The Kitchen at Abel Cottage by Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz). Wood engraving, 3 ½ x 4 ½ inches (8.6 x 11.2 cm). — Part Thirteen, Chapter 22, The Old Curiosity Shop. [For passage illustrated see below.] Date of original serial publication: 1 August 1840. Master Humphrey's Clock, no. 16, 216. Click on image to enlarge it.

Passage Illustrated: Meanwhile, Kit is flourishing at Abel Cottage

Down stairs, therefore, Kit went; and at the bottom of the stairs there was such a kitchen as was never before seen or heard of out of a toy-shop window, with everything in it as bright and glowing, and as precisely ordered too, as Barbara herself. And in this kitchen, Kit sat himself down at a table as white as a tablecloth, to eat cold meat, and drink small ale, and use his knife and fork the more awkwardly, because there was an unknown Barbara looking on and observing him.

It did not appear, however, that there was anything remarkably tremendous about this strange Barbara, who having lived a very quiet life, blushed very much and was quite as embarrassed and uncertain what she ought to say or do, as Kit could possibly be. When he had sat for some little time, attentive to the ticking of the sober clock, he ventured to glance curiously at the dresser, and there, among the plates and dishes, were Barbara’s little work-box with a sliding lid to shut in the balls of cotton, and Barbara’s prayer-book, and Barbara’s hymn-book, and Barbara’s Bible. Barbara’s little looking-glass hung in a good light near the window, and Barbara’s bonnet was on a nail behind the door. From all these mute signs and tokens of her presence, he naturally glanced at Barbara herself, who sat as mute as they, shelling peas into a dish; and just when Kit was looking at her eyelashes and wondering—quite in the simplicity of his heart—what colour her eyes might be, it perversely happened that Barbara raised her head a little to look at him, when both pair of eyes were hastily withdrawn, and Kit leant over his plate, and Barbara over her pea-shells, each in extreme confusion at having been detected by the other. [Chapter XXII, 215-16]

Commentary: Scrupulous Detailing

Phiz interprets Dickens's text literally, incorporating every detail in the description of the kitchen. In the midst of all this "toy-shop" order and discipline Kit Nubbles himself, having collation at 5:05 P. M., ahead of the family's dinner hour, seems something of a grotesque, as if he does not quite belong here. Domestic servant Kit is decidedly shaggier and even perhaps somewhat older than when we last caught sight of him nearly fifty pages earlier, in Chapter 14's Mr. Garland Charges Kit to Return; or, Kit makes an Appointment. In contrast to his former employers, the Trents, Kit is prospering: he is well fed, surrounded by every evidence of material comfort, and has a delightful companion in a congenial, suburban setting.

Related Resources Including Other Illustrated Editions

Scanned image and text 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 Old Curiosity Shop in Master Humphrey's Clock. Illustrated by Phiz, George Cattermole, Samuel Williams, and Daniel Maclise. 3 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1840.

Created 10 May 2020

Last modified 10 October 2020