The Old Curiosity Shop. Date of original serial publication: 5 September 1840. Master Humphrey's Clock, Part 21, 276. [Click on images to enlarge them.]by Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz). Wood engraving, 3 ¼ x 4 ½ inches (8.1 x 11.7 cm). — Part Eighteen, tailpiece for Chapter 32,
Context of the Illustration: Mrs. Jarley fails to attract customers
Upon the following day at noon, Mrs. Jarley established herself behind the highly-ornamented table, attended by the distinguished effigies before mentioned, and ordered the doors to be thrown open for the readmission of a discerning and enlightened public. But the first day’s operations were by no means of a successful character, inasmuch as the general public, though they manifested a lively interest in Mrs Jarley personally, and such of her waxen satellites as were to be seen for nothing, were not affected by any impulses moving them to the payment of sixpence a head. Thus, notwithstanding that a great many people continued to stare at the entry and the figures therein displayed; and remained there with great perseverance, by the hour at a time, to hear the barrel-organ played and to read the bills; and notwithstanding that they were kind enough to recommend their friends to patronise the exhibition in the like manner, until the door-way was regularly blockaded by half the population of the town, who, when they went off duty, were relieved by the other half; it was not found that the treasury was any the richer, or that the prospects of the establishment were at all encouraging.
In this depressed state of the classical market, Mrs. Jarley made extraordinary efforts to stimulate the popular taste, and whet the popular curiosity. Certain machinery in the body of the nun on the leads over the door was cleaned up and put in motion, so that the figure shook its head paralytically all day long, to the great admiration of a drunken, but very Protestant, barber over the way, who looked upon the said paralytic motion as typical of the degrading effect wrought upon the human mind by the ceremonies of the Romish Church and discoursed upon that theme with great eloquence and morality. The two carters constantly passed in and out of the exhibition-room, under various disguises, protesting aloud that the sight was better worth the money than anything they had beheld in all their lives, and urging the bystanders, with tears in their eyes, not to neglect such a brilliant gratification. Mrs Jarley sat in the pay-place, chinking silver moneys from noon till night, and solemnly calling upon the crowd to take notice that the price of admission was only sixpence, and that the departure of the whole collection, on a short tour among the Crowned Heads of Europe, was positively fixed for that day week.
"So be in time, be in time, be in time," said Mrs Jarley at the close of every such address. "Remember that this is Jarley’s stupendous collection of upwards of One Hundred Figures, and that it is the only collection in the world; all others being imposters and deceptions. Be in time, be in time, be in time! . . . .
Mrs. Jarley sat in the pay-place, chinking silver moneys from noon till night, and solemnly calling upon the crowd to take notice that the price of admission was only sixpence, and that the departure of the whole collection, on a short tour among the Crowned Heads of Europe, was positively fixed for that day week.
"So be in time, be in time, be in time," said Mrs. Jarley at the close of every such address. "Remember that this is Jarley’s stupendous collection of upwards of One Hundred Figures, and that it is the only collection in the world; all others being imposters and deceptions. Be in time, be in time, be in time!" [Chapter XXXII, 275-76]
Commentary: Meanwhile, Back in London
As Joan Stevens notes, the tailpiece for instalment 18 underscores the plot thread which follows the Trents in their country wanderings, and sums up their situation at a crucial point in the narrative:
Another detail to which Dickens paid attention is the physical image presented by the final verso of an issue, and its usefulness for concluding a theme, or confirming a mood, with the display of a memorable illustration. In the forty issues which carry OCS, seventeen final versos offer illustrations; seven are issue tailpieces, the rest half page insets. Both types mark moments of significance in narrative or theme. 
The vivid tailpiece featuring the ominous dummies and the flustered Mrs. Jarley marks a precarious point not only in the fortunes of Mrs. Jarley, but also of Nell Trent and her grandfather. Signalling that Nell's livelihood is in danger as school is out and the paying customers, Phiz reinforces the economic reversal that the waxworks exhibition now faces as the wealthy young women in the various boarding-schools in the neighbourhood have dispersed for the vacation. The working class observers ("the General Public") simply cannot afford Mrs. Jarley's admission fee of sixpence per head. But Nell's situation is even more precarious: the recent card-game at The Valiant Soldier has so excited Grandfather Trent's gambling mania that he has surreptitiously entered Nell's room at the inn and robbed her as she (apparently) sleeps. From now on, he insists, he must have every penny that Nell receives because only by gambling, he believes, can he restore their fortunes. This, then, is the situation in the country town in July when Dickens shifts the scene of the action and transports readers back to the law offices of the Brasses at Bevis Marks, London.
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)
- 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.
Stevens, Joan. "'Woodcuts Dropped into the Text': The Illustrations in The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge." Studies in Bibliography. 20 (1967): 113-34.
Created 10 May 2020
Last modified 12 November 2020