapter XXX, "How the Pickwickians made and cultivated the acquaintance of couple of nice young men belong to one of the liberal professions; how they disported themselves on the ice; and how their visit came to a conclusion," 179]

Commentary: Pickwick Under Ice rather than on It

The third Nast elaboration on the theme of Londoners ineptly performing winter sports is perhaps his most vigorous as Pickwick disappears into the pond when the rest of the company hurriedly clear the ice in A large mass of ice disappeared (179). Pickwick's gloves and hat remain suspended in mid-air, as his head and shoulders are lost to view. Nast's backdrop is noticeably bleaker than Phiz's in his revised version of the 1837 plate for the 1874 Household Edition, Mr. Pickwick . . . . went slowly and gravely down the slide, with his feet about a yard and a quarter apart, amidst the gratified shouts of all the spectators. Nast renders his sky as dark and ominous, his trees without foliage, and the shoreline far away. In contrast, Phiz in the 1874 plate depicts a more convivial scene, with a much larger company, most of whom are young adults, and a number of women; Phiz's backdrop has the same substantial manor house, but his lighter sky contains eight birds and greenery.

Although in the January 1837 serial number serial Phiz illustrated a number of Christmas scenes, including the community skating party, which remain among the most amiable and comic in the entire novel, initially American readers saw none of his work because the first American edition (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea, and Blanchard, 1836; five volumes) appeared without any of the British illustrations, including Phiz's celebrated rendering of Pickwick on ice (see immediately below).


Nast vigorously captures the moment of Pickwick's falling through the ice, with his hat and gloves in mid-air as the onlookers make a "quick rush towards the bank" and safety to the right. Too many sliders, including the corpulent Joe and the rotund Pickwick, have proven too much for the pond's surface. The welcoming warmth of the manor house, centre rear, contrasts with the icy plunge that Pickwick has just taken as the ice, four inches thick in Nast's illustration, has given away beneath his considerable weight, terminating his joyful slide in which he momentarily revisited his boyhood. The only practice that Pickwick has ever had at sliding, he has just explained to Wardle, was when as a boy he "used to do so on the gutters" (178) of London streets, a reminiscence that Dickens realizes in Bob Cratchit's sliding on the icy streets of the metropolis in A Christmas Carol, and that A. E. Abbey recalls in the American Household Edition illustration of Bob Cratchit's sliding with the boys as he returns home from work on Christmas Eve, Went down a slide on Cornhill twenty times, in honor of its being Christmas-eve, an urban winter scene with which Dickens would have been familiar after moving from Rochester to London in 1822.

Nast's Other "Pickwick-on-Ice" Scenes

Relevant Illustrations from Phiz's Programme (1874) and Furniss's (1910)

Above: In the 1874 Household Edition of the novel Phiz has modelled his illustration on his own February 1837 engraving: Mr. Pickwick . . . . went slowly and gravely down the slide, with his feet about a yard and a quarter apart, amidst the gratified shouts of all the spectators. Right: Phiz's original interpretation first appeared in monthly part 11: is a realistic study Mr Pickwick Slides.

Above: In the 1910 Charles Dickens Library Edition of the novel Harry Furniss offered an illustration of the moment after Pickwick's sudden fall through the ice, when all that remains of the great man are his hat and gloves: Mr. Pickwick Under the Ice: "A large mass of ice disappeared; the water bubbled up over it; Mr. Pickwick’s hat, gloves, and handkerchief were floating on the surface; and this was all of Mr. Pickwick that anybody could see. — Pickwick, 421. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Other artists who illustrated this work, 1836-74

Related Material

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.]


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

__________. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, Edited by Boz. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea, and Blanchard, 1836. 5 vols.

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

__________. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. The Household Edition. Illustrated by Phiz (Hablot Knight Browne). London: Chapman and Hall, 1874.

__________. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book, 1910. Volume 2.

Last modified 8 April 2020