French Soldiers by Thomas Nast, in the American Household Edition of The Works of Charles Dickens (New York: Harper & Bros., 1877), p. 15.

Bibliographical Note

The illustration appears in the American Edition of Charles Dickens's Pictures from Italy, Sketches, and American Notes, second chapter, "Passing through France," p. 15. Wood-engraving, 4 by 5 ¼ inches (10.4 cm high by 13.5 cm wide), vignetted. New York: Harper & Bros., Franklin Square, 1877.

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 Complemented: Impressions of the Papal Palace at Avignon

Passing through the court-yard, among groups of idle soldiers, we turned off by a gate, which this She-Goblin unlocked for our admission, and locked again behind us: and entered a narrow court, rendered narrower by fallen stones and heaps of rubbish; part of it choking up the mouth of a ruined subterranean passage, that once communicated (or is said to have done so) with another castle on the opposite bank of the river. Close to this court-yard is a dungeon—we stood within it, in another minute — in the dismal tower des oubliettes, where Rienzi was imprisoned, fastened by an iron chain to the very wall that stands there now, but shut out from the sky which now looks down into it. [Chapter 3, "Lyon, The Rhone, and The Goblin of Avignon," page 15]

Commentary: The Papal Palace at Avignon

Nast does not actually illustrated the she-Goblin and the subterranean passage; rather, he prepares the reader for a tour of the palace by introducing the mundane present: soldiers in the courtyard. Although Harper and Brothers have inserted the descriptive headline "The Goblin of Avignon" at the top of page 15, the artist has represented the palace of the Avignon exile of the papacy by the soldiers who have made the former ecclesiastical residence into a mere barracks. Only two other illustrators of this section of Pictures from Italy have made Dickens's focus theirs; the ugly, wizzened, ancient tour-guide whom Dickens has dubbed "The Goblin" — "A little, old, swarthy woman, with a pair of flashing black eyes" (14). With his penchant for hyperbole and caricature, she should have been Nast's logical choice, but Nast passed up a chance to indulge in a grotesque.

The first illustrator of the slight travelogue, Samuel Palmer, who tended to focus on Italian architecture, did not address this section at all; but Nast used a very different approach, making incidental characters part of his picturesque scenes, just as Marcus Stone had done, and Gordon Thomson would do in 1880. Nevertheless, as one of Harper and Brothers chief illustrators and a New York artist, Nast would have seen Sol Eytinge, Junior's 1867 illustration The Goblin of Avignon, and therefore made a conscious choice to favour the mundane (the off-duty French troops) over the extraordinary. Whereas Palmer in the first edition gave readers no contemporary characters, Eytinge went to the opposite extreme, as did Marcus Stone. Nast, although a noted political satirist, seems to have chosen a middle course, presenting both contemporary scenes and such locale characters as the soldiers in the garrison at Avignon. However, Nast represents the noble papal palace only by an ornate entrance-way.

Related Material


Dickens, Charles. Chapter I, "The Reader's Passport." Pictures from Italy, Sketches by Boz, and American Notes. Illustrated by A. B. Frost and Thomas Nast. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1877. Pp. 9-10.

Dickens, Charles. Pictures from Italy and American Notes. Illustrated by A. B. Frost and Gordon Thomson. London: Chapman and Hall, 1880. Pp. 1-381.

Last modified 29 September 2019