Nell's Garden by Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz). Wood engraving, 3 ¼ x 4 ½ inches (8.1 cm by 11.4 cm). — Chapter 54 tailpiece, fifty-fourth illustration for The Old Curiosity Shop. Date of original serial publication of Part 30: 28 November 1840 in Master Humphrey's Clock. Part 33, Vol. 2: 103.

Context of the Illustration: Nell settles in

"I will be patient," said the old man, "humble, very thankful, and obedient, if you will let me stay. But do not hide from me; do not steal away alone; let me keep beside you. Indeed, I will be very true and faithful, Nell."

"I steal away alone! why that," replied the child, with assumed gaiety, "would be a pleasant jest indeed. See here, dear grandfather, we’ll make this place our garden — why not! It is a very good one — and to-morrow we’ll begin, and work together, side by side."

"It is a brave thought!" cried her grandfather. "Mind, darling — we begin to-morrow!"

Who so delighted as the old man, when they next day began their labour! Who so unconscious of all associations connected with the spot, as he! They plucked the long grass and nettles from the tombs, thinned the poor shrubs and roots, made the turf smooth, and cleared it of the leaves and weeds. They were yet in the ardour of their work, when the child, raising her head from the ground over which she bent, observed that the bachelor was sitting on the stile close by, watching them in silence. [Chapter the Fifty-fourth, 103]


The ever-present vista of the Welsh mountains with yew trees in the churchyard, partly shielding Nell's cottage from view, forms the backdrop for the scene. As in the text, Nell's antiquarian guide (variously called "the little gentleman," "the bachelor," and "the single gentleman") who is sitting on the stile of the broken-down fence, watches Nell attentively while she focuses upon her grandfather and her gardening amidst the graves (which Dickens describes by the more elevated term "tombs"). On the headstone adjacent to Grandfather Trent the illustrator has inserted his own initials among the broken grave-markers of children and young people. Here, Dickens and Phiz suggest, will be Little Nell's grave. This, in fact, is the same churchyard which the book's other main illustrator, George Cattermole, depicts beneath the ascending Nell in the 6 February 1841 tailpiece The Spirit's Flight (Chapter LXXIII, 223).

Related Resources Including Other Illustrated Editions

Scanned image and texts 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 3 November 2020