"Bless my soul," everybody says, "somebody taken suddenly ill! Sawyer, late Nockemorf, sent for!" by Thomas Nast (1873), in Charles Dickens's The Posthumous Papers of The Pickwick Club, Chapter XXXVIII, 229.

Bibliographical Note

Instead of focussing on Bob Sawyer's punch-making and inebriation in his chemist's shop Nast realizes the imagined scene in which a family feels compelled to call upon the celebrated pharmacist in Chapter XXXVIII, "How Mr. Winkle, when he stepped out of the frying-pan, walked gently and comfortably into the fire," p. 229. Wood-engraving, 4 inches high by 6 ¼ inches wide (10.2 cm high by 13.5 cm wide), framed, half-page; referencing text on the previous page; descriptive headline: "Professional Conviviality" (p. 229). Oddly enough, although Phiz executed a different scene (Winkle and the sedan-chair) in both 1837 and 1874 editions for Chapter XXXVI, the 1874 Chapman and Hall edition uses precisely the same descriptive headline on p. 269, although the appropriate illustration does not appear until the next chapter.

Passage Illustrated: Bob Sawyer's Salesmanship

Mr. Winkle looked perplexed, and Bob Sawyer and his friend laughed.

"Don't you see?" said Bob. "He goes up to a house, rings the area bell, pokes a packet of medicine without a direction into the servant's hand, and walks off. Servant takes it into the dining-parlour; master opens it, and reads the label: “Draught to be taken at bedtime — pills as before — lotion as usual — the powder. From Sawyer's, late Nockemorf's. Physicians’ prescriptions carefully prepared," and all the rest of it. Shows it to his wife — she reads the label; it goes down to the servants — they read the label. Next day, boy calls: "Very sorry — his mistake — immense business — great many parcels to deliver — Mr. Sawyer's compliments — late Nockemorf." The name gets known, and that's the thing, my boy, in the medical way. Bless your heart, old fellow, it's better than all the advertising in the world. We have got one four-ounce bottle that's been to half the houses in Bristol, and hasn't done yet."

"Dear me, I see," observed Mr. Winkle; "what an excellent plan!"

"Oh, Ben and I have hit upon a dozen such," replied Bob Sawyer, with great glee. "The lamplighter has eighteenpence a week to pull the night-bell for ten minutes every time he comes round; and my boy always rushes into the church just before the psalms, when the people have got nothing to do but look about 'em, and calls me out, with horror and dismay depicted on his countenance. "Bless my soul," everybody says, "somebody taken suddenly ill! Sawyer, late Nockemorf, sent for! What a business that young man has!'"

At the termination of this disclosure of some of the mysteries of medicine, Mr. Bob Sawyer and his friend, Ben Allen, threw themselves back in their respective chairs, and laughed boisterously. [Chapter 38, "How Mr. Winkle, when he stepped out of the frying-pan, walked gently and comfortably into the fire," p. 228]

Commentary: Promoting His Services even in the Sunday Morning Service

Although Sawyer has been relying on the misdirection of a prescription to the homes of prosperous Bristol burghers to advertise his apothecary shop, Nast has realised the scene in which Sawyer's delivery-boy has rushed into the parish church to summon his employer to a sufferer's bedside. Apparently apothecaries could also act as physicians, and were quite prepared to make lucrative house-calls — even on a Sunday. Nast has not clarified, however, whether the gentleman in fashionable, checkered trousers and thick-rimmed glasses is his employer. Nast effectively details the interior of the local Anglican church, which would probably have resembled an American Episcopal church in its pews, lectern, and eighteenth-century pediment above the door.

Phiz's Views of Winkle's visit to the Rambunctious Medical Students (1837 and 1874)

Left: Phiz's original May 1837 steel-engraving of Bob Sawyer and Ben Allen's entertaining Winkle with pharmacist's punch, Conviviality at Bob Sawyer's (Ch. XXXVIII). Right: Phiz updated the drinking scene for the 1874 Household Edition: Mr. Bob Sawyer's boy . . . peeped through the glass door, and thus listened and looked on at the same time. [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 Sol Eytinge, Jr. Engraved by A. V. S. Anthony. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.

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 21 September 2021