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Mrs. Joe returning from an Expedition (page 55) — third illustration (1885, 1979) for Charles Dickens's Great  Expectations, first published as a black-and-white lithograph in the Robson and Kerslake edition, Chapter VII. 4 ½ by 3 ½ inches (11.7 cm by 8 cm), vignetted, facing p. 54. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Passage Illustrated: Mrs. Joe and Pumblechook return from Market with News

Young as I was, I believe that I dated a new admiration of Joe from that night. We were equals afterwards, as we had been before; but, afterwards at quiet times when I sat looking at Joe and thinking about him, I had a new sensation of feeling conscious that I was looking up to Joe in my heart.

“However,” said Joe, rising to replenish the fire; “here’s the Dutch-clock a-working himself up to being equal to strike Eight of ’em, and she’s not come home yet! I hope Uncle Pumblechook’s mare mayn’t have set a forefoot on a piece o’ ice, and gone down.”

Mrs. Joe made occasional trips with Uncle Pumblechook on market-days, to assist him in buying such household stuffs and goods as required a woman’s judgment; Uncle Pumblechook being a bachelor and reposing no confidences in his domestic servant. This was market-day, and Mrs. Joe was out on one of these expeditions.

Joe made the fire and swept the hearth, and then we went to the door to listen for the chaise-cart. It was a dry cold night, and the wind blew keenly, and the frost was white and hard. A man would die to-night of lying out on the marshes, I thought. And then I looked at the stars, and considered how awful it would be for a man to turn his face up to them as he froze to death, and see no help or pity in all the glittering multitude.

“Here comes the mare,” said Joe, “ringing like a peal of bells!”

The sound of her iron shoes upon the hard road was quite musical, as she came along at a much brisker trot than usual. We got a chair out, ready for Mrs. Joe’s alighting, and stirred up the fire that they might see a bright window, and took a final survey of the kitchen that nothing might be out of its place. When we had completed these preparations, they drove up, wrapped to the eyes. Mrs. Joe was soon landed, and Uncle Pumblechook was soon down too, covering the mare with a cloth, and we were soon all in the kitchen, carrying so much cold air in with us that it seemed to drive all the heat out of the fire.

“Now,” said Mrs. Joe, unwrapping herself with haste and excitement, and throwing her bonnet back on her shoulders where it hung by the strings, “if this boy ain’t grateful this night, he never will be!” [Chapter VII, pp. 54-55]

Commentary: Mrs. Joe announces Pip's Visit to Satis House with Pumblechook

Detail of the glum Mrs. Joe in Harry Furniss's Pip Does Not Enjoy His Christmas Dinner. (1910)

With the return of Mrs. Joe from the village market in Uncle Pumblechook's gig, Dickens prepares Pip and the reader for momentous news: he has been invited to play with Miss Havisham's daughter at Satis House. The villagers are in awe of the reclusive heiress who has stopped all the clocks in her mansion, regarding her as almost supernatural. But she is wealthy, and therefore not "mad," but "eccentric." Mrs. Joe is proud that her brother will get to associate socially with the region's wealthiest denizen. She makes the momentous announcement somewhat obliquely after she has alighted from the gig:

“And she is a she, I suppose?” said my sister. “Unless you call Miss Havisham a he. And I doubt if even you’ll go so far as that.”

“Miss Havisham, up town?” said Joe.

“Is there any Miss Havisham down town?” returned my sister.

“She wants this boy to go and play there. And of course he’s going. And he had better play there,” said my sister, shaking her head at me as an encouragement to be extremely light and sportive, “or I’ll work him.”

Since Mrs. Joe is "given to government," she is delighted to think that through her exertions Pip will become a regular visitor at Satis House, and she feels certain that Miss Havisham may do something for the boy financially. In fact, it is Pumblechook and not Mrs. Joe who has made the introduction as the heiress specifically asked him about a boy's coming to play when Pumblechook went to pay his quarterly rent to his landlord. To ensure that Pip arrives on time for his playdate, Pumblechook has offered to take him into town that night in the chaise-cart, and to keep him overnight, and then to take him directly to Miss Havisham’s the next morning.

Relevant Images of Pip, Joe, Pumblechook, and Mrs. Joe from Other Editions (1860-1910)

Left: In the first American serialisation, periodical illustrator John McLenan emphasizes Mrs. Joe's cloying affiliation to her uncle, the village seedsman: "Oh, Un-cle Pum-ble-chook! This is kind!" (1 December 1860). Centre: H. M. Brock's study of Pip and his family: And then they both stared at me (1910). Right: Harry Furniss's study of Pip's being the regular butt and victim of Mrs. Joe's oppression: Pip does not enjoy his Christmas dinner (1910).

Related Material

Other Artists’ Illustrations for Dickens's Great Expectations

Scanned images and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


Allingham, Philip V. "The Illustrations for Great Expectations in Harper's Weekly (1860-61) and in the Illustrated Library Edition (1862) — 'Reading by the Light of Illustration'." Dickens Studies Annual, Vol. 40 (2009): 113-169.

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Illustrated by John McLenan. [The First American Edition]. Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization, Vols. IV: 740 through V: 495 (24 November 1860-3 August 1861).

______. ("Boz."). Great Expectations. With thirty-four illustrations from original designs by John McLenan. Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson (by agreement with Harper & Bros., New York), 1861.

______. Great Expectations. Illustrated by Marcus Stone. The Illustrated Library Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1862. Rpt. in The Nonesuch Dickens, Great Expectations and Hard Times. London: Nonesuch, 1937; Overlook and Worth Presses, 2005.

_____. Great Expectations. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Junior. Diamond Edition. 14 vols. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1867. XIII.

______. Great Expectations. Volume 6 of the Household Edition. Illustrated by F. A. Fraser. London: Chapman and Hall, 1876.

______. Great Expectations. The Gadshill Edition. Illustrated by Charles Green. London: Chapman and Hall, 1898.

______. Great Expectations. The Grande Luxe Edition, ed. Richard Garnett. Illustrated by Clayton J. Clarke ('Kyd'). London: Merrill and Baker, 1900.

______. Great Expectations. "With 28 Original Plates by Harry Furniss." Volume 14 of the Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book Co., 1910.

_____. Great Expectations. Illustrated by Frederic W. Pailthorpe with 17 hand-tinted water-colour lithographs. The Franklin Library. Franklin Center, Pennsylvania: 1979. Based on the Robson and Kerslake (London) edition, 1885.

Harmon, William, and C. Hugh Holman. "Picaresque Novel." A Handbook to Literature. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000. Pp. 389-390.

Paroissien, David. The Companion to "Great Expectations." Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 2000.

Created 30 August 2021

Last updated 9 November 2021