xxx xxx

The Aged P. (page 225) — seventh hand-coloured lithograph (above, left) for Charles Dickens's Great  Expectations, first published as the tenth black-and-white lithograph in the Robson and Kerslake edition (1885), Chapter XIII. 10.1 cm high by 8.8 cm wide (5.2 x 4.1 inches), vignetted, facing p. 182. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Passage Illustrated: The Aged P and Wemmick's Walworth Sentiments

“I am my own engineer, and my own carpenter, and my own plumber, and my own gardener, and my own Jack of all Trades,” said Wemmick, in acknowledging my compliments. “Well; it’s a good thing, you know. It brushes the Newgate cobwebs away, and pleases the Aged. You wouldn’t mind being at once introduced to the Aged, would you? It wouldn’t put you out?”

I expressed the readiness I felt, and we went into the castle. There we found, sitting by a fire, a very old man in a flannel coat: clean, cheerful, comfortable, and well cared for, but intensely deaf.

“Well aged parent,” said Wemmick, shaking hands with him in a cordial and jocose way, “how am you?”

“All right, John; all right!” replied the old man.

“Here’s Mr. Pip, aged parent,” said Wemmick, “and I wish you could hear his name. Nod away at him, Mr. Pip; that’s what he likes. Nod away at him, if you please, like winking!”

“This is a fine place of my son’s, sir,” cried the old man, while I nodded as hard as I possibly could. “This is a pretty pleasure-ground, sir. This spot and these beautiful works upon it ought to be kept together by the Nation, after my son’s time, for the people’s enjoyment.” [Chapter XXV, pp. 225-226]

Commentary: Wemmick's Walworth Sentiments Revealed

Right: Furniss's portrait for the Charles Dickens Library Edition of John Wemmick's father, in his nightcap: Mr. Wemmick, Senior, has Breakfast in Bed (1910).

Once Pip has come into "Great Expectations," and travelled up to London to be educated by Matthew Pocket as a gentleman, he meets John Wemmick, Jaggers' confidential law clerk. Although Wemmick of the "postbox mouth" is all business at Little Britain, he eventually reveals a more romantic domestic side when he takes Pip down to Walworth, a village south of London, where he has transformed his cottage into a fanciful castle for his father, "The Aged P." Wemmick, Senior, is a deaf old man who is thoroughly proud of what his son has accomplished professionally in the metropolis.

Having had informal conversations with Wemmick whenever he has visited his  guardian's office in Little Britain, Pip takes up his invitation to visit his "fortified" cottage in the village of Walworth, south of London. Wemmick is proud to show off his fancifully reconfigured house and its homey décor. He tells Pip that he has never hired a contractor, but has served as his own carpenter, engineer, plumber, painter, and gardener. He has designated the cottage "The Castle," and has designed it to look like one, with both a drawbridge and a canon ("The Stinger"). After introducing his deaf father ("The Aged P."), Wemmick shows Pip his collection of curiosities associated with the famous criminals whom Jaggers has represented in London's criminal courts; he also displays a collection of ornate wooden pipes carved by his father. Pip and Wemmick return to London the next morning; as they get closer and closer to the law office, Wemmick’s cheerful demeanor gradually disappears, until his grim, "post-box mouth" reasserts its domination of his visage.

Although Dickens indicates little about Wemmick's cozy parlour, the later illustrators Pailthorpe and Fraser provide a plethora of details that betoken Wemmick's care for his parent. Pailthorpe indicates something of the Aged Parent's lifestyle through the physical setting. The old man in both artists' renderings wears a skull cap and slippers, suggesting that he is house-bound or an invalid. Of all of this, confides Wemmick, his employer knows absolutely nothing.

Comparable Images of Wemmich and The Aged P from Other Editions (1861-1916)

Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's 1867 portrait of the criminal attorney's deputy: Wemmick and the Aged P., in the Diamond Edition (1867). Centre: H. M. Brock's revision of the same scene: "Well, aged parent." said Wemmick, "how am you?", in the Hodder and Stoughton Edition (1916). Right: Harry Furniss's realisation of the same scene: Pip Shares The Treat of Mr. Wemmick, Senior (1910).

Left: In the first American serialisation, periodical illustrator John McLenan emphasizes the cozziness of Mr. Wemmick, Sr.'s rooms in The responsible duty of making the toast was delegated to the Aged for the 27 April 1861 number of Harper's Weekly. Right: F. A. Fraser's Household Edition version of the same scene: We found the aged heating the poker, with expectant eyes (1876).

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

_____. Great Expectations. Illustrated by F. W. Pailthorpe. London: Robson & Kerslake, 23 Coventry Street, Haymarket, 1885.

_____. Great Expectations. Illustrated by H. M. Brock. Imperial Edition. 16 vols. London: Gresham Publishing Company [34 Southampton Street, The Strand, London], 1901-3.

_____. Great Expectations. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. XIV.

_____. 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 26 February 2004

Last updated 23 October 2021