The Old Curiosity Shop. Date of original serial publication: 15 August 1840. Master Humphrey's Clock, no. 18, 231. [Click on images to enlarge them.]by Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz). Wood engraving, 3 ¼ x 4 ½ inches (8.7 x 11.3 cm). — Part Fifteen, Chapter 25,
Context of the Illustration: The Schoolmaster Abstracted
At the top of the first form — the post of honour in the school — was the vacant place of the little sick scholar, and at the head of the row of pegs on which those who came in hats or caps were wont to hang them up, one was left empty. No boy attempted to violate the sanctity of seat or peg, but many a one looked from the empty spaces to the schoolmaster, and whispered his idle neighbour behind his hand.
Then began the hum of conning over lessons and getting them by heart, the whispered jest and stealthy game, and all the noise and drawl of school; and in the midst of the din sat the poor schoolmaster, the very image of meekness and simplicity, vainly attempting to fix his mind upon the duties of the day, and to forget his little friend. But the tedium of his office reminded him more strongly of the willing scholar, and his thoughts were rambling from his pupils — it was plain.
None knew this better than the idlest boys, who, growing bolder with impunity, waxed louder and more daring; playing odd-or-even under the master’s eye, eating apples openly and without rebuke, pinching each other in sport or malice without the least reserve, and cutting their autographs in the very legs of his desk. The puzzled dunce, who stood beside it to say his lesson out of book, looked no longer at the ceiling for forgotten words, but drew closer to the master’s elbow and boldly cast his eye upon the page; the wag of the little troop squinted and made grimaces (at the smallest boy of course), holding no book before his face, and his approving audience knew no constraint in their delight. [Chapter XXV, 230-31]
Commentary: Another Schoolroom Scene
Although Phiz delighted in drawing schoolroom scenes from Ainsworth and Dickens (Mervyn Clitheroe, Nicholas Nickleby, Dombey and Son, and David Copperfield), his sympathies often tend to lie with the rambunctious pupils rather than the tedious teacher. Here the situation is different because the melancholy schoolmaster is distracted by his concern for the absent little scholar whose penship graces the walls of the schoolroom. A significant addition is Litte Nell herself, apparently concentrating on her sewing even as the unruly lads chafe at their confinement just a few feet from where she sits on the schoolroom's second chair. Phiz supplies the logical details that Dickens leaves out: five hats hanging on pegs, a dunce's cap, a metronome, and a small chalk-board.
Related Schoolboy Illustrations
- The Internal Economy of Dotheboys Hall (1838)
- Nicholas Engaged as Tutor in a Private Family (1838)
- Doctor Blimber's Young Gentlemen As They Appeared When Enjoying Themselves (1846)
- Steerforth and Mr. Mell (July 1849)
- A Bunker’s Hill Hero (1851)
Relevant illustrations from later editions
Left: Harry Furniss's study of melancholy schoolmaster, dejectedly sitting on his porch as Nell and her grandfather arrive: The Schoolmaster (1910.. Right: Charles Green's less whimsical Household Edition illustration focuses on the schoolmaster's relationship with his class of smockfrock-clad lads in A small, white-headed boy with a sunburnt face appeared at the door while he was speaking, and, stopping there to make a rustic bow, came in. (1876).
Relevant Illustrations from the 1861 and 1888 editions by Darley
- O. C. Darley's Little Nell and her Grandfather (1888)
- O. C. Darley's "Do I love thee, Nell," said he; "say do I love thee, Nell, or not?" (Frontispiece, Vol. 1, 1861)
- O. C. Darley's The Fugitives (Frontispiece, Vol. 2, 1861)
Related Resources Including Other Illustrated Editions
- The Old Curiosity Shop Illustrated: A Team Effort by "The Clock Works" (1841)
- Cattermole's Illustrations of The Old Curiosity Shop.
- Frontispieces to the three-volume edition of Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop, illustrated by Felix Octavius Carr Darley in the James G. Gregory (New York) Household Edition (1861-71)
- The Old Curiosity Shop by Sol Eytinge, Jr., in the Boston Diamond Edition (1867)
- The Old Curiosity Shop by Thomas Worth in the American Household Edition (1874)
- The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Green in the British Household Edition (1876)
- The Old Curiosity Shop by W. H. C. Groome in the Collins' Clear-Type Press Edition (1900)
- The Old Curiosity Shop by Harry Furniss in the British Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910)
- J. Clayton Clarke ("Kyd") (13 lithographs from watercolours)
- Harold Copping (2 plates selected)
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.
_____. The Old Curiosity Shop. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book, 1910. V.
_____. The Old Curiosity Shop. Illustrated by Charles Green. The Household Edition. 22 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1876. XII.
Created 10 May 2020
Last modified 12 November 2020