"All's Well That Ends Well" by Thomas Nast, in Charles Dickens's Pictures from Italy and American Notes (1877), Chapter XVIII, "Concluding Remarks," 380. Wood-engraving, 4 ⅛ by 5 ¼ inches (10.5 cm high by 13.5 cm wide), framed.

Passage Realized: A Species of Apology and Personified Animals

I have now arrived at the close of this book. I have little reason to believe, from certain warnings I have had since I returned to England, that it will be tenderly or favourably received by the American people; and as I have written the Truth in relation to the mass of those who form their judgments and express their opinions, it will be seen that I have no desire to court, by any adventitious means, the popular applause.

It is enough for me, to know, that what I have set down in these pages, cannot cost me a single friend on the other side of the Atlantic, who is, in anything, deserving of the name. For the rest, I put my trust, implicitly, in the spirit in which they have been conceived and penned; and I can bide my time. [Chapter XVIII, "Concluding Remarks," page 383]

Commentary: An 1878 illustration for an 1842 text

Nast has been composing an editorial cartoon sequence that comments upon Anglo-American relations as they exist in the present (1878) rather than at (or perhaps, in addition to) the time of Dickens's initial reading tour (1842). If we accept this dual chronology, we should search for the picture's meaning not so much in the accompanying text, as in the embedded symbolic details and texts that Nast provides to complement the British Lion in the eighteenth-century garb, and that other symbolic beast, the American Eagle in his more contemporary dress. For instance, while the stolid Lion puffs on a long-stemmed, clay pipe as he is about to take a draught of ale from the gigantic tankard which lies beside a bowl of steaming punch, the phlegmatic Eagle puffs on a cigar as he reads the conclusion of the book, American Notes for General Circulation, leaving his beverage (perhaps a mint julep) untasted on the ledge beside him.

Nast likewise juxtaposes the iconic British Bull Dog (here more a lapdog than a ferocious hunter) at the Lion's feet with the oversized "National Spitoon" with which the cartoonist has earlier described the political culture of the United Staes of America. Nast goes so far as provide the pair with complementary chairs, with the Eagle tilted back in a Massachusetts rocking-chair. Indeed, he shows that everything is in balance: dollars and pounds, "The Roaring" lion and "The Spread" of the eagle's wings (which is also the spread of the newspaper). The scene in total underscores the truth of Nast's embedded assertion that there is no longer much difference between the two English-speaking nations: "Six of One, and a Half Dozen of the Other." Although relations were still sometimes strained during the period of Dickens's firs visit, by the time of his second (1867), America had emancipated he slaves and settled most of the boundary issues between the Canadian western territories and the century-old republic, and the major irritant of the choking off of Britain's supply of Southern cotton had passed with the conclusion of the American Civil War.

Commentary: The Presence of the Pig as a Symbol of Negotiation

Right: Nast's imaginative frontispiece of the British Lion, dressed as John Bull, accompanying himself on the organ to the tune of "The Land of the Brave and The Home of the Free," Household Edition: Uncaptioned Frontispiece. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Even in the time of Dickens's first visit the two powers had been able to resolve the issue of the vague Maine-New Brunswick boundary without armed conflict via the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842. Eight years before his second visit the two powers had avoided officially coming to blows in the so-called "Pig War" of 1859. Nast makes an oblique allusion to that amicable resolution through presence of the pig in the drawing. The great powers resolved the border dispute in the San Juan Islands and Gulf Islands on the Pacific North-West with minimal sabre-rattling. Their tendency to negotiate rather than confront implies that Great Britain and the United States of America had achieved a "special relationship." The British and American middle-classes by Nast's time believed that such a relationship existed between the two English-speaking nations, for public opinion on both sides of the Atlantic regarded the two peoples as united by ties of language, immigration, Protestantism, liberal social and political traditions, and extensive trade. This important political and economic transAtlantic constituency rejected armed conflict as a means of settling disputes between the two Atlantic nations. Consequently, Whitehall had appeased American interests in the Oregon boundary dispute of 1848. The arbitration of the Alabama Claims in 1872 likewise provided a peaceful solution acceptable to both sides as the British government paid reparations of $15.5 million to the American government for the economic damage which Confederate warships purchased from Great Britain had caused. Perhaps, after all, says the cynical Nast through his currency symbols, the dollar and the pound, the English-speaking peoples have found amity more profitable.

The Jolly Companions — The British Lion and the American Eagle

Above: Nast's imaginative headpiece for the "Preface" in which the British Lion, dressed as John Bull, presents a copy of American Notes to a dignified but cigarette-smoking American Eagle in an uncaptioned plate, Preface, The British Lion & American Eagle. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Relevant Satirical Cartoons from Fun

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.] Click on the image to enlarge it.


Dickens, Charles. Chapter XVIII, "Concluding Remarks." American Notes, Sketches by Boz, and Pictures from Italy. Illustrated by A. B. Frost and Thomas Nast. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1877. 373-83.

__________. Chapter XVIII, "Concluding Remarks." American Notes and Pictures from Italy. Illustrated by A. B. Frost and Gordon Thomson. London: Chapman and Hall, 1880. 429-37.

Created 20 May 2019

Last modified 12 June 2020