A Descriptive Advertisement by Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz). Wood engraving, 3 ⅛ x 4 ¾ inches (8 cm by 11.7 cm). — Chapter 49, The Old Curiosity Shop. Date of original serial publication of Part 27: 7 November 1840 in Master Humphrey's Clock, Headpiece for Part 30, Vol. 2: 70.

Passage Illlustrated

Mr Quilp slipped in, and . . . . he descried Mr Brass seated at the table with pen, ink, and paper, and the case-bottle of rum — his own case-bottle, and his own particular Jamaica — convenient to his hand; with hot water, fragrant lemons, white lump sugar, and all things fitting; from which choice materials, Sampson, by no means insensible to their claims upon his attention, had compounded a mighty glass of punch reeking hot; which he was at that very moment stirring up with a teaspoon, and contemplating with looks in which a faint assumption of sentimental regret, struggled but weakly with a bland and comfortable joy. At the same table, with both her elbows upon it, was Mrs. Jiniwin; no longer sipping other people’s punch feloniously with teaspoons, but taking deep draughts from a jorum of her own; while her daughter—not exactly with ashes on her head, or sackcloth on her back, but preserving a very decent and becoming appearance of sorrow nevertheless — was reclining in an easy chair, and soothing her grief with a smaller allowance of the same glib liquid. There were also present, a couple of water-side men, bearing between them certain machines called drags; even these fellows were accommodated with a stiff glass a-piece; and as they drank with a great relish, and were naturally of a red-nosed, pimple-faced, convivial look, their presence rather increased than detracted from that decided appearance of comfort, which was the great characteristic of the party. [Chapter XLIX, 2, 69-70]

Context of the Illustration: Quilp Still Alive!

Daniel Quilp returns to his home on tower hill, surprising his wharf-boy who is practising somersaults on the pavement. He had undertaken a rapid overnight coach trip to acquire whatever intelligence about Little Nell's whereabouts that the Single Gentleman has been able to acquire from Mrs. Jarley:

"Will you answer me?" said Quilp. "What’s going on, above?"

"You won’t let one speak,’ replied the boy. ‘They — ha, ha, ha! — they think you’re — you’re dead. Ha ha ha!"

"Dead!" cried Quilp, relaxing into a grim laugh himself. "No. Do they? Do they really, you dog?"

"They think you’re — you’re drowned," replied the boy, who in his malicious nature had a strong infusion of his master. "You was last seen on the brink of the wharf, and they think you tumbled over. Ha ha!"

The prospect of playing the spy under such delicious circumstances, and of disappointing them all by walking in alive, gave more delight to Quilp than the greatest stroke of good fortune could possibly have inspired him with. He was no less tickled than his hopeful assistant, and they both stood for some seconds, grinning and gasping and wagging their heads at each other, on either side of the post, like an unmatchable pair of Chinese idols. [Chapter XLIX, 68-9]

Quilp had not confided in anyone his intention to undertake a sudden journey westward, and was last seen standing on the edge of his wharf. He was reported missing, and presumed drowned. Accordingly, Sampson Brass is attempting to put together a physical description of Quilp to aid in the identification of the body whenever the tide should bring it ashore. The company, which includes two watermen who have been dragging the river for the past two days, are busily consuming Quilp's special store of Jamaica rum when Quilp suddenly emerges from his hiding-place behind the parlour door and interrupts his mother-in-law's description of his nose as "flat":

"Flat," said Mrs. Jiniwin.

"Aquiline!" cried Quilp, thrusting in his head, and striking the feature with his fist. "Aquiline, you hag. Do you see it? Do you call this flat? Do you? Eh?"

"Oh capital, capital!" shouted Brass, from the mere force of habit. "Excellent! How very good he is! He’s a most remarkable man — so extremely whimsical! Such an amazing power of taking people by surprise!" [Chapter XLIX, 72]

Phiz shows the scene just before Quilp breaks in. Although the illustrator describes Mrs. Jiniwin, Brass, and the watermen (equipped with gaffing hooks) as grotesques, he elicits sympathy for the much-put-upon Mrs. Quilp by depicting her as an attractive young woman.  Dickens merely remarks of her that she is not exactly mourning the loss of her husband: "her daughter — not exactly with ashes on her head, or sackcloth on her back, but preserving a very decent and becoming appearance of sorrow nevertheless — was reclining in an easy chair, and soothing her grief with a smaller allowance of the same glib liquid" (69). What Phiz depicts is hardly "sorrow," however. While he catches all the others in the midst of action, Phiz shows young Betsy Quilp's response as more detached and philosophical, as her sardonic husband peers into the room, over the back of her easy-chair. The overall effect is farcical as the absent husband is about to burst into the room, upsetting everybody's plans, drinking everybody's hot punch, and reasserting possession of the case bottle on the table.

The Household Edition Comedic Renditions of Quilp's Interruption

Left: Thomas Worth's farcical scene is pure caricature; his only concession to realism is the furnishings in "Aqualine, you hag. Do you see it? Do you call this flat?" (1872). Right: . Charles Green captures the farcical moment when Quilp, presumed dead, reveals himself very much alive in his parlour on Tower Hill: "Aquiline!" cried Quilp, thrusting in his head (1876).

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.

Last modified 2 November 2020